Well, The Silent Wave has certainly lived up to its name in the past couple of weeks (months?), hasn’t it? I certainly have been “Silent”. That wasn’t necessarily my intention, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re fighting a two-theater war.
The two-fold battle in question involves the battle that results from a need to keep meeting the pressures and obligations of everyday life when every instinctual fiber of your existence is screaming, “it’s winter! Hibernate already!”, and the second component is the February Dread of saying goodbye to winter (spring actually began whispering its first words on February 1st this year, in my neck of the trees), because super-heated temperatures are just around the corner. And the older one gets, the faster time passes. I’m already 40. And, I’m only 40.
In short, I’m enjoying the chill (perhaps a little too much) and wanting to revel in it, except that Life Happens, and I’d better Happen with it. And I also realize that my days of being able to sit on my upper-floor deck and overlook the courtyard between 2:30 and 6:30pm without drenching myself in sweat are quite numbered. Ahhh, the joys of residing in the “tropical desert”.
I think I feel something awakening inside, but, Because Alexithymia, I can’t tell for sure. I do know that a change is occurring on another level, though, and that is one of physical health. It’s been percolating for a while, and those early undercurrents have given way to a solid simmer, although not yet a boil (just wait till July).
This percolation-to-simmering of sorts is mind-body-based: a desire to get back into the Swing of Life. I’ve been reaching for that convenience food for too long (nevermind the “organic” or “all-natural” or “Made with Love” kumbaya on the front label; that’s just rah-rah marketing hype–it’s still devoid of nutrients, even if it tastes good and clinches my “fix”).
I’ve also been sedentary for too long (watching true crime shows does not, unfortunately, count as exercise). I’m not getting any younger, smarter, or more self-confident. My body image (and my mind image, which works the same way as body image – it’s the esteem in which you hold your intellect, and my cognitive esteem is medium at best) isn’t/aren’t improving.
Basically, it’s time. Time to do something. Time to make changes. Time to make it real.
Which means, for me, as one who lives on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, that it’s time to take some baby steps and eventually incorporate this stuff into my routine. New stuff. Different stuff from what I’ve been doing. Because if I don’t do anything different, I’m not going to get a different result.
And I want a different result. I don’t want to feel exhausted after taking the recycling out. I don’t want my brain to keep talking itself out of going to the office. I want to feel like going into the office, and I want to be able to ultra-focus again without my brain suddenly shutting off a switch around lunchtime and saying, “that’s it, hang it up, let’s go home”. Yeah….no. I’m too young and too broke to be thinking like that.
So anyway, change… As an Aspie/autistic…
My Asperger’s/autistic operating system cannot be battled against, negated, or otherwise suppressed. It must be worked with, if I’m to have any success at achieving any goals. It must be accommodated, incorporated, cooperated with. It must be recognized and satisfied. Barriers are significant and legitimate and they must be dealt with. I have to hurdle the hurdles.
For me, this means baby steps. It means reaching out to my loved ones for support–namely, my partner, because he is there to provide the gentle nudge and physically do things with me. So last night, I poured out my brain to my partner, starting with the usual “I’ve got a few things swirling around my head…” that might make him cringe inside, but looking at him, one wouldn’t know it.
“I need to be more physically active, but I’m in a rut. I’m not getting any fitter, I’m not feeling any better, and I know I’ve been sitting around for so long that I forgot what I used to do when I was healthier. And I know that physical movement is going to be a big part of my healing story,” I told him.
Good. He was in Listening Mode.
I went on. “The way I see it, I’ve got 3 options. Option 1 is to join a gym, which would give me a designated area, designated hours, and the variety of machines I crave. But there are lots of barriers to that – it’s not in my routine and it would be a big chunk to add to said routine, and then there’s the idea of people looking at me while I work out. And I’d have to start small; I’m so de-conditioned and out of shape that I’d probably only be able to go for like 5 minutes at a time, and if the gym isn’t like on the way home, then my brain will talk me out of going all that way for just a 5-minute work out. If I’m working out around people, then I’d have to wear different clothes than I usually wear, and I’m not even sure what all fits anymore, and just the idea of going through the closets and trying things on is overwhelming. Obviously it is, because I haven’t even been able to bring myself to do it yet!”
He didn’t say anything, but he was was indeed still listening. Bless his soul.
So I went on some more. “Option 2 is that I could use the workout facilities here on the apartment grounds. No extra cost, no extra trip, it’s all right here. There isn’t quite the variety of machines, but it’s something. But here again, there’s that self-consciousness Thing, with the clothing and the uneasiness about people seeing me and all that. Option 3 is to get a treadmill for in our apartment, although I know our space and finances are limited. I think I’d like Option 2, the onsite workout room, because it’s nice and everything. But I’ve been so demotivated that I’m literally starting from zero. I haven’t even worked up the guts to go find out what the Open Hours are! Maybe if I had someone to nudge me and say, ‘let’s go up there’….”
He took the cue instantly. (There’s a reason I’ve been with my partner for almost 19 years!) “Let’s go up there right now. Come on, I’ll go with you. Let’s go.”
We walked up there (it’s across the courtyard, but that’s not a huge distance–maybe a two-minute walk). We found out that there’s a lockbox on the door, for which we don’t know the code, so we couldn’t get in. But hey–we took an important first step! We accomplished more last night than I have in three months (yes, I’ve been meaning to do this for three whole months!).
Baby steps, no matter how small, often gain momentum. This morning, at my request, my partner called the apartment management office to find out the answer to two questions: 1) the code to the lockbox on the workout room door, and 2) to find out which hours the room is open. They told us the key sequence, and also that it’s a 24-hour facility (!).
I’m actually excited about tonight, because tonight, we plan to go up there to accomplish my second Baby Step: a quick, non-committed walk-through and look-see (I’m coining the term “walk-see” (lol), here and now, which is a hybrid of “walk-through” and “look-see”).
Essentially, we plan to go up to the workout room, use the management-given key sequence to gain access, and then walk through the workout room to simply take inventory of the room itself. What kinds of machines are there? What features do the treadmills have? Some treadmills have a little cubby-space designed to hold a tablet device or music player; do any of their treadmills have that cubby, and if so, do they all have that cubby, or only certain ones? (Music and maybe even watching Netflix while walking are important to me right now.)
I’m not sure what the next Baby Step after that will be. Maybe it’s surveying the user traffic from hour to hour, simply glancing through the windows to see how many people are there and which machines they’re using, so that I can plan to go during slower times when the room isn’t crowded (although that’s what I’ve been meaning to do for three months, and I haven’t made any progress on that yet, so perhaps that’s too big a hurdle for me to hop over right now). So maybe that Baby Step is something like, “OK, self, let’s go over to the workout room at 2pm and then again between 5-6pm and note how many people are there at those two times. Let’s make that first trip tonight at 6pm, with the help of Mr Wave.”
He has already agreed to this. (Insert party emojis here!)
OK, now how about those packaged foods? Well, I’m a disaster in the kitchen. Seriously, I can turn on the stove and heat up a rockin’ teapot full of water to make tea or oatmeal, but that’s the extent of my domestic skills. My Asperger’s/autistic Operating System did not come with a Culinary Special Interest (or even a Culinary Skills) app in any way, shape, or form. File Under: Not Happening (*Sigh*). It’s a fact of life I’ve begrudgingly accepted.
But hey–I could get some herbal teas and green teas and whatnot that would be healthier (less sugar and fewer carbs, not to mention the therapeutic benefits of certain herbs and such), and I can at least start swapping out beverages. Instead of my Theo peanut butter cups (a shameless pleasure), I can opt for a Nacho-Cheese variety of kale chip, or perhaps a Pizza-themed variety of sprouted seed crackers. This is actually sounding kind of fun…
So on the way home from the office this morning, I stopped by the health food store to go exploring. One hundred and fourteen US dollars later, I had several teas, healthy snacks, and some brain- and energy-boosting supplements, not to mention a couple of mindfulness magazines to get me started. The magazines even have pretty pictures for my brain OS’s Visual app to salivate over.
It is possible to teach this old Aspie/autie dog new tricks! I’m learning (still in progress) that it comes down to…
- Identifying goals (that’s been a tough part)
- Identifying hurdles, roadblocks, barriers (another tough part)
- Brainstorming for solution options (not as tough as one would think but it depends on being able to do the first two)
- Breaking solutions down into bite-size Baby Steps my brain will accept
- Actually taking those Baby Steps (important!)
- Incorporating certain Baby Steps into my daily (or maybe a weekly) routine
- Gently telling myself we’re going to do this stuff and make these changes, even if I’m tempted to keep sitting here and munching on old familiar snacks
- Not letting myself get lax once I get going, even if I start to think “I’ve done well enough, I can coast for a bit”. No, that train of thought is a big part of what got me into this mess in the first place – but of course, giving myself the exceptions I truly need, such as having to meet a deadline at work or coming down with a cold/flu, etc.
These are all Executive Function functions. And Executive Function functions aren’t exactly my strong point. I’ve learned to cultivate compassion for myself here, because Executive Function issues are a common Aspie/autistic trait, one that probably won’t be going away any time soon. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t learn to work with it, within its parameters, and on its terms.
And work with it I shall. ❤
(Image Credit: Hans Walor)