chicken & misplaced empathy

chicken & spinach patties

chicken & spinach patties

Juxtapositions. Interlocutions. Interstices. Where does misplaced empathy reside? Everywhere, it seems, in the most innocuous too. What does chicken have to do with it all? Read on…

Well, I have been completely thrown for far too long over a silly, childish little complaint by my new tenant over the alleged noise that Lucy and I make when we get up at 5.30am. Now, I am not at all a noisy person, even when living alone, I do not make a great deal of noise, because I am sensitive to noise, regardless of who makes it. If I drop a spoon while washing up, my left ear feels a mild shooting pain from the sound it makes upon impact with the sink. So, the tenants complaint came as a very disturbing surprise. After that, I spent money that I could ill afford to buy a runner for the hallway in an attempt to soften the sound of our footsteps. I wore a different pair of slippers. I sneaked around the house when making breakfast for myself and Lucy. I changed the way I ate breakfast, I stopped cooking my bacon and eggs, and resorted to just rice bubbles with soya milk. I kept the kitchen door closed, I did not do the dishes until the tenant was up and had left for work. I did not sweep the backyard. I did not do my laundry. It was not at all good for me. This kind of marked and sudden change in routine, especially under such unpleasant circumstances, threw me into a long drawn, unending state of stress. I even stopped Lucy from bouncing happily in the morning – this was the worst adjustment I made, because I was curbing her exuberance.

Then, lo and behold, the tenant himself began to make his own noises, in the evening when I am already in bed with Lucy. Cooking, washing, clanking, and the usual heavy footsteps on loose and old floorboards. To be fair, he didn’t stomp on the floor the way the two chaps did, in the former place that I had to leave in a hurry due to a flea infestation. My tenant is also a relatively clean person. And polite. But what he just doesn’t seem to understand is that he shouldn’t complain about my noise, just because he wants to sleep in the morning, and then go around merrily making even more noise (and smells) while I am in bed. Living together should be a give and take. I have never once complained about his noise.

And yes, I do notice the little things. It is the way the autistic cognition is hardwired. The way he allows the door of the washing machine to slam against the rough wall (hence marking the brand new door!), the way he always forgets to switch of the water heater after he’s finished with it (it is old and leaks, and wastes water and electricity, which he does not pay for), and how he leaves his breakfast knife in the sink for me to wash every day (I am not his mother but from his behaviour, I suspect he is used to having someone pick up after him and tip toe around him).

Last night, there was a huge amount of noise, and to-ing and fro-ing. I was in bed. Running a mild fever. Fighting an infection, which he had brought in. He has been coughing away lately, but it has not dampened his youthful zest for life, of course. Yes, it was Friday night. Where every normal neurotypical person is in and out and socialising like their lives depended on it. While this Aspie Bunny was in bed, trying to stay well, and cuddling with her greyhound. The culmination of the symphonic evening was when he brought at least one, if not two, friends home and they were chatting away (in French of course, he is from Paris – which many a French person would say a few things about, but I shall refrain from doing so here), as their resonant footsteps shook the entire floor and reverberated through my bed. I am not exaggerating, but then again, I have hyper senses, so most people would never have felt it at all.

The issue here is, how much empathy should one have at all? I hate that the so-called ‘experts’ like to purport that Aspies lack empathy. In so many cases, including my case, we tend towards over-empathising and misplaced empathy. Which may be argued as a ‘lack’ in some way, because we fail to accurately read the other person’s mental state, but rather put ourselves into his/her place and try to be as considerate as we can based on that transference. Well, we are not them. They are not us. They are usually far more insensitive. And this creates stress, anxiety and tension.

Anyhow, I am sort of glad last night happened. In a strange way, it has freed me. I no longer feel trapped inside a bubble of trying to be quiet for the sake of the tenant. Nope. I knew logically I shouldn’t, it is my home after all. But the psychological lock remained and I couldn’t break out of the mental directive to ‘sneak around’ my own home just because the tenant had complained once. Misplaced empathy indeed. Because in my mind, I would never complain like that unless it was very serious and causing me much grief. And even then, I might not anyway. I failed to ‘feel’ (even though I mentally ‘knew’) that neurotypicals seldom ever mean anything they say, they usually just shoot their mouths off at the slightest nudging and then forget about what they said.

Finally, after last night’s symphonic shenanigans, I feel a burden lifted. This morning, I did not try to make my door not squeak when it opened, I did not tip toe across the hallway, I did not eat rice bubbles, I cooked bacon, I washed the dishes, I fed Lucy – pouring her food into her bowl instead of slowly easing it in (yes!), I spoke to Lucy in a soft loving voice (where I used to be silent), and I felt free again, to enjoy my routine, and my own home. If the tenant doesn’t like it, he can move out. The rent is so cheap, utilities and internet included, he doesn’t even help to buy dishwashing liquid!!!

As for the chicken and spinach patties – well the connection here is that of convenience and ease. I bought minced chicken, marinaded with soy sauce, sesame oil, mixed in corn starch and spinach, and put them into the muffin tray and baked. So I could have patties anytime I wanted. Just reheat in microwave. I like the fact that I can be organised, have a routine, and enjoy my own plan for living as best as I can. I made these recently. So I also associate them with this new cathartic ‘release’ from mental tyranny!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Spring is here at last!

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