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.

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More work… looking forward to winter

leaves in trees
Just hanging there. Taunting me…

It’s November. Nearly halfway over. And the leaves are still hanging on my trees. I need them to fall, so I can rake them up and get on with my life. I don’t mind raking. All my neighbors either use leaf blowers or they drive their riding mowers around their yards, sucking up the leaves into the compartment behind the mower.

I have a leaf blower. But I hate it. It’s loud. I need to get some ear protectors for when I use it, but better yet – never use it at all.

Fall is work time for me. Cleaning up the yard, raking, cleaning out the garage. And of course, finishing up the year at work. I have to be on a conference call in another 30 minutes — 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday is not my favorite time to be working, but we have work that needs to get pushed out to the world, and this is just part of the whole scene.

I also get a break for Thanksgiving week, as well as Christmas week. I get full weeks off, each time, which is pretty amazing. In past years, I had maybe one extra day off before Thanksgiving, and another day off after that. And for Christmas, it was always a challenge trying to juggle work and holiday celebrations. Combined with lots of driving to see relatives, various holiday gatherings with friends and workmates, etc. etc.

Not this year, though. This year, I get a break, which will be most welcome.

And I’m going to make the most of it.

I’m really looking forward to this winter, I have to say. The darkness, the cold… When it gets below freezing, I feel the best. I actually feel much better, the colder it is. If it’s just above freezing, it feels cold to me. I think my internal heating only “kicks on” when it’s bitter cold outside.

Later, after my call is done, I can go outside, maybe do a little more raking (even though all the leaves aren’t down, yet), and run some other errands. I’ve got a list. Of course I have a list.

I also have a handful of other things I need to do. Like shop for food and visit my friendly neighborhood health food store to pick up non-mainstream health supplies. It will be good to get out. I’ve been practically merged with my work laptop for most of my waking hours, for the past 5 days, and this morning will be more of the same.

I could really use a full day off. Heck, I could use two days off, where I don’t have to do anything for anybody else, and I can move at my own pace. But that’s not going to happen for another week, at least. No, wait – it’s going to be longer than that, because Thanksgiving week, I’ll be traveling to visit family several states away. So, it’s more like three weeks, till I catch a break.

Even then, I’m not sure it’s going to be very relaxing. Because these deadlines I’m on right now are leading up to new features and functionality on my employer’s website, and that will keep me on my toes, tracking how it’s going and reporting in to people On High about what’s good, what’s bad, and what needs to change.

What a pain in the a** it all is.

Well, anyway, this is what I get paid the big bucks for. And I’ll just need to find a way to manage this whole thing and spin it properly so the People In Charge continue to have full faith in me. I just need to come up with good systems for reporting, so I don’t have to constantly scramble to keep the People In Charge appraised of what’s what — just let the systems run themselves and report out from there.

Oh, that reminds me… there’s something else I need to do for Monday. I promised someone I’d get them numbers. Guess I should do that.

I’ve digressed.

I have a lot going on. It’s overwhelming, if I think about it. But if I just keep my lists and I take good care of myself (extra rest, not worrying about getting everything perfect all the time), it’s totally do-able.

I just need to do what needs to be done. And that’s something I do really well.

So, that’s something.

Now, if only those leaves would fall … before the snow comes along.

Using all this energy *in* my favor – not against me

traffic jam taxi cabs in new york city
This is pretty much how I’m feeling, these days. Jammed up.

Blocked.

Stopped in traffic, when I should be moving forward, consistently, cleanly, systematically.

If I were left to my own devices, I could totally do that.

But … people.

People and logistics. And politics. It’s all blocking my path. And it’s exhausting. So, I don’t have as much energy to get all creative ‘n’ that and come up with innovative new ideas. The best I can do is slog through. And for this Autistic, that’s about the worst thing anybody can ask me to do.

I’m a sprinter. As well as a marathoner. And I need to sprint periodically, to really stretch myself and get things accomplished. Right now, I’m stuck in the herd with a bunch of non-Autistic folks who have ulterior motives and political agendas.

And it’s next to impossible to get anything done.

How frustrating.

Well, it’s not all bad. Once I get done with my whining and complaining, I can see just how much of an opportunity this is for me. I’ve been wanting to make a significant change in my life for some time, but I’ve held off because I could always tolerate how things were. I’m not talking about being satisfied and fulfilled and doing my best work. I’m talking about just not being too depressed by my situation to move, and being able to maintain at the most basic level to “pass” as someone who’s happy and productive and content where they are in life.

All that acting gets tiring.

So, being in this stupidly impossible situation is giving me motivation to do something about it. And I am. I’ve gone through my projects list and picked a few that I’m going to complete over the next year — and a few that I’m going to focus on through the end of the year. I do well with deadlines, especially when I set them. And I have to say, my methodology and my approaches are really, really good. I generally can’t pull out all the stops and really GO with it, around the people I work with, because they just don’t operate at the same level as I.

That’s not me being arrogant or egotistical. It’s me being honest. I’ve worked in too many high-stakes positions before, with companies that were at the top of their industries, and I’ve been doing this a long time. So, I’m just trained that way. Many, if not most, of the folks I work with are 10-15 years younger than me. They haven’t been through the “meat-grinders” that I have. They haven’t been worn down to nothing, burnished and polished, quite the same way I have. And it shows.

And there’s very little I can say or do that makes any sense to them, because they don’t have that history and that perspective.

So, I just do my own thing in my own way. I inject every bit of professionalism and experience into my own projects, that I miss on a daily basis. Because I’m a coder and a user experience designer and a tester and a sys admin, I can set things up for myself that meet my standards and make sense to me. Every bit of laxness, every bit of excuse-making and risk-aversion I experience at the office, I counteract with my own work on the side. And that’s the one thing that saves me, really. It does my spirit good.

Some people have kids they live for. They’ll go through anything because they love them. I suspect that’s one of the reasons that people I work with are so willing to tolerate all the B.S. that takes place each day — they’re doing it for their kids. Well, I don’t have any kids. All I have is my work, and the fruits thereof. Sacrificing my sanity for the sake of … anything … well, that doesn’t make much sense to me.

So, rather than letting it bother me, I just channel my frustration into other things.

And get on with creating the kind of work and life I want to have.

If the rest of the world can’t accommodate me (and they can’t/won’t), I’ll carve out a space for myself. Everybody else can do what they like.

I need to do what I like, as well.

And that’s that.

Another week goes by…

It’s Tuesday. It feels like Friday. I’m churning towards a Big Deadline at the end of this week, and then another one next week. And then the holidays hit and it’s time to drive down to see two sets of families in two different states, each of them a day’s drive apart.

Oh, joy.

Actually, I’m mostly okay with all of this. I’m just maxed out. Frustrated and over-extended and super-sensory.

Which means I need to be careful… very careful… Because the last thing I want, is for all these deadlines and this frantic work situation to wreck my holiday season. I only get to see my family once, in the next 2 months. We used to drive down for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that stopped years ago. We both got too old to run all over creation. And – surprise – it turned out to be pretty awesome to have one of the holidays to ourselves.

Silence. Peace. Our own schedule on our own terms. Glorious.

And this year promises to be even more glorious, because work has an enforced shut-down over the holidays. Between Christmas and New Years, nobody is allowed to work (oh, except for the people who keep the IT systems running and keep the money coming in – they never really get time off). So, not only will I have that time at home on my own schedule, left to my own devices, but I also won’t have to juggle work and “alternate” schedules with all the people who are taking two days off here, three days off there, and puttering around in between.

I’m really looking forward to that. For sure.

It will give me time to catch up on my reading. And my writing. Especially my blogging, since that’s really suffered in the face of all this work. I haven’t been around much at all, between being overworked, and then having to catch up with myself, getting pulled in a million different directions, and also helping my partner with a bunch of stuff she’s got going on. I honestly don’t know where the time goes. But the volume of work, as well as the intensity levels of Every . Single . Day . has all just been ridiculous.

Deadlines. Harumph. Please.

I’m not even sure why I care so deeply about all of it.  I mean, it’s not like The People In Charge really give a damn about me and my health. It’s not like anybody gives a damn, period, about the challenges I face. Over the weekend, I realized — for real — that the only presence in my life that is actually 100% on the same wavelength as me, is my body. I love my friends and family, but they have their own challenges, and my body is the only presence my life that is 100% attuned to me, that can literally read my  mind, and that can — and will — respond to me in ways that are all about me, every single time.

The thing with people — and I do love and care for the folks in my life — is that their lives are circumscribed by their own constellations of dynamics… which have very little to do with me. It’s like we are all steering our proverbial ships by very different stars in the sky. Sometimes we cross paths. Sometimes we head in the same direction. But really, we’re oriented in our own ways that could easily have nothing to do with each other.

I think about this a lot, as I age. We live in a time when everybody’s supposed to be so connected and social, but we’re less connected than ever. Sigh.

Oh, well. It’s time for my second breakfast. My schedule is a little thrown off by the time change, but I’m adjusting. At least I have an “extra” hour in the morning. And I absolutely love the long nights and cold weather. It’s so much better for me than summer, with all its light and heat.

So, that’s something to be grateful for.

Now, back to work. I’ve got a deadline looming.

I know it’s going to be difficult – what can I do about it?

holiday stress full page
So, I’m a little stressed, thinking about the holidays…

I’m a terrible complainer. That is, I tend to do it, but then I realize how terrible I sound (to myself), and I have to stop. Some people have no problem announcing their woes to the world, but for me, “if I name it, I own it”. If I can see I’ve got a problem, then it’s incumbent on me to do something about it.

Not everybody feels the same way, and that’s fine. everybody’s different. I just have a really hard time living with myself, when I’m moaning about every little thing.

And every now and then, I do.

So, this year, I’m keenly aware of the approaching holidays and how they have affected me in the past. I don’t want to have to go through it all again — and again — and again. Past years have been so traumatic, and mainly because I wasn’t aware of my issues, and I didn’t manage them properly.

This year is different. I mean, I knew that I was “different” and that certain things bothered me more than other people.

  • Crowds
  • Loud noises
  • Bright lights
  • Changes in diet
  • Changes in routine
  • Interacting with hyposensitive, sensory-seeking family members
  • Lots of people talking all at once
  • Stressful events like shopping in big-box stores
  • Having to choose just the right thing from a large array of stuff

So, basically, the holidays.

They bother me. And they bother a whole lot of other people on the Autism Spectrum.

So, I know this. It’s not news to me. And being even more keenly aware of it, since my formal assessment, this past July/August, it comes even more front-and-center.

And with it comes my responsibility.

I’m big into responsibility. I’m not sure why it’s so important to me. I seem to be surrounded by people who don’t give it a second thought and can’t be bothered with it (maybe because I’m more than willing to be responsible? probably…) But it’s really been the secret to my success throughout life. I have to own my own experience, and if I am aware of something I can manage, then it’s my job to mange it. Especially if not managing it will make me and everyone around me miserable.

I don’t get a “pass” because I’m Autistic. I don’t get special dispensation and license to be an obnoxious asshole because I have difficulties figuring out social interactions and other people’s needs and responses. Since I know I have those challenges, it’s my responsibility to manage my situation so that I’m not an obnoxious asshole.

If I do otherwise, that makes me a sociopath. I’m not a sociopath. I’m not more important than everyone around me, and my personal expression isn’t a higher priority than the well-being of the whole. I’m a part of something larger than myself, and it’s on me to hold up my end of the bargain.

Because I can. Because I’m Autistic. I’m whip-smart in some ways and clueless in others, and that means I have to apply my whip-smarts where required, to keep from being a total effing liability to everyone around me.

Life is hard for everybody. We all have our challenges. Prioritizing my happiness over others’ well-being doesn’t help. At all.

So, that’s the deal with me. I have awareness about my situation, and I have tools to deal with it all. At the very, very least, I have the ability to write down WTF is up with me and sort through it. I have a pretty good sense of where I want to go in life and what outcomes I want from different situations, and if it’s not working out, then I’ll use my super Spidey-sense to ascertain what can be done… and how to do it. And I can certainly follow up afterwards to see what worked, what didn’t, and so forth.

So, enough advance drama. Anxiety doesn’t help me one bit. If anything, it makes it harder for me to function. All across the board. I need to keep focused on what is real, what is in front of me, what is genuinely problematic.

Life is challenging enough, dealing with real situations… why make it even worse by coming up with something new and novel to hassle over… when it might not even happen?

Okay, enough thinking. Time to get on with my day and make the most of my day off. And get prepping for what’s to come.

It’s that time of the year again(!)

Run away! Run away!
Run away! Run away!

Ah, the holidays… I’ve been blissfully ignoring their impending appearance. But guess what? It’s nearly November. And that means, I have about a month to prepare for Thanksgiving. And then Christmas. And then the New Year.

But suddenly, I am keenly aware of the challenges before me.

Run away! Run away!!!!

Last year, my partner and I planned to go see our families at Thanksgiving.

Then the election happened. And all hell broke loose in the family. Of course, it was a very demure, well-behaved hell, but it was hell, nonetheless. The winners gloated and cried “Huzzah! The world is ours for the taking!” The losers went into existential panic. My partner got really sick with a respiratory infection. And we stayed home. Didn’t see anyone. Of course, we had some illnesses and a death and some happier rites of passage later on in the year, so we did get to see everyone, after all. Just not last Thanksgiving.

We’re going to give it another shot this year.

Yes, indeedy-do.

Run away! Run away!!!!

I love my family. I really do. But christalmighty, they are a lot of work. And just thinking about doing the whole trip down to two different states, each of them a day’s drive from the the other, and dealing with all the sides of the family… it’s just a lot.

And that’s not even all of what’s to come, this holiday season.

There’s the shopping. The holiday foods that wreak havoc on my system. The parties. The peopling. The lights — oh, the lights — and all that music. Ugh. All the promotions and sales and BUY-BUY-BUY!!! pressure that’s non-stop, starting, oh, about next week when Halloween is over.

And I think about the Auptima Press Holiday Survival Stress Gauge – the tool I built last year to help folks like me deal with holiday stress. You can fill out the different areas and see where things are dicey for you. And then you can plan your strategies for dealing with it all.

I’m going to use that tool this year, for help and support. I’m sorta kinda on my own, here, and I need whatever help I can get. My partner hasn’t been doing very well, and I’m becoming more and more of a caretaker for her. It’s no fun, watching the love of your life, wither in front of you. It’s no fun at all. So, having an extra tool on hand that gets me out of my head (so to speak) and lets me get some emotional distance from the situation is helpful.

Unfortunately, I can’t run away from the holidays, this year. Much as I’d like to, I just can’t. I’ve got to face it all head-on, and just get on with it. Knowing what I know about myself, it’s actually feeling a bit more manageable this year, than in other years, and pro-actively managing my Autism is a big part of that.

Speaking of being pro-active, I think I’ll get some sleep.

I’ll need it.

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

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.

Getting left behind… Now what?

skyscraper ground view upEvery week, since 2008, I’ve been seeing a counselor in the same building about an hour’s drive from my home. I’ve worked with two different counselors on a variety of everyday issues — most of them logistical, a few of them emotional. They’ve helped me through a lot of difficulties, helping me to find my way through the maze that is my ultra-autistic life, and make positive changes that have really made a difference for me and my partner.

I worked with one for about 8 years. And for the past year, after the first one moved away, I worked with another, who was a colleague of the first. Neither of them ever acknowledged or addressed the important role that autism plays in my life, but I worked around that. I managed to extract from them more than enough help with my issues, so it almost didn’t matter that they didn’t “get the whole autism thing”. The important thing was that they were there.

Now that’s changing. It turns out that this current counselor is changing her business model and will no longer be working with certain patients. I’m one of those patients, and unless I’m willing to fork out the equivalent of two days’ pay for a one-hour session (not worth it to me, in all honesty), I’m on my own.

Okay, fine. So, I’m on my own.

The thing that’s upsetting is not that she’s no longer accessible. Some days, I can take her help or leave it, to be honest. It sounds harsh, but I’m much more upset about the schedule change. I count on Monday afternoon being my me-time, when I focus on my issues and figure out ways to handle things with another person whose job it is to help me. Whether or not we discuss Aspergers, is moot. The main thing is that I can talk things through and get some honest feedback from a trained professional.

And that I keep my schedule going the same as usual.

… pause to reflect …

Actually, now that I think of it, this change is probably for the best. See, I burn up so much energy on Monday afternoons and evenings, getting to her office, that it kind of sets me back for the rest of the week. First, I have to leave work early (which bothers me), then I have to drive about an hour. Then I talk to her for an hour. Then I get back in my car and drive through Boston rush hour traffic to get home, about 2 hours later. It gives me a chance to stop and buy a good piece of fish (Monday is “fish night” in our house), and I don’t get home too terribly late. But by the time I’ve “landed”, I’ve been driving about 3 hours total through Boston traffic. And that’s a drain.

The worst thing about it is that it wrecks my chances of doing anything else all week. There are different things I’d like to do during the evenings on other days, but I generally don’t have the time or energy left for them, because of the Monday demands. Don’t get me wrong – I have benefited from all those sessions (more before, than recently). They stabilize me and help me structure my life. But it comes at a price. Everything comes at a price.

Now I have to fill that weekly slot with something.

So,  I shall.

It’s actually not going to be hard. There are lots of things I would like to do, and now I’ll be able to do them. Not ALL of them, mind you. But now I’ll be able to pick and choose. And I’ll actually be able to get more involved in the different autistic support and social groups that I’ve been kept from, because I can’t drive into the city more than once a week, if I want to stay balanced and steady.

As much as this opens things up for me, I’m still unsettled by the change. I’m feeling left behind. Discarded. It’s not accurate, I know, but that’s how it feels. I’ll adjust. I always do. I just don’t want to go backwards. I need to keep moving forward.

And so I shall.

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.