Sharing : Rethinking Autism: From Social Awkwardness to Social Creativity

Instead of viewing people with ASD as “socially awkward” individuals who need to be “fixed,” we should instead conceptualize them as socially creative. They may not do things the “right” way, but they do them their way.

Read the rest of this great article here

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Five-day business trip coming up – pros and cons and #autistic preparation

view of city street with people milling around

So, I’m flying across the country for a business trip. It’s a user conference for a new technology I’m helping to implement at work. The application is on the leading edge of its field, so this is a good opportunity to “peek under the hood” and see what all is there.

It might also be a good opportunity to connect with other people in my field… to see about jobs… I’m treating this like an extended job interview of sorts.

I’m both dreading this trip and looking forward to it. My partner can’t come with me 😦  and I hate traveling without her. She hates it, too, but it just wasn’t going to work, this time.

On the upside, I’m the only one from my work group traveling. Usually, for my business trips, I usually get stuck traveling with my co-workers. It seems to calm them down to move as one group, but I find it a source of irritation. I’d much rather move at my own pace, on my own time, and not be subjected to their non-stop inanity. Seriously, how much blather can a person stand? Apparently, they can stand a lot. And it’s not blather to them, for some strange reason.

Well, that’s not going to be my problem, this trip.

I’ve been preparing in fits and starts. I made my list today — and a very long list it was. Had to turn it into two columns for it to fit on the 4×6″ lined stickie note. I’ve done the vast majority of the things, with a handful of more involved stuff still pending. I’ve got a handful of things I need to do in the morning, too, before I leave at 6:30 a.m. It’ll get done. I just need to make sure I’m up early enough to do everything and not make myself more frantic than necessary.

Well, I’ve gotten plenty of practice at this, so far, this year. This is my 4th flight in 6 months. I flew out to Texas in January and March, then flew to Atlanta in May, and now it’s off to California in June. I’m hoping I’ll find another job before I have to make another trip, but I may need to fly out to Texas again before the summer is over. I’ve learned a lot about how to breeze through all those lines… checking in online, packing super-light (so I don’t have to check a bag)… wearing the proper clothes to quickly and easily slip in and out of shoes and jackets in the security line… figuring out how to get around airports, figuring out public transit, taxis, etc.

Business travel is always so grueling for me, but I do it.  I could probably become an expert at it (actually, in the past, I was approaching expertise, when I had to fly to France all the time). But it still wipes me out and destroys my peace of mind, equilibrium (literally – I get very dizzy and vertigo-y), and it burns up all kinds of resources I need for other things. Especially when I’m traveling for business. I need to be at my best. I’m in unfamiliar settings, dealing with other people who are unfamiliar to me, as well. I can’t stop the steady stream of intrusive thoughts and concerns. Will I mess up? Will I blurt something out? Will I make a fool of myself, or appear untrustworthy or unprofessional?

These are not unwarranted concerns. I’ve done it before, and I may do it again. Just handling those thoughts and managing my anxiety adds a whole other layer of difficulty to it.

I would love to say, “Well, I’m all grown up now, so I’ll just suck it up and do my job.” But there’s more to it than that. And frankly, being autistic and not having a lot of models or examples from others to follow doesn’t help. If anything, it just makes it all worse. Because I should be pleased with having an all-expenses paid trip to San Francisco. Because I should be excited to see the sights and hob-nob with other industry leaders. I should be looking forward to the change of pace.

But I’m not. Not at all. I do feel some of those things, but more than that… just a steady sense of dread. Dread. More dread.

Well, I can’t keep dwelling on that. I need to get ready for the trip. Take care of business. Make some calls. Get a few logistical issues settled. And get to bed early. I’ll have 8+ hours to myself tomorrow, which will be lovely. It will give me time to review the proof copy of my sensory overload memoir that I’ve written and plan to release later this summer. It’s not every day I have that much time to myself, but tomorrow I will. So, that’s good.

Bottom line, I’ll do what I need to, and I’ll try to keep balanced — and focus on the good that may come out of this. It’s just a lot to process, but it’s not all bad.

I’ve done this before. I survived. I’ll do it again.

And when all is said and done, it’ll be more experience for the record.

Turning the corner into the blissful void :)

triangular skyscraper with blue sky and clouds behind it

Ha! I thought it was Saturday. (It’s actually Friday)

This short week has been so strange.

I had “off work” on Monday, but I had a massive meltdown, following four extremely arduous days with my in-laws (which included a mini-meltdown on Sunday).

I’ve been feeling pretty dismal all week, really “hungover” from the emotional flame-outs of Sunday and Monday, not entirely here, but still able to function really well at work. I guess that speaks volumes about how well I do when I’ve got hard-and-fast routine, and expectations are clearly stated for me. I’ve actually been doing much better at work, than at home.

Which is why I’m going into the office today.

Normally, I work from home on Fridays, but not today. I haven’t been able to swim at all this week, because of deadlines, sudden requirements popping up, things falling apart, and just not feeling up to making the short drive to the building where the pool is located. I’m feeling it, too. I really notice when I haven’t been swimming. I miss it, my body misses it, and the days become interminable and painful.

So, today — as I got all my wretched deadlines handled and “put to bed” last night — I have an easy day. An open day. A day full of … nothing specific. And that’s wonderful. Because I need room to breathe. Room to stretch. Room to just settle into my work, without constant interruption and aggravation, and get something done.

For the time being, anyway.

My job is very non-secure at this point in time. Supposedly, there are layoffs coming in another month or so, and it’s going to be “BIG”. Huh. Whatever. I have scrimped and saved and shaved down my costs of living, so I can save aggressively. And in the past 2 years, I’ve cobbled together six months’ worth of living expenses, which is regal, compared to where I’ve been for years. I mean, seriously, it’s been a loonnnnggg time since I’ve had this amount of money in the bank. Medical issues, job issues, terrible commutes that drained my coffers via my car’s fuel tank (and drained my physical energy as well), and just a long string of bad choices and unmanaged expenses from the pre-Aspie-awareness days… they really sucked the life out of me.

But in the past couple of years, I’ve been able to save (and save and save), and now I have enough money to float freely for six months — six months! And that’s being conservative. But it’s best to be conservative. Not doing that, is what got me in trouble in the past.

Anyway, the way things are at work, either I’m going to get promoted, or I’m going to get a severance package. A package or a promotion — how Aspie of my professional life. I literally have No Idea how I stand with other people, so I just make it up as I go along. And I’ve now reached a kind of  “Office Space” frame of mind, like the main character who sees how things are going with layoffs and decides, “Oh, fck it! I’m just going to play along and not give a sht about the consequences!”

It’s actually quite freeing, I have to say. I mean, I’ve always been so conscientious about my job performance. And for what? Please. I’ve been dragged by proverbial corporate horses for years and years, my foot stuck in the figurative stirrup as the Overlords have done as they pleased. That’s how it works. Anybody who thinks differently is in for a rude awakening. I look around me and see my coworkers all so invested in their jobs, their identity, their roles. Huh. How ’bout that. I can’t see the point. I can see the point of a paycheck, that’s for sure. And having a pool to swim in. That, too. But getting my identity all “interlaced” with this nonsense… yah, that just doesn’t make any sense anymore. At all.

So, whatever happens, happens. I’m going to let it play out. If I get laid off, I have six months’ worth of living expenses in the bank, sitting in a secured account. If I get promoted, that’s fine, too. Whatever. It’s all pretty much of a farce, anyway, which just gives me the freedom to write when and how and whatever I like, without needing to worry about editors and publishers blocking my path. I can schedule my life as I please, do the things I love to do, and hang out during the day with smart people who are also in the Paycheck Continuation Program, and would jump at the chance to go on vacation or spend more time with their kids.

Oh, yes… this is freeing indeed. It totally relieves me of the burden of illusions about what the corporate world is about, these days. It relieves me of the burden of feeling responsible for the Way Things Are, feeling responsible for things that are really out of my control, and feeling like I should be doing something to make everything better for myself and my household.

Nah. That glorious over-optimism is an artifact of my youth, my bright, shining, hopeful youth, when I had no idea how things were structured or organized. That youth has persisted over the years, and it has stayed with me until relatively recently… as has the rigid thinking that stuff is supposed to be A Certain Way, and it’s My Responsibility to make it That Way. Time to split the difference, cut my losses, just let the shtty things be shtty, and not worry about it. Just focus on what I can control and influence, and leave the rest.

One of the great things about my newly liquid financial situation, is that I have living proof that I can live comfortably at my current salary. I’d been thinking that I needed to trade up and make a better salary. Granted, more money would be nice. But the range I’m in right now has a lot more job possibilities in the market, than the higher rate, so I could keep going at this rate and still be relatively solid, money-wise. And I might actually be able to pay for some of the house repairs that are sorely needed.

Oh, all this thinking is getting too involved for me, now. I really need to just chill out and quit fretting about the future. How I’ll get by has been a constant, daily, nagging worry for me, for the past 10 years, which has worn me down.  I’m tired of that. I’ll be celebrating another birthday in another couple of weeks, and it’s true — when you get past 50, you start to get happier. At least that’s true for me.

After so many years of being miserable, driving myself and pushing myself towards MY GOALS, it’s time to just let myself live. All that striving… and for what? For what? Nothing much came of it, really. And I ended up worn out, used up, depressed, melted down, and so forth.

I can do better than that.

It’s perfectly fine if I just let myself melt into the void — in the most proactive way possible. It’s not about ending it all or disappearing, but simply drifting into the Flow that carries us all along… letting good things happen, along with the bad, not trying to control the outcomes the way I have been… finding out what happens when this-or-that happens. I really just want to do science with my life at a very high level — on every level, actually. Drop the judgment and fretting. Observe. Learn. Take the hard lessons, learn from them, and reap the rewards that come with the learning.

Just go with it, see what happens, and let things develop along the way. Let myself be gloriously autistic, let myself be glorious, period.

This dumpster fire of a world has gotten me down long enough. I have a choice. I can suffer terribly, or I can just live my life and glean what goodness I can get from it. And there’s a lot more goodness there, than I generally realize or accept.

Time to change that around. My perceived misfortunes aren’t doing anyone any good, most of all me.

I’m free to come and go as I please. I’m free to do what I need to do with my life. It’s taken me decades to get to this point, but now that I’m here… why not just go with it?

Why not indeed…

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.

Everything has its place, I suppose

line drawing of a laptop and papers hanging neatly on the wall behind it
I like my stuff properly arranged. Of course, not everything is going to line up exactly. A little asymmetry can be creatively inspiring.

Last evening, I saw a handful of folks I haven’t seen in a while.

It was good to reconnect. They’re all a bunch of Aspies, and it was cool to just hang out and talk about what’s going on in our lives. It’s pretty wild, how many similarities there are, with detailed variations, of course. We got to trade tips and tricks on stuff that stumps us. There were some ah-ha! moments that we all enjoyed. And some laughter. And we all got to reassure each other that we’re not completely alone in a world that can’t seem to be bothered to understand us.

It’s Friday! I’m so looking forward to this weekend. Getting back on a schedule, after a week of surprise meetings and stuff not going according to plan. I have to get my routine fix while I can. I’ll be traveling in less than a week to spend time with family in the Atlanta, GA area. It’s crowded there. And hot. And busy. And there’s a lot of family drama going on, which drives me to distraction. People whipping themselves into a frenzy over a perceived slight. Where’s the logic in that? We’ve got three days of that to look forward to (so to speak).

I don’t want to go. I dread it. I really want to just ditch the whole thing, and I’ve shed anguished tears at the prospect of what’s ahead. But there’s no avoiding it. It’s important to go. So, I’ll steel my proverbial nerves and just hang in there. Focus on one small thing at a time. See what I can learn about myself and the world. Treat it as an anthropological expedition — and always-always-always keep in mind that it’s only for a few days. All I have to do is keep steady, keep an even keel, keep a level head, eat right, get enough sleep, and persevere.

I’m good at persevering. It’s what I do. It’s a much-practiced skill.

So, this upcoming trip is just another test. Another chance to learn a thing or two. I still have to do some basic things — like reserve a car at the airport. Figure out what to pack. I’m less concerned about the car situation, since, well, it is the airport. I need several hours of free time to sort through my options and pick the best one. And after I figure out my part, the overall logistics have to be figured out and solidified with my partner and her family, so we know where to go, what to do, and in what order.

The dysfunction of family dynamics is so tiring. I’m trying to not pay much attention to the lying, cheating, sneaking-around people who are trying to manipulate the whole event. That’s fruitless. I’ve learned that over the past 26 years. I’ll just go with the flow and enjoy myself as best I can. If nothing else, this will be character-building.

Just think how much character I’ll have at the end of it all! 😀

Oh, and then I have another trip to San Francisco less than a month later. That’s for work. A conference. Learning and working and — most importantly — no family involved. It’ll be a challenge, because it is travel, it involves business, and I’m headed into unfamiliar territory.  I used to live in northern California, years ago, so I may see some of my old “stomping ground”, but probably not much. I’ll be traveling alone, pretty much, which is fine. But that means I’m probably not going to range far and wide and see the sights like I used to, when my partner was with me.

Or, I may see some sights with my co-workers. Who knows? I’ll need to figure that one out, I suppose.

Anyway, so it goes. I’ve got a nice empty schedule today. And my 8:30 meeting just got moved to Monday, so that gives me even more flexibility today, to catch up with everything I haven’t been able to get done this week.

And have a little routine. Get to the office around 9:45, settle in, eat some cereal at 10:15, respond to pending emails and prep for my noontime meeting, have some lunch, do some more work, go for an afternoon swim, then finish up the day with getting outstanding stuff sorted out. Sounds like a plan.

Oh, and plan. Plan. Plan some more. Things rarely turn out exactly the way I anticipate, but having a plan helps me organize my thoughts and at least have the general impression that I’m prepared for whatever comes along.

It’s all good. It’s Friday. I get to move at my own pace. Quietly. Swiftly. With everything in its place. As it should be.

Oh, sweet peace.

When the little #autistic components of life click into place

picture of two people facing each other, person on the left has a gray brain, person on the right has a rainbow colored brainI had a very nice chat with someone today about how autism affects my life. And in the process, I realized some things that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Namely (and I may think of something else, eventually), I don’t really lose a lot of sleep or get terribly agitated anymore about social “gaffe-ish” situations. I’ve got my stock set of responses to social / interactive situations that confuse and puzzle me — especially those which seem pretty useless, e.g., when they center around mindless jabbering while eating cake.

I’ve got a standard way I react to people, a standard way I hold myself and I echo / mirror other people’s behaviors. I have a stock set of responses (“Seriously!” or “Really?!” or “Oh, I know!”) which I generally rattle off without even knowing what I’m reacting too. It takes time for me to parse the information that’s coming it, translate it to pictures, make sense of it, generate new pictures, and then translate it back to words that may or may not mean anything to others. I usually don’t have that kind of time to respond genuinely, so I just spout out this mindless blather. I miss a lot. Including the point of being there. But oh, well. So it goes.

And you know what? I don’t care. Because the vast majority of what’s going on is vacuous and inane. It’s generally not anything I care about. But I still need to be around people. If I don’t interact with others on a semi-regular basis (God help me), I become suspicious and mistrusting, caught up in my own internal dramas that may or may not have any basis in reality. I need feedback from other living, breathing people to help me steer myself in the proper direction – not off a conceptual cliff.

So, I get what I need — some interaction. But I don’t pay much mind to most of the content. Especially when people are hanging around in a crowded, noisy space (why do people like places like that, anyway?). Then, it’s purely a matter of socially getting by. Doing the bare minimum. Satisfactorily completing the social interaction in ways that don’t harm me — and may actually add to my own social cred.

I do what I have to, reap the rewards, and move on.

I just don’t expect much from it. And so, I am seldom disappointed.

A place for everything in this busy life

interwoven mesh of different colors and shapes
Everything fits with everything else.

I have a lot going on, these days.

And it’s all good.

There are people in my life who encourage me to “slow down”… “take it easy”… not push myself too much.

The thing is, when I’ve got my proverbial “plate” full of all kinds of things I’m doing, I’m actually much better off, than if I’m pacing myself and not pushing my limits.

See, the difference between how I do things and how others do things, is dimentionality. That is, I don’t do things in a linear fashion. I can’t. I load them in on top of each other, and they fit together as different dimensions of the same types of activities.

It’s easier for me to write three books at one time, than do one, finish it, then start another. I have a bunch of books (more than three, actually) in the works, and I’ve been stalled for the past few months — mainly because I was under the impression that I had to take them one at a time… and not start the next, till I was done with the last. Huh. Yeah, that hasn’t been working. At all.

Likewise, at work, I’ve got a handful of different initiatives happening, and they’re all quite “exciting”… and not in a good way. Stuff keeps getting messed up, the different teams keep veering off course, and I’m not happy about it. The problem is, I’ve been trying to handle them, one thing at a time. And that’s not working. At all. I can’t stop things from happening at the same time, nor do I do well when I try to manage one project at a time. I need to “load up” and move everything forward in parallel.

I’ve really been doing myself a disservice, by trying to manage my projects and my overall workload in a sequential manner. That’s not how I work, it’s not how I function best. It’s a drain, in fact. And it frustrates me to no end, when well-meaning people urge me to “back off” and not push myself so hard.

News flash — I’m NOT pushing myself. I’m going with the unending flow of creative process. That’s where I need to allow myself to “be”. That’s how I need to allow myself to work.

If other people don’t have the capacity for this, it’s none of my business. But they also shouldn’t hold me back, thinking that I work exactly the same way that they do.

Not today

I’m out of patience today. I’ve been having some problems with my neck and back, and after doing a fair amount of online study of anatomy and real-life observation of the pain location and pattern(s) of agony, it seems that I pinched all three major nerves that run down my left arm.

There is the radial nerve, the ulnar nerve, and the median nerve, the last of which I have had problems with before. I’m pretty sure I know how I did it. And if I remember correctly, I’ve done it in the past. Several times. You’d think I’d learn, but sometimes necessity pushes me to do stupid things that I think will help — but don’t.

It happens when I hold the phone between my left ear and my shoulder – or whatever part of my neck and shoulder area is close to my ear. Back in the day (and I’m telling my age), when phones used to have those large, clunky receivers, you could pretty comfortably hold the phone between your ear and shoulder. And I used to do it all the time. But now, with smart phones, that’s just not possible. It’s next to impossible for me to hold the phone to my ear with my shoulder. And yet, somehow, I managed to do it. Not once, but twice in the same day. Oh, what a short memory I can have, at times..

So, a day or so after I last held my smart phone between my ear and shoulder – which I have to admit is kind of a gymnastic feat – the pain started to set in. On top of that, I’ve been doing a fair amount of different kinds of strenuous physical activity with lots of lifting and bending and relying on my back and shoulders (I put my back into my work, as they say, and my neck got left behind). The weather’s been beautiful, so I spent a bunch of time working in my yard, lifting and carrying things, and being more physically active with my arms and shoulders than I have been in a long time.

Long story short, I completely messed up my neck and my shoulder. Oh, pain! Burning, aching pain that comes and goes on its own. I also have a bunch of interconnected muscles which are inflamed — and also shortening as a result of healing from the activity. That pulls everything out of alignment even more. I haven’t actually been able to move my head or my arm in certain directions without sickening pain. Even when I don’t move – especially when I don’t move – the throbbing, sick pain sets in and I feel like I’m going to throw up.

But what else is new? I’ve had this kind of pain in various parts of my body for various reasons for most of my life, so it’s nothing new. But it’s something I need to deal with.

So, for the past 24 hours, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Stretching. Lots of stretching. Anytime I get a chance, in every possible direction, to get these muscles to loosen up. I can’t function like this, sick to my stomach and aching and burning. I have a lot going on, these days. I need to stay hyper-functional, so I’m doing what needs to be done. I’m sitting differently in my car, sitting differently at my desk. Holding my head and neck differently. Stretching, and more stretching.

Happily, I seem to have turned a corner last night, while I was driving home. I had over an hour in the car to stretch my shoulders arms and neck, and although seeing where I was going while turning my head from side to side wasn’t the easiest thing, it was also late at night, so there was very little traffic on the roads. I felt the release at the point where things started to loosen up, and it was so delicious. Excruciating pain, followed by …. nothing. Sweet, sweet nothing. I still have a long way to go with getting over this – in the past it has taken me up to a week to recover fully – but at least I can tell a marked difference between now… and how it was before.

Being in pain shortens my patience. It sharply reduces my tolerance for bullshit, and it makes me a lot less accommodating of foolishness — whether mine or someone else’s. My disaffection extends through a variety of areas. Including political. I haven’t been looking at much political news at all, especially with all the wailing and gnashing of teeth going on over designated chunks of 100 days. I know there’s a significant election on the horizon in the UK, and that the outcome is going to have a global effect, but right now I just don’t have the energy for it.

The same thing goes with a lot of stuff. I have a full and busy life, and lately I’ve had A Lot going on with people in my non-virtual world hosting events and get-together’s and all sorts of other activities which are fun and engaging and give me a greater sense of purpose and belonging, but which still demand a fair amount of energy and attention. My family is going through changes with serious illness and death and all of the adjustments to go along with it, so that is also adding to my overall load.

Opting out of all of these things isn’t really an option for me. People depend on me. And I can’t let them down. Some Aspies can’t lie. Others can’t let details slide. I can’t let other people down. I have to carry through, even if I don’t agree with the merits and value of what they’re doing. It matters to them, and they depend on me, so I have to hang in there through the ups and downs to the bitter (for me, not for them) end. Lucky thing, I mask my pain. Lucky for everyone, I can block it out. Most of the time.

It’s been difficult, lately, though. I also have my own projects which I am pursuing with gusto, which also demand a lot of me. The other projects run by other people are ones I would love to just drop by the wayside and focus on my own stuff. But again — people depend on me, so it’s important that I hang in there. As for my own projects – I have absolutely no intention of opting out of any of them. If anything, I feel like I should be doing more.

But something has to give. What will that be?

Let me see… ah… Drama. Emotional roller coasters. Frivolous pastimes that do nothing to get me in the direction I’m going.

The recent pain has cut down on my willingness (and ability) to tolerate a lot of the emotional dramas that accompany pretty much any kind of human social activity. So, I’ve been ignoring that aspect of these projects. Because I do want to do them. I just don’t have time for the full gamut of human experience — especially the negative, slimy, grimy emotional aspects.

Another thing I’m giving up (which I should probably give up in any case), is the whole expectation and attachment thing: Attachment to outcomes, expectations of specific things happening as a result of what I’m doing, and investment in certain results to the exclusion of all else. I know from plenty of personal experience that expecting certain results from certain actions of mine is often a fruitless, poor use of time. There’s no way I can reasonably expect to anticipate every single factor that needs to be considered. I’m better off not having expectation and not getting invested in specific outcomes, even though I do intend to make certain things happen.

If I let that extra stuff go – which rarely works out anyway – I can actually focus my attention on just doing what I’m doing. At work, there’s a constant emphasis on results, making sure things turn out the way you want them to. And it is draining. Exhausting. Ironically, the outcomes of my work actually match what I intend, as often as not — especially if I don’t have a huge investment and things turning out a certain way. Oh, the irony.

And at the same time, letting go of my vice-grip devotion to things going My Way lets me just get on with the business of doing what needs to be done.

So, while the pain has been, well, a really pain… it’s also forced me to make the kinds of choices I need to be making, anyway.

It’s not pleasant, by any stretch.

But it’s not all bad.

And for that, I’m grateful.

What I notice now

mirror stone temple doorI nearly disclosed my fairly recently officially confirmed autism to my family, last week, while I was with them. We were discussing my nephew and the ongoing challenges real struggles he’s faced, making the transition from high school and living at home to landing in a vast academic jungle of an Ivy League university in the crowded northeastern US. I stressed that he really is a “textbook case” of Aspergers, and if he can just get a clear understanding of his issues, he stands a much better chance of managing them. And getting his life back.

While I was making the case, I didn’t say “when he understands”, I said “when we understand”. Or something like that. Something not only about him, but about US. Because I swear to God, he is One Of Us.

How could he not be? Impossible, I say. Impossible.

But the conversation was cut short. I had to start towards home, on my 9-hour drive across several states, from one major region to the next. Across mountains and valleys and rivers and streams, long stretches of highway flanked by ravines with beaver dams and lodges in the swampy bottoms. I had to go. I had to conserve my energy. And anyway, my family didn’t want to discuss it. They barely acknowledged it. Said, “Oh, I’m pretty sure I’m dyslexic.” Or “I’ve got ADHD.” Or ” — ” silence. Crickets would have been louder.

So, I let it go. I got in my car. Jumped out again and gave them all one more round of hugs to make up for the quick embraces I pulled away from so self-consciously just minutes before. Then headed up the road. Till I got home.

I’ve been home for nearly a week, now, and I’m still not “all here”. I haven’t been able to type very well. The words get turned around, the letters get jumbled. And all the while, I feel like I’m coming out of my skin. Being back in this cubicle, having these work conversations about work subjects with work colleagues… it all feels so strange to me, so distant, so peculiar.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve been on meds for poison ivy that really knocked me out. Benadryl does that. And now I’m using a topical steroid creme that’s absorbed into my system, even if I’m not eating it. I can’t take steroids of any kind. Prednisone turns me into someone I don’t recognize, and it’s rarely a positive development. Dr. Jekyl / Mr. Hyde. I’m sensitive. What can I say?

Anyway, since returning from my aunt’s funeral, I’ve been noticing an awful lot of things. I’m tired. I’m taxed. My system is overloaded on many fronts. And that makes me even more sensitive than usual. It’s a recursive, self-referencing sort of noticing, too — I don’t just notice more things. I notice that I notice more things. And more things. And more things about more things.

I notice how much I’m bothered by all the noise and light in the cafeteria at work when I’m standing in line for my food.

I notice how clumsy I am – so clumsy that my soup spills all over my desk, and I need to go back — yet again — to stand in line to get something that (this time) won’t spill, if I drop it.

I notice how I start to twitch and shake, as I stand before the counter, all the fluorescent lights over and around me blinding me — hold still, hold still, stop twitching and jerking… just look at your phone — and the deafening roar of overhead exhaust fans causing me to withdraw, slow down, abandon words — tell the deli woman your order in a loud, clear voice, and hold onto the counter so you don’t tip over… 

… the way I wobble as I make my way across the teeming room to the line of cash registers — steady, steady, keep your gaze locked on the sign hung on the wall — the way my ears betray me, so I can’t understand what anyone is saying to me — just pull out the slip that has the order written on it, so the cashier can wring up the order —

… the way my fingers fumble and falter as I pull out my ATM card to pay for my sandwich — did she notice? No, I don’t think so. I think I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m really fine. Now go — Head for the door and get upstairs to your cubicle where you can sit down and eat something. 

Steady… steady as I go.

I notice this. I notice it all. Usually, I’m so rote-inized (think routinized without thought involved) and my movements are mechanical, automatic, so I can shut off my senses and just motor through without too much disruption.

Not today, though. I’ve been away…. out of this routine… out of this element. Suddenly (after such a short period of time) everything seems strange and unfamiliar and faintly threatening. Unsettling. Like I’ve stumbled and fallen through the veils that usually hang between me and the world in which I live and move and make my daily wages… reaching out to clutch at them as I fall… I pull a few of them down. Rent. Spent. And they can’t be hung up again.

Not right now. Not till the drugs get out of my system… which could take days, if not weeks. Yep, this is gonna take a while.

At the same time, this unsettlement is nothing new. It happens sometimes. It’s happened lots of times before, and it will probably happen again.

And again.

There’s no sense in getting worked up over it, losing my cool over it. I just need to keep up on my sleep and remember this is what happens, sometimes. Just hang in there and keep steady, as the input keeps washing over me, setting me off-balance, sending me careening in all directions, spilling soup, making a mess, turning my head around and making me woozy and wobbly. I just need to be extra careful about things I do, and how I do them…

Take care. And don’t get thrown off by everything I notice.

It’s a lot more than usual.

It’s a lot.

Sharing: Autistic power in the workplace

Photo on 02-03-2017 at 15.35 #2

Yes, we do have power. My post is not a simplification of wider more intractable structural power imbalances which work against autistics, but rather seeks to address a specific area in which power may be regained.

Society tends to ignore the contribution of autistic workers – both employed and potential workers (for many of us it is said are unemployed largely due to the myriad complications of ableism in our lives). Visible autistics are often cast either as recipients of charity in the workplace or as tech trojans, maths professors and sundry geeks.

There’s also a galling new trend to laud autistic workers (with the help of stereotypes) as work-horses. Honest as the work day is long! Give them a repetitive job and they’re happy! Accuracy means productivity! Wink, wink! Employ an autistic!

I’m very glad people are getting work, don’t get me wrong, but we have a long way to go because so much of this is predicated on neuro-normative thinking – but I better stick to what I know and talk about my own case.

I believe that many of us probably form an invisible workforce, whose skills can’t easily be replaced by others in the market place – because they are not autistic. We are both employees and freelancers – some of whom may also create opportunity or employment for others. Our brains work differently and often originally – we can gain recognition but also do so for others by association, or more darkly though imitation and appropriation. Subtle use of autistic smarts by neuro-normatives is a thing in the creative sector – conscious or not – and it has to stop. We often do not receive recognition or added value for what we bring to the job, in my experience. Neurotypicals can be slow to grasp the deep benefits autistics bring to work, and overlook them as the players they are or could be. Cultural deafness to autistic smarts, and lack of access to the rules of the game are often to blame. This is what must become transparent.

 

Such a great post! Read the rest at: Autistic power in the workplace