They say that life is a series of choices. One choice that I try to make often is to include people. I want to walk towards people more than I walk away from people. I want to see value in others whether they can see it in themselves in a given moment or not. Sometimes this can be a painful way to live.
Including people isn't always easy. You don't automatically know what people like and are comfortable with. You don't always know how much to push them or when to give them space. It can be hard to tell when someone's "go away" means I need you. As autistic adults we often tell people to "just say why they mean" but when it comes to emotional stuff we can just assume that the the person knows how we feel and what they've done that we're not happy with them about.
Another thing to remember is that you can't assume that people saying no to something on one occasion means they don't want to be invited again. Unless they actually tell you not to invite you to things (and not just in a moment of personal meltdown) or that don't like whatever it is you've invited them to the having an attitude of inclusion means not taking no for today's invitation as no forever.
I know that people can't always say yes. But I also know that doesn't mean they don't want to be invited. Sometimes people just genuinely appreciate simply being asked.
Groups can be really tough for autistic people, but sometimes the alternative is leaving some people out. And for those people then there isn't an alternative where they get to connect. This isn't really acceptable to me. As someone familiar with loneliness I hate the idea of anyone experiencing rejection, and particularly at the hands of who know what it's like themselves. I'm all too familiar with the feeling of being trapped at arms length in some kind of metaphorical invisibility cloak which means that people can only see the parts of you they don't like of can use to justify why connecting with you is too hard.
The other issue with groups is that sometimes including one person means making another not feel heard or respected. This is tricky because by one person may accuse you of not respecting them or undermining their choices because you chose to invite someone else they don't want to be part of the group. It can be hard to remember that your choosing to invite another person to something you're organizing doesn't invalidate the authenticity of your prior invitation to another person, even if they choose to be offended.
Including people often has a cost. For me the bigger the group is the less opportunity I will have to speak. Even in a group of three I can find myself being cut out of the conversation either entirely or mid sentence often enough for me to feel like there isn't room for what I want to say or for me to show people my true self. The experience of not feeling heard can be very triggering and difficult for me sometimes, but I try to remind myself of my own values and to embrace my temporary silence as a sacrifice to the collective good.
Groups can also be costly in terms of draining your social energy battery. Often at conferences I will allow my reserves to run far lower than normal because I don't want to kiss the opportunity not only to connect myself but to see and facilitate others having a sense of connection and community. The price for this is deferred to the days and possibly even weeks after conference where only disengaging from the social world for a while will allow me to recover.
One definition of a friend is someone who sees your faults and likes you anyway. I don't know about you but I haven't found a whole lot of these people around the place. Relationships aren't perfect and may not be permanent either. What I think stays though, or maybe grows, is our attitudes towards people and the values we try and embrace in our interactions with others.
I am far from a perfect friend, but I do try and be a genuine one.
I care about others feelings, although like everyone I am sometimes distracted by my own.
I try to make time for others, while being aware that I too have needs.
I try not to expect perfection of myself and in turn not expect it of others.
I try to learn from my mistakes and not make assumptions.
I try to be soft hearted even in places where I've been hurt and let down.
I try to really listen even to people who don't make the effort to really listen to me.
I try to walk towards people, and invite them to be included even if they sometimes say no.
That is all I can do - even when people dismiss me for not being inclusive or perfect enough.