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Explain Listeningly

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I recently asked myself, “If you only had one chance to work with an Aspie family, what would you talk about?” I replied, “Most Aspie family work is the search for perfect empathy.”

I have, from kind and patient people, including a nearly life-long brother, decades-long friends, and a new bride, received a lot of empathy. I have had so much explained to me: the meaning of friendship, how to be a family, what kindness looks like.

And a lot of beautiful things came together on this family and friend-filled wedding week (I married Sara on April 19).

Although sometimes I act childishly (possibly categorized as temper tantrum when not getting my way), I’m not suggesting that all Aspie adults are similar to a ten-year old boy (or that all of my childishness is accounted for by brain wiring). That said, I share an inspiring story about a cool, neurotypical parent of a cool, neurotypical ten-year old. I, as a 33-year old Aspie with a special interest in communication, learned a lot from it.

I gave that parent a coin for his son, a 1941 Mint State 66 (with Full Bands) Mercury Dime.  As part of the game, I also gave him an uncirculated Great Basin National Park quarter to circulate. To play with what is held, and what is released. Because a coin can be perfect, but it is also meant for exchange and commerce. (As far as the meta of all this, did I cheat by memorizing every curve of the coins I gave away?)

Awww!!! The world is full of competing perfectionisms.

Each Aspie, and to some extent every person (on a spectrum of imagination), has an idealized world. To invite them to yours, take a look around theirs. Remove Kryptonite; add flowers.

And the boy asked his dad how much the dime was worth, and he responded, “That’s a great question, and we will look into that. What’s happening now, is that you received a gift, and say ‘Thank you.’”

I adore how he explained listeningly. He fully acknowledged his son’s world; it is a fair question. And he coached him on how to participate in his world of social relatedness. And these moments of perfect empathy, these moments of kindness, add up.

Something about having a child might be similar to having an Aspie partner, so by obvious extension, perhaps an Aspie child is even more like an Aspie adult. My Beloved understands more than anyone how my ancestors mapped the stars, and she is a huge ally in the world of neurodiversity. She also faces an over-generous portion of my attachment to efficiency, plans and preferences in some constantly changing soup of rigorous perfectionism.

I know that she has explained so many things to me. In the hopes that it contributes to empathy, I share my vows:

I am an inward person, and I am not familiar with ease or an easy path. I have an incredible attention to detail, and an imagination that makes me believe that all things are possible.

I teeter between a stance of childlike wonder saying “Yes, please” in the world and a blunt “No, thank you.” With you, more than I have ever conceived, I feel “Yes” and I consistently feel “Yes.”

You are more beautiful than I could have imagined. With you, I am compelled to be my best Self. With you, I have new ideas. With you, I have grounded and boundless hope.

And, unlike most things in my life, in your presence I tremble. I could not have created you, even in my dreams. You are only possible if you will take me, as I am. I would be the luckiest man in the world.

I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I see and appreciate you. I have asked, fully self-connected, for you to marry me. I plan to keep on asking, ‘til death do us part.

Kindness, whether from parent to child or between partners, can eventually cause cracks in a “no” stance towards the world. I am not saying that all suffering is from lack of kindness, but I would like to encourage continued effort.

Explain the “yes” of your world to an Aspie engulfed in theirs.

Explain listeningly.

What do you think? Have you ever noticed a moment of perfect listening turn into perfect explanation? What was the impact?

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Anita Schnee April 26, 2014, 11:30 am

    Dearest Bob, what a scintillating post. Makes me want to sing from the hilltops — like the redbud and pink-and-white dogwood are doing right now in this glorious mid-South spring.

    So this post of yours itself is, actually, a moment of explaining listeningly. You’re explaining yourself to me, listeningly. The impact on me is this:

    I’m grateful to you for sharing your deep self-understanding. It’s illuminating and that’s important to me, as, perhaps you know, you are an extremely important person — yet our time together was short and more fraught than I would have preferred. So I can imagine playing together instead, much like this dream I had last night that involved dogs and cows and zooming around in the steep Ozark glens and passing the bar exam and a pink Cadillac. I’d have been a puddle at your wedding. I wish you both much happiness and congratulations.

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