Monday, July 11, 2016

Autism Answer: I Don't Know What It's Like To Be You

Rain in my yard

Right now I live in a poor neighborhood in a small, old, run down trailer house with my black much older than me mechanic husband, my big white gay son, my anti-social overly passionate mixed-race son, and my book reading white skinned woman hippie self. I sit and have coffee in my kitchen (avoiding the holes in the floor) with my socially struggling once-upon-a-time autistic brother. Together we talk often about how much we miss my brown skinned half Arab older sons who have moved away to another state.

I rarely notice all of that. Mostly, I live in my house with my family and hang out with my brother. 

But I would be lying if I didn't admit that I've changed and grown because of learning from
My hubby working with our boys
the experiences my black mechanic older husband shares with me, and the situations my white gay son tells me he's been in, and the reasons my overly passionate mixed-race son reveals for his anti-social behavior. My once-upon-a-time autistic brother relates realities that might have remained unknown to me while my brown skinned boys make choices to not grow their beards when certain racial tensions are high.  I'm certain, too, that my family has shifted when hearing me share stories of my book reading hippie-woman experiences.

Meanwhile, we've all learned things with and because of our neighbors who deal with poverty in vastly different ways. 

We are all different and should never try to change that. 

I believe in integration without the expectation of assimilation.

But we are all the same, too. We are all one race of alive beings on one alive planet. We all live together, and that's not negotiable. We can choose to do so with curious interest and love, or with mistrust and judgments. It's completely and totally up to us. 

As individuals and as society - which is made up of individuals who teach each other - we have the responsibility and power to tell the story of who we are and how we live together. Stories need controversy and obstacles to be intriguing, but they do not need "bad guys". (Although, if you want a story with bad guys you need not look further than most large man-made systems and corporations. As they grow they become dangerous.)

I live in a poor neighborhood with my diverse family. Together we share with each other how we experience the world. Although our beliefs often clash, always they are valid and valuable. 

The story of my life is filled with controversy, love, worry, life, death, hope, hurt, and diversity. There are not "bad guys" in my story to distract from the stuff that matters most to me; there are flavors and feelings.  

However, I'll admit that my husband believes in bad guys, so his story does include them. Yet we live together and let our clashing beliefs make a music we can both dance to. We find ways to harmonize and change both of our stories by sharing and shifting together. 

It's not always easy. But that's why I know we don't need bad guys to fill our world with interesting twists and turns! Loving each other and insisting on learning together is filled with intrigue and interesting plot twists!

The goal is not to pretend we aren't different. We are! And it's fascinating! The goal, or my goal at least, is to explore those differences from where we are the same. Where we remember that we are all equally valuable living beings with the same need to be free, accepted, and honored. We all eat, breathe, bleed, think, hope, dream, hurt, and love. But we are all born different, and become different, and are treated different, too.

The people I live with don't know what it's like to be a woman because they aren't women. I don't know what it's like to be a black man in small town Texas. I don't know what it's like to be a young gay man here, either. Or mixed race and passionately sensitive. I can barely imagine how it is to grow up autistic in a world that pities and fears cognitive disabilities and I have no clue what it means to walk around in brown skin with a handsome Arab face in America. But we can do our best to tell each other and listen, and to make necessary changes. We can, and we must. 

We can, we must, and I do. 

I get it wrong, but I do it anyway, hoping to get it right. 

Which is a place where we are all the same. 
We're all hoping to get it right.

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

My husband teaching our youngest son.