Til ASD Do Us Part
Since it has been just a shade over one year since I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to share my thoughts through the written word thanks to Autism After 16, I decided to take a moment to look back at my first column. Curiosity, it would appear, may not be fatal only for felines! One sentence in particular knocked the wind out of me, and at times like this, writing is the one thing I know I can do that will be productive on some level. Furthermore, since the sentence that blew me away relates quite directly to the fact that I am adult-and-autistic, this seems like as productive a venue as any to share my experience as it relates to that sentence over the past year.
Okay, I lied. It was two sentences, and here they are: “Had I known some two decades ago what I know now—as a parent, as an educator, as a student, as an autistic person—I can only imagine what a difference it would have made in my own life, and the lives of the people who matter to me the most: my neurotypical husband (God bless him!) and my children. What I can hope for at this point is that it is not too late for them to share in the benefits of what I now know, and what I am learning still.” Some of you who read my column regularly may have noticed that some months back, I asked my editor to add my maiden name to my signature. I have been doing this in several areas (or at least, on Facebook!) recently in preparation for what is happening in the next week or so—the finalization of my divorce and taking back my maiden name legally.
The paradox is undoubtedly evident between my new reality and the statement I made this time last year, listing my neurotypical husband (God bless him!) as the first person who matters to me the most. The reality I have come to accept is that for me, with my Aspie traits that I would not trade at this point in my life for anything, are not exactly compatible with those neurotypical traits that are just as ingrained in my husband … I can still call him that for a few more days, at least. I know of a gentleman on the spectrum whose wife is as well, and as I understand it, they maintain separate households while remaining happily married. A few months back, when it became glaringly obvious that my marriage as it was functioning was in actuality NOT functioning, I suggested such an arrangement to hubby. He was the one who had opened the conversation that our reality was not working for him, and hadn’t been for a long time. He did not warm to the idea (perhaps if he’d been an Aspie too…?). But the sense of overwhelming relief I experienced in spite of myself at the idea of living outside what I had felt for too long was the confines of our marital relationship planted the seed that finally blossomed like a fresh bloom in the spring, and I knew I had to go.
I didn’t want my husband to end up hating me, I certainly didn’t want to end up hating him, and my offers to change the AS parts of my makeup that I knew drove him to the brink were met with refusal. He did not want me to put myself through the struggle any more—to spend any more time, effort and energy attempting to fix things that I didn’t necessarily think were broken in the first place, to stop trying to jam that square peg that was me into the round hole that was a marital partnership. And for my part, I was just about done watching him be miserable and blaming myself for it day in and day out; whether or not that was the reality of the situation, that’s how I perceived it … and perception is, after all, everything. So I left, before we could end up hating each other and while I still had the chance to simply be myself on my own terms and stop trying to fit myself into my perception of what I thought I “should be” for him.
I am extremely proud of who I am today, still a work-in-progress but so much closer to being the person I think I’m actually supposed to be than I was this time last year. Having the courage to know that I could live on my own, and take care of myself, and pay my bills and manage my finances and grocery shop and … well, you get the idea. We adults blessed with AS may just, every once in a while, need all of the well-intentioned neurotypicals in our lives to give us a real chance to find out who we are, what we’re capable of, and what strengths we should never be asked to give up.
Thank you Charlie, for giving me that chance. You will never be more important to me than you were when I wrote my first column this time last year.