My mother wants to be accepted and to have a conventional life, and she is unaware of how her lack of empathy deprives her of a foundation for fitting in. Fitting in is not the loftiest goal, but being unable to do so adds stress and isolation to the ordinary challenges of life. Because she doesn’t understand much about other people, Mother has developed tactics for avoiding mysteries, for reducing anxiety and for getting those enigmatic bodies – everyone else – to give her what she wants without expecting anything from her.
My mother is often puzzled by people and struggles to react to anything unexpected or uncomfortable for her. Because of the Aspergers impact on the patterns in her brain, even banal incidents cause stress. When she is safely alone, she reviews sources of befuddlement and imagines new worrisome mysteries, all of which can best be managed by devising permanent defensive measures. Her creativity is largely limited to making up rules. She has private sets of rules that reflect her certainty that her emotions are an accurate reflection of reality. The rules not only help her decipher and decide, they also help calm her.
Not having a rule to rely on is disorienting to my mother, which is why she often asks her children for advice. She seems to understand without acknowledging it or wondering why that her children know things she just doesn’t. Sometime we laugh among ourselves that she has just been thawed from spending the last hundred years in an iceberg.
She calls for advice as though when she needs us there are no boundaries between her need and our ability to meet it. She calls for advice as though she is the child new to the world and we are her parents. The thing is, there is a sort of comfort in this behavior, ours as well as hers. She needs us. She may not know how to love us or feel much instinct to help us, but we can’t resist settling for meeting her needs. And I guess we can’t help hoping that maybe if we please her enough, maybe if we’re really useful, maybe we can unlock the part of her heart that surely holds that brimming treasure chest of missing empathy and maternal care.
Copyright 2014 Sarah Meyer Noel. All rights reserved.