So much has gone through my head these last few months. Primarily who am I? Why am I? How did I /do I fit in this world? Even WTF? I’ve swung back and forth between feeling defective one day, relieved the next day, and lately even a little proud at times. Only a little, but it’s a start. One of the most difficult things I’ve repeatedly gone over in my mind is that I’ve clearly been somewhat of a trial to live with, in a way that I hadn’t appreciated before. Every other autistic out there, no matter what their level of support required, will know that we don’t mean to be difficult. We don’t want to hurt feelings, but truth is truth and we don’t know any other way. We don’t want to distress anyone with our meltdowns and we certainly don’t want or enjoy them ourselves and often our behaviour is aimed at reducing or avoiding them. We don’t want our children to be embarrassed by the mother who barely speaks to their friends and partners, we aren’t trying to be unfriendly, we simply don’t know how to do friendly and in any case, strangers in our home is very unsettling and uncomfortable, we aren’t all that sure we want to welcome too many visitors in. We don’t mean to bore everyone to death with never ending monologues, I’m pretty embarrassed the second I realise I’ve not given anyone else a chance to speak, and the family know this, but I still seem to have crossed the line by the time I realise it and shut up. I don’t mean to get in the way of my husband’s dream of a cruise holiday, but seriously, that many people in that small a space trapped on the sea? Are you kidding, that’s the Average Autistic’s (if there is such a thing) worst nightmare holiday. I’ve been refusing that for decades with exactly that phrase I just used although I didn’t know the reasons behind my horror at the thought.
So, as much as I’d be fine thank you very much if I could live my life the way I want, and keep interactions at a low level, the fact is, I love my family very much, and even if I do better when interacting one on one or two at a time, I realise that if I want them to allow me certain accommodations (e.g. Give me time to process what you said and then time to answer, I need you to be patient), it’s the loving thing to meet them halfway and make some adjustments myself. With that in mind, I have decided to think about this as a triage process.
There are things I can’t change no matter how much I’d like to. I will never be able to multi-task, but maybe I can find some work arounds and ways to keep track of several things at a time when I need to.
As much as it’s not harmful, my inability to hold a decent 2 way conversation with my children leaves them feeling that I don’t care enough about their lives to listen properly. This of course couldn’t be further from the truth, but this is something I think I need to work on and I believe that with some effort and practice I can improve on that.
And then there’s the things that don’t really impact on anyone else but me, and can in fact be funny and ease the atmosphere if we all find humour in them. Who cares if paperclips on the floor drive me so insane due to their glintiness that I need to pick them up right there and then? I know it may be visual sensitivity issues, as the bits from paper hole punchers get all over the office floor along with the paperclips, but I have never felt an urge to pick those up, so I’m guessing it’s not an ocd tendency (I don’t have much of that). So what if I flap my hands around my ears when things get noisy and chaotic, or I screw my eyes tight shut against bright lights sometimes. So I have quirks, they don’t need changing and everyone can have a laugh at them, even me.
I’m writing a few lists, again. I write lots of lists. They calm me and keep me on track. There are 3 main new ones. Can’t change, probably can change, and no need to change and the above are only a few examples. I’m not going to allow the essence of me to disappear, but I believe in lifelong self improvement and this isn’t about me interacting more with the general NT population, I don’t want to and I don’t need to, but this is about improving my relationships with my family. They deserve a better relationship with me, and so do I with them. They are also learning to understand and hopefully we’ll find a space that works for all of us somewhere in the middle.
Finally, regarding the cruising. My husband has been amazing though all of this. He has developed a greater understanding and tolerance than I thought he would. So, we’ve booked a mini taster cruise, 4 nights. I’m going to give it a go for him, and he has accommodated me by booking us on a rather expensive, but low passenger density luxury ship, with roomy suites all with large windows, and room service if I prefer to eat away from the restaurants, all included at no extra cost. I’ll try the on board entertainment, but I have a decent size suite to retreat to if I need to for peaceful alone time. I know that the port itinerary has to be strictly adhered to so I don’t need to worry about sudden changes of schedule, and we can book land excursions ahead of time (the new place every day isn’t something I greatly look forward to, but plenty of gentle self care on board and I think I’ll cope). So there is an example of meeting my husband halfway. He deserves his cruise (ok it’s a short one, but it is a cruise none the less) for putting up with me all these years, marriages of over 36 years aren’t that common with mixed NT/Autistic couples, but we Autistics are a very loyal bunch and I’m prepared to go the extra mile to keep my very patient and loving husband. He’s truly one in a million.
Now, back to those lists, I like staring up at the night sky. I’m lucky enough to live in the country, away from city nightlight pollution, and I love the peace and serenity of the night sky on a clear starry night. So that does not need to change, and I’ll be making the most of night time at sea, you’ll probably find me somewhere outside on the highest deck I can get to, laying flat on my back, soaking up the inner peace I feel from outdoor stargazing.