Something remarkable has happened since I began this project. As I’ve incorporated into my self-expression all those snipped-off mannerisms, behaviors, gestures, vocalizations, and actions, that others had told me throughout my life weren’t acceptable for a “socialized person,” I have become integrated and whole.
I cannot hide my weirdness, no matter how I try, and the more I tried, the more confusing and uncomfortable it seemed to be to others, while making me unhappy to boot.
So look at this: When I talk, I might look away. I realize you might look away, too, following my darting gaze, thinking that I am looking behind you at something that I spotted. But when my gaze returns to you, you’ll realize, if you’re smart (and I’m finding most people are smart, and accepting, too), that I was just chasing my thoughts, and you will realize, once you get to know me, that this is one of my mannerisms.
If I begin to bounce on the soles of my feet when I get excited about what we’re talking about, if I start to swing my arms or clasp my fingers, you might smile or be surprised the first time. But as you get to know me, you’ll realize that this is what I do, and that moving like this helps me to focus and serves, actually, to calm me down so I can engage more fully in our conversation.
You’ll know, once you get to know me, that if you ask me about a special interest (currently, ESO, for example, and perennially, gardening or birds), I will talk as long as you will listen. But I promise that I will do my best to watch for signs that you need to leave or that you’re getting bored, and because I know I might miss those signs, I promise, too, that I will check in with you and understand when you’re done before I’ve said all that’s waiting to be said.
You’ll also know that I won’t volunteer much about myself, my interests, or my life without being asked. I will miss your cues when it’s my turn to talk, and if I do see them, I might say something that seems off-the-wall or off-topic, even though, in my mind, it’s not. I will do this whether I allow myself to be myself or whether I camouflage because this is simply something that is challenging for me. I’m missing the synapses to make these connections in communication.
But in realizing all of this, and in venturing to be myself anyway, I am finding so much joy. This opens me up to the gifts that my neurodiversity brings me, too, things like….
- the way dust motes dance in the sunlight
- the play of sunlight across a bare wall
- refracted light in clouds
- the shimmer of dried leaves as the wind stirs them on stalk
- a flush of birds rising from the treeline
- the swoop of a falcon
- the interplay of harmony in a Mozart quartet
- the buzz of cello tones through the spaces in my bones
- the hours of living, fully immersed, in a video game, a novel, or a quartet
- patterns, everywhere and in everything
I’ve allowed my expression at home, too, to be more natural, and it’s brought greater harmony, for my boyfriend fell in love with me back in my quirkiest days, and he is similar enough to me, neurologically, that he, too, enjoys word play based in sound (echolalia), funny gestures and bouncing-on-soles-of-the-feet, swinging arms, and getting lost in music.
One of the most surprising, and happiest, discoveries I’ve made is that, as I’ve stopped trying to “do friendship” in the way that’s recommended by all the experts I’ve ever read and everyone I’ve ever talked to or asked about this, including family, friends, and counselors, and have started to approach friendship in my own way, people are responding to me and seeking me out for a friend.
This is something I’ve noticed before in my life: when I try to “make friends” or focus on friendship, I end up feeling lonely and like a failure. I seem to make no progress, feeling confused and lacking.
But when I put aside “making friends” as a goal, when I allow myself to enjoy myself and my life, I find myself feeling very full, very alive, and attracting others who, yes, want me for a friend.
I have to do it my way (for no other way makes sense to me), which means I am simply open to respond to anyone who likes me (while being smart and responsible with boundaries and recognizing my own limitations and requirements).
My first intentions with this project were to explore in writing all the quirks and idiosyncrasies I’d shunted off from myself. But in my life outside of my writing, I have begun to stitch them back into the fabric that is me, and so now, I don’t need to write about all of these moments that had been stored away in the “Doesn’t Make Sense” folder–because now, these moments and scenes make sense to me. Now, they’re part of me. I’m on my way to expressing my full-spectrum life.