How Shallow? #Autism #Friendships

One thing people have consistently said about my writing here has been that I am pretty raw. I don’t see much value in shallow interactions. My appreciation for emotional depth is a big part of how friendships work with me. Shallow folks are kind of like shiny elusive fish at times. We are drawn to how unattainable they seem to be at times. But the moment the fish stops swimming, we notice that maybe our perception of their shiny scales was really all wrong. Perhaps it was really just the sun shining off their backs as they swam in the shallow water. 

People have to swim very deeply to fully appreciate me and what I can offer. I won’t apologize for that anymore. I used to. I used to do that often and I’m catching myself and trying to stop myself now because I’m realizing that while my intensity scares some folks off,  that doesn’t mean I need to be someone else, it means they weren’t meant to be in my world.

The world around me is intense everyday. Every single emotion feels intense. The happier the emotion, the more intense it is because of how dark the world can be for me at times. I have to feel very emotionally secure in a friendship before I drop my walls. But what those walls guard might surprise you. I’m known for my ability to be vulnerable even with the public- so what am I guarding with those walls? It isn’t my story. It’s my laughter and my silly side. It’s pure joy that I guard. That’s like gold in a world like this.  

I want to know that when my world falls apart because of a meltdown that they are going to stay right there and that they believe in me enough to know that the storm will pass and we will laugh and be silly again. 

Last night one of my closest friends was listening to me share some really intense things from my past which is often my way of saying “Can I trust you not to abandon me right now?” and she seems to know that what I need during meltdowns is gentle reassurance and then redirection. I found myself laughing again not that much later as she sent me silly pictures and lovingly reassured me that she was there and that she loved me. I felt so much closer to her after that. 

The biggest drawback is a very big one though. The hard thing about being so strongly drawn to those who know what pain is like is that we can all sort of get stuck in our own world of pain. I do it and I cringe at how I’ve definitely not been there for friends or even family when I should have been. I’ve also found myself trying to save people from themselves. I’ve wound up in some seriously toxic entanglements trying to be there for folks who definitely have the emotional depth that I am so drawn to but have chosen to let their pain make their hearts cold as ice. I’m learning that there is a distinct difference between someone who “knows pain” and someone who loves to inflict it because they are bitter. 

I want friendships with people who know what pain is but will call me higher when the tide comes rolling in. I want friendships where we can bypass the small talk when something is wrong with either of us. I want friendships and relationships with people who can appreciate that I avoid shallow interactions because life is too short for anything meaningless. Those are the people who make me laugh so hard my face hurts late at night. Those are the people I trust my joy and laughter with.  

I have experienced so much loss in my lifetime and one thing I have learned from that loss is to love harder not less. When Devin passed away I learned to never take a single day for granted. Knowing I missed his last phone call is something I have to live with forever. But a wise old friend once told me that when I feel afraid to try to find someone beautiful about it. Fear is ugly. Love is beautiful and so I try to embrace love instead and offer it to those I treasure most. 

I love to laugh. It’s like an amazing gift that sets your soul free. It’s so soothing and comforting. But just like everything else in my world, being able to be silly and just laugh with me also means you’ve waded past those shallows to get to me first. 

I’m not ever going to be that shiny elusive fish sparkling like diamonds in the shallows. I’m the girl who wears her scars and her heart on her sleeve. I’m not someone who is hard to catch or even hard to find. I don’t play games. I try to be kind to everyone but I have my small circle too and the select few that I choose to actually invest my time in know that it’s never a question of what time of day it is (2AM or 2PM) or how far I need to drive- I’ll be there. But they also know that they won’t find me in shallow waters. 

They’ll find me in the deepest places sometimes. I tend to stay down there investigating, learning, and trying to gently show others who are afraid and hiding that if we keep our focus on the sunlight sparkling above – everything is actually going to be okay. And those who don’t make that effort to meet me in the deep can expect a friendly wave from me when I come up for a chance to breathe. 

About Gretchen McIntire (formerly Leary)

I am 34 years old, I live in the Raleigh area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
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