Each and every day, for anyone who views or listens to any form of mass media, we are bombarded by sounds, songs, and imagery of what normal is. This plays into the previous chapter, but let’s look at what this can do to a person and perhaps even more so to a person on the autism spectrum.
Essentially, from my observations, this unobtainable status of normal rains down upon us every day and it is exactly that; unobtainable. What does this do? This makes a person question their clothes, their ways, their car, their status, their friends. For a person on the autism spectrum however this may also put into question the emotional aspect of everything. What does this mean? Take a look at television shows, friendship and love is often talked about in excess and along with it the emotions of these are overtly visible and obvious.
Going back to “Film Theory” in “Finding Kansas” I put forth the concept that, “whatever happens first always has to happen” which means that mass mediums have a lot of potential power to a person on the autism spectrum because, whereas a movie may just be a story, for a mind on the autism spectrum it could become the benchmark for an emotion.
There’s a hazard to television show or movie in that, and this may come as a shock to you, it isn’t real life. However, often times, emotions are played out in a way that is logical. Person A likes person B, person B isn’t all that into person A, but person A tries all sorts of things to when the approval of person B, person B is flattered, a date happens and eventually it’s happily ever after. Or, person C does something mean to person D, person D is upset and angry and wants to get revenge, but through a mutual friend things are talked about and by the end of the episode all is well and in all subsequent episode the mean event is never mentioned of referenced again. A cozy ending, right? Only if it worked that way.
Right now I want you to go back and look at this chapter title and try to do it, please try and translate silence. Why am I asking this? In the same futile method that you probably tried to come up with a way to truly translate the essence of silence so to have I with emotions. From so many television shows and movies I was shown, in a visual sense, what emotions are. However, the internal feeling was much different than the external ways I was shown. So often when I thought something should be there it isn’t because I’ve been trying to translate the untranslatable.
There is a major trap here! Actually many; the first is the confusion of emotions. Sure, emotions are hard enough to feel as is, and when I was younger and I was asked, “How do you feel?” I think a lot of times my answer of, “I don’t know” was truly valid one however, I wonder if this were amplified by this attempt to translate silence. Secondly, relationships and friendships could be thrown away because the silence couldn’t be translated. Movies and television are often a major Kansas for those on the autism spectrum and some who may not be able to pick up on social cues in person may be able to see them on screen which means that a friendship depicted on screen in the framework for all relationships/friendships in person and if it isn’t the same way then it, obviously, is not an actual friendship at all.
The final and perhaps largest trap a person can fall into when attempting to translate silence is the depiction of happiness. If life is viewed as a game what is the criteria of winning? It would depend on what the last song, show, play, or movie watched. Is it falling in love? Making lots of money? Wearing designer clothing? Global domination? Being the best? There are so many grandiose messages we are bombarded with which, again going back to “Film Theory” the basis of happiness could be placed on one of these things. If it is achieved there may still be emptiness because all along, on the inside, where a person thinks something should be felt because that’s what they’ve been told and believed for so long, there’s nothing but silence.
One of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with said that, “The only thing autism is, is human behavior to the extreme.” This applies here because this chapter I’ve just written could apply to anyone, autism spectrum or not. However, for those on the autism spectrum, this could be played out to a greater degree. We are bombarded with images of “normal” and so many would give just about anything to experience this thing called normal. I ended the last chapter stating I’m perfectly happy being myself, but there are far too many that aren’t at that place and even if they get to a place that they feel is normal, in the end they could be left trying to translate silence.
In my life I envied those with a job when I had none. I thought, “If I only had a job everything would be better.” I thought this because that’s what I’d see on various forms of media and when I had a job there was sense of emptiness. I went from “If I only had…” to “If I only had” time and time again and each time there was only silence within me. Don’t get me wrong, there was some sense of emotion within me each time I, say, got a job when I didn’t have one but there wasn’t this extended sense of jubilation or fulfillment like I had seen played out on television shows. When an issue would pop up on the job that was emotionally stressful it stayed around; the emotions simply didn’t disappear at the end of the day and, unlike a sitcom, was talked about and referenced in the future.
Again, obtaining goals, jobs, friends, and relationships are important, absolutely, but at the same time the feelings within a person may not be the same as what someone may have seen played out on the big screen for decades. It wasn’t until I accepted that there’s no such thing as normal that I could finally progress onward and not try to translate this deafening silence. Ha! Deafening silence; perhaps there is no more greater oxymoron if taken literally but it’s the best way I can describe this because, when one is trying to feel something that they’ve been told the way it’s going to feel, or if any of the examples I’ve given this chapter come true, and there’s nothing then everything else is going to be drowned out at this feeble attempt to make some sense out of the silence of emotions that are there.