February 24, 2013: The Persistent Question: Who Am I Now? Well, it's getting
close to a month since I was officially diagnosed with high-functioning autism and
in some ways I don't feel much closer to any sort of clear understanding of this.
I have made a number of contacts and have a number of potentially empowering meetings
with individuals of various non-profit organizations scheduled for early March, but
if a potential employer were to ask me today, "What accommodations do you need, to
be a valuable member of our team?" I'm not sure I would be able to provide a clear
and complete answer. I could perhaps name two or three basic generalities, but that
hardly constitutes a complete answer. Perhaps the remarkable but unavoidable conclusion
this suggests, is that life is ultimately an ongoing exploration with no guarantees,
which it is most recommendable that we explore together. So how many of us are willing
to give life a chance, even with all of its unpredictable twists and turns and infinitely
variable relationships? If we do, the possibilities are positively amazing. The ability
to try, however, it seems to me, arises from whatever answers I can give to the even
more fundamental question of "who am I?" Answering this question remains difficult
for me, however, because it's sometimes difficult to tell which influences arise
from autism and which arise from my own personality (both of which resist alteration
but can nevertheless be integrated). Adding to the confusion are all of the public
debates about who should receive assistance, as well as what kind and how much assistance
should be offered. Some seem to expect the government and all of its complicated
programs to fix the problem. I think we would do better to focus upon helping each
other, rather than waiting for government programs to kick in, but I haven't found
too many people who think this way. Perhaps that's because everyone else is also
still answering the question, "who am I," and consequently aren't any more sure than
I am, of how to begin. Some people seem to hide from themselves behind seemingly
endless intellectual analysis, while others appear to give free reign to emotional
and instinctual reactions that are sometimes counter-productive to building relationships.
Surely there really is a middle ground where mind and heart can be constructively
integrated--at least that is my hope, but I can't be sure, because I don't think
I've found it yet. My first suggestion in even beginning to address this question,
is to remember that we are each a multifaceted being--unique combinations of positive,
negative, and neutral qualities which express themselves in innumerable ways within
the diverse circumstances and challenges of our lives. I like to think that I'm not
so concerned about from where an answer comes as that, in fact, an effective and
truthful answer does come--and that I remember that every answer is tentative, pending
mostly unpredictable further developments in circumstances and abilities. I would
very much like to know--as completely and truthfully as possible--what my current
circumstances and abilities are and also what they may become, within the days, weeks,
and months ahead. Since apparently no one has this information readily available,
it would seem the only answer currently within reach is, "I guess we'll find out."
Hm. Well, onward and hopefully upward.
March 5, 2013: The Action of Waiting Okay,
now that I have an official diagnosis, why is it taking so long to form a constructive
response, a clear definition, or a reasonable expectation? "Every case is different"--I've
heard that so many times by now that its unavoidable truth no longer satisfies me.
While I have found a person or two who appears to be supportive of constructive resolution
of my challenges, the general demand in this area is astonishingly large, resulting
in answers such as "Considering all of the other clients whom I need to see, the
next time I can meet with you is three weeks from Thursday." Yet autism is a very
constant and daily experience. What do I do in the meantime? When nothing makes any
sense, I get up in the morning trying to imagine something--anything, even just one
thing--that I can do today that will somehow move me and my life in a positive direction.
If I can accomplish at least that one thing today, then I know I will conclude the
day with a sense of contentment--that somehow in spite of all the chaos in the world,
there is a sense in which things are okay and I will consequently be able to get
a good night's rest. Unfortunately it's been a while since I've been able to do that.
Everything seems to be spinning all around me, like Dorothy riding on her bed within
her bedroom as the tornado carried her to Oz--just waiting for everything to stop
spinning so she could begin to figure out where she was, who her friends are now,
and what path to follow in order to re-establish a sense of home. Perhaps in some
way or another we all long for home; to be surrounded by a sense of family and a
certain minimum amount of familiarity, from which to make our own unique creative
contributions to the world around us. I guess the things that I try to remember to
cope within such moments are that no tornado lasts forever (they all come to an end
at some point); there is always something which follows (the world doesn't end);
and there is always a way for me to respond or something I can contribute to that
which follows (I am not simply a victim of circumstances). More concisely, I remain
unavoidably in relationship to the frequently mysterious unfolding of my own life.
While I can only build the bridge halfway (inescapably relying upon others to build
the other half), I do have to make sure that I have done a good job building my half
of the bridge. That will ultimately and genuinely be my life's work, even if--for
now--I don't exactly know what that is. And so I wait; eager and restless to begin.