The majority of social-minded humans adore festivities. Understandable, when one’s brain is wired to veer towards togetherness, the primitive feeling of safety in numbers, and personal identity is immersed in and anchored upon the collective. The brains of autistic individuals seem to have evolved differently, on a tangent, and hence, we have far less of that primal ‘yearning’ or preconditioning to find refuge and comfort in numbers and associations with other humans.
I won’t go into the details here, but what makes festivities even worse for many of a different neurological wiring is those with atypical sensory wiring, i.e. hypersensitivity. Whether or not autistic, people with hypersensitivity suffer a surfeit of sensory reaction triggered by what seems to most others as innocuous stimuli.
If you are interested to find out more, do check out this article about how some autistic individuals perceive and experience holidays and festive events: “Autistic Holidays.”
So, I was glad to spend Christmas alone – well, I wasn’t alone really, I spent it with Lucy. She is the best company for me, especially because I was unwell (still battling that horrible bronchial-asthma that was triggered by the nasty infection I caught while in Hong Kong!). It is a great physical and mental effort to have to summon energy for socialising. I have learned to do it, and I do even enjoy the company of close friends, but it is always a strenuous exercise, even with those I love, and even if I am enjoying the occasion. I have no close friends here, and spending any amount of time in a social setting with people who are not close friends but rather virtual strangers, is a nightmare I would rather not have to encounter – so my being unwell was a good excuse, not that I needed much of one, since I only received one invitation for drinks anyway. 🙂
Before you think this is a case of sour grapes (at not having been invited anywhere), think again. Autism aside, if your senses were so finely tuned that overload easily occurs even at the most simple of environments such as having a meal at a crowded restaurant, you would be more empathic. Autism adds an added dimension to it, of course, exacerbating the problem, but for me, it isn’t the autism that I have had to struggle with, but it is the uncontrollable physical reactions of my sensory neurons!
I was relieved not to have to turn down even more invitations. I always feel guilty, as if I am being grossly impolite, when I turn down invitations, even though I know intellectually that nobody would even bat a neurotypical eyelid at my absence (even if they were to notice it)!
Christmas in Paddington with Lucy was beautiful, the streets suddenly almost empty, devoid of traffic, hence, quiet and peaceful. Shops were closed, so Lucy and I could lurk at the windows and peer inside without inviting suspicion – well there was a police car with two policemen watching us, but that was ok, Lucy gave them a friendly greyhound nod and tail wag and that made it all fine! The sky was overcast, someone remarked previously when we were discussing weather that it would be a ‘horrible day’, but for Lucy and me, it was perfect! No hot paw pads, and no sunburn!
taking time to smell the flowers?
Lucy loves window shopping!
Nosh was simple for me. Supermarkets were all closed on Christmas Day of course, and I didn’t want to face the insane crush on Christmas Eve anyway, so I just ate what I had in the kitchen and fridge. All home made, including the puff pastry for the pie!
tuna, carrot and egg pie, with carrot soup
egg, spinach, cheese and tomato bake
spaghetti aglio e olio with olives
It was a lovely, sensorially blissful Christmas indeed!