I’m probably starting to sound redundant and boring. Or at least obsessed with the Hitchhiker concept. Or something.
But it’s such a great concept, isn’t it? I mean, we’re all just sort of hitchhikers here on this interesting playground called Earth and stuff. At least, that’s the way I see it. And I also see the Asperger’s/autism spectrum as not so much a spectrum, per se. That’s so linear, and linear is so passé. The 21st-century can ring in a new era of thinking in 3D, right? (I heard that most people think in 2D; is that even correct? I remember being surprised to hear that, as I had never thought that way; my thought-trains were more like thought-clouds, nebulous and all.)
My apologies to those who find sentence fragments annoying; I’m just feeling/thinking very fragmented today. Must be the anti-histamine medications I had to take earlier. They make my inhibitions lift and my thoughts flow more naturally, which, well, cue the fragments as an inevitable artifact, I guess. 🙂
OK, that’s my version of small talk. Sure beats Kim Kardashian and sports scores, right? Oh and politics, too. Don’t forget those. Meh, my small talk is better. But then, I’m slightly biased.
Now, getting down to business…
Looking back over my 14-month-old notes file, where I store those blog post inspirations that strike at random and save them for more opportune times, I realized that I still had/have more to say about my Asperger’s/autism in the form of handbook-like advice for any neurotypical person patient enough to hang out with me. 😉
One more disclaimer: I’m alternating between sneezing and eyerolling (the latter at the fact that I’m still freaking sneezing), so please forgive me–if this post sounds a little distracted at times, it’s because, well, I am (grin).
Please please be specific when talking with me. I don’t clue in well on what might be lurking in between the lines. I won’t pick up on subtle hints. In stereotypical Aspie fashion, I tend to interpret what is being said in a literal way. I’ll hang on every word, processing it as carefully as possible, which leaves little Brain RAM left over for reading between the lines, so to speak. When people are vague, it tends to drive me up a tree, especially if the vibe turns into one of admonishment when I fail to pick up on the unspoken meaning.
It doesn’t mean that I’m dense or less intelligent; I wouldn’t even say that I process information more slowly. I would describe it as a thorough processing.
It also doesn’t mean that I’m “playing dumb”, playing coy, or being a smart-arse. It just means that I actually thought you meant what you actually said (wink).
(Note: I’m not feeling snarky or rabid tonight; all sarcasm is meant in light, good humor.)
Likewise, it’s probably not the best idea to read much (if anything) into what I’m saying. I’ll answer your questions and share my info in a very direct, straightforward fashion. Sometimes I can border on the blunt side, but I don’t mean any harm or hurt feelings. In fact, I often agonize over the conversation for days if I think there’s the remotest possibility that I have. I’m likely to make mountains out of molehills, hashing and rehashing my words, usually long after you’ve probably forgotten about them.
This means, too, that if I answer a question (for example, about weekend plans) with “I’m flexible; it doesn’t matter”, then I probably mean exactly that. I don’t play the mind-game of saying I don’t care what we do, while secretly harboring a preference and hoping you’ll say that you don’t care too, so that I can ultimately get my way anyway. Who has the time or energy for stuff like that? Not me, that’s for sure. I’m always thinking, to the tune of a mile a minute or more. Don’t worry, though; if I do have an interest or preference, I’ll come out and say it. In the (great, wide) open.
One of my most irksome experiences is that of being interrupted. I have some loved ones (whom I love absolutely dearly) who have this habit of interrupting me; I think that actually fueled my now-inherent tendency to talk super-fast. I’m probably the fastest-talking Texan you’ve ever met. Interrupting me throws me for a loop. It makes me lose my place on my thought-train; hell, it makes the train derail entirely. The other reason I’m probably talking fast was because I’m thinking even faster, and I’m just trying to keep up, even though I know I’m losing miscellaneous thoughts along the way of the normal conversation.
In a moment of rare hypocrisy, however, I’ll probably accidentally interrupt you while you’re talking, and for that, I apologize and beg your patience. Sometimes I lack inhibition, or something you’ll say will get me all excited, and I can’t help but chime in. It’s not a narcissistic streak, I promise. It’s not all about turning the attention back on me. That’s not it at all. It’s more of a desire to share with you, to meet you where you are and agree with what you said and subconsciously, show you how like-you and likable I am, probably in an intuitive effort to avoid the rejection that has plagued and pained me so.
I may only look you in the eye intermittently (and honestly, I could go through the entire conversation without once looking at your eyes and I wouldn’t miss it), but please don’t take that to mean that I’m ignoring you, disrespecting you, disengaged, unengaged, or uninterested in you or what you have to say. I promise that’s not the case at all, either. In fact, I might be looking away in order to not become distracted, so that I can focus more on what you’re saying. Strange, huh? (Grin.)
My contact with people can run in streaks. I might go days, weeks, months, or even years without making contact with someone. I might take a long (read: very long) time to respond to phone calls, texts, emails, or social media direct/private messages. Or even public comments, either on the blogs or blog-based social media pages.
I promise I’m not giving anyone the cold shoulder, nor am I dismissing them or shrugging them off. I realize that it may look that way, especially given the incredible length of time that can transpire between replies. I’m working on this. I juggle a lot of demands in a variety of roles, and I’ll refrain from overwhelming people with my entire to-do list, but suffice it to say that I’m not always in the correct Brain-Mode to write a thoughtful and coherent response. In short, I want to do your message justice, but don’t always have a big enough chunk of consecutive time. I either do something all the way, or I save it for another day. Please try not to feel slighted, because that’s not my intent.
Just because I might take too long to return or reply to your message, or just because I might go for long periods of time without making contact, that doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about you every day (chances are, I have thought about you on any/every given day; if I’m aware of your very existence, chances are that you’ve crossed my mind. I’m always thinking, after all).
When it comes to making plans, I plan ahead fairly far in advance, and I usually can’t handle sudden, last-minute changes to those plans. Of course, if you have to break off the scheduled get-together, I might get overwhelmed and thus, irritable. But it’s not you personally that I’m irritated with or overwhelmed by; it’s the situation of the sudden change itself. The fact that something changed before I was ready to accommodate it in my brain. I might seem irritated at the person, but I’m actually not at all.
When faced with abrupt/unexpected changes, my brain freezes, which is pretty much the last thing that I want to have happen. It gets “paralyzed” for a moment, causing more frustration. Taken together, this can cross the signals of my outgoing communication, causing the other person to think that I’m mad at them.
If I ever do this to you, just remember: it’s directed at the situation, not the person.
(The only exception might be if this person makes it a habit of doing such a thing and it begins to get a little old and annoying. I don’t hold chronic unreliability in high esteem. (But then again, if I know this situation is an ongoing possibility because it’s happened a few times already, I will probably have adjusted my brain to remember that any plans made with that person are probably less-than-100%-solid, and my brain will accommodate the possibility that the plans might not materialize.))
That being said (here’s another hypocritical moment), I might need to bail on scheduled plans on semi-short notice. This isn’t an instance of being flaky or hot-cold. It’s not a ploy or a head-game. It’s definitely not that I don’t want to hang out with the person; I might have really looked forward to getting together, and I might feel very down on myself for having to break off the plans.
What’s probably actually happening is that I’ve run out of energy, and that energy depletion could be quite sudden–I might not even see it coming. One minute, I might have no clue that I’m running low, and I may think I’m still at full capacity; the next minute, my brain shuts off and I realize just how exhausted I am. It’s like my brain–and its strength–shut down completely, not to be revived again until I’ve had a chance to recharge.
I often do need alone time; I’ve written a lot about this before, so I won’t repeat myself here. 🙂 I can’t stress enough that it has absolutely nothing to do with excluding, rejecting, avoiding, disregarding, ignoring, or shutting out my loved ones. It’s not that I’m trying to alienate them, hide anything from them, lead any kind of double-life, or plotting to leave them. I’m also not mad at them, tired of them, or bored with them. It’s not that I don’t like, love, or care deeply for them, and it’s not even that I don’t want to spend time with them.
It’s not that I’m depressed or agoraphobic (afraid to leave the house), either. Nor am I taking on a hot-cold borderline personality situation, nor am I narcissistic (completely centered on and infatuated with myself).
The kernel of the Alone Time phenomenon has two components. The first is that interacting with different people takes varying amounts of energy (depending on the person and my levels of relative comfort and familiarity with them) – i.e., how fast my battery life is spent around each person or combo of people. The other is that being alone is the only approach that will recharge those batteries, and although I care deeply for my loved ones and I immensely enjoy spending time with them, I am also quite comfortable and content being alone. I don’t become anxious and I usually don’t get lonely, bored, or restless when I’m alone. My Alone Time recharges, resets, and rebalances me, like watering a withered flower.
I can explain this to people who are extroverted. Extroverts, you know how you get restless or maybe even depressed, fatigued, pensive, or irritable if you’re not in the company and around the energy of other people? You know how being around other people resets you, and after a night out with the guys/girls, you leave the meeting place heaving sighs of relief and contentment, feeling like “finally! Now all is right with the world. That felt awesome”?
It’s not like you hate yourself or hold any ill will against yourself–hell, you might even like yourself just fine; you just can’t handle being cooped up alone for too long. You don’t take it personally or as a sign of self-rejection when you want to hang out with other people; it’s just that you crave their company. If you work in an office or are at home alone all day, you might sometimes hang on by a thread, running on fumes until the next get-together with friends on the calendar comes up. Looking forward to that get-together is what keeps you going through all of the rest. You derive an intense satisfaction and re-balancing from hanging out with your peeps.
Now, flip-flop the specifics; keep the descriptions of emotions and feelings the same; just switch the activities around. The get-togethers that brought the extrovert an energy boost that made them feel like “all is right with the world”, that a missing keystone had been restored, now suddenly makes the person feel exhausted, run-down, and restless to get away, and vice versa. That’s how I experience socialization/interaction. 🙂