Facing Adversity

Not-So-Fun fact: I’m face blind. Look it up, or the technical term, prosopagnosia. Basically, it means that I cannot remember or directly recognize the faces of other people; unless there is something highly unusual about your features like scarring or a birthmark, I don’t really know your face. Even my own; if I didn’t know it was me in the mirror, I wouldn't recognize me.

Like my other disabilities, I’ve learned to compensate for this via context, mannerisms, voice, and other cues, but if you were to come up to me in public out of context and having a significantly different hairstyle and clothing than I had ever seen you with before, chances are I wouldn’t know whom you are, even if we have been close for years. Likewise, if someone had even a remotely similar build and skin tone, with similar hair and manner of dress, I could mistake that person for you, especially in a context where I expect I might encounter you. This disability could of course be taken advantage of, but that would potentially be criminal fraud and a terrible hate crime. Height comparison isn’t normally a helpful factor, either, as most of my friends are men, and most men here in the northeastern United States of America are taller than me( the tallest I have ever been was five feet five-and-three-quarters inches( 5′5¾″), or approximately one hundred sixty-seven centimeters( 167 cm), and I may have shrunk slightly since, which isn’t all that uncommon by the early-to-mid-30s); I’ve been used to looking up at most folks all my life.

Because of my atypically specific visual memory, I’m rather better with photographs, two-dimensional images that aren’t moving; one odd result is that I probably know the faces of some celebrities better than those of my own friends and family( which isn’t to say I’d recognize them, either, in person), and the more close-up photos of you I have seen the more likely I am to know you in person by comparing my memories of them to your face when I see you. Thank heaven for social media! Sometimes, I'm at a loss to recognize someone and then just as I begin to consider giving in and apologetically asking the person to help me make the connection, he or she will happen to briefly pass through a position and facial expression that I can match to a photo I have seen.

It’s not that unusual for people on the autistic spectrum to have some degree of faceblindness, since we already process faces differently than neurotypical( NT) persons do, but the condition isn’t as inconvenient for me as it is for some NTs with it because I go out less, and when I do I’m usually heading for a specific destination to meet up with specific people. The fact that I live in a city rather than the town where I lived growing up, and only attended school in that town for a few years at the beginning and end of my pre-collegiate education probably helps also, because there are fewer people that I “should” recognize and less chance of encountering them.

But

For those who aren’t aware, I am not just a writer of prose & poetry, I also compose music and write songs, and I have a pet project I call Love! The Musical based on all the things I have learned about human relationships. Today one of my songs, tentatively titled “But”, is particularly on my mind, & I thought I would share some lyrics:

[Verse:]
You might be right about
the rain in Spain and whether it stays mainly in the plain;
you might be right about
how to balance work and fun.
You might be right about
the weather, and everything under the sun.
You might be right about
how I should live my life,
but...

[Refrain:]
You see, that determination
is not for you to make,
it’s not for YOU to make,
NOT for you to make.

There’s a bullshit to your logic
I’m not prepared to take,
that I’m not gonna take;
no, I’m not gonna take!

No more flying off the handle( handle),
no more waging wars at home, for goddness’ sake;
’cuz that determination
is not for you to make,
not for you to make;
it’s NOT for YOU to make!



–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

Hello 33

And just like that, another year goes by. It was a scary one, in which I found myself betrayed & robbed of things material & otherwise; sober now so much is clear, including the demons & mysteries that were just in my fearful imagination... and that some in fact were not. There were and are genuine threats that hardly anyone else seems to even believe in. But I still know who I am, and can say with confidence( and evidence, finally!) that I am NOT crazy and was never as confused as some made me out to be. So as long as I am satisfied that I do the best I can, my peace cannot be stolen again, even when I lose badly. For my 34th year, I vow that 2016 will be my time to fight back, and anyone who would stand in my way or try to control me, e̶v̶e̶n̶especially “for [my] own good”, had better get ready to run.

  For once, though, my birthday was great, even though I didn’t simply stay home & take shelter. I resisted making any plans, but I ran some successful errands that really needed doing. In the evening I finally made it to Game Over, the monthly Boston video game bar night, to see my friends for my birthday, which made tonight a marked improvement over 2 years ago when I planned to have my 3rd 29th birthday party at G.O.... which then announced a winter hiatus... and then the venue announced that it would be closing( permanently) a week before my birthday.( G.O. is at a new venue now.)

  Then back here for some more partying, and this evening the object of my affection is supposed to come by for the night and spend NYE with me, and we're going to fix my heat & install my new Nest smart thermostat. Then I can just tell Google what I want temperature-wise and it will happen, like I can do with my lighting. :-)

–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

UberCOOL

Tonight was the first time that I used UberPOOL, the random carpooling option for cheaper rides from smartphone-centric hired car service Uber, and actually ended up paired with other riders. On my first ride, driver Jeremy took us over to Brookline to pick up Alex. I introduced myself and struck up a conversation.

  “My late friend Sean would love this.” I said. “His dream was to build a connected transportation network, help people easily get where they were going while maximizing the use of resources. Stuff like this, ride sharing... well, I can just see how he would smile. And strangers making a deal to more efficiently get where they’re going.. Well that’s the sort of thing I'm all about.”

  “What do you do?”... I have yet to understand why NTs are obsessed with this question, because as lovely as it would be, we don’t yet live in a society where one’s profession really reflects one’s personality and situations accurately. “I’m a blogger. Well, getting back into it after a while. Which for now means that I’m dependent and I spend a lot of time thinking.” “Oh, what do you write about?”

  Alex, who wasn’t originally from this country, was fascinated. He had a lot of good commentary and questions, too. It seems he’s in medicine, and he was curious about some of the differences in growing up with autism here vs. elsewhere. I acknowledged that there are a lot of accommodations and improvements here now, but mention that I missed them myself having grown up in the 1990s when we first started to understand.

  I don’t know why people say Boston is an unfriendly city. I think they just let themselves get like that and they’re too scared to say hi.



–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

Leadership

One thing that I have been able to do with my knowledge of people and how to interpret & influence social relationships is running a group, StreetPass Boston, which is essentially Boston’s biggest Nintendo fan club. We meet up at least once a month to play 3DS together, and also play 3DS & Wii U online. Today, I wrote this on the group’s Facebook hub:

“Inspired by something I saw [a Facebook friend] do once, I’ve decided to tell everyone a little something about why I value each person in my friend list. On each day I that I end up doing it, I will pick someone in no particular order & explain why that person has a spot on my list. Unless I can’t remember in which case maybe I’ll ask!

  I’d like to start out by... cheating, actually. <lol> My first “Thanks for your friendship!” goes to StreetPass Bosto. I will call out a few individuals separately, but every single one of you means worlds to me. It was summer 2011 when I first met Karl, but our group really started with the Kid Icarus day meetup 3 years ago. I’m not sure how I ended up in charge, but I think it has something to do with being an impatient loudmouth. When we couldn’t get a minimum 3 people to agree on a date to meet again, I picked one & said I would just go, I think 7 showed up altogether. :-) In the face of the same problem again & again, I just decided to set them up monthly.

  2 years ago at PAX East 201, I attended a panel by StreetPass NY, StreetPass Long Islan, & Streetpass Princeton N & basically made a nuisance of myself... about a third of the time went to me talking from the audience. :-p In response, a group of you declared you were behind me, & as we took on this name, I set up our social media presence, helping us to grow as I knew we could. Having a place & time to get together & appreciate the medium together is great, but more than that, it’s been so surprising & rewarding to have people trust me & follow my lead.

  And listen to me, & miss me/worry when I haven’t been around. When it comes right down to it, anyone is welcome, as casual or committed as s/he wants to be, & we all keep coming back because we love the players as much as the games. I’ve spent 3 awesome years not just finding myself, as I talk about on my website at http://DontReadThisYet.net & across social media, but also watching other shy but awesome people find each other & find their footing in a world that has a tendency to trip up those who’re uncertain. I’ve seen you forge bonds & cover for me & each other as needed, such as when I took a sabbatical last year & left Michael Wilcox in charge, with his awesome fresh meetup ideas.

  Art has the power to bring people together, so groups like ours constitute living proof that games are art, & it’s been my pleasure to help bring this together. I got a lot back, & I learned that not only does everyone need someone, everyone in this world has personal strengths & weaknesses, and each of us deserves to openly have his/her strengths recognized & relied upon, & his/her weaknesses known & covered without hesitation. StreetPass Bosto has helped me recognize my strength to inspire people & direct them effectively, & my weakness in needing to tell people how hard one has to work to maintain such a group, & about my personal struggles in being autistic.

  Being a good leader includes knowing what one can & cannot handle. I’ve been praised for my ability to delegate well, I hope there’s as much appreciation for knowing when to step down. I’m resigning today, & leaving it to Rydia[ yes, we actually have a member named that, now our leader, although she stresses the middle syllable] & m̶y̶ her other helpers to figure out what the future should look like; because I know I need to focus on bringing to life my dream of a world more like our group, with people who appreciate each other & stay strong together.

  Thank you for relying on me. Thank you for covering me. I can’t wait to see what you teach me next.”



–NintendoGaymer

Around the Sun

Dear Sean,

  Today is the day we’ve been around the sun without you, according to the date on your... Perish. Still makes me chuckle. A year after I knew is still weeks out, but a year ago today I’d been weak, exhausted, for no reason that I was aware of.

  Around the sun. I see the date & that’s all I can think about. Not that I can see the sun... you should see the snow! I would go out to the tree they planted for you on the Hill, but it’s a mess; so am I. Just like the winter days when we used to hole up &... ;-) I so wish you were here. Not just, like that, I...I think you would be... proud isn’t the right word... impressed? Heh, I knew how to make an impression with you already. I unburdened myself & I feel lighter than air, even with trouble incoming( you would like Google’s other suggestion for my dictation there), & it’s not because there’s Trouble here already.
  Inspired? :-p I forgot you used to say that. Inspiration. You & whatshisface.

  I get it, finally. That critical moment, catching fire after smoldering for so long. Of all the things you could have meant when you’d thank me for setting you free... It was because you could do this already by then.
  Incited? But to maintain it would be inhumanly stressful. So I see, pressure valve & fuel exchange.

  Even with just the tree, I guess a wall this time, I always could count on you as a resource for sorting out.
  Excited? Count on sorting myself out using you. If I had this context when you were here I would tell you to turn the heat down, that making a flame that intense was dangerous & you’d run out of gas before you knew it. 

  But I guess you knew it, like you knew everything, & that’s why you told me that...
  Ready. If you could see me now you’d be ready, & there would be that little moment of annoyance when I realized you’d been waiting at the finish line before I left the gate. Like always. But I’d get there eventually. I was always surprised when that was good enough for you.

  A year ago, I was weak & didn’t know why. Today I am strong & wish I had you to tell me how. On these days I miss you. It’s a cold day. And you’re not here to shine. I’ll blaze bright.

 

D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

Goodbye 29... Hello 32

Most years, the holidays & my birthday make me absolutely miserable. Festivals of giving and bright shiny objects remind me that I am poor, and never manage as much as I would like in terms of material generosity to those who are so good to me. The new year means that another old year has gone by with little change in my situation. And my birthday, right in between, not only makes me feel old; this is usually a blah day at best, or outright terrible, especially if I try to make plans.
  For example, last year I was in the habit of attending a weekly game night at a certain pub. At the beginning of December, the game night moved from Tuesday to Sunday for the winter months, meaning the event would coincide with my 3rd annual 29th birthday. So, I decided, what the hell I would be there anyway, many of my friends would be; so why not invite everyone? So I did, I listed the event on social media and encouraged people to drop by, buy me a beer, and wish me a happy birthday.
  Not only was the first Sunday so empty that the guy running the event declared he would skip the rest of December if the second didn’t improve, we never got a chance to find out if it would because the pub suddenly anounced that that would be the date of their farewell event–that’s right: I tried to plan something on my birthday for the first time in ages, and the venue shut down. That’ll teach me.

  So this year, I've been spending it the way I have for most of the last decade: with no plans whatsoever, just a few of my favorite treats & videos, all on my own. Occasionally, something will materialize and work out O.K.; but not most years, and even though there have been a few offers and suggestions, I don’t think I’ll be doing much this year.
  Looking back on the year, I have a lot to be down about this holiday season. Two good people close to my heart passed away in the prime of their lives. I got a number of fantastic opportunities and didn’t make the most of them; although they weren’t completely squandered either. I failed to save a good friend’s important relationship when my help was sought, then botched my own chance with the object of his affection–also mine. I not only failed to demonstrate that trust isn’t weakness & there are people in the world one can rely on; despite instantly recognizing that we aggravated each other's codependent tendencies, I allowed myself to be taken advantage of and badly screwed by someone who didn't intend to and probably doesn’t even realize happened, and may be incapable of understanding the great enduring love and the deep sense of loss I still feel over our parting. Not to mention the time spent making that attempt pulled me away from every goal & every other good thing in my life.
  So it’s odd to realise that, for all I grieve the lost, and I miss & worry about the living lost to me, I haven't been particularly unhappy lately; in fact, this year has ended kind of O.K., if a bit lonely. And this is probably the best birthday I’ve had since I started turning 29. Frankly, among the best that I can ever remember. What’s going on? I’ve even been less affected by SAD than usual( although the bright lights could have something to do with that).

  There's a saying that one can learn far more from defeat than from victory. As many could attest, I'm not a gracious loser, at least not without seriously strenuous effort; but it's true, these are the best lessons. Earlier this year my mother mentioned to me that if I wanted to find my birth parents, I would have any resources I needed. At the time, I wasn't ready. If I met my birth mother, how could I show her whom I've grown up to be without even knowing that myself? But after catching Kung Fu Panda 2 on TV the other day and seeing the( marvelous!) new Annie on Christmas Eve with my parents( both movies about orphans seeking answers about their past & finding their place in the world), I told them it's time for me to start looking.
  In 2014, I learned a lot about loss, & about weakness–my own & others’; in the process, I have grown stronger. I'm retarded, slow; it's not about giving up or being lazy, it's about knowing when the approach that works for many others isn't the best use of my energy. I'm disrupted rather than motivated by discomfort and thus I must count on being more drained after certain endeavors, perhaps foregoing rewards that I wouldn't be able to enjoy in the same way as a neurotypical person after toughing it out. I have ADHD and thus I'm prone to distraction; in any given time period I can I only count on getting done a quarter of what I wish to, although perhaps many other things that are better off done, even if I wouldn't've prioritized them.
  My awareness of the world around me is far more acute than most people’s in some respects, and sorely lacking in others; sometimes it is too much to ask me to hold on to a piece of paper for two hours, sometimes I lose $500 cash walking from the register to the edge of the parking lot, get to the concert and don't have my ID, remember your favorite soda but forget you hate those chips; & sometimes you should ask me things just because you've got nothing to lose and, being me, I might have an answer no one else would think of. Sometimes I look like a normal person to whom those things happen every now and then, and sometimes that's going to make it hard for you to remember & understand that on the days I seem to be purely a screw-up , what's wrong with me is the same thing that's always wrong with me, every moment, and I’ve just run out of plans or energy to fight it on that particular day.

  

As I return to this blog, I’ve been rereading many prior entries. Looking back on my experiences of Sean, of Rebecca. Reflecting on the time after I last published an entry semicolon on the dreams and aspirations that went unfulfilled when I became preoccupied with a great & unique friend who might have ultimately been the love of my life if we could even stand to look at each other now. 2014, it seems, was my year to learn about loss, & about weakness–my own & others’. In the process, I have grown stronger.

  Today I was astounded by all the people who said happy birthday to me, both publicly & privately. On social media and in my calendar, I watched so many of theirs go by thinking how it didn't really matter if I sent birthday wishes to people I haven’t seen in years. I am truly humbled by the love that surrounds me, & despite missing those who are no longer with me, I’m happy to be looking forward rather than backward on my birthday. I'm ready to find my roots because now I can see the main context of what they support.

  I've seen the best & worst of myself in the last 3 years,  and while it’s not a pretty or flattering viewpoint I’ve arrived at, it's the perspective I needed. I know what I have to offer others and I know what is beyond me to do or give and still preserve myself. If people don't want to rely on my strengths & cover my weaknesses, I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that's their problem. It's kind of appropriate, as someone with a pervasive developmental disorder, that it's taken me this long to reach my thirties. But although the past will always be with me, I'm tired of  worrying about whom I have been, what I could become, or how I should live. The future is about whom I am, warts and all, as they say. Love me or leave me; at least you got that right, B my dear.

  Goodbye 29, hello 32.

D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

own wings

I feel so... Yesterday, we laid to rest( or something, she was not so big on rest, really) my younger cousin, Rebecca Serkey. There was quite a lot of fuss about it, and I seemed to be among the very few family members( & non-work friends) entirely unsurprised by the amount of activity & attention; I’d always had an impression of a great deal of fraternity amongst first responders, & known her to charm the masses with her bluntness & understated good looks–I was among those who taught her to deal with people, after all. At one point, the driver my uncle hired for the event found me standing aside, the only one not looking desperately sad, & asked, “Just who is this person in your family that died?” with a note of awe in his voice; he’d initially thought the legions of uniformed officers might be for a recently-slain state trooper whose funeral could have preceded hers.
  Her peers & colleagues came from all over the country. There was a helicopter flyby with a call that went out on the radio, calling for the last time for her to come in.( Someone who had worked on the planning said with embarrassment that they wanted to have 3 choppers for her but were stymied by the short notice, as we weren’t sure when NTSB would release the remains, but her mother’s Jewish tradition demanded we inter them immediately.) The massive police escort closed off roads for the funeral procession to pass unhindered, including the George Washington Bridge & an expanse of the Long Island Expressway( crossing NYC without facing traffic was a little surreal, even to me) to her final resting place( under the circumstances, perhaps it’s best that her body was incinerated in the explosion; I’m not sure her body would have been permitted burial in a Jewish cemetary had it been examined intact). Color guards from many cities including Boston honored her, and her mother was presented with an American flag & the thanks of a grateful nation.
  At the burial site, I spoke, told them: alis volat propriis( that
’s a link to my remarks), and was relieved to feel I had done right by her, lived up to her example in giving what I could for those she loved.

  When I went to clean up & post my final draft of those remarks to my blog this morning, I began crying and I have hardly stopped, but it is not a miserable sadness. I wondered why now, after feeling, well, nothing but a desire to take care of others upon getting the news, satisfaction at the proceedings as she was memorialized... I think I have identified 2 reasons:
  1) Having seen who she was to the world, I had to explore & explain who she was to me, & who I felt I was to her; in order to know what existed, so as to discover what was lost & what can never be gone. This is as much about me as about her, & would thus not have been a point she nor I would consider appropriate to harp on at the funeral.
  2) I had to be past the point of delivering that remembrance to her mother, father, or the friends who grew up with her essentially as sisters; before saying that(, whatever she might have thought of me), in my mind, my heart, she was very much a brother( yes :-p) & a daughter to me.

  So having said that stuff at the burial for the mourners, I’ll add the following for me:
  With my special gift & our strange bond(/strange gift & special bond?), I got to see, every step of the way, not just who she was but who she tried to be; in any moment encountering her, I saw what emotions drove her forward or held her back. The girl who always smiled never could & thus never had to hide from me her unhappiness or longing–she didn’t ever have to spare me details either, & she never doubted that if she chose to share them(, or if I should figure them out), I got it completely.( Admittedly, she was not always thrilled with the idea.)
  She thus came to understand( & occasionally complain), long before anyone else did, that I am damn stubborn & proud of it; there is precious little point in attempting to deceive me, silence me, or change my mind without changing my perspective(–even for my own or good or someone else’s). She trusted that I knew what I was doing when I said so, & just as importantly, she came to trust that if I said I didn’t know what I was doing she’d better handle it unless she was content to waste a lot of time.( Ha! I’m kidding, she would never be... really, I think when I started not knowing it was a relief for her, but she never rubbed my nose in it.)
  From our earliest days, I complimented her on her own stubbornness( rarely even dressing it up as resolve) & she pushed it beyond mine, to its very limits. I have been so very proud of her–& so very worried. I saw her make mistakes, many of which I made & am only learning now to fix, but for all her stubbornness grew alarmingly greater, I’d forgotten her speed did too. She found freedom faster, & in finding wisdom she accepted truth in the relative blink of an eye. I am so very relieved.
  So I know why I have smiled, why I have cried, & why now I’m doing both: my feelings are parental, are fraternal, are friendly, are rivalrous, are grateful for her admiration & admiring of her in all ways. Not long ago, I lost someone I had not thought of as close to me, & the evidence, that there was more than expected to what I had with him, has left me reeling. Now I lose someone whom I have never doubted was close to me, & I haven’t needed any evidence thereof to stay solid.
  I can’t cry for the loss of her, or for anything she’s lost from me, because we know we gave each other everything we needed, & who that ever loved could ever ask for more? So I smile. I cry only to think that the world around us isn’t all that way, & she must’ve had more pressing business than to heal it... but I can no longer watch after her. I can only say:
Good luck, kiddo. I’m rooting for you.”.

–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

alis propriis volat

It’s Latin. It means “One is flying on its own wings.”, substitute pronouns to taste. Today we buried my baby cousin, a few months shy of her 30th birthday. As usual( I have a usual for funerals, burials, & memorials now... that makes me feel old), I had quite a bit to say. Here it is, plus some notes in brackets to cover things the mourners would have known that general readers would not.

“So here we are, assembled in the strangeness of this moment. Where we all must go, my baby cousin has flown on ahead into the distance.
  I remember when our grandparents died, our fathers’ parents, I spoke and she thanked me after; that I spoke, she said, for them. She did not give thanks or praise to me easily... So when I received a call–news of a helicopter explosion? And the unthinkable[, a flight paramedic killed in the crash with her crewmates]... I wondered what I could say to pay her the same tribute. To speak for a life that spoke for itself so clearly.
  I realized that I can speak of quiet times, maybe not so in their intensity, but quieter in the world; those moments only we had known.

  Rebecca is in so many of my earliest memories, and no doubt I remained in hers. I don’t know how many role models she took on before me, but I may have been among her first bad influences.[ grin] The best of friends we were, in those times–and co-conspirators.
  Watching videos, playing games, & always plotting little rebellions against our parents around the corners, behind the doors, under the tables. Although not related by blood to our parents, the fathers who connected us, we had in us many similar streaks to each other. In hushed tones we praised each other’s dads & situations; and we sought freedom from the lives we led, to escape those finite worlds with their bounded edges. Always I was wiser, and often quicker, but although I was first to jump off walls & climb on ledges, she was ever bolder–not that I let her know it. I watched to guard her from what dangers I could, though she was headstrong and liked to show off.

  As we grew older, friendship turned to rivalry. I remember a time when she would test me on school subjects, ask for my grades. When I became disinterested, first in such pursuits as quiz questions, later in schoolwork altogether, she professed confusion. “Well what’s it for?”, I asked. She told me I was crazy and walked away. She returned to add “and lucky.”. She came at me with another quiz a bit later; I answered perfectly–such things came too easy for me.
  She barely said a friendly word for years thereafter, doubled down on her work, became even more incredibly accomplished. “Cool.”, I said, when she told me of some accolade she had earned. “Must be a lot of fun.”. Always oblivious, I didn’t quite get why a friend had to hold her back from clawing out my throat.
  But whether it impressed me or not, Rebecca still had a great love of doing, as others have said, just about everything–and she excelled at it. Even while she revered & then resented me, I always found her fierceness fascinating.
  I remember hanging out with Rebecca &[ her step-brother, when her father remarried,] Jakub. In my mid-late teens, I came out as gay & was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder. She never blinked. She smiled, they asked questions and for once I felt happy to talk. Maybe the most in my life until then, happy to talk. About my theatre stuff, about boys, about being different. After that, she always seemed not to be looking towards me, but into some unknown horizon.

  She let me know in no uncertain terms when she was a young woman who no longer needed protecting. I made a point of protectively threatening her boyfriend anyway. Some time later, after they broke up, she hollered at me for it–then burst out laughing.
  When she first began to pursue her eventual career path, I told her it was an impressive one, but tough. She explained that she needed to learn more about who she was, and she knew that best in a crunch; plus she loved the idea of making a difference, a tangible difference that she could see in front of her & touch with her hands. I have heard the story of that first call[ when she handed off her patient to a flight medic crew], the dream of the sky that drove her thereafter.
  Our grandparents passed, and I remember, as she spoke, the point when she was overcome. As she fell, I rose to catch her. I held her for a long moment as she sobbed, and we were young again, on the playground, with them watching us.

  As adults, we did not often speak. Sometimes she was impatient, could not sit as I did, to just be; other times I could not get myself worked up as she did, to go, or to do. We occasionally celebrated things together, holidays & foreign visitors, talked about deeper matters only twice that I can recall.[ Of all we talked about] I remember what she told me[ about herself on those occasions]. The one time, that she wanted to be her own woman, not her father’s baby girl; I told her that she had shown herself to be that woman already–but she was still my baby cousin Worm anyway. She slugged me, then hugged me. The other time, as she sought to become a paramedic, she told me that she wanted to make her parents proud, but do it in a way that could let her feel proud of herself on her own terms; I told her that I could offer no more advice, as I’d stalled out & she had long since passed me on her way to living that life–she was now my role model & inspiration. Her eyes gleamed for a moment, then she nodded. Her gaze wandered far again, became steel.
   I worried, that in her frantic life she never took the time to appreciate herself, to come to terms with the past, to forgive. But who was I, now, tell her what to do? Still, we were always solid to call on each other... we knew it, though we never found occasion. Even when we were frustrated with each other, trust was in it too.

  When the news came, I thought I was in shock[, as I had so little sadness in me]. This was my precious friend & rival, follower & companion. I had not protected nor saved her. But, no, I gradually grew to feel certain she was at peace & I could be. Now I only wondered how.
  Slowly at first, the pieces came together. The simple reality with which she responded when a New Jersey friend suggested she come home[ to where she had grown up in NJ] in response to frustration–days before her death, she firmly answered that she was home[ in New Mexico]. It soon came to my knowledge that her mother was to have visited[ would have been there on the funeral date]. [Her boyfriend Brandon’s] children were coming to stay[ in NM, to live & attend school there,] soon. Brandon was planning to propose[ at a renaissance fair; she had loved such events]. She had truly found her heart & her home in the west, in Brandon, in the desert, in the kids, in the sky. By the time she turned 30, she would have it for everyone to see, everyone who had doubted her, everyone who had supported her; for herself to see, and for God to see her.
  Finally, I heard a story. At the last exchange between her & our other cousin, on the weekend before Rebecca’s death, she had been dejected over missing an intubation, her last perfect record blown after a dozen years. A few days before she died, they talked as cousins do, as pros do. Rebecca fretted, and Nicki reminded her that we are not machines. That Rebecca was human, & incredible either way. That high standards were good, but it was what she had done, not what she hadn’t done, that would remain & stand testament to her existence. Rebecca thanked her and began to work at getting over it. In the end, Rebecca had everything, including self-honesty, wanted for nothing, nor self-acceptance.
  The night before she died, I found the Christmas card she had sent me, and thought about what I might say if I called her. I like to say, nowadays, and wanted to tell her–in explaining me, explaining our past, and to help her secure her future–that we all have strengths & weaknesses, so everyone deserves to have his or her unique strengths recognized & relied upon, and his or her weaknesses known & covered without hesitation. The outpouring of grief on faces here shows she was loved. The gratitude expressed shows she was relied on; her strength was recognized, no doubt. But it’s when I hear about how she & Nicki would talk, when I see Brandon & his family–her family, now ours too–that I know her weakness had a home too, & that she was covered. I am so immensely grateful for that; and that we can all rely on & cover each other in this difficult time.

  She wanted more than anything to share that life she built with her loved ones, she & I did not have to talk for me to know that. I say a lot with language, but I have always loved best they to whom I could speak without saying a word.
  Sometimes the first instinct is best... so to all of you, I offer the part of her life that was mine. To her, again, the first thing I wrote to her on Facebook when I knew she was gone: ‘[O]ne day short of 5 months after hearing about my friend Bender, I am painfully reminded yet again to never wait to speak one’s heart. I kept thinking of you, found your Xmas card just last night, but said nothing, & now no words are enough, Worm–no, wait; you’ll always be my baby cousin in my mind, but no more teasing... Flyin’ Lion: I salute you, & love you always. Glad you went out on top, living the life you wanted. We should all be so blessed & so accomplished. Peace be with you in the next life.’

  One last thing, now, that came[ into the conversation] from another friend of hers on Facebook. This I find most appropriate for such a Lion Heart, one that strove so hard to be free & came free at last in binding herself, beyond words & beyond life, to purpose, to sky, and to all of us:

alis propriis ea volat–“[on] her own wings, she flies.”

–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

Dear Aut Light: Mirror, Mirror

Hello Hello! I’m back again, & it’s time to announce a change for those who’ve been following along at home: 2 days is too much! At least sometimes, as I go along trying to prepare an additional two blogs for launch. So, from here on out, most Mondays on Aut Light will be catch-up days, when I’ll reflect on recent happenings in my life then offer some little bits of wisdom, &/or link us back to take a good second look at past entries. Someday, I hope I’ll even have enough readers to do Reader Mail on Mondays. For now, though, you lucky ducks, we have a whole sort-of-new entry that started out as an e-mail to my mother. You may want to check the DRTYnet Glossary for some of the terms.( Note to self: write & post Glossary.)

“Before I forget*, Mom:

    I want to reinforce that you oughtn’t’ve blamed yourself for the mix-up† Friday night, that quick blame was a lingering codependent interaction we have( great progress already since we recognized it, just these details); you responded to what you perceived as my frustration with you–it was not your fault( neither the situation nor you engaging that pattern).‡ I reacted to my frustration with that situation inappropriately;† during socialization & interaction with people in the last week, I noticed my self-awareness schemata are weaker/slower than they typically have been since Mirror Day(, & kept having Theory of Mind issues in my thoughts while interacting, pretty sure I caught them all before they became problematic).

    It’s likely just from being a little rusty after all the recent isolation–wait, no! Just realizing:
these past 2 months have been the first time I isolated so much in ages & ages–probably the first time after Mirror Day. In fact, it is probably the first time I have been alone with my thoughts, AND had this much uninhibited conscious access to all I was processing, since... puberty I guess. Since the point when I started slowly practicing socialization with others... & managing... &... OH!
    GOT IT! No wonder I’m different in your eyes the last several weeks! No wonder I’ve been isolating for a while( & still, despite feeling MUCH better after Sean’s memorial! No wonder I seem to have ADHD again( or at least that it is manifesting again if I actually do & always have)! No wonder I’ve been prone to be emotional( especially with stories about freedom & personal growth) in the last year! No wonder temper, panic, euphoria, & affection are getting closer to the surface & it only takes one bad surprise or mean insult to seriously undermine my control! No wonder the tempo & sense of urgency have kept ramping up!( No wonder I have been writing so much music & text!) No wonder I have been able to maintain confidence in the face of doubters! No wonder I felt like there was something overlooked! No wonder I use so many exclamation points! Could it even be why I am now fond of interrobangs‽

    I definitely missed a forest for its trees this time#: for half my life, many essential aspects# of me or my personality have ALL part of a single complex! One that has been– uh-oh... that has been inextricably linked with my ‘heuristic social interaction engine’, & the requisite ability to simultaneously coordinate myriad data**(; I think that was how I was keeping my ADHD & hypersensitivity largely at bay, playing them off each other). Well, while I think about that... It’s not coincidence that the various elements came into focus when they did either.
    
    In 2012, I was in misery; obsessing over [my ex ]David’s tendency to hide things from the world( with general success, except it never fooled me) & to lie to himself( which DID fool me, & was therefore a threat) in order to achieve & attain what he wanted***–and the growing notion that there were hidden depths to both my disabilities AND gifts suddenly resolved into the events of Mirror Day. That gave me greater control & allowed me to appreciate my gifts... but of course it also meant that I had to truly recognize my limitations( that I had largely just assimilated⁰ prior)[...]

  I was forced by exhaustion to consciously accommodate⁰ th[ose limitations] for the first time in December[ when, after living for roughly 7 weeks as an NT usually does, working days, sleeping nights, & going out several times a week; I suddenly found myself barely able to get out of bed, let alone function, for over 2 weeks].
    Plus, I have had to learn how few people are even willing to assimilate my exceptional skills, let alone accommodate them & the depth of my limitations–& that most are not only skeptical, but outright dismissive; & just knowing more information of any kind] means more to account for.

    In February, I was still reckoning with that exhaustion when out of the blue I had to grapple with grief over the loss of a friend for only the second time( the first human one; & boy, it’s a MUCH more complicated experience). Everyone was telling me their memories of him & their versions of his history & his gut-wrenching childhood; I also became preoccupied with the lies told( & what he simply never mentioned), to family, friends, coworkers, his lover(s); all to keep them comfortable in their oblivion, I guess, & his life simple.
 It weighed on me until finally a few weeks ago I had a dramatic & painful breakthrough, & recognized how much damage I was done by the unrelenting badgering & disparagement from those for whom my legitimate best was never good enough, especially Dad§; & how I had responded to being between a rock & a hard place with dishonesty I had managed to not perceive[ in order to manage the expectations of NTs & not seem abnormally incapable or needy], for so long that it became a complex leading me to avoid any position of being responsibility to authority figures.( The dishonesty has since been heavily curbed; the avoidance, naturally, is tougher.‡)

    Then talking to [my cousin] a few weeks later, & enjoying her complete experience-induced shift, from that well-meaning skepticism most friends & family[ & other judgmental NTs] retain to near-total agreement about mental health issues & extensive general agreement on other things[ after coming to terms with her own severe ADHD, BPD, & PTSD]; & our helpful mutually-supportive dialogue, I wished others had time & energy do the same, which led me to see how paralysis( empathy burnout?) & fear were inappropriately( Mom’s word) displayed to me by Mom & not addressed adequately thereafter, exacerbating the expectation management as I tried reassure her & myself–but she understood &◊ apologized, unlike Dad; that helped with much of my worry & tension.

    & finally today... full accommodationΔ, there was no way I could have my breakthrough before while constantly managing expectation, but it was fully part of the interaction schemata... I had to get breathing room¶... more conscious knowledge & less subconscious processing make things a little harder, trying to evaluate more info using less reliance on preprogrammed behaviors & reactions–great for full accommodation, not for real-time living. I have to rebuild my social schemata without a foundation of behavior patterns that are potentially deceptive/manipulative. Need to do it effectively because being too astute scares NTs, too loquacious annoys them, too retarded makes them channel discomfort into contempt. OH & I had better get my sensory integration back up to speed with 2 rock concerts to attend in the next 8 days! O.K., sounds like a challenge, still...

    As I blog( & more), “passing”[ for neurotypical] less well/frequently may be a huge part of standing up to societal biases against those with mental health issues–this is a major step in overcoming that childhood trauma of having conformity misguidedly forced on me at the expense of great pain. Maybe I can even learn to switch gears more easily, since I am more conscious of the mechanism–that has been the trend since Mirror Day. This leaves only the question of how to refer to this transition... Clarity Day? Oh, no good for [my other ex to whom I remain very close]¹. Looking-Glass Day? Maybe, unwieldy. Gordian Resolution? Too obscure... suggestions welcome as to how to frame–ooh FRAMING DAY‽ What do you think? Oh, & for posterity, the reason this step came now: I have been wanting for days to find a way to greatly improve others’ understanding of me–so the pattern held true & I improved my own instead.

–E.M.

* I am trying something new, turning many explanatory passages into footnotes( a few remain in the text as parenthetical). Hopefully this will make my main points easier to read & digest[ usually larger portions are taken out than in this case]( although I fully realize that getting it will be agonizingly slow still; it should at least be possible now to do so, for anyone who cares enough to take me seriously)[. Also, forgive the change in from 2nd- to 3rd-person perspective; when I realized I wanted more folks than just my parents to read it, I just switched]

⁰Terms describing complementary/overlapping learning methods, defined by what I heard from Tom, on http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/assimacc.htm & other slowlytightening..:
•Assimilation is( roughly) the addition of new information to our understanding of something, without changing the existing schemata through which we perceive & react to it(, which may result in the exclusion or alteration of crucial data). When only cursory or temporary understanding is necessary, assimilation helps to prevent us from being drained by the effort & pain of fully accommodating.⁰*
•Accommodation is( roughly) the process of changing our thinking & behavior to react appropriately to new information. Often more painful & difficult than assimilation, because when part of the information does not fit into existing schemas, instead of modifying the information, we must either modify existing schemata( & thus new behaviors) or create entirely new ones to properly hold it intact.⁰*
•The practical difference is a lot less technical: assimilation is learning something well enough to repeat it & maybe even teach it someday; accommodation is learning something well enough to live it any or every day. If learning does not significantly affect behavior, or at least thinking it is only assimilation; either method alone is bad. http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/assimacc.htm

† even though at first I DID–again, wrongly–blame [Mom] for a few seconds, before the point when managed to shift my feelings appropriately toward myself, apologized, took a breath, & explained my frustration–but that does not mean [she] should have[ blamed herself].

‡ I should have put the remind-me-once-if-I-give-a-specific-timeframe rule into place weeks ago; when I recognized that unlike lying which I recognize easily now, I will need at least some outside intervention to make a dent in the avoidance. I wish Dad could help too‡*; [Mom’s] participation at least should help me let go of the newly-recognized trauma between us–plus replace a codependent behavior with an interdependence tool.
‡*but [Dad] is[ was] still unwilling/unable to accept that( due to the trauma [my parents] unintentionally caused me( especially him) when [they] gave in in to social/internal pressures & pushed me to perform like a normal person),‡*† the notion of [them] exerting pressure( especially him) is triggery, & my defining an isolated acceptable context is a technique[ exposure therapy for PTSD] to help get over the trauma
‡*† almost as if he has utterly forgotten the introspective wisdom that delivered him, at one time, from some of his own lingering burden due to similar abuse: th[e wisom] of Alice Miller, who defined Schwarze Pädagogik( poisonous pedagogy) as not just beatings[ he never hit me], but all types of behavior that manipulate( e.g., “pull”[ Dad’s word for his intention]) children’s characters( e.g., to make them what an adult authority thinks they can/should be) through force, deception, hypocrisy, or coercion(, especially when parental blindness to feelings[ alexithymia?] is involved),

# of high-level mimicry of NT interaction, managing expectations with deceit, avoiding obligations I could not meet & situations with authority figures, repressing the lying & avoidance, repressing the meticulous situational planning

§; how the repetitive trauma‡*† has resulted in the potential( not a guarantee, at least; except from him, obviously) for any friendly reminder from someone, or an evocative situation or intonation pattern, to cause feelings of inadequacy & helplessness that immediately fight off the best I can–usually by engaging distractions & distancing myself from the matter at had. In college, I used to have nightmares about the late mornings, but that has faded. I still tend to jump when I am in the shower & someone addresses me, though

◊ immediately proved willing to acknowlegde & own up to her mistakes. It was so nice that she was thoughtful, accepting, appropriately remorseful but not paralyzed, & she

Δ of interrelating factors as a system: because it was all tied together

¶ from heavy face-to-face interaction to reach that understanding. After PAX, I moved to take a break( fortunately trusting my gut) until after Sean’s memorial, & at that time, I would have also thought GaymerX. :-( So that wall came down with Nicola drawing me out & letting me really go at speed, also asking good questions, & so much more–nearly everything? maybe–is clearer than ever before. Except

‖ Still better to have arrived at this deliberately, as had I continued to socialize while noticing frustrating patterns, I would have become aggressive & irritable, & cognitive dissonance could have made me forget my breakthrough( as some do).

**[ don’t worry about this footnote too much; I just wanted to have it written out, but it isn’t crucial]( input from physical/emotional hypersensitivity); performing combined( complementary) filtration & organization via relative contextualization of any & all polysensory/multimodal information & abstract knowledge available, a personally-derived technique. Aside from maintaining equilibrium via constantly checking consistency[ I promise, that all made sense, at least, it does to someone who can do it & has the requisite vocab], it enables enable me to cope with my natural deficits by using it for sensory/social integration by condensing a massive volume of details into a single or few focused-yet-deep cognitions( hence why each has layers of reasons that seem impossibly broad & detailed to others, to the point where they often become unsettled or frustrated & dismiss it as false, even though it is usually consistent however far down they are willing to dig)

***specifically, D wanted to be perceived as a good man. I loved him because I believe, deep down, that he really wanted to be that man; I wanted to show him he could be, but as my father has astutely pointed out, seeing beyond pretense to who people really are inside, like X-ray vision I can’t turn off, sometimes leaves me at a loss to react to their external behavior. When that behavior harms me, I can become preoccupied, as I did D’s lying

¹ because CLARITY is some chemical thing researchers can use to prepare rodent brains( that disturbs [my close ex, who is a biologist])”

Ex Patria... ad Infinitum?

Father, you have done me Wrong, as ever Parent does to Child. Father, you have done me Wrong, for My own Good–where is my Good in it? Is Guilt the Good? Is Silence, maybe? To hold my Tongue, to Honor, to Obey? To be beaten down, by a World that vents it Pain on the Weak? I should not say Mother was a better Parent–I could not Be, without You, who I am, the Me I value. I was Built by You–am I Perverse, then, to Fail aloud? Is it Heresy to be From you, yet Broken? To be yet Broken, From you? Father, you have done me WRONG: I cannot say I will be a better Father–I cannot say I have been any better a Son.

  Borne to you though not born to you, an adopted child is like any child but more so: of you, yet not your flesh; your ideals, yet not in your mind; perhaps your will, yet not bound by your perspective nor driven by your life; confronting shared experiences, but with a different strength, at once greater & lesser–& a neurologically “disordered” child lives in your world, yet does not know it in your way.( For this I am contemptible or pitiable to those “rightly ordered”.)
  Is it fickle fate or outrageous fortune, or was it something deeper still, my origin so far from the “reflexive obeisance” you wrote into your history, described as a mark of your heritage? My heritage is not only yours, & the misery that haunts it & the lessons we must not forget–but also that of the guerrilla–the little war. The guerrillero fights such a war–in every way, at every turn, with all at his disposal. For home, for truth, against invasion, against oppression–against the father or against the self, a choice the men there make, unaware; & some beat into their own children: choose the father. Not so different from you, then, yet... if not beaten down we rise up. My blood runs hotter than I can bare to hold in; I vent heat in fiery passion, blazing bright in the world. For all my differences & all my faults, & all my alien being, I am what you wanted, & what you feared: I am you–now stronger than you ever imagined being. Stronger still in knowing my weaknesses. Strongest yet in knowing yours, & in seeing them the same.

  We best know others in relation to ourselves, we best know ourselves in relation to others. You look at others as still images, reliefs, as frozen, but we of the future are living, & those of the past, the dead, still recede as much from the present. To see us cast in stone is to cast yourself immobile. To look back at the past you turn away from the future, to hold it you abandon the present–but a mirror can allow us to see behind while facing forward. To view the living past & living present & living future at once, look with a mirror. To see like unto infinity, regard one mirror in another.
  I want us to be better, to be a better son; you need only let me–but obsessed with being a better father( than you had or than you were, I wonder?), thinking to learn from others’ failures, you only learnt their flaws, & did what you thought the opposite–all the same. Only a mirror can show a true reverse; & another show it right way ’round. If you would do better than was done you, you should have looked in a mirror to start. I know others well, to know myself, & I know myself well, to know others. You taught me so much–can I not teach you to let me be a mirror, to show your childhood’s reverse? To be a mirror too, & reflect yourself right way ’round? But you must let pass the images of fathers, sons; of you, me, them... So you can know you, as only you may. As only I know me.

  Forgive me that I fail, father, to help you know your life. As I know the fire inside me cries out to fight for a better world. As I know I fear to leave you–I move to fight rejection, the insidious force tearing this world apart. Can I reject you & still be of sound heart? Forgive me that I cannot abide, forgive me that I cannot be still. I cannot reject you, but I cannot change or move you; NO MAN can another–that’s a lie of a twisted mirror. But the better son would not be one obedient or heeding. I cannot any more reject me, as the world does, as I have so long for you.

  But, forgive me, father, for you have sinned in the darkness, & I have blazed & by mine own light seen; & if your will knows not your sins as I know mine in every reflection–I cannot carry your burdened soul with mine into the light. And until someone rights this wrong, until fathers turn from their fathers, look to their sons to lead them; men who would live True always will, & always must, flee from the lands of their fathers–sore alone.

–E.M.

To Love & be Loved like Lucy

Although I typify High-Functioning Autism in many ways, I also possess the unusual ability & marked tendency to interact extensively with other people, including strangers, in spite of my disability, & to rarely let my condition be obvious unless I choose to. For those of us who are autistic but also gifted with great intelligence or skill, it is often almost as if, early on, we pick a major in life the way other people may pick a major in college, a single area of interest to learn & engage with(, or a few, for the exceptionally talented); this specialization often persists throughout our lives, & it is very difficult for us to change focus( near-impossible to do so intentionally). The complementary advantage is that we typically achieve hard-to-match expertise in our chosen concentration–but no other, meaning that if our extensive competence is narrow in scope, we often are unable to get related degrees or find related work. This is seen in a particularly dramatic manner in savantism, a related condition; perhaps 10% of those with moderately or very severe autism are known as savants & display extreme abilities relating to memory & cognition, especially artistic or mathematical, despite heavy impairment otherwise.
  I was often terrified as a child by the prospect of interacting with strangers( meaning anyone but my parents or other daily acquaintances) & potentially making a mistake. In spite of that terror, or perhaps because of it, I have had a deep fascination with people, communication, & relationships for most of my life. While most with an ASD decide after a few failed interactions & relationships that people just don’t make sense & never will, consequently giving up on social behavior quite young, it has become my specialty. Given that most of living in society entails dealing with people( or with objects & ideas they have produced), anticipating & reacting to their intentions & actions, I think it was a good( if unconscious) choice; understanding them has provided me a basis for learning nearly anything else I might encounter in day-to-day suburban or urban existence–similar to Latin being a good choice for a first foreign language to study, as it aids in learning various other languages descended from it. My years of observation & analysis, along with 30–80 hours a week of processing, planning, & practice, enable me to roughly emulate neurotypical behavior, & to make observations about it from a unique perspective.

  My mother, a psychotherapist, has pointed out several times that while I often credit my interest in people to my parents( my father is an attorney, who witnesses & assists people in their relationships with businesses, governments, & society through legal procedures), & my learning about them to her specifically( in her profession, my mother witnesses & assists people in their relationships with themselves & each other through counseling); she also sees it as a result of me watching old situation comedies extensively as a child: I Love LucyDick Van DykeMary Tyler Moore & its various spin-offs. She credits Lucy in particular, & I have said that what makes Lucille Ball’s humor timelessly classic & widely-appreciated, if not universally, is that it rarely if ever relied on people tearing down others to build themselves up( successfully, at least; those who tried usually got their comeuppance). When celebrities were criticized, it was usually in good fun & they played themselves. Because the humor in some older shows like that is mostly about the central characters themselves, & not about politics or pop culture, nor how much better or worse overall they were than the viewer, famous folks, or anyone else, it doesn’t suffer too much from cultural shifts that have occurred between the era in which they were made & the present.

  Recently, I made a connection for the 1st time between that & my oft-repeated commentary regarding modern Hollywood & television over the past three decades: Eschewing valuable humanity in favor of glamour, a huge proportion of successful mainstream media( especially aimed at kids) from the ’80s, ’90s, & ’00s often teaches all sorts of terrible life lessons: about taking advantage, about vengeance, about the little guy screwing “the man” before “the man” screws him(/ again); & even(, insidiously,) worse, about discarding all the elements of one’s life that one is not happy with, pursuit of glory, attaining perfection, & resolving all one's problems neatly & permanently. Many Saturday morning cartoons from my childhood shared that message; others were about never-ending conflict & struggle–but nearly always against oppression or evil. All too rarely did fiction, especially media for children until late in that period, deal primarily with struggle against oneself, &/or resolutions that involve indefinitely continuing effort–let alone explicitly.
(  Significant improvements gathered steam from the late ’90s on & have intensified in the last decade, examples include TV’s The Big Bang Theory &( mostly) the movie Frozen.)

  In contrast, the older stuff that I also used to watch usually derived drama & comedy from several very clearly & openly flawed people dealing with each other’s outrageous misbehavior in a loving way. Much of the conflict & dramatic tension in each episode came down to the same basic issues that recurred time & again, because they were born of inconvenient personality traits that endured over time & through various circumstances( which provided slightly different window dressing to showcase them without becoming stale & tedious).
  In I Love Lucy, the stories revolve around the titular screwball & her loving husband Ricky Ricardo, who are played off each other & close friends Fred & Ethel Mertz. That’s 3 people with very strong personalities, & 1 who exemplified their shared trait of being relatable & rational( in varying degrees), but easily carried away by extreme ideas & actions from the others. The humor arose from letting their exaggerated characteristics bounce off each other, often in response to one or more particular flaws becoming exacerbated by circumstance. The plot would then follow along as good intentions & misunderstanding between such very different folks quickly devolved into absolute chaos.
  In the end, though, however much of a mess any one, pair, group, or the lot of them made, they would all usually be forced to apologize & come clean about everything they had done wrong, in misunderstanding or selfishness, & to recognize( often explicitly, now I think of it) that they all loved each other. Friendship & partnership were more important than anything else; no matter how angry they became or how much time/effort they had to expend mitigating the impact of each others’ fiascos. And then the whole thing would start again the next week.

  I suppose that displaying such extreme levels of patience & forgiveness on a regular basis might strike one as inhuman; even the lives of the actors who played those characters seem to bear that out. I’m not the first to recognize that, nowadays, the Ricardos & the Mertzes would probably all be labeled codependent & mutually enabling. Lots of people in today’s world fret that whenever folks rely on each other or make allowances in return, they are being codependent. Me, though... I like to say that the rarely-recognized element that distinguishes any unhealthy relationship, such as codependency( parasitic in both directions), from every truly healthy adult relationship, like its counterpart interdependence( reinforcing in both directions), is at once subtle, clear, & unimaginably profound: unflinchingly honest communication.
   Loving, penetrating, intense(, & occasionally painful) honesty, expressed openly about both self & others, allows those in interdependent relationships to correctly anticipate( & thus plan for) what they can reasonably expect from partners & friends, vs. what they must do for themselves or in compensation for others’ deficits, as well as what others are willing to do to compensate for theirs.
  In codependency, on the other hand, people who fail to interact with each other in an unguarded, constructive, discerning, & appropriately self-critical manner are constantly drained by attempting to live up to unanticipated or inappropriate expectations from others, & by having to to handle( at the last moment) various concerns that they incorrectly anticipated others taking on( or to cope with the fallout of such things that have gone unaddressed).
  Of course, although by no means easy or comfortable, abiding acceptance & self-honesty are prerequisite to maintaining real honesty between people...
  So, while some might say that, in real life, such a foursome as the characters in I Love Lucy would be fools to never insist that the others change their ways, or for never escaping from each other to break the cycle; I say they avoided the most devastating & foolish mistake of all: denial. For all their weaknesses(, & unlike, say, the Seinfeld protagonists), they never gave in( for long) to denial about their vanity, denial of their selfishness, of their flaws, of their fallibility or their mistakes–or denial of the essential truth that people who truly love each other should always do what it takes to stick together( except in cases of abuse, which is tragic).

  To know perfect love, the only true perfection humans can experience in this world, we must overcome fear of failure, of toil, & of pain, so as to freely recognize & accommodate grave imperfection in ourselves & others; because no matter how difficult standing by each other may sometimes be, those of us who love truly & deeply can never be separated from the ones we love without grievous & lasting trauma.

–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M

Sorry...

Sorry for a bit of silence there, a conglomeration of personal issues has kept me preoccupied for some time... Not sure whether I am really back on track or not, but have a few new entries up for this month, & finally starting to clear up the log jam in my head that has held the others back( I did write several of them).

Seanday Sermon

I read at the memorial for my friend. Many of us did not know he had died in time to attend the funeral, or could not make it to Ohio. So now, on what would have been his 35th birthday, we gathered in a park on a hill in the city because that was what he loved. They’d planted a tree. We spoke. We remembered, we discovered, we drank scotch he had given his ex once( Sean was a great lover & connoisseur of alcohol). I stood among his many colleagues & a few friends, & his ex, & I told them:

“There’s... so much I don’t know. It’s 9 or 10 years since Sean & I entered each other’s lives, & perhaps the best description I can give without raising the wrong questions is that I was a very, VERY close acquaintance. I Yet, still also distant; as I have spoken to & now stand with friends & family, it is overwhelming how much of his life I never even heard about. I never really even drank with him! This man who so famously held nothing back built fences that left us strangers to one another. He tried to fix it last year, called me & others to his side while with his family, but I was too wrapped up in me to heed. & now I want nothing more than to be wrapped up in my friend who has passed beyond my reach.
  Sean Perish Bender. He never did even tell me what the P stood for. [chuckle] Perish. I found out by reading his obituary. I think he’d like the implied wordplay. But then, names were never our big thing. He could never remember my middle name & disapproved of my later decision to combine for a compound first. & we didn’t know surnames until some three-quarters of our time was gone. For so long, we only knew firsts, which, for that matter, we pretended not to, & never used them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
  A long, long time ago, Bender & I met online, & we were supposed to go on a date. He had to reschedule. Then I had to cancel & he didn’t care to commit to another time. Other people & projects that would have a long-lasting impact on his life had begun to take shape & occupied his time, required all his attention. I often think that, had we actually gone out, we might have ended up... never really knowing each other at all. [mischievous smile] We would probably have found each other insufferably arrogant & faulted each other as useless a decade ago; 25-year-old Sean Bender was impatient & secretly angry at the world, unsure how to release his tension; 21-year-old me was almost unaware of my disability & puzzled at being unable to accomplish much with my clearly evident resources & talent.
  Instead, when we encountered each other offline shortly thereafter, neither owned knowing it was the same man from before for, I think, five years. We were there for a reason; although we perhaps gave credit to a different one, at first. Sean recognized the truth before I did. But then, that was Bender... putting it all together before anyone else had found all the pieces. Usually, I’m the one doing that; yet he could be almost done by the time I recognized there was a puzzle. & with such a placid or bemused look on his face.
  Ugh, another reason our date wouldn’t have done much good: I found him handsome enough on the whole, but I must have dumbly stared at his more awkward features( nose anyone?) sometimes, as my gaze often made him self conscious & eager to please, to right imagined offenses. He was far less attracted to me than I to him, as well; within twenty minutes of first laying eyes on me & meeting my gaze, he confirmed that had we gone on our date he would have found my looks utterly lacking in any compelling feature. Of course, we were comfortable enough to say those things then, since the first time he saw me at all was ALSO five years after we began.
  & maybe there’s something to be said for that. Faceless in the dark, when worn out, hurt, or downtrodden, we existed in the quiet moments; & he asked me what to do, & at my behest he told me the things that troubled him, & the things that he wanted. & I told him what I knew of the world, & how it troubled me, & how he might set his fears to rest. When reflecting on a valuable person, it is common to think of things one learned from him or her. Yet I cannot help thinking as much or more about what I taught Sean. I doubt I was the only one he learned these lessons from, & I know I was not the only one well met in the dark, but I am so pleased to feel I helped.
  I helped teach him how to let go of control in order to have & exercise power. I taught him some of the best tricks for manipulating himself. I helped teach him how to say exactly what one means & believes, & have other people think it’s what they want to hear. I reminded him every chance I got that things which have been broken can never be the same as they were, but can be better in lieu of that. I tried to help teach him how to face fear & live through it not as a duty or a punishment, but as an adventure, and an opportunity... he thanked me, every time he saw me, for being the critical influence in setting him free. I wonder if I’d have been so eager to release him from his cage if I’d known he would fly away so soon.
  & I learned to have confidence. To be effective at having control. To make mistakes enthusiastically & be mindful thereafter. That I have power to engage friends in my ideas & thus change their lives dramatically for the better–Sean was among the first to make a special effort to tell me I had done so, though far from the last; & yet without his persistent gratitude regardless of context, I might not have even had courage to try where I have succeeded.
  Perhaps I should have moved sooner than I did to bring us out of the dark & face-to-face. I had my reasons for picking my moment, though. But certainly, following that, I waited far too long to take the next step, & let us remain largely as we had been–he was, after all, the first person who ever engaged me at a high level on a wide variety of topics, to the intellectual satisfaction of both of us. Uniquely in my life, we would talk over each other & not become upset, because we were both able to follow the other’s thought while still simultaneously speaking about something different. Of course, we could have had–& ultimately did have–the same kinds of conversation while going out to lunch at sidewalk cafés like normal friends, instead of huddled in isolation in smokey private back rooms. I should have worked on turning our words about sharing “real life too” into action before it was too late. By the time I pushed it through, we got barely a year. Then after a final Christmas holiday he shook my hand, hugged me tightly, & quietly went off to die.
  I wish I had made more time in the light, yet all the good we did each other may have only been possible by starting with two brilliant men alone together in the dark; & in many ways we made the most of it. Not that he would forgive my immodesty in saying we were that, nor the egregious compliment paid to him thus. If cornered, Bender might admit that he was the smartest one in just about any room; on any other day, the buzzword was ‘humility’. Sean was the kind of guy who would sin to atone for having been presumptuous enough to perform miracles. Although I often thought him to be the best person I ever befriended, I only realized after he had died that Sean was somehow one of my best friends. Hindsight suggests that, always steps ahead, he arrived at that conclusion first, probably right around when he was leaving Boston. Then again, leaving gave him an advantage of perspective that only his death would afford me: the immediate & concrete notion of us never meeting in this world again.
  That grieves me, & grief has been new & strange & helpful & painful. But, Sean told me once that, after all that time in the dark knowing the world of my words only, I had worn a groove in him, made myself a niche, & he could pick out my voice in a chorus or over a crowd, would know my words instantly anywhere, in any situation; through anything, he would always know if I called to him. Time for a test.

[shouted:]  Hey there, boy; you did good! Don’t roll your eyes behind my back, because I meant what I said: you did GOOD. Despite the stuff you know you fucked up, in doing such good, you have done quite well.
[beat]
[imperative tense + a hint of pleading:]  Have a rest.”
[Omitted lines in the reading today were flubs, not censoring.]

 

I also thought I might sing a song I wrote, but I couldn’t get my preparation finished; things kept going wrong. Now I think it’s because, while I’ll share it with the world soon enough, the first time I sing it for him was always meant to be just me by myself with his memory.

And although it took me until now, standing back at the tree after we all went to a bar; now everyone has gone I realize that in finding them, in finding him, & helping them find me & find him, I may have solved the last puzzle he left us. Damn it. What a beautiful fool you were, my friend. Though you never meant it to be my task, or it might have even been a simple error; mistake vs. miscalculation does not matter, I’ll do my best to clean up the mess for you.

You don’t owe me anything more, though; this one’s on me. If we meet again, you can get the next round.

–AMourningGuy

Mirror Day

WARNING: I am not a doctor or professional researcher of any kind. I have not undertaken recent or significant formal study in the fields of psychology, sociology, medicine, or philosophy. Despite my enviable observational skill & breadth of experience/knowledge, I am not an accredited expert or authority on any subject unless specified, & may potentially be even more prone to errors than they usually are.
Some terminology may be my own, either invented or used differently than by other sources. There is a glossary of terms for you to peruse( also includes notes on idiosyncratic punctuation).
All opinons are solely my own unless otherwise noted. All assertions regarding mental health, disorders, & behaviors should be taken only as opinions, or as my own personal experiences & fallible derived understanding. If you have a reason to believe I’m wrong, please e-mail me or post a comment.( NOT just over your own gut feeling or something a shrink/parent/teacher said; when it’s opinion vs. opinion, I’m obviously more likely to trust my own.) If you can provide a reliable, publicly-available free resource that contradicts my understanding as expressed in a given entry, & I can read & understand it, I will post a correction–so include how you want to be credited.

A defining aspect of autism & autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) is the social impairment stemming from poor theory of mind. This means that, on a fundamental level, humans with ASDs lack a neurotypical( NT) person’s core understanding of the conceptual boundary between ourselves and the rest of the world. I am not automatically able( although part of what makes me high-functioning is the ability to compensate) to differentiate which things I should think of as parts of “me” vs. “not me” objects & concepts that may or may not affect me, or even to fully grasp the concept of something being not part what affects me, let alone another person different from myself having thoughts & feelings completely unrelated to mine. I think this may be related to the common difficulty individuals on the spectrum have with spatial awareness, and especially proprioception( the awareness of our own bodies including relative position of our body parts); although even if that were so, I have no guess as to which is cause vs. which is effect.
  The difficulty typically increases when in the presence of others, this may stem from having to keep track of the separation between oneself and other similar yet entirely isolated dynamic constructs. If we consider Gray’s biopsychological theory of personality, we can see how, when the pressure becomes too great, the autistic individual may perceive the growing discomfort as a signal of imminent danger and trip the behavioral inhibitory system (BIS), which responds by prioritizing the appropriate reflexive or conditioned response for the threat in question and limiting other actions–thus leading to complete breakdown of the conscious or semiconscious coping mechanisms that someone with autism uses to simulate natural self-awareness & theory of mind aptitude.
  Theory of mind may also be viewed as a complementary way of looking at self-awareness, which is recognized using the mirror test; testing whether an animal recognizes that its reflection is an image of itself rather than another animal or part of the environment. Self-awareness is of vital importance in understanding the cause-effect relationships of past & present events, and forming expectations of what will happen in the future–especially with regard to how others will behave. The more severe the difficulty in separating oneself from the rest of the world conceptually, the more disabled a person is... usually.

  Autism is seen as a spectrum; my ASD was believed to be fairly mild, yet I stalled out in life disproportionately, particularly when considering that I am obviously quite gifted. For a lot of my life, especially adult life, I just couldn’t seem to get tasks done when left on my own, & I would have no idea where the time went. Everyone would assume I was goofing off, reading, watching TV, playing games, the many ways in which I do like to procrastinate; but I would typically have no memory of any such thing, which was troubling to me and to the few people who actually believed me.
  A couple years ago, I made a joke that I may look almost normal and just slightly off, but I’m actually a total nutjob coping really well. I started gradually exploring this idea with more seriousness, noting that it was a frequently a better fit for the way things played out, especially where our notion of me doing the same self-care as others came in, despite my desperate with to stop depending on others. About 6 months after first saying that, I was home alone, and I caught myself–in a mirror, ironically–practicing multiple versions of a conversation I wouldn’t need to have for quite some time, if ever.
  “Why?” I asked myself, thinking about it the rehearsing consciously for the first time in maybe 15 years.
  “Because this is how I get ready.”
  “Ready for?”
  “For whatever might happen.”
I became slighty dizzy in the rush that followed.
  “Normal people don’t do that.”
  “Did you ever ask?”
  “No, but... characters on TV only do it for high-stakes conversations, & in real life I never see anyone do it.”
  “So they do it alone.
  “But for everything?”
  “...”
  “Have I done this before?”
  “Duh.”
  “O.K., right, I sit on the couch, or I pace, or I do it in the shower...”
  “Lying in bed, starting at the ceiling, sitting at a desk, walking or biking places...”
  “When was that?”
  “All those times...”.
This, of course, was the larger part of what I had been doing in the time gaps, for decades, at least. Unless I am actively concentrating on something else(, which tends to become impossible when I haven’t done sufficient planning to feel ready for upcoming situation), I do it to some degree in just about every moment when I am alone, & sometimes when I am not. It’s why even small changes can knock me for a loop, & why I may home in on certain details in a conversation that others don’t consider important: I’m constantly working to see everything in relationship to everything else. People constantly criticize this, telling me that I can’t do that, I’m overthinking, that it just leads to bad assumptions–well that is easy to say when the meaning of others’ communication & appropriate reactions are there for them like magic. Not so for me.

  It took a couple weeks for it to really sink in, but for over 2 years now, I have been able to rapidly change & expand the ways I think about & interact with the world in response to new information. More than ever now, I can quickly assess a problem or situation that doesn’t involve me with accuracy over 85%,( based on confirmation from those who know, & success rates the admittedly-limited times my suggestions are actually accepted & engaged accuracy), even scenarios in context I am learning for the first time); & events that do involve me with over 55%( which is not bad, given we all suffer from bias in subjective situations). I would be nowhere near that if I had not seen myself in the right mirror in the right place at the right time

  Rehearsal of various possibilities, a technique known as situational planning, is in fact sometimes taught to relatively high-functioning ASD patients, & seems to be the only technique able to directly impact the ability to cope with social situations( I suppose because as long as there is a plan for what’s happening, the person won’t feel threatened & the BID won’t cause a meltdown); however, it cannot be taught at my level.
  Neurotypical people are entirely unaware of most of the things going on around them, even a large number of the things they do themselves. The most common thing I say to people on the spectrum when ‘translating’ is “Oh, I get it; you’re reacting to [some typical enty behavior; e.g., all the lying]–NTs aren’t aware of that unless you point it out.”. It took about 20 minutes to convince one guy his boyfriend & I were not playing a practical joke.

  But, hey, that’s part of why I do this; to give everyone  a chance to recognize themselves in the right mirror.

–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

The Gardener of My Soul

  I’m adopted. I’ve known this all my life. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, to a woman about whom I know nothing except her name( Gloria, according to my U.S. Certificate of Foreign Birth) and a very basic version of her story–and I have no way to be certain those are even real. “She wanted you to have a better life.” is what my parents always told me.

  I have abandonment issues, but, I’ve never felt any sort of thread connecting that to my adoption, and I don’t remember having any such fear as a young child. It has more to do with traumatic events heightened by my hypersensitivity, and people who became important to me and then exited my life abruptly without giving a me a chance to get closure. I spent a long time haunted by shame & confusion thinking I had gotten something terribly wrong; because I didn’t know what and thus could not fix it, I also feared it might happen again at any time.

  My mom seems to think about the “trauma” of my adoption a lot more than I do. In family therapy, I think I’ve figured out why. From the moment when I was 16 and we finally got a proper diagnosis from a team of experts, she started to apologize for all the things she “should have” & “shouldn’t have” done in raising a child on the spectrum. She was always taking me places. Sometimes I had to submit to structure, sometimes I was required to break routines. I was encouraged to keep trying when things were hard, to have fun in unfamiliar places & ways, to make friends even when people were difficult, and to find new ways of looking at situations I didn’t understand. I wasn’t isolated from the general populace in “special” classes.
  But I don’t think any of the stuff she did like a normal mother would have bothered her as much then if she hadn’t gotten so much flack over the years for stuff she _didn’t_ do normally. My mother never made me eat anything she cooked. Her rule was that everyone in the house came to dinner and sat for the duration of the meal. Anyone not hungry or uninterested in what she had made was welcome to fix him/herself something else. Other mothers were apparently aghast at the notion that she didn’t just serve what was made & make me clean my plate.
  Further, while I was required to have dinner with the family, I was allowed to bring books to restaurants, & well-meaning friends would chide her for not forcing me to sit there bored when conversation turned to sports, adult matters, or other subjects in which I lacked any interest or the ability to give input.
  When I was in 3rd grade, I outgrew the largest Velcro shoes available at the time. I HATED tying & untying knots with my clumsy fingers( motor control issues are fairly common for ASDs), and I always preferred to wiggle my toes; so I elected to wear sandals from then on–even in winter( as I still do). Unbeknownst to me, a battle raged within the administration regarding an appropriate response; to some of the faculty it was very clear that I needed saving from myself. Ultimately, my supporters won when my mother( probably flashing back to painful childhood memories of having writing implements ripped from her left hand & forced into her right) told the front office something amounting to: “With a kid like this, I pick my battles. I’ll make him take his sneakers for gym. Other than that, if his feet are cold, he’ll complain. If he loses a toe, he’ll learn to live without it, plenty of people do, and then we can talk about shoes.”.

  It was evidently a regular part of her life that I had no awareness of, she shielded me from the needless criticism as much as possible and bore the brunt of it herself for letting me be strange.
  So I just can’t help wondering if, as she would hold in the anger of “How dare you tell me how to raise my child?” and instead respond with a thank you for good intentions or a calm but resolute insistence on her(/my) way; maybe a tiny voice in her head chimed in with a Latina accent and chided her “Your child?”.
  Maybe not. My mother is a strong, smart woman. Maybe she’s always known just as well as I have that I’m her son; while of course the existence of Gloria matters to me, there’s nothing in me that ever wanted another mother, no more than any kid who isn’t mistreated.
 Still, it can’t have been easy to hear over & over, especially from folks she liked & trusted, those who had years of experience raising & teaching children, that she was wrong and I should be made to bend to their expectations. Then to look at me, strange, almost alien at times; to know I was in her heart but not from her womb, that she was not like most other mothers... She must have wondered many times what she could have done differently, and perhaps what else she might have gleaned had we ties of blood.

  It takes a village to raise a child, they say. But sometimes it looks more to me like that one constant presence, that patient gardener who takes the tiny seed, fragile yet brimming with potential, pots it tenderly in the soil of security, positions it carefully in the light of love. The kind of person who talks to the sprout & laughs & sings, knowing that helps it grow best even if it sits there in silence. Who, once the maturing plant is out of the warm greenhouse, exposed to the elements, will stay all night in the cold with blankets & flames to ward off a surprise frost. Fertilized with knowledge & ideals, pruned & tended, the plant grows tall & beautiful.
  Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. A developmental disorder means growth in at least one area is stunted or retarded; pervasive means it affects multiple basic functions, impacting one’s entire life. A slow & tricky breed, we require constant care long after all the plants in others’ gardens have grown hardy, flowered, and borne fruit. Some of us stop growing before reaching maturity, the rest are agonizingly slow.
  Moreso even than other children, if we are neglected we may wilt & wither or grow hard & thorny; if we are sheltered and take root hidden away from the elements, we remain fragile, unable to weather any exposure. We grow wild, in unanticipated directions; if pruned back we may recoil & never produce a single bud.
  Other gardeners look over & offer “helpful” advice, not understanding that if treated like every other child, many of us will never flower or fruit at all. But a rare few of us, under the patient & loving care of an even rarer breed of gardener, may some day effloresce with unique blossoms of which this world has never seen the like.

  My mother took me places. She held my hand. She taught me how to find my way around the world, and gradually, much more gradually than for an ordinary person, the mess of bright colors & loud noises resolved itself into a structured network of objects & places that I could navigate.
  She read me stories; complex stories, challenging. She told me her own, when we were far from books & I had to endure long & challenging undertakings in strange & harsh environments. She gifted me the ability to turn an unavoidable ordeal into an adventure; & instilled a great love for adventures & the stories we could tell reminiscing about them after.
  She bought me most all the books I wanted, as long as I actually read them; she took me to see plays. She knew that at the movies I sometimes had to stand at or outside the door as the volume & the emotions were both tremendously intense. She let me leave the TV on during tasks & the radio on at night, to keep my overactive brain from tripping me up at every little distraction.

  She sensed innately that the world was not the same for me, & helped me to not only survive, but conquer much of it in a way most kids like me never managed. And hot tears are now running down my face as I think of how, for this, she was sometimes she was made to feel like a terrible person by well-meaning friends & strangers; and how she let herself feel like a terrible mother. No wonder it took us 2 years of therapy before she could stop apologizing for not getting everything right.

  Thank you, mother, for being the gardener of my soul. No greener thumb for me than yours; our bond goes much deeper than blood roots. The other moms never knew what they were missing; now I want you to see me in full bloom.

Happy Mother’s Day.

–E.M

Casting Stones

I’m hardly without sin, but, screw it.

  Recently, I was sitting eating lunch in a mall food court. A pretty young latina in her 20s, maybe, was at the next table, making extremely opinionated comments about various acquaintances rather loudly to a middle-aged black lady, all in front of her even-prettier young daughter( perhaps 5 years old).
  Growing more & more disgusted by what she was saying, I decided, as she was getting up to leave, to speak my mind. “For the 15 minutes that I have been sitting here,” I said, “you have been talking shit about people. You really seem like a very small-minded & judgmental woman.”. I must admit I enjoyed the look of confusion that flitted across her face, but she recovered quickly.
  “You don’t know me.” she informed me, as though I had been unaware of this fact, “You don’t know my life. I’m not talking shit; what I am doing here is supporting people. So you really need to get to know me before jumping into my conversations.”.
  Wishing I had a dictionary so that I could double-check the meaning of the verb ‘support’, I smiled broadly, told her she was right so I would love to get to know her, & asked if she would like my e-mail address. I truly enjoy meeting new people, after all, & I was feeling perhaps a little hypocritical after calling a stranger judgmental. While she took a moment to attempt to process what had just happened, I also assured her that I was gay & not hitting on her. Without another word, she turned to see if her daughter was ready to go.
  As they walked away, her friend hung back a moment, & after checking to be sure the young “lady” was out of earshot, smiled & told me “You know, you really was right about what you said.”, then laughed softly & perhaps a little sadly before departing.

–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.

P.S.: That pretty much made my day. X·D

A Fine Romance

What is love?

  Baby, don’t hurt me; don’t hurt me no more.( Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;-p)
  Getting serious, though, let me start out by saying that relationships are completely irrelevant to my definition of love. One person may love another without having a relationship at all, & people can have a relationship without really loving.
  I particularly tend to avoid the term “in love” but for a few specific circumstances, because what people really mean by it is that they’re romantically infatuated. Literally–do you know the old definition of romance?

  A romance is a story( i.e., a fiction; or, by some overly-strict standards, a lie) in which an idealized version of something is related. At one point, it referred to tales of adventure featuring fantastic situations & idealized heroes who overcame the seemingly-insurmountable odds to win the day. Eventually, this gave way to “romances of love”; tales in which, rather than the heroic figure, it was an idealized passion( sometimes still involving a similar figure, now the “knight in shining armor” or “prince charming” archetypes) that would “conquer all”; either uniting lovers when the world endeavored to keep them apart, or otherwise allowing them to accomplish, together( or “for” one another), feats that had been thought impossible by those who had previously tried & failed( either alone or bolstered by a passion that was somehow less than the “true love” of the heroes).
  So now, with this idealized “love” firmly implanted in our cultural awareness, is it any wonder that people who fall “in love” & have a “fairytale romance” are disillusioned when reality sets in? They really shouldn’t be so surprised.

 Sometimes, to say one is “in love” can be justified, when there’s more to it than just the romance; but “True Love” as we now see it in fiction, then, would be the rare-in-real-life case in which two( or more?) people not only develop a mutual romantic infatuation, and real love, but also manage to maintain that romantic interest, preferably expressed as a domestic/sexual partnership, perhaps a marriage, for the rest of their natural lives( or at least until robbed of parts of their personalities by brain damage/dysfunction) & beyond. “True Love” is a misnomer for this sequence of events; “Happily Ever After” is a better label.
  (One popular culture phenomenon which completely subverts this misunderstanding of love is the excellent Disney animated film Frozen. If you haven’t seen it because you have some preconceived notion about Disney or musicals or Idina Menzel or animation or whatever, you are doing yourself a great disservice. It gives the impression of being overhyped, but this is actually due to it being so excellent that it naturally makes people enthusiastic. It is one of the best films I have ever seen, because it conveys a lot of hard-but-necessary truths about relationships in an easy-to-swallow manner that even kids can understand, running counter to the usual crap with which Hollywood fills our heads.)
  I definitely believe in Happily Ever After as a phenomenon, I know couples who have been that to each other... but I think that a lot of people pursue H.A.E. so single-mindedly that they miss out on opportunities to both discover other real loves, & to attain fulfillment through a variety of more temporary domestic/sexual partnerships.
  Love, even real & mutual love, provides no guarantee that people are suited to live H.A.E.; it’s not even a guarantee that they won’t hurt each other badly.( We’ll deal with abusive relationships in a future entry. For now, I’ll just say that the love can be real, but that doesn’t justify staying together when dysfunction in expressing it becomes dangerous.)

  So then, what is love? Here’s my definition:
  “I usually define love, at least as far as love for another person goes, as an intense certainty, beyond reason, & beyond any other emotion; that for at least a single critical instant one’s life was better, or the universe as a whole was greater, or something was just *right* that would have otherwise been wrong; simply because that person, just as s/he was, with all his/her strengths & weaknesses, all his/her flaws & paradoxical perfection, existed & was right there in that moment, to make all the difference; either by luck when no one & nothing else available would have sufficed, or because the person in question had another choice yet chose to be there instead–especially if others who could have been chose not to.
  Love for another, then, is nothing more or less than the unqualified belief that if one had never crossed paths with that person, one’s world would be poorer for it.”
  I’ll have more to say in a future post.

With love,

–D.R.T.Y.boi E.M.