Of Cats and Community

Cats are solitary creatures, content to sleep alone in a sunny spot or tucked into a dark corner of the closet. Not all cats are like that, of course, but there's no way to tell whether a cat will be a friendly sort who wants to sleep on one's head or an aloof one who pretends people don't exist except at dinner time. And there are those who alternate between friendliness and sudden batshit-crazy moments where they lash out and strike their person upside the head with claws drawn for no good reason other than the head was there. 

Sometimes, people are a lot like that last category: friendly before going on a frenzy. The autism community is often like that: friendly and supportive only if we're on the same side. Heaven forbid someone be independent and want to make up his own mind about things rather than adhere to one side or another. As the bright boy says, drama--too much drama, as he sighs and wanders off to play with yu-gi-oh where there are clear lines--attack points, strengths, weaknesses all there on the card--clear boundaries and no extraneous drama.

Sometimes the real world drama and the online drama combine to be too much...and it's all been too much of late. Something's got to give. Guess what that is--all that extra drama that can disappear simply by closing a browser.

Feline Fine.

This week, my buddy Frankie got sick with a urinary tract infection. I rushed him to the vet in a panic, my heart in my throat. Frankie spent the night and the entire next day at the vet while I fretted and pestered the clinic about his condition. They cathed him and gave him antibiotics, and he is good as new now. I have to give him antibiotics twice a day for a couple weeks and he's now on the prescription urinary tract food instead of the store bought food. He's back to sleeping on my chest and all feels right in my world. Amazing how one animal can do that. I'm so glad to have him back that I'm holding him a little tighter and calling for him when he disappears for a secluded cat nap.

Escaping into books.

There's a part of me that's just shut down right now, that says enough's enough--the online dramas in the autism world just aren't worth wading into, at least not directly, so I'm trying to read for fun...trying to stay away from autism books, autism blogs, taking a break from all of that, except for those blogs where I know I will be uplifted and be able to share support. 

It feels like too many people out there are interacting for the lone purpose of tearing others down or, just as bad, to top-dog or manipulate others. I don't get how people can demand acceptance and the freedom to say whatever they want without consequence and behave however they want and then beat up on others for expressing their own feelings. Does that make a bit of sense? And the unwillingness on the part of some to ever give another person the benefit of the doubt or the chance to grow, learn, and change--it's bullshit, and since I don't tolerate that well, the only way to responsibly deal with it is to distance myself and not engage. 

Here's the thing -- I know I've written things that tore people down, caused them grief, and almost without exception, I regret that. How was that helpful or compassionate? It wasn't. I think ideas and misinformation can and should be tackled, but that there should be ways to do that without tearing PEOPLE down. 

Sure, there are people I think are off the deep end, but it's probably not helpful to me or to those individuals to point that out directly. And some battles aren't worth directly engaging in. Instead of pointing out the specific individual and targeting him or her for a massive attack by the community, there ought to be a way to provide accurate information without the personal attack, to show compassion rather than a desire to tar and feather others.

Perhaps we could consider whether we're engaging in behavior to avoid our own personal drama and whether others out there are doing the same. I can't help but think of a certain Huffpost blogger who I've held up to ridicule over his outlandish ideas about the universe and how death doesn't exist because there are multiverses. He lost his sister, and in trying to make sense of that loss, he went astray. As fun as it is to poke holes, once you consider his very real pain, how can you not turn away and let it be? One thing is certain, we will all lose loved ones, and there's no way to know if we will cope adaptively or not.

It takes so little to just pause and reflect before acting. It's a wonder we don't do it more often. Of course, there's the difference between the immediate satisfaction of going off on someone versus the reality that considering another person's plight might invoke feelings of sadness and heart-hurt. We like cheap thrills--they're so much easier to live with than those heavier, deeper feelings of compassion that linger and cause us pain.

It's that willingness to feel compassion, to carry another's pain, to pause and reflect, though, that lead to true community--where everyone involved knows unconditional support and that those awful feelings, the despair we sometimes carry, can be expressed without the worry that we will be unmercifully attacked.


AutismWonderland said...

Sometimes we all need a break. I am getting ready to read Peyton Place for the 1ooth time :)

Me said...

I, at least once a week, consider shutting down my blog and walking away from the online community. The thing that stops me from doing this is the wonderful connections I have made and would miss.
This is a great blog post Kim.

Pia said...

As I have posted before, compassion is tough business. It required focus off of self, empathy, and not taking others say on as a reflection on one's own beliefs. Calling someone on their sh*t is hard without making it personal, especially when their beliefs come from a real place, informed by their own experiences. We are all flawed and just trying to figure it out, and sometimes we all lose perspective that others are just doing the same. I feel ya, Kim, I feel ya!