This Christmas has been one of the better Christmases for me. It made me feel better that there are people out there that actually care about me. Yet, in weeks past, I had become too self-centered and accepting that I didn’t make the choice to do my share and be a friend when people reach out to me. You see, to have a friend isn’t just about getting what you want, it is also giving what you have to them too, that is what makes it a true friendship.
As autistics, it can be hard to read the feelings of others. When someone reaches out to us, most likely it is because they care and want to know how we are doing and want us to interact and engage with them. It would be a lonely world if it wasn’t that way. However, many times I would hyper-focus on my interests because it is what made ME happy. Sometimes though, I have to admit that it does get lonely and at those times, is when I would reach out for those that I knew would listen. However, when others would reach out to me to see how I was and have a conversation, I would many times not engage fully and leave one-word answers, thus possibly hurting the feelings of others. That is not what a friend is. I should know that from past relationships and friendships that faltered, mostly because of that reason.
Although I had to recognize that I was the one behind not doing what my mother instilled in me for years when I lived with her and my dad, sometimes, you need to be a friend and care. Yes, it can be hard to extend your social skills outgoing and it may hurt when someone reaches out to you to engage in their conversations. More than likely, they are reaching out because they genuinely care about you and want to learn about you and your interests. Being autistics, we can at times be hyper-focused on other things and it can be difficult to engage with others because it isn’t something we feel comfortable doing. One of those things is eye contact, which through years of therapy, I can now honestly say I master well. Along with having all the skills taught to me, because the norm of eye contact is always instilled in us, eventually I realized that it was something that was expected.
More than likely, people engage with you, especially as adults, because they are interested in knowing you more. They too, whether or not they or autistic or have other challenges, want someone to have a conversation with. Being alone can be a lonely place to be in. I cannot count the number of times in this year alone that I felt so lonely and bored and just downright miserable. Even on Christmas Day this year, while I needed to recharge by laying down after the festivities were all said and done, I had a hard time engaging myself in doing something productive and being stable, I went back and forth between the bed, the couch and the computer chair. There was plenty of things that I could have done, yet, I couldn’t do anything for a long period of time because I couldn’t stay seated. Eventually, I took my medicine and went to bed and got a lot of sleep.
I am beginning to realize that part of being a friend with someone requires me to put in some sweat equity on my part, I need to “be the friend” like my parents say I need to be and maybe be the one to start the conversation. This means when I am well enough to do so, put what I want to do aside and actually take the time and engage with someone and consider their story, It may be the highlight of their day to have someone reach out to them to see how they are and spend some time engaging in conversation with them. That is how you build a friendship. Yes, it may require some skill, however, if it is a healthy friendship, it will make you feel good and valued. In a friendship, to get something, you have to give it. It has to be a two-way friendship. There can be some differences when one party cannot contribute because of a challenge or something similar. However, some effort has to be put in to make both parties happy and not miserable.
I have learned that I cannot toil in misery no more and am discovering that I have to contribute to get the natural support that I long to have. I am one of many autistics that long for connection to the world beyond our family and there are tools for that to happen now, thankfully it can be done, Sometimes to get the things you want in life requires you to put in the sweat equity and although you may not want to in the beginning, once you do, you will be glad you did.