“The gloves, the mask, it’s a whole production.”

women in animal masks

I had an interesting conversation with M, recently.  He wanted to understand why I was disappointed when a stranger figured out I’m autistic after dining with us.  He suggested I may be ashamed of being autistic.  I thought about it and attempted to explain the concept of masking.  It’s not about shame; it’s pragmatism.

The ability to mask my autism from strangers is a skill I’ve honed over the course of my life.  It’s necessary for survival.  It’s not something used only by people with autism, either.  People with mental illnesses also recognize the need to mask.  Mental health providers at the VA suggest it; a psychologist jokingly instructed me not to get caught talking to myself in the hallways of the VA.  😶 I figure it’s a common practice among most invisibly disabled people.

I also mastered the ability to mask my depression in the process.  The same psychologist I mentioned above was annoyingly surprised when my mask slipped, and she suddenly believed I was depressed for the first time.  I remember thinking to myself how much easier it is to hide depression from mental health providers than nearly anyone else.  They’re trained to look for specific symptoms, which I choose to regard as convenient for me.  (You can’t be black and disabled at the Sioux Falls VA without handcuffs and leg shackles, so naturally, I roll with being black while wearing a shrink-proof mask.)

rabbit masked man

People with visible physical disabilities can’t mask but have the perquisite of being perceived as disabled on sight.  (I doubt they consider it a privilege, though.)  I’ve had decades of trial and error to figure out which behaviors attract ridicule and bullying.  It’s not easy to overcome my nature whenever I’m around people, though.  In fact, it’s exhausting.

 

I stifle the behaviors and motions I’ve identified as unsafe in the company of others.  I try to be invisible at those times.  I suck at remaining still, even though I know it would be helpful.  To compensate, I mastered the ability to rock minutely.  I do it slowly, and limit my range of motion to a few inches in each direction, while visualizing a gear system amplifying the efforts of my tiny movement.

Sadly, I’m fully aware I tend to rock more vigorously when my anxiety increases.  I stop when I realize.  I hate that I often catch myself when some asshole imitates me to amuse others.  Naturally, I’ve also mastered the ability to present both birds at half-mast 3 inches from the face of the asshole mentioned above, while looking unamused.  I consider it a public service.  You’re welcome.  🙃

man in rabbit mask

Thankfully, the human brain can help shelter us a bit from the disturbing lack of empathy in strangers.  Dissociation is another skill when forced to endure extreme discomfort while in public.  Sometimes, it’s all I can do to keep from screaming:  Like when the clock is ticking so sharply, and the person beside me breathes loudly through a congested nose.  Or the overhead lights are buzzing and too bright, the tv is too loud, and the wool fabric on the chair is scratchy on the backs of my arms, while my left shoe is tied more tightly than my right.  And the perfume, my god, the perfume!  /scream

I’m not ashamed of being autistic.  I’m too busy tweaking my ability to pass as typical and well adjusted to waste time feeling sorry for myself.  😂 Plus, there are a gazillion other things I’d much rather do.  Like playing Bach’s E major Partita on violin for some random, yet surprisingly attentive cows, while sitting on the fence in a soggy field.  It’s what I’m off to do now.  ✌🏽

“We? Since when are you a writer?”

mind map conceptualization

We had band practice this morning.  I mostly played the bass and used a drum machine.  It was fun, and a pleasant start to my weekend.  I plan to build a Plex media server this afternoon.  I love such projects.  It’s too hot to go outside today.  M is swimming with friends at the indoor pool.  I declined to join them because the acoustics of all-tile rooms are exhausting.

I trust my persistence, and obsessive tendencies will serve me well in my new career as a writer.  My ego wants to write short-story collections as a novel.  Reality suggests I’ll need a lot more words to convey my story successfully.  I’m going to label it a convenient insight for now.  (Ignoring my ego tends to save a lot of time.)  I’m waiting for my first rejection letter from a submission I sent recently.

I’m hoping it includes feedback but expecting a form letter.  It’s going to sting because I’m an optimist.  But it won’t be a surprise, which helps.  I’ll keep trying.  I decided I’m going to write for the rest of my life, even if in the end, it results in a hopeful collection of rejection letters.  If that’s indeed the case, I’ll still be a better writer at the end of my life than I am now.

Never Gonna Give You Up

I consider it an inevitability rather than a goal.  I look forward to taking several writing courses in the future.  I read differently, and more often now.  I’m building up my mental database with examples of writing I enjoy or find particularly compelling.  I’m noticing varied approaches to unveiling a story.  I didn’t like some of the novels I’ve read recently, but I still learned from them.

Despite persistent issues with anxiety, I’m feeling a more profound sense of calmness overall.  I realize a great deal is likely from working out in the morning.  As when I was a student, it allows me to focus more easily.  Taking breaks to stretch and meditate reinforces this ability.  I also satisfy my overwhelming need to exist mostly in my head for several hours a day.  I no longer berate myself for allowing my brain to function naturally.  I regret it took me this long to embrace my nature.

I discovered I enjoy social interaction when I have the necessary energy and recovery time.  I’ve decided against hoping for others to accept the fact socializing requires epic stamina on my part.  I’m merely going to participate when I’m up for it and refrain when not.  I’m no longer going to feel bad for allowing myself recovery time after interactions, either.  That was just silliness on my part.  My bad.  🙃  I’m off to build my server.  ✌🏽

“What was my father doing with a man in a cape?”

woman playing driving video game

It’s breezy today.  I like it.  A nice respite from too hot to go outside.  We didn’t have any band practice this weekend, so I’ve been bonding with my Playstation 4 and Xbox One.  (Not the Xbox One S, sigh.)  M still hasn’t let me try his new Xbox One X.  😂  The Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed franchises aren’t for me.  Forza 7 looks fabulous, but I’m the worst at driving games.  If the object were to go the wrong direction and damage the car as much as possible, I’d rule, though.  🤭

I stick to puzzle games and pinball, mostly.  I’m getting good at pinball, (but I think my rank is in the mid 200’s on my best table.)  Not screenshot-worthy, yet.  Heh.  I’m enjoying Unmechanical, and Southpark:  The Stick of Truth today.  (Hearing Cartman drop F-bombs cracks me up.)  I tried one of M’s horror games on the PlayStation VR, yesterday.  It triggered a lot of ideas regarding VR’s potential.  (It also scared me so much I shook for a while after quitting.)

I’m low-level stressing out because I suspect M paid far more for my birthday gift than I his.  Something within me needs it to be even.  I know I need to talk about it with him, but I’m not looking forward to it.  I hate defending an irrational stance based on a gut feeling.  There’s a 99.99% chance I’ll bear a smirk against my will the entire time I present my case.  (Dammit, Face!  Do what I command!)

I can never play Spades, Poker, or the like.  At least not if the goal is to win.  I can think of at least two people who are still pissed off at me for accidentally reneging in Spades in the 90’s.  I think it might be an autism thing.  For me, it takes all available resources to mask enough to be at the table with multiple people in the first place.  Be amazed I only did it once and didn’t cut, don’t you know.  💪🏽  But I accept it’s not for me.  Now.  🙃

people gambling

 

I think I’m going to get M some new headphones.  There are a few by Focal I know he’d love.  Massdrop has three colorways available, but the black ones look incredible.  But my stomach hurts, so I think I’d better plead my pathetic case first, and talk to him.  (I keep my conscience in my gut, I guess.)  No wonder it tends to get more significant as we age.  😂

I can’t get enough of Solo by Clean Bandit ft. Demi Lovato.  I woke myself up from singing it in my sleep this morning.  Yep.  That’s me in the dictionary next to the word, doof.  👍🏽  In my defense, it’s a pleasant way to awaken.  Also, I love Demi Lovato.  (She’s a mental health advocate, too.)  I heard the Maroon 5 song with Cardi B earlier.  I was about to get mad when she finally started rapping.  If you’re going to ride her fame rocket for a boost, bring her in right away.  That’s all I’m saying.  🙃  I’m off to play Skylanders.

 

“My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.”

orange in apple box

It’s beautiful and crisp with a breeze today.  I slept in for the first time in recent memory.  Yesterday was surreal because I finally broke out of rote mode completely.  Say hello to Alison 5.0.  I’ve gained some insight into how to control my ability to be present.  I hate how it sounds like psychobabble, but it’s too important to ignore.

I’m astonished by what I’ve discovered.  For my entire life, I’ve been told my way of thinking, feeling, and behaving is odd.  Abnormal.  Strange has been my lifelong companion.  I’ve accepted it as my default.  I don’t take on the negative connotations as part of the deal, though.  They only show up when The Depression Monster is lurking.

I’ve identified it as fact rather than flaw for the most part.  As I grow and learn myself, I notice behaviors I want to abandon along the way.  My methodology for achieving these changes is where I’m focused.  (I’m probably too excited about this to explain it well.)  My perception of the world has been my greatest asset all along.

I often joke about how I live life on a 3-second delay.  It turns out; it’s an advantage.  Yay.  Also, my constant internal dialogue is a skill, not a quirk.  It’s the key to my superpower ability to focus on one thing for several hours without losing that focus.  The hard part was learning to control my reaction to being interrupted.  (Being a child was the biggest obstacle in that regard.)

inner dialogue

New rule:  From now on I will not attempt to refrain from talking to myself.  I suspect I do it aloud when I’m either alone or if background noise is threatening to distract me.  I prefer being dismissed by others on sight to being interrupted.  When I slip into a rote mode, it’s because I’ve let go of my inner dialogue.

Instead of being present in the internal conversation, it allows all the background noise to take over.  It’s an extremely vulnerable state.  It’s like leaving the door unlocked in a shady neighborhood.  I don’t want to spend any more time in that state.  I’m kicking that shit to the curb now that I figured out how it works.

The background noise is a welcome mat for The Depression Monster and Anxiety.  It’s the opposite of focus.  It’s mental chaos.  Every fleeting thought gets an equal voice because my bullshit detector is offline.  All those times people have yelled at me out of exasperation for having no common sense comes to mind.  Sense requires being there to activate it.

Background noise is my ego unchecked in reaction to the world around me.  So, I’m donning some (figurative) background noise canceling headphones.  At the moment, I’m embarrassed it took me this long to notice.  45 has spent over a year demonstrating how an unchecked ego reacting to the world is not the path to a joyful, peaceful existence for anyone.  Operation Mute is in effect.  Peace.  💜

“Happy, Pappy?”

Happy

I’m floating on anticipatory joy.  Soon, I’ll be attending a Fleetwood Mac concert.  It will be at least a few months after going to see Beyoncé in August.  (!!!)  I don’t know when or where exactly as the show is a gift from M.  I can barely contain my excitement.  It’s intended for my birthday next month, but he knew it was too big to keep completely secret.

M understands my preference for mental preparation.  And my need to jump up and down whenever I remember what’s coming up.  (No wonder I love him.)  I feel like I just finished a 200-meter dash.  I had to let the cable person in my home office earlier to upgrade my internet.  They’re gone now, but my body hasn’t caught up.

This room is my happy place in the universe, so I hate feeling anxious in here.  At least I’m recovering more quickly than Amelia Bedelia.  She’s still hiding in her fort atop her climbing tree.  She probably won’t come out for another hour or so, then reluctantly forgive me for allowing a stranger in her space.

The Depression Monster is pouting in the corner.  Heh.  (Stay there, asshole.)  Wakanda Forever!  I watched Black Panther in Playstation VR yesterday.  The immersion was incredible.  I forgot I had a body until it was over.  I took a half-hour break in the middle, then resumed through the end.  That’s a new record for me with an action film.  (They usually require several short viewings.)

I’m going to do it again with The Color Purple next.  It’s a movie and novel that affected me so profoundly; it’s part of my journey.  I have fond memories of watching it often with several other women in the barracks while I was in the Army.  I discovered I’m not the only one who says the lines verbatim while it’s showing, (practically by compulsion.)  None of my Army buddies ever told me off for doing it, and many said them with me.

Whoopie Goldberg in The Color Purple

I remember when Whoopie Goldberg did standup comedy.  My sister Heather and I watched her specials on HBO religiously.  She was the first black woman we encountered that we could relate to as teens.  She showed us our isolation from other African Americans didn’t exclude us from the experience (or the jokes.)  We were right there with her all the way, laughing uproariously.

Robin Williams, George Carlin, and Eddie Murphy also left us quivering in puddles of giggles on the floor.  Good times.  Remembering has calmed my anxiety.  Yay.  I’m off to practice with my band.  Hopefully without grinning like I just won the lottery.  I need to find my war face or something.  Squee!  I mean, huah!  💜