The Unsocial Network

Posted: December 20, 2014 in Community, Family
Tags: , , , ,

lone

As a young man, I was a fairly gregarious person. I had plenty of friends, many of which I can still talk to via Facebook, and some I occasionally get to meet again and reminisce with. Social media has been a blessing in that regard.

But looking back, despite all those times where we partied and hung out, went to movies, played hockey and football and any number of sports and activities, I also realize I had a lot of alone time as well. As the youngest of 5 kids, I was the last one left at home, and consequently was on my own a great deal of the time.

Let’s not confuse ‘alone’ with ‘lonely’. Most times, being alone was actually something I craved. It was a great time to think, or not think at times. And there were times when, yes, it was also a lonely time. Which led to reading a lot, watching what was on television, and a lot of introspection. Still, life was good. I had the best of both worlds.

After college, I had the opportunity of a lifetime…I worked on the DEWline in the Artic for3-1/2 years. The word ‘isolation’ definitely comes to mind as a description for this job. On average, each station housed 16 people who worked in various jobs. I worked in radar with a security clearance, and my job was structured in a way that allowed a minimum of interaction with co-workers until after my shift, and since we worked a rotating shift, there were weeks where you barely saw anybody. But I never considered until recently that my life had been one long training period to accommodate this kind of lifestyle.

After this stint up north, I guess you could say I was a changed man. My friendships with people were more superficial, at times intense, then waning. I no longer could maintain friendships like I used to. It’s not that it was too much effort, or that I didn’t like them. I just couldn’t mentally or emotionally involve myself completely in any one person for too long a time.

And then, I met Anne. The love of my life. Here was someone I could spend time with. It seems we were together all the time, but again, with the passage of time, so many things are much clearer to me and make sense. I look back and realize that it was the perfect relationship. Because she went away to Ottawa for school, we had brief intense periods of time together followed by longer periods apart. But it worked well. She had time to concentrate on school, I could focus on work. There then was no need for too many other friends to fill the void.

Of course, now I know that I married someone with Aspergers. I have a son with Autism. Two people with a very low needs for social interaction. My youngest son has had to navigate a world as a neuro-typical boy with some ASD traits himself. And truth be told, I have traits as well. And so our home life is one where we spend time together and apart in the same place. It’s ‘functional dysfunction’. We will often watch programs together, all the while surfing or reading or texting separately. For some this would be an extremely unhealthy social atmosphere, but for us it is a natural evolution of ourselves.

I have a job that allows me many interactions with colleagues and clients, brief and often intense bursts of comradery and fellowship. I marvel at how others I know can immerse themselves completely in a friendship, how they can travel together, meeting often for meals and other gatherings. These kinds of things are just not possible for my family unit. We have at times been labeled ‘anti-social’, and I can understand someone thinking that given their own abilities to socialize. But that’s just not the truth. The truth remains that we are navigating life in the only way we know how, in the only way that will allow us to remain strong as a family.

Time will tell all, I suppose. This ‘social impairment’ we live in is hardly the norm. I get that. I am hopeful that we haven’t deterred our youngest son from being able to have healthy relationships himself, although he is showing us that he is quite able to interact in his own fashion. Technology today allows him to socialize and have like-minded friends, so I am fairly certain he will do alright. As for my wife and oldest son, they will do fine as they are completely comfortable inside their own skins. Whether the world gets that or not is something we will have to deal with….as a family.

As for me, from time to time I crave sociality, much like one will crave citrus fruit in the dead of winter. It’s not personal. It’s how I am wired. I LOVE people. Anyone who knows me knows this. I love interactions and friendships and chats and conversations. I also love my occasional solitude and alone time. And when I am lonely, I come out and, like a salve on wound, exercise social convention.

Long live life. Enjoy it how you will, try not to live in regret, and be rue o yourself. Make the efforts you need to enable yourself to live the life you are meant to live. And most of all….don’t apologize for being you.

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