Saturday, October 19, 2013

Struggling - An Open Letter to Someone I Care About

Tom, if you are reading this, here is what I WANT to say:

1. Closeness. Let me define closeness of friendship for you because I think you misunderstood me. When I said I didn't say the same thing to J as I did to you, the closeness I was referring to was one that came from time invested and you have known me longer. So of course it feels like you are closer. It was not referring to level of friendship because both of you are on the same level with me and others are reaching that level as well. You just need to be patient and stop forcing it to happen before I am ready.

2. Forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? When you said you forgave me then turned around and broke your promise without even talking to me or with me first, do you honestly think you acted with forgiveness? I want to believe the best. I want to believe it was a mistake. Because I find anything else to be askew. If it was intentional, I feel like if you truly had forgiven me, you would have held off on doing that until you and I had had a chance to actually talk things through. But surely, it has to be a mistake, because you said you forgave me. But it has created a serious fracture that is only going to make things harder. Tom, I am hoping against all hope that you understand this more than anything and more than anyone. Look how many times we have had our arguments and had forgiveness. Tom, I am going to trust that you are already trying to correct things, but that you ran into the same wall a lot of us do: those pesky Facebook limits! We all make mistakes. I know I did. But forgiveness will allow us to talk through things. However, until things are fixed, my hope that we can resolve things is rapidly vanishing. I prayerfully challenge you though to act with that forgiveness you said you had and to restore it in good faith moving toward conflict resolution. 

3. My response. Ugh. But in the end, I came through. I did the right thing. I got help. I sought wisdom. And now I am in the hardest part - the wait. But I am afraid. I am scared. While everyone else has complete faith and confidence that we will work things out, I feel scared. What if we don't or can't? Look at point 2. Tom, that's a pretty serious breach that is going to make things more difficult. Even though I turned in a couple of promises that have to go into your care, I have NOT written a letter yet. Besides, I need your help. The fact that I have NOT written the letter means I am not giving up on you. Not yet. Why should I? Up until the breach in point 2, you never gave up on me, so it wouldn't be fair for me to give up on you either. Now...I have to answer the question: Have you ever done anything to give me reason to doubt you? YES!!!! Dang it Tom! 

4. You asked me why I didn't send the same message to J as to you. To put it simply, she didn't say the words. You did. Everyone else I have talked with are happy I might return. They have been nothing but encouraging as they have also seen that I am in a different place now than I was before. You're the only one who has expressed anything different. And in case I never get to tell you in person or on the phone, here's the  conflict, the struggle: You acknowledge the progress. But instead of just believing in me based on the progress, you said you didn't want the old drama to return. But here's the worst part, you attached the friendship to the deal. Something that you shouldn't have done. And, in a sense, by saying that, you were actually not only looking for drama, but contributing to the creation of drama. And now I am confused. Because then the other thing, you also immediately ASSUMED that this conflict, my lashing out at you, had to do with my coming back. No, Tom, it didn't. It was your words. And nothing but. Matter of fact, I am very sad that until and unless we talk and work through this conflict and you restore the Facebook situation in good faith that I cannot come to church. I was looking forward to talking with you about what reasonable expectations might be and drawing up a contract with you that you can present on my behalf. But now due to point 2, I am now having doubts that you're even the right person. Although you do need to share what you wrote in that letter for me for court. It was beautifully expressed. 

5. Tom, did I mess up? Yes. I know I did. I was frustrated and confused and I was feeling discouraged. I have had one of those weeks from hell that you wish would just go away altogether. But in light of point 2, can I be honest and say that you really didn't help the situation any? Whether the deletion was intentional or not, it is the way you did it that will present the challenge for me to believe the best about you. I do honestly feel that had you simply waited and talked WITH me first rather than acted in a manner that feels so punitive, that we could have easily worked through things. Now I have more people than I can count who are praying for me and fighting for my heart as your action has shaken my trust in God a bit roughly. Neither of us will come out of this without scars, but those scars don't have to be deep if you will act in good faith knowing that not only do I want to work things out and resolve things, but there are people fighting for us to do just that. G said it was like when a family fights. They say things they don't always mean. They do things they regret later. But then they come together and they work things out, and things are better than before because of the experience. He said that in a sense we are family Tom. He said he has complete confidence that you and I will work this out. I am not as confident. You shook me up. Tom, maybe you should just try to stick to not trying to figure out what caused meltdowns until meltdowns have calmed down. I think this time, it only made things worse. You're right, the meltdowns are WAY less frequent. But coming back to church had nothing to do with it like you so quickly assumed. But this was a meltdown that was brewing. Probably the wisest thing this time would have been to just send a text that said, "Susan, stop and think and when you're calmer we will talk." But do you think point 2 helped? Because I think that only made it worse. 

6. All I can say, again, is I am sorry. At the end of this day, do I regret the contacts I have made? No. Because here is what happened: I had a breakthrough with G. One that would indeed make you smile and say amen! And he and I connected on a heart level that far surpassed the fact that his size can be very scary for a little one like me. But in that, I found that he has a soft spot. And he is a very compassionate man. I also got to spend time with L and her oldest son. And it turns out we kind of have the same passion when it comes to the need to expand special needs ministry at church. The kids are aging out and then there's not really anything to draw them or their families in. What if the church could piggyback and form a very small, internal, special needs adults group with two pastors and two elders and their wives, sort of like a LIFE group? It also meant I was able to get to know another new friend better. And she could possibly be of help to you and the church as well. And it meant that another breakthrough happened. Up until this, I never hugged June. NEVER. And here's the thing. Each of these connections are fighting for US, fighting for you and I to work through this. And now I have another person on my side. One I didn't even know I had. So I guess they were right. Beautiful things can come out of the pain. But now, can you please do your part to ease the pain? I'm not asking you to fix it because that's God's thing. Just ease it (point 2). 

Whoa.... Supernatural literally just happened. And I just heard God for the first time since point 2. God said trust baby. Trust. God is telling me that you are in fact working on the issue in point 2 and reassuring me that we will definitely talk. And He just wrapped His arms around me. Oh, how I want to trust God right now and believe the best about you. I feel sad and hurt and scared. I am not angry anymore. I know you didn't mean to hurt me. Not with your words nor with your actions. I know you are hurting too because you feel my pain right now. And I know you are struggling right along with me. And Tom, I think we both just proved that people with autism do have empathy. Shame on anyone who says differently, right? Because they don't know me. Tom, I want to come to church Sunday. But only if you WANT me there. REALLY want me there. Know what? This sucks. Why? Because we are two people who are in conflict with ourselves and with each other. Is it going to be easy to resolve things? No. It never is. Is it resolvable. Yes. 

Steps toward resolving things that we both can take now:

1. You can act in good faith and restore the whole Facebook thing. I will not hold it against you, but I will expect you to uphold your promise to NEVER do that without FIRST talking to me and with me. 

2. I can act in good faith and come to church and sit with you just to show I am better than that. And in doing so, I will be exemplifying through my actions that I can forgive you and want to work through things. 

3. We can sit down this week and go over some CLEARER boundaries that will need to be very consistent for the next couple of months. With that being said, I don't know exactly what those boundaries will need to include just yet, but I will refer back to the first thing. OR, we can keep the appointment we had made for the 29th and plan on close to 2 hours, and in this week, I can talk with the appropriate person at the church who can help me to prepare to talk with you. And either he/she will talk with you as well, or he/she will just present you with what is discussed with me so you know how to respond. Either way, we should both draw some boundaries just to make things safer for each other. After a couple of months, we can revisit them and either relax them a little bit or tighten them or tweak them. But Tom, I need you to understand something. When you lash out in response to a meltdown, you accuse me of abusing the relationship. But have you stopped to think that if the boundaries were a little more clear and consistent, you wouldn't ever feel that way? Have you considered that? I keep asking for clear and consistent boundaries, but I have been hearing friendships don't work like that when I ask. No, Tom. Here's what I learned from what happened with B: ALL relationships NEED boundaries. But for a person with autism, those boundaries NEED to be VERY CLEAR and VERY CONSISTENT. The purpose of setting boundaries isn't to punish someone, but rather to say, I love you and I value our relationship enough that I want to protect it and will do what is necessary to safeguard it. Boundaries help protect relationships from harm. They help protect the people in those relationships from getting hurt so much. They help the people learn and grow. As much as you might hate having to set boundaries, you need to do that if you do care about me. I want to believe that you do. We need to agree to the boundaries. We can either set the boundaries on our own, or we can have another person enter in to help set the boundaries. Either way, we need boundaries, and for the first two months, they will need to be consistent. If after we set them, you find you have reason to need to bend them, you need to make alternative plans to help satisfy them even if it might mean that you have a make up plan. If we set the boundaries on our own, then we can re-evaluate them ourselves. If we let someone else help set them, then we will have to let them determine how we are doing. 

4. Believe in me. Don't tag stipulations. 

5. Don't assume. We both have a bad habit of that!!! What do you call them? Vain imaginations? 

6. From now on, if either person feels there is a problem, he or she needs to send a flag that signals we need to talk. No more yelling or one-sided conversations. 

So, Tom, are you willing to act in good faith out of the forgiveness you said you had and move forward with me to resolve this? Because I'm waiting. And my arms are open. 


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  4. Hmm.... Somehow he will probably get wrangled into putting a book together now. I would say by the end of a few months and a strong one-year plan, we might end up with a break through.