Sunday, September 20


I wish I weren't awkward.

That's it.

I can deal with other aspects of autism - not getting sarcasm and having to listen and look for cues that only give me a hint of true meanings. I can handle being attracted to random guys, the ostracization that comes when guys think I like them, and the difficult conversations when they realize I'm not romantically interested in them, but they like me. I can deal with not being able to really feel appreciated, loved, or valued. I can carve out a spot between the demanding twin demons of nothingness and awesomeness. I could work around the despair that bipolar brought, and the chaos that came in its wake. I can even handle feeling *different* and never, ever being able to fit in, no matter where I go.

But the one flaw God gave me, the one blessing He put in my life, the one curse of my existence, the one thing that makes me shout and rage and cry more than anything else: being awkward - not intuitively understanding social norms, or communication, or people - that one hits me hard.

I think it's ironic that I found a way to cure my bipolar. It's an incurable, lifelong mental disorder that sometimes threatens people into subservience, sometimes smashes them into oblivion. For me, it was one of the few things in my life that I could really deal with. Something that gave me stability, and something that, every so often when the hypomanic phases set, made me awesome. Compared with the ever-present inadequacies that being on the autism spectrum provides, bipolar was a breath of fresh air.

I don't know if I can explain how much turmoil is constantly in my mind. 

I don't have a gut feeling about how people feel about me, about relationships, even about total strangers. It's like playing darts while blindfolded on a moving, spinning platform. It lends itself to strange things. With only a few exceptions (close friends and family), I have to treat total strangers almost the same way I treat everyone else. I like to think I treat everyone well, but I'm still playing darts from a moving, spinning platform. I literally write out conversations before I have them in person or by phone, trying to cover every single possible contingency and interpreting the little information I have from every angle. Then, when someone reaches out to me, I try to categorize the interaction: Is this person just being nice? Are they constrained by social norms to talk with me and not really interested in continuing beyond what's required? Are they trying to initiate conversation because they want something - information, help, advice, or perspective on a specific issue? Did they just feel the desire to communicate one-way with me, and don't necessarily need or want me to respond? Do they need a friend who can reach out and be there for them? Or do they honestly want to be my friend?

I talked with my sister about it once a few years back, and we realized that I end up analyzing every single social interaction with the same intensity as a girl who likes a guy but doesn't know if he likes her back. She mentioned that she goes through turmoil trying to figure out what the guy is thinking - interpreting every gesture, every word, re-reading text messages, and even determining everything that *isn't* said - and ultimately ends up with only a cursory amount of information. It's the same for me. But instead of going through turmoil for just one person, and only or a while, my turmoil involves *everyone*. Forever.

Literally everyone.

There are some people where I know pieces of their long-term feelings. My family members love me. Acquaintances and friends at a distance - people who don't spend time with me outside of scheduled times - are at least indifferent, and probably somewhat warm towards me, as long as they're not angry. My best friend goes from one side of the spectrum to the other. I've lost lots of close friends in the past, so I equate any steps to close friendship with danger. That has made it really hard to trust any close friendships... but for now I can trust he'll still be there for me tomorrow.

But beyond those basic, core understandings, I feel like I know almost nothing. Even about family and close friends. I can sometimes tell when people are really angry - a dramatic increased use of directed, situational sarcasm is one cue there - and I can hear honest happiness in people's voices - something about the way they talk belies that feeling. But even those are processed emotions. Puzzle pieces put together with information gleaned from a conversation, intonation of voices, specific word choice. Running the entire experience through a thousand different rules and attempting to get a feel for the whole entire thing.



Someone asked me once why I care. Why I care so much about people and their lives... why I want so badly to be a part of their lives and want them to be part of mine. Many people with autism, at least to outsiders, don't really want to be involved with other people. And I've learned that many people don't deeply care about the feelings or lives of strangers. They don't feel an intense hunger to understand and befriend everyone they meet. So why do I?

It's taken me a while to figure out the answer.

I think the answer is the core of why autism, and the awkwardness, lack of social understanding, and other associated facets, is such a difficult thing for me. Why it rips me apart at the very core of who I am and makes me feel like an aspiring athlete with no legs or arms or feeling. 

The truth is I don't care about understanding people, and being understood, primarily because I need friends. Don't get me wrong. I do need friends. Having a best friend has given me stability I never thought possible, and close friends, classmates, and colleagues have always been there in the moments that I needed someone. The reason I want to understand people is because I honestly...

It sounds dumb. Or cliche. Or self-aggrandizing.


It's because I honestly want people to be happy. Really, honestly, authentically, in-tune-with-God-and-themselves-and-others happy.

When I meet people - whether people I know or people I don't know - I often feel an insatiable desire to help them. It's not always. But almost.

My greatest wish, dream, goal, and the motivating factor behind most of the things I do is wanting to help people. It's like the desire to be a healer, but with far less emphasis on the physical side of mortality. I want to be a spiritual and emotional healer - to enable people to truly grow from the things they've faced in the past and become new people, full of hope and joy and light.


But I lack the ability to intuitively understand people - the way that most people see emotional or spiritual wounds. And who ever heard of a doctor who was blind?

I realize that, somehow, the tools to touch people are an inseparable part of me. I've had the ability to watch people undergo massive change at key points in their lives. At 10 years old I understood part of my calling in life when a random stranger poured out their life to me and asked for advice, and somehow I knew what to say. It's talked about in my Patriarchal blessing, and I've seen it literally thousands of times since then. Sometimes I've tried to avoid it, but I finally learned that the question wasn't *if* it would happen, but *how*. To extend the spinning blindly metaphor from before, now I'm trying to be a healer, but I'm blind, on a moving, spinning platform, and all I have are darts. People are the targets, and the darts are scalpels. No matter how softly I throw, someone will eventually get cut. People closest to me will probably get cut a lot. The question is only who, and where.

That's why every time I talk to someone, every time I write a letter, every time I compose a text message or determine even how much eye contact to use in an ongoing conversation, it's a decision that matters to me. I spend more time figuring out what I'm going to say to people than it ever takes to say it.

There is an exception. Here at (Gay) Mormon Guy I've somehow made myself believe that what I write here doesn't affect how people think of me. That it doesn't affect my relationships. Or that, at least if I'm completely honest and candid, any effects will be ok. When my best friend is having a rough day and I don't want to bring him down, or if I know I'd be rambling far longer than even family would want me to talk, I can still force myself to write it here. And while there have been just as many major repercussions from people interacting with (G)MG as in my real life, I can still force myself to publish here even when I'm so confused that I don't want to talk with anyone... because here I'm just talking.

Maybe that's why I blog. Because understanding my own feelings is one of the few things I can do, and writing about it gives me stability in a world I don't understand. Here at (G)MG, I'm not awkward. I'm just me. And, deep inside, I feel like writing may have just as much ability to help people figure out their lives as does talking, with far greater ability for others to dodge blindly flung darts. It comes with drawbacks. Every person who gets to know me here - where I force myself to just write what I feel - will always find me different in real life. Here it's totally ok for me to write for hours, and for you to read as much or as little as you want. To skip around and read something that shows me from yesterday or years ago. To delve my mind without feeling like you're prying and to stop without ever feeling like I've trespassed on your time. In real life, it doesn't often work that way. We could talk, or text, or email, and maybe we'd have some great conversations. But... I'm awkward.

I still wish I weren't awkward. When I watch people who are social butterflies and can easily understand the needs and feelings of others - people who can relate deeply and intuitively - I wish I had even a speck of their ability. I wish I knew all the rules that govern social engagement so I could keep them all running in my head all at once.

I wish.

This was a perfect choice for my life, from God's perspective. I'm sure I came to life bringing with me the desire to touch people. And by binding the thing I want most - almost completely - He has perfectly set me up with a life full of complication. Trials. Blessings. Opportunities to grow. Opportunities to trust in Him instead of in myself.

I'm grateful for it. Grateful for the things it has taught me, the miracles I've seen, and the faith it has helped me build.

But I still wish I weren't awkward.


  1. Great post. While much of what you describe is specific to autism and your own experience, I do think most people feel at least a touch of what you've written here.

  2. You make me think of Spock from Star Trek. He doesn't get sarcasm, or half the social cues that humans get, yet he's one of the most beloved characters in television and cinema history because he's taught us so much just being himself, and his values and character and selfless desires have touched people. And you probably have done the same for others. Perhaps the main difference between your social awkwardness and Spock's is that he doesn't seem to worry about his own lack of "human understanding." He just accepts it as is and works with it as is, doesn't fret over it. You might be more endearing to other people in your life than you think you are. So, the next time you worry about social cues, what to say next in a conversation, or wonder what a person's true motives/intents are when they speak to you (I do this all the time when meeting new people, by the way, or even when talking with colleagues or not-so-close friends, so you're not alone here--that's actually pretty normal with a lot of people), just remember they may not mind you being who you are as you are, just like Kirk loved Spock in spite of his idiosyncrasies (or because of them?) or like the Next Generation crew loved Data, who was pretty much clueless but strived to better understand humans. Okay, there was Dr. McCoy who was impatient with Spock but he could be that way with Kirk, too, so there's alway the ogres who will not bother to "get" you (or anyone, for that matter). But hopefully you know you can be appreciated and admired for who you are, awkwardness and all.

  3. Well, you're my hero! You have so many things to struggle with and hearing you tell about how you deal with them has given me a lot of strenth to deal with my own hardships. I'm sure I'm not alone. We are a lot of people who find it hard to small talk, I have forced myself to do it anyway for many years, searching my head for idees when it is totally emty. I still find it hard but have to do it anyway because that's what we have to do when interacting with people, we can't always jump straight to the important things. But don't forget that we can never help everyone, we have to trust God to guide us to those that we can help, and let go of the rest. That might me extra hard for you but somehow I think you have to learn how to do that in some form, for you not to be totally exasted.

  4. Thank you for sharing this with the world. You have opened my eyes and helped me gain some understanding. You have a gift for written communication and I believe the world is a better place because you have shared that gift. Thank you for helping me to better understand and love my fellow travelers in life. God bless.

  5. This makes me wonder if I'm on the autism spectrum. So many times I've said something and not understood the strong reactions of people, laughter or anger. I've had to put a lot of thought into what people are probably thinking. Thanks for the post.

  6. If only everyone had a rock solid testimony and true love of the gospel of Jesus Christ, understanding that we are His disciples and it is the Church of Jesus Christ not Church of Politically Correct and Public Opinion!! :-). You are a great example and I admire how firm you hold to the Iron Rod!

  7. If the brethren had said half of what you said when they rolled this policy out, they could have saved me and countless others from a couple sleepless nights. Thank you.

  8. Thank you! You've helped many to see and understand more clearly!

  9. I think that with all of your real life awkwardness that you claim to has made up for itself on this blog. You write beautiful, touching things and seem to have such a strong testimony with such clarity that is rare. You have an incredible gift to heal just may not be in the way that you like....but it is in a way that has the potential to reach many many people. You are a tool in your heavenly father's hands...and I'm grateful to read the things you have written :)

  10. It's such a gift that in your awkwardness, you still reach out and have the courage to be yourself and help others.

  11. Hi, I just found your blog because of your recent post. You have written your feelings so well! It's great!! My brother is so much like you in some ways you describe above- talking to strangers. I think the gift and the curse go together. Growing up my brother didn't understand social situations but he shared perfect honesty and truth to people because he didn't know not to. And not just because he was young or naive. It's a part of who he is. He would talk to anyone and love anyone and it was funny and endearing and embarrassing depending on the situation. He started creative writing (and being able to write) in 7th grade and had us in tears by the beautiful honesty and faith he wrote about. I think you're like that.


  12. I really admire not only your self-awareness, but your insatiable desire to make everyone's world a better place! Your authentic-ness has really comforted and inspired me tonight. Thank you!!

  13. You are cool. I identify so much with your descriptions and perception of social interaction and awkwardness. I've suspected for a few years now that I'm on the spectrum, but my reaction has been to ignore my social inabilities as much as I can. I'm married and have kids and close family relationships (though I don't necessarily understand them well either), so I tell myself that I am okay with not really having friends outside of family. And I mostly am. I honestly just can't read people's expressions/interactions well enough to even know if there are people I've hurt or helped over the years of my life. I read your post about bipolar and I don't think I have that although I definitely am prone to depression and mood swings. I haven't had much interest in having a spectrum diagnosis because a) I probably couldn't afford it and b) the thought of actually being diagnosed is overwhelming to me. I feel like I know how to deal with my life, just as me, and if I had a diagnosis I would be "me with these problems I don't know how to deal with." It's really cool that you have a genuine desire to know others and help them be happy. I tend to not take enough interest in other people because...I just don't know how to get to know them. Attempts just end in, well, awkwardness. I admire your courage to keep trying.

  14. My son is also on the spectrum and I see much in him as you describe in you. Thank you for this perspective, I think it will help me be a more understanding mom.

  15. Thanks... So happy to be considered your brother. Thanks for being another one of those thousand points of my own testimony, and for being an example of an amazingly faithful and strong son of God. Thanks for your sacrifice and your dedication to Father!


Comment Rules:

(G)MG is how I write to you. Commenting is one way to write to me.

If you want your comment published: No swearing, graphic content, name-calling of any kind, or outbound links to anything but official Church sites.

In addition, comments must be 100% relevant, funny, uplifting, helpful, friendly... well-written, concise, and true. Disparaging comments often don't meet those standards. Comments on (G)MG are personal notes to me, not part of a comment war. You are not entitled to have your ideas hosted on my personal blog. There are a zillion places for that, and only one (G)MG.

And I'd suggest writing your comment in Word and pasting it. That way Blogger won't eat it if it's over the word limit.