#WomenInSTEM – #POC in High Tech – July, 2018 is the time to find a new job in Massachusetts

red glass and metal skyscraperIf you’re like me (not a white, heterosexual male, but still working in high tech in Massachusetts), you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a subtle form of discrimination that’s systemically ensured that a lot of us can’t get paid the same as white men with the same amount of experience and qualifications.

That discrimination is the standard-issue question, “So, what are you earning in your current position?”

It might not seem so horrible, but if you consider that a lot of minority folks start out at lower rates of earning, then over all the years of moving on, if we’ve been compensated at roughly the same rate we were before, we’ll inevitably end up making less than our majority counterparts — some of us significantly less. I know that Salary.com shows I’m making 15-20% less than my market value, and that burns. But up till now, I haven’t been able to do anything about it, because employers have always copped out by using my prior earnings as a reference point.

But that’s about to change — well, in another 7 months.

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH PAY EQUITY goes into effect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 1, 2018.

This law is supposed to even the playing field, in terms of compensation. The part(s) of it I like the most are:

   (c)  It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to:
     (1)  require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about either the employee’s own wages, or about any other employee’s wages.  Nothing in this subsection shall obligate an employer to disclose an employee’s wages to another employee or a third party;
     (2)   seek the wage or salary history of a prospective employee from the prospective employee or a current or former employer or to require that a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria; provided, however, that:  (i) if a prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed such information, a prospective employer may confirm prior wages or salary or permit a prospective employee to confirm prior wages or salary; and (ii) a prospective employer may seek or confirm a prospective employee’s wage or salary history after an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated and made to the prospective employee;

That means, I can ask what potential employers are paying others who do my same job. And they aren’t allowed to ask me what I was making before.

So, that means I’ll be free to change jobs next year, without worrying that I’ll be blocked in by my past. It’s been a rigged game against me and others like me for far too long, and now that’s changing.

Who knows how much it will fix, but in any case, at least that’s one less thing I need to contend with. Being a 50-something high tech veteran is challenging enough in this youth-loving world. I can use all the help I can get. Plus, it will be nice to get paid the market rate.

For once.

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Back to my #autistic routine – woo hoo!

trompe loeil facade on a building
Back to the halls of commerce I go…

I’m going back to work in another hour. Sigh. It’s been wonderful, having this past week (+ 1 day) to myself, to read and write and study and think and not do much of anything.

But it’ll be nice to get back to my regular schedule, too.

I’ve missed having a regular schedule. My partner isn’t on one. She sleeps when she wants and gets up when she wants, and she doesn’t mind eating at different times of the day. Me, I need my schedule. My routine. My predictability. I have a lot going on, and I have a lot of input inundating me, each and every day. So, I don’t have a lot of extra processing resources to sort through the constantly changing variables of a schedule-less life.

I can get more done when I’ve got a timetable and deadlines — as witnessed by my utter inability to complete just a few simple tasks I’d intended to handle during my time off. Once I got away from the structure, everything fell to pieces. Not in a bad way. Just in a disjointed, somewhat “free flowing” (cringe) way.

I’m not a fan of “free flowing” stuff. “Going with the flow” gives me the heebie-jeebies. That’s the technical term for a stomach-knotting anxiety that makes my skin feel like something’s crawling on it, and makes it next to impossible to think.

I really need my routine.

Of course, ideally, I’d have a routine that doesn’t involve dragging myself out into the non-autistic world to contend with all the lack of awareness, the callousness, the cruelty, the thoughtlessness, the sensory overload. Ideally, I wouldn’t have to subject myself to all that for the sake of a paycheck. I’d work out a routine that works for me, and I’d follow it, each and every day. With discipline. And rigor. And productivity-fueled enthusiasm.

It’s a goal.

Anyway, I see time is getting away from me, and I’ve got get moving and get ready for work. I’ve shuffled some of my morning commitments, so I don’t have to plunge myself into the 8:00 a.m. commuter crush. I can get my shower, take my first conference call at home, and then head into the office when everyone has moved along. I like this plan. It works.

And that’s a good way to start back.

It’s unavoidable, so I might as well make the most of it. There’s something good in there to feed me.

Routine.

Had I mentioned, I love my routine? 😉

What a delightful week it’s been! Blissfully quiet

And I’m pretty wiped out. I’ve had most of the past week to just do the things I like to do, in the way I like to do them. Which means, a lot of sitting. And a lot of isolating. And a lot of reading and writing and researching and pulling out textbooks, thumbing through them and crying, “Ah-ha!” when I find the passage(s) I’m looking for.

I’ve been immersed in a certain mode of thought I don’t have the luxury for, in my regular everyday working life — where my co-workers are suburban parents who just want to make enough money to put their kids through school and/or climb high enough on the corporate ladder where they can vex more people than those who vex them.

It’s been so much fun, being away from that whole scene, that major drain of a scene. And while I do look forward to getting back to my routine, I don’t look forward to dealing with those people again. It’s been a real pleasure, not having to constantly come to terms with the mixture of sadness, pity, compassion, frustration, and intermittent admiration, that I cycle through each day.

But I have to say, I am pretty tired.

It takes a lot out of me, trying to catch up with myself and the kind of life I want to lead, when I have such limited opportunity. It kind of works against me. Except, it’s my choice, and I can do what I please. And in the end, I’ve got a lot of satisfaction out of the whole deal.

Tomorrow I head back into the jungle.

Wish me luck.

The #autistic feel of the words

paper with quill pen and inkwellI’ve been immersed in an intense and overdue writing project for the past week, and it’s been eye-opening looking at passages I wrote months ago, but didn’t get a chance to re-read until recently. It’s been tough going. What I thought would be a pretty straightforward exercise is taking me 2-3 times as long to get done. But at least I’m making progress.

I’ve noticed something really interesting about my writing, that’s only come into focus over the past year, since I got formal confirmation that I’m on the autism spectrum.

Namely, that I’m way more repetitive, even palilalic, than I realize.

And I do it in writing, as much as I do it in spoken words.

Palilalia is apparently a “sibling” of echolalia (which is where you repeat back words from other people (or movies or other quotes). Palilalia is where you repeat yourself.

According to Wikipedia (sans the “disorder” language):

Palilalia (from the Greek πάλιν (pálin) meaning “again” and λαλιά (laliá) meaning “speech” or “to talk”),[1] . . . is . . . characterized by the involuntary repetition of syllables, words, or phrases. It has features resembling other complex tics such as echolalia or coprolalia, but, unlike other aphasias, palilalia is based upon contextually correct speech.[2]

It was originally described by Alexandre-Achille Souques in a patient with stroke that resulted in left-side hemiplegia,[3] although a condition described as auto-echolalia in 1899 by Édouard Brissaud may have been the same condition.[1]

Apparently, Messrs Souques and Brissaud didn’t have much contact with #ActuallyAutistic folks like me, or they might have encountered it sooner. And not only in stroke survivors. Which might have helped avoid the pathologizing tendency (one can hope, anyway).

I am very, very, very palilalic. I repeat myself. A lot. And as I’m editing my work, I’m finding lots of sentences — even whole passages — that are basically repetitions of what I’ve said before, in different words. I do it so much, I sometimes literally remove every other sentence, and end up with a paragraph that says what I meant to say, to begin with — just in more succinct terms. While falling asleep the other night, it occurred to me that I could write a script to remove every other sentence from the book, and it would read much better.

Automated editing. But I have to suppress the urge to do more “hobby programming” until I actually finish this piece. It’s gone on for far too long.

Anyway, back to my palilalia. That’s my new word for the day, and I want to better understand the mechanisms of it. It’s like I tap into a concept, and that delights me. I have a visceral experience of the idea — an actual physical sensation. A form of synesthesia, perhaps? It’s like I’ve found a sweet-spot of sensed meaning. And in my joy and delight, I need to explore that concept from every . possible . angle, to make sure I’ve explored the full spectrum of the concept. I want to dwell in it… really let it sink in… and bring it home. And I also want to share it with others.


Sidebar

Please Note: I’m Autistic. Way Autistic. And contrary to the popularized definitions of Autism, I do want to share. I do want to reach out to others. I do crave a kind of connection with people outside my immediate circle of me-myself-I. So, let’s just get rid of the idea that Autism is about not wanting / needing to share. I do. We do. It’s just that others aren’t particularly interested in going the extra mile to make room for my Autistic ways.


Of course, my delight in having a sense, an experience of a concept isn’t necessarily shared by my readers. Maybe the Autistic ones… but certainly not the neurotypical ones. Non-autistics seem surprisingly happy to leave many, many conceptual “blanks” in their communication, sacrificing accuracy and thoroughness for speed. Non-Autistic exchanges generally feel like a frenzied experience of Let’s just get to the next idea, shall we? Never mind that nobody understands what’s really being said. 

Of course, there’s nothing I can do change the sensibilities of others. People tend to be generally fine with their own ways of perceiving things (heaven help us), so it’s up to me to speak to them in a way that makes sense to them, as well as what expresses my ideas. It’s deeply frustrating, because I want to convey what I’m experiencing, and I want to do it fully. Thoroughly. Intensively. Using different words to say just slightly different things about the same thing, so there’s a comprehensive representation of what I’m not only thinking, but also feeling.

I want my readers to have as much delight as I do.

But that’s not going to happen the way I want it to. Because not everybody is palilalic. And a lot of readers don’t get the nuances between different words. Truth be told, I need to be careful about using all those different words, because sometimes I have a completely different understanding of what a word means. I learned a lot of my vocabulary from books, when I was growing up, and I frequently mixed up meanings I derived by contextual inference, rather than explicit instruction. But I still used the words, anyway. And I still do. So, sometimes I have the wrong meaning. But it feels right, so I go ahead and use it — to the detriment of my writing.

Yeah, I have to be pretty careful about my writing and editing. And realizing just how palilalic I am, how good repetition feels to me, how intent I am on exploring all the facets and vagaries of concepts… it gives me a much-needed pause. It makes me a better writer.

Still, I have to wonder… is there in fact an Autistic way of writing? Do we have our own styles? Our own syntax? Our own pacing? I wonder… Just like people who speak certain languages may write a certain way in other languages, maybe Autistic folks have a “language” all or own, which then shades how we express ourselves in the written word.

It’s an idea.

But enough rhapsodizing. Gotta get back to work. And cull all that repetition. It’s the kind thing to do for my intended audience.

Autism is my code-key

Great post

the silent wave

Growing up, I heard the word “weird” frequently.  So frequently, in fact, that I used its finger to point at myself.  Get myself before they get me.  If I beat them to the heckling, then I would be immune, right?

“Weird” was one of the only descriptors, in my defense.  At least, it was the simplest one.  Common in everyday vernacular, learned at an early age, easy to remember, a single syllable.  It left much to the imagination.  Different people conjure up different images in response to hearing it.  And, it’s an all-encompassing umbrella term.

But there’s more to the story, of course.  (Isn’t there always?)

On the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, the divide between the Seen and the Unseen is greater than that for most.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, although it can cause misunderstandings.  “She can’t be autistic!”, goes the classic example.  “She’s too [X]” or “she’s…

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When non-verbal == strength, it’s time to be non-verbal

red and blue dots connected by meandering lines on a field of red and blue static
My process looks confusing to others, but I get where I’m going – in my own way

So, my Major Deadline has passed. It went off pretty much without a hitch.

Just in time for Thanksgiving. I’ve got some time off, next week, but I’ll probably check in on my project to see how it’s going, now that it’s “live”.

It’s been pretty brutal, overall. Really, really taxing. And it’s taken just about a year to get this “15-week” (Hahahahahaha!) project ready for prime-time.

Now it’s out there, and it’s time to step back, think through all the lessons of the past year, and figure out the next steps. Because this sh*t isn’t going to stop. I’ve got another phase of this project just around the corner in less than 2 months’ time. So, get a little rest, and get back into it.

One of the BIG lessons of this has been seeing just how non-verbal I am, when I am in problem-solving mode. Make no mistake, I’ve been mostly in problem-solving mode for the past year. So, I’ve been mostly visual-spatial. Which means I haven’t been thinking well in words — or the times when I’ve had to think in words (and talk), I’ve been at a disadvantage. And the talking has cut into my non-verbal problem-solving.

I’ve known I’m a visual / non-verbal thinker (this blog nothwithstanding) for many years. And I’ve known for just as long that having to switch my mode between words and pictures is a problem and makes both sides more difficult. But not until this past year (or two) have I really seen so clearly just how much of a problem this can be.

In my job, I have to communicate to people.

But communicating just doesn’t happen, when I’m in non-verbal mode. So, I don’t do my full job. And it works against me and the people I work with.

Huh. If I had more energy, I’d dig into this more, but the bottom line is, I need to figure out how to meet the requirements of verbalizing, even while I’m in heavy-duty non-verbal mode. Because the job requires it. And it’s not that I don’t like to do it, or that I can’t do it. It’s just that I need to find a better balance between doing it… and not.

Well, that’s a line of thought for another day. After I’ve caught up with myself and have the time and space to really think it through.

I’ve had a lot of important (for me) insights, over the past weeks, just haven’t had time to note them all down and expand on them. I’ll get to it. Just not yet.

Watch this space, though.

Watch this space.

Working… waiting… working… hoping… working.

snow monkey sitting in water

Oh, my heavens. It’s Friday, which is both good and bad. I have a huge deadline tomorrow morning — we’re launching an application at work that’s at the center of a huge political battle. And I’ve been in the thick of it for about a year, now.

When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing that I’m still functioning. This project has torn the living crap out of me and lots of people who worked on it. The main problem is the politics behind it — four six different bosses from three different countries, all at cross-purposes, all using those of us “in the trenches” as cannon fodder to build their empires.

And meanwhile, all we’ve really wanted to do was get the job done. Just get the work finished to our satisfaction and the best of our abilities. The project had to be done. It’s replacing a couple of other software applications that have kept people from doing their jobs for years. Those old apps have made a lot of people miserable / mad / frustrated / apoplectic (me included). So, replacing them with a single “solution” just makes sense.

It’s been expensive. It’s been demanding. It’s been extremely detailed and time-consuming. But it had to get done.

And we were all prepared to do it. We were ready to do it. To make the concessions. To compromise. To collaborate. To do what needed to be done. And we’ve done exactly that.

No thanks to our bosses. If anything, they’ve been the blocking factors. They’ve been the ones who have been making everything harder and more complicated than need be. They all want to hang onto their power and influence and make sure they have a place in the evolving world around us. But it’s been at the expense of the people actually doing the work.

Like me. And the other person doing a job similar to mine in another division, who’s been in lockstep with me, the whole way. She might actually be dying. She’s got COPD and a host of other health issues, and she’s been out sick a lot, over the past couple of months. She’s having surgery next week, and I’m not sure if she’s physically strong enough to survive it. Others on the project have been on extended sick leave, because the pressure was just too great. We’ve all been pushing forward. And the thing holding us back, has been “management”. The people in charge. Who see imminent success on the horizon, and all want to jump in and take credit for it.

Of course, we’ll just be pushed out of the way, as people who had nothing to do with any of it step in and start to crow about how they had a role in the success. While those of us who put on the proverbial brakes and kept people from making really bad decisions are pushed to the side and dismissed.

I just want it to be over with. And then I want to go on vacation for Thanksgiving week and not think about any of this. I won’t be able to, of course. Oh, sure, I can take vacation, but I won’t have all that time off. Partly, that’s okay, because getting this thing launched is pretty exciting, overall.

And when it’s live, it’ll be a thing of beauty.

But man, oh man, am I tired. Just fried. Over it.

And sick of everything.

Well, once this is all put to bed, with all the nagging details settled and accounted for, the next batch of tasks identified and prioritized, and the political wheels put in motion to get those things on the radar of somebody Very Important, I can step back catch my breath, and go back to living my life.

I just have to get through today in an orderly fashion and in one piece.

Then, tomorrow, I can dig in for a few hours in the morning… get this puppy launched… and get back to my life.

And do something other than work 12 hours a day for somebody else.

Maybe immerse myself in Joy.

The myth of the #authenticself

I woke up to this unfortunate adminition today. It was on my LinkedIn timeline, and it was about the last thing I needed to read, just when I was getting moving into my day:

What if…

You believed you could conquer the world?

You gave yourself permission to be your awesome, authentic self?

You stopped worrying what other people might think?

You courageously came out of the shadows?

You followed your passion?

You stepped out of your comfort zone and into growth?

You took a chance?

You believed in yourself and your abilities?

You were unapologetically you?

You took a deep breath and went for it?

You said no to the negative things and people that no longer serve you?

You said yes to the positive things and people who get you?

You knew your true purpose?

You weren’t entirely sure, but kept moving forward anyway?

You had no regrets or failures, only life lessons?

You allowed your curiosity to guide you to new experiences?

You transformed into the person you always knew you could be?

You embraced life’s infinite possibilities?

You asked yourself, “What if?”?

And, what if…

I told you it was okay to do all of the above, to inspire you to leap even though you were scared and nervous about taking that first step?

Would you? I hope so.

Never forget that you are the architect of your life; design one that makes you happy.

It’s not that I don’t agree with being true to yourself and being “my authentic self”.

But the sad fact of the matter is, I’ve been doing exactly this, my entire life, and it simply isn’t paying off.

If anything, it’s worked against me. I’ve embraced the possibilities, I’ve done it all:

I believed I could conquer the world.

I gave myself permission to be my awesome, authentic self.

I didn’t worry what other people might think.

I courageously came out of the shadows.

I followed my passion.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and into growth.

I took a chance.

I believed in myself and my abilities.

I was unapologetically me.

I took a deep breath and went for it.

I said no to the negative things and people that no longer served me.

I said yes to the positive things and people who got me. – All three of them.

I knew my true purpose.

I was never entirely sure, but I kept moving forward anyway.

I have plenty of regrets and failures, with more than my fair share of life lessons.

I allowed my curiosity to guide me to new experiences.

I transformed into the person I always knew I could be.

I embraced life’s infinite possibilities.

I asked myself, “What if?”.

And…

I believed with all my heart it was okay to do all of the above, to inspire myself to leap even though I was scared and nervous about taking that first step.

Would you. I hope so.

I never forgot that I am the architect of my life; and I designed one that makes me happy.

And I’ve had a good run. It’s been interesting. But if anything, it has just made my life more complicated, challenging, and financially deprived, than anything else.

“Money isn’t everything,” you say? Tell that to the grocery store where I buy my food. Tell that to my bank that holds my mortgage. Tell that to the doctors who have to get paid. Everybody has to get paid, and authenticity isn’t exactly legal tender.

A lot of self-improvement gurus love to tell us that “being your authentic self” is going to make your life better. Fine. Maybe it feels good to not be on your best behavior, 24/7. Maybe it takes the pressure off. The thing is, this whole authentic self thing isn’t a magic bullet that’s going to slay the demons and monsters deep in people’s hearts. If anything, it can make things even worse for you, on down the line.

Because nobody talks about the downsides of being “your authentic self”. Nobody talks about how vicious and mean-spirited the rest of the world can be to folks who are vulnerable — or simply honest. Nobody talks about the jobs you’ll lose, the opportunities that will pass you by (because somebody else fits into the organization better than your #authenticself does). Nobody talks about how really truly lonely it is to stand on your own two feet and stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd of conformers.

Loneliness is terrible for your health. Isolation is terrible for your financial and social prospects. And it’s also bad for your mental health.

Plus… Nobody talks about how #ActuallyAutistic people have tried to do this for aeons, and all it’s gotten us is abuse and ABA and Autism$peaks.  PTSD. Sh*tty newspaper and magazine articles about what a burden we are. Countless social media posts about how much suffering we caus.

Face it, all you purpose-driven people — the world does not center itself on authenticity. It centers itself on people who fit in and are useful to the larger (economic) purpose. It prioritizes people who are useful, who are money-makers, who are compliant and make others feel safe and comfortable by validating their sh*tty choices.

Fortunately, I can operate in “pseudo mode”, as well as “authentic mode”. I can pretend to fit in. I can match my behavior to others’ ideals. It’s actually really easy. Just mimic them. Mirror them. People love it. They think it means I agree with them and I’m like them, instead of that I’m humoring them just to complete the social interaction. It’s something I learned early on.

Being “me” doesn’t go over well, in general. I learned that early on, too. Other people aren’t up to the challenge of dealing with all of me. And that’s as it should be, because I’m way ahead of their curve. I’m their future, and the future usually scares people.

On the other hand, if I can modify my behavior and demeanor to match others’ tastes, it puts them at ease, and then I can actually get something done. It’s inconvenient at times, and it’s not always easy. And by no means is it “denying myself” or being someone I am not — there is a faint shadow of me in those interactions. It’s simply me bringing focus to those parts of myself that others recognize, being true to the dynamic, and putting the needs of the other person ahead of my own (a lost art, IMHO), so we can collaborate and build a relationship that actually works for both of us.

I think that other-centered orientation is something our me-first Western culture has lost in the past 30 years. And for those who are under 40, it may sound like an horrible affront to their identity. But putting others first and honoring the relationship — being strong enough in yourself that you can make concessions to others and adjust your “mode” to help the dynamic be positive and productive — is really how I get along in the world.

Is it masking? Sure. Is it blending? Certainly. Is it hard work? You betcha. Does it wear me out and feel unfair and depleting? Many times, yes. But it makes a whole lot of things possible for me, that I’d otherwise not have or be able to do. Like a good job in the mainstream. Like conversations and interactions with people who are nothing like me, who would never feel comfortable with my “100% authentic self”, and who are not the kinds of people I’d spend any time with, if it weren’t necessary. But I’m strong enough in myself, and I have a clear enough sense of who I am and where I fit in the world and what my own priorities are and what my own values are, that I can interact with others — and let them be other — without it wrecking my self-conception and self-regard.

I make constant sacrifices for others. It’s how I get by. But I am also richly compensated, in terms of time to myself and the means to pursue my own interests in my own way and on my own time.

So, in that respect, not giving perpetual free-rein to my #authenticself makes total sense.

Besides, what would happen, if I “let it all hang out”?

Seriously, things would come crashing down. In a very big way. I should know. I’ve only learned how to not do it in the past 5 years or so, and my fortunes have improved as a result. As a matter of fact, doing all of the above in that checklist of authenticity resulted in job difficulties, relationship challenges, not being fully employed, being held back socially and financially and in so many different ways.

Meanwhile, all the people who are marketing this whole #authenticself business (and it is a business) vastly under-estimate the very real consequences, when we do exactly what they say we should do.

Of course, there’s been some payoff to all this authenticity. It hasn’t been without its rewards. I’ve had an interesting life, that’s for sure. And I know who I am. That’s a plus. But it hasn’t kept me in pearls and diamonds, and I’m still just a few paychecks (or a nasty, uninsurable medical emergency) away from being flat broke and out on the street. I could easily lose everything, and having already been homeless in the past, I have no wish to repeat the experience — especially in the later years of my life.

All the years I spent being so authentic set me back, putting me years behind my peers, in terms of savings and ability to protect myself from a hostile world. And now that I’m looking at my “golden years” of no financial safety net, no nest egg, no retirement possible (I’ll just keep working till I die, I guess), all that authenticity looks like it was a poor use of time.

Seriously. If I’d been a little less uncompromising, a little more willing to pretend to be someone else, a little more sensitive to what others think of me, a little more compliant, a little more willing to play the game, I wouldn’t have passed up so many opportunities I can remember having had in front of me — laid out on a proverbial silver platter.

So, yeah, while “being your authentic self” sounds great to most people, it really only works after you’ve played the game for a while, gotten yourself in good financial circumstances, and you can afford to be “eccentric”. If you’ve got money, that makes you “colorful”. If you don’t, it makes you a poor use of social interaction.

And to all the people who are making a living off encouraging people to be their #authenticselves… well, I’ve got nothing much to say to them. Other than, maybe you should find a more honest way to make a living.

#Autistic joy – it’s a thing. And we should have more of it.

agora theatre wall
Agora Theatre Wall – isn’t it lovely?

This morning, during my morning exercise bike ride, I read a piece by John Elder Robison about My Life With Asperger’s

Sex, Lies, and Autism Research – getting value for our money

How to get tangible benefit from the millions we spend on autism science

The US government is the world’s biggest funder of autism research.  For the past decade I have had the honor of advising various agencies and committees on how that money should be spent.  Sometimes I’ve been pleased at our government’s choices.  Other times I’ve been disappointed.  Every now and then I turn to reflect:  What have we gotten for our investment?

Autistic people and parents agree on this:  The hundreds of millions we’ve spent on autism research every year has provided precious little benefit to families and individuals living with autism today.  Over the past decade the expenditures have run into the billions, yet our quality of life has hardly changed at all.

You can read the full piece here. It’s worth it.

And of course it got me thinking… along similar lines to yesterday’s post, wherein I pondered the irregularity of autistic joy.

Returns on investment. Getting our money’s worth. Having something to show for our investments… What a world it would be, if all the money spent were going to opening up chances for good to flourish, rather than some “war on autism” dedicated to <begin sarcasm> hunting down and eradicating the dread disorder that “steals” perfectly healthy and happy children from their families and tearing apart everything their parents hope for and hold dear </end sarcasm>.

Now that we’re all triggered, let’s take a deep breath and step back from that hijacking of the collective consciousness by ve$ted intere$t$ and pause to actually recognize and laud the truth of Autistic joy.

If there’s one thing that seems to set Autistic people apart from non-autistics, it seems to be the capacity for joy. Honestly, looking at the neurotypical world, all I see is pain. Frustration. Anguish. Predators and prey. And the best that most non-autistics I know can hope for is just a temporary relief from their pain. Drinking. Drugs. Facebook. Yes, they have their friends and family, their careers and reputations. But even those joys seem so fraught with danger and conflict, there doesn’t seem to be much purity there at all. And the times that my non-autistic friends and associates are happiest, are when they’re numbing their pain with a stiff drink or distracting themselves from their pain and fear with some form of entertainment.

Truly, it’s such a dreary world they inhabit. Where’s the joy? Where’s the ecstasy? They don’t seem to have much capacity for it, and they treat my (and other Autistics’) capacity for unbridled joy like it’s a disorder. A condition that needs to be fixed.

How does that work, exactly? I just don’t get it. I would imagine it’s a little like being a really tall person during the 1700s, when people were considerably smaller than they are today.

The thing is, I don’t think non-autistic people are completely devoid of the ability to feel and experience ecstatic joy. I think they have as much capacity as we Autistics. They’re just not allowed to experience it by their milieu. They’re smacked down. Held back. Shamed and blamed and pressured into being certain ways because that’s “normal”. Huh. How ’bout that.

Meanwhile, it just holds them back. It cripples them, not only in their own lives, but also in how they relate to us.

It’s a little like the inexplicable conditioning of women to not really move that much in their lives. I’m noticing this more and more, these days, as I continue to move and be fairly limber and spry and strong, compared to my female peers. I take stairs two at a time. I lift 40-pound water bottles on a semi-regular basis. I rake my own lawn. I shovel refuse into my wheelbarrow and push it to the dump pile down the road. Even though I have issues with chronic pain and scoliosis, I get up and move around with pretty decent mobility.

Meanwhile, my female peers — friends and family — move a lot more slowly than I. Their joints are giving out on them, and they just don’t move as well or as freely as I do. In some cases, I realize it’s because they’ve been focused on being “good girls” for their entire lives, and good girls don’t jump up and run across the room. Good girls don’t take stairs two at a time. Good girls don’t stretch their backs and necks to get them to crack. They might go to yoga. Or take a pilates class. But they don’t really move freely in the course of their everyday lives.

And after decades of being demure, it’s taken a toll. They can’t just hop up and run across the room. They can’t dart out of danger, if something is flying towards them. And they run out of energy pretty quick, pumping themselves up with carbs and sugar and caffeine.

I’m not talking about disabled people who are dealing with physical limitations. I’m talking about healthy, non-disabled people who have actively limited themselves with their choices and behaviors. Because good girls don’t move quickly. Good girls aren’t physical. Good girls don’t take stairs two at a time. That’s not normal. And it’s certainly not free.

I have no idea why some people can’t deal with freedom. Or joy. Or ecstasy. But that’s not really my problem. My job is to make the most of my own freedom, my own joy, my own ecstasy. And to protect and shelter it in the face of all the people who covet it but refuse to allow themselves to experience it.

Autistic joy is a thing. Today, for me, it’s about getting back to my routine, which allows me to do so much more than I could if I had to re-design the schedule for my day, each morning.  I have a lot to get done, and my routine allows me to focus on the new and exciting things that interest me, even while I can consistently complete the basics that form the foundation of my life.

With my routine, I can get myself out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth, and get myself downstairs with relative ease. With my routine, I can get my daily exercise, catch up on my online reading, have my breakfast, and get some writing done before I start my day-job work. With my routine — which other people might consider mind-numbingly consistent — my mind is freed up to do more interesting (and far more complex) things than figure out how to fix my breakfast. With my routine, I can get a whole lot of things done, that most people wouldn’t think are even remotely possible. And there’s a lot of joy to be had in the doing. Having four(+) projects going at the same time, and seeing them all coming to fruition in their own times and their own ways, is a rare treat that isn’t even on the radar of most people I know.

Autistic Routine — as much as it’s pathologized by the diagnostic establishment — is the very thing that makes it possible for me to function at higher-than-average levels.

And it’s something that brings me joy, which should be more than enough reason to depathologize it.

So, yeah. Rather than getting hung up on all the downsides of Autism (and don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of challenges that can make your life really miserable), maybe we need to focus more on the joy that seems to come part-and-parcel with  Autism.

Autistic Joy is a thing. Let’s have more of that!

Through the river locks of #autistic joy

Quebec river locks
I’m coming ’round to my desired routines again, getting back to some narrow interests that have drawn me in and held my keen interest for years at a time. I’m finding myself able to think again, after a months-long hiatus of all-consuming DO-DO-DO–GO-GO-GO. I’ve been so busy “upping my output” that I’d lost touch with the simple act of taking in.

I had all but forgotten about some of those vital interests — the books I’d bought to read (devour, really) and ingest and think on, long and deeply, got stashed in my office and I haven’t spent much time there at all for months… the papers I’d downloaded to take in and consider also ended up in piles in my office… the theories and philosophies that have lit up my life so brightly for so many years, faded into the background of my day-to-day rush to Get Things Done…

Yeah, I got busy. And necessarily so. All of it was important. All of it held my interest and taught me useful things.

But as with any all-consuming effort that flames up in a series of inner fireworks, there’s a price to be paid, and that price was the steady flame of joy from what’s held my interest in a steady, rapt embrace.

I think perhaps this is a distinctly autistic feature of mine. I tend to be so completely consumed by what I’m doing at the time, I lose sight of everything else. And then my best-laid plans to do such-and-such a thing in such-and-such a timeframe… well, that all flies out the window like a caged bird that’s realized the keeper left its door unhooked. At the same time, my “interim” interests (intellectual sprints in the midst of my conceptual marathon) tend not to last long. Maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months. And I can lose interest in them rapidly, so that the full roster of Productive Activities I’ve earmarked for doing… well, that just gets lost along the way, too.

So, I end up with a lot of things started, and not a lot finished in the intended timeframe. Ultimately, I do finish things. But it’s years after the original plan. One of my books took nearly 20 years to complete. While others took me maybe 6 months, tops. Other works have been under construction for a couple of years, and they still don’t feel like they’re ready to be done.

I guess I do need to let my imagination “off the lead” and let it run around wildly for a few weeks/months at a time. It re-invigorates me, when I’ve reached a point of overwhelmed ennui, and nothing I’ve been working on makes any logical sense anymore — not because it has no sense, but because I’ve pushed myself to the point of not being able to reason, to think, or to draw anything useful out of what I’m pondering.

It’s cyclical. It needs to be. And yes, it doesn’t conform to the usual timeframes of the neurotypical world. How do those people live that way, anyway? I don’t get it. It seems both forced and dessicated, as though there’s no room for anything human at all. Just a mechanization of our creative impulses.

I can say this (and complain bitterly about it), because I make my living as a Program Manager at one of the planet’s largest high-tech companies. I see (and have to live) this forced, artificial, mechanized way of doing things every moment of my professional life, and I don’t like it. I’d love to toss a wooden shoe in the whole works and grind the teeth off the gears. Stop the whole machine from working that way. But alas, ’tis not in the best interests of my ongoing employment to do that. I like to eat. I like having a roof over my head. I like being able to afford to live my life. So, I keep those gears turning.

It’s a master-class in Everything Not To Do, If You Want To Keep Your Spirit Alive.

Well, so it goes. Railing against the imperfections of the world is all very well and good, but it’s much more productive to counteract it.

And I guess that’s what I do, when I move at my own speed and meander through my personal projects. Like a boat moving between two bodies of water that are at different levels, I need to progress gradually through the “locks”, letting the waters flow in/out and lift (or lower) my proverbial vessel, as I move from one level to the next.

Maybe, just maybe, that gradual way is my own way reclaiming my own autistic identity and reinforcing my own “organic” process (much as I hate that expression). The daily grind really does show me how I do NOT want to conduct my own affairs. And while it does grind me down, and there’s a big part of me that wishes I could make a living doing what I love to do, rather than doing what others will pay me to do, because they’re under the impression that it “needs” to be done… I’m not holding my breath. I’m an inventor and a builder, not a marketer, and I’m not going to waste my time trying to force myself to work in a mode that doesn’t suit me.

So, the day job remains in place. Until I can make a living otherwise.

Well, the day awaits. I have a bunch of things I need to do, and I’ve got a social afternoon ahead of me. I’m looking forward to it. Hangin’ with another Autist. It’s always a pleasure and a relief.

Till Monday rolls around, and it’s back to the same old…

In the meantime, though, I’m good, just going along at my own pace, piecing things together as I go, and keeping my spirit alive and lively.

With joy.

All that joy.