Tag Archives: friendship

All About Me, Part II

This is part II of that list of 36 questions that are supposed to encourage vulnerability and intimacy.

Since this is all about me, here is my first selfie ever (I do not expect this will become A Thing for me) taken with my brand new brainyphone. I am beginning to enter the future!

See Part I here.

And now, you get to learn more about me! And once again, I’d love to see any answers you want to give.

  1. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

This is a tough question. I’m torn about knowing the future. I’d be afraid that I would see something terrible and then would spend my life fearing whatever I’d seen, dreading the passage of time.

  1. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

I would like to get a college degree.

My first try was, as briefly mentioned in my previous post, a failure. A disaster, really. Since then my obstacles are part money, and part a fear of failure. A fear that I won’t be able to do the work necessary to earn that degree.

That said, if Obama’s thing about providing free tuition for two years at a community college goes through, I like to think that I would absolutely run out and try my hardest, no matter what I feared.

For a while transportation was also an issue, but that is one that has been largely resolved.

  1. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

I hate to say it, but I honestly don’t see myself as having any particular accomplishments. I guess this blog is an accomplishment. 400 likes on facebook, over 100 people following my email. That’s not too shabby, really.

  1. What do you value most in a friendship?

Connection.

  1. What is your most treasured memory?

Memories of my grandfather. I loved him very very much, but he died when I was young. He lived in Tennessee and raised chickens (and other birds, but I mostly saw the chickens) and visiting him was always the highlight of my entire year. Even now, I still miss him.

  1. What is your most terrible memory?

By and large, I’d say the deaths of those I love are consistently my most terrible memories. The recent death of Genzi (my cat) definitely tops the list right now.

  1. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

I think I would do a lot more going out and meeting people. I am lonely and isolated and I don’t like being that way. Right now I am in a down-cycle, not trying to expand my social circle, because of circumstances in my life right now and the high cost of trying. But if I knew I only had a year left, long term consequences wouldn’t really matter anymore, so high cost and high risk would be more worth it.

  1. What does friendship mean to you?

Closeness. Spending time together. Sharing our interests and passions, some of which will likely overlap, others of which will not. One-on-one social contact. Caring about each other.

  1. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

I am having trouble answering this question. I do know that when I am close to someone, I feel that closeness very intensely. Yeah… I’ve gathered that I do tend to be intense. When I love, I love deeply. As it is, love and affection mostly exists between me, Nee, and our cats. er. Cat. Genzi died.

  1. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

Positive characteristics of Nee:

They work to make our house better.
They like it when I ask lots of questions and get nosy about their computer games.
They work to support us both.
They are a cat person.
Their sense of humor is compatible with mine.

Positive characteristics of my readers:

You read my blog (yay!).
You leave comments.
You contribute when I ask for help with things.
You care about autism.
You are all individuals, beautiful and flawed in your own ways.

Nee’s list of positive characteristics of me:

intelligent
creative
caring
good with cats

Your list of positive characteristics of me:
I don’t know. I guess you’ll have to answer if you want to.

  1. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

Really not warm and close at all, actually. My mom was deeply unhappy in a marriage where she felt (and was) taken for granted. My dad is emotionally distant, shows very little affection, and never, ever gives praise (or at least, he never gave ME praise). My mom would sometimes vent to me about my dad when I was very little, and then get angry with me when I did not understand that it was all supposed to be secret. When they finally divorced it was profoundly stressful and difficult for me. At the time I was incredibly angry with my mom, but it did not take long for me to learn why she could no longer live with my dad. Really, a bad situation all around.

Though on the plus side, my mom generally tried to support and encourage my creative side, and my dad sort of supported my intelligence.

Now, though, my mom and I are reconciled, though not actually all that close. My brother and I have also reconnected and try to keep in touch, but also are not super close. I no longer speak to my dad.

  1. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Oh. Well I kind of already answered this one. At this point I think it would be nice to be closer, but I’m not really sure how to do that. Just chatting on the phone is so awkward for me. Maybe we should try to write each other letters. Or take up texting.

See Part III here.

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Expressing Affection

creative commons picture by Tambako on flickr

d’awww

In this case, I actually want to talk about affection in the context of friendship-feelings, rather than romantic-feelings. There is already good and healthy talk out there about romantic feelings, and how different people express their love and affection in different ways, and how understanding that can lead to better relationships. This is good and lovely, but I have not personally seen very much of this concept being applied to friendship type feelings.

Friendships seem to come in all sorts of degrees of closeness. I’ll be honest, I find navigating it all to be difficult and complicated, and I rarely find it worth it for anything short of very close, intimate friendships (though lately I have been experimenting with more casual friendships. it’s… interesting). Anyway, I am wanting to talk about expressing platonic affection. There are ways that I have to express affection or say “I like you” in friendship ways. Things like looking direction at a person’s face for several seconds straight, or giving them a big grin, or deliberately reaching out and touching them. In my language, these are all significant things because I do not do them easily or casually. They are how I express friendship affection.

Unfortunately, I have learned that not everyone sees them this way. I have had these things shrugged off and disregarded, sometimes in ways that I find hurtful. And not necessarily by people who want to hurt me, but by people who actually like me and reciprocate some level of friendship-feelings, but who apparently simply don’t understand what I’m saying when I do those things.

So I figure there are two steps to dealing with this. One is to try to teach them my language, so they know what various actions are saying (this blog post is actually a minor attempt at that). Another is to try to learn their language and use it too.

I like words. Words are fabulous. So it seems reasonable to, at least occasionally, say to a person “I like you.” When I think about it, it’s kind of amazing to me just how challenging it is for me to say that. I can say “I like doing this thing with you” relatively easily, but that is very different. So a personal project that I have been working on is to, here and there, say “I like you” to a person I have friendship-feelings towards. Of course, there is still a high degree of probability that they won’t really grok how challenging it is for me to say. I mean, given how much I like words it seems rather counter-intuitive that I would find saying certain things so difficult. However, it will mean that I will be saying it in a more direct, common-language way, so there will be less chance of my meaning being lost in translation.

In at least one experiment of this, I learned that words can be really quite significant. I have been riding for around four years. In that time, I have grown to have friendship-type feelings at my riding instructor. In all the time I’ve been riding, in FOUR YEARS of chatting, sharing personal stories, and getting to know each other, I had never once actually said “I like you.” NOT ONCE. So eventually I gathered my courage and did just that. I told her that I wanted to consider her a friend, I said that I really like having the chance to just chat and such once a week, and I said “I like you.” She actually surprised me with the strength of her positive response. So in at least one case, actually using the words really turned out to be a good thing to do.

So now I’m experimenting in little ways, here and there, with other people. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

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On ‘Potential’

I find I suddenly have lots of things I want to talk about. This one is hard for me – it deals with things I find personally hurtful, as well as things I feel shame about, and the intersection thereof. I have no idea if I’ll manage to do it justice, but I plan to try.

I get told that I have potential. I am never sure what it means. Potential to do what? Potential is such a vague word for people to be throwing about as casually as they do. During my screening for Asperger’s, a friend said about me “she could do so much more!” I’m sure she meant it as a compliment. She was talking about this ‘potential’ people like to gab about.

Specifically, she was talking about the fact that I’m smart. And it’s true. I am smart. Not only that, but I am very confident in my intelligence. If I focus (and potentially have someone to teach me) I can learn all sorts of things, and learn them well. So in that way, I guess I have potential to do… something. Maybe.

Do I?

Honestly, I’m not so sure. Yeah, I have brains. Know what else I have? Severe social difficulties that I am only just beginning to really understand. Sensory defensiveness that interacts with my social difficulties in mostly unpleasant ways. Difficulties in understanding “normal” speech patterns, like metaphors or people’s insistance on phrasing requests as offers (why do that do that? It’s so frustrating!). Things other people think are rude I think are polite, things other people think are polite I think are rude. It’s very very hard for me to navigate the world, so at this point I mostly don’t do it.

Throw that stuff in the mix and it suddenly becomes more difficult to assess my ‘potential.’ Even more so because this is an extrovert’s world. Society has focused on optimizing for a population that is more or less the opposite of me, and I often feel like there simply isn’t room for me and my weirdness. Could I do ‘more’? Yeah, probably. If I had help, if I could find a niche, if I could still spend the vast majority of my time away from people or the risk of people. And admittedly, if I could find a job doing something I enjoyed that didn’t threaten my sanity the way interacting with the world usually does, that would be pretty darn cool. That is really hard to find, though. I haven’t managed it yet. Add to that, it always feels like a statement that what I do simply isn’t enough. Without getting into it too much, that is a trigger for me. Maybe I don’t do things that society says are the things we are supposed to do, and it’s true that I have internalized that message, but I still do things, I still challenge myself, and I still learn and grow.

The easy answer is to not socialize with people who say such things, right? Except it seems so common. I find myself worrying about with people I already know, and especially with people who are new. I cannot be anyone other than who I am, and I’ve tried enough times that I’m pretty certain of it by now.

Hm. I think I’ve reached the conclusion point of this post, but I am having trouble figuring out how to wrap it all up. I guess for me, I am going to try to avoid talking about potential. If I see a kid who did something awesome, I think I’d rather just focus on the awesome thing rather then throw in an extra “you’ll do so much when you grow up” type statement.

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friendship and socialization

So a few weeks ago I was talking to my therapist about friendships and what it takes for me to call a person a friend, and a few times the energy it takes to maintain a connection with a person was mentioned.  My therapist always took that in terms of the energy cost of socializing, and that it’s important to get something out of my contact with people since unlike most of the general population, just seeing a person is not rewarding in and of itself.

Now, all that is true, but it is really not the whole story.  There is another cost to maintaining connections with people, and that is the cost of keeping my internal sense of connection alive.  This is something that I gather I am very unusual about.  This starts with something that is, as far as I know, completely normal – people take up space in my head.  I’ve heard some people call it “renting space.”  My metaphor seems to be bubbles.  Every person gets a bubble in my head.  The closer I am to a person, the larger the bubble is.  However, those bubbles don’t just stick around on their own.  I have to put energy into keeping them there, or else they are inclined to wither up and die, and my internal sense of connection goes with it.

Part of my ability to feel close to a person is about how much energy I need to use to maintain the bubble.  I have yet to figure out exactly what it is about people that can make this easy or difficult, but one thing that is true is that on rare occasions I can feel a connection to a person very easily.  This is so rare that it always feels kind of special when it happens (and it tends to be disappointing, though not surprising, when the person in question doesn’t really see it as being that special).  Interestingly, this is something where spending time in person can be beneficial.  Yes, there is an energy cost to socialization (that’s what I get for being an introvert), but the right people also wind up reinforcing their bubbles with direct interaction, so my energy maintenance costs decrease or even temporarily go away for a while.

If I don’t maintain the bubbles, they have a habit of going away, and I have yet to figure out how to make them come back once they’re gone.  On the plus side, this means that I can never, ever wind up in an on-again-off-again relationship of any kind.  On the down side, once a friendship is over, it’s really over.  In any case, my real point is that this changes the way I think about the cost of friendship.  This seems like a relevant thing, so it seems like something worth sharing.

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