I don’t know if I’m making a point with this post or just rambling, but I’m going to write out what I’ve been thinking about anyway.
But let’s start with a brag. Rye’s comfort zone has grown again! It now includes (drum roll please) my lap! For over a month now she has spent time in my lap every single day. And by “time” I mean hours. I mean hanging out, taking baths, and sleeping. This is absolutely INCREDIBLE. For years I literally would say “Rye will never be a lap cat” and now look at her, blowing every limiting expectation I ever had out of the water. Sure, she doesn’t develop socially on the same timeline as other cats – but she still develops.
Anyway, while developmental timelines are certainly an important thing to talk about, it’s not why I’m writing right now. It’s just been the trigger for some feelings I’ve been having. I mean… it’s been a trigger for a LOT of feelings, but I just want to talk about one in particular. Specifically, I want to hold her.
This is nothing new. I have wanted to hold her a lot since I adopted her. It’s just that now that she sleeps in my lap, the desire to gather her up in my arms and hold her close is SO INTENSE. I love her very, very much and I want to express that love with hugs and cuddles.
Rye would not react well. With a lot of work and a lot of trust I can kind of hold her in small ways. Like, if she’s sitting in my chair when I want to sit down, she’ll let me pick her up and put her in my lap (itself such a huge thing for her! seriously!). But scooping her up and hugging her close? She would probably panic. If she didn’t panic, she would definitely hate it. She needs to feel safe, and part of feeling safe continues to mean not being confined or restrained. She knows she can run.
So because I love her, I don’t hold her. My desire to hold her is all about me. I wouldn’t be showing her love at all if I did it – I would just be fulfilling my own desires. The thing that matters most is what she needs from me. What I can do so that she knows I love her. That means paying attention to what she responds to, not just stomping all over her with what I think she “should” respond to.
Like other people have done to me.
I have my own limitations too. I also do not do well with being held. Additionally, I absolutely cannot stand being lightly touched or brushed. Sometimes people have wanted to express love or affection for me via those things that I really can’t deal with. And sometimes instead of respecting that I need affection to come in other forms, they’ve gotten angry with me! Or tried to explain to me that I SHOULD find those things enjoyable. Or thought that they should “fix” me by forcing me to endure it until I “realize” that it’s actually nice. Or even decided that they just can’t be close to me, because to be close to a person they have to be able to express affection in a way I hate. Honestly, that last one is almost understandable. It’s certainly less bad than the other ones.
In any case, none of those reactions were rooted in love or affection for me. They were about the other person putting their own desires above my needs. This happens to autistic people entirely too often. Our needs are weird or strange or feel wrong to other people, and people don’t always react well to those who are weird or strange or feel wrong.
But the fact is, part of loving someone is knowing that what they need is more important than what you want. Showing my love to Rye means (among other things) putting aside my own desire to hug her in favor of the simpler pets and ear rubs that she enjoys.
To add – recently she has actually begun to allow me to hold her in small ways for brief periods of time. I ADORE this. I also recognize that I am still not showing her love when this happens. SHE is showing ME love by letting me do it.