Sometimes I rely on other people to tell me what the world means, and how I can make a best-fit try at life. I have a habit of looking for opinions too much, just because things don't make much sense to me; it seems logical to ask the advice of people who do see sense in the whole crazy world around us. But I can go too far.
I was asking my eldest son for advice, asking him what other people might do, what they might think, what I might do, and so on. I expect the friends and family of aspies can guess how this conversation went, it definitely belonged in the 'but why?' category. We might not say it exactly that way but we might as well be asking:
But why did they say that?
But why did it turn out that way?
But why does it mean that instead of this?
Frankly, it doesn't matter how many special interests and perfect understandings you have, there is always so much of life that ends up as but why.
I was but-whying my son (yet again), this time about the feelings and motivations of other people and trying to figure out my own motivations too. I wanted to look at how I was behaving to see if it was the right way (I know, I know), to hold myself up and compare me to what the terrifying majority might do in the same situation.
Finally, after a lot of questions and working it all out, I asked him one more question without giving it much thought.
'But what do I feel about it?'
Up to then he had answered every question. This time he turned on his heel and looked at me, his head tilted, his mouth curved in bemusement. We were walking along a rain-sodden path at the time, dog happily bounding ahead, only each other for company. He stopped in the path after turning and replied,
'You can't ask me how you feel. Only you know how you feel.'
Starting to walk again, he partly turned and added,
'You can't expect other people to tell you what you feel.'
I stood for a moment longer, rain pelting off the trees either side of us, the shining wet dog dashing round me and on again, watching my son as he walked ahead along the path.
I was momentarily at a loss. Having expected this one more explanation I was faced with the reality that I had just asked someone else how I was feeling about something, and it had been a genuine question. I did want to know how I was feeling about it, I honestly had no idea.
I knew I didn't feel good, or happy. I felt confused, but that's not the answer I was looking for. Without thinking, I had asked my son to explain to me the mess of emotions scooting around in my own head because I had no clue how to separate them and categorise them myself. As he had known the answers to my other questions, this one must have followed naturally, even though I can see why there was no answer.
Just like a child I was viewing my son as an adult with all the answers - after all, adults know everything, don't they? I thought if I asked, he would tell me. That childlike side of me wanted not only to know the answer but to have the comfort of being given the answer.
And it is comforting to know what we need, to have puzzles explained, to finally understand the answer to a problem we have been worrying over. To then realise some questions can only be answered by our confused selves is the opposite of comforting.
I walked on, catching him up, processing the fact that I was on my own with this feelings thing - and along with that, also processing the fact that there might not be a proper, logical answer to how I was feeling.
Feelings come from a part of us that laughs without warning and cries before knowing why. They don't have to make sense, just as life doesn't have to make sense either. All we can do is walk on, rain or no rain, and take it as it comes. Any understanding we gain on the way is a bonus.