Acceptance is…

Today is my birthday, and unlike birthdays gone past, I woke up this morning feeling quite content with myself. Then, I received one of the best birthday presents ever. So, I wanted to share what acceptance feels like and why I am content with myself today. It’s kind of like my small gift to you (I know – I’m doing that wrong).

Thinking about how to explain acceptance made me wonder whether I could explain it to people who may have never experienced a total lack of acceptance.

I’ll start by saying that in terms of physical spaces, my home is the only place where I experience complete acceptance. Outside my home, I have to continuously work at “passing”. I have to work at not being “too weird”, and I have work at this on every level – from the way I walk (which is weird according to a few people) to the way I talk. I can pass most of the time, and sometimes I can’t pass at all. Sometimes, I don’t have the ability to pass because there may be too much other stuff going on. When I work hard at passing, people accept me, but it’s not “me” that they’re accepting, it’s a version of myself that isn’t truly me.

So, what is it like? Passing… It’s like meeting a group of people that have been friends for years, and share insider jokes that you have no knowledge of. It’s like that all the time. You know you’re missing out on picking up the little nuances of everyday conversations, you know you’re not really fully understanding what everyone is talking about. My son says that it’s like everyone is speaking a different language, even though its the same language you speak, but they all seem to understand each other. My son explains that well because it is like that. That shared connection that people seem to intuitively have with one another – I don’t have that in physical spaces. In addition to that, physical spaces are loud – not just noise loud, but sensory loud. The world is noisy, busy, relentlessly loud – sounds, smells, sights are all loud.

Which brings me to acceptance. Online I have found spaces where I feel acceptance. Some of these spaces are Autistic safe spaces. Because they’re Autistic safe spaces, I can be myself. I don’t have to worry about whether I’m saying the right thing in the right way. I can be myself and feel acceptance from others who can relate to all the challenges that I have in the offline world. Can you imagine what that’s like? Just being able to be yourself without worrying about receiving any derogatory comments or being rejected because of who you are?

That’s acceptance. It’s a warm, content, easy feeling. I am immensely grateful that I have those online spaces. I am immensely grateful to be connected to such a vibrant, diverse community of awesome Autistic people.

So, to the Autistic people in my life: thank you. To the non-Autistic people in my life who accept me for who I truly am: thank you.

Lastly, thank you for reading.