K is for Kindred
My last post, in this series- J for Jealousy– was both easy and difficult to write. Easy in the sense that I sat at a keyboard for twenty minutes and typed until I got it all out of my system, but hard in the way that I worried about how it might be interpreted…especially by my family and friends. My kin. The people in my life who aren’t dealing with autism, did they read that post and think I’m resentful of them? I don’t know, nobody said anything to me. We haven’t built that bridge yet.
That post was one of the most commented on, read, and shared posts I’ve written in a while. I’ve noticed a trend: when I just share what I’m feeling without worrying about how I make others feel, especially when it is ugly and brutal, I feel supported and protected by you. It is taking off the mask of normality, and being loved for the scarred and savage being that hides beneath.
When I became a special needs parent, I felt myself disengage from friends and family. And I felt some of them distance themselves from me too. I had no idea how to put my overwhelming, and often conflicting feelings in words. How could I communicate, when I suddenly spoke a different language? The more I kept quiet, the more isolated I felt. Lost at sea, with no idea how to get back home. While everyone else continued living as before, I was shipwrecked to a distant island. Strangely, I never felt more alone than at the times I put my mask on, forced myself to be social, and visited the mainland.
It took a while before I realized that I wasn’t alone on my new shores. There were other islanders, many of whom had been there for some time, and had developed survival skills. There were even other islands, often with much more savage terrain than my own to deal with. Most of all, there were people just like me. It wasn’t so lonely any more, I had a new kindred. In fact, it was impossible to be lonely, because more and more people are washed up on our shores every day, and they need us to show them they are not alone, will never be on their own.
Still, sometimes I get jealous of the mainlanders. Sometimes I feel resentful that living on my island requires a lot of effort. Sometimes I need to hear a, “me too” or a, “I know how you feel.” The language of my people.
After some time on the island, I feel like a native. Like I’ve always been here, like I belong here, amongst other kindred spirits. My island has a rugged beauty that I love. The citizens here holding each other so that were one of us to go adrift again, we could be pulled back home.
I found that once I accepted that I’m not a mainlander anymore, I could find a way to build bridges back there. I can spend more time there now, as an expat, knowing that because I’ve changed so has the way I look at the place I once dwelled. Many of my mainlander friends and family have found a way to reach out across the sea, or we meet on our bridge in the middle. Though I’m foreign to them now, I’m still kin. Some of them have told me about their own shipwrecks, different to mine, that left them floundering in their own abyss. They let me know that I don’t need to wear that mask with them. Most of the time I feel comfortable visiting the mainland, but only because I know that when I don’t, I can come home to my kindred, and we can speak the language that unites us.
This post was written as part of my A-Z series. You can read the rest by clicking >here<.