Or, Myself and My Relationship to Socially Mandated Performative Mourning.
Today I was going to write about how gender identity and gender presentation differ, and also how they impact my life. It is an important discussion to have, but I not sure if i can handle it today. personal life stuff is happening, and i feel old emotional overwhelm washing over me.
So instead i want to talk about mourning as an autistic person…or rather how I mourn as an Autistic Person. There is a public perception that Autistic people never have empathy or lack a theory of mind. For myself I find find both of these things untrue, I have plenty of all the various forms of empathy people try to break it down into, I have a complex and thorough theory of mind. Which is not to say we all do, or that the way that I am is in some way more valid. All the ways that we are different and autistic are all equally valid.
What I personally don’t have is a social bullshit language dictionary, I never see or am able to notice what people want me to take away from a conversation. What I see is how they feel, broadcast bigger than life via body language and facial expressions. This is why I personally am uncomfortable with eye contact from strangers. It is to much information that they most likely do not want me to have…and I can’t tell which parts are the off limits parts.
This also means that in certain common social situations, I never got the correct social programming of acceptable responses.
I have never felt I feel sad enough when people die. What I feel when people die is a hollow place, the place where their potential ceased to exist…and that is sad…for me. They are, as far as I am able to understand it, either in their afterlife or just not existing anymore. So I am not sad for them, nothing or exactly where they believed they should be doesn’t seem sad to me personally. I may be sad for me, but it feels selfish to really wallow in that. I am often sad for the people who knew, loved, and lost that person. If I were to take their pain and make it about me so that I may be seen to participate in the mourning, be included in the loss….or to communicate what a good person I am seems harmful, performative, and frankly selfish. Instead I try to productively offer support to those more actively mourning, for them I truly hurt.
It can take months or maybe even years for that empty feeling, that cessation of potential to resolve into a concrete sense of loss. For me to miss that person in a concrete manner, to miss their voice, the way they smelled, all the big and small ways of them.
I also seem to mourn people as they are leaving my life, before their life ends, whether it be illness, life choices, or life circumstances. I often mourn my loss of a person’s physical presence, as they are slipping out the back door of my life…usually long before their lives end. This seems to leave me, with less specific loss trauma when their lives do end.
When celebrities die, this feeling of inadequacy is at it’s peak. I have no script for public mourning. I don’t know how to do it “correctly” and I don’t really grok why I should have to do it at all. The sadness of others, if sincere, is of course sad to me, suffering is sad no matter the reason…mostly. But I don’t know how to display the socially acceptable level of sadness for a person who was never in my life…who has no snipped thread of potential in my personal tapestry. Their cessation, is still sad, their unfulfilled potential, the hearts breaking on their behalf. I hurt for those hurting, but it rarely expresses in overt displays as our culture seems to expect.
So I am at a loss, am i perhaps lacking in expressive empathy? perhaps I am just an asshole. I’m willing to accept that as a real potential possibility.
Today this is all I really have.