Give and Take

The balance of “give and take” in any relationship is something I have not paid enough attention to until very recently. Isn’t it crazy how sometimes life starts to make sense when you least expect it to? I feel like I’m on a roll this month.

With the help of several great different perspectives from some of the wisest people I’ve ever met and years of not “getting it”, I am starting to see why this is happening. Again, I don’t know how to fix it just yet but I will get there.

I have always had a tendency to focus on one person at a time when trying to make new friends. I tend to “give” everything I have to them thinking that in return they will do the same and that this somehow equals friendship. Wrong. Oh so wrong. Why can I only see this when I write it down? Why doesn’t it make sense in the moment?

I have that “we just clicked instantly” feeling, almost never. It tends to be one sided – meaning I really, really want to be someone’s friend and they aren’t sure what to think about me. I try way too hard to make things work when I have nothing in common with someone on the most simplest of levels. This is something that so many people have told me and I just couldn’t understand. It’s like my brain has just kept saying repeatedly to itself “You’re just not trying hard enough, just give more”

If I am putting tons of energy into making a friend and the desire for that friendship isn’t mutual, not only am I pushing them away because they have no need for what I am offering, I’m going to end up right back in my rickety hamster wheel of loneliness that I’ve been running around in for pretty much my entire life.

The biggest thing that is coming into focus is that I have greatly confused what giving and taking is in a friendship and ultimately what the definition of a friend is. I don’t seek out people I have things in common with. No, my brain thus far has too busy trying to relax 24/7. Instead, I’ve been seeking people out that can could potentially offer me comfort, validation, affirmation, and protection. But me telling someone my entire life story isn’t giving anything to them except…my entire life story.

Instead of giving, I’m taking. I’m offering my sadness, my worries, my anxiety, my insecurities, my fear of rejection, my loneliness, and my fears to someone I’ve just met. Sound appetizing to you? Honestly. Who wants that from anyone? I wouldn’t even want that from someone. It sounds like a lot of responsibility to “give” to someone, and not like giving at all. Because its not. Not even close.

After hearing “What is it that you want from me?” and “Just be yourself” countless times, I am starting to see that no one is going to take that burden from me. That is not what friendship is and I need to stop offering it. My past is my past. So where does this leave me?

I think that this means that if I want to be able to be a real friend to anyone and I mean anyone, I need to learn to let go of that baggage that I’ve been carrying around for all of these years. No one else wants it- better yet- I don’t even want it.

I’ve always thought reflection was such a good thing and sometimes it is, but its not the same as dwelling on every failure I’ve ever had in my life. It’s a lot to carry on my shoulders, and with my sensory issues on top of this, no wonder I am in a constant state of distress. Why has it never occurred to me that if I just let go of all this pain and rejection, no one has to carry it?

Obviously, with ASD, the concept of letting go is not natural to me. I don’t do it often if ever at all. I perseverate on everything until I am so drained that I have to sleep. But, Aspergers or not, for my own sense of well being, I need to let it go.

I am determined to find how to do this, because for the first time in so long I can see this tiny shred of light beyond this vast cave of darkness I’ve been sitting in. Waiting for someone to rescue me from myself. I’ve said before that I am my own worst critic. I never realized what I was doing to myself.

For the first time my eyes are seeing the possibility of what might happen if I let go. To be honest, I am kind of excited and nervous at the same time. It seems daunting for some reason. Part of me has been feeling that I wouldn’t be myself anymore because I’ve been measuring my own value by the negative aspects of my life and somehow it seems that I would be weaker and not stronger. I’ve been so afraid that if I completely let go of my past, there won’t be a reason for people to love me. Again, confusing two more things- pity and love. So twisted and I’ve had it backwards this entire time.

Now, I am pretty sure that nothing I’m saying here hasn’t been said to me countless times. For some reason, processing this, has taken far too long. All kept hearing was “You’re not good enough”. Not because anyone has ever said such a thing to me. Oh wait, I have. Over and over again.

Because guess what? I will one day have a lot to offer a friend and guess what else? I know that once I take that first step out the emotional garbage pile that I’ve allowed myself to hold onto, I might actually be able to “just be me”. Lightbulb moment. Hello, who turned the lights on?

I will still always have Aspergers and making friends will probably always be hard but I will finally be able give back to people. Better yet maybe I won’t always that feeling like i constantly need reassurance that the world isn’t all bad. I think that this is all a part of learning what being a self advocate means.

How many times have I been told “You cannot make people like you”? I’m finally getting it. They’re not saying “You’re not likable” in fact, I’ve been told otherwise. They’re saying that if I have nothing in common with them, you can’t change that but that doesn’t mean I won’t find friendship in someone else. Again, I can never seem to just – let – go.

I think I will always be awkward but after countless hours of thought and hours of endless patience from others, I’m realizing that my awkwardness isn’t my biggest weakness and its not even the biggest reason people shy away. My biggest weakness is my own inability to let go. This isn’t going to be easy and this is going to take time. But I’m good at repetitive behaviors. Time to put it to good use. Besides, its great to be able to write this out, but tomorrow is a new day and I need to be ready to actually put these words into action. One day at a time, right? But for now…

Lights out. Seinfeld on. Goodnight World.

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About Gretchen Leary

I am 30 years old, I live in the Boston area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
This entry was posted in ASD, Aspergers, Autism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Give and Take

  1. “Why has it never occurred to me that if I just let go of all this pain and rejection, no one has to carry it?”

    This floored me. I never thought about it in such straightforward terms before. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. There is much in my life that I need to just stop carrying.

    I hope you’ll continue to write about where this process takes you. Your last two posts have really resonated with me and gotten me thinking. Thank you for that!

    • Hi there, I plan to keep it going. In fact, I have some thoughts about a new post tonight but I may wait until tomorrow to begin writing it. Thank-you so much for taking the time to read my blog, comments mean so much because I learn a lot. I felt the same way when I was writing the post about that same sentence. That if I can let go of it, then I won’t feel the need to have someone “carry me” through my ordeals.

      The trouble I am finding is that social interaction is so incredibly complex that its almost hard for me to not to over think and then dwell. So it’s really about me finding a balance of positivity and learning and letting go I guess.

      This is going to be one heck of a journey.

  2. The Truth says:

    I read this all the way through and felt quite emotional about your honesty, I related to it. I have a friend with Aspergers only I find it a real struggle to maintain the friendship. So was hoping to learn a bit more about the frustrations of being on the spectrum. Thank you x

  3. Beautiful. I feel like I’m on the other side of the looking glass; a life of friendships in which the other person wants me to carry their baggage with no reciprocation. These people care nothing of my life, fears, or needs. I am simply a nursemaid/guru/errand girl. I cannot carry all that, and I’m not a bad person for laying that burden down.
    It sounds like the opposite, but I think it’s really two sides of the same coin. I’m working on it and wish you well.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way Bridget. I guess it’s not too different- either extreme hurts both parties in the end. Balance is definitely required to make things work. Balance is something I am not good at. Well not yet.

  4. Wow! There are so many things that you wrote here that described me, but also confirmed many of the new changes that I am trying to make in my thinking and life.

    “Obviously, with ASD, the concept of letting go is not natural to me. I don’t do it often if ever at all. I perseverate on everything until I am so drained that I have to sleep. But, Aspergers or not, for my own sense of well being, I need to let it go.”

    This is one of the most difficult things for me. Especially, with relationships. I struggle terribly with not understanding why I do not (have not) “clicked” with others. Many times I have adopted the negative thoughts that there is something wrong with me, but I just cannot figure out why people do not like me.

    It can cause me to get stuck on conversations, situations, facial expressions, etc.. trying to figure out what happened or what did not happen. I can have something trigger an awkward encounter from my past and I will comb over every detail until I am finally too exhausted to think of it any longer. My mind will venture into my special interests to pull me out of the loop.

    After thinking about this for over a year, I do not think that it is a question of whether they like me or not – it may be more that they do not know how to “categorize” me. If that makes sense. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing I gained a lot from reading this!

    • I know just what you mean (at least I feel like I do). Sometimes I think that I often make people pause in confusion because I tend to react to my fear of what they MIGHT be thinking because of maybe one bad conversation or one I misunderstood. I tend to dwell on every conversation if I really want to be friends because its so foreign to me that I forget that it isn’t necessary “natural” for most people. Maybe for some its really easy but I tend to ask advice about how to not be awkward. I didn’t know that was an awkward thing to discuss. Once someone pointed that out to me it was like this lightbulb went off in my head and I thought “why didn’t anyone tell me that?” Ha. I always thought it was an okay topic. Glad I found out. 🙂

  5. Ouch. This post, and the comments that followed, brought back some memories. But among them was the memory of things getting better. It took me a long time, but it was worth the effort. Yes, some difficulties still persist. But I experience them more as private issues now, not as the kinds of open displays that used to give me so much grief. Social interaction is complex and challenging, but I’ve come a very long way. These days, I feel well liked and respected, so I know my efforts have paid off. Yours will, too. Even as you press yourself to improve, please be patient with, and kind to, yourself. It really will get better.

  6. Dale Favier says:

    Wow. This seems really important, a watershed set of realizations.

    Yeah. No one has to carry it.

    Hugs, you. 🙂

  7. I backed waaaay off. Besides having bungled enough of my attempts at friendship, I’d also finally had enough friendships that had actually become oppressive to me in one way or another. Controlling, I’d say. I couldn’t be what others wanted and do as they said – not just because of the limits of my capabilities, but because I had a mind of my own and refused judgmentalism, paternalism, and such. So, I decided to have friendships at something of a distance for a while, limiting myself to acquaintanceship. I simply didn’t want to get too close. Although I could sometimes be very talkative, in some ways I became very reserved and kept many feelings to myself.

    I also took that time of not being bothered by the attitudes and opinions of others to develop myself in a way I could respect. I clarified my values and really defined my way of life for myself. Without others to consider so often, I had plenty of opportunity to develop my ability to live by my beliefs without having the chance to voice my opinions so much. That meant I never looked like I was all talk and no action. I worked on personal projects the same way. Nobody could judge my success rate if they didn’t know I was doing something until I showed up with the results.

    I was lonely, but I became much less so by doing these things. I was busy! I took myself to restaurants and the movies when I could afford to. At other times, I enjoyed the park and other free stuff I could get to. I created my own adventures. I educated myself about all sorts of things. I also took up meditation. By the time I started hanging out with others, I was happier, more balanced, and had a lot more positive stuff to contribute. People found me more interesting. And I was more interested in them. I listened better. When i was feeling down, it wasn’t so common for them to hear about it, and I was able to be more specific about what was on my mind, rather than spilling all kinds of stuff about myself and my life.

    The other thing that happened was that I finally developed a good relationship with my mother, and we talked a lot and spent plenty of time together. Not everyone can do this, but I was able, and it really helped me. This happened in my late 20s and early 30s, which turned out to be the last few years of her life. It was really important to me, and I’m glad it happened. I’ve missed her a lot since she passed away, especially since my assessment and Asperger’s diagnosis last year.

    Eventually, I managed a romantic relationship with someone who really “got” me, and I “got” her. I was 32. We’re still together, 12 years later. (She did get to meet my mother, back when we were a new couple, and they got along great!) Being with this woman meant having new, additional help to navigate social situations, as well as help at other times, and being able to make my own contributions in her life. We’ve also had a lot of fun. People know us as a couple, and that really helps. They like and respect us both. But I was smart not to take up with anyone too soon, before I was ready. If I’d gotten into a relationship too soon, I fear I would’ve been abused.

    Take your time. Find your own way. What worked for me might be different from what will work for you, and my course may have been different from what yours will be, though some things may be similar. I’ll be rooting for you!

  8. This was so great Gretchen! I could sense that a weight had been lifted from you in this. I read a side to you that I have not seen before. You have a wonderful sense of humour. 😀

    Good luck and I look forward to reading about more “light bulb” moments.

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