I have been thinking a lot about the term “abuse” today. Abuse is so hard to recognize from the inside. It has a way of feeling normal. When something feels normal it doesn’t feel like abuse.
The first time someone ever used the label “abuse” to describe my life I became very defensive. That was silly, I knew all sorts of humans that had it a thousand times worse. When I was twelve a friend of my step-dad, the father of a kid on my soccer team, murdered his wife, attempted to murder his kids and then shot him self. That was abuse. To me what I had didn’t seem all that bad. It didn’t seem remotely like abuse.
“Don’t be ridiculous dude. My step-dad has only hit me twice. I counted. I’m 100% certain there were only two incidents. And he only has raged three times. I counted. My biological father raged like a zillion times. 3 vs a zillion. See, the math checks out my step-dad isn’t abusive”
He gave me blank stares and let the conversation go.
When you keep track of how many times you have been hit, you are probably being abused.
It has taken me years to recognize the abuse I suffered as abuse. It took me a long time to recognize the trauma my biological father inflicted and even longer to recognize the trauma from my step-dad, and much much longer to recognize the damage my mom did.
I have been thinking a lot about “shame” too. I remember the first time I learned that I should feel shame. I was about eight.
"Kenny, what do your parents like to do?", she asked.
“My mom really likes meth. She doesn’t get to do it anymore because they’d take me away though. My dad likes minesweeper.”
At that moment I felt deeply uncomfortable and corrected myself.
"step-dad", I said.
I breathed a sigh of relief. that could have been awkward, I thought.
I don’t remember much about that evening just that there was a lot of my mom getting upset with me and that I ended up grounded. I didn’t understand. I thought I was being punished for lying and I kept berating my mom with a zillion questions. I thought maybe I had got the facts wrong. Maybe she sitll does meth, I wondered. “Do you still do meth?” I asked. I wondered if maybe I lacked understanding of meth, and like it wasn’t well known and I was in trouble for not having explained things properly so that people would know what meth is. “What is meth?” I asked. This was my first conscious realization of the deep shame my mom carried around and still does.
I have carried around some shame myself, some for longer than others. See, for the longest time I hated the term "autistic", it filled me with revulsion. I have had some idea I might be on the spectrum for a long time, but I really didn’t like it. It took me awhile to start to see the term as positive and not a huge negative.
She had all the traits of a manic pixie dream girl. She was quirky, she used random catch phrases, she’d talk on and on about irrelevant things, and when maintenance workers ran a leaf-blower she’d cover her ears and scream. She was perfect.
When I was eleven my family took a road-trip. We camped most of the way at RV parks. It was at a KOA (an RV park chain. yes even RV parks have franchises. AMURICA = LAND OF FRENCH FRIES and FRANCHISES) that I met her. She was playing by herself in a playground full of kids engaging in a game of freeze-tag. When other kids asked her to play she would shout “no!” at inappropriate volumes.
She seemed confused and irritated by every social interaction. She protected her corner of the playground like it was a fragile alien planet and any intrusion of humans would destroy its ecosystem forever. She flapped her arms in excitement and talked about random things to herself. She said unintelligible things at inappropriate volumes. She was perfect.
To most she was a weird and bratty kid but to me she was a goddess. She had the same impulses I had but didn’t care at all about the social consequences of acting on them. She was herself and it was amazing! I didn’t just admire her I wanted to be like her. I wanted to know how she became so brave. How was she so free of anxiety?
For awhile at least, she integrated fine into the little playground at the KOA. She kept to her corner and the other kids kept to theirs. Every one ignored the weird girl that thought the playground was alive. It was when the kids insisted on playing near her that our fragile social structure was fractured. She shoved a kid and then proceeded to scream at him at the top of her lungs.
Screaming girl, embarrassed dad escorting screaming girl, kids making fun of the crazy girl that hates freeze0tag. “Maybe she just really hates tag”, said one boy. “I think she is retarded or something”, said another.
The next day she was still at camp so I worked up my bravery to say hello. “Hello!” I said, while doing my best Jack Black impression – high kick, strange hand motions, and overzealous volume levels. At the time I was going through my mimic comedians phase. She stared blankly at me. “I’m Kenny!”, I said — well, shouted really. Still blank stares.
She must find me uninteresting. I should say something smart and interesting “Have you ever read A Brief History in Time? Do you like blackholes?”. She started to make some unintelligible squawks; a little weird, but every soulmate has their quirks. More strange sounds and bizarre mannerisms.
I started to realize that this girl wasn’t all there. Suddenly all her behaviors stopped being relatable quirks and became signs I had missed. Random freeze-tag playing kid was right – this girl is retarded! I felt so stupid for crushing on a retarded girl.
By now I had attracted the attention of “concerned father”, he was watching from an open RV door — half protective, half bewildered at the eleven year old enamored by his severely autistic daughter. I felt awkward and left, saddened and angered by the realization that my soulmate turned out to be a retard.
It would have never worked out anyway, the RV door had an unpleasant pitch when it opened. I could never be with a girl with a father that had an RV with a door that had unpleasent pitch when opened, it just wouldn’t work. I’m not picky but there are some things you just cant tolerate.
Later that day I asked my mom about the girl. “What do you think is wrong with that girl?”, I said. “She is disabled or autistic or something”, she said. I had hoped for validation that this girl wasn’t disabled, that she was normal, that she was amazing. But all I got was validation that I had liked a retard.
I felt stupid and really really angry. Inside I was terrified that this girl was like me. I resolved that I was not autistic and that autistic people were retarded. I’d never be like that — I wasn’t anything like that.
I spent the rest of that trip contemplating how much I was and wasn’t like that girl. I alternated between convincing myself she was misunderstood and that no one got her and convincing myself that she was a retard. Accepting she was retarded meant accepting I had been an idiot for not recognizing a girl was disabled. But accepting she was misunderstood meant that I was like her, one odd behavior away from being retarded. I wasn’t autistic, I wasn’t retarded. I was normal and awesome socially! I only had one friend really, but he thought I was awesome! Autistic people are terrible at social things. I cant be autistic. Plus, autistic people have like weird interests and shit and cant talk to people.
That road-trip was to the National Checkers Championship. I was a checkers prodigy. *
I resolved to never be autistic, to never be retarded.
- Not joking at all. If you don’t believe me do a google search, checkers is a serious game, it just has an image problem – one so bad I need to add a footnote to specify I wasn’t joking.
Things I Did Today
- Published Daily Authenticity
- Reached inbox zero. Feels good!
- Nearly finished RESTification of user’s feature on REDACTED
- Chopped wood for 30 minutes. Failed to do an hour due to overzealous chopping. Going to need to split up things into two 30 minute sessions I think.
- Published Everything is a Story. Tomorrow I should cross-post to medium I think
- cleaned room
Things I Failed to do Today
- Iron out SSL issues on Thinking in React. Tomorrow I hope.
- Start on backend code for GetGoodAt. Just didn’t get to it. sad llama
I’m really starting to be driven insane by the lack of design tools that work well with code. I want to prototype frontend and backend and experiment with design stuff all at the same time. Today with GetGoodAt I really wanted to just dive and experiment with stuff, but so much code needs to come into place before I can start playing with design. I could Sketch or Photoshop or draw but that doesn’t allow one to explore properly, it still feels broken.
No one is ever going to build what I need I think. So, I must build it myself. Sqircle is going to be prototyped this weekend if it’s the last thing I do.
It was raining off and on today so I didn’t make much use of newly arrived camera. Ended up taking mostly selfies and images of chess pieces. Here is a selfie
(yes my nose is peeling, I got sunburned in San Diego)