Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

Not broken, but different–published on the Mighty   Leave a comment

Despite all the talk about communication difficulties for people with autism, I’ve often noted that my family and I communicate just fine with each other.  Also, when I find a kindred spirit, no problem.

Autism is certainly not a mental disability.  It’s not an inability to think well or love well or work well.  Is it possible that the difference in the way people with autism communicate isn’t a problem to be fixed?

The below article describes a research project in Scotland that shows that people with autism communicate well with each other.  It turns out that, in a sense, those with autism have their own language.  For them, communicating with those who aren’t on the spectrum is like speaking another language.  So, it appears that for those who aren’t on the spectrum, communicating with autistics could be as simple as learning another language.

The second link is from the project website itself, where you can learn more.

Diversity in Social Intelligence

Imagine if you’d been told there was something wrong with the way you interacted with other humans for much of your life.  People with autism have been told that we need to work on our social skills, or that we’re weird.  We’ve noted that we are on the fringes of groups because we may not prefer to engage in small talk.

Maybe that isn’t that odd; maybe it’s not as different as you think it is.  Maybe it’s just people communicating in a different language that you don’t understand yet.

So, while it continues to be necessary for people with autism to learn how neurotypical people communicate, in order for them to manage life in the neurotypical culture, autistic communication is not inherently dysfunctional.

It’s just different.

Posted April 15, 2020 by swanatbagend in autism, relationships

So Loved   Leave a comment

How could I be so loved?

I know for sure I didn’t deserve it.  I mean, yes, I work hard, I try to be a decent person, but really, I fail at meeting my own goals as well as other people’s expectations.  He couldn’t have been rewarding me for doing well and never being a whiner! because that just doesn’t happen.

He knows what I like and what is most relaxing and peaceful for me, and after months of some stressful times, we went and stayed somewhere we love.  We saw natural beauty and were out in it, hiking to a waterfall among thick forest.  We had brownies and Cokes in the afternoon.  We had a four course dinner.  It was amazing!  It was a true feast, in the best sense of the word, because we were there together, eating some of the most delightful food I’ve had in years, and celebrating all that is good in our lives and all we’ve been given.

Not only that, as a further surprise, he took me to a pottery shop, where we sat down with an instructor and two other women who were there, and made our very own ice cream dishes on the wheel!  We were engaged in freakin’ arts and crafts–together!

My husband insisted that we get away for our thirtieth wedding anniversary.  He arranged it all himself, planning some specifics that he knew I would enjoy, but not over-booking us, so that the prime detail was our companionship.  He wasn’t just tolerating the hike, my talking, and pottery making.  There weren’t any loud, pregnant sighs as there have been in the past when we stayed in a bookstore too long.  I’d have to say from everything I observed and experienced–and at this point, I do know him quite well–that he really just wanted to be with me.

Somewhere along the way, a shift happened, and he isn’t doing these things to get a certain outcome.  His commitment to me has transformed.  He just wants to love the beloved.

This, my friends, is the mystery.

Posted August 10, 2018 by swanatbagend in relationships

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Fulfillment   Leave a comment

I’m restless and lonely and unhappy again.  Sure, I know by now that it has a physical backdrop, that the reason I’m feeling low is because the physical body isn’t in top shape.  Still it’s always difficult to take that knowledge and use it to separate the truth from the loneliness.  I want to know that there are friends there for me.  I don’t like feeling alone.  And often, that longing goes farther and spills into irritation because friends or family aren’t interested in spending time together, or don’t seem to know I exist.  Then I get bitter and resentful.

But why is this happening in the first place?  Why is there all this bitterness and discontent, especially when my needs in so many other areas of my life have been so beautifully met?  Why isn’t it enough that I have a loving husband, three wonderful children, meaningful work and a lovely home?

Why do I always want more and why isn’t what I have enough?  And honestly, why do I chuckle at those “other people” who are never content with their material belongings?  Why do I think I’m immune for the longing for more?

Envy is an ugly thing.  It takes a normal desire and turns it into an endless quest for a new friend who will always be what I want her to be.  I find myself angry at others because–bottom line–they are not doing what I want.  It’s insane.  I don’t want other people to treat me that way, so why do I make these demands of others?

My desire to be loved, honored and valued is a God-given one.

The problem is that I don’t look to God for those longings to be fulfilled.  I constantly turn to other people to meet that need.  That’s why it’s never filled, because looking to others it absolutely never can be filled.  The well of need is way too deep for any human being to fill.


Posted July 9, 2018 by swanatbagend in character, relationships

An Aspie Never Stops Being Naive   Leave a comment

This post was published on The Mighty recently, as well.



I thought I’d outgrow the personal weakness. I thought that I understood the tendency, and knowledge is power, right? So, I was sure I could fix it. I could stop being naïve.

However, I have come to the conclusion that while I have learned to be attentive to situations in life and to get wise counsel from people I trust to help me understand the complexities of a situation, self-awareness alone cannot transform me.

As an Aspie, I’ll always be naïve. Even as a self-aware Aspie I’m naïve, because I always take things literally.

Even knowing there are often situations that can’t be taken literally, my instinctual reaction is to take things literally. Whether they are directions on a flyer that comes with a product, spoken words given by an authority figure, a joke — it doesn’t matter. I don’t get the nuances a neurotypical person would get.

A funny example is an early and sleep deprived one, so maybe I’m off the hook there. I was at scout camp and a couple cabins were driving the counselors up a wall by staying awake late at night giggling and singing goofy songs. After several nights, they threatened us by telling us they’d wake us up before dawn, make us take a hike and then see how much we liked being without sleep.

They really did it. It was pitch black and we were to get up and get ready for a hike. I was so completely out of it, I didn’t understand what was going on and had to ask again for instructions. These were given, probably with the thought of “how foolish could this child be,” with step-by-step directions of what to do, which presumably included that I should dress myself. I was certain, in the sleep induced haze of four in the morning, that the counselor said to get my underwear. Only when I was sleepily milling around in the crowd of girls did I realize no one else was carrying underwear with her. At least I had put my clothes on before going outside.

The good side of taking things literally is that I am a straightforward, truthful person who expects the honest best from others. I look for the truth and I tell it like it is.

Sometimes though, I wish I weren’t so conscientious and trusting. I remember a period of about eight months in which I waited for two different people to get back to me to arrange a time for our families to get together, because they had said they would. Part of that was just me being too tired to pursue it myself, but most of it was me believing what they said. Both people had told me they weren’t sure when they could meet and they would get back to me when they knew.

At that point, I was mid-40s, old enough to have been around the block a few times. I was also old enough to have it explained to me more than once that people will say things they do not truly mean. Intellectually I understand. But when it comes down to the actual, personal situation, if I’m interacting with someone who seems sincere, it’s very difficult for me to accept, even months later, that the person was just talk.

What about sarcasm’s effect on me? Only if it’s really obvious. Often, I don’t get it and I am not sure how to respond to what you say.

Practical jokes? Please, don’t even try one of those on me. I promise it will not go over well.

Even with the big stuff, I’m still naïve. My husband worked for 12 years at an employee-owned company. He loved the work and the people he worked with. Clients asked for him to manage their projects. He was respected, an ideal employee. He had received a signing bonus to take the job in 2005, so I guess this made me think the company was so invested in him they would never let him go. Neither one of us saw it coming, so maybe Aspies aren’t the only naïve ones. Everything I observed about his situation at work was valid. But in my naiveté I did not understand these observations were not eternal guarantees.

That’s what we all want, isn’t it? Eternal guarantees? I am a person who believes, hopes and trusts other people to be faithful, loyal and true.

I’m not certain the hope I have is a bad thing. It’s embarrassing at times. It makes me look foolish, which I hate. However, I’d rather be me. I’d rather take things at face value. I’d rather believe you than not. I believe that if we believe each other, it makes the world a better place.

Posted May 22, 2018 by swanatbagend in autism, relationships

Co-Dependent   Leave a comment

The trouble with people is two simultaneous facts.

One: You can’t live with them.

Two: You can’t live without them.

Ever notice this?

You are a human being so by definition you are interdependent with other humans.  You are a part of a culture and civilization on a broader level, and you are part of a family, community, non-profit, neighborhood, something.

Closer in, you rely on your family and close friends.  You are counting on them to be who they are and to do what they do that keeps your world running.  Reliance.  That’s what you do in reference to those you spend most of your time with.  If you don’t believe me, imagine your life without the people you live and work with.  Of course (you probably notice this more often) others also rely on you.

You have chosen to commit in love or friendship to those who are closest to you; at the same time that you rely on them, they do not belong to you.  They are their own.  You cannot command them and demand their love and care.

What they chose to give you is what you may have of them.

They are not required to be what you want them to be.

They do not have to do what you think they should do.

They are not yours to command, but they are yours to love.



Posted April 12, 2017 by swanatbagend in relationships

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Broken   Leave a comment

What’s one of the most distressing events that can happen to a child?

That’s right.

Something they love gets broken.

And mom and dad cannot fix it.

I have memories of something lovely getting irreparably damaged, and how distressed and grieved that made me as a child.  We had Christmas ornaments of blown glass, colored globes surrounded by extremely thin spiraled wires.  Even the bracket at the top of the ornament was a work of art, all fine silver made of tiny detailed patterns.  When one of those broke, because they were already old by the time I was old enough to love them, it was painful.

That’s an ornament, a thing of beauty, but nonetheless just some heated and blown sand.

How much more distressing it is when things of more importance are broken.  And how distressing it is to find that one continues to break things on a regular basis.

It seems to be inescapable.  I once thought that if I just tried hard enough, I would always and only be a force for good in the world.  I thought that somehow I would have the ability and the will and the power to always do the right thing.  Knowledge was power, and I knew what was right.  It was my goal in life when I graduated from high school to love and be loved and be happy.  I had no idea how truly difficult that would be.

Despite my best efforts, I damage and destroy what is good.  How is it possible to be aware of the beauty, of the import, of the good in people and the world, and still be the cause of damage?

I realize that I too am broken, and that my brokenness damages others on a regular basis.

I’m not saying that I never do anything right.  Like you, I work hard to be a good friend, a good parent, a person whose heart is attuned to God so that I can spread the love around.  I want to love others well.  Most of the time, I do a pretty decent job.

But, some of the time my brokenness rises to the top, and that is what other people get from me.

Thank God that he has made peace with me and covered me with his righteousness.  I was far away from him.  I am still farther than I want to be.  However, my distance and brokenness does not stop him from pulling me closer.  Because of Christ, he has brought me into his presence and I stand before him redeemed.  He is transforming me.

He is transforming me, and it starts right here, from the point of my acknowledgement that I am broken.

Posted February 8, 2017 by swanatbagend in reality, reflections, relationships

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I Feel for Crocodile Dundee   1 comment

Don’t let the church ever be New York City for Crocodile Dundee.  Remember the scene where, newly imported from Australia, he’s walking the sidewalk saying “G’day, mate” to every person he passes?  If anyone looks at him, it’s in the sense of wondering if he’s grown another head.  Where did he come from?

Contemporary culture seems to demand that we remain in our own little space, in our own yard, on our own block.  This is the exact opposite of what the church should be.  Even a big church.

There’s enough of that going around already.  There’s enough of us pretending we don’t see our neighbors when we are outside in the yard.  There’s enough of us staring intently at our phones in waiting rooms and restaurants.  There’s enough of us walking past people we know as if we are busily on our way to a much more important destination.

I’m sure part of this perspective is just me.  I love talking to people, and I enjoy people.  So, this morning when I was in the greeting card section at the store, I actually liked it when a friendly looking woman asked me if I knew what a pug looked like.  “Is this one?” she asked, holding up a card with a funny looking little dog on it.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Shoot, I’m trying to find a card for someone who loves pugs….what about this one?”

“I don’t think that’s one either,” I said, “but I don’t know what it is.  I know I’d know a pug if I saw one.”

We went back and forth laughing at the dog cards and our general lack of knowledge of dog breeds.  I loved that some woman in the greeting cards actually initiated a conversation with me.  It was fun.

So, keeping that in mind, it may be my idea of what interactions would be normal are a bit skewed.

However, I am also certain that our culture’s definition of “normal human interaction” has gotten a bit skewed lately.

So imagine Crocodile Dundee, especially in a big church.  Don’t walk past him.

Loved   Leave a comment

My grandma always made me feel like I was the most important person in the world.  She loved me affectionately and well.  She encouraged me to behave properly by giving me her big brown-eyed stare if I wasn’t behaving, and loving me the rest of the time.

I knew she would always love me.  I knew I could count on her love.

Don’t you love being loved like that?  I sometimes think as I go through life I’m always looking for love and acceptance like that.  To find a person who just thinks you’re the cat’s meow, someone who laughs at your jokes and who thinks the same things are funny or at least doesn’t look at you like you’re crazy.  When you meet a person who is warm and kind toward you, it is nourishing and comforting and healing and helpful.  I love meeting people like that.  Don’t you?

I just can’t help wishing to meet that person again.  It won’t be my grandmother, sure, but kindness lurks in many unexpected hearts and faces.

The dark side of this wish is that it turns into a quest.

At least for me it does.  I look into every open door, every new room in life for that person who’s going to be good to me.

I seem to be always be looking for a person who will love me the way I remember other people loving me.  I get caught up in expectations of friends or family or sometimes even just acquaintances, as I apparently look to re-create a relationship in the image I think it should have.  Then if the relationship doesn’t do what I want when I want, I get irritated and cynical.  If the connections I have don’t make me happy, I get depressed.  If the local church isn’t doing what I think is important, I get disgusted.

What if I just flat-out accepted that the people around me are not going to follow my personal rules about how people should be? that they aren’t going to return my emails when I think they should? that there are gems among them, but that it will take time to polish them? that the person across from me needs to be loved also?

What if I stopped deciding how the people I know, the moral people, the good people should act?

What if I laid these chains down?

I am free to love.



Posted December 5, 2016 by swanatbagend in relationships