It’s been a very strange bunch of weeks. I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster for reasons that aren’t immediately clear to me. I go through my days with a combination of logical efficiency and having to fight back tears.
Take a break… find an empty conference room and compose myself… Or put on my headphones and hunker down in my cubicle till the emotion passes.
Either that, or I’m flying along without a care in the world, dealing with whatever comes up with surprising alacrity and presence of mind.
Or I’m in a numb state of overwhelm that just doesn’t add up, because my life is no more overwhelming than it’s ever been. If anything, it’s less overwhelming, because I’ve cut back on the sheer volume of stuff I do on a daily basis.
Maybe that’s it… maybe I’m feeling the loss of my intense focus and drive. Maybe I’m suffering from a lack of mental activity. I know I do feel unchallenged in my daily life, and my greatest cognitive challenges are not losing my mind in the emotionally, sensorily vacuous political atmosphere I function in, each day.
Come to think of it, I probably have a lot of good reasons to feel sad and bereft — yeah, bereft is how I feel. I can’t list all the reasons here. At the same time, I have just as many reasons to feel positively bouyant… which I do. Back and forth the emotional pendulum swings…
And all the while, I know that things are happening that I should be feeling something about. Something… But I can’t muster it. I can’t summon the sensation. It holds back, it keeps its distance. It’s just not there for the taking, whenever I need it.
Which makes me look cool, chill, sometimes even cold.
I don’t want that. So, I feign emotional responses. A lot. Based on what I see others doing. I do a lot of mirroring and mimicking, these days. And yes, it’s exhausting. Because there’s no room for someone like me who doesn’t feel something on demand, and people distrust others who aren’t like them. And I work with people who are skittish to begin with, what with all the layoffs happening and organizational drama taking place.
In some ways, alexithymia really comes in handy. It keeps me out of the pit of despair that everybody gets sucked into. But then my empathy kicks in, and I co-experience other people’s dramas, without really knowing why. I don’t sense things in the same way, with the same cadence/regularity that others. So, I have the dubious honor of sharing their emotional states without really knowing why…
And yes, it is exhausting.
So, I curl up in bed at the end of the day and weep. For whatever reason. Reasons I can’t imagine, that I can’t fathom… but which show up, days, even weeks and months on down the line.
I’m chugging along in my life. Finding my way through things. As usual.
Making the most of it — regardless. All of life presents itself to me, and I get to decide what I do with it.
There’s plenty of stinking muck under this lotus.
And there’s plenty of heaven above my metaphorical (and literal) head.
The richest soil comes from compost. All the ingredients that support life, coming from some sort of death. The process of composting is never pretty, never dainty, never as sweet-smelling as we’d like it to be.
Some time back, I spent some (very little) time downwind from a the decaying remains of a beached whale. The stench was overpowering, and it carried to the nearby seaside town. Tourists were walking around with their hands over their faces, but they/we all had to make the best of it. Because it wasn’t easy to get to that town, and we’d all made the investment of time and energy, and By God, we weren’t going to be chased off by the cycle of life.
We made the best of it, finding areas upwind of the rotting carcass, keeping ourselves otherwise occupied, trying to not pay it any attention. It wasn’t easy, but it worked.
“If you want to hear God laugh,
announce your plans.” – Said someone somewhere, sometime.
I’ve been a pretty reliable source of entertainment for God, for years, now. And while I’m sure He’s gotten plenty of good laughs from me (you’re welcome, God), I’m kind of tired of being laughed at.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m autistic, so I’m used to being laughed at. And if anybody has a right to do it, that would be God. (I’ll overlook the fact that I don’t actually believe in God – I’m taking artistic liberties here.) But now, after all those years of striving and hoping and planning and wishing and working… I realize that God laughing at me really shouldn’t bother me at all.
Truth be told, the point of all my undertakings hasn’t been in the neurotypical mold. It hasn’t been in anybody’s mold. And that’s the point. I’ve frustrated my family and colleagues and bosses and recruiters for years, with my laissez-faire approach to career and undertakings, my lackadaisical, shifting focus from one fascination to another, not to mention my (shrug) “whatever…” attitudes toward advancement and achievement and worldly success.
The world’s idea of success is fine for everyone else. But I’m just so tired of it. What a time-sink it is. What a heart-breaking waste of time it is for me. All the shiny baubles and trappings and evidence of world domination that brighten the day of the Masters of the Universe… they just leave me cold. All the goals, the intentions, the schemes… yeah, I’ve had them a-plenty. But what I’ve gotten out of my life has been so much more than all the plans and hopes and wishes that urged me along.
I got a life. I got experience. I’ve failed fantastically at many things, and I’ve done so-so at others. Sometimes, I’ve nailed it. Just “hit it” exactly right, and I managed to ride a wave of success and achievement for a number of years, till I moved on to the next thing. And in the end, I think my failures have served me better than any of my successes.
That fact means more to me, every single day.
It’s not the end result of my plans and activities that’s meant the most to me, or that’s stood me in the greatest stead. It’s been the process… the experience… the peripheral collateral of joy that’s come along with the endeavors. The ultimate goals of specific intentions was really just the context, the impetus for moving me along. Ambition is the delivery agent of experience. And unlike some who revere the final result of a completed project/plan/scheme, for me it’s actually all the other stuff in-between that matters. Experience — good, bad, or neutral — is what’s made my life what it is — something cool and awesome. And far more valuable than any flush bank account.
So, I’m letting certain sh*t go. As in, the “end game” ideas that have progressively dragged me down and made me increasingly uncomfortable and frustrated. I’m shifting my ambition away from specific “targets”, and towards the quality of my experiences. I’m tired of being pushed and pulled by internal drives and external impetus toward specific outcomes… and then never getting to enjoy myself along the way, because the specifics haven’t materialized exactlyas I’ve dreamed them up… or as others expect them to.
I’m also letting go of looking back in frustration, looking back in criticism, viewing my past as a series of failures. Failures at what? Some idea I had in my head about “how things should be”? Or worse, some idea that some marketer out there concocted to sell me? Those rocks and blocks are like so many useless, pointless obstructions teetering on a cliff above me (as I wait for them to break loose). It’s time to cut them loose myself, and just live my life, driving around the blockages with a gunning motor and a squeal of brakes… doing what I do for the love of it, rather than for money or quantitative measures. Quality, not quantity, is what I seek.
And interestingly, when I’ve put the emphasis on quality… on my own experience… somehow money and other quantitative measures have showed up.
I’ve still got a lot of dreams, still have a lot of hopes and plans… but the important thing now is really the process I go through as I make my way along those paths. The “final” destination I’m shooting for is just the carrot enticing me along… keeping me motivated… keeping me interested. But it’s not The Reason I do things, anymore.
Something much more intriguing is filling my life, these days — What Happens In Between.
And I’m finding, when I let go of specific outcomes, they actually show up — not always exactly as I envisioned them, but present, nonetheless.
I have to say, the past few days have been some of the best I can remember having in a really long time. Plans didn’t work out. Schedules changed. Expectations weren’t met. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d intended. But somehow I’ve been staying chilled out and even-keeled.
My work situation stinks. It just irritates me so much. So, I’ve been putting my resume out there, in hopes of finding something new and different. It’s slow going, because the automated systems in place “see” my educational history, and they block me before I can even reach a live person.
Whatever. Where I am now isn’t where I want to be for the long term, but I’ll make the best of it, while I have to. I’m finding ways I can meet the basic requirements each day, but still keep my sanity intact. And that’s fine. I just can’t get too wrapped up in expecting more of it than is reasonable.
My home life is going better than it has in a long time. I’ve let go of a lot of my old persnickety obsessions (and yes, they are obsessions) with perfection… not fretting if Everything Isn’t At Peak Expression… letting a lot of things slide and going out of my way to not take stuff personally. I’m treating dynamics that used to drive me batshit as opportunities to learn and grow and strengthen my character.
Healthwise, I’m doing okay. I’ve got intermittent pain, vertigo, and a whole raft of sensory issues. But you know what? It’s all old news. I’ve been through the wringer over this sh*t so many times, over the past 40-some years, I can’t even worry about it, anymore. It should come as no surprise to me. In fact, if anything, it should (and often does) bore me. Lately, the internal dialogue about my intermittent disabilities plays out like this:
I’m uncomfortable! This comes as a surprise to you? Exactly where have you been for the past 52 years, that this is noteworthy?
I really am losing patience with myself, over all my wailing and gnashing of teeth. Seriously, it solves nothing. Might make me feel a bit better (temporarily), but it doesn’t change anything. And it seems I’m subject to an odd supposition that anything could be perfect… ever.
Silly. What am I thinking?
In a way, I feel like I’ve been kidnapped by pirates and taken away on a stolen ship, crossing stormy seas both night and day. And all my life, I’ve been wishing I’d never been kidnapped… longing for dry land that stays stable… just wanting to get to the proverbial shore and get off the ship.
To no avail. After way too much bitching and moaning, I’m finally finding my sea legs, getting the hang of sailing the ocean blue (and black and gray, when the storms hit), and realizing that I actually like it on board this privateering vessel — and accepting that I fit better here, after all the years aboard, than I fit anywhere else. Even if I did get to “dry land” tomorrow, even if I did set foot on shore and not have the ground heaving under me, I’m no longer sure what I’d do with myself.
Because it’s not home.
Home is here. Out at sea. In my storms… and in the company of other misfits and cast-offs and very-very-different folks who “get” me, even when the “normal” world doesn’t.
It’s all very well and good to dream about the luxuries of a staid and settled and conforming life, but here on the high seas, in the midst of 10-foot waves… this is home.
Once a year, VoxVisual does the well-nigh impossible — she visits her overwhelming family and lives to tell the tale. Autistic since birth, she’s lived in a constant state of overwhelm for as long as she can remember.
“I’m not looking for pity,” she tells us, “but it’s not easy dealing with all the chaos — especially at holiday times. I have a large immediate and extended family, and they love to stir everything up. Yelling, singing, jumping around, talking about this-that-and-the-other-thing, switching subjects without warning… and never giving me a minute’s rest. It’s exhausting! And even though I love them and need to see my family at least once a year, I dread doing it — especially during the holidays.”
What to do? In someone else’s house, on someone else’s schedule, interacting with people she normally doesn’t interact with, how does she manage it?
“It’s taken me years,” VisualVox tells us, “but I’ve finally figured it out. Of course, it helps to have an autism diagnosis that tells me plainly that I can expect to have issues with these sorts of experiences. Knowing what I now know about autism, I can plan accordingly. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m preparing in advance for the onslaught. I’m rehearsing ahead of time. I love my family and want to have a good time with them, and I’m determined to find a way.”
September might seem like an early time to be thinking about the holidays — unless you’re the sort of person who gets all their presents-shopping done well in advance. But for VisualVox, it just makes sense.
“Practicing now — breaking up my daily routine a little bit — while there’s no pressure, is just the ticket for getting myself in shape. I think of the holidays as an athletic event (and it is physically and mentally challenging). I also think of the months ahead of time as my “training period”. I give myself little doses of change, of non-standard experiences, of intermittent overwhelm. Then I take some time to recover, think through the lessons, figure out what worked and what didn’t, and then have another ’round’ of challenge.”
If it sounds tiring, rest assured — it is. But it’s worth it.
Is it all work and no play, though? Not at all, according to V.
“Testing myself is only part of what I do — the other part is finding the things in my regular everyday life that I can ‘transfer’ to my family visit. For example, routine is very important to me. It’s essential. So, I repeat certain routines I have at home that make me feel comfortable and cared-for. My morning wake-up routine, for example. Every morning when I get up, I exercise before I do anything else. I ride an exercise bike. I lift some weights. And when I’ve worked up a sweat, my mind is clear and I can get on with my day. I typically have my breakfast right after that, and the day begins in earnest.
“When I visit my family, I make sure I have a good morning workout before I do anything else. And I also make sure I eat my breakfast immediately after my workout. That way, I have a good start that I know works for me — and it’s good for my family, too. Some people try to escape routine to relax and enjoy themselves. I’m the exact opposite. Routine itself helps me relax. Also, I used to be absolutely consumed by physical fitness and kinesthetics. I was fascinated by the human body, especially the muscular system. While some girls drew pictures of their favorite band’s logo, I drew pictures of the major muscle groups. Taking the time to lift a little weight actually makes me feel like I’m 16 again — and that’s always nice, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are constantly bemoaning ‘getting old’.”
Clearly, it’s different strokes for different folks. Routine is helpful?! It’s not boring? It’s actually enjoyable? How many folks groove on routine? Well, clearly at least one person does, and she revels in it.
So, this coming holiday season, prepare to be amazed as VisualVox, the #ActuallyAutistic woman makes her way through the obstacle course of the holidays with her routine intact, her nerves steady, and her family relationships sustained for yet another year!
Stay tuned for more reportage on #ActuallyAutisticAdventures! Discrete stimming that soothes the most jangled nerves… Getting safely up and down stairs despite extreme vertigo and sensory overwhelm… Tips on replying to people who talk a mile a minute in heavy accents… Feigning interest in boring stuff for people you love and care for… and more!
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how fortunate I am. I’ve been kind of tangled up in all sorts of emotions about letting go of old unrealistic expectations that were very much a part of who I thought I was — or could be. I’ve always had goals, always had aspirations, but the more I think about it, the more I realize just how non-autistic so many of those goals were.
I think it’s just normal to internalize the values of society — we’re constantly being shown images of the “ideal”, constantly getting unspoken messages about how we should/should not be, constantly being redirected in subtle ways to keep us on society’s “straight and narrow”.
I also think the influences are particularly pronounced, when you’re autistic. We pick up so many cues and clues that slip by others, and we can be so strongly impacted by even the slightest nudge in a certain direction… even the faintest hint that we’re not OK… Which sets us up for ongoing bombardment, because society’s clues and cues are really designed to pressure folks who aren’t sensitive, who don’t pick up on subtle messages, and who can’t discern the gray-area differences between good/bad, right/wrong.
So, autistic folks end up bludgeoned. We really do.
Which is why I’m really, really happy that I was raised in an autistic family.
Nobody called themselves autistic, of course. It wasn’t a thing when I was growing up. Autism was a classic-Kanner deal, where you had to be severely impacted/disabled by your challenges, in order to be considered autistic. We knew of families who had autistic members — the guy who renovated our kitchen, for example. But those cases were just whispered about. Those of us who suffered intensely from environmental and sensory distress, but were able to go about our lives without being permanently disabled by all that, were considered “normal as normal can be”.
Indeed, for that time and place — in an insular religious community that was highly regimented, rules-oriented, literal, hard-working, and chock-full of physical activity that gave you ample outlets for your overabundance of energy — we were normal. Because how we were and what we were, was the norm. And our community of faith was sufficiently insulated from “the World” (capital W), that the ways of the evil outsiders never posed a danger to us.
Our autism was our creed. It was the right way to be. It was the only way to be. And anybody who wasn’t like that, was considered a minor (or major) threat. The ways of the non-autistic World were evil. Temptation. An ever-present danger that put our souls at risk. In the world where I was raised, you followed the rules. Autistic rules. Religious rules. Social rules. You didn’t deviate, on pain of expulsion. It wasn’t pathologized. If anything, NOT following the rules was pathologized.
Of course, all that pathologizing got a bit old, after a while. Especially for me. I wanted something bigger and broader than what the rules allowed. A more generous interpretation of gender. A less debilitating interpretation of what was possible for girls and women. The rules may have spared me a lot of anguish and insecurity, when I was growing up, but they also hemmed me in… in ways that were excruciating. Nearly lethal.
But let’s talk about the fun stuff, shall we? I can sit around and feel bad about the bad, or I can choose to feel good about the good. Life supplies ample amounts of both, and where I choose to concentrate is up to me.
There was a lot of good, in being raised that way. As painful as it was, as excruciating as it could be, it trained me along certain lines. And having a hyposensitive mother who was always on the lookout for the next exciting experience turned out to be a boon. Seriously, my Mom was/is like a shark… always moving, always seeking her next sensory experience, looking to fill up on the inputs of life. We did a lot, when I was growing up. Camping. Hiking. Playing. Working. Always active, always thinking, always talking. Even though it overwhelmed me constantly, and it took me years of pain and frustrationi to learn how to deal with it, now that I know how to do it, it’s an incredible gift.
My father, with his unending pontification, philosophizing, pedantry… always thinking, always talking, always convinced that his ideas were the stuff of wonder and awe, always convinced that he was on the cutting edge… His bravado (annoying as it could be at times) is something I carry with me. I’m more tempered, I think, in my suppositions of grandeur, and I do believe I have a wider base to draw from than he, who’s always operated within a fairly narrow mindset and belief structure. But that same conviction that my thoughts matter, that my insights have depth and importance, is clearly inherited from him.
My whole family was so autistic… Pick up a (credible) work on autism (preferably written by an autistic writer/researcher — Milton Damien comes to mine, along with others whose names I can’t conjure right now — or someone who’s a true ally — Luke Beardon’s latest work is a good bet)… and make a laundry list of autistic traits, and I can assign them, to most (if not all) of my biological immediate and extended family to one degree or another. I can also find those traits in my onetime neighbors and classmates, the folks who attended our church, the people I interacted with daily as a kid.
They all helped raise me. They “trained me up in the way I should go”, and that way was autistic. They raised me to be neurodivergent, and it was our most critical identity. It was our saving grace. All those rules, all those pressures, all that constantly reinforced messaging of right/wrong, on/off, acceptable/verboten… all of it spared us from the world. Our agreed-upon rules, our regulations, our religion… it buffered us and gave us a profound, unassailable sense of belonging with one another that was so powerful and enduring, it makes today’s identity politics look like capricious dabbling.
We were autistic. All of us, to one degree or another. And the ones who weren’t, were recognized as “different” and accommodated, so long as they made an attempt to comply with our ways. In a sense, I was raised in a world that was the flip-side of the neurotypical mainstream — all the autistic folks were normal, non-autistic folks were the neurodivergent ones, who were looked upon askance, not quite trusted, sometimes pitied, often excluded, and constantly pressured to become like us.
To be autistic.
Well, it’s a beautiful day, and there’s an adventure out there “with my name on it”. How’s that for an image — in my mind’s eye, I see a vast stretch of wilderness with a stickie tag on it that has my name written in dark blue marker.
Time to make that come true, and do my parents proud.
I had a dream last night that I was cooking a meal for my extended family with my mother’s pots and pans and cooking implements, in a kitchen I wasn’t familiar with, on a gas stove that was hard for me to control, in a house I didn’t recognize. All my four siblings and their kids were there, as well as some cousins, who came in and out of the dining room, where everyone was talking and yelling and laughing in pandemonium, getting hungrier by the minute. The number of people kept changing, as people came in and out, and they were all yelling for me to come join the party.
They wanted me to cook, as well as play games, and the whole scene was joyful chaos. They were having a grand time. I was having a terrible time. I kept miscalculating the timing on how long the food should cook, I had rice on the back burner and stir-fry vegetables on the front burner, and a bunch of other side dishes in various states of preparation.
On top of it all, my mother kept coming in and out of the kitchen, correcting me about how I was doing things, offering to “help”, and generally distracting me when I was trying to sort things out.
It was a typical time with my family… and I was beside myself with anxiety, frustration, overwhelm… the works. I wanted to cook a nice meal for everyone, to show them how much I cared for them. But they were making it impossible.
Impossible, I tell you!
I woke in a state of irritation. No surprises there. Fortunately, I got nearly 8 hours, last night, so that’s a big plus. It takes the edge off things. Eases the burn, so to speak.
So, yeah, I woke up feeling frustrated and agitated, feeling like I can’t do anything right. I’ve really been struggling with the choice to let go of a lot of my false hopes that fueled me with irrational optimism, all those years. I’ve spent so much time trying to fit myself to external requirements, that I’veusually gotten lost in the mad shuffle. And now I find myself without so many of the things I’d hoped for… that I worked so hard for… but could never do consistently because of fatigue and confusion and overwhelm. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to offset my limitations, that I haven’t given enough time and energy and attention to my strengths.
And now where does that leave me?
I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself for a while, then I gathered myself and got out of bed. Made myself some breakfast. Did a short strength training workout. Talked to my partner. Admired the view outside. Checked the weather. And now I’m getting some time to write.
When I look around me at the life I have, it’s actually a pretty cool thing. But then I look at where I am, agewise and financially speaking, and I feel so… delayed. I’m at the age where my peers are sending their kids off to college, or their kids are finishing school, and they’re getting ready to retire. The 55-years-old early retirement option is increasingly common, and people at my job who are over 50 are more at risk for being laid off. That puts me in at or near the “skeedaddle” stage, and I just don’t know what’s going to happen to me, over the long term.
It kind of reminds me of my dream. I’m headed into new territory, with everything around me shifting and changing rapidly. I’ve put a whole lot of my heart and soul into keeping up with things and building a good life for my partner and me, but it’s been overwhelming, confusing, and the rules keep changing… all of which make life a lot more “exciting” than I’d like it to be. It’s all for the sake of everyone else, I think sometimes. It’s all for the sake of everyone except me.
So, why do I do it? Why do I bother putting myself through those paces, day after day, week after week, month after month after year after decade? Why bother?
Because it shapes me. It strengthens me. It hones me. It’s like a really hard resistance workout, seemingly without end. It’s no fun when it’s happening, but it builds me. It shapes me. It directs me. And it teaches me not to sit around and feel sorry for myself when I’m in pain and discomfort. It trains me to function, even in the face of extreme odds. It’s a masterclass in drama management, and it serves me well.
It might not fill my coffers, but it actually trains me to function really well, even without filled coffers. Learning to deal with all the passing overwhelm, the crisis, the drama, the disappointment, and one failure after another, conditions me to do well when things reallyget tough. And given the way the world’s been going, this is probably an extremely useful trait. It’s a helpful trait, in any case. Because things don’t always go right, and somebody’s gotta be there to keep calm and carry on. Do the things that need to be done, even when the doing is miserable, thankless, and feels like a “one-way trip” of energy.
And I think our modern world tends to lose sight of that. It seems to have lost the appreciation for the traits and qualities that are genuinely useful — replacing it with a worship of things like the ability to buy stuff and how many people “like” or recognize you online. What a strange, strange world… It makes me just want to ditch it. But that’s easier said than done, and in any case, you have to take the bad with the good. In some ways, maybe the “bad” is even more useful than the “good”, because it builds me, it shapes me, it strengthens me. And in the end, being strong and flexible and capable are really my main goals. Without them, what am I?
I really need to get back to reading the Stoics. It’s the one thing that reliably keeps me centered and puts things in perspective. Maybe I’ll make that a daily exercise. I’ve had a number of other daily exercises, over the years, and many of them dropped off after a while. This could/should be one that replaces some of those that have disappeared.
I got away from reading them… and I should change that. So, I shall.
I’m having a strange time at work. My group has been shuffled around into a different organization, and nobody’s sure how it’s going to turn out.
Nobody knows how anything will turn out, these days. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Nuclear threats. It all starts to feel ho-hum, after a while, and I wonder how I’d feel if this were like 500 years ago and nobody had any idea how screwed up people on the other side of the country/world are. Would we be happier? I doubt it. People crave drama. They look for reasons to be unhappy, to make themselves feel more engaged, more alive.
But my mind is wandering. I’m already off-topic, and it’s still early in the day. I’ve got a full list of to-do items for this Saturday. But it’s worth it. After I get this stuff done, it’ll be done. And then I can just get on with my day.
It’s been a little over a year since I got an official Asperger’s assessment. It’s been a couple of years since I got back on track with managing my autistic “features”. It’s been an interesting trip, and like most folks who go through this process, it’s been full of ups and downs.
Now things are evening out, and I realize that I’m really not cut out for fighting over autism. You know… donning the righteous armor of activism and wading into the fray. I mean, it’s not cool that researchers and organizations are looking for ways to eradicate me, but to assume that they’re going to be successful is a bit of a stretch. And to assume that only direct opposition is going to stop them, is short-sighted, in my opinion.
What ever happened to good old subversion? What ever happened to individual actions and choices that undermine the hegemony of the dominant paradigm? In any case, I’m not 100% convinced that the dominant paradigm is universal, or that everybody wants to buy into it. People want to belong. Sure. That’s true. And they’ll go along with stuff that others offer them, which promises to make their lives happier, richer, sexier, etc. But there’s also an undercurrent of buried intelligence that shows up at the unlikeliest of times.
And that’s the side of people I want to deal with. Not their obvious oblivion.
That’s way too depressing. Traumatizing. Self-depleting.
So, yeah… I’m trying to figure out where I fit on this continuum of action. Maybe I don’t belong on it at all… No, I do. I just need to find the place / way that works for me — and not against me.
One of the things I feel myself letting go of, is my perpetual discomfort with the professional world. I just kind of “fell into it” by default, after I left college, because apparently I’m pretty good at the things I undertake. I’ve got my autistic focus, enthusiasm, my quirky / geeky joy at stuff that most people don’t think twice about, and my enthusiasm is “infectious” as they say. People like working with me, because I really do make an effort to be a good team member and support others in their jobs. And even though I am pretty odd at times, by conventional standards, there’s room for that in the world where I work. Heck, it’s chock-full of “odd birds” like me.
So, why have I been fighting it?
Well, because it’s part of a world that I grew up distrusting and disliking. Corporate America. Bleh! Who would want to be a part of that?! Turns out, I do. I perform very well in the structure and predictability of a corporate environment, and over the years people have really made an effort to include me and advance me. I’ve pushed them a way, though, rejected their offers, and moved from job to job for reasons I thought I understood, but really didn’t.
Turns out, it was alexithymia that was urging me to leave. I didn’t have a good or clear sense of what was going on. I couldn’t tell whether or not I should trust people. I had no clear sense of how well I was doing in my jobs, so I never knew if I was failing or succeeding. I couldn’t “read” people, either. It’s like I’ve been wandering around with a blindfold covering most of my vision and earplugs firmly inserted in my ears, bumping into stuff here and there, but somehow finding my way through… all the while having very little clear sense of where I am or where I fit or what I should do next.
God, I wish I’d figured this out sooner. Could have saved me years of confusion and frustration.
What might have been different? Well, I might have gotten to the place I am now — able to ask people for clarification, able to recognize that I’m not really persecuted at work, I’m just feeling overwhelmed, able to differentiate between actual depression and just being physically wiped out. And not stressed out and pushed to extremes by situations I can’t read.
Well, what’s done is done. At least I know now how things work with me. And I can adapt accordingly. Now I can:
Look for the good in my situation, instead of fretting about how much greener the grass will be at some other company.
Get some extra sleep and spend more time relaxing, instead of burning up all my available energy hunting high and low for the Next Big Thing.
Chill the f*ck out and enjoy myself.
Actually engage with the people I work with and put my energy into making the most of my present situation, instead of always wishing things were different.
I’ve written before about how I need to reset my expectations in life, and it’s still true. I’ve wasted so much time trying to operate like someone I’m not, and it’s burned me out. Fried me to a crisp. Ugh. Time to quit that. Just let it go. Let that go… go… go… )))))))))))
Have a little fun, for once, by God.
Yeah. Let’s try that, why don’t we?
I’m sick of wedging myself into all the unfitting forms. Time to find my fit, and go with that.
(The development of reasoning heuristics in autism and in typical development. Morsanyi, 2010)
Given the debate around human rationality in decision-making over the last 40+ years, you’d think that psychologists and Behavioural Economists would have been scrambling over each other to dig deeper into a statement like the one above. The phrase “less susceptible to reasoning biases” goes against much of what we’ve learnt about the inherent irrationality of human behaviour since Kahneman and Tversky started getting people to gamble on coin tosses in the 70’s.
In reality, as the above paper goes on to point out, research into autistic reasoning in this context is sparse. However, there have been some studies, and autistic subjects have been tested on their response to cognitive biases such as the framing effect (choice will be effected by how information is presented), the conjunction fallacy (we think that more detail makes an event more probable whereas the reverse is true), the base rate fallacy (we favour specific information over general information), and the sunk cost fallacy (we’re influenced by how much we’ve already invested in an event or project).
I’m not sure what the hold-up is, in doing decent research about how those of us on the spectrum think differently — including how we have a certain advantage in some circumstances. But eventually, that work may get done.
In the meantime, I’ll get on with my own life and focus on my own thought process. At least that’s something I can manage.