Although I’ve only recently been formally diagnosed with autism (Asperger Syndrome to be precise, although I generally just say ‘autistic’), I’ve always felt out of kilter with the world and have developed my own ways of coping with life. You know, those little things that mean you manage to not kill the Stupids – the stuff that helps you to not go stark staring bonkers under the strain of simply Existing.
Especially the one about the forks.
People don’t always say what they mean
And quite often they don’t mean what they say, either. I decided long ago to just take things at face value – why should I spend my time trying to translate the hidden meanings in your wafflings? If you say you’ll be over ‘in a minute’ but actually turn up an hour later, don’t start wailing if I’ve given up and gone out, or spent the extra 59 minutes past your ETA making a voodoo doll with your face on it. YOU SAID A MINUTE.
Some people will realise that you don’t quite understand the world and they will use it to their advantage
We call these people ‘asshats’. Do not listen to them, do not allow them into your space, and for fuck’s actual sake never EVER marry one of them.
It is perfectly normal to need the cutlery drawer to be laid out in a certain way and to get sad for the lonely forks
Rules are thus: knives face left, no cutlery gets left without company. If there is a solitary fork in the drawer then it gets a friend washed up from the sink and put in with it (only one, no need to go overboard and wash all of them). It hurts no one and means the kitchen is a more pleasant place to be. I shit you not, it took me the best part of forty years to realise that not everyone did this.
You cannot keep up with all of the people all of the time
This is much harder since the advent of social media, because most of us have many, many more friends and acquaintances than we would have ever managed before Facebook etc. This is a GOOD thing, because it means that people like me actually get to have friends – it is way easier to be sociable if you can switch people off when your head gets fried.
The problem is that you then end up with 500 of these ‘friends’ and it is utterly impossible to keep up with that amount of people. Even if you discount those who are definitely just acquaintances, I reckon it’s not unusual these days to be in touch with upwards of 100 ‘real’ friends online. 100 people to whom you are then obliged to keep in regular contact.
The thing with me is that ‘out of sight’ really is ‘out of mind’. Unless someone is right in front of my face – whether that be in person, by text or in a messenger window – I simply don’t think about them. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care, far from it; it’s often the people that I care the most about that I lose touch with, because when I get a message from them I think ‘I won’t rush a reply now, I’ll do it later when I’ve got time to do it properly’. AND THEN I FORGET ABOUT THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT IN FRONT OF ME.
I’ve lost several very good and dear friends over the years – mostly they’ve just disappeared, sometimes I can actually see that they’ve unfriended or unfollowed me on FB or whatever. And whilst I can see why they might have come to the conclusion that I’m not a very good friend, they’re wrong, and that hurts. But if they thought so little of me that they’d just disappear on the assumption that I was being a dick instead of talking about it, then I reckon I’m better off without.
It’s okay to say No
I spent years forcing myself to be more sociable than I was comfortable with, because I felt it was expected of me. At an appointment prior to my autism dx, I told the psych how I could remember hanging out down the local rec at night when I first started senior school, because I knew it was expected.
I hated it. I didn’t know how to talk to people, why they laughed at jokes that weren’t funny, and why the fuck sitting in a cold park in the dark at 10pm on a Friday night in November was seen as a valid pastime. Thirty five years later I can still remember swinging idly in the gloom and thinking to myself, ‘I’ll stick it out this once and maybe I’ll look normal and then I won’t have to do it again.’
Yeah, you guessed it – I spent decades sitting on that metaphorical swing, trying to look like I belonged whilst wishing I was anywhere else but the place I’d landed myself in.
But the worm can turn, motherfuckers! The best piece of advice I have ever been given, ever, is ‘No is a complete sentence’. It took a lot of practice, but now my favourite answer to pretty much anything is ‘No, thanks.’
You are an Okay Person
Probably the hardest lesson to learn, because a diagnosis in adulthood invariably follows many years and decades of being convinced that actually, you’re a bit shit. Because you keep getting things wrong, and you keep misunderstanding, and you keep seeing that look on people’s faces that clearly says ‘What the fuck is WRONG with you?’ That last one mostly happens when I’m having a screaming hissy fit about something that to other people is utterly inconsequential, but which my poor beleaguered brain simply cannot process. LIKE BEING AN HOUR LATE WHEN YOU SAID YOU’D ONLY BE A MINUTE, GODDAMMIT.
But people like me – we’re not shit, after all. Even though we might have thought we were, for a very long time. Not shit, and not broken.