I might catch hell for this one. After all, the notions that many of us are extra-empathetic and that we care (often too much) are now undeniable. In short: we have spoken.
And that’s true for me as well…most of the time.
I confess that it’s not true 100% of the time. Sometimes I really don’t care. Not like I think I “should”. (I can hear Scott Morizot now: “don’t get stung by the ‘should-bee!” 🙂 )
I can’t make such a confession without at least a little qualification with a few examples.
One example occurs on Facebook. People (understandably) post pictures and status updates of their kids. I may not have kids of my own, but I do “get” it: the people’s kids are a major element in their lives, of utmost importance. The significance is not lost on me. Although I don’t mind seeing it from time to time, I get bored when it crosses a certain personal threshold. There are certain phenomena that I can’t empathize with as easily; since I wasn’t born with the “usual” motherly instinct, parenting/raising children is one of them. There is, unfortunately, a point at which I cease to care.
Another example involves sports. Many of my friends and family are into sports; I’m not. Some of those people know a lot of background information about various players and whatnot. I don’t care about that, either.
Other people I know, usually when scrolling through their feeds on social media, will ask me if I knew or remember so-and-so. Usually, I don’t; sometimes I do, but only in passing, and the memories are vague. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, and I’m no longer involved in that community or those people. Simply asking me if I keep tabs on them isn’t the issue; it’s when I say I’d never heard of them and the person proceeds to give me their life story anyway.
I actually get a little annoyed by that last example. It clutters and clogs up my brain with extraneous information that is useless to me. Even before the person is finished telling me about the stranger, I’ve long forgotten their name. I’m probably still trying to process important information from earlier in my day, trying not to forget to do something else on my to-do list, and those thoughts are WAY more important, much more pressing. I don’t need the extra clutter. In fact, I find it incredibly overwhelming. I’m not concerned about the daily lives of strangers. I can’t possibly keep tabs on or take an interest in everyone who has ever lived in every place I’ve ever lived. I have too much going on in my own life, I’m juggling too much high-end information as it is, and I don’t need to have to keep track of anything else.
A neurotypical person might ask, well then just ignore or forget it; why is this such a problem?
It’s a problem because my Aspie/autistic brain works differently than that of neurotypical people. It doesn’t work the same in that I can simply filter out information that’s not personally relevant or important to me. My brain scans the world, picking up on tiny nuances. Cataloging them, sorting them, imagining them from several different perspectives. Ceaselessly aggregating information, experiencing the world in a 3D matrix. My brain initially treats all of the incoming information the same, assigning it equal priority; to deem it less important and forget about it takes more time and mental energy, either of which might be in critically short supply. If my brain is asked to maintain informational tidbits about multiple topics at once, then it has to multitask, an activity that I’m particularly poor at doing.
And then there’s drama. I understand social justice. I even understand social justice warring. I get it; I really do. Some viewpoints and concepts out there are just too ugly and unspeakable to let them go on about their business without at least logging a voice of opposition. Even if the perpetrators never change their ways, you’ve spoken and your conscience is clearer and you can at least go to bed satisfied that you took a stand and let someone know. That’s not the kind of drama I’m talking about.
The kind of drama I’m referring to is that which is an all-consuming full-time job that twists and tangles people from the inside, eventually poking through the surface and growing thorns on the outside. I’ve seen this both offline and online. People who pick apart every little thing someone else says, perceiving it through a slanted lens and getting all bent out of shape about it, well, that just seems to me to be a waste of time and energy. This applies doubly when those people actively seek out opponents to trash.
Or the type of drama that results when rumors get spread (again, online or offline). Some of my extended family members are notorious for doing this. This probably explains why I haven’t been on Facebook much (except for the Facebook page that’s associated with this blog, that is). This also explains why I haven’t added those people to my “close friends” list. And it’s certainly the reason I don’t check my Facebook or Twitter newsfeeds. I start with notifications instead, then gravitate toward various people, checking in on several each day. If they’re among the first ones I think of when brainstorming off the top of my head, then this means they’re that important.
I also have zero time, patience, or energy for the type of drama that results after a pot-stirring attempt. Who does? Nobody I’d want to associate with. The people I care about most and click best with are those who don’t make/take that time or energy for frivolous crap like that.
I’m sympathetic to social justice and there are topics on which I launch the occasional crusade or tirade. Justice served, at least as much as I could muster up.
But then it’s done. And there are plenty more aspects of the world that perhaps I should care about but don’t. I have too much else going on in my life, too many other obligations consuming my time. For every witch-hunt-and-peck I could conduct to check for views contrary to my own, another blog post doesn’t get written. Another friend doesn’t get responded to. Another night goes by without me getting to call my mother.
Sometimes the rage against the machine isn’t worth that much energy. It certainly doesn’t trump petting my cats, chatting with my partner, seeking information, or coloring in my adult coloring books. It doesn’t beat writing a song or poem. It doesn’t hold a candle to contemplating the universe. Sometimes I just don’t feel the urge to stir the pot. Not when I have a purring cat on my lap or a friend at my side or an awesome digital art collection calling my name, waiting to be downloaded onto my hard drive or a Google search idea is burning a hole in my brain. Sorry.
I’m only one person and, like any usual person, you can tell what’s important to me by what I spend my time doing. That’s what matters.
Sometimes I just don’t care about the rest. I don’t care who did what in high school, who blocked whom on social media, who has how many kids now, who lives where, or who voted for whom. It works the same way with politics. I don’t support anybody enough to rally behind them in support, nor does it matter who said what, because talk is cheap and action is everything and when it comes to action, they’re going to do what they’re going to do anyway, whether we like it or not. I may write a letter, send an email, or make a phone call to a legislator to insert my voice in a particular conversation, but only if the topic is especially important. When it comes to picking battles, I’m choosy. I have to be.
I try to filter out extraneous fluff and keep calm and placid as much as possible because life is too short. Time goes by pretty fast, and there’s work and play to be done. Maybe that earns me the Apathetic Aspie award and on its surface, perhaps it entertains and meets every stereotype the neurotypicals (who hold these stereotypes) hold. Maybe I’m playing right into their net, scoring points for the other team. That’s not what I mean to do, but some people are going to misinterpret my words inaccurately and make their own assumptions no matter what I do.
I also try to prune the unnecessary information and events from my head because they cloud my thoughts and obscure my imagination. They’re inconsiderate intruders who need not be given the key to the inside of my brain or my life. They’re scrap metal, and nothing more. If they’re not relevant to an immediate element or an important future one, then I can safely put it on the chopping block. And I have to keep telling myself that I don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed about doing that, either. Not every detail must be stored in an accessible mental compartment; sometimes it really is OK to detach and let go. I don’t need the clutter. I need simplicity; it’s integral to my sanity, my self-preservation.
It happens. It’s OK; the sky will stay up there where it belongs. The Apocalypse is not upon us.
Sometimes it’s OK not to care about everything. Sometimes you just need to focus on feeding your Inner Spirit. 🙂