I met up with my parents today. It would just be the three of us; my partner was off doing other things, in an instance of some much-needed Apart Time. It’s not that we were growing tired of each other; it was a mere matter of preventive action. Doing this periodically keeps our relationship fresh and free of contention.
Under normal circumstances (that is to say, “my ‘normal'”), I would spend the weekend inside the comfortable boundaries of our apartment. But when my parents invited me on an outing with them, I realized that I had been craving their company, and so I readily agreed.
We walked around a local Market Days show, a once-a-month event just outside of town, where local and regional craftspeople and artisans gather to display their creations for sale. It’s a lovely and unique experience, nestled in a grove of trees.
We had a really good time. I’m comfortable with my parents, including (at long last), my dad. We’re a trio of introverts, who notice detail and appreciate artistic talent.
Although not a separate municipality in its own right, it’s a minor tourist destination, a magical place that is the stuff of legends, which includes a tavern and music hall, where many a music star got their start before breaking it big and bad. 🙂
As such, there was plenty of traffic, which I found surprisingly bearable. Except for the police officer directing traffic with an exceptionally loud whistle that made me wince every time they blew it.
Of course, it didn’t help that I had consumed a large chocolate latte within the past hour or so, ramping up my already-susceptible nervous system. I learned that if I went ahead and stimmed, I didn’t wince as much at the whistle. I also didn’t tear up in a moment of PTSD flashback when an ambulance and fire engine pulled up on the nearby scene of medical need.
Stimming is good. Stimming is healthy. Stimming is wise.
Consuming copious amounts of caffeine, especially when one hardly ever does, however, is not. (But it was a really good latte–the type with whipped cream on top.)
I think my parents pretended not to notice. That was pretty gracious of them, says my Comparatively-More-Judgmental Self, while my Newly-Acquired-Self-Compassionate Self shoots back, why is that gracious? It’s the right response. Would it be “gracious” to “allow” a nearsighted person to wear their glasses in order to avoid stepping off an unexpected curb in such a way that would cause them injury? Or would it just be a given, their “permission” to wear their glasses unasked and unquestioned?
And of course, the reality that my extra-sensitive and overactive nervous system needs adaptive support, too, and the right to this support, by way of stimming, should be just as unquestioned.
Strangely enough, after more than five hours out among the outdoor crowds and freeway traffic, I’m not spent. I’m not exhausted. I realize that it’s probably the caffeine talking, having given me the resilience and energy to spare.
It’s interesting to me how the very thing that amplified my disability aspects of Asperger’s/autism also proved to be somewhat of an antidote for them.
Life is chock full of it, and then I realize that I don’t stop to contemplate on elements like those nearly often enough. I should do that more regularly. I should pay more attention, because that’s where life’s gems hide, just below the surface, waiting to be teased out with the slightest effort. I should give more of that effort more frequently.
So many “should”s. But that’s OK. The presence of “should”s reminds me that I’m human and far from perfect. It reconnects me with the rest of humanity, which has “should”s of its own. Having “should”s is one tie that binds, shared universally. Show me one person without “should”s and I’ll show you someone without a firm grasp of reality.
Reality is OK. Reality can be simultaneously miraculous and cruel. Reality has that right; after all, it makes the rules. It can set itself to be neither all good or all bad. There’s really little such thing as good or bad, but thinking makes it so. The values of good and bad come from our own judgment, colored by our own experience and filtered through our own kaleidoscopes of perception.
Sometimes, my kaleidoscope is caffeinated. Sometimes it’s overtaxed. Sometimes it’s contemplative.
All of this is OK. I’m only concerned with What Is. And What Is, for me, will probably be different from What Is for others. And that’s OK, too.
I’m back now, and so is my partner, but our Apart Time is not yet finished. I need my Alone Time, too. Time during which I can sit and look up through the trees and ponder what just happened. Ponder the events of the day. Congratulate myself on making it through another crowd, another venture outside my apartment, another traffic jam, another get-together, another step outside my normal routine.
The DSM-V, in its Asperger’s/autism spectrum diagnostic criteria, will hint at the idea that adhering to a routine is not “normal”, that somehow, it’s a sign of something “wrong”, something to “be on the lookout for”, something that might raise a “red flag”.
But what is “normal”, anyway? It appears to be the collectively shared experience among the majority. But does that mean that there’s no room for deviation? Reality is, in the end, after all, what we can sense and experience. But that definition is followed by fine print that is assumed but never spoken.
The full definition of reality, including the fine print, is that which we can sense and experience through our individual filters. It’s only when these filters converge and a consensus can be reached, that a collective “normal” can be defined.
But “normal” is defined with too narrow a perspective. It assumes that one neurotype’s perspective is the only correct one, the only valid one, the only one not to be included in the DSM.
I beg to differ, of course, as usual. Anyone of “sound mind” (whatever that means) should have the right to have input into shaping the definition of “normal”. Maybe a better term is “acceptable”, because just because a perspective may not be widely shared among the general population, doesn’t mean it’s invalid and should be dismissed or ignored. That’s one of the problems with statistics-based science: the outliers are disregarded, discarded, factored out of the equation, and never genuinely considered. They’re forgotten.
As an Aspergian/autistic person, I’m part of a group that comprises one to two percent of the general population. That makes me an outlier. But just because I’m uncommon, does that make me any less human, any less worthy of consideration? Am I excluded because I don’t fall into the magical 95% of the population that gets paid attention to? Do any of us deserve this? (No. We should all be considered. Why is that magical statistical cutoff/target 95%? Why not 96? Why not 109%? Who determined that? Who says that statistical outliers aren’t significant? Since it was humans who set that bar, and humans are imperfect, could that 95% consideration and the automatic exclusion of the other 5% be, in itself, erroneous? What if the scientific community has been making an egregious error all this time? Since that philosophy has shaped and colored all scientific thought, could they have actually made a whole series of widespread egregious errors?)
So, is it OK if my nervous system was a little frayed after today? Or, because this only happens to a few percent of the population, does that make it wrong or invalid?
Is it OK if I pat myself on the back for doing things that come more easily to the other 98-99% of the world? Or would I be perpetuating my own case of inspiration porn?
Either way, I’m not trying to inspire. Why am I any more deserving of validity and humanity just because I said “no” to my usual routine and “yes” to my parents and a stimulating latte (followed by stimming to calm myself back down slightly)? That shouldn’t raise any bar for anyone, not even myself, because there will be days where I choose the other option, and that would/will be an equally valid choice.
Damn, I might be a statistical outlier, but boy, I ramble a lot when I’m a caffeinated one! 🙂