Next week it is our son’s birthday. Jane always did the birthday thing, the presents the cards. Although she would inevitably forget to write or send the card, presents usually made it before or on time. I found a collection of cards she had bought for me over the years, carefully selected cards to convey exactly what she wanted to say to me, her wife, on birthdays, Christmas etc. Mostly unwritten, stored in her bedside drawers ready to be passed over if her attention was caught at the right moment.

Our son won’t mind if he doesn’t have a present or a card, which is good as with the snail speed of hard copy mail these days, a card would arrive a month late. I haven’t done anything with Jane’s card collection. It is one of the too hard basket tasks.

Another one is a form that I need to do before probate can get filed. I just can’t do it. I know I need to, and I have set a deadline of before our son’s birthday. His first birthday without her, one of his mum’s. And I cannot be there. My heart hurts for this milestone.

I had assumed on her first ‘not alive anymore’ birthday that I would be fine. I wasn’t. I hope our son is ok. My love can hold him tight, but I cannot hug him across cyber space. I can tell him how proud Jane was of him, but I cannot walk on the beach with him. Our words carried by the wind as our toes dig into the sand and the waves crash nearby.

I am 50 next year. Jane had all these plans to celebrate. I am not big on celebrating milestones. Mainly because I worry no-one will want to turn up to celebrate with me or that too many people will and it will be overwhelming. In and between that I have/had an academic achievement to celebrate (I made myself nice food and started to make a dress), our sons birthday (I will phone him), our wedding anniversary (I have no idea how to get through that one), Christmas (don’t even think about it), New Year (I have a friend who I have celebrated that with before when Jane just wanted to go to bed early as she was tired or unwell, so that is sorted and really I think I have used up all my bad karma, next year has to be better).

It is tempting to ignore all the milestones. To just live moment to moment. To give up on celebrating, but the pull to step into joy momentarily is strong. A beautiful sunset or sunrise gives me so much joy. I laid some of Jane’s ashes to rest in the Northern Territory last week. A place that she felt spiritually at home in. It brought me some peace and a dance from a bird, that spend half an hour visiting and showing me it’s tail fanned out.

But the heartache that followed was hard. The rest of her ashes need to go home to Aotearoa. I feel the pull but it is not possible yet with all the travel restrictions. I am trying to be comfortable with uncomfortable feelings. To just sit with the pain and then to take Chico for a walk and revel in his joy and he bounds around the park.

Chico loves to dance with me. When I am needing a zoom break, sometimes I put the music on and dance, dog on hip. He loves it and his joy is infectious. For a few minutes I am alive again. Alive rather than exisiting is not a consistent state currently.

When I am connected with someone or something or someplace, then I am alive. Connecting with whanau brings a special reward of non-judgemental acceptance, a beautiful way to be alive.

I do not need people to be around me all the time. Connecting does not need to be physical, in real life or in person. But it does need to be and Jane did most of the bridge building that enabled me to connect. I do not know how to explain myself to people who do not get me.

I do not understand people who are judgemental in any way. It turns out there are a lot of them. I get they have a different life journey to me. Sometimes I can explain why they may day or do the things they do, but I can’t justify them. But then, I know people do not understand my very autistic sense of social justice and how this does not necessarily match non-autistic views of social justice. That two competing needs may be evaluated quite differently by me than by them.

With colleagues I just delivered a webinar on autism and friendships. I am very grateful to have so many kind and caring friends and I will try not to fixate on the few people that I now know are not friends. That realisation that people you thought of as friends are not friends anymore (or perhaps never were) is one of the suckiest milestones in life. It hurts as much as it did when I was 6 or 16.

I have chosen to ignore being ignored at the moment. Because perhaps I am wrong. There is no socially acceptable way to ask a non-autistic person if they aren’t talking to you anymore. I did try, by text. I regret that but I can’t undo it.

If you grow out of a friendship just let the person know, according to various threads on Reddit, not just autistics are traumatised by being ghosted. People poured out their hearts and hurts about being ghosted decades ago or recently. I am not hurting on that level as I rationalise that if someone is willing to ghost then they were not a friend in the first place. If I did something wrong or they think I did, which is highly likely, then they should say. Then I could give the explanation which is quite different to the assumption (that I hear on the metaphorical grapevine). But in the end all anyone can do is live their live as best they can as we can’t make people understand us.