Hi there (I’m trying to be less formal, but I’m really naff at knowing how to greet people. And end conversations. And then there’s the bit in the middle… Well, that just about covers it all, then).
To the point of this post.
I did something remarkable, for me, the other day. My local housing officer turned up for a visit, completely out of the blue. She said it would only take five minutes (translation for us literal-minded autistics - it would be a short visit, but definitely not only five minutes long). She just wanted to update my details, and as she happened to be in my village visiting other tenants, she thought she would just “pop in”. So, was that okay?
Simple answer to that is “No”. But of course, being me, I had a few moments where I considered saying yes, because that’s what I do. I am one of those autistics who struggle to say no to people (this includes saying no to myself, the person responsible for coming up with my worst ideas), and to set boundaries about what I will and will not tolerate.
I’ll tolerate almost anything, just as long as it allows me to avoid the discomfort of standing up for myself, and the possible consequences which may ensue (which are always dramatically awful in my mind, though rather vague. If you ask me what I think might happen, I can’t really tell you. I just KNOW it’s going to be BAD).
And I also hate the idea of upsetting people, for fear that they might not like me. So, basically, it’s all about how I look to other people… How dumb is that? Especially as most of those people are usually strangers to me, or ones who are of no real significance in my life - but I’m going to bend myself into a pretzel to not upset them; and then I’m going to hate both myself, and them, for the fact that that’s what I did. And then I’m going to have a meltdown. Methinks I should have me a Dodo Alert for when I’ve wandered into Dodo territory… It’s a wonder I’m not extinct, too.
Back to my tale…
I said no. Yep, I told her I was busy. Fortunately, it was true - I was on Skype at the time, but I did consider cutting off my call for the moment while I talked with her. My VERY IMPORTANT CALL, with my VERY IMPORTANT FRIEND, with whom I only get to converse three times a week.
But even had I not been busy, it still wasn’t a good time, because I don’t deal well with spontaneous visits (spontaneous anything) - I can’t shift focus fast enough, and I end up saying things I don’t mean because my brain hasn’t had time to shift into gear. And it just basically ramps up my anxiety levels, and freaks me out. So, NO! Just NO!!! I don’t do people “popping in”, so go away. Please. (‘Cos I hate not being polite).
So, yes, my mind, which has a fear of anyone in ANY position of authority (dustbin men, librarians, pen-wielding minor civil servants, anyone wearing anything vaguely resembling some kind of uniform - hello supermarket checkout assistants and shelf-stackers), had me wobbling for a moment, wanting to insist that the Housing Officer takes precedence over my friend. And instead I ignored my mind, and I listened to the Voice of Sanity instead (commonly known as God, in my home).
What a relief! I’d finally listened and acknowledged who I am, and what I can deal with, and it felt great. I didn’t have to make some long speech, or try to explain in depth: I just had to say no, I was busy right now. And nothing bad happened. She accepted what I said, and arranged a day on which to return, which allowed me to be prepared in advance.
And today she arrived, and it was fine. I got to tell her about my autism/anxiety/adhd; to explain why I don’t deal with spontaneous visits; and she seemed to understand (at least, she got why her unannounced arrival the other day freaked me out, which is all that I needed for her to get - another big change for me, ‘cos not that long ago I would have needed for her to FULLY comprehend my autism, and I would have expended ginormous amounts of energy in a futile attempt to explain it to her. Me, the woman who can’t explain how to get from here to the bottom of my road - and it’s a straight road, and not very long).
Even more impressive on my part, I didn’t apologise. Normally I would have begun my speech with the words, “I’m sorry that I couldn’t…”, but I didn’t. I merely stated the reasons why I couldn’t. This is remarkable for me because I am a great apologiser. “Sorry” has to be one of the most frequent words out of my mouth. You bump into me, I say sorry. You make a mistake, I say sorry. You don’t explain yourself effectively to me, or I don’t hear clearly what you said, I say sorry. I breathe, I say sorry.
I often have Skype sessions with my friend where I literally have bouts of continuosly saying sorry, for no reason other than that I can’t quite get out the words that I want to say, so I fill in the gap with sorry. It appears that I must think that it’s not so annoying having me apologising non-stop, rather than have her ‘suffering’ the silence that would ensue whilst I try to get my thoughts together. I fear we have just wandered into Dodo territory again… What kind of mind thinks up logic like this?!
Plus, I literally can’t stop once I start: I even find the repetition quite therapeutic, though I’m not sure it has the same effect on my friend. Fortunately, she understands. She’s very patient with me, and we just take the piss out of it. It’s very difficult not to, considering that I am an erudite, bright, highly literate, intelligent, educated, intellectual woman with a gift for writing - and yet here I am, reduced to repeating “Sorry” like a faulty parrot. Or one with sole access to an autistic whose vocabulary exclusively consists of the word “Sorry”.
So, the visit went well. I said what I needed to say. She did what she was here to do. And off she went. Oh, and she really liked my paintings. And yes, it took longer than five minutes, but I was expecting that, so it doesn’t bend me out of shape any more. I just had to channel the surge in anxious energy after she left, and find a way to calm down… which is how come I’m writing this.
And now here we are at the end… the other bit that I’m not quite sure how to do. Goodbye? Have a nice day? Hope you’re more adept at setting boundaries than I am? See, this is why I’ve taken to using Sanskrit terms plucked from my knowledge of yoga. It’s so much easier - even if no-one understands what I’m saying. Therefore:-
Namaste (and I wish you well on your journey to A LIFE LESS SORRY)