Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
How Autism Bypasses Bull**** | 4.21.24

How Autism Bypasses Bull**** | 4.21.24

Into Open Hearts - The Sunday Edition
Very usual for us. Very. Happy Birthday B-Nana. I Love you so.

I think we hugged within 10 minutes of first meeting each other. I think she cried while we were hugging, and then I cried because she cried, and because of the hugging, and I knew then something beautiful and hilarious and enduring and endearing and bizarre and so unbelievably fucking refreshing that neither of us knew we needed was born. Right then, in the hugging tears. We hugged again when she finally had to move out, cried while hugging once more, and promised that we’d stay close no matter what came. Still we are, still we’re keeping that promise. She, happens to be the beauty in the photograph above, and it happens to be her birthday today. Anna “B-Nana” Russell wandered into our lives when she rented the apartment above our garage after an unfortunate situation with her old roommates, and immediately, as described in the hugging saga above, became family.

Part of the immediacy of our connection, I truly believe, came from the fact that I instantly began asking her questions that “normal” people would probably have been too shy to ask. As an autistic adult that was diagnosed way too late, I probably have a great number of traits that most neurotypical people just categorically do not have. I know this to be true, I’m reminded of it daily living as the only neurodiverse person living in a house full of NTs, a family full of NTs, and honestly a world around me that often feels entirely, well, normal. One of these traits is a lack of awareness for when things should probably not be asked, questions that might be too personal, opinions that would probably be better kept to myself. A lot of people would think this is something broken in me, and maybe they are right, I’m not here to argue one way or the other. I just know it’s the only way I know to be, the only method in which my mind understands interacting with another human being, or another living creature—with curiosity and absolute fascination and an often reckless belief that we’ve known each other forever, that we’re already friends.

Over the year and change she lived here, we became closer and though our connection came swift, it has proven to this day to be one that shows absolutely no signs of breaking. She’s one of the best friends I’ve had, and though there are miles between us, I know that whenever we do see each other again, that distance, that time, sublimates in an instant, from solid thing of unfair weight, to air, thin air that fades off and into the ether after that first hug of reunion.

The occasion of her birthday set my mind wandering internal, and had me wondering about the actual machinations that create these connections in such a short time, and after speaking with others I’m so grateful to love, I’ve come to realize something that makes me feel profoundly lucky:

It’s all that’s different in me, all that could so easily be called broken or abnormal, all that alienates me from many, that enables me to bypass all of the usual bullshit that slows down most interactions, and get directly to the true connection.

Often, as mentioned, it also does precisely what I said—alienates me and pushes people away. I’ve long said I’m a “love him or hate him” type person, and while I won’t dive into all the deeper reasons I think people who do “hate” me tend to, I stand by that. You either get me, or you don’t. You either see the neurodiversity and the strange way it makes me come across as a gift, a super-power, or as a disability, as an estranging thing that you just don’t want to have around. I understand this, I accept this, and I have long believed it’s so much better to have four quarters than one hundred pennies.

I firmly believe it’s the complete and total lack of filter that makes those that get it, see me as a safe place to come to, a place free of judgment, a place where they can turn, open to, be honest with, and speak things that they so very often struggle to voice with anyone else. I still don’t quite understand the why, and what it is about me that makes it happen, so I just say it’s the lack of filter, it’s the strange childlike curiosity in me, it’s the sense of complete transparency and fearless wonder at what they might fear in themselves. Bring me your darkness, I say, I’ve loved the shadows all my life.

I also know, clearer than I know anything else, that it’s this busted up brain of mine—this strange alchemy that we call Autism, mixed with some weird cocktail of Buddhism, of immaturity, with more curiosity than I know what to do with, and a strange love that borders on obsession with the natural world—that enables me to create such instant and bizarre bonds with animals, both domesticated and very, very wild. Animals have always trusted me, and this I’ve gone on record a million times, is the highest praise and compliment and nudge that I’m doing the right thing, I’m being the right person, I’m living the proper way, I could ever receive.

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Perhaps it’s all about magnetism, and the realization that while the ways I’m built are extremely polarizing to some, hell, to many, the flip side of that means it’s also the very thing that draws people in, that sticks them forever once they get close enough. For those with open hearts, for those who can look beyond the quirks and probably the little annoyances that come with a brain like mine, a personality I posses, I fit, and I fit instantly.

There’s the key, the open hearts, those that can see me not only as strange, but also as real, as authentic, as someone they can be themselves entirely with. No sugar coating. No pretending. No bullshit. Just who they are, who I am, and the places we’re the same, the beauty of where we’re different.

To the birthday girl, Anna, thank you for being that, thank you for our hilarious friendship that always feels like family, for returning that first hug and opening so swiftly to this strange new person that started as your landlord and ended as your BFF. Happy Birthday. I love ya. Bet.

To all of you, here, who so clearly have open hearts, thank You the same, for letting me in, for trusting me, for creating a community where it truly feels we’ve all known each other a lifetime or more. What a stunning thing to feel that maybe, just maybe, all that’s broken in me, is the exact thing that fits you into open hearts like yours.

What’s broken in me

often fits me instantly

into open hearts.

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson

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Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.