Category: middle age

Repost: Out of Place

Note: I wrote this earlier this year about relationships. One thing I’d like to add: tell people that you care for them or that you are their friend. For someone like me with autism it can make all the difference in the world.

lonely childWhen I was in high school, I ran track. I didn’t run well, but I did run track. Practice would take place after school. I remember heading into the locker room to change, and passing by this front room set aside for physical therapy. Every time I passed by there were people my age chatting and having a good time.

One day, I decided I was going to join in. I came in after practice and walked into the room. Unlike other days, the room was mostly empty save for one student who was being attended to by a teacher. I walked in and sat down hoping to engage in some conversation. The teacher stopped what he was doing and looked at me. “What are you doing here?” he said. I gave him a confused look and started to think I had made the wrong decision. He pointed to the door and ordered me to leave. I walked out feeling ashamed that I had even bothered to come in.

I share this story because it serves as an example of the ups and downs of one person with Aspergers trying to be social. Looking back, I probably should have known that social situations change. But in my mind, everything repeats. If there were people goofing off one day, then they would be there everyday. Obviously there were time it was okay to be in the room and times this wasn’t possible. But that nuance was lost on me.

Relationships for someone with Aspergers is like walking into a room that’s pitch black. You can’t see anything. The darkness is scary and you feel very alone. The result is that you are always scared, scared that something in the darkness is coming after you.

This all makes it hard to simply be. You are constantly worried you are going to say something stupid and when you do, all hell breaks loose. So, you withdraw feeling more alone and isolated.

It’s not just that you don’t know how to act with potential friends, it’s also that you don’t know how to act with fellow co-workers. A conversation that I intended to be helpful was interpreted as being hostile. I nearly lost my position because of it.

And let’s not even talk about romantic relationships.

In many ways, I’m still that 16 year old boy trying to figure out human relationships and failing miserably. It’s trial and error, finding out what works and what doesn’t.

The thing is, after being rapped on the nose more than once you start to become risk averse. You feel like a trapped animal with eyes darting about; seeing others as a potential threat or potential friend.

Blogger and fellow aspie Penelope Trunk has said that people with Aspergers don’t have friends and don’t have the emotional need for friends. I tend to disagree with this. I want to have friends, especially close ones, I just don’t know how to start a friendship let alone maintain it.

Lillian Daniel, Adam Copeland and the SBNRs

My last post created a lot of comments on Facebook.  A colleague of mine disagreed with the article and me for the attitude against those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”  Actually, I was agreeing to a short article written by UCC pastor Lillian Daniel and her comments have received a bit of criticism themselves.  Here’s what Presbyterian pastor Adam Copeland had to say:

  1. Really? An airplane? Would that be first-class or coach? I meet with
    people (young adults, mostly) every week who call themselves “spiritual
    but not religious.” They tend to be underemployed, live month-to-month,
    and are doing their best to find meaning in their tumultuous lives.
    Sure, the phrase “spiritual but not religious” needs some unpacking for
    pastors whose livelihoods depend on people’s public religiosity, but
    I’ve never heard it as “rebellion against the religious status quo.”
    Rather, the phrase is more a humble testimony that they just don’t seem
    to connect with fancy churches. And who can blame them?
  2. As opposed to what Daniel suggests, the “spiritual but not religious” folks I talk to yearn for community.
    I have not found one who wants simply to have “deep thoughts all by
    oneself” as Daniel accuses. What might be true, however, is that the
    community they seek isn’t offered at most mainline churches with our
    endowment funds and dress codes and judgmental matriarchs and
    patriarchs. You see, some “spiritual but not religious” folks sense a
    certain righteous attitude from these institutions (go figure?). Many
    were once burned by hugely negative experiences with the church and
    it’ll take the church reaching out — in love, not in snark — for healing
    to begin.
  3. God is working in the lives of the “spiritual but not religious.” I
    happen to believe they have a huge amount to teach the church about
    connecting to God, supporting true community, sustaining spiritual
    practices, and living out St. Augustine’s call for a “faith seeking
    understanding.” Daniel asks, “Can I spend my time talking to someone
    brave enough to encounter God in a real human community?” I say, Yes,
    feel free to do that in your church. But also be brave enough to listen
    to those encountering God in ways you don’t fully understand. Learn from
    them.

Copeland does have some points to make, but I can’t help but agree more with Daniel’s original snarky response, than with Copeland’s defense of the SBNRs.  Maybe part of it comes from being in ministry a bit longer than Copeland.  Just a few weeks from my 42nd birthday, I’m not the angry young man I used to be.  Things that I thought were just the bees knees are now seen as sheer foolishness.  I’m not whining as much about how unfair the world is and more willing to say that we need to develop a spiritual toughness against the harshness of life.  The people inside the church are not as stupid and backward as we thought they were.  The folks outside the church are not the fonts of wisdom we once thought they were.
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