Good friends in the aspie world




I was thinking about my windows and how strange it is that the rain can make so many patterns on them before I notice they need cleaning. It's funny how many things seem completely obvious to me, while at the same time my windows can gently change shade and I never notice.

When I know IT teen's friend is coming to visit, I move like Taz the Tasmanian Devil around the house, trying to make it fit for visitors, fighting the feeling of shame that I need to do this every time and wishing it was always ready to have people over. Then It teen's friend arrives and smiles and pets the animals, all the while pretending not to notice the mess or the fact we have a completely different family life than he does.

I always appreciate the effort he makes not to see the cobwebs I forget about until his head passes under them or the torn wallpaper when all I have seen is a floor which needs vacuumed. I definitely appreciate that he notices when I've made some half-assed attempt at decoration, often seeing my efforts when IT and RT teen haven't noticed a thing.

I then slink back into guilt, feeling ashamed that I am more relaxed about the state of the house simply because Nice teen is so well brought up and kind that I feel I have to try less to be normal than I do with other people. I also know I can make him happy by feeing him pizza and cake.

It's a pity more people weren't like Nice teen, putting aside criticism and judgement in favour of greeting the person at the heart of it all. It's also a pity I don't do more in between visits so that Nice didn't have to be so nice and could just walk in and feel he was at the house of a normal person.

And yet, this meeting of minds he has with IT teen and our family at large is a remarkable thing. I won't be giving away any of his secrets in telling you he comes from a normal family. They do normal things and, on the face of it, don't exhibit any tendencies that get them talked about in their neighbourhood.

Nice teen met IT teen at school, when IT had just started there. IT hadn't taken enough money in for lunch and a drink, so was choosing what to buy when Nice came up and offered him the extra money he needed. As you can imagine, I was impressed with Nice even before I met him, especially when I heard later he hadn't expected the money back, he was just being kind.

IT and Nice bonded more in their Games lesson. IT sees sport as a waste of useful energy and Nice wasn't very athletic so they found themselves at the back of the cross country line together. They meandered the route instead of running and have been firm friends ever since.

I found out that Nice used to be a little nervous of me, when he met me the first few times. Readers, I can't tell you how hard I tried to be normal then! I was kind and friendly to him and tried not to behave in a strange way, but I didn't manage it. I have no idea what I did but over time he became more used to me.

Watching IT and Nice together is kind of like a real-life version of a corny detective show or buddy movie. You know, you have the energetic, sharp one who acts on impulse and the laid-back surfer type who usually ends up saving the day? No prizes for guessing who takes which role.

I find myself wishing we could all have a friend like Nice, or at least have people treat us the way he does. He comes from a background very different from the one he's found with us and I know that his family are not all like him.

But he accepts us and our differences in a way you don't find with many people. He realises we aren't all the same and is happy for people to follow their own path, even if he gets criticised for following his own. He experiences unfairness in his life, then shrugs and carries on, trying to see the positive.

In fact, there is the secret of his approach: he sees the positive in things and in people. Like coming to my house and seeing my paint job instead of the cobwebs, he seems to recognise the way people try to be and aspire to be rather than the way they are on the face of it.

If I'm honest, I don't just wish more people were like him, as being an aspie in that kind of world would be easier - I also wish I was more like him.

Even though I often find things difficult myself, I still expect others to find them easier. I expect others to behave themselves and be kind to me, even though, consciously or not, I often hurt feelings or am thoughtless.

I want people to not notice my cobwebs and then I go to their houses and straighten their pictures or shrink from the toilet brush. I say things that seem to have by-passed my brain, then hold hurts long after conversations have ended over what someone else has said.

It's not fair, to judge others and expect so much from them when you are so far less than perfect yourself, but I suppose we all do it to some extent. I know that Nice isn't perfect, he is human and he is a teenager. And I expect inside he does wish I would just brush away those cobwebs so he didn't have to duck going upstairs.

Perhaps the secret is to how we make people feel, in person. It almost doesn't matter what we think to ourselves, so long as we can put across a positive feeling and let others know that we appreciate them for what they do and not what they failed to do.

I know I have a long way to go before I achieve this but, in true aspie fashion, I am willing to learn from the example of others, so I'll take the lead of Nice and see if I can do some of what he does.

In return, readers, just sometimes I find myself being the voice of experience and knowledge with Nice, when he comes up against a problem his family don't quite understand. Then, I can give him the benefit of the other view, the one from the other side of the wall and show him how different things can be, if you let them.

There we have the secret of a true friendship, do we not? It's not enough to admire someone and appreciate them, we have to give each other the gift of ourselves, our personalities and wisdom. Reaching out goes both ways, just like criticism and judgement can too.

Whether or not our friends and acquaintances are like us or very different, by reaching out we cross that divide and meet somewhere in the middle. And it doesn't matter if one of us stretches more than the other as long as we make the effort and listen once we get there.

Amanda

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