I think all aspies must come with an in-built shovel for digging themselves a hole. Or various holes. Ones for conversations where you know you shouldn't say something, but do. Ones for when you need to behave in the right way and the wrong way happens, even though you can see yourself from the outside and know it's wrong.
There's a special shovel reserved for the holes we need for work. I think this one possibly gets the most heavy-duty use. Unlike the conversation shovel, it needs to put in hard labour, making the holes big enough and deep enough so that you have a reason to walk away from a job that pays your bills and keeps you out of the gutter.
The relationship shovel is a slim, silver-trimmed affair, pretty to look at, catches the light, makes you think it's just an accessory...until you find yourself digging furiously at the spot where your potential best beloved is about to walk. Then you realise the relationship shovel is more than an accessory, it's an accomplice.
Sometimes, mindful of the fact a life worth living is better done with enough money, friends to talk to and no one hammering down you door for what you did to their hydrangea, we try to leave the shovels at home. We have a special cupboard called Best Intentions. We pack those beggars up, making sure to fasten in the little sharp shovels for stabbing ourselves in the back and we leave the house, confident of success.
It lasts a little while, with us enjoying the freedom of not having a shovel to carry around everywhere. We even come home and pretend we're not thinking about the cupboard. There's no sound coming from in there, they are only shovels - we know they need us to do the digging and, as long as we leave them locked up, we'll be fine!
In the middle of the night we might wake to find ourselves in the darkened hall, one hand on the door of the cupboard. What a shock to discover we were about to release the shovels. We hurry back to bed, shivering at the thought that we almost threw away our chance to be normal and succeed.
Give it a little while longer and we think we've forgotten all about that cupboard. We're gaining in confidence and can see how we were meant to succeed this time. Everything is going to be all right! Wow, what an amazing thing, after years of digging holes. Fancy that, all we had to do was lock up those shovels and strike out by ourselves.
What we don't realise is that, all along, we've had a little, hand-held shovel in our pockets, waiting for our fingers to find it in an unguarded moment. As we're feeling confident and are good at forgetting things, we also forget this pocket even existed, until the day we find it again.
A small shovel, small enough to fit in your hand and not take much effort to use: what harm could it do? It's slim, petite, the handle is too short to be seen when we're holding it. There are pretty little designs carved into the shiny metal. What could it do, all by itself, when the other shovels are still locked up at home?
What it can do - and what it will do every time, if we're not aware of it - is dig away just enough to let the light through. Like a chink in the dam, all you need is the tiniest hole to start a flood. It won't happen all at once, your new confidence and natural abilities will keep the flood at bay a little longer. Sooner or later, though, that small hole, if left untreated, will widen enough to let everything through.
Before you know it, you're back at home and the cupboard is empty again. You just let everything out at once. Why bother keeping it all locked in if you can never succeed? What's the point in not being yourself anyway? It's not as if things are ever going to be any different.
And there we are again, at the other side of the arc of attempted success - shovel in hand, hair blowing in the wind and eyes squeezed almost shut against the brightness of the day.
Yes, we are always ourselves and we will always have a shovel in our hands, of one sort or another. It's by trying to ignore this that we invite failure. Without the self-knowledge that we will always be aspies, with inherent failings and peculiarities, we are bound to fail because we're trying to be someone else, someone better.
We have the shovels, we know what we do, we are not perfect. Look at them not as failings, but simply as peculiarities. We feel we fail ourselves by giving in to them, by doing things which sabotage our plans and our needs. We are frightened by the prospect of success, so the shovel comes out and down we go. Or we push for success while trying to completely ignore our own needs, as if by ignoring them they'll no longer be important.
Our needs will always be important, as well as unusual. It's no good trying to be just like everyone else and get along in the same way they do. If you have a chance of success it's very tempting to feel that you've cracked it, you're now going to be like everybody else.
Sorry, but you're not like everybody else and that's mostly a good thing. It just becomes complicated by how much like yourself you can be at the wrong moments! You have to take account of yourself, what you do, what you feel, how you react. It's not going to work, going blithely forward as if you can leave yourself behind somewhere.
Those shovels are never going to stay in the cupboard and you wouldn't want them to. Honestly, you wouldn't. Without them, you might just be the normal person who can do everything when they need to and never have to look for underwear in the morning. But you would be a lesser person too, as you'd be rejecting the parts of your personality that make life special, amazing, fundamentally magical, even when you don't want it to be.
Keep digging, people.
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