I rocked a lot today. Back and forth, almost until I felt queasy (is that even possible?).
Because I’m a little worried. Okay, more than “a little”.
I’m peering ahead to a possible future. I can’t tell if it will be bright or not, but even if it is, it won’t come without immense effort.
I see tiny cracks in my “mask”, the mask I had worked so hard (and still do) to construct and harden perfectly into shape all these years. It has been my masterpiece, the ultimate “act”, with my life itself as the theater stage.
I’m finding that it’s taking more and more energy to keep up the act, to keep my mask on–and in place. I’m afraid that someday, it’s going to fall off completely.
When I look ahead, what do I see, specifically?
I’m not quite sure. Nothing is for sure; after all, there’s no history of anything until it happens. But my tendencies are what they are, what they’ve always been, and I know them well.
I think the cracks have already begun to appear. Gradually, subtly, largely behind the scenes, written off with a simple chuckle and a wave of the hand. “Just another one of Dr Silent Wave’s quirks.” It’s easy to write off (for) now.
But will it always be that way?
I’m betting not.
I’m already seeing a subtle, behind-the-scenes loss of tolerance. Tolerance for people who think they’re ready for my guidance–but aren’t, really. People who fool themselves (and me, in the process). People who don’t even know what they want, yet expect me to know, as if I’m psychic or something. People who ask the same questions over and over again, getting testy when they don’t like the (honest and truthful) answer. People who attempt to circumvent my well-laid and much-needed policies and procedures. I’m a (professionally in-the-closet) Aspie, dammit; just go with me, people to whom I’m referring; it’s for your own good–and my sanity. People who can’t accept that they don’t know as much as I do. That’s not to be egotistical; it’s just the honest truth. People who don’t understand that Google searches aren’t the same as advice from a human being who has taken formal training and knows the person seeking help.
And I do want to help. My strengths are also my weaknesses. I care too much, probably more than some of them do. “Telling it like it is” is an advantage when I’m working with people with chronic issues; they need to know the facts, and they deserve a guide who isn’t afraid to lay it all out for them. However, that same directness is a disadvantage when I don’t know any other way to express the information I have to give. Not everybody wants to hear it, and many aren’t used to such straight-up conversation.
Another point of contention for me are those who say things they don’t mean. Or they don’t mean what they say. Or they misinterpret what I said and make (incorrect) assumptions of their own. This leads to stress (a “frequent flyer” recurring theme in my life). Stress that’s getting tougher and tougher to handle. Stress that’s getting tougher and tougher to recover from. Stress that’s getting less and less necessary. “I shouldn’t have to put up with this shit.”
And I worry a little. (“A little”…can we say “understatement”?) I wonder if and when I won’t be able to keep up the charade anymore. Because although I’m a real, live, licensed practitioner, I do put on a charade, an act, as I walk down the hall to greet and retrieve the person. The act continues throughout the entire duration of the encounter. It doesn’t stop–I can’t afford to let it down–not ever–until I walk through my apartment door.
There’s guilt there–and shame, too. Those two concepts also seem to be recurring themes in my life. Just today, I had to have the conversation with my partner, with whom (luckily) I also work. He knows all about my Asperger’s, of course. Thank goodness I didn’t have to go through any disclosure awkwardness with him; he has known, ever since I told him. He’s been with me every step of the way.
But even that offers little solace when your superpower is revealing its other half of the equation: the disability part. (Is Asperger’s/autism my disability? For me, the answer is, yes and no. I go back and forth about this a lot. Sometimes it’s both at the same time.)
I had to give him the heads-up that it’s possible that at some point, I may have to delegate more of the face-to-face meetings to him. He can “people” (a verb) better than I can.
I know that he doesn’t want to hear that. I know he’s not entirely fond of this part of my neurotype. I can’t say that I blame him. I know it’s not going to be easy. I’m sure he’ll come to resent me at times. (Maybe a lot of the time.)
That only adds to the potpourri of stress, guilt, and shame that already plague me, swirling around in tornadic activity around my head. (Go me.)
But at some point, I fear that the mask will disintegrate into a pile of heaven-knows-what and all that will be left is my naked face, my true self, open and vulnerable, revealed to a (large) part of the world that isn’t ready to accept it yet. What happens when I can’t keep it plastered to my face anymore?
What happens when, suddenly one day, I say something too bluntly?
What happens when, one day, I’m too inflexible?
What happens if, one day, I burn out altogether, throw down my pen, and say “screw this; I’m tired”?
I don’t want to do that. I really don’t want to do that. But sometimes I feel this peculiar “countdown”, an inner stirring of intuition that says: plan your escape. Get those plans laid now, while you can.
Sometimes, life isn’t fair. Sometimes, I wonder, why me? What kind of past-life karma am I having to atone for? I must have really screwed up somewhere. Not to “have” Asperger’s/autism, of course–that’s not bad karma–but to have the “shy, insecure” type (I was surprised to learn that some Aspie/autistic people are supernaturally good at “letting it roll off” and not caring nearly as much about what other people think. I would love to be more like that. But alas…).
And then I (increasingly compassionately) lecture myself: that’s what the coaching is for, silly. That’s also why you’re plotting your escape, into other, less stressful ways to work in your field.
And I hear my mom’s voice inside my head: everything happens for a reason. And I remind myself: this isn’t any different. This “trying time” will serve its purpose, too.
So I give myself some tough love: put on your big-girl panties, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and just do it. You can still do that. Don’t just quit; you’re too smart and too strong for that. You’ve made it through tougher times than this; you can do this, too.
And I think, with a little help from my specialist and my partner, that I might could just make that happen.
But for now, the insecurity, stress, guilt, and shame continue to swirl. They probably will for a while.
And for now, mask stays on. I can’t afford to have it fall off, not yet.
(Does anybody have any duct tape?)