I’ve been waiting to use this perfect picture of Zo for a long while now.
Though small, my middle daughter has BIG feelings. There are no in-betweens with her. To my knowledge, she’s a neurotypical toddler, so as an autistic dad, I overlap with her on a few things, but not everything.
This instance here: it reminded me of where I have to be more “dad” than “autistic dad.” Zo didn’t want to trike back uphill. She’s great at it, but she just quit before starting.
My first thought: “Zo, just pedal – let’s GO.”
My second thought: “Wait, let me get a photo.”
My third, best thought: “It’s OK, Zo. This is kinda tough. I understand.”
Isn’t it weird giving the kind of advice that you yourself struggle with?
The hills are always, and I mean — ALWAYS — 100% UPHILL in The Life Autistic. If it’s ever easy, it’s because there’s a dip in a hill that’s still going upward.
But as she sat, as I reflect on this image in time, and on what has been a brutal uphill and disappointing season within seasons at work and in even in this creative endeavor, some truths of the autism experience echo here.
It’s OK to process a disappointing road ahead. I get upset at the efforts spent, the effort I’ll have to spend, and the efforts wasted in trying to do my best and make it. Sometimes you just have to sit on the edge of the trike, work out the sadness, and see it to its end. Sometimes this is not forever.
It’s doable, but it’s hard. And THIS is what y’all need to get. Acknowledge the difficulty. Hard isn’t impossible. I’ve traversed miles of literal and figurative rock, muttering “this is hard” all the while. Keeping focus, enduring awkwardness, working to futility, pouring waters of life into gardens that don’t bear fruit right away — just. because. it’s. hard. doesn’t. mean. we. won’t. do. it.
An upset finisher beats a happy quitter. We can’t always be upbeat when we’re beat. When things affect our sense deeply. When we’re melting down and around along the way. The autism spectrum is an odd thing. But the more authentic we can feel along the way, with each footfall forward, the better off and away we’ll be. Maybe we’ll evince a hint of smile after the finish line.
Five minutes later, Zo charged back up that hill.
Autistic resilience isn’t about holding your head up or grinning through the pain. Despite depression and disappointment, we can still make a routine of “DO.” To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.
Speaking of resilience, I don’t know how I’m still managing not to quit at doing YouTube videos. Here’s my latest adventure back in time and school grades as an autistic student. Interesting times, those.