To live better is to love better. I am more and more convinced of that.
I have struggled recently. The struggles I have had are some form of the same struggles I have had for much of my life. The struggles based on questioning whether I will ever truly understand how to live in this world in a manner that will surround my heart with peace and love. There is SO much in this world I do not understand. Being autistic and loving people is truly a very difficult combination, as the two in many ways would seem mutually exclusive. I will never have the intuition into the behavior of others that will allow me the easy rapport, and familiarity within a relationship that I would so cherish. But with all that said, I was working on my newest book this morning, and just as I am about to quote myself, the more I realize the truth of the premise of my book, the closer I am to finding peace.
The title of my book is to be “To Live Better is to Love Better”. That title was chosen purposefully, because I believe that it is really that simple, yet we tend to make it much harder than that. However, the more I find the truth in that statement, and the more I try to live that truth, the closer I think I am to truly living well, both for myself and for those around me.
I may never have much of what I wish for – and that does sadden me – as what I wish most for are just simple things, being surrounded by people who truly enjoy me, being missed, seeing a smile on a loved one’s face, and knowing that it would not be there if not for me. Wishing for those things so much, and knowing they may largely escape my life cannot help but sadden me. Yet, the more I live the truth in my book, the more I can manage to understand the factual basis of that truth, the more I think there will be peace in my heart. I cannot help what I cannot do. But all I can do is try – with all my might – to learn to do what I can.
This is a story about judgement and autism…
I live in a world of golden-eyed cats. I have grown up with cats, all with beautiful golden eyes. Everyone I know loves beautiful golden-eyed cats. I go to the shelter to find a new cat. As I go to pat a friendly little girl, she looks up at me with her beautiful golden eye, and then turns her head, and her other eye is blue. She has one blue eye, and one beautiful golden eye! I pat her and scratch her behind the ears, quickly falling in love with her. So I end up adopting her and taking her home. I am totally in love with my odd little kitty with one blue eye. So I take her to the vet, and the vet says “EWWW! Your cat has a blue eye! Yuk!”. That is judgement. My noticing she had a blue eye, and adoring her anyway was not. Clear?
After he gets over the distain of handling a blue eyed cat, the vet says, “Well, she seems healthy,” and nothing more. No further comments about her eyes at all.
Then I have to move, and it turns out that where I move to – all the cats have blue eyes. The people next door to me come to meet me, and say, “Oh, look at your cat’s beautiful blue eye. And then she turns her head, and I hear” “EWWW! Your cat has a gold eye! Yuk!” But then that is followed by “You need to take better care of her blue eye…” And I look puzzled, and ask “What’s wrong with her eye? It looks fine to me.” And I look at their cat’s blue eye, and back at mine, and to me they look the same. And I have no understanding. So I take her to the vet, and the vet (after the “EWWW!” part) says, “She seems healthy, but you really need to take better care of her blue eye.” And I ask, “What’s wrong with her blue eye?” And all he does is repeat “You need to take better care of it.” And I ask, “What do I need to do to take care of it?” And he answers with distain “You’re a smart person, just take better care of her eye”. So I go home and Google every which way from Sunday trying to find out what I need to do – and nothing! But my kitty seems happy and healthy, and I love her… It’s just that every time anyone comes over, the first thing they say is “You really need to take better care of your cat’s blue eye”. And nobody will ever tell me how – they just keep telling me how smart I am, and how I will figure it out. But then I notice that people want to be around me less. And I hear people whispering “That’s the lady who doesn’t take care of her cat’s eye”. And they sneer at me and avoid me, and it hurts. But I still only wish I understood, so I could just enjoy them, and enjoy sharing my cat, who I love…
This is being autistic…
When we love people, being human, we want to see them fit into our lives, and we look for, hope for, arguably work toward, those ways that they might come to enhance our lives. But often, that does not work out the way we might wish it to. We can succumb to the meme telling us not to “cross oceans for those who won’t jump puddles for us”, and while that clearly does not fall within the purview of unconditional love, it might seem to be the self-serving answer. But is it really?
So is conditional love, then, what is really in our best interests? Is love about what is in their hearts, or what is in ours? Is loving someone really about equality, or fairness? Should we worry about our worth in love, or about “giving people discounts” when we love them – or act loving toward them – more than they do us?
What is love, anyway? Is love that feeling of joy and gratitude at being fortunate in knowing someone who just warms your heart? Or is it only about what they can do for you? Obviously we want to share love, not just feel it. Obviously we want to spend time with those we love, laugh with them, converse with them, exchange pieces of our lives with them. But what if that does not work out? Where, then, does that leave us?
It is our choice where that leaves us. It can leave a bitter taste in our mouth… “Who are they not to love me. Can’t they see I’m worth loving?” It may often leave us saddened… “Why don’t they love me?” But behind that sadness, there still can be joy. If the love in your heart was there because of the knowledge of the qualities in another that you love, then can you not still love those qualities? Is it possibly easier on us, rather than surrendering all, if we realize that despite not finding ourselves in the position we might have wished for… we still understand that all is not lost if love remains.
All of my life I have put people on Pedestals. Some knew… Okay, probably most knew. But most of them likely did not understand. There are pedestals and there are pedestals. When I was younger, and arguably perhaps still to some extent now, I saw only the good in people. I want to see only the good in them. I want to enjoy people for the qualities in them that I find joyful. I have little understanding why anyone would want to do otherwise.
Over the years, however, I had often been hurt by those traits in people I had neglected to take note of. I wanted so to believe that those qualities I saw in everyone were the dominant qualities, that those were what lie at the soul of the person, were the qualities that drove them – more than ego, more then self, more than any other… Of course that was often – in the current phase of their life – not the case. Were their pedestals still justified… Yes, absolutely! Just perhaps not as I saw them.
One could say I was delusional, or you could just say I looked at people through rose-colored glasses. Some of that tendency remains, but with a lot more deliberateness now. After all the hurts I have suffered, after all the anticipations that went awry, I am much more cognizant of all of the qualities in people than I once was, though I still choose to focus on the joyful ones. Do I now realize that people are not perfect. Yes, certainly. Do I see many of those imperfections, and have an awareness as to how they play into my potential relationships with those people I care for… yes, perhaps sadly.
However, I still put people on pedestals. Why? Because, personally, I think everyone deserves to be on a pedestal. Each person has SO many incredible qualities that deserve to be celebrated. I think we put each other on pedestals far too little in this life. Some people are well celebrated throughout their lives. Others sadly never feel celebrated. Nobody should go through their life without feeling special, cared for, loved, celebrated… Everyone deserves their own pedestal.
I might be wise before I die… if I’m lucky. Luck plays a part in life that cannot be denied. Life takes the twists and turns it takes, and living it well amounts to living as if reading the whitewater on a swiftly moving river – minimizing the bumps, and making the best progress by reading the path of the water and following it. It’s not simply always about blindly “going with the flow”, since the water may flow in many directions, and may well take you into a side channel, into a whirlpool, where you statically circle and circle, and make no progress, and find some danger of drowning (at least metaphorically). Life, indeed, requires you to keep your eyes at least open enough to keep your path on the main channel, and aligned with the continuing flow of the water. Just as in white-watering, this is often a skill that takes mastery, and for most that mastery will not come without effort.
I totally believe that the path of least resistance is love. If you can imagine the rocks and swirls of a river as the barbs and harshnesses that life may present, then love is what finds our way among those. No matter what we may believe of ourselves, we will never find the power within ourselves to battle equally against the power of the river, so our power lies in understanding how to best navigate it. Fighting it is futile, loving it, flowing with it, enjoying it, living within it, is what will help us find our way downstream, and to our soft landing…
Love gives us the resilience to avoid the rocks, the buoyancy to keep our heads above water, and the guidance to stay within the flow. When we do not fight the river, but love it, and all that it brings, we have the best chance to navigate it successfully.
Joy is a manifestation of love, and love is what we are. So, to me, the only/obvious inner joy is love. I have fallen in love with the term “to shine” in life, and what we shine is light, and light is love. So, my obvious response to that is that the closer we get to love, the more we are able to shine. I have felt stymied my entire life by my social awkwardness and lack of understanding. In truth I may never understand the way people act, or all of the things that they do, but I find that the closer an action is to love, the easier it is for me to understand. So I have that hope that the same is true in reverse. That no matter how awkward or clumsy I might be, the more my actions are motivated by love, the more others will see only love in them, and the awkwardness and social mishaps will fall by the wayside…
Realizing that, somehow, love is at the core of everything we do is both a responsibility and a liberation. Pretty much every action each of us takes in our lives has love at the root of it somewhere. Whether it is caring for ourselves, or our families, or our friends, or responding to those we perceive to be enemies, love – or the perceived lack thereof – plays a role. Knowing that, understanding that, at the deepest level should be a liberating thing. The closer we get to realizing that our life’s purpose is fundamentally to bring us closer to love, the more we should be able to see all of what goes on around us in that light. And the realization that the negative emotion we find within ourselves is counter to love might not eliminate that emotion, but might help us to see it differently, and to work toward resolutions that are consistent with love. The sadness that – in the world – those resolutions are not always to be found notwithstanding, certainly we can look within our hearts to come to a place of acceptance based on our own loving essence. This does not always bring resolution, but it should always make any situation better.