While many people with Autism are seen as logical, and realistic, that is not true of all of us. Many times in my life I have been accused of being an idealist, and spending my time in a fantasy world.
I would have to agree with my accusers there. While I see reality for what it is, I am in a constant battle with it.
Take time and space, for instance. These are abstract concepts that I find it hard to wrap my mind around. My memories come to me so real, I feel as if I could just step through a door and be there. I can see the people, hear the words, smell the smells… and it feels like now. I want to go back there to that moment. I want to change the outcome. I want to make a difference. I know I could do better the second, or third time around, and I plead for that chance.
Perhaps if I could let go of regrets, I could also let go of this battle with time – but I don’t live well forward. My imagination can take me to different worlds. It can show me the worst case scenario for what might happen in the future – but when it comes to making real life decisions in the moment, or deciding what to do next, it fails me nearly every time. As a result I have a past full of regret, and very real failure, and a future full of anxiety and doubt.
So I battle time. If I can see the past, why can’t I get there? If my disabilities make it impossible for me to live well the first time, why can’t I go back and try again? I see reality. I know I can’t really get there… but there is an ache, a longing inside of me, to find a way beyond the laws of this world, and get there anyway.
It is likely the difficulty, discomfort, and cost of travel – as well as the necessity – which are the cause of my struggle with distance. My mom lives 4000km (about 2000 miles) away from me. My brothers, grandmother, and all of my extended family live there, too. Very rarely is it possible for me to get there to visit. They can’t get here. I have a deep longing to visit with them… with my mom especially… but I can’t.
It is my fault for moving away. I know this. I also know that if I could get beyond my severe anxiety issues, and find a well paying job (and somehow push myself not to burn out and crash this time, as I always have in the past) that it is only a 5 hour direct flight – 7 hours of travel total. If I could find the time, I could make the trip without too much trouble. Realistically I can’t work like that, though. I have tried. I have pushed myself. It never works.
So I dream of being able to teleport from one place to another. Instantaneous travel. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about cost, or the dangers of travel, or what I am going to eat. I wouldn’t have to be anxious about sleeping in someone else’s bed, or using someone else’s bathroom. These are all struggles for me that might be solved with this superpower. I know it isn’t possible. I see the reality of it, and I battle it.
It isn’t just for such long distances that I desire this ability, either. My son would like to move to the coast someday. It is only a 4-5 hour drive, but for someone who struggles with motion sickness, this tears at my heart. I fear I won’t see him, and it will be like when I moved away from my mom. The intention was to visit often, but the reality was that I rarely could.
Perhaps it is an Autistic trait. The abstracts, such as time and space, are very difficult for me to understand. The reality traps me into a life full of longing and regret. My lack of imagination towards the future has brought about the choices which led to failure, and separation from those I love. I can only think of the better choices when I look backwards – but life doesn’t give second chances, especially where I have failed.
It is hard to live like this – to always battle the reality which cages me. It is harder to accept the reality as it is given. So I live with this idealism, and I design my fantasy worlds, where I can spend my time. It is a dream, but it is so much easier for me to exist that way.
And that, I guess, is Autism – to see all that is wrong with the world, and create a world that works for us in whatever way we can.