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It’s Valentine’s Day again. Social media is of course flooded with all kinds of related memes, posts, comments and messages. Too much of it is sappy, and just irrelevant to this Autistic Bunny. But the circus is unavoidable, unless one lives in a hole under a rock (not a bad thing, really, apart from the lack of modern sanitation). So… here are my own thoughts for the day…

What is “love” to me? Love is heart. Heartiness of heart. Rich abundance of solid, tangible servings of wellbeing, faith, trust and goodness.

Lucy – just being all that she is.

My baby sister and brother-in-law – their care, loyalty and support represent love in the most concrete and cogent form.

My amazing friends Rick, YS, Minh, Margie, Brad, Kat, CJ – unflappable acceptance and practical bulwarks of strength.

What is not love?

Too much effort spent on people who turn out to be shallow social flutterers at best, and at worse users, abusers and ingrates.

Most recent debacle still very much fresh in my continuously processing mind? A few months ago, I volunteered to look after a ‘friend’s’ dog while they went on holiday for a little more than a week. Why? To save them money. Yes, I know, not a great reason, seeing as they do not lack money at all, but my singular thinking wasn’t doing me a great favour at the time. The dog is a sweet thing by nature, and I’ve helped my ‘friend’ out more than once babysitting the dog in his own home (endeavours which were in themselves very costly to me in terms of energy, time and neglecting Lucy’s needs to focus on the other dog). But once inside my home, he did rather surprising things that I was unprepared for. The most dramatic was repeatedly marking my home with lavish aplomb, each time bestowing vast amounts of acrid urine over the sofa, the corridor, the dining table chairs, and even his own bedding. We all know how urine affects marble, don’t we, and the flooring in my home is marble. A lot of the day was spent frantically mopping up. And let’s not forget the stink. He also frightened Lucy by lunging at her during meal times and stealing her food (I tried to keep them apart but I failed a few times to close the kitchen door and he is very very fast!), jumping up to grab food from the countertop and dining table, and basically creating chaos in the peaceful calm ecology of our home life. None of our own dogs are high energy like this dog, it is not his fault, but that does not mean the consequences of his ‘bounciness’ (as his human mom likes to describe it) was enjoyable for me. Oh yes, he also presented my domestic helper with a huge deposit of urine on her bed – we had to buy a new mattress, of course. It was hell for me and my family members, running around cleaning up, and trying to think of ways to address these behaviours. And did I mention trying to prevent him from indulging in one of his favourite hobbies of drinking his own and other dogs’ urine? The level of vigilance required was overwhelming for me. Remember, I am not a full time dog sitter, I have my own work to attend to, and my Lucy’s needs to care for too. At the end of the ordeal, after returning him to my ‘friend’, instead of thanks, she made a huge fuss about this and that, and then finally accused me of abusing her dog, even alluding to getting a ‘dog communicator’ in. After some lengthy to-ing and fro-ing, trying to smooth things over and just keep the peace with that said ‘friend’, I decided I’d had enough. The insidious petty and missish accusation of abuse on her Facebook timeline was the last straw. This is not the kind of connectedness I want. Whatever their motivations and agendas, trust is important and trust was broken. Also, any blatant show of disrespect and lack of appreciation is a ‘No’ in my new book of relating and relatedness.

I wish them well, and success in their new dog treat business venture – in which I played an active part with the introductions, and other little things that friends do for one another – it’s a good product, and I am not a petty person, I just call things as they ought to be addressed. Truthfully without fluff.

A neurotypical person once remarked that ‘friendship’ and ‘love’ are investments one makes, and some bring returns while others incur losses. To make more gains than loss, one needs to be clever and learn to identify potentialities ahead of time. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, he said. Perhaps he was right. As an autistic person, navigating social minefields is not in my list of innate talents. I’ve had more than my fair / unfair share of time wasters, soul crushers, trust shredders, and dignity destroyers. The singular positive thing these people bring to the scenario, after causing chaos on multiple levels, is they have served as road markers on what and who to avoid in the future. There are patterns that the autistic mind can latch onto and take note of, but the way in which an autistic perceives social input is vastly different from that of the non-autistic social brain. It is often futile, and even harmful, to try to enforce the alien system over an innate one. My ‘failures’ reiterate to me the absolute need to return to trusting my own autistic elemental empathic instincts. It is difficult to unlearn a lifetime of enforced neurotypical brainwashing that demands overriding one’s natural autistic inner sensory radars and responses, the longer one labours under this colonial dictatorship the more broken pieces to repair. But I am still here. And with the help of love – all that represents love to me – I shall prevail, not to ‘overcome’ autism, but to throw away the ‘master’s tools’ and burn the blanket of neuronormative oppression over Autistic Being.

Here’s a song I wrote and recorded many years ago, but now dedicated to Lucy and the journey of love she has brought about.

That’s that for this year’s Valentine’s Day. Until it comes round again, I wish everyone a peaceful day, how ever you may be spending it. Goodwill and wellbeing to all!

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