Today, we have the honor of having another guest blogger, Brandy Nightingale. Brandy has Asperger’s Syndrome, and what follows is an amazing look inside her world. Brandy’s blog site can be found here.
“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the
barriers within yourself
that you have built against it."
I read this quote shortly after leaving a failed five-year-long relationship and thirty years of being clueless as to what a proper “relationship” was to consist of. I’d read all the popular books on the subject: Men are from Mars, Women Are From Venus & Mars and Venus on a Date by John Gray, PhD; Relationship Strategies: The E&P Attraction by John G. Kappas, PhD; Soul Mates and Twin Flames by Elizabeth Clare Prophet; Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love by Richard Carlson and Kristine Carlson; The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz; The Path to Love by Deepak Chopra . . . the list seems never-ending. Even as a teen, I’d read countless magazine articles on “how to flirt,” “how to attract your soul mate,” and “how to make him fall for you.” Yet one day, while in a hotel room across the country from my love of five years, I realized we were in a pickle. I couldn’t understand why with all my book knowledge, with all the research I’d done on how to love, we simply couldn’t make it work.
I also had no idea I had been living thirty years with a soon to be diagnosed “disorder” called Asperger’s syndrome.
Having no idea I had a neurological difference, much of my life was spent trying hard to “fit in” with everyone else, to mold to those around me, to not stand out, but to be accepted—to the detriment of my own truth. The truth was, my truth at least, was that I was interested in science, not underage drinking. I was interested in walking in nature, not walking in designer shoes. I was interested in learning world theology, not learning the latest gossip. And I realized, at the age of thirty, my one and only adult relationship was failing, hard, because I had lost myself trying to fit his mold.
“Why do you always read non-fiction books? Aren’t you interested in fiction? Novels?”
“Why do you act so weird when we’re around my friends? Get over yourself.”
“I wish you’d wear skirts. Why do you always wear the same thing?”
He’d ask these questions and rather than responding with a proud, “Because this is who I am” or simply questioning the very foundation of our relationship, I would attempt to impress him with a sudden interest in fiction literature, a purchase of vintage skirts, and my brief four-hour trial of donning thong underwear (which, I admit, quickly ended up in the rubbish bin in my office restroom after hours of torture). And the depression soon followed
Am I enough? Of course not. Everyone wants love. Everyone wants to be held, and have someone to enjoy a dinner with, or breakfast, a laugh, and frequent trips to the Santa Barbara Zoo (well, maybe that last one is a tad more of a personal preference). I need to make myself be enough.
I moved into a place of my own, facing the ocean, with my dog, and though I admittedly had times of extreme loneliness and experienced the eating of an overabundance of soothing pumpkin pies, I realized I was enough. I liked my books, my random intensive research on the internet, my solo breakfasts at Coogie’s in Malibu, my nature hikes with my Great Dane, Audrey, and when I went home at night, no one was critiquing my reading of the Bhagavad Gita, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, or biographies on Tesla. I realized for the first time, I liked me. My quirks made me interesting. My simplicity made my life affordable. My interests made me abundantly rich. Heck, I’d ‘follow’ me on Twitter!
And shortly thereafter, I met my husband. Two “wholes” sitting over a giant cheese and basil pizza at D’Amores in Malibu, sharing the selves that we both accepted. Our selves.
I’m not saying relationships are easy. I can tell you honestly, I’ve never had such a struggle. And we’re still figuring out if this relationship is what’s best for both of us, with our quirks and needs and wants and dreams. The reason for the struggle is not that either of us are tough to live with and not that we fight or become abusive. It is that I so easily fall into losing myself, time after time. I become small, not enough, compare myself to others. That is my lifelong work. Maybe it will always be, maybe the struggle is my way of finding the barriers within myself, which I will overcome. It would be easier to be alone, yes. I’m the queen of happy isolation. But what a gift to meet someone who loves themselves enough to allow you to discover your walls, to fall in love each day with who you are and who you’ve become. And who would have thought meeting me and accepting me as I had was the first critical step toward finding a true, loving relationship?
I’m honored to be a guest blogger with fellow Aspie Arman Khodaei. I first discovered him when someone sent me a link on the documentary he is featured in titled AUTISM IN LOVE. This subject, obviously, is near and dear to my heart and much needed, so I’ve been spreading the word as much as possible for others who are just as passionate or even just curious, to support this project. Following is a link to the Kickstarter campaign for the film. I invite you to join in and support it however possible, even by just sharing the link with friends, teachers, neighbors, and family members.
Brandy Nightingale was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, in 2010 at the age of thirty-five. An entrepreneur, visual effects coordinator on feature films, retired stand-up comedian, and author of the upcoming Everything’s Hunky Dory: A Memoir, she can be found on Facebook, and her blog can be found here.