QUIET!

If I hear one more time that I am a quiet person, I will … never mind!

My “quiet” reputation isn’t news to me but you’d think those who have told me I’m a “quietee” thought it was their job to inform me.

I recall once of someone bringing it to not only my attention but to everyone else in the room. What that person was thinking was beyond me. I wasn’t expecting such from a fellow church member in my Sunday School class. The class members spoke up more than most any other church classes I had attended. I was content to listen to their voices which weren’t always in unison on all topics. There was ample supply of both discussion and debate. Those who offered their opinion knew they were at risk of being countered by another fellow loving member. I had easily maintained my reputation in class of not taking the floor, but such was true of any class I attended.  

This was also long before I knew I had autism.  I had my opinion and was content to self-talk about it when I was by myself. I would never have given my two cents worth for fear of having to defend it. I’m not a debater! If I am at the head of the table, the sole speaker, I will gladly speak to those who have to listen to me for a change. But when I’m just one of those around the table, my mute button is on.

So on this one Sunday out of the blue, the class member brought it to everybody’s attention that if I ever spoke up, he’d fall out of his chair. It would have been tempting, so tempting, to have spoken just to see if he would take a fall. However, I just smiled but underneath, I was even more determined to maintain my silent reputation. 

I have encountered many a time an opposite situation that can be just as painful. I have been “shooshed” about as many times as I have been reminded that I am quiet.

I wish my mouth came with a volume control button. When I am talking one-on-one about a topic dear to my heart, have a strong opinion about, and have much to say about it, my volume goes UP! It is true when I’m conversing on the phone as well as in person. The stronger the point is I am trying to make, the louder I get.

This tendency of mine gave me grief during my a decade of working in a government library. A library is a mine field for getting “shooshed”. A few times it was a supervisor that “shooshed” me. Another time was a library patron who did more than “shoosh” but told me off in front of a few of my colleagues. If he had just said something like “Quiet please!”, it would have been sufficient. I would have gotten the message. It is a good thing the patron didn’t see one of my colleagues throw a piece of trash behind the patron’s back after the patron gave it to me in spades.

In each case of being told, more or less, to be “quiet”, it was an upper cut to my heart. I would try so hard to remind myself to keep the volume down. The “reminder” just wouldn’t enter my mind when I was empathically and/or enthusiastically telling someone “all about it”.

After I learned about my autism, I had an explanation of why I am so quiet amidst people and why I raise my voice when I have an active listener. The explanation didn’t change my reputation for being the quiet one. It didn’t keep me from being told to turn down the volume. It did help me from being so hard on myself. Another thing that helped besides my diagnosis was leaving my library job by way of retirement station.

I still get “shooshed” though but not as often. I am living back with my Mom now. She “shooshed” me when I was a kid and although I am a senior citizen, I’m not too old for her to “shoosh”.

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Queen for the Moment

In a conversation with a special education instructor about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and traits, I said one of mine was, “When I like something, I go way, way, overboard”. She nodded and pointed at her student who was happily walking around the classroom holding an IPAD to his ear listening to the same cartoon app over and over again. I did something similar when I was his age but it was a record player with 45 rpm records.

One of many things I go overboard with are automobiles. A few decades ago, I bought my first hybrid car, a Toyota Prius. I was impressed with saving at the gas pump. To this day, any time I fill my Mom’s non-hybrid with gas I’m reminded of that luxury. However, the main attraction wasn’t its hybrid capability, but the tech gadgets such as remote key entry, GPS, and satellite radio. It was more the “tech” than its exterior, or interior, or what was under the hood that I got all excited about. How overboard did I go with Priuses? I’ve owned more of them than most Toyota dealerships have of Priuses on their lot on any given day. I can’t remember all of my Toy-Ex’s. I don’t stay married to a car for long. Within two years or less, I’m ready to separate and start looking for another auto-mate.

So, I am not new to auto shopping. I don’t go about it the typical way which is true about most anything I tackle. My autism doesn’t go into hiding when I go to a car dealership. It plays a vital role in what I do, when I do it, and above all, how I do it.

I arrive at the dealership with a price in my mind of the least amount I’ll take for my car I’m seeking to divorce. I suspect that figure is a low estimate because in all the times I have bought a vehicle, the auto dealer’s offer has exceeded that amount.

I don’t take everything a car salesperson says to the bank. I suspect there is more going on behind the scenes from what others have told me. I know those times throughout the buying experience when the salesperson goes behind closed doors that he or she is doing more than taking a nature break or visiting the water fountain. I know that someone like my brother who is a retired General Motors (GM) employee could come out of a car deal shelling out less dough than me. I could bribe or beg someone I know with auto expertise and strong negotiating skills to go with me, but I prefer to do things by myself! Stubborn? Guilty as charged.

The strange thing is I don’t mind my chat with a car salesperson. That’s an odd thing since I am happiest by myself. Why is a car salesman different? In a nutshell, I have the person’s undivided attention! I control the conversation! I can say just about anything and the salesperson will agree with me. It doesn’t matter if the topic is on cars or the best places to eat on the north side of the Red River. In all my encounters, I haven’t met a salesman yet who didn’t follow along with me and who didn’t hang on my every word. I get more “you got a point” or “you got that right” or “I totally agree” than in conversations I have with most folks like my Mom, bless her heart.

I can’t read minds and I’m not accurate with reading facial expressions either. So, I can’t possibly know if the salesperson is sincerely agreeing with me or not. It is in their best interest not to get in a debate with a customer who may make their day in a sale. I empathize with the enormous pressure on sales people to convince someone they probably just met to fork over thousands of dollars for what they are trying to sell as a must-have set of wheels. My ASD would have made me a pitiful sales associate since anyone in sales must do a lot of social interacting on the job.

I write this at the time I divorced one hybrid and got hitched to a new one. This one was different than all my previous ones by the fact I went to a brand new dealer. But I still stuck to a hybrid. It had more “tech” gadgets than my ex. It had more safety features and as a driver, I need all the help I can get. My salesperson was a delight to converse with. He treated me like a queen.

I told him I had ASD. The reason I brought it up was to explain why I wanted him to drive when we did the test drive because I could learn better by watching him. When someone is watching me do whatever and giving me instruction at the same time, my anxiety is over the speed limit. After observing him, I was able with confidence take over the wheel on the second half of the test drive. I know I didn’t have to tell him I had ASD. It’s not something I tell everyone but I am by no means ashamed of it. Besides, if he doesn’t know anyone who has ASD, well, now he has a face to ASD – mine.

The day after I met and took my “new set of wheels” home, I felt like I was suffering a hangover from too much social interaction from the day before. Even though the socializing was “happy”, it was intense. My encounters with the salesperson, finance person, and the manager of the dealership took more wear and tear on my nerves than I thought it would. Then, the phone calls I wasted no time in making to notify those I needed to, such as auto insurance, about my auto divorce and remarriage.

It took a few days for me to be up for playing with my new “babe on wheels”, basking in all the new tech gifts it offered. How excited was I? I was as happy cruising down the road as the youngster walking around the room with the IPAD to his ear.

The Dogs and Me

Try to picture this:  A 62-going-on-12 gray-haired lady in her P.J.’s outside after midnight in the country, yelling “Luna”, with a dog bone in hand.   I was so thankful there were no kinfolk around with a cellphone camera.

Just some background. In my retirement years, I have an occasional job of dog sitting for my brother and sister-in-law. It is a vacation for me since I love being in locations, regardless of urban, suburban, or rural, where it is just me alone doing what I want to, when I want to, and how I want to on my own schedule. Alone as in no human within a few miles.

What landed me out at midnight all began earlier around 8:00 p.m. when both dogs, Bailey and Luna, heard one of them creatures, such as a deer or turkey, that comes out after the Sun goes to bed.  I knew about them creatures because my brother has an outdoor camera that has caught these creatures on camera coming out after dark. The dogs both leaped towards the door and I let them out.  That’s where I made my mistake but at the time I thought it would give them one more opportunity to respond to a nature call.  I was sensitive to that since the morning before, just after sunrise, I was cleaning two carpets, one with pee and the other with poop.  I don’t know which dog did which or if one dog did both.  Neither would own up to it.

Well, on every dog sitting gig I’ve ever been on, they wasted no time in coming back after letting them out, even at night.  BUT NOT THIS TIME!  Both of them, I do mean BOTH, even “shy” Bailey, were still out there at my bedtime at 10:00 sharp!  Now my Autism doesn’t stay home when I go out of town. It is a prominent player in whatever I do and wherever I am. Such as following my routine, it is almost as paramount as breathing.  So I went to bed at my routine time with no dogs in the house.  This is NOT what dog sitters aim for.

Before they left, my sister-in-law warned me that Luna would do a disappearing act at night.  She suggested putting a leash on Luna or tempting her to come back in with a treat if she was within eyesight.  She didn’t mention any possibility of Bailey pulling such a stunt.  I admit I didn’t follow the instruction because it didn’t make sense to me. Oops! If I had put on a leash on Luna, it could have all been averted.

The thought crossed my mind that if this had happened with my brother and sister-in-law at home, they would have gone out looking for them.  One going in one direction and the other in another. Just a passing thought though.  For one thing, there was just one of me. And, too, I wouldn’t have known where to start.  I don’t know exactly how many acres my brother has, but one too many for me to conduct a night dog hunt by myself. Also, there were those night creatures wandering around.  Even a raccoon would scare the diddly-squats out of me!

I went to bed in the recliner but sleep?  HARDLY!  I had a fearful thought that if after sunrise the dogs had not returned, I would be out searching for their remains.  I imagined all sorts of things. Some realistic but most not. Did one of them night creatures get them?  BOTH?  What kind of creature could…  Just awful thoughts that made sleep impossible. 

I thought, too, if the worse happened, how would I tell my kin?  Maybe gradually telling them.  Like starting off with, “Have yall thought of getting a rabbit?  Like your granddaughter got for Christmas.  Even better, a pair of hare so one hare doesn’t get lonely?”  

An hour or so after I went to bed, Bailey ambles in as pretty as she pleased.  She joins me in the recliner.  Bailey is not the risk-taker that her younger sister Luna is. I was surprised Bailey took off, but it isn’t surprising she was the first one back. Well, my anxiety dropped some.  One dog was better than losing them both.  

My stomach started hurting.  I’m sure it was the stress.  I can laugh about this now but it was no laughing matter at the time.  Finally, I heard her barking.  Now if I had been her human parent, I would have gone out there at the time.  But, shoot, the wind was kicking up a storm and there was those creatures. I had the door slightly open which was how Bailey got in.  I figured Luna knew how to get home when she was ready.  At least, I knew she was still among the living!

I got up twice with my stomach.  On the second time as I was making my way back to the recliner, I had a sighting of Luna.  I saw her through the window sitting there as pretty as she pleased at the side of the house.  That’s when I retrieved a big dog bone treat, meat-filled too, I had bought her earlier in the day.  She came back inside; not for me, goodness NO!  I’m just some animated object holding the golden prize of a bone to her.  Can you tell I’m still peeved at her?

The next morning I scolded Luna for being out beyond her curfew!  It’s like having a teenager in the house. Now when I was a teen I never had a curfew. Instead, my Mom worried that I never went out with friends to begin with. Of course, I knew scolding Luna did as much good as talking to a fence post. I acted serious-like but I was pretending to be such.

Don’t get me wrong! I luv the pups I sit for. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have any “solo” vacations. Despite their mischievousness, including that of Luna, they are both a joy to watch … just some dog sitting moments more than others.    

Let Me Listen My Own Way

A few years ago when I was a teacher’s aide, I met a boy who was at the time a new addition to a life skills special education class. He was more animated at stimming than the other students. Out of the blue, he would spin around in a circle without missing a step. Just watching him made me dizzy, but if he ever got dizzy, he didn’t show it. I did empathize with his need to stim since I’m on the Spectrum too. I, myself, am a floor pacer. Irregardless of whether it is spinning, pacing, twirling, leg bobbling, etc, it is stimming to comfort ourselves in a world we don’t understand.

The teacher was challenged by his behavior. She had many years of teaching special education classes but doesn’t live on the Spectrum herself. Up until him, her students pretty much stayed in their seats. Also, she had not had much dealing with non-verbal students like this lad. There was another special education class in the school where most all of the students were non-verbal and had more learning challenges than those in this life skills class.

It wasn’t just his spinning that I remember. Like myself and many others on the Spectrum, he had a passion and his was drawing. I had come across other students with Autism who shared this same passion too. Without exception, their drawings were impressive for their age. It was something the boy could do that came natural to him and was not a struggle as every other school activity was.

I recall once the boy was drawing on his tablet while the teacher was giving a lesson. She told the boy to put away his tablet. He was having none of that and so she took the tablet away from him.

She wanted him to pay attention. I wondered as I was observing if she might be going the wrong way about it. I was coming from the perspective of living on the Autism Spectrum. She possibly could have gotten more of his attention by letting him draw while he listened. I, for one, am best at listening when my hands are occupied rather than idle. Since all on the Spectrum are unique, I couldn’t know if the student would have been more attentive with the tablet and pencil.

I wouldn’t want my pastor to know this, but when I listen to his sermon on-line, I do crossword puzzles at the same time. If someone were watching me it may appear that I am more into my puzzle than the sermon. Honestly, I pretty much hear every word. If I just sat down and looked at the computer screen, my mind would be out in left field instead of my pastor’s inspiring words.

As for the student, without a pencil in hand, I wondered if he heard a word the teacher said. While watching him, I was guessing that his mind was far away, perhaps imagining what he would draw next once he got his priceless tablet back.

My Autism Paradox

May be an image of text that says 'The paradox of Autism... wanting friends, but hating social interaction. Joy of Autism'

The desire of a best friend but hating the mere mention of social interaction is one of the paradoxes of living with Billy (my nickname for my Autism – Asperger’s Syndrome). I am hardly alone in that. I’ve come across similar postings and blogs on this subject, too, from my fellow travelers on the Spectrum.

I recall a moment when I had arrived at a kindergarten special education class to fill in for a teacher’s aide. It was just me and the other aide preparing for the kids’ arrival. I don’t recall how we got on the topic of what we wish for. I had only met the aide a few times but I felt a sense of warmth from her. I felt I had a welcome mat from her and that is essential before I divulge my innermost feelings. I told her my long-held wish was to have a best friend. Someone I could talk to about just anything. Someone who’d be there on short notice. A best pal no matter how far apart we were from each other.

The aide showered me with empathy. She restated what she heard me say and she was right on target. It helped soothe my aching heart that someone understood. She gave me a neck hug and it felt good. She mentioned that summer vacation was coming up and we could meet up to go to the movies. Movies? Ugh. I had mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I appreciated the invitation; on the other, I had butterflies in my stomach about such a notion.

We became two ships passing in the night that summer. I got up the courage, and I do mean courage, to reach out to her by sending her a message. I didn’t hear back. I felt hurt and relief. Hurt of being forgotten and relief of getting out of a movie. I later see her again after school starts. She had left me a phone message and I didn’t get it. I was relieved that I had not been forgotten. However, I was also thinking, “Whew! That was close!” since she mentioned she had invited me to go to the movies.

Near the end of that same year, I had the life-changing experience of finding out why I desire having a friend but spurn social interaction. I found out about Billy. It turns out I do have something that has lived with me since birth and will be with me until I leave this planet. I wouldn’t call Billy a long lost friend, but he isn’t entirely a pest. He has his bright side as well as dark. He’s hard to live with at times but he’s given me plenty of writing material.

Billy does flabbergast me at times. I can’t explain him and his paradoxes. One of them being the desire to have a friend but on a non-get-together basis.

My Own Thing

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Retirement became a reality for me at the beginning of 2020.  I was semi-retired anyway working part-time as a school teacher’s aide; however, when COVID became a household word, I decided to go into full-retirement mode.  It wasn’t COVID alone that went into my decision, but it sealed the deal.

Some of my fellow retirees go on cruises, some tour the country with their RV, and some go on vacation trips throughout the year.  All of them getting away from homelife instead of the workplace.  Some do volunteer work, take on a hobby or two, and/or take a job of their liking to give them some spending money.  For me, I’m my elderly Mom’s sidekick and I jokingly tell her I work for her now.  She is supposed to laugh when I say that.  My travel is limited to a 226 mile trip to my siblings’ home to dog-sit their dogs.  It is a dream vacation for both me and my Billy (my nickname for my Asperger’s Syndrome).   I can take the mask off, stem as much as I want and how I want to, talk to myself silly, and hope my brother doesn’t keep his security camera on.

I like to do my own thing.  Retirement gives me much more opportunity to do just that.  Billy and I are content as a kitten with warm milk doing my own thing.  That “thing” may be taking one of my electric bikes/scooters for a ride.  It may be writing blogs/e-mails on one of my computers (yes, I have a few of those).  I can also be totally wrapped up in a video game that is high on patterns and rhythm and low on logic and strategic planning such as building a town from scratch.   All of these activities I do on my own.  I don’t wish or seek a bike partner.  Nor do I a game playing sidekick in-person or virtual.

In doing things on my own, I can do them when, where, and above all, how I want to without the unsolicited assistance of a well-meaning observer.  Even worse, is then the person is more of a backseat driver than a mere observer.  If I mess up, it goes down better if I am the only witness to it.  If someone else points out my error, that moment will remain in my memory and invariably pop up in my mind many years down the road.  Most of those pop-ups occurring between the long span between going to bed and going to dreamland.

 

SEPARATION ANXIETY

A quote from the “Autism Not Weird” website regarding obsessions:

“Normal people have interests. Autistic people have obsessions.”

The writer stated he was being cynical in his quote. Well, I’ll write what I know. Obsessions, having them, is a daily thing as I go about the business of living. My interests go well beyond interests.

One computer is fine, but three? One TV is fine, but three? A few boxes of cereal is fine, but nine boxes of favorite brands stored in my bedroom closet? (The kitchen is my Mom’s territory). A few packs of six-pack diet soda is fine, but five to six six-packs stored in the same closet? My bedroom is not a house of horrors, but is one for housing obsessions.

A crisis is when a product of one of my obsessions goes on the blink or goes missing. Just recently one of my gadgets gave me a bad case of “separation anxiety”.  It was a product from my obsession of electronic gadgetry.   

It wasn’t a member of my cheaper line of gadgets; although, a cheaper one would have given me anxiety too.  I’m a mother hen over my gadgets! I don’t mean that lightly.

The gadget that gave me such a scare was my smartphone.  I first noticed it was not in its designated sweatpants pocket after I got back inside my car at the grocery store.  I figured I had left it at home.  WRONG!  I was horrified that it wasn’t there either.  I do mean horrified!   My tummy was tied in knots.  The Aspie in me was headed for a shutdown. 

My phone is connected to my home computer and a check on my computer showed wherever my phone was it was outside of wi-fi range.  My car is connected to my phone, too, and it told me I wouldn’t find it there either. I still combed my car twice though. I called the grocery store to report it and no one had turned one in.   

Not in the house.  Not in my car.  I was at my wit’s end.  Thoughts were popping in my mind as to what to do.  I went on-line to my phone website and suspended my phone service just in case someone found it who wouldn’t do the right thing.  How did I know to do that? I’ve lost my phone enough times, that’s how.

At a low point, feeling sick to my tummy, a thought came to ask my “Google” voice-activated device to “find my phone”.  The Google-friendly male voice’s response was “I can’t respond to your request since I don’t recognize your voice.  Try going on Google and searching on ‘where’s my device'”.  I guess my “separation anxiety” affected the tone of my voice.  I did sound pitiful all right. 

I didn’t have much hope but I took up the suggestion since I had nothing to lose.  Since I was logged in on Google Chrome, it recognized my Google account and my Google pixel phone, and pulled up the map on my computer screen.  I clicked on the icon and low and behold the picture of the grocery store’s parking lot pulled up.   

I took Google at its word and drove the mile and a half back to the store.  With my suffering from separation anxiety, that mile and a half felt like an across-town trip.  I kid you not! It was like all drivers in my path got the word to “SLOW DOWN”!  It was like the two traffic stop intersections were notified to turn RED upon my arrival.  Did I have a meltdown at the wheel? Well, I did take out my anxiety on the steering wheel.

As I pulled up to the parking lot, I saw my phone lying down at the exact spot where I had gotten out of the car.  Relieved? You would have thought I was a Mama bear who had found her lost cub.

The drive back home didn’t feel near as long as the drive there.  I prayed with gratitude to the Lord for guiding me through my separation anxiety.  Such as NOT giving into panic and ordering a new phone.  Yelp, I was tempted! 

This wasn’t a major storm in my life; although, it felt like it at the moment.  But seriously, it was a minor storm and I believe the Lord works in those little storms too.  Some might ask me, “Why would the Lord care about you losing your smartphone for the upteenth time?”  I take it on faith He knows all about my Autism and why it is that my gadgets are like my own kids. 

My Mom told me I should wear that phone around my neck.  I laughed because it is true.  I conveniently blamed it on my sweat pants’ pocket.  The pocket was not designed to be a phone-keeper-in-tact.  My Mom helped me out by sewing on elastic strips on the opening of the pants pocket.  That way when I wear those pants, (they are a favorite pair) I can put the phone in my pocket and seal it up.  Smart thinking on my Mom’s part.  I wish more of her smartness would rub off on me.  As it is, I do wear my keys around my neck.  I haven’t locked my keys in the car with it running since.

No Middle Ground

But you might also hyperfocus, which makes it super hard to switch to a new task. "Hyperfocus" is kind of a misnomer, Murphy says, but it basically means that people with ADHD can become so deeply focused that they can't let go and stop when they're supposed to switch tasks. (Often known as "being in your own little world.")

When I like something, I go way, way, overboard. When I don’t, it wouldn’t bother me in the least to not see that something for the rest of my days. Obsessions is one of the slices of my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) pie. Compared to the ASD meltdown slice, it is easier to digest.

Fifteen years ago, more or less, I had a base case of VAC-itis. Some see a vacuum as a household tool; I saw it as a toy. At the height of my VAC-itis, my then-apartment resembled a used vac store. When asked why I had so many, I could only think to say “I don’t rightly know.” This was years before I knew about my ASD and the true reason behind my vac obsession as well as other obsessions.

My VAC-itis started when I bought one after moving into a new apartment in 2005. The apartment building was only a few years old and the apartment was the nicest-looking one I had ever lived in. I wanted to keep the apartment “spic and span”. When I went shopping for a vac, I was in awe of the various kinds in the vacs. They had come a long way since I had been down the vac aisle. I didn’t buy a regular run-of-the-mill one but one that had the feel and look of something out of this world. Its accessories in my eyes were tools to play with. I know it sounds strange and I promise I’m not making this up.

It wasn’t long before I added a hand vac, a stick vac, and mini-vacs that ate crumbs off of desk tops. I went big and acquired a heavy-duty vac that also sipped up water from off the floor. This really came in handy when the toilet overflowed. I didn’t forget a vac for my car. I graduated to the carpet steam cleaner. I didn’t much care for the steamer after it burned my hand giving me third degree burns.

On hindsight, my VAC-itis was an offspring of my gadget-itis. My obsession with gadgets that come with batteries or a power cord go back so far that I don’t know when gadget-itis started. In the past few years, my gadget-itis has broadened to electric scooters and video game and virtual reality consoles.   

My obsessions isn’t limited to things I work or play with. It extends to what I eat. My bedroom closet is proof of that. I would keep my food items in the kitchen but I don’t live in a place all my own. I share the kitchen space but I don’t share my bedroom. Cereals, snacks, sodas, etc. reside in my closet along with my clothes. I maintain the supply of my favorite foods in bulk! I grieve as if I lost my best friend when one of my favorite brands is banished from every food store in the neighborhood.

Obsessions come and stay for the long haul; some are short-term; and some come and return. I should know. My latest addition: a broom and vac in one!

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I Like It Blank

☆ Even "events" that I'm looking forward to can provoke so much anxiety/stress that I can't relax enough to enjoy the actual event. Basic functions such as grooming, bathing, dressing can become like major hurdles to accomplish.

I’ve been in retirement ville for almost two years at this writing. What do I like most about retirement? I have fewer events to dread beforehand, to endure, and to recover from.

A good week is the one on my calendar that is blank! No events. No appointments. Most weeks, thanks to being among the truly retired of the AARP membership, I can get by with more blank weeks.

Although there are fewer of them, I still have events to attend to. It is a well-known fact that the more birthdays you have, the more likelihood of doctor visits, lab tests, therapy sessions, hospital stays, and so on. I have been so fortunate that at the age of 62, I have only been a hospital patient once and I was way too young to remember it since it was at birth. But it seems that since I hit the 50 mark, I am having to make multiple visits in a year’s time to a doctor for this check-up and a doctor for something else. Gone are the days when I got away with not going to the doctor except when I was hurting so bad that I gave in.

Each appointment is an “event” that I am looking forward to being OVER! I will not relax about it until I walk out of the doctor’s office. I have nightmares before the event. I take my anxiety pill that I only take for “as needed” the night before. I rehearse beforehand of what I will say to the doctor as if I have a crystal ball forecasting his questions. Even though I can’t recall a time when what I rehearsed did in fact occur, I still rehearse anyway. I cannot help it!

There are other events I must attend to as well. My car has health exams, too, every six months or so. Then, there are the unexpected repair appointments that carry with them extra anxiety since they were unplanned. I dread the car appointments as much as my own. It’s not unusual for my car to be held up in the examining room longer than myself.

Thanks to retirement, I have no work parties or lunch invites. Some of my former colleagues go to retirement luncheons on a monthly or semi-monthly basis. It is nothing against them, but I wouldn’t go to one unless a gun was at my back. That’s an exaggeration but I kid you not, not by much. When I was a member of the work force, I couldn’t get out of parties but I didn’t have to fear being invited to go to lunch with one or more. I suspect it was because my excuses not to join them for lunch got pretty lame.

Another event is family gatherings. I truly wish I could enjoy such events as my family members do, but I haven’t found a way to make that wish come true. Before I learned I had Autism, I didn’t understand why the gatherings, usually on major holidays, did not live up to my expectations. I did like the food though and watching the kids play. If the kids let me join them, I would! It was more fun playing with them than being at the grown-up table where my mute button was on. The year of 2020, I got out of these events for the entire year because of a pandemic. I was not glad at all about the pandemic. Absolutely awful! Something I hope I never live through again. I knew of those who died and those who survived it. Even as bad as it was, there were a few silver linings and that was one of them.

I don’t wish for no events for the year! I’m not that much a hermit. But I am grateful for retirement where I have fewer events and have more choice in making or avoiding them.

Playing with Billy

“Billy” is my nickname for my Autism. I have a nickname for my car, a nickname for each of my scooters, and it seemed like a good idea to have a nickname for something I live with around the clock.

Alex Durig, a Ph.D., author of numerous books about autism, wrote that people with Autism will often enjoy doing puzzles. I totally agree with Durig. Working on puzzles is on my daily routine list. If there is a day that I don’t touch a puzzle, it is a day that I’m on my backside in utter misery. I mean UTTER misery! It has happened so seldom that I can’t recall offhand when I had a puzzle-less day.

As for how good I am, it depends on the puzzle. Easy Crossword – a champ! Hard -not so much. I don’t want to waste my puzzle books. They are expensive enough that I don’t want to throw one away that has more unsolved than solved puzzles. My method is to look up some of the answers to the hard puzzles to downgrade them to “medium, or “easy”, so I can solve them and make more use of the puzzle book.

The type of word puzzles that are solved and those that are blank when I toss the puzzle book says something about Billy and me. Back when I was a library cataloger, the computer technician and I worked closely since I was the “mother” of the library on-line catalog. She thought I was good at feeding the catalog healthy data vs. bad. She shared with me her observation that I enjoyed playing with words. I don’t take every compliment I receive to the bank, but this one I did. It explains why I like playing word games: crosswords, word searches, cryptograms, quota-grams, and other assorted word puzzles.

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The puzzles I don’t touch are logic problems. A typical logic problem goes something like this: Who won the $100, $200, $500, and $1,000 games? Person A wasn’t the winner of the $1,000 game; Person B didn’t win the $500; Person D won more than at least one other player; Person C won half of what another person won, etc. Billy cannot compute that much verbage at once! It reminds me of my difficulty in decoding a long string of verbal instructions such as the box is in the door closet in the bedroom where the plants are, on the second shelf to the right inside the door, towards the back of the shelf, under some pairs of shoes. Got that? NOPE! Draw me a map please!

Durig also wrote that research indicates that people with autism tend to excel at, or favor, tasks requiring deductive reasoning. WOW! That just may explain why puzzles, like Sudoku, are ones I can enjoy doing because they don’t leave me stumped. To play this popular mathematics game, I deduce what number goes in a square by the rules of the game and the numbers I am given. Unlike logic games, Sudoku has no verbage.

I play games on video consoles too.  I would have never thought I would become a video-gamer.  Not in a million years.  You see I have never wanted to play games with others. I didn’t as a kid and that has not changed with my aging.   I was tickled pink when I discovered that there were “single-player” games on these consoles.

The games on my account reflect Billy. There are no role-playing games where I play a super-hero and put mobsters in their place, no strategy games like building a town from scratch, and no games where I have to think outside the box.

Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight | Disney LOL

A game I consider to be therapeutic as well as entertaining is a Disney game. Mostly children play this game but Billy is 62 going on 12. I lose more than I win. Besides humbling me, it is a calming exercise. The game opens up with a screen diagram, similar to a crossword diagram, with a shape in each block. The shapes may be that of a square, triangle, circle etc. I play the game by moving one block up, down, right, or left so that it is adjacent to two identical shapes. The three in a row, across or down, will knock down a row. The goal of the game is to move the block containing a “special” object, unlike any of the other shapes, to the bottom of the diagram. The reason I seldom win is the same reason I don’t play logic word puzzles. There is a logical way to select which set of threesome, step-by-step, to move the “special” block to the bottom of the deck before the “Too Bad!” appears on the screen. Even though I seldom win, it is a favorite because I like detecting patterns and that’s a common trait of those living on the Spectrum.

I’m also a virtual-reality (VR) gamer too. In my bedroom, I can be caught playing with goggles on my head making all kinds of arm and leg motions. It’s not as strange for me to do as it maybe other folks my age. Because of Billy, I stem with pacing and running in place in any room of the house.

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My favorite game includes several songs with up to five levels of difficulty, starting from Easy all the way to Expert+. My VR motion controllers turn into a pair of glowing swords, with one on the left hand being red in most songs, and my right hand being blue. In each song, a stream of blocks come at me, each block being either blue or red. I use my swords to slash the blocks, red blocks with my left hand, and blues with my right. When a block is slashed, it is destroyed and a score is awarded.

Why does Billy like this game? Each of the songs have a pattern. Such as a repetitive of three blue blocks in a row, followed by a single red, etc. The more I play the song, the more familiar I become with a song’s pattern and my score improves. I have upgraded from the “easy” to “normal”, and on a few songs, the “hard”. No expectation of reaching Expert and Expert+. Why? Billy and I are not quick on the feet. The higher levels are too many red and blue blocks coming at me at once. I can’t switch from blue to red, right and left hands, in fast motion. I have this annoying problem about having to “think” when I’m having to choose between my left and right or push or pull. But no matter. I’m content playing to the beat and pattern at a speed that Billy and I can master.

Therefore, Billy has a big say in what games or puzzles I like to play and what I don’t. What comes natural to me and what doesn’t. If someone were to ask me what is a bright side to Billy, I can answer that in various ways. One is to show them my almost finished puzzle book.