Monday, May 15, 2017

Autism Answer: Love

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote the following post in 2013. Reading it now, years later, I love how much has changed while simultaneously staying the same. Life is funny that way! My husband and I have been married seventeen years and I'd forgotten some of the young things I thought about when we were dating. It's so good for me to remember! My four sons are in young relationships of their own and this post brings back memories of what it is to be new at things. No, I'm not assuming that their thoughts will be the same as mine, but yes, I'm remembering that they are young thoughts. This is one of the reasons I highly value remembering our own experiences of growing up, so we remember the never ending nature of it. I hope you enjoy reading my memory! Unedited for the sake of honoring the place I was at when I wrote it. ~Tsara

An afternoon drive with my hubby.
Anyone who ever dated my sisters and I were in for some interesting surprises. I won't waste your time coloring the picture in too much, suffice it to say that phrases like, "I found your shoe, my brother took it in the other room because he thinks it's sexy" and "I'm sorry my brother released the parking brake and your car is headed down the hill. He doesn't like round cars. You understand?" had them, well, not understanding. Our brothers--and my autistic mom!--scared off more than a few would-be suitors. We had no idea how lucky we were!

The day I met my husband I was the single mom of three adorable boys. He had come to fix my mom's car and my kids were visiting my sister for a sleep over. The whole time he and I chatted I complained about missing my boys. He mentioned that he had lost his mom only one year before and began to tear up. I didn't know what to say so I gave him a hearty hug. He fell for me right then. According to him an overwhelmingly obvious love for my kids along with the fact that I was willing to hug a black stranger, cinched it. I, however, hadn't fallen for him.

We dated and I was crazy confused about him. He respected me. He was kind to me. He loved my kids. But what would people think of me if I stayed with this man? Became his wife? I wasn't concerned because of the color of his skin, or because of the lack of financial future, but because he seemed, to me, like less than the sharpest tool in the shed. He sees things in terms of right and wrong, while I have a habit of living in the "understanding everyone's point" zone. If I stayed with this man, would people think I couldn't get a smarter more sophisticated thinking man to love me? One with the ability to understand the grey areas? Also, I am very openly affectionate (almost annoyingly so, ask my kids!) and love to touch and snuggle and kiss in public. This man seemed to cringe from my caress when others were around. Would people think I was a victim letting my man cringe at my caress??

Eventually, I opened my ears and heard my own thoughts. I was not impressed! Firstly, this man has had such a different life than mine; schools were segregated for him until eleventh grade, he had been picking cotton and fixing engines since the age of seven, he couldn't look us in the eye--not because of autism, but because we were white and he had been taught not to. He is drastically different, not less smart. And what would other people think of me?? Who gives a crap?! Do I want my boys to run around caring about the opinions of others and making choices based on what they may or may not think? Hell no! So why was I?

And let's not forget, he loves my kids. We don't always agree on parenting choices, we very often don't, but we both know that the other is always thinking of what is best for them. Hadn't autism taught me anything? Love doesn't "look like this" or "look like that". If families of autism expected love to have a consistent and specific look then we would be missing out hugely! Loving adults and kids with autism has taught me to see the gift of love, regardless of how it's wrapped. How selfish of me to forget!

And imagine if we all lived believing that the opinions of others were our best tool for feeling happy. Yikes! 

My hubby and I have been happily married for thirteen years. We are so happily married, in fact, that my kids are always talking about how much they want to be like us. How many kids--and mine are teenagers!--say that??

Largely because of the autism in my world, I have learned that the important thing is to love our own way, and to let others do the same. My marriage seems odd to many people. Our age difference (he is 23 years older), our contrasting skin colors, our very different attitudes (I am goofily grinning and singing to myself all the time, he is avoiding eye contact and making sure no one's taking advantage of him), our willingness to let the other take off and do their own thing (I once lived in another state for two years, helping my mom get her business off the ground by hanging with my autistic brother), it all looks strange to people. And that's wonderful! When they ask how we do it I have an opportunity to share the importance of letting go of common perceptions and social norms in order to discover your own way. 

I have an opportunity to share some of life's Autism Answers!

As it is with learning, communicating and passions... love looks different coming from different people. A great gift is letting people show it and feel it, without trying to teach them to do it your way. It's a gift not only because it allows the other to explore and share their love comfortably, but also because it opens you up to seeing it where you may not have seen it before! 

And love is always worth taking the time to see!!

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

INVITATION: I hope you'll consider purchasing a copy of my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. The book is an example of remembering our younger selves while choosing our present selves with purpose. But mostly, it's just a lot of stories about how much I've learned with my unique and fantastical family! The book is available in all the usual places: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM, Powell's, and maybe even at your local library! If they don't have it you can ask them to order it. :D Hugs!