Despite my attempts to be a no-frills, drama-free queen, what some see is not always what they get. In my adult life, I’ve learned not to make assumptions, because everyone has a story, if one takes the time to scratch beneath the surface. Here’s a chapter from mine…
My partner goes into the grocery store for us and does the shopping, while I hang out in the truck and wait for him.
This doesn’t mean that I’m lazy. It means we’re lucky that I had enough spoons to even venture to the grocery store. (I’m the sole driver for both of us.)
My partner does the cooking for both of us. That doesn’t mean that I’m lazy, either. Actually, we have mutually half-jokingly “banished” me from the kitchen; I always knock things over or run into things. Probably not a good idea to let me near a stove, knives, a cheese grater, or other cooking tools or high temperatures.
My partner conducts all first-time meetings with clientele. This doesn’t mean that I’m a persnickety slave-driver.
Frankly, I’m just glad I got half a night’s sleep; I would not have if I would’ve had to meet with them myself the next day; the anxiety would’ve been too overwhelming.
My partner is the one who does the vacuuming and cleaning of the kitty litter box.
That doesn’t mean that I’m an unhelpful slug. It means that I have to put down what I’m doing, pull away from my activity, and leave the apartment for a while, so that I don’t suffer an allergy flare-up and a good old fashioned Aspie/autistic sensory assault by the noise and scents involved.
My partner makes all of our phone calls, too. Any time there’s an apartment repair to be done, an appointment to be made, a colleague to be reached out to, a license to renew, a class to schedule, a flight to book, or a clientele member to confront, he’s the one in the hot-seat.
That doesn’t mean I’m a baby or a wuss. It doesn’t mean I’m a scaredy-cat. It means that I’m trying to avoid making a complete fool of myself by not having to stammer my way through a forced and awkward conversation, the rules of which I’ve never seemed to have been able to grasp.
I’m perfectly content to spend most of my off-time at home. If I don’t have anywhere that I have to go, then my truck tends to remain in its parking spot all weekend.
This doesn’t mean that I’m antisocial or that I hate people. In reality, I’m just exhausted and I need to gather more spoons, and the only way I can do that is to rest and recharge…at home.
I have an assistant. She is very protective and assertive. She’s been trained well on how to handle people who want to see me. She has been instructed in no uncertain terms that nobody besides a government official in uniform ever gets to see me without scheduling an appointment; this goes for anyone, including (and especially) colleagues, salespeople, and clientele.
That doesn’t mean I’m cold, uncaring, and inaccessible. It doesn’t mean that I hide behind a wall, or that I’m sketchy or shady or dishonest, or that I’m avoiding people.
It’s just that I’m socially awkward and I don’t switch tasks well. It means that my nervous system simply can’t tolerate abrupt changes to my regular routine or my previously-laid plans. Since I don’t deal in a line of work that requires me to deal with urgent situations, this is perfectly acceptable, contrary to the belief (and mild complaints) of some.
It also means that I’m lucky to be able to work at all, since my social awkwardness hasn’t (yet?) become too paralyzing for me to do so. To survive, I plan my day carefully, and I don’t stray from that plan, lest I lose my focus or momentum, or forget what I was supposed to do that day, or become too caught up in the torrents of stress. It means that despite all of my sincerest attempts to fly in the face of my neurological hard-wiring and emulate the enigma that is neurotypicality, it’s still not enough; I fall flat and ring hollow. My insecurity gets mistaken for weakness. My peculiar insistence on scheduling events in advance simply means I’m “wise” and humble enough to perceive and accept that.
I’m straightforward, and I tell it like it is, much to the chagrin of many people throughout my life.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m blunt or rude. Or brusque. Or abrupt. (Pick one; they’ve all been used at one point or another.) I simply prefer to say something directly, without sugar coating it or bullshitting anyone. I’m trying to do everyone involved a favor by not beating around bushes or giving false impressions. I’m trying not to create facades that will bite either of us in the arse later.
At times, I have inadvertently lost friends and alienated some family members. On multiple occasions, I have responded to someone’s innocent comment or well-intended suggestion with an excessively strong and forceful army tank of both resistance and aggression.
The truth is that I’m not trying to be mean or overbearing. It’s just that sometimes a neurological knee-jerk sometimes escapes without filter, without having been checked and softened at the exit door before leaving my lips and facial muscles.
So…what else does all of this mean? It means that I have to expend an incredible and disproportionate amount of energy doing “normal”, “everyday” things that other people seem to do with a fraction of the effort. It means that people pass judgment entirely too rashly, without being remotely aware of backstories, and without bothering to find out.
It also means that I’m incredibly lucky to have someone like my partner, someone who has done nothing but step up in support and accommodation since I realized that I’m legitimately of a different neurotype, one not compatible with the world around me without a serious energy investment. Someone who never leaves my side. Someone who has gone through a matching learning curve, without complaint.
It also means that I’m terrified of the probably-eventually-approaching day when I might suddenly (or gradually) lose him before my own earth-journey is over. It means that if that should ever happen, I’d be left in the cold once again to face the world alone, awkwardly taking over the reigns that he graciously held, clunking my way through life on my own, and enduring all of the accompanying misconceptions that will likely accumulate. This, in addition to the profound, debilitating grief that comes as a package deal when losing one’s life partner. It means that at present, I walk on eggshells every day of my life.
It means that my life and the house of cards I have so meticulously constructed is extremely fragile. One false move, wrong decision, misstep, mishap, or unforeseen catastrophe could (and probably would) dramatically alter the course of my life in many directions, all of which frighten me.
It means, however, that for the time being, I’m extremely grateful. It means that I’m not alone, and between the two of us, we can create the benign illusion that I am a “normal” adult and we have a “normal” life (whatever that is). This lone wolf has a companion. Our partnership and its dynamics might look baffling to some, and perhaps even parasitic on my end. But even if he or I may not always be 100% content with the way things have to be, it works for us. We’ve found our way. I’ve explained my needs and my perspective to him, and I’ve offered up my own ways to reciprocate and contribute, and as far as anyone else is concerned, it’s not their problem, and it’s none of their business, even if some try to make it so.
The truth is, I do contribute in return, in my own way(s), to our union. I contribute a significant portion of our income. I do the driving for both of us. I come up with the majority of the ideas. I’m the imaginative engine behind the business (three cheers for daydreaming!). I help him study for his schooling, and as I passively absorb the information, I apply my Different Way of Thinking to his world, helping him combine and morph his knowledge in fresh ways that he might otherwise never have thought of. I help him broaden his horizons by reading to him, sharing my own thoughts and perspective on “life, the universe, and everything after” enriching his life in subtle ways.
We come together in a complementary yin-yang, holding each other invisibly on our shoulders to reach the stars and buffer the world as needed. And in so doing, we do occasionally/eventually reach the stars. 🙂
(Image Credit: Android Jones)