The first thought when I think of the word Kinfolk is what a quaint word that is, and then I think of family. Family life is a fraught business. It seems to me that our families are at times our greatest blessing and at times quite the opposite. My personal family life was a difficult one. My immediate family did not, does not and refuses to understand me or take any responsibility for how things went down over my childhood, adolescence and so on.
However, my extended family overall was a place of heartfelt, deep care and love. This is particularly so on the side of my mother’s family. My mother is one of 6 children and her mother is one of five daughters. The largely traumatic experience of my childhood was intermittently punctuated by experiences with this greater love displayed by this family. The times staying at my grandmother’s place, my great-aunt, and uncle taking me away holidaying with them in their caravan, a day at the Rugby League Grand Final with another of my great aunts.
These were moments were where the value of kin was indeed realised for me. Beacons of hope within the dark fields of trauma and bullying. And it was a dark field of trauma, home life was characterised with verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. School life was an alien experience where I was the perpetual outsider due to many home moves, and with the added aspect of being an undiagnosed autistic, it was very much like an out of this world or out of this body type of experience.
Kinfolk is a powerful narrative of human life. We seem to be built for this kind of relationship. We seem to have an innate to desire this kind of connection with those humans that are around us, that we live with, that provide for us. Unfortunately as my experience was this is not always something that happens in the ways that it is sought.
Kinfolk does not have to be limited to our immediate family. It can be just as powerful, at times more wonderful and certainly can be a more healthy reality if that connection can be found in a wider context, such as close friendships or an extended family or community group.
I wonder if my experience is more common tho autistics than would be immediately obvious. Oftentimes we autistics can be characterised falsely as lacking emotion and empathy, characterised as uninterested in personal connection. It is my experience that this is utterly false and far from the truth.
I difference in expression, a different way of connecting, an alternate way of connecting with and reciprocating in personal relationships is not a lack or absence thereof. What is perceived as a vacant expression on a face does not mean a lack of emotion, empathy and connection? It could mean one of a myriad of things, especially when the person has a variance in communication comprehension and expression. Why would someone for whom the micro expressions of the face is a foreign idea concern themselves with those expressions on their own face?
Kinfolk, I believe, is as important for autistic people as it is for allistic people. As I have connected with other adult autistic people I have discovered that more than a few have similar stories of disconnection and discord among their own kinfolk. Families it seems are either our greatest allies or our greatest alienators.
The challenge, of course, is, if your own kinfolk connections are broken, inadequate or non-existent, then, to find and connect a new kinfolk, a new tribe as it were. I found this initially in short connections with my extended family, however, the greatest kinfolk connection I found is actually in the autistic community. In this new tribe, I have found, acceptance, inclusion, care and support. In fact, apart from the relationship I have with my wife, it is in this tribe that I have been able to find my voice, establish some self-believe.
A new connection to kinfolk and tribe with the autistic community, has enabled a wider kinfolk connection for me that I have never previously experienced, in truth it has provided the encouragement to believe that I just might have something to offer the world, that no it is not just in my head that I have something to say and contribute to the world.
If your blood ties kinfolk or not your true kinfolk then you can find a new kin, a new tribe, a kinfolk that can and will support you to be the very best you can be.
K is for kinfolk, find your kin, embrace them and fly high to share the gold that is within you with all who come your way.