Since I was about eight years old, I felt I wasn’t ‘ready’ for the future. In fact, as far as I remember, I have not even felt prepared for the present. And while other children were running around just ‘being,’ I was watching, and wondering, and planning, and trying so hard to understand how to get to where they were.
So many nights I spent wishing and praying that I could go back, and try again. Go back, and learn to do it right. Go back, so that next time, I might be ready when the present ‘hit me.’
Only going back has never been an option, and that in itself has been a strong source of sorrow and pain in my life. To only be able to live life forward leaves me feeling trapped, as I cannot succeed in that direction.
It began as a child, and I used to have dreams where I was in a sort of trash compactor (like in the older Star Wars movie – Return of the Jedi, I think) where the walls were closing in on me. One side represented the future, the other the past, and I remember the strain and exhaustion in pushing up with my hands and feet against the walls, and shouting, “I am not ready.”
I have never been ready.
Thirty years later, I am still battling against time. I still do not feel ‘ready’ for the present, let alone the future. I ache for the past, and long to return – but is that really what I want? Even thoughts of returning to the past leave me feeling exhausted. There are part of it that I just don’t want to re-live (such as the funeral for one of my daycare children who died of leukemia at the age of six.)
Frequently I pray for new beginnings, a new start. But I don’t want to give up my husband or son to reach that. I know I don’t – yet something has to give. I can’t live forward. I am not ready for where I am today. I need to go back. What does that mean?
I feel, from experience, that it takes much longer for Autistic people to grow and mature. For that reason, every expected milestone becomes a ‘failure’ in my mind. I was not ready for school. I was not ready to date when I began (as a teenager,) I was not ready to live on my own at seventeen, or even by the time I was twenty-five.
I was not ready to be a parent. I was not ready to graduate, or go to college, or be financially independent. I was not ready to shop for my food alone, or take care of my own apartment, or be fully responsible for my own pets.
I was not ready to own a house, or take care of my garden, or be a ‘neighbour.’ I was not ready to work, or to be married, or to adopt. And I am certainly not ready to turn forty – which I do this fall. I am not ready to have an adult son, or to consider my future as if I am coming at it from mid-life.
Like a child, I could have possibly succeeded in these areas with constant support and supervision – but not alone.
Yet I spent so much of my life striving to be ‘normal,’ and being normal meant doing these things when they were expected of me (or even earlier, as I felt I had to fight for them.)
So all of these things… for all of these things, since I was not ready when I reached them (or even several years into them) I feel as if I have failed at life. But I think the truth of it is, it takes longer, as an Autistic person, to grow. It isn’t that I can’t someday succeed in such things, but that trying before I was ready set me up for failure.
Perhaps that is what I have been given this time for. Time where I am not working, where my son is grown and no longer needs my constant attention, time… Perhaps this time is for me to grow, and catch up in all of those areas I missed, or failed at, because I wasn’t ready when I got there.
And if that is the case, will I still have the opportunity to live, and to experience success in those areas that I failed (and so much wanted to do well) the first times through?
I sure hope so.