Your world is the same two rooms
and there is little companionship
you know it exists
that easy camraderie between individuals
but that’s not in your skillset
“I downgraded my computer to Windows 7 today.”
you tell your cat
“And now I’m going to upgrade it back to Windows 10.”
Things you do just because you can
but installing drivers and repairing Windows
is a poor fascimile
for installing acquaintances and repairing friendships
Machines have instruction manuals and troubleshooting
And when you fix a computer problem you know it’s fixed
because it tells you so, and things are predictable again.
Outside, nothing is clearly spelled out
and that leaves you rigid with anxiety
unable to go on without straight understandable instructions
What keeps you in these two rooms
forever home unless the groceries run low?
what keeps you from coffee dates, from catching up?
The knowledge that you tick where others tock?
The knowledge that you operate differently and it’s getting harder to hide it?
And it’s not like you don’t want to be with your friends.
It’s just that so much of this life is overloading on your processor
the light here, the tags on your shirt, that motorcycle driving by, a sudden change in schedule
and at the end of the day, you have very few resources left to devote to social occupation
especially when social occupation either is located in these situations that drain your processor
or something that causes you to search your mind for the correct response but it’s in a different language
you do not mind that you operate differently
But that just means you need different things to be happy
like friends who don’t mind if reciprocation is sometimes late, or lacking, or overdone.
like people who are willing to accept that you probably feel more closer to them than they think you do
your behaviour is not always an acceptable measurement
for the interest you have in them, the amount they mean to you
You don’t ask questions because you don’t know how, not because you don’t care.
You want to be closer to people. You get lonely, like everyone else
but shoving yourself into mainstream socializing never works out so well
So you’re the fringes guy, hanging around, absorbing. All you need is one or two people who understand.
I went to an autism conference for people with autism, run by people with autism once.
There was a party.
I sat in the hallway outside the party for an hour with headphones on, smiling at people exiting and entering,
occasionally chatting with others who didn’t quite want to enter the room.
Nobody thought I was weird. I was interacting with the party in a way that I could feel comfortable in. No judgement. There’s more than one way to operate.
I walked around that conference with a colour-coded badge – we all did – so that the rules about whether to initiate conversation we clearer.
They say autism is a disability, and when I compare my social life to what I see and hear about friends, I know I am grossly abnormal.
But I would rather try to figure out how to fill my needs in a way that is matched to my particular neurology
than force myself into the mold and destroy myself in the process.
There is nothing wrong with me
There is nothing wrong with me
except that sometimes what is natural to others is alien to me. It just doesn’t occur. Wires don’t cross.
I have folders and folders of scripts in my brain that I can access like a library. I built them up with 30 years of practice
tossing the ones that failed and building on my successes.
So you probably wouldn’t know by looking at me, or talking to me.
Except I’m looking at your mouth when we talk, not your eyes.
Except if you’re saying something I really need to pay attention to, you won’t see my eyes at all.
Except sometimes I repeat what you say because it takes a second to process speech if too much is going on
So I might repeat what you said for directions verbatim, or the last joke
and maybe then I’ll get it
So if you want me at my best? Help me figure out what’s stealing my processing power. (lights, noise, crowds, ambiguous situations, changes in plans, etc.) Help me come up with strategies to minimize what these things can steal from me. I never go anywhere outside without over-the-ear-headphones. Cuts down on noise and also keeps me grounded in an interest, musical theatre.
If we seem to get along and I like you, I do want to be your friend. Autistic people aren’t “closed off into their own world”. They’re overloaded. Computers have RAM to help them deal with multitasking situations. When our RAM is overloaded, the entire system crawls to a halt and we don’t have the resources left for the things like socializing.
So please don’t think I’m insensitive. Please don’t think I’m uninterested. I want to know you, I want to know what you like, what your dreams are. We just might have to find a different way of sharing that information.
I’m a person too. If you can remember that, we’re golden.