You can see through some people’s windows, and occasionally through an open door, left open to ease the passage of fresh air through the home. Other doors are firmly shut and we have no idea what goes on behind them, with window coverings that let in light but maintain privacy. A strict barrier between the personal and the other.
As a young teacher, I used to keep my door closed and like many teachers in that era, how I taught behind my classroom door was very different to how I taught when the Principal was walking through. As I have grown older, and vaguely wiser, I have come to understand that what you see through those doors and windows may be pure mirage. When my door is open, what you see is what you get. I am extremely private in many areas of my life, but the rest is an open book.
Like many autistics, I struggle to know when I am looking at a mirage of someone’s life and intentions versus the reality. When I get it wrong, it can be devastating. I genuinely don’t understand why people would present something that is not an authentic reflection of their true self. Perhaps this is because I am not judgemental on the whole. If you tell me that you take drugs, I am more likely to ask how you find the coming down versus the high, than to judge. But if you tell me that you don’t take drugs and then I see you high as a kite, I am bewildered. What does your lie say about you? About me? About the relationship that we have together?
I understand the curtains and steel security bars on the windows and doors to people’s innermost secrets, but I can’t comprehend painting an elaborate trompe l’oeil to cover up part of your authentic journey. All our journeys’ involve difficult choices and wrong paths. It is how we respond to those that matters, not how we pretend they didn’t happen. On the other hand, I do not believe I have the right to share the stories from someone else’s life journey, unless they have specifically given me consent to do so. Through the generosity of many, I have been able to share stories within my writing, to help others in their journeys. I started writing a book that I working titled, ‘The fall out of the dumb stuff I have done, so you don’t need to’. I stopped writing it because I realised I wasn’t ready to fully open those windows into my life.
It is interesting what we hide behind closed doors. When I worked in crisis support in education, I was always dumbfounded when educators would rule out domestic violence because ‘they come from such a nice family.’ As a young adult, in one of my first serious relationships, I found out that middle class people just hit where the bruises don’t show. A line I repeatedly horrified educators with, without telling them where this knowledge came from. Sadly, I was right more often than they were.
For the last year of Jane’s life, our closed doors hid how unwell she was. How much care and support I provided to enable her to work, eat, sleep and be dressed professionally. This was her choice, and her story at the time. Her death made it my story, as my authentic journey shifted from wife and carer to widow. Both of which, carer and widow, erase who you are as an individual, and present words that people use to paint their own mirage. I ceased to exist outside of my work environments as people responded to their mirage and not to me.
This blog was part of my need to exist, to be seen and heard. To make sense of this part of my life journey. At the same time, I have been seeing the elaborate lengths some people go to, to present themselves as something they are not. I present some of me, other bits are still locked in my boxes and filing cabinets, private to not just others, but to me too. I miss Jane’s help to translate these false presentations, to explain the emotions behind why people do what they do. I can’t help but think, if all the world were autistic, life would be so much easier. We would all say what we meant, and mean what we say. Social justice would be front and centre, and I would hope kindness would be the bedrock.
For me, shame is an unhelpful emotion; it eats up at people and is incompatible with kindness. If we make wrong choices, there is no point in being ashamed. Instead, if we can, we need to make amends, make it right. I am working on this, even when the wrong choice was only wrong because the door looked open and when I walked through the door, I broke it. I am not ashamed of this, it was a genuine mistake, but I do want to make it right, and I am genuinely upset that someone else was hurt by this.
When you are interacting with others, please think about how the way you tweak your truths impacts others around you. Will you accidentally hurt someone? Will your relationships develop small cracks that slowly drive you apart, or will they implode leaving one or more of you devastated? Because a small tweak, a mirage, a tromp l’oiel, they are all just lies. And when we lie, it is not that lie that is the biggest problem, it is the implication that everything that has been said or left unsaid, is a lie, that there is no relationship foundation, just a quicksand of maybes.
Jane was obsessed with being truthful, in herself, in her work, in her relationships. She needed those she loved to be honest with her. I will leave you today with her truth for the last year, in relation to her health, and my final understanding of what she meant.
Jane: “Time will either heal or reveal.”
My final understanding ‘reveal meant death’. We both knew, we just drew the curtains.