In Memory Of

I wanted to write about two topics on my mind, but I have lost one of them. It will come to me soon enough.

Right now I am trying to look inward and like a detective, try to understand what is going on.

After a freak fall down stairs, my {kind of former} father in law suffered a fatal head injury. We all knew that his health was deteriorating, with the onset of dementia and recent heart attack. The details are sketchy for me because its all second hand information through my kids, of course.

When my marriage ended, it was only the relationship with my husband that terminated. Since then I have been sincerely wishing to speak to, communicate with and even see my second family. After all, I was 18 when I left home to join theirs. What I lacked here I gained there- a father who was proud of me, a brother who I could connect to on an intellectual level, a sister who was diplomatic, but also genuine and happen to parent similarly to me, and then another older sister who treated me like a daughter and unconditionally took care of me. These personalities never ever seen me as an outsider, as someone who didn’t know their culture and language. That was irrelevant and they made me feel part of their family instantly. Unlike the one who actually brought me there and his mother.

So when the split happened, as well as grieving a heartbreak, dealing with trauma of domestic abuse, both mine and my kids, my sorrow extended to the loss of an extended family who I had come to see as my own. I would argue that my marriage wasn’t a failure because I married a Pashtun. I loath stereotypes and prejudice arrogance. This couldn’t be true because I felt at home with majority of the people there.

They called Dad Kuka {kuka-a}, the Pashtun word, me included. The grandkids called him Oba. It was a status of respect as head of the household. One would think that in a conservative culture such as think the patriarch would be more dominating, involved and overshadowing. But not here.

When I arrived to this new, alien household, I was often confused to see how he was treated by wife and sons. Like a spare part fed and watered then put to a side while they discuss pertinent family politics. Family politics was beyond me too, which later came back to bite. It was like his presence as an inconvenience, simultaneously tokenistic. The real ring leader, or brain behind familial decision making was matriarch. One would be forgiven to be optimistic at this prospect, however this could have been great had she not been misogynist and sexist, with the excuse of culture ingrained as a free pass to raise a narcissist. Thankfully, only one though. The rest didn’t get the opportunity.

Anyway, Kuka was very very fixed in his routine for food, tea, going out, cleaning and clothes. Everything was fixed and should be in order. He had a love for order, looking decent, and having each day look the same. He wasn’t involved in diplomatic decision making unless the tokenistic male head of household voice was required for the gain of the rest. One time I cooked his green tea on the hob for too long and he was so angry at me that he made me taste it. It was super bitter, but having just been introduced to the dry leaf tea under year or so ago, I was unaware of the taste. He taught me that lesson surely, never to be repeated. Looking back I don’t think he would have done that had he not seen me as one of his own. There was formality between us but then there wasn’t. I wasn’t allowed to share personal thoughts with him, but he got to know my personality through my actions, reactions, housekeeping, uni results and then parenting. He seen me as an achiever, as someone who clicked on to his likes and routines and upheld his values of education, progression and all things in order!

It was only when I was going through my son’s autism assessment and made it my area of deep focus and obsession that I started connecting the dots. When I began to understand that autistic people are hugely different from one another, even in the same family, that I began analysing, comparing and contrasting the members of this family. Every time tea or dinner was ready before being, I was met with delight and appreciation. It wasn’t that hard for me to gain these brownie points to be honest because he was literally like clockwork. I enjoyed taking time out and listening to stories, insights and points of interest while some others around us scoffed mockingly. I had a need to for tidy and clean areas so I was constantly cleaning and scrubbing when I visited. More easy brownie points. And that’s how my relationship with Kuka developed. He not only valued what I had to say, but also what I wanted. He encouraged my further education, proud of my career and my children’s development, all the while his son would put me down and down play any of my strengths claiming credit. He even disliked his brother holding me in worth and respect.

You will have guessed by now, Kuka was autistic, like me, like my boys.

Losing him knowing this has added to my grief. Because we had a different connection on an autistic level, where he didn’t have to communicate with me on a personal level to understand me, value and even admonish his son for me. He was an ally for me but one that I called upon very late on in the tormenting relationship. Had I exposed his son’s truth years earlier, maybe our outcome would be different. He promised me that his son will no longer study for yet another degree and will commit to work to provide for his family. It hurt me more that he broke his father’s promise than going behind my back to continue his selfish pursuits.

Fourteen months after losing my original father figure, I lost my second. Neither of whom I had blood ties, but the bond of security, pride, protection and unconditional selfless support.

The big gap missing a father just got bigger.

Holding the Strings

Many people think that once the you have separated, that the abuse is over.

The taste for control is so addictive that the addict will do anything to get a hit. Whether that means hurting their own children, or even blocking their own future progression. In the rage of vengeance, they are blind to the damage caused around them. Just to spite the freed spouse.

Live in peace, or part in peace.

He used to quote this throughout our marriage, every time he wanted to threaten a divorce. Now that it’s finally time, why hold back? Why deny our own beliefs. Doesn’t his faith dictate this? Isn’t he a part of a religion that means peace?

In an abusive marriage, the hurt continues, but in a distant way. This time the children are the means in which to control the spouse. It’s very common, and clever. More so with autistic sons. No boundaries, routines, infiltrating their head space without them even knowing. Drip feeding ‘propaganda’, as oldest described once, so that when they return home, I get the emotional outbursts and meltdowns. All the crap that was being held in is spewed out.

Then, any single minded observer would see how happy and easy the boys are with him (similar to how schools perceive them), leaving the blame of the messy emotions and struggles on me. It must be her. She can’t handle them, she doesn’t look after them. She is the bad mother.

Why don’t you just go away from them?

I was almost fooled to believe that I was parenting them wrongly. I did walk out for sake of my mental health when he pushed me out before. Not this time. I stood firm this time. I couldn’t let him in my head. I am the dumping ground for them because I am the safe person. I am forgiving. One man telling them and me that I suck at mothering, isn’t going to change our beliefs.

So as much as he tries to hurt me through them, with hidden threats to take them away, even from their sister, he can’t do anything but make horrid offensive noise. It’s hurts as a braying sound would and nothing more.

He doesn’t get the strings anymore.

.

The Outlaw

“When a [wo]man is denied the right to live the life [s]he believes in, [s]he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” Nelson Mandela

It’s sad that I see the plight of many single mothers in this.

I was called out for being an ‘outlaw’ yesterday.

I woke up this morning, heavy and bruised. Morning after of an emotional beating. I don’t get why I have to be badmouthed when he had an issue with his daughter. What’s this got to do with my sister ‘being a home wrecker’? Like she was involved in our marriage, right? She made you scream at me in front of the kids over the course of 16 years. Was it her who taught you that you own me?

Only in recently is she beginning to learn what happened behind the closed doors all this time. I was denied sharing my feelings and experiences to anyone out with these four walls. I was denied choice of spending my own time and money. Even choice over my body because that was yours too. Her name was dragged in because she became an outlaw two years earlier, after 8 years of tolerating abuse in the name of family honour.

it’s too easy to blame, discredit, and badmouth the ones who take away power from your… when that power wasn’t yours to begin with. Believing that your are the victim.

“Allah loves woman more” that’s why we should be putting up with ill treatment? It’s nonsense like this that make woman believe they have no agency, no voice and are wrong to call out narcissistic behaviour. I did just that yesterday and this is what I got. It’s a shame that such beliefs are still being peddled by some in our next generation. I was accused of being “ill”, that’s why I have/had marital issues. The only illness I suffered was depression resulting from ableism, sexism and narcissism. When it came to seeking the cure, I am the outlaw?

FYI- men and women are equal, all of them, and the only thing that differentiates between them, are their actions. So I will tell every woman here, Muslim or not, autistic or not, Pakistani or not… you have every right to call out narcissistic behaviour. Anyone stopping you is the problem. Move past them to get to your solution. There is no burden of responsibility to tolerate abuse in the name of keeping family together. What people don’t understand is that living together isn’t family, loving is.

A few things I had to teach my daughter the night before she was to face her father-

  1. Don’t wait for your place to be given to you because it never will be; you have to show up and take it.
  2. To be heard you use the magic formula of partial agreement.
  3. You can take down illogical and abusive beliefs respectfully, just don’t accept them and never let those nasty words sink in,
  4. Weak men are afraid of strong woman.

The hardest lesson for her, though, was to learn from her mistakes instead of calling herself an idiot and unlovable.

If outlaw is a label that received for being happy and relieved from abuse, then it’s one I encourage everyone to wear.

Another Perspective

This one isn’t about me.

Today I listened to my dear friend cry, but I was smiling.

I couldn’t express the full extent of my understanding of her experiences she retold over the phone: I could predict them. I was chuffed I had analysed the problem correctly and now my brain was on the search for a solution in the background as she spoke.

The problem is exactly the reason why I write- to raise awareness of the existence of brown autistics. Yes we exist under a blanket of ‘genius’ or ‘gamer’, ‘just unsociable’. For females, it’s a life of being forced to conform, to be ‘proper’, stop asking questions, stop being awkward, abrupt, rude, moody, difficult, bossy.

For the males, the brown parents bow down and accept the autistic tendencies and therefore they don’t see any other way of being. The are just fed their interests and closed them off as just being boys. The need for emotion intelligence is alien. As long as they are good spirited, there really is no need to accept or teach the diversity.

And this was the issue. In the 10 years I knew my friend I seen her husband as being extremely technical, a geek in his own gaming world and no more. I didn’t see much more because his wife was so giving and accommodating. She was blind in her love and hope. Hope for companionship and emotional and social interaction. I was nowhere near beginning my own journey of discovery either. But now that I undeniably accept my own and my sons’ autism, with the curses and blessings, I totally see exactly what she experiences! She experiences an adult version of my teen, who would have grown with no accountability or self awareness. Thankfully I highlight my son’s differences, teach him to love himself with his limitations and enable him to own his autism. What I also do is actively teach him his sister’s point of view or spell out her feelings, and help translate the world around him.

I genuinely didn’t know what to do to make her feel better other than listen, acknowledge her experiences, tell her she is trying her best and it’s not her fault. This didn’t come out years ago because she had the energy and hope but now her mask was falling off.

Normally, it’s us neurodiverse ones who suffer the neurotypical world, but today I seen the other perspective. The only way I can help is by helping her understand the autistic brain, which is unique person to person, so even that is limited.

The biggest issue is his denial of neurodiversity. How do you get a person who doesn’t even acknowledge mental health or states because of his deep rooted misbeliefs stemming from subcontinental culture, to even discuss autism?

We are failing as a community so seriously and dangerously to acknowledge how diverse the spectrum is. For Asians an autistic is only the one who cannot speak and has learning difficulties with obvious behaviour problems. What about the other end of the spectrum? How can I complain about Asians who shun depression when I still struggle educators to shift their mindset about my own offspring.

I don’t want my future daughter in law to cry in despair like my friend did today. All she asked for is empathy, human touch, emotional connection. Unfortunately for her, her spouse isn’t wired like that. Being an Asian wife, she feels she can’t even take a break (yes in 2020) for fear of being blamed because he doesn’t do anything wrong. It would be understood that she is out to ruin her marriage because she takes a stand (oh do I know that feeling).

This experience she gave me highlighted how the world is so different for high end spectrum Asian men than women. (I know this is true for all cultures but more so for Eastern.) I bet if was born a boy, my mother wouldn’t have blamed me so much for my strangeness, apparent rudeness or angry outbursts and meltdowns. My gaming and screen addictions would be normal, my inability to be flexible would be accommodated. Imagine if I stayed in that state all my married life (and I obviously did have my difficulties and meltdowns, but they weren’t tolerated), I wonder if it would have lasted as long as it did.