Performing the unnatural as naturally as possible. That is the demand that neurotypicality places upon autistic existence. Little wonder that we would much rather be in a world of our own.
A peaceful day at last. No interruptions, no farcical social intrusions. Simple bacon and egg sandwich breakfast, walkies with my Princess, silent conversation, another pork roast experiment, more coffee, and work. I love my work, but deadlines can be stressful, especially when I’ve wasted too much time attending to the unnecessary and spurious, then scrambling to bring myself out of the meltdowns that result. It is already midnight now. Four and a half hours past Lucy’s preferred bedtime. She is in bed already, of course, but I am still trying to finish some writing for submission on Monday. There was a game at the stadium nearby, and every time there is an event there, the humans spill into the streets around here. As I type, the darkness is being shattered by loud, rowdy and drunken voices. Expletives punctuate the thick cacophony.
My autistic mind is confounded by these aspects of socializing. Shouldn’t socializing be fun and meaningful? How is it neurotypicals love so much to become intoxicated to the point where they pick violent fights with their own friends, engage in irrational babbling arguments on the streets and then proceed to vomit the contents of their bowels along the way?
Then there is the other kind of sensory-overloading neurotypical oddity: the Social Avalanche. A forceful character. Pushy. Won’t take no for an answer. Attention seeking. Narcissistic. A Roomba on steroids. It can become really stressful and perplexing relating with one.
Thankfully, there are neurotypicals who are not like the above.
Last night, I had dinner with a good friend at the local pub. I do not see him often, which is one of the reasons I love it when I do get to catch up. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, especially for this Aspie heart. He was the best housemate I’d ever had – because he knew how to give me mental, emotional and physical space, while helping me perform executive functions that allowed me to focus on things that mattered to me. I looked forward to our dinner date, but the atmosphere in the pub became extremely trying for my senses. Noise. Humans packing the space like sardines, everyone talking at the same time. Unleashed, unruly dogs playing, presenting themselves as potential hazards to anyone walking by. Lucy was marvelous, she stayed in her corner and lay on her mat, she did not move from her position, except once to greet my friend, and another time trying to escape from an ill-behaved miniature dachshund who insisted on sniffing at her. Why do humans assume that all dogs would and should be friendly to each other? Thankfully, my friend understands about my sensory overload and we did not linger after filling our bellies. He came to my home and we had a really meaningful catch up over apple juice. My friend is not autistic, he does not mind crowded and noisy eateries, but he is ever considerate of my thresholds, and he will not press me to remain in a charged environment. In fact, he was the one who noticed that I was slowly fading, and he suggested we should leave.
Friendship is about reciprocity. A give and take. A Self-Other exchange. However, when Self has to give in too much to Other, when Other demands from Self in ways that cause internal hemorrhage, then this Other is not appropriate company. I know that equation in principle. However, it is much harder to observe in practice. Keeping a healthy distance is difficult for overly social people. Yet, not being given enough space is excruciating for the autistic mind, soul and body.
I tend to attract an assortment of humans who call themselves friends. Many eventually fall away because they discover that I am not who they initially thought I was. I come across as sociable, and in my performative element, I can even be the diva of the party. It takes an insightful and still soul to understand that I actually prefer isolation. The friends who understand this principle of space and keeping respectful boundaries are the ones who will remain. I have no more energy, patience or desire to keep those whose demands are damaging to my internal modalities. Dear friends, I do enjoy spending time with you in meaningful and scheduled catch up sessions, but I also need plenty of wide open spaces between us, stretches of silence and clarity of demarcations, and long spells of solitude inside my own domains. Do not ask of me the amount of effort that you will not yourself accord to me. Isn’t this what true connectivity is all about, then? Togetherness is not empty tedious lahlahlahblahblahblah.
Not many humans are able to grasp this. I am blessed to have a few around me, a very very precious few, who do.