We were sitting on a blanket in the shade a few days ago while a group of women chatted animatedly in back of us at a picnic table. Their conversation was spirited and mildly distracting. I think they hadn't seen each other for years and were "catching up."
"Why are they talking?!" Ethan whined, irritated.
I think what he meant was, why are they talking so loudly and distracting us. Ethan tends to want to zero in on only one sound at a time; it's difficult for him to "multi-task" his ears. That's what I think he meant, but then I wondered if he also wasn't wondering why they were sitting there talking, as if he couldn't comprehend that there could be pleasure in carrying out a conversation. This both saddened and amused me, then awakened a memory.
Years ago when Anna wasn't much more than a baby I started attending a mom's group. We were all sitting at tables in groups and discussing some topic like "the importance of relationship." I remember at one point (foolishly, I suppose) confiding that sometimes what I most enjoyed was when I took Anna to the park or library and we were all alone. I mentioned the stress I felt sometimes at trying to maintain a conversation or make small talk with other moms I didn't know.
Another mom there just didn't get me. Maybe she didn't get introverts in general. "Wow," she said without even thinking. "Maybe you need to get on some medication or something because it sounds like you have some issues."
Five minutes later I had discreetly excused myself and was sitting in a bathroom stall, tears spilling down my cheeks, wondering if it was okay to be me.
I think relationships of all kinds are vitally important. I think it's wonderful to meet up and chat and connect and have a generally great time. I also think there are a lot of us out there who maybe like to observe, drink in, speak less, think more. That's not such a bad thing either.
Sometimes I can't help but think about how full our lives are with noise. The music and the TV and the phone and the computer are eating away from the practice of not multi- but single tasking. I find it so hard to focus on any one thing sometimes when so much is vying for my attention. I wonder if this is how people with autism feel all of the time, barraged by their senses and perceptions, by the world coming at them from all directions.
Quite a few years ago now one of my friends spent months in England and when she returned shared a tape she'd made of a girl she'd met who made beautiful music. This young woman composed songs and played piano, and one of her songs runs through my head to this day. I don't remember all the words, but I remember this, these few lines, these sweet words she sang, her own little vision of what God might whisper to any one of us: