Thoughts about the Social Experience of Living

by Becky Lewis

Abstract colors and shapes representing diversity

I think the toughest thing for me to survive has been something I share in common with refugees, migrants, immigrants, and survivors of domestic violence: I have had to juggle multiple sets of “social norms,” simultaneously, and the consequences for “messing up” have sometimes been dire, severe, and unforgiving.

It has been very confusing, even after accounting for my neurodivergent trait of not understanding some social cues because I no longer carefully copy the behavior of the people around me. I made this comment on Facebook, recently:

“I agree. Entire systems and generations of systems discriminate. People say, 'You can’t expect the whole world to change, just for you.'' I say, 'That’s actually not what I’m after. I want you, as individuals, to do the same mundane opening of your social circle that you already do to make room for each other. I want a voice and a seat at the table. There is nothing objective about the way you are already doing it—keeping your circle tightly closed and being selectively friendly and welcoming. Everyone does that. I’m tired of it. Open the circle.'”

The ultimate defiance is to finally make it out of the swamp and, instead of going on with your life in relief and gratitude, with your strong legs from walking through the swamp, to instead turn around and reach for others. To go back into the swamp and sit down with them for periods of time, if necessary, while they struggle, if they do not yet know how to reach for your hand. To not be the only one who escapes.

This runs against our culture's definitions of "self-care."
That's okay; we'll reach for them, too.