My very ordered “disordered” life

cable span bridge sliced in three sectionsIt always puzzles me, when people call Autism a “disorder”. Seems to me, a lot of autistic folks have a hell of a lot more order in their lives than the rest of the world.

I have my routines. I have my regular stuff done at regular times of the day. I have my regular activities pursued at regular intervals. I have a really great cadence which, unless it’s interrupted, allows me to get a whole lot done in a very small window of time. In the course of an average day, I can have a to-do list that runs off the page of the 4×6″ stickie note I keep in my daily minder. And I will get everything done — and then some — in a seamless flow of “Okay, that’s done – what’s next?”

I tell people what I do each day, and they shake their heads and tell me that I do “too much”. But for me, that’s just how things flow. In fact, everything works better for me, if I have a whole lot of stuff lined up in a seemingly impossible jumble of imperatives.

Something about “juggling” (it’s not that at all, come to think of it) stimulates my visual-spatial thinking, prompting me to see the world in a very different way than the verbal, sequential folks who surround me. My way may look like “controlled chaos” to some, but it’s nothing of the kind.

It’s all very orderly, I have to say.

It might not make a lot of sense to others. Of course it doesn’t. Not if those others are neurotypical. Not if those others are not visually-spatially inclined. Not if those others’ priorities are with skating along in a standard-issue life, doing what they’re told, living up to others’ expectations, and fulfilling the requirements laid out for them by society at large. In some cases, you need only meet the basic requirements of mainstream society, to get by. Assemble the right kind of family. Get the right kind of job. Wear the right clothes. Drive the right car. Buy the right stuff — and make sure everybody knows about it. And you’re set.

That doesn’t work with me. I have priorities other than social acceptance and accruing stuff. Even if I do try to pay attention to those things (and I do try, every now and then), I rapidly lose interest, because they really serve no greater purpose in life, other than to make me feel a little better about my lot. I want to change my lot in life, not make a grudging peace with it and make myself comfortable till the grim end comes.

And so, the rationale and the reasons behind creating certain kinds of “order” in my life evaporate. Because they just don’t work for me.

Now, if you turn things around and turn a lens on the rest of the world from my perspective, all the “disordered parts of my life start to look very ordered, indeed. There’s an excellent reason for everything I do, and chances are, I’ve given it a whole lot of thought before starting to do it. Even the things that I haven’t deliberately put in place, if they’re in my life, they serve a vital purpose. Or they wouldn’t be part of it.

The ritual I follow each morning serves to get me up and going in the morning in an efficient and energizing way, without needing to spend too much time on reinventing the wheel of my morning activities.

The specific sequence I follow to get myself groomed, exercised and fed each morning, I’ve developed over years of practice and trial-and-error. It would take too long to explain each step, to go into it now. Just know that the specific sequence I’ve developed has been for a very good reason.

How I get to work, how I set up for my daily activities, the times I eat, the things I do to perk myself up or calm myself down… it’s all for a reason. For a number of reasons, actually.

If people (friends, family, loved-ones, clinicians, researchers) would look more closely, they’d see the reasons. And if they could spend a day in my shoes, living in my own experience, they’d totally see the logic of it. And they’d congratulate me for coming up with such an elegant system.

Ultimately, I think the origin of at least some of the “disorder” talk is the lack of understanding among researchers. And parents. And loved-ones. And, well, anyone who isn’t privy to the logic of my / our systems. Those who don’t understand Autistic ways and thought patterns. It’s easy to be put off by something foreign and unfamiliar, and (often-times) that would be us.

It would be wonderful if we didn’t have to verbalize everything for folks who see us as disordered… if they could actually experience our lives as we do. Maybe virtual reality will make that possible, someday. I think it already is, actually. But it’s going to take more than a VR session to get people educated and informed.

We’ve got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure.

In the meantime, I’ll go about my business and tend to my systems, my own individual order.

Regardless of what others have to say about it.


5 thoughts on “My very ordered “disordered” life

  1. Yeah, people have always commented on how much I accomplish and how much I always seem to have on my plate. Having my kids all move into adulthood and having all the ‘kid activities’ and routines removed from my list has been a massive adjustment in part on that basis. (It’s also been a huge adjustment on a host of other levels. I’m still struggling with it, actually.) But yeah, I bring order and structure to seeming chaos all the time.


    1. VisualVox

      Huge change there, for sure. There’s just no easy “replacement” / “surrogate” situation. I must admit, I’m always thinking ahead to what I’ll do, should such-and-such happen (I lose my home, my job, my marriage, my independence, etc), and constantly coming up with contingency plans. That scope of a change is just so unsettling. Even the thought of it nudges me close to panic. So, I plan. And revise my plans. And think of other situations I haven’t covered.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In physics, chaos is just order that’s so complex that it’s impossible to observe all of it.

    (I’m not supposed to know that, because my university degree is in art education.)

    Or, if you prefer a vague literary allusion (I seem to be doing those this evening), people who live in the most chaotic environments often try to make themselves and their personal lives as orderly as possible, to balance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. VisualVox

      I think of chaos as the lack of perceived order. The order’s there in infinite ways (according to my cosmology, which has a lot of Bohmian aspects, with a phenomenological twist), it’s the perception that’s lacking — we just can’t detect it properly (yet). I believe that the Implicate Order (IO) is chock full of infinite patterns which can be (and are) perceived in myriad ways – and what Bohm called the Explicate Order, is not actually a “thing” in itself, rather an ordering of our perceptions of the IO.

      Our perception of order can be a learned thing, or it may just be a matter of time (if you knew more about my cosmology, you’d understand why those last 8 words are inducing hilarity with me, right now – hahahahaha! ok, back on topic). Chaos is (literally) in the untrained eye of the beholder. Someone who has a more “granular” and more highly tuned sense of order may perceive plenty of “micro-orders” within the perceived chaos, interacting with all of those as vibrant elements of life. And someone who doesn’t have that pattern-detecting capability may just see swirling whatever-ness, shrug their shoulders, and move on.

      Someone speaking classic Greek to me is going to sound like they’re spouting gibberish, because I don’t perceive and comprehend the patterns in their speech. If I have a basic understanding of ancient Greek, I may be able to pull out words, here and there, but I’m not going to understand Plato or Cato in the ways that someone w/ expertise will. Different levels of pattern recognition, different degrees of estimating the chaos of a situation.

      It gets a lot more interesting when you roam outside 3-dimensional territory.

      Luckily for you, you (apparently?) have no formal/advanced physics education. That way, nobody’s imposed their own calcified, hidebound pattern recognition standards on you, so you’re free to observe, think, conceptualize as you will… as yourself. It’s much more interesting and productive to do it this way.

      Liked by 1 person

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