I have this peculiar fascination with understanding the meanings of words – especially words that have to do with the heart and the soul. Humans are such complex beings with such a range of emotions and behaviors. As someone who spent a lifetime largely afraid of, but incredibly fascinated with the human species, I have spent so many moments watching, learning, trying to understand human behavior. The funny thing, to me, is that as an autistic I am expected to have poor social understanding – and in many ways I believe that to be true. But where I perhaps have a lack of understanding of relationships, I have to think that my years of observation have led to a richness of understanding of people as individuals – which I think is what leads to my deep appreciation of them.
But the word that has been on my mind and heart now for a couple of years is Friendship. Friendships are something I have wished for, dreamt of, cherished for a lifetime. Like most autistics, I find making friends difficult. As I too many times have been reminded, I can be an emotional roller-coaster – at a high one moment, and crying my eyes out the next. I understand it takes a special kind of person to go along for that ride. And yet it is such a marvelous ride. I would so rather live in the splendor of every emotion than to live without them.
As with most of my analyses of words, I start with the definition. The dictionary definitions of friendship include “a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people”, “a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association”, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
So many times, since childhood, my attempts at friendship have been met with more resistance than acceptance. I often have felt that I was asking for something bad, instead of something that in my eyes is only joyous. As a result I have had many conversations with God about friendship. I understand, even in my social lacking, that people have felt my requests for friendships to be an anchor, a chain – when in fact I have wished for them to be the opposite – a balloon, a ladder. I have wanted friendship to be something that elevates both of us, that could bring my friend the same joy that it would bring me.
So in my conversations with God, I finally came to my own understanding – with God’s participation – as to what friendship means to me. My wish, when I hope for friendship, is that if God were to ask someone I saw as my friend to list for Him which people they had known who they were glad to have had in their lives – that in their heart that list would not be complete without me on it. That, to me, is a friend. So many wonderful people are on my list…