Category Archives: social networks

A Mess, A Mom & Marriage In That Order

Mess of Me

I was a pretty messed up teenager.  I quickly developed into a very messed up twenty something, who progressed into an even more messed up thirty something.  Taking a breath.  Whoooo.  I’ll spare you the gory details, suffice it to say, I was a mess.  Another breath.  I don’t think I’ll get a great deal of argument from those who knew me then.   In fact, it took me until I was 36 to realize I was far too old to be so confused and such an utter mess.   I found people who had also once been where I now found myself, some worse, some not as bad, but they reached out and pulled me up.  Because of them I learned how to reach out to others.  I learned how to ask for support.  I learned to take suggestions.  I learned how to make amends, not apologies, amends.  I learned that in order to feel better I had to behave better.  I learned that the most important thing I would ever do in my life was to become the type of person I admired and those people all had one thing in common.  They were kind.

Becoming that person meant learning to do small thoughtful acts.  Remember I was a mess.  Doing the obvious, was not my strong suit.  I couldn’t suddenly transform myself into someone else, I had to learn to look for things that I could do to help others.  In the beginning it was things like holding the door for someone, giving up my subway seat to someone else, holding the elevator doors open for someone just entering the building instead of madly jamming my index finger at the “close door” button.   I had to learn how to refrain from letting out an exasperated and audible sigh when someone annoyed me, (still working on that one) I had to learn that sometimes saying nothing was better than saying something. This may sound like common courtesy, but I live in New York City, where holding the elevator doors for someone or relinquishing your subway seat brands you as crazy, (exaggeration) in addition I was a mess, remember, which automatically trumps being polite, thoughtful or kind.  By behaving in a way that engendered smiles and utterances of gratitude I gradually began to feel better about myself.  By helping others, mentoring other people younger than me who were also having a tough time, but who now saw a person they wanted to emulate, I began to feel I was worthy and living a life of value. I learned how to be a part of a larger group and that while I often craved solitude, I found I needed community.

About two years after I was hit with the realization that I was far too old to be such a mess, I met Richard.   We decided we wanted children, had Nic, got married, had Emma and suddenly there we were, five years later, after I had that moment of dawning awareness that there must be more to life than what I’d been living.  So yeah, I’m not a great role model in how to graciously and elegantly enter adulthood, easily taking small manageable steps until one day there you are with an infant, a toddler, and a husband.  But I had a little road map, a kind of guide-book with rules and suggestions, not literally, but figuratively and I was continuing to work on how best to behave in any given situation.  I had phone numbers and emails of people who helped me and of the people I helped too, so I felt fairly certain I could handle whatever might come my way.  But parenting is unlike anything else.

Despite what some people might think, okay strike that, no one is thinking this, but it works as the beginning to the next sentence,  I was not given a super hero’s cape along with matching Lycra body suit with the word MOM in dayglo colors emblazoned across the chest when my son was born.   I did not, after 38 hours of natural child-birth suddenly find I could dash into arbitrary enclosed structures, don my supermom costume and reappear in all my lycraed, daygloed glory with  powers of insight, lightening quick reflexes and the infallible ability to intuit what my son needed and wanted at any given moment of the day or night.  Ditto when my daughter, Emma was born.  No handbook came with either child, carefully guiding me through their very specific needs and issues.  Nic cried and held his small hands over his ears when a siren went by or the subway came to a screeching halt in front of us, Emma screamed from internal discomforts none of us could see for the first few months of her life.  Who knew?  We certainly didn’t.

We humans, we come with baggage.  Some have more than others.  Me, I came with a couple of steamer trunks, but I also had that well-worn guide-book from when I was such a mess and couldn’t figure out whether it was better to keep sleeping or wake up and do something.  It was and is my lifeline.  It’s expanded to include lists of blogs, twitter contacts and Facebook friends all of whom I can reach out to.   You see, I now have hundreds of people I can interact with and these people are my community, my tribe.  Sometimes we behave badly, sometimes we don’t agree.  But I know hiding is no longer an option.  Checking out doesn’t work.  The only way out is by staying in.  I know I’m not alone.  I’ve learned that it’s perfectly reasonable to not know or understand something and this is something I have learned from my Autistic friends, the beauty in asking for clarification.  It’s okay to not understand as long as you are willing and want to understand.

There is a great deal of talk about Autistic children.  There is a tremendous amount of fear that if we miss that critical period of our child’s first five years, all is lost.  But we humans have a tendency to grow and progress throughout our lives.  Some perhaps more than others.  I cannot speak for others, but I can speak for myself.  I am not the person I was in my teens, my twenties or even my thirties.  I figure as long as I keep my mind curious, my ideas open to alternate views and continually engage in conversation I will not stop progressing.  There is always hope.

((((((Emma)))))), Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Other Joys

When you look at the title to this post do you read it to mean – Hugging Emma, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Other Joys?

(If you answered yes, you are correct.  ((((Insert name)))) = Hugging.  The more parentheses, the bigger the hug.)

Within the autism community where Facebook reigns as the ultimate gathering place, the use of emoticons, ways of expressing emotions and physical actions, are commonplace.  I would argue that within the autism community the use of emoticons is more prevalent than within the neuromajority population.  But I need verification from my Autistic friends before I make such a statement.  It’s a thought based on my observations and interactions.  Which, by the way, speaks as much against Simon Baron-Cohen‘s various theories about Autists lacking empathy and a desire for interactions as it does to the level of support, gestures of kindness and friendships that are developed and maintained over the internet.  (I just submitted an amended version of my recent post – An Empathic Debunking of the Theory of Mind – to Huffington Post so he’s very much on my mind these days.  I’ll give an update when I see if and when it’s been published over there.)

Facebook, a crowded virtual space where conversations overlap, people you’ve never met interject themselves into a conversation before moving on, friendships are formed, rekindled and developed, strangers “poke” you to say hi, even if the only connection you have is that you both occupy space in that crazy mosh pit that Facebook single-handedly created.  If you think about it in these terms, Linkedin has a more conservative, suit and tie required at the door feel to it, I haven’t figured out where twitter falls in all of this, maybe it’s akin to speed dating, while blogs are the mothership, making the insanity over at Facebook all the more raucous and surprising.

It must be said, I hated Facebook when it began.  I refused to join, I felt indignant when people would discuss their “friends” or about something that had gone “viral.”  Who cares?  Who has the time?   I scoffed.  This is just a bunch of people with way too much time on their hands.   And then I would settle back to my tenth game of Spider, while reminding myself that I really should get some sleep.  But eventually I joined.  For business reasons, I told myself.  This is a pattern for me.  I observe, remain on the side lines, dip a toe in the murky waters, sit back, observe some more and then dive head first into the deep end, blissfully unaware of any rocks that may lurk under the surface.  I’m not encouraging this approach, it’s just an honest assessment of what I have a tendency to do.

Yesterday I was a mess.  For those of you who reached out, thank you.  I was teetering on the edge, trying to keep it together, not doing a great job, but doing my best to work, taking on one small task at a time.  And then my friend stepped in and held out her virtual hand.  (((((( Insert Name ))))))  Like a life line, she held her hand out and gently pulled me off the ledge.   Lots of emoticons were used.  I’m not fluent in emoticon, but she’s been a kind and patient teacher.  Did I mention she’s Autistic, not that it matters, except that it does, if only for this reason:  Autistics aren’t suppose to be like that.  That’s what we neurotypicals are taught.  Right?  It’s what all those autism specialists tell us, right?

She sat with me, literally, while I wept.  ((((((((((Insert my friend’s name)))))))))   She said all the right things and by the time we both went back to work, I was laughing.  But wait, that can’t be right.  She must not be autistic, because she doesn’t fit the mold.  Right?  Isn’t that what we do when someone defies a stereotype, instead of re-examining the stereotype, we relabel the person?  Can we all agree to toss this insane theory about Autists lacking empathy, lacking a desire for interaction and friendship?  Can we please just stop it?  Imagine if you tried to reach out to someone, only to have them reject you because of some mistaken idea they had about who you are and how you are supposed to behave?

Which brings me back to Emma.  My beautiful daughter.  I don’t know if she’s already aware of these stereotypes and how they apply to her.  My guess is, she is.  It’s one of the many things I wish I could control and change.  But I cannot.  What I can do is make sure she knows that I am here, supporting her, encouraging her, with my arms open for those times when she needs to feel them wrapped around her securely in loving embrace, just as my friend did to me yesterday.