I had a wonderful time with my old co-workers last night! It was So Great to see them again, and the place we were in was not horribly overwhelming for me. It was a Mexican restaurant, with loud Mexican / Spanish-speaking music playing, at least six massive t.v.s all displaying different shows above the bar, and a fair amount of hubub.
But it wasn’t bad, actually. I was expecting a huge sensory onslaught that would wipe me out, but we sat in a small private alcove with walls that cut the noise, where I could face the group and not have to see the t.v.s. It was a small group, too — seven of us, arranged around a single table, taking times talking about our lives and what was “up” with us.
I love those guys (and gal)! They were my tribe for years, and we all agreed that the years we worked together were the best years of our careers. (Hey – that rhymes!) And we parted ways after a couple of hours agreeing to do that more often. We’re all local, and we love to spend time with each other, so we must do that again.
I knew it was going to take a lot out of me, so I took it easy during the day. And I postponed the errand I planned to do while on my way to the restaurant, so I could focus on getting there. I almost made it without a hitch, too, until I got in the wrong lane and took a left that shot me straight from the center of Boston to the center of Cambridge. I was stuck on 93 North (gah!), and there were no exits to get me out of there, till I was on the other side of the Charles. At least this time I didn’t get stuck crossing the Tobin Bridge, which has happened to me before. I just kept cool and kept going. Turned around on some back streets. Got back on 93 South, and 15 minutes and a bunch of turns later, I was walking into the restaurant, none the worse for wear.
That was pretty demanding, I have to say. I was tired from a full day, and it was dark. I freaked out a little bit, when I realized I was headed into the 93 North underground tunnel, with no chance of turning around. And I was a bit of a frantic, anxious mess while I was chugging along, looking for an exit… and coming out (in the dark) in a part of Cambridge I faintly recognized, but didn’t. I managed to gather my wits, hooked up my narrating navigator, and the GPS guided me back to where I needed to be. Emotionally and energetically, I was all over the place, and I could practically feel my “autistic battery” draining as I drove.
But I stayed on course, I kept focused on where I was going and what I was doing, and I didn’t worry about getting there 6 minutes later than I said I would. I had already told them I’d get there closer to 6:30, and it was 6:17 when I found myself on the wrong side of the Charles River, so I still had time.
And I made it. And I had a wonderful time. And I’m going to do it again.
It took a lot out of me, but it didn’t wreck my evening. I managed to keep my focus on the present, and really concentrated on the positives of that evening. I could have easily gotten down on myself for having gotten turned around, but I cut myself a break and treated it as a valuable learning experience, which it really was. Now I know how to turn around and get back in the direction I need to go, when I get turned around in Cambridge. I haven’t driven much in that part of the world, although I’ve walked around a fair amount. And I also needed to practice keeping my cool under pressure — at the end of a long day.
Earlier that day, I was talking with another Aspie about the distinction I make between demanding experiences and disruptive experiences. I don’t tend to see them as the same thing, actually. There are times when the demands on my time, energy, resources, and ability to cope spike WAAAAY up. And sometimes that spike is very disruptive for me. Like, when I realize that I’ve taken a wrong turn, and I’m headed in the exact opposite direction of where I intended (that happens surprisingly often, actually) AND I freak out about it.
Dealing with the wrong turn is the demanding thing for me. The freak-out is the disruptive thing for me. And the two don’t necessarily need to go hand-in-hand. Yes, it is disruptive for my schedule and timetable and plans to be shifted against my will, but it happens so often, it’s almost like it’s just a regular thing. It’s like my life has been so variable for so, so long, that disruption doesn’t feel like disruption. It just feels like another wave of change coming — and if I can just roll with it, I’m good.
I’ve definitely mellowed a lot in recent years — especially since going through menopause — and the changes in my life are a lot less disruptive for me, than they used to be. It’s like the old clear “baseline” demarcation of right/wrong, correct/incorrect has blurred to the point of non-existence for me, and constant change is the new baseline for me. Or maybe there IS no baseline, anymore. Dunno. All I know is, while things are totally demanding for me (I’m pretty wiped out today from the excitement last night), it doesn’t throw me the way it used to.
Because that’s just how it is. A constantly moving needle. A continuously shifting baseline. A continuously shifting roll of waves on the beach, each set of waves creating a different set of lines in the sand, then the next one washing the old lines away.
That’s how I like to think of my life. It’s completely disruptive in every sense of the word, which is difficult to accept at times. But if I can just imagine I’m at the beach, or riding the waves, somehow that helps. Then again, sometimes I haven’t got the time or energy to imagine anything except getting where I’m going. And I have to stay present. Or I suffer a lot more than I like.
And who wants that?