The Iridescence of Autism vs The Vanilla People


In life, let’s first get this out in the open and admit, there are vanilla people.  Those people who really love vanilla.  Plain vanilla.  No toppings, no swirls, no syrups or hot fudge, no nuts, and, by all means…believe it or not, no whipped cream.  That is the way it is.  Just. Vanilla. Please.  That is who they are.  They cannot help it.  They are not necessarily bad people.  They simply have not opened themselves up to the radiant and non-vanilla world around them…yet.

Of course I have never been a vanilla girl.  I will take chocolate, coffee, mint ‘n’ chip, butter brickle, chocolate triple fudge brownie, mango swirl, you name it.  Anything but vanilla for me, please.

When it comes to life outside the ice cream shop, autism and it’s sparkly iridescence come up against their version of vanilla people too.  Not everyone likes autism’s sparkles.  Not everyone is comfortable with it.  That’s part of the spectrum journey too.  Believe it or not, some people just want the vanilla version of children and life and those vanilla people will never quite appreciate anything other than their beloved, simple vanilla.  Vanilla people, in their want for conformity and consistency, will never embrace or appreciate the iridescence,sparkle and brilliance of autism.

That is simply a fact of life.

No matter how sparkly and brilliant we may see autism, the vanilla people will never see it.  Although some of us adore iridescence and sparkle, others do not and that is okay.  All I say is, be aware of the vanilla people, know they are out there, know they will never change and just let them go.  Take them with a grain of salt or perhaps, better yet, take them slathered in a thick coating of hot fudge.  The non-iridescent-loving vanilla people will not love the spectrum, challenges, differences or disabilities, nor will they appreciate the crazy wonderful pieces of life a non-vanilla dance can bring.

I learned that I cannot change them but, lately, I have come to think that perhaps the vanilla people have their place.  Crazy thought, huh?  Sometimes I believe that in order to retain the unique quality that is iridescence, it has to be sparse to be appreciated.    Thankfully, we are not in the place where vanilla has gained a majority.  Thankfully there are enough of us exotic chocolate loving souls to keep those vanilla-ites at a minimum and to keep the sparkles special.  The vanilla people still hold their place, they push iridescence away and I think that keeps the world in balance.  Not perfect, you’re right, but it leaves us pretty darn sparkly and perhaps even the possessor of the unique mystery that lies within our spectrum journey.

Autism has its quirkies, it’s definitely hard to define and it kind of sparkles indefinitely.  Not everyone likes their world all bright and shiny and reflective.  It truly takes a remarkable person and a savvy eye to appreciate the iridescence of autism because there are a lot of unknowns, it’s scary, it’s hard to know where it will take you.  Not everyone can be trusted with that kind of brilliance.

Sometimes it’s easier if you look at it from an angle with a partial view, one day at a time with deep breaths in between.  That is the advice I give most parents when they ask me what they should do.  Just breathe and don’t get ahead of yourself.  Today, concentrate on today.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.  Don’t get lost in the sparkle.  Worrying about what might happen next week or next year or six years from now will serve no purpose and will not make anyone’s life more peaceful or more accomplished.  If you have plans next week or next month, pencil them in but, otherwise, don’t fret.  Just breathe deeply and often.

And, because this is about real life, I have to admit this lesson was a hard one for me to learn.  I am by nature a worrier and a fretter.  Thankfully, autism and this life have taught me some good life lessons and coping skills.  I hope you learn this lesson with more ease than I did.  I can see it in new parents who are just starting their journey and I recognize it is how I used to be.  I also know from hard fought experience that all the worrying in the world did not change a thing.  Working hard, breathing deeply and taking one step at a time made the real difference in our spectrum traveling world.  These days, when I feel the squeeze of the anxiety swelling in my chest, I have to stop what I am doing, break it down into small pieces and take a deep breath.  I do this because I know that in small pieces I can do anything I set my mind to.  But if I let too much crowd me all at once, I get overwhelmed.

So, forget about the vanilla people who don’t see the radiance or appreciate the iridescence.  Just breathe deeply, take life’s challenges one day and one single step at a time and know you will get through all of this.  Some days you will even get through it with radiance, enthusiasm and great love for the blessings autism has shared with you.  Honest.  And, just like with iridescence, if you look at it from a different view, a different angle, and if you look close, autism can afford you glimpses of greatness in a magnitude that hasn’t yet been seen.

That is how I feel some days. (Of course, not on the fall apart days because the fall apart days WIPE ME OUT.)

Some days, his autism is like an iridescent radiance…he literally shines in my life and the radiance sparkles before my eyes.  Sometimes the radiance is bright enough to let me see just a glimmer of what he is seeing and that is the essence of the joy and love he shares with me.  That is exactly why I love autism so much.  It changes me and it thrills me and, some days I am able to breathe in his radiant iridescence and it makes me momentarily glow inside too.  I suppose it can be said that my boy brought “glow” to my life.

And, like with iridescence, as the light changes and the child grows, autism grows and changes as well.  Not every moment is brightened with iridescence but that’s okay too.  Embrace the ones that sparkle and know on the fall apart days that the sparkle will come back and is probably just around the corner.  I am so thankful for the iridescence he sprinkles into my life…the one thing I never knew I wanted but am so thankful I have.  The other thing I know is I will never be one of the vanilla people.  I understand their place but I will never ever be so vanilla-ish as to miss the brilliance that has been gifted into my life.  Sparkle On, my friends!

2 thoughts on “The Iridescence of Autism vs The Vanilla People

  1. Thank you for this. At 36, diagnosed with autism and my mom long gone to a better place, I can appreciate her ability to encourage the sparkle and her ability to make me feel good about myself. I still feel her standing behind me all these years on when anxiety about not being vanilla enough gets me down a bit and it still lifts my spirit to remember her friendly laughter at a remark I made that was somehow quirky, though I could not see why. It taught me that its OK that sometimes people aren’t on your wavelenght, the people who love you will appreciate you and the workings of your mind.
    I felt the need to comment because your article reminded me of my mom and because I wanted you to know that the mindset you describe here is, in only my experience of course, will help in the long term in relating to the vanilla people, seeing himself as simply one in a wide variety of people and existences and truths.
    Thank you for making my evening better here in The Netherlands, Europe.

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