See Me for ME, by Jean Williams
I hear so often that happiness is of our own making - and it irritates me to hear that, because of course so many external factors play on us, especially as autistics. Life is hard, and people are unfair and often harsh. But then somewhere in the middle of that I realize that what brings me the most happiness is the people I love. Not the people who love me - but the ones I love, and then I wonder...
So many times in the course of my life, I have gotten in trouble for what I call "caring clumsily". Just caring for and admiring someone that I wish would like me, who I would wish could just be a friend or a mentor. Just trying to build a relationship - but not being very good at it. I have so often just not understood the right things to do – or not to do. I have turned away from me so many people that I was only guilty of adoring, but not doing it well. There is always that persistent hurt. What did I do wrong? Why don't they like me? Can't count the tears I've cried. But in the moments between those tears, I realize I still love them. And NOBODY can take that away from me. And isn't that what's best about the whole thing?
Someday, perhaps perceptions will change, and people will begin to understand autistics. I always hope that people will look past my awkwardness and see me for ME. For the loving, gentle person I really am - who trips over my own feet and says stupid things when flustered. Who cries too much, and occasionally just gets frustrated and wants to give up. Who for years hated myself because of all those faults I just can't seem to get the best of - and which instead so often get the best of me. But who then finally realized that so many of the traits I loved in other people were traits - that if I looked - I could see in myself. So if I valued those traits in others, I needed to value them in me.
So, yes, there are all those things that make life hard. And yes, I cry, and yes, I get frustrated and hurt. But then something touches me again, a word, a picture, a song, a thought - that brings back those good memories and good feelings that surround someone special that I just adore. It isn't always easy, but I try to turn my attentions away from the hurt – and focus back on the things that matter – recalling the happy memories, the good feelings in my heart, the good qualities I enjoyed in someone. When I do that, it seems that often my heart stops hurting and grows soft, and a smile creeps across my face, and I realize that happiness was there waiting all along...
Jean Williams is an autistic 59 year old Software Engineer. She is married for 37 years to the love of her life, with a daughter and two charming and lively grandsons. An avid birdwatcher, she is liable to chase off at a whim to find birds - not even necessarily only rare ones, but often just because. Other hobbies include photography, writing and listening to Forte Tenors. She is currently in the process of writing a book entitled "The Crazy Floridian and the Birds, or The Search For Feather Presents", which is largely an autobiography about overcoming the challenges of autism and learning how to thoroughly enjoy life - a talent she has not yet entirely mastered, but is creeping up on.