Was It Something I Said?

An Aspergers Experience

I write a Facebook message and there’s no response. I’d tried to tell the truth of my experience, but maybe I failed somehow. I look back over what I’ve written. The words seem to accurately represent my thoughts. But perhaps I shared some ideas that are too far from the norm. And I begin to wonder… Did I say something offensive?

I speak up in a group of humans discussing a piece of their holy scripture, and notice the leader looking at me, his brow deeply lined. I tried to share my fascination with the meaning of the words we’d just read, and how we might question their usual interpretation. I think back over my sharing. Perhaps I had some unusual energy connected to my words. A loud, nervous voice. A quickness of speech. A forcefulness of expression. And I begin to wonder… Were the others put off by my comment?

I send someone a friend request. I give them the URL for my blog. But the request goes weeks before it’s accepted, and nary a word is said about my writing. I think back over my interactions, and try to see the world through the other person’s eyes. I think about the content of my blog posts. And I begin to wonder… Am I just too scary?

I answer a question somebody poses to me on Twitter. My first 140 characters are not enough, so I tweet another 140, then follow that up with a longer direct message. She doesn’t answer right away. I go back over what I’ve written, pouring over my sentences, wondering if I’d crossed a boundary I could not see, thinking maybe I’d devolved into giving advice, or pontificating and pronouncing like a White Guy™. And I begin to wonder… Were my responses too much?

Over and over, as I’ve slowly grown to accept my Aspie nature, I’ve been confronted by the astonishing news that I do not always accurately understand the needs, feelings, interests, limitations, superpowers, and capacities of the people with whom I interact. It’s astonishing to me because I feel like I’m so deeply sensitive to the humans around me. I notice the silences, the furrowed brows, the strange looks, and the energy in their voices. I hear every voice in the restaurant. I watch people as they interact.

But my noticing is often more a matter of self-preservation than connection, or even interest. My focus is on my own thoughts, my fascinations, my exciting ideas and my interesting bits of data. And I’m constantly monitoring the alarm bells that sound in my soul in the presence of other humans, looking for danger, trying to stay a step ahead, figuring out exactly what I have to do or say, who I have to be, in order to survive the interaction unscathed. Usually that involves getting out of it as soon as is possible.

So I notice, but I too often fail to understand. And now, knowing that I do this, I wonder and worry more than ever.

Sometimes I feel like I’m this towering, striding giant, stomping through the world, not noticing whom I might be stepping on as I make my way. I try to be careful, but I’m so high up that I can barely hear the voices of the people underfoot, and my attention is on the horizon, where sits yet another fascinating new building for me to explore.

Watch out!

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

 

 

5 Comments for “Was It Something I Said?”

Lane willey

says:

Just so you know…you just delve deeper when looking at all sides; too many of us go no more than one layer deep. Your writing always helps me try to understand Emma better.

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

Thanks again, Lane. Glad it helps. I look forward to learning more about Emma when I see you in person! T

says:

I feel this way a lot, myself. I’m not sure people are all that fathomable, especially online or at a distance. Plus most people are Busy. Or distracted. I don’t know; I’m guessing. In any case, I’m not certain you need to apologize, although I often have the same impulse. The thing is, we can all still take responsibility for what we do or don’t say, and not take on the responsibility of what others do or don’t say, and hold the value of communicating effectively even if we don’t always achieve it.

Also, I’m not convinced that the average neurotypical American is all that sensitive and picking up on nuances and pirouette-ing through communication challenges.

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

Thanks, Jen. I’m not sure re “apologizing” myself. Something about that four-part ritual from Hoʻoponopono rings true for me, but not so much as a particular “apology” for supposed wrongs done on my part, but more as a general stance to take as I walk through the world. I don’t have it all sorted out yet, but just went with my gut on including that one. Most of my work with my Aspie-wise guru has been about placing the “autism spectrum” firmly on the larger “human spectrum,” and balancing the focus on my supposed “differences” with a focus on how Aspies and NTs are all dealing with the same things, even if it doesn’t always look like it. I think I’ll write more about that soon. As Sally said yesterday, it’s not Aspie that I have these thoughts, it’s that I notice them, think about them from every angle, and then write about them! More later. Take care! T

Sally Erickson

says:

“Did I say something offensive?… Were the others put off by my comment? … Am I just too scary? … Were my responses too much? … Sometimes I feel like I’m this towering, striding giant, stomping through the world, not noticing whom I might be stepping on as I make my way…”

As a recovering narcissist, embarrassed and ashamed except when I remember that I developed narcissism as a way to deal with abuse and neglect, I totally relate.

So, as we have spoken, as an Aspie you are more sensitive to this state of not-knowing what the expression or lack of expression means in response to what you put out there. But then again, the internet is not the ideal situation for self-expression if one is longing for immediate connection and feedback. There is so little opportunity to have real conversation, to clarify immediately what silence or apparent disconnected responses actually mean, whether they are about what one has expressed or just the almost random response that was triggered by a gazillion other things going on in other people. I get so frustrated by that. I want so much more. It’s okay that I want so much more. I’m tempted to insert the clip you sent me from My Dinner with Andre here. Is the internet just one more prison where the guards and the the inmates are one and the same?

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