As I amble about through life, I have two settings: “all” or “nothing”. This is probably one of several real-life examples of my occasional “black and white thinking”. I’m sort of binary that way: the switch is on, or it’s off, and there’s little in between.
This phenomenon becomes especially evident when I engage myself in a task (or train of thought–take your pick). And the more deeply I engage, the more concentration and focus the task or thought train requires.
I have noticed, over the years, that I have the (embarrassing) tendency to become disproportionately irritated if my focus or concentration is interrupted.
I try to hide it. I try to pretend that everything’s OK. I know that my facial expression betrays me, though. Because truthfully, it’s not OK. I now have cognitive thought-pieces to pick up. They’re spilled all over, chaotic, without any semblance of order.
And we all know how much I like (read: need) order. I’m a sequencer, a systemizer, after all.
I try not to come across to the person as though I’m angry at them; it’s their fault, but it’s not their fault; they didn’t know. They weren’t aware of how deep a trance I was in or the extent of the plume of details being held in delicate and fragile balance in my head. Nor were they aware of hi how delicate and fragile that balance was. My brain’s contents sometimes resemble a circus act, where a bunch of objects are piled up on top of an elephant standing on a ball. One wrong move, one shift ever so slightly in one direction, and poof!–the whole thing comes tumbling down. The exalted order is gone, evaporated instantly.
Being interrupted from what I was doing or sorting out in my head is a lot like that image.
But that person can’t help me pick everything back up and rebalance it in place again; only I can do that. I resent having to do it again; I had everything stacked so carefully and precisely as it was. And now, because of an unforeseen interruption that I hadn’t planned on and never asked for, I have to waste precious time doing it again, rebuilding my thought-cloud, re-railing my thought-train from its derailment disaster.
The interrupter gets what they needed, but I’m left holding the fragmented remnants of my previous task. And it’s not easy to re-immerse myself in such depths.
As I said, the expression on my face betrays me. Try as I might to blur my frustration and disgust, I fail–epically–to do so. Practice does not make perfect in situations like this, either; it’s like a bad Groundhog Day scene, in which it repeats itself much the same way, every time. I can never seem to begin to tolerate it or deal with it or handle it more smoothly with subsequent instances.
I’m sure I’ve hurt some feelings. I’m sure I’ve offended some. I’m sure I’ve dampened morale. I’m sure I’ve soured or destabilized relationships.
It’s not something I’ve been able to help. I can’t seem to control it. I do stop short of flying into a rage or throwing a tantrum or something. But inside, I’m boiling, and I’m trying not to boil over, trying not to fly off the handle, trying to keep the emotions in the passenger seat where they belong, while logic and reason hang onto the steering wheel.
Still, the “Stare of Death”, as others have referred to it, pokes through the stoic exterior surface I try so hard to maintain. I guess I’m just not that good at that part.
I’m still human. I’m still learning. I’m not perfect. I’m glad I never claimed to be.
I pick up my pieces, eventually reassemble my Brain Circus Act, and move on. But the time this takes is time I can never get back, and time I should never have had to spend.
But I have to remind myself: others are human, too. They’re not perfect. They’re not psychic. They don’t always understand. It’s OK; neither do I. I’m still searching, still discovering, still building my life around my relatively recent revelations. I’m still adjusting, still accommodating, still learning to define my needs and still figuring out how to communicate those needs to others. Asperger’s is an alternative operating system, and I’m still writing new code, the right code, where the wrong code once stood.
It’s still a process, and I’m still processing.
But that doesn’t mean that interruptions irritate me any less. 😉
(Image Credit: Cyril Rolando)