Asperger’s / Autism and Rituals

Rituals, routines.  I imagine a swell majority of those of us on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum have ours.  Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, when it comes to specifics, but the bottom line is that having rituals and routines is a pretty common mainstay.

They’re not silly; they serve a purpose.  Speaking for myself, they keep me on track and sane.  Without them, I pace the apartment, aimless and lost and confused, wondering what to do next.  The anxiety stirs and begins to build.  I feel unproductive, which feels like a mortal sin, because time is the most precious resource you can never get back once you’ve spent it.  And I certainly don’t want to spend mine pacing pointlessly, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next.

So, I don’t.

With my rituals in hand, my world clarifies.  My purpose strengthens.  My questions are answered, and my confusion is cleared.  The anxiety tamps back down, at least for another day.  The pacing stops.  Life takes shape.

This is a recent development.  Long-time friends and followers may (or may not) remember this (ancient) post, written during a (much) different time, a time near the beginning when my entire life was completely different.  Back then, I couldn’t really work up the courage to clean the apartment.  I spent time (that precious resource) writing a post about how and why I could not, time that I could’ve spent cleaning…except for a few formidable forces working against me at that time…

  • An unwilling and lazy partner who implied that I should be delegated that task, as it was beneath him, while he made no efforts.
  • A much bigger (and darker) living space, that was entirely too overwhelming and dim a space to tackle alone.
  • And more, but that’s probably for another post.

Today, things are different.  As in, I look back just two years ago, and I don’t even recognize my life.  None of it.

Some problems have been solved.  And cleaning is one!

Actually, the grocery shopping comes before the cleaning, and that’s a well-oiled ritual, too.

I’ll start at the beginning…

I live with a roommate and fellow blogger, also on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  One of his “special interests” (shudder–let’s just use “interests”) is the culinary arts.  It turns out he has a natural gift for it, the kind that’s immediately noticeable the moment you take the first bite of food he has prepared.  (In turn, I have become an insatiable foodie, but that’s probably for another post, too.)

I’ll share with you what we do, in case it helps someone – perhaps you’re struggling with the tasks I’ll discuss here, like shopping, cleaning, or planning.  Maybe you find yourself in a dietary rut and you want to branch out a little and add some variety.  Hopefully this helps.  It’s kind of elaborate, so please bear with me.

Every Friday, my roommate and I sit down and plan out our next 7-8 days’ worth of meals.  (When we draw a blank and need some ideas or inspiration, we consult our pre-made list of dishes he’s made that we’ve really enjoyed, just to ensure that we’re eating a variety of tastes and textures, and getting enough of a variety of nutrients.)

We plan out our meals for each weekday, typing it into the Note-taking apps on our phones.  We purposefully include a variety of protein sources, cuisines, and flavors, because it’s fun!

We do this on Fridays because that’s when a local grower will send a mass text to all of his regular customers to let us know what he will be carrying with him when he sets up his tent on Saturday morning in a strip mall parking lot across the street from our apartment (!).

We do our grocery shopping on Saturdays, and we patronize his stand first, before heading to any of the grocery stores, because we like to support him and his food is excellent.  So we respond to his text to let him know what we want, so that he may reserve that food for us and be sure to have it in stock when we arrive to buy it.

It’s incredibly empowering, walking (not driving) over to a local (not corporate) grower to buy fresh, organically-grown food, skipping the middleman (grocery store), and walking away with bags of food for a fraction of the price.  We helped him, and he helped us.  We eat a lot of vegetables, and we obtain half or more (for the week) for $5-12 USD.  So, it’s worth the planning and effort.  I have trained my Executive Function skills (whatever may be left of them!) accordingly. 🙂

From there, we go to our local grocery store chain (which is also locally-owned and privately-owned as well) and get most of the rest of our produce.  Then to Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods is a last resort.  (Our dependence on Whole Foods (Amazon) is rapidly diminishing, however, as I’m learning to grow my own sprouts!  Probably a(nother) different post, if it wouldn’t be too boring lol.)

We come home with all groceries and put them away.  We’re already physically active at that point, and by then, we have a bunch of paper and plastic bags loose on the counter.  Time to take out recycling and trash!

It feels really good getting unwanted junk out of our living space.

This is the perfect segue into cleaning.

My roommate starts in on bathroom fixtures – toilets and the shower/tub, cleaning those.  I do dishes and dusting.  He wipes his stove and countertops clean.  I tidy the living room.

Time for vacuuming, my favorite part, because that’s when you can see the (carpeted) room really transform.  My roommate does what we call “lifting”, meaning that he moves free-standing objects into our closet-sized kitchen and bathroom to maximize my ability to reach as much carpet with the vacuum cleaner as possible.  I do all the vacuuming, as thorough a job as possible.  As I finish with one room, my roommate is behind me, resetting all the items he’d moved, back into their usual places.

It’s a team effort, done every week.  There is no nagging, no guilty (“why can’t I do this?  Something’s wrong with me”), or “why bother?  He’s just going to mess it up again”.  There’s no feeling of defeat, fruitlessness, aimlessness, hopelessness, or embarrassment (the latter of which I’d mentioned in that ancient post – if you want to have some fun and you haven’t read it already, go read it, and see the difference – it’s worth it!  Lol).

Of course, a smaller apartment helps.  I went from 1150 square feet to 642.  Much easier.  Although perhaps we’ll upsize slightly next year, because it’s kind of…cozy right now.





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