Tag Archives: challenge

Dragged in two directions, neither of them good

I feel like I’m in the middle of a tug of war, being hauled on by two groups, neither of which actually care about me or what I have to say.

So there’s a topic that has been churning around in my head for a while now. It’s the one where people will say “ah, but really we’re all a little bit autistic” and how horrible it is to say. I’ve really been struggling to give voice to that, why it’s so icky, and eventually I went and asked for help. In the process I learned that I am not the only person who struggles to put it into words.

However, as this has all been churning around, another topic sprang to mind, and that’s the one I’m going to talk about now. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll figure out how exactly to explain that no, we are not all a little bit autistic.

So increasingly I feel like I am being tugged in two different directions, both of them icky. And trying to pull back on either of them risks me falling in the other direction. Or, just as bad, risks people thinking I am going in the other direction, even when I’m not.

See, on the one hand we have the people who talk about autism as a “tragedy.” They’ll use words like “disease” or “holocaust” to describe us. They’ll talk about us as though we’re lost or broken, diminishing our lives and our personhood to nothing more than fear mongering talking points. We’ve all run across it, I’m sure. I’m sure many of us have been hurt by words like that in some way or another. So we resist. We say we aren’t a tragedy. We explain we have strengths. We say we are different, not less. We insist our voices be heard, even as they try their best to silence us.

And people see us resist those tactics, and just wind up thinking we are on the other end of things. The end where people say things like “we’re all a little bit autistic” as though autism is nothing more than a bundle of quirks. This is the side that diminishes our very real struggles, how much things can hurt when you’re autistic, how extremely difficult some things can be.

I’ve had people see that I am against the “cure” idea, and accuse me of being against therapy, treatment, and other sorts of help. I’ve seen people claim that “different, not less” is treating our differences like hair color – something shallow and cosmetic and not actually a major impact on one’s life. At times when I’ve explicitly rejected people saying “we’re all a little autistic” I’ve had people able-splain at me that since it’s a spectrum, everyone is on it.

I’m tired of feeling like I’m the middle of this terrible tug-of-war, but I don’t know how to leave. I don’t know how to make it clear that I’m not on either side – that I see BOTH sides as being harmful. And I know so much of it is because so few people are willing to listen to autistic people. When they do, so many come in with their preconceived notions of what we’re saying, with the straw men that have been constructed by the people in that tug-o-war, that they are more interested in accusing me of saying things I’m not than in actually listening to what I am trying to communicate. It’s frustrating. I don’t know how to fix it.

So I guess for those of you that do listen – thank you. Maybe we’ll find a way out from those two sides and forge our own path.

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Compassion

i found it this way

<image is of a single blue flower resting on blue gravel. I’m not sure why I’m using this image, but somehow it seemed fitting>

I want to talk a little bit about compassion. I’m not entirely sure that it is within the scope of my blog (though Nee assures me it is), but it’s been on my mind a lot so I’m writing about it anyway.

A few things got the thoughts started. One was when a commenter called me compassionate a few posts ago (thank you, kind commenter! I very much appreciate it!) and another was some stuff on facebook that I am reluctant to elaborate on because it entirely involved other people. Basically, it was people talking about how they feel compassion, and I had thoughts that took a while to make it to words, as they do.

I think that compassion is important. I also think that compassion is work, and is frequently not at all an easy thing to do.

The type of compassion that most people seem to talk about is compassion for people who are hurting in some way. Typically the hurt is obvious and acute, and yeah, we feel for those people. It’s important to feel for people who are hurting. However, this is the easiest kind of compassion there is. I want to talk a little bit about more difficult compassion.

Compassion gets much more difficult, and it not often talked about, when it’s for a person who’s being annoying. Compassion is very difficult to give to a person who hurts us.

One I personally find incredibly tricky is compassion for a person who is hurting in a similar way that I am hurting, but distinctly less than me. For instance, Nee and I both struggle with loneliness. However, he has more people in his life than I do. Sometimes, when I am really feeling the pain of my isolation and he’s just come home from socializing without me, it can be really hard for me to feel compassion for the fact the he is lonely too.

Compassion means always assuming the best in people. It means that if someone does something that you find hurtful, ALWAYS assume that it was unintentional, and work from that baseline.

Compassion means believing that people have good reasons to do or believe whatever it is they do or believe, even if we don’t understand it or disagree with it or find it offensive. Even if they are demonstratively wrong, even if they are hurting people, compassion means trying to find the root of what is going on to address it. Compassion means approaching people with love and a belief that they are *not bad people,* whatever else is going on.

Personally, I find this profoundly difficult when it comes to issues I am passionate about, or I am personally hurt by their actions. Sometimes I just can’t do it. In fact, while I definitely think compassion is important, I also think that compassion means understanding that sometimes people need to take care of themselves first. The person who is personally hurt by racism should not have to stop and try to experience compassion for their oppressors.

Now, as much as I would like to be a compassionate person, sometimes I just can’t. Frequently, I can only manage compassion when I take a step or two back, so I am not so personally impacted by what is going on.

I do think that compassion for those are are hurting comes first, and is far more important than compassion for those who cause hurt. However, that does not mean that the latter is not important at all or should simply be forgotten. I think that changing the world for the better is going to involve lots of compassion, including the kind of compassion that is difficult or painful.

Finally, I want to point you towards an example of the kind of compassion I am talking about, that put it much better than I ever could. It is compassion without concession – it demonstrates that showing compassion does not mean giving up, or conceding defeat, or saying that the other side is correct. It is, simply, showing compassion.

You may have read it already: The Distress of the Privileged. The author uses the movie Pleasantville as an example, to show the distress of one who is privileged – in this case, the character George Parker. He enjoyed a privileged position in his society, and found himself lost and confused when suddenly the people around him started to reject society and his role in it.

“George deserves compassion, but his until-recently-ideal housewife Betty Parker (and the other characters assigned subservient roles) deserves justice. George and Betty’s claims are not equivalent, and if we treat them the same way, we do Betty an injustice.”

Sometimes I think that people fear that showing compassion means losing the opportunity for justice, but I do not believe that is the case. Compassion is still important, and can even be a tool for justice. And no, it isn’t always easy.

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Horseback Riding

I'm on a horse

Ok, this week’s post is running a little late.  I have a number of blog ideas meandering around in my head, but I think after last week’s post I want to do something lighter.  So instead, I’m just going to blather about ways horseback riding challenges me.  Yeah, entirely self-serving here.  No horseback riding for a month!  Two weeks in and I miss it so hard.

Horseback riding has challenged me in many ways that I never predicted.  I mean, I always vaguely (sorta) knew that there was more to it than just sitting on a horse’s back and hanging on, but I never realized just how much.  How very, very much.

One thing I’ve been becoming increasingly conscious of lately is just how much I wind up off in my own head.  It’s (usually) relaxing in there and easier than staying connected to the world.  Horseback riding, however, really pushes me to not do that.  Largely because on a horse, I can’t do that.  Or rather, I could, but it would be a terrible idea.  I’m not on lesson horses anymore, and the horses I ride expect me to be in charge, and will take advantage of me if I slip.  Not so much maliciously as sometimes they just wanna do their own thing.  So riding helps teach me to stay connected, even when sometimes I want to slip off.

Riding involves multitasking.  Lots of multitasking.  Here’s a quick off-the-cuff list of things I have to keep watch on while riding

  • leg position
  • rein tension
  • my posture
  • the horse’s posture
  • what I am doing at that moment
  • what I am planning on doing next
  • any other people in the ring
  • hand position
  • keeping myself relaxed
  • proper balance

And all of those things are just for while walking.  The list gets bigger if I’m trotting, and bigger yet if I’m cantering.  On the plus side, many of those, with practice, become increasingly second nature.  Muscle memory, motor cortex, however you like to think about those things.  And the more things start to come naturally to me, the more things my teacher throws at me to keep me challenged.  There is SO MUCH to learn.  Plus, it’s an ongoing process.  I learned the rough basics of how to post in three lessons.  It took me a few years to get enough of the details down that my teacher stopped throwing new things at me about it, and I’ll probably always keep learning in smaller ways for as long as I ride.

Riding forces me to interact with other people.  Not a lot, and I’m still woefully awkward with the other people there, but I can’t get away with just silently slipping around.  At minimum, when passing other people who are also riding, I am expected to call out “inside!”  When I heard someone behind me call that out, I am expected to keep myself to the outside and not swerve in front of them.  My teacher likes to yell things at me from across the ring, and at least sometimes I am expected to answer by yelling back.  And I can tell you, that was not an easy thing for me to do at first (still isn’t comfortable, but not as challenging as it used to be).

Riding is scary, at least to me.  It took over a year before I stopped being scared just to get on a horse.  Multiple years to stop getting heart palpitations before trotting.  I still get very nervous while cantering.  But if I want to get better and learn new things, I have to do the things that scare me, and keep doing them until I’m comfortable.  And then do them more.  It’s challenging, but it’s also awesome.

Conclusion: riding is AWESOME and at least for me, it qualifies as a form of therapy.  ^_^

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