But honestly, what has it all been for? Maddie and I pondered this question til almost 3 in the morning while sitting on floor cushions in my room. First we watched Moonstruck and ate chicken McNuggets. And then we got all pondery.
This year for me hasn’t been about new relationships. I haven’t been going out and meeting huge amounts of people. I haven’t gone on a single first date with a stranger. No, what this year has been about is making deeper connections with people I already know.
I have these really quality friendships that thrive on communication and trust. There’s room for everyone to be themselves. It’s idealic. It’s something I didn’t know was possible so I never wished for it. I’m in love…with Maddie and Tyler and Mikey and Emily and Samy and Michael and Hector. I’m in like with about ten other people. I’m polyamorous with equanimity when it comes to those I have around me. I want them to love each other.
I think that’s the lesson this year brought. Last year was about learning to trust myself in moving to NYC. I had to see who I could be when I had to prove myself worthy and capable in every respect.
This year is about going inward to the person I’ve become and sharing that. But what does it actually feel like?
It feels like waking up every day not second guessing myself. No crippling self-doubt anymore because I got away from the people who created that monster and fed her on a steady diet of withholding affection and approval so that the floor could fall out from under her at any time.
It feels like trusting myself to solve problems when they do arise. The other day I had errands to run in the city. I had an appointment that got cancelled. I had to rush up to Columbus Circle to make the new appointment. Find the building. Find the suite. Do something I’d never done before. And then run a bunch of other errands on way less mental energy than I had allotted since I’d depleted it with having to improvise. The mental fatigue meant that I took the B when I meant to take the C train, and then later took the E when I meant to take the C again, this time with a giant bag full of heavy groceries. But I did it.
It feels like not having to justify myself to friends. “Oh please like me…please…I promise I’m worthy!!” Yeah, that girl is gone. And in her place is someone who knows she can have a great time alone in her room, so she’s not out on the prowl for anything outside (which is exxxxxxxtremely helpful in Covid times). When I do go out, I have a better time. I’m quieter than I used to be because I’m calmer. I’m more observant. And that allows me to be agile and intentional.
It feels like recognizing when something is not going to work and letting it go, instead of trying to manage it and force it or running away and feeling guilt and shame. A couple of people came into my life with a lot of promise this year (and last). But they weren’t keepers. I’m not responsible for others’ well-being. And these people’s trauma patterns worked on guilt and shame. And sometimes straight up abuse. I can recognize it. I can see that it has nothing to do with me. And I can walk away not feeling slimed.
It feels like being able to recognize when I’m wrong and apologize with a true heart instead of doubling down to the point of rage and insanity. De-escalating problems and trying to understand what is going on. Not going to extremes. Not losing people because I need to be right or losing them because I tried to manipulate them to my will. Not throwing energy in the wrong direction of forcing people to love me, respect me, or fear me.
It feels like being a minor celebrity sometimes to people who are perceptive enough to see me and pick up on my authenticity, for better or worse. Men and women who are enamored of their own reflection as seen in my eyes. It happens a lot. I’m still not really sure why. Maddie says it’s because I’m cool. But what even does that mean? I think, and this is still just an educated guess, I come off as charming but I don’t buy into others’ charms and glamours so I call people on their bullshit. And they like being “seen” for a change. It comes directly from being autistic and having a great memory. I’m constantly squaring the math on people and deciding who they are by how they are today compared to how they were last time. It’s like a sorting algorithm. I talk about this often here, I know. But what I’m realizing is how rare it is to non-autistic folk and how rare I am in the autistic world because I’ve managed to get past the masking and the passing to actualization.
If people knew who I used to be…if they’d come over to my house when it was filthy and grimy and I slept on a sliver of a king sized bed covered in pizza boxes and dirty clothes…I don’t even want to describe how awful it was in Tucson…and then they saw me here…they might be able to see how remarkable it is that I’m functional. If they knew how awful I could be to friends and how every friendship ended in some giant fight in which I made an ass out of myself and burned bridges…I can’t even tell you about some of the awful today. But if they knew who I was then, they’d see how remarkable the me I am today is.
It’s…it’s like the island of Hawaii. Yeah, people think Mt. Everest (29,035 ft above sea level) is the highest mountain in the world because of what they can see. But, really, it’s Mauna Kea (13,795 ft above sea level). Mauna Kea is a mountain that lives under the sea (SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS!). It extends another 19,700 feet downward to the sea floor. People see me and they think I am whatever it is they picture. But that’s just from sea level up. None of them know how awful and awkward most of my life was. I’m not playing that up for sympathy or some kind of comic book origin story. It was horrible and lonely and inescapable torture camp inside my head. I had to be shown the secret door out. And when I opened it, there was a flood of light that sanitized my brain, warped it, and permanently changed what was inside.
I ask myself “why” all the time. Why do people like me? Why do they give a damn? Why do they follow my social media when we haven’t talked in years or decades and everything I post is so very intimate and personal? Why do friends come over to talk the night through? Why do people run to me with arms outstretched for hugs? Why does anyone read this stuff I write?
I might never get an answer. But I like living in this world of possibilities and potentialities. For a 41-year old woman to be pliable and curious…well, that doesn’t happen very often. I’ve got to use these gifts for good.
So thanks, 2020. I needed this. 2021…I’m looking your way, with hope.