Monday, January 30, 2017

Autism Answer: I Go Walking

What you might have seen:

A forty-something year old woman walking briskly, dancing and singing to herself wearing her brand new headphones and looking like she isn't aware that they're giving the music only to her. You might have seen her stop for a moment to experience the feel and look of a towering pecan tree, and then continue walking and singing happily. Suddenly she looks nervous and begins to cry a little. She trips and almost falls, her happy dancing turned into nervous clumsy crying in an instant.

What you might* have thought:

She seems weird but happy. Harmless, probably. But, whoa! Wait a minute. Her mood shifted so suddenly for no reason, and indeed it did clearly shift. It seems likely that she's unstable and more weird than happy. Wave as you drive by, but don't get to know her. What a strange woman.

*There are so many things you might have thought. Please know that I know my guess is purely invented out of only one of unlimited possibilities. 

What I saw:

The day is bright and cool, the streets are mostly empty except for all of the dogs. With music in my ears and happiness bouncing in my steps, I watch as some dogs bark at me nervously, some seem angry, some ignore me completely but bark and leap at each other. Most of the dogs are in fenced yards, a few roam free, a couple in cages, and some are attached to chains.

What I was thinking:

My heart hurts for some of these dogs but my fear of them is bigger. That one, the one tied to that chain over there by that dog-house, looks so much like the one that bit me last year. How sad that I know these animals are mostly harmless yet I am afraid of each and every one of them. How sad that I know they would be even more harmless if they weren't so often caged or tied up yet I'm relieved that they are. Focus on the music, dance to the tunes, don't let these thoughts or fears wreck your walk. I know! Take the main street home. Less dogs and more people. I gotta ask my brother - who walks all over town all of the time -  how he deals with all these dogs.

What I was thinking when you might have seen me:

This is better! People, smiles, oh look at that tree! I feel less nervous now, but I need to think about this. I should know how to go for a walk without having to babysit my feelings and thoughts so much. There is a bigger answer here, about society and stuff, that I can learn from these dogs. Oh, look! A feather! I'll take that home to Shay. Wait, that dog is pulling its way out of the fence. Shoot, I'll cross the street. Don't be scared, Tsara. Don't be scared. I can't breathe, but I'm passed the house. Peek behind you, make sure it's not coming this way. Oh, shit! It's out! It's looking at me. BAM: a couple of tears and uncontrollable shaking. Just get home. It's okay, the dog is standing there, staying there to keep me away from it's home; its family. What song is this? I don't even know this song, and I don't like this kind of music. How did this get on my playlist?

What I want us to remember:

When we see folks who are weird - happy or not - remember that they are so much more than weird. When we see folks who are different from us - in clothing, habits, beliefs - remember that they are so much more than different. They are an entire story. Stories, really. Unknown to us maybe, but unquestionably filled with emotions and reasons and memories and ideas that are as valuable as our own. No, we don't have to get to know every single one, and some stories are dangerous to invite into our lives, but remember that there is a life story, equally valuable as our own. Also, yes- there are answers about society and stuff, everywhere. And when we find ourselves struggling with extreme emotions - like fear - the answers are asking to be explored. My fear was real and relevant, based on personal experience. But it was also ridiculous and unfair. The dogs were mostly playful, fun, and harmless. Mostly.

Also, friends, please consider adopting a dog only if you're able to give it a fair amount of freedom. That's just a personal plea.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)