I sit across from my lunch date, wishing that he would lower his voice.
He is asking questions that are making me profoundly uncomfortable. I’m not sure that he notices my discomfort, but if he does, it’s clear that he doesn’t understand it. His questions, he tells me, are perfectly logical.
And he’s right, of course. When it comes to logic, his Aspergian mind seldom falters. But while I understand that analytically he’s correct, I can’t seem to convince him that there’s an emotional element to all of it that makes it well, messier than it might be otherwise. That logic isn’t necessarily applicable in a vacuum.
He dismisses my bungled attempts to explain myself. I hear my lack of conviction. I am quickly becoming aware that my argument is unsalvageably hollow.
My face is red. Not that anyone’s asking, but I decide, just in case, to blame it on the soup. I give up and listen, really wishing that he’d lower his voice.
As I leave lunch, I’m reeling. I pull out of the parking lot and navigate through the driving rain. Eventually, I pull over and call Luau, tripping over my words as I try to relay the conversation I’ve just had. I hear myself say, “Thing is, it was hard. It was intense. He wouldn’t let me off the hook, no matter how obvious it might have been to anyone else that I was squirming in my seat. But honestly, hon? I think he brought up some stuff that I – that we – really need to face.”
Words tumble out and scatter in clumps all over the car. It’s readily apparent that they’ve been there all along, waiting.
And the more I let it all sink in – the more I am able to process the moment, the more grateful I become for it. The more I realize how blessed I am to have a friend who won’t let me off the hook. For the one who asks the questions no one else would dare to ask. For the conversations that strip away the bullsh-t and make me take a good, hard look at where I am.
And as I’ve been processing, as the layers have been peeled back, I’ve found myself saying, ‘That that’s it, isn’t it?’ Isn’t that exactly what autism does in our lives?
Autism lays it all bare. It forces us to see ourselves in stark relief. There’s no Cybill Sheperd lighting in autism-land. We’ve got nothing but floodlights around these parts.
Quite simply, autism does not allow us the luxury of pretense. We no longer get to parade around behind the mask of what we think we want the world to see. Autism calls us on it every time. There are no lies. Not even the little ones. Not even the ‘No, those jeans don’t make your @ss look fat’ ones. Autism strips us down to our core and insists that we be real with ourselves. And sometimes that’s hard.
But as uncomfortable as it may be under those bright, unforgiving lights, at the end of the day we know who we are. And as messy and flawed as we may find ourselves to be, we are all undeniably better for it.
I know I’ve said it already (OK, like a whole bunch of times) but thank you, John. I’m so glad you’re my friend.