It is now impossible for me to ignore the role of personality when it comes to belief. Conversations with others over the years have made it quite clear that we all approach truth differently. And it extends far beyond a belief in god.
I experience a higher level of satisfaction when the pieces fit into a disappointing conclusion than when the pieces almost fit into a joyful one. Even if everyone around me is telling me that the latter conclusion is the correct answer, it doesn’t matter. The mistake in the puzzle is too distracting, leaving the joy meaningless.
I am much better at figuring out how to exist comfortably with the truth. I can draft a plan and go forward rather than going through cycles of uncertainty. Knowing I might be wrong about something leaves my brain with that re-occurring feeling of impending doom, which leads to endless hours of dwelling on how to feel content. It applies to everything.
I have a daughter with classic Autism. Since this mostly affects social and language development, it doesn’t get diagnosed right away. I suspected something was wrong long before it could be diagnosed, which wasn’t the best scenario for a person like me.
She did everything early. She crawled at five months and walked at nine. She slept through the night. No red flags at her doctor appointments. In the beginning it was subtle; the way she wasn’t socially connecting with us. She didn’t show us things or seem curious about the things other babies were curious about. She would never wake up and want us to come get her. She was content to lay in her crib alone and never appeared happy to see us. It didn’t feel right to me.
I knew what Autism was. I Googled it a thousand times. But no one else saw it, and I wanted to believe I was just being paranoid. I searched for reasons to convince myself that everything was fine. I focused on her development achievements and repeatedly told myself that she did have some of those social skills. I used my most powerful reasoning skills to push doubt out of my head and some days it worked.
Then doubt would come back around again.
I remember when she was two years old I was positive about the diagnosis. Something had changed and I was now actually looking for signs to confirm my fears. When I finally allowed myself to honestly look at the possibility, the pieces all fit so easily. In my mind it was settled. Her doctor said there was enough reason to have her evaluated, but he also said he didn’t think we had anything to worry about. By then I was only insulted by his well-meaning hope. It didn’t make me feel better when I felt the answer was so obvious.
It was ridiculously obvious, actually. She had no language or social skills and was completely disconnected from the people around her. At that time she was not affectionate toward even us. And I was miserable. The constant obsession over what was true was maddening. I was sick of false hope and encouraging words that only kept us standing still.
In the Autism parenting community I have found a wide range of reactions to getting that first official diagnosis. Some parents are devastated, and others are relieved. I was relieved. It was the best news I could get because it was the confirmation of everything I was already sure of. I needed that one last piece so I could move forward with not only a plan, but actual hope. I had already grieved over whatever imaginary future I thought I had lost and I was fully prepared for plan B. From then on everything got better.
I also had perspective on my side. During the six months leading up to her official diagnosis we moved out of state, I started a new job, and my sister lost her battle with Breast Cancer. So I was not only relieved to get the truth, but I was happy just to know that my daughter was alive. That’s where my head was at. That kind of perspective is also truth that we don’t always choose to see.
Some days I have survived only because of the truth I find in perspective.
I will never prefer believing what I want to believe over believing what is true. If there is reasonable doubt, I will find it and focus on it. Not as a negative, but as a threat I need to eliminate in order to feel happier. That has been how I approach disappointing news, my search for god, and my relationships with others. Everything.
So please, do not tell me what you think I want to hear if it isn’t the truth. I assure you that no matter how polite it sounds, that white lie is not what I want to hear. Ever. Save it for someone who is content believing that truth is somehow a choice we make.
Some people do absolutely prefer believing whatever suits them best. It’s a different kind of wiring. If Autism has taught me anything it has taught me that we are all wired differently. Some people can choose what they want to believe and simply live under that belief until it becomes impossible. Then they pick a new belief.
Often a person will describe their own version of god and be unmoved by the parts that make no sense. I have heard the words, “I like to believe…..” more times than I can count. Others don’t even care. Religion? Whatever. Boring.
People like me are in the minority. Most people do still believe in something, even if it is five thousand different somethings. I cannot ignore that I am surrounded by people who choose their own truth every day about a dozen different things and it works for them. It just doesn’t work for me. Give me the pieces that fit, and I will find happiness where it truly exists.