How I Beat the Boredom Blues

The combo, “Rest and Relaxation”, more commonly known as R & R, has a nice ring to it.  It is a prime motivator for folks to flock to the beach, embark on a cruise, visit an amusement park, etc.  R & R can be done without leaving home on a daily basis if one has the desire for R & R or has the time.  Me?  Retirement has given me more time for it, but I don’t go about it the way anyone I know does.

During my waking hours, I need to be doing something.  Boredom is not good for my anxiety.  Even when doing something relaxing, such as watching a movie, my hands are not idle.  They are instead on a computer keyboard, or operating my hand-held video game gadget, or even dusting furniture.  In fact, I can get a lot done while watching a movie.  Sure I miss some of the flick but most flicks don’t hardly require catching every word to follow along.

I don’t know anyone offhand beside myself who fights boredom in the autumn by picking up pecans.  I can retreat to my lovely backyard that comes complete with a pecan tree with far reaching limbs that almost take up the entire yard.  A bonus is getting walking and bending exercise while roaming the yard with a bucket in hand.

In the summertime, I pull weeds as an option of having something to do to keep boredom away.  Once I get started pulling, it is hard to stop.  I tend to go overboard though.  How overboard?  Well, the evidence of my weed-pulling obsession are patches of dirt in my yard where nothing is growing and it isn’t from a lack of rain.

Scooter Hostage

What happens if you keep someone living on the Autism Spectrum (AS) from following their special interests?
I don’t dare speak for all my fellow AS travelers, but I can for me:  WWIII
If someone or something is standing in the way of my special interest, for instance, my electric scooters, it would be, more or less, the equivalent of taking a pacifier from an infant, a favorite toy from a child, a cell phone from an outgoing teenager, and the remote control from a couch potato.
I was separated from one of my e-bikes, a charger for another e-bike, and two chargers to my Segway scooters.  They were hostages in the backyard shed.  How did that happen?  My fault.  I lost the shed keys.
My last memory of the keys was putting them in my t-shirt pocket some time before I took my bike for a ride in a neighborhood park.  Panic immediately set in after my ride and there was no key in my pocket.  A possibility was they were back on the park trail.  I had taken a tumble at the park on the grass when I took a detour off the sidewalk trail.  I didn’t land on the ground but I was bent over the bike for a few seconds.
After running out of places to look at home, I went back to the park with a flashlight.  By then it was pitch dark.  I was so desperate that I went out by my lonesome!  It wasn’t a smart thing to do but my “special interest” – scooters and bikes – were grounded without their chargers!  The park wasn’t a ghost town with there being a fair amount of folks still hanging out after dark.  Unfortunately, no sighting of the keys.
I messaged a friend to please ask her husband if he had any advice.  I figured he being a retired engineer would know how to break a lock.  His advice was that the least expensive option to break into the shed was to use bolt cutters.
Since I didn’t have a pair, it meant a trip to the hardware store.  Home improvement is NOT one of my special interests.  I seldom ever enter such a place.  But desperation called for desperate measures!  With fear and hope riding in my soul, I took the bull by the horn and dropped in on the neighborhood mega-hardware store.
After desperately roaming around with no sighting of cutters, I approached a middle-aged guy who was busy stocking a shelf.  I had to ask him twice before I got his attention.  He said I could find cutters in the tool department just passed check-out number 4.  I wouldn’t have minded him escorting me, but he didn’t offer and it isn’t in me to ask.
Although the tool department wasn’t as large as other departments, it was big enough for me to feel lost in.  So many tools in various sizes and shapes.  I browsed the many package labels in search of the phrase “bolt cutter”.  I would have been there no telling how long if it hadn’t been for a senior citizen who noticed me and figured I was out of my element.
He asked, “Can I help you?”  Music to my ears at the time.  He not only escorted me to the cutters but asked what I needed them for.  If he hadn’t asked, I would have bought the cheapest of the lot and it would have been for naught.  The size of the padlock one wants to break must have a pair of cutters big enough to do the job.
When I got home, I was so tired!  Emotionally exhausted!  It was no small thing for me to go to a place where I was totally out of my element.  And, above all, to ask for help.  But I did it because I had to do whatever I could to rescue what the equipment I needed to pursue my special interest!
I felt such relief when one of my brothers broke into the shed with our new cutters.  My bike and the chargers to the other bikes were a sight for sore eyes!
I also felt tremendous gratitude for the senior citizen who saw me, didn’t look the other way, and asked questions I would have been afraid to ask if I had been in his shoes.

Keep It Short, Will Ya?

A posting by one known as “the girl with the curly hair”, a well-known and distinguished writer from the U.K., reads as follows:

I try to listen to people, but listening is very hard. I’m usually being very patient waiting for them to get to the point they want to make. It is very difficult for me to stay engaged.

Most any posting of “the girl with the curly hair” on my social media feed catches my eye because she, like me, is on the Autism Spectrum. This one, like so many of hers, hits close to home. It probably does with a lot of people to stay engaged when someone else is doing the talking.

I secretly wish when someone is beginning their story: PLEASE cut directly to the chase. If the person doesn’t cut, my patience is tested and so is my ability to keep my “interested” face mask on.

I admit, though, when I’m the one telling the story about something I am passionate about, I take the monologue route with at least one detour if not a slew of them. I’ve gotten hints that I am guilty of doing that such as the person changing the subject or escapes leaving me in mid-sentence.

My tendency to be longwinded is one big reason why I prefer to communicate with my fellow man on-line instead of in-person. Such as I have four e-mail fans that I write every Sunday. It has become my routine to do so. I write an original draft sometime during the week. I edit my original throughout the week up until Sunday. The size of my original and my final draft is like going from a Double Meat Whopper to a mini-burger.

Battle of the Bulge

I sometimes wish my brain worked a problem or a process going from A to B.  A direct line with no waiting and no detours.  But one of the things I do living on the Spectrum us zigzag.  It doesn’t come to me natural-like to solve an everyday problem as it does folks around me who are baffled at times at me.  I baffle myself sometimes at how long it took for the lightbulb moment.  My first attempt to solve a problem is more often not the last.  It may even take me years to figure out an easier way to do something that others figured out right off the bat.
easyway
The picture of the bike at the top?  You might notice the bulge on the back of my electronic bike (e-bike).  It’s hard to miss.
Before the bulge, there was a flat tire.  I put air in the tire using my handy-dandy digital air compressor.  As I was walking it back to the shed, its nesting place, I heard the wheel make a repeated sound.  You can almost always count on an unusual sound in a bike, vehicle, or any mobile transporter as being a bad sign.
The source, the bulge, was at least easy to locate.  I tried to use one of the tools in the shed to put the tire tread back in place.  It was not an effective solution and neither was my second.  After tooling with it, I tried it out and it wasn’t making the sound.  It still had a “mini” bulge but against my better judgment (my brain must have took a leave of absence) I took it for a spin to a nearby school park.  It’s a good thing I didn’t go further because the bulge grew to MAXI size.  It only takes a minute or two to get to this school on a healthy e-bike.  One with a back tire bulge near the middle of August in the heart of Texas?  I’ll just say after I put the bike to bed, I took a shower and an Advil.
I was so exhausted and fed up that I didn’t bother putting the e-bike back in the shed.  I figured the odds were low of someone taking it with a bulge in its back shoe.   A bike thief would have noticed right away something was wrong, even in the middle of the night, because the bulge was as much a brake to the bike as the bike’s own brake.
At 3:41 a.m., a lightbulb in my brain went off.  This wasn’t unusual for me to be awake that hour since sleep is something that does not come easy on most nights.  It wasn’t unusual for a lightbulb to a problem go off at odd hours either.  Before I am in sleepytown, my mind is wide-awake trying to solve world problems.
One of a number of reasons why social interaction is such a challenge is my zigzagging.  When someone asks me a question, they expect an answer on the spot.  I don’t blame one for that since if I’m the one asking, I want an answer sooner rather than later.  If I am pressured to give an answer on the spot, the odds of it being the correct or best answer is mighty low.  It may take hours, days, or months for an answer to pop in my brain.  In this case of the bulge, it just took less than 24 hours.
The “fix” reminded me of one sitting down to their favorite entree with all the trimmings.  One eats so much that their tummy is bulging and has to unbutton their pants to release the pressure.  I basically did that with my back tire when I overfed it with air so to speak.  The solution was to let the air out; thus, getting rid of the bulge.  Then, carefully air it back up giving it not too little and absolutely not too much.  I wish I had figured that out immediately but a direct A to B thinker I am not.
Now as for me and my e-bike, I took a victory lap in my backyard after the bulge was gone.  I pedaled like a proud Peacock.  It wasn’t only that my tire was out of the sickbay, but that I had won the battle of the bulge on my own.

Living on the Spectrum with COVID-19

Dear Extroverts,

Never fear!  You will survive COVID!  I know you are not used to keeping your distance from your fellow man.  One day, no estimate on when that day will be, you will be able to gather in groves and chat to your hearts’ content.  Why you would want to do that is beyond me but to each his own.

 

Dear Introverts,

Extroverts are new to this social distancing thing.  Don’t laugh too hard.  If and when the day comes when social distancing is no longer encouraged, it’ll be their turn up at bat again.

 

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IT’S OLD HAT TO ME

With “IT” (my nickname for COVID) came the phrase “social-distancing”.  If I heard it once, I heard it a zillion times on national and local news stations.  It wasn’t a phrase I said a lot myself before “IT” came along.  But it is a phrase I know all too well because I live it every day.  It’s not that I don’t like people; I just don’t like being around them much.

MASK ADVANTAGE

Masking my Autism comes naturally. I’ve had more than a half-century practice at it. Wearing a physical mask that’s required these days due to “IT” doesn’t come naturally, but there is an advantage to my Autism. I don’t have to be so careful about talking to myself in public with a mask covering my mouth.

FORGETTING WHEN I’M OUT OF ZONE

I had a good track record of wearing my mask in public.  But I did forget it more than once at places where masks were required.  On one occasion, I had been in the grocery store for a minute or two before I realized I was bare-faced.  My walk out of the store and to my car felt much longer than it was.  Although it probably wasn’t the case, I felt all eyes were on me since my bare face stuck out like a sore thumb.  I was thankful, though, that the store “masked” guard did not shoo me away at the door.  If that had happened, it would have haunted me for no telling how many years.  I could say I forgot the mask or wasn’t paying attention.  But that wouldn’t be the truth.  My Autism doesn’t stay at home when I go shopping.  I try not to zone out in my imaginary world when I’m out and about, but I sure did that time.

NO CHANCE

One of the “IT” safety rules is not to put your hands in your mouth and not to touch one’s face.  Fat chance of either happening!  It’s hard to stop touching my face when most of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it.  Plus, I’m a nail-biter from childhood.  Nailbiting is one of many ways I stim.  I am also a neck-back-and-shoulder scratcher even when I don’t have the itch to itch.  My way of compensating for this while “IT” is a threat is to double down on another “IT” rule:  handwashing.  And, making more use of my wooden back-scratcher.

GOT SOME WALKING IN

One of the things that came into existence thanks to “IT” was floor up-and-down arrows located at the end of the store aisles.  Since one of my autism traits is that rules are more of a need than a pain to me, I bowed to the arrows.  Now my record was not 100% adherence to all store visits, but my record of obedience wasn’t shabby as compared to a good portion of my fellow shoppers.  I got more walking in because at least half the time I would have to go down a neighboring aisle to go in the right direction in the aisle that had something shelved on my grocery list.  This was a good thing since I’ve heard say that walking is better for my legs than sitting.

CONTACT TRACING – NO PROBLEM

So far, as of this writing, I have not been positive for “IT” or the two family members I live with.  If that should change, contact tracing would be as easy as pie for me.  My contact list would be fewer than the number of fingers on one hand.  Even before IT, it wouldn’t have taxed my memory to list my contacts.  For one thing, I’m retired.  For another, I live on the Spectrum where time alone is golden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobby Chatting

There aren’t many things I want to do with someone else.  More than one person, forget it since three is all that’s required for me to tune out, go mute, and come up with an escape plan.

My most favorite thing to do with another is to chat about my hobbies.  If my pal shares the same hobby or at least asks me questions, I’m on cloud nine.  I receive a burst of energy after a hobby chat with someone who did not roll their eyes, yawn, or intercept the ball and change the topic.

Unfortunately, my peers who are in the 60’s or above age group, do not share my interest in my hobbies such as electric scooters/bikes, video games, and the latest in technological gadgets.

For example, I have family/friends who have waded into the pool of voice-activated gadgets.  Some have one or two of Amazon’s or Google’s line of products.  Me?  I’m the proud owner of five of Amazon and two of Google.  I only need at the very least one but that hasn’t stopped me.  If I like something, including food products, I will go overboard!

I enjoy talking about all of my gadgets and it is hard to find someone who is as keen on hearing about them as I am to talk about them.

I have better luck with my electric scooters/bikes.  I have six of them.  My nephew will engage me in a chat but I only see him in person three or so times a year.  The only other ones amidst my family/friends who have taken an interest are the youngest of the clan – my grandniece and nephew.  I admit, though, they prefer to ride them than chat about them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Blade Left Standing

I’ve come across many Autism information websites that tell me something I live every day:  perfectionism is very common among people with autism, as well as the general population.  I kid you not, it is an exhausting trait to live with.  On the positive side, it has earned me heaps of praise from family, colleagues, and friends for a job thoroughly and well done.

Such as back in the day when I was a librarian.  I was the library senior cataloger and I was the one who gave most of the books their address on the shelves.  If I passed by a book on the shelf that was out of catalog order, I would put the book back in its rightful place.  This could be a real pain because there were library patrons that could be relied on for putting a book back in any place other than where they found it.

I had long been obsessed with gadgets.  A few years ago, I moved back to my Mom’s house.  Up until then, I had lived in apartments with no lawns.  Thus, having a yard just naturally led to adding to my gadget collection a battery-operated clipper, battery-operated weed eater/edger, and electric leaf blower/vacuum.  No one was more pleased than my younger brother who hasn’t raked a leaf, trimmed a bush, or mowed the yard since.

My autism doesn’t leave me when I am doing yard work.  The drive for perfection lengthens my time with my yard tools.  Before I turn the mower off, I am on the lookout for any tall blade of grass left standing.  If I see one, I will head over to run that single blade down.  I will not put the lawnmower to its resting place until the yard looks like a smooth-like work of art.  I usually follow up the next day with the edger to go after the weeds that I could not attack with the mower.  If I see any weeds or blades of grass sticking up like a sore thumb, they are done for.  I won’t say to myself, “I’ll catch ’em next time.”

My drive for perfection has its limits.  That’s a good thing!  I do admit sometimes that I’ve been licked and have to compromise.  Such as when I take on the alley behind the yard.  I use my weed eater instead of the lawnmower for it since it is a small area.  My neighbors would probably agree with me that I give my portion of the alleyway the shortest haircut.  I admit I overdo it but I can’t help that inner drive within me to not leave an eyesore of a blade standing.

If I haven’t been able to get to the alley for longer than two weeks, I am whipped.  Two weeks or longer is ample enough time for the grass and weeds to multiply beyond my taking them on in one run.  I’ll compromise with my inner self and whack down the tall ones and let the tiny ones live another day.

I do not mow the lawn every day or week for that matter.  I must wait for the grass to grow enough for my lawnmower to digest.  Another reason is I want there to be enough difference between before I mow and afterward.  If there isn’t much difference, there wouldn’t be much to pat me on the back for.

Strangely, I am not a perfectionist on every task I take on.  For example, I am the dishwasher in my household.  My Mom is so kind as to alert me to a dish that hasn’t passed the clean test.  I tell her that I forgot to put my glasses on when I washed dishes.  I’m not absolutely sure if it rarely happens or if my Mom sometimes lets a spotty dish go without comment.

 

 

 

 

House Call

I think all of us with Asperger’s have an in-built talent in some field like putting paint to paper, jiffy-on-the-spot answers to math equations, solving jigsaw puzzles in a flash, etc.  I have witnessed such with school students with Asperger’s who had a particular talent which gave them opportunities to achieve that wonderful feeling of “I did it!”
I have a way with electronic gadgets.  I once received a fine compliment from a colleague who told me that whenever her computer goes to a blank screen, the first thing she did was to call the computer tech office.  But she noticed I would first try to revive it on my own and had a good track record of not having to resort to calling the computer hotline.  I welcome compliments even though I seldom believe they are true of me.  But this one was special because I do take pride in my record of “gadget CPR”.
I have as much knowledge of what’s inside a gadget as I do what’s under my car’s hood.  That being ZILCH!  It’s just I have some inclination to figure out what button to push, or where to click, etc. to get the gizmo to do what I want.  My track record isn’t 100% but not too shabby.  Now my know-how on simple everyday things I come up short, but my computer know-how is compensation.  After all, I can always search on Google on how to boil water.
A family friend of mine thinks I can do anything.  She’s overrated me, but it’s nice to think there’s someone who thinks that of me.  One time she called me about her brand new cellphone.  It was one of those flip phones.  The small leaflet of instructions left a lot to be desired.  At least, she figured out how to make a call and how to receive one.  It’s not that she was wanting it to do all it claimed the leaflet said it could do.  She just wanted to add a contact directory and considering how much she paid for it, she wasn’t asking for the moon and the stars; just the moon.
She asked me to make a house call.  She could have called her phone carrier or the phone store but they don’t make house calls and I don’t charge for house calls.
I became convinced that whoever was the engineer for this phone had one goal in mind when he or she designed it:  to make the most difficult cellphone ever invented for the user to navigate, browse, edit, and input. I almost gave up when the phone’s screen turned blue.  It wasn’t dead but the screen was blank.  In other words, it was in a “coma”.
A lightbulb went off in my Aspie brain when I took another look at the phone instructions’ cellphone diagram.   This phone’s “OK” button had many uses.  One of which was to turn back on the home screen after it is pushed and held for at least five seconds.
As for its keyboard, it is no slight exaggeration to say I was flabbergasted at how difficult this phone requires multiple steps to enter one letter at a time.  It doesn’t have a touch keyboard that lights up on the screen like many cellphones.  My friend who is loaded with common sense came up with a good idea to lessen the load.  I give her credit since I would not have thought up the idea.  When we added her personal contacts, she had me only input their first names.  If all her contacts’ names had been short as her oldest son “Tim”, it would have taken maybe a half-hour instead of an hour and a half house call.

The Smaller Slices of the Trait Pie

I think of my Autism traits as that of a pie chart.  Some traits make up smaller slices of the pie than others.

One such piece is abnormal/poor posture.  I relate to “poor” myself.  My Mom often said “Sit up” but I never got the hang of that.

Another autism trait that there isn’t as much chatter about is trouble with left/right/directions.  Now I know my left and right but I have to THINK about it when I am prompted to turn L or R.  I’m guessing my accuracy rate is in the 50% range.

I’m not quick on my feet.  So I go right when I meant left, I pull the door instead of push, I turn counter-clockwise instead of clockwise.  It is worse when I get a bruise or more when I accelerate instead of using the brake when riding my electric bike.

Then, there are the strange rituals.  Strange being what my neurotypical friends would call strange.  One that comes to mind is my ritual of when I eat my meals, of what I eat, and how I eat (like how I cut my sandwich) is far from the typical way most people do it.  Another is the odd sayings I’ll repeat to myself every day.  I know they are silly, but they pop out of my mouth anyway.

One of my favorite of the less talked about traits is a connection to animals.  I have a memorable picture in my mind of when I was a child in tears about whatever and sitting in the backyard being comforted by the family dog.  Since I had very few friends, the family dog was my no. 1 playmate.  I was awkward at being a friend to humans, but not to dogs.

Dogs are notorious for knowing when their human family member needs comfort.  I didn’t outgrow that connection.  My favorite post-retirement job is dog-sitting for my brother and sister-in-law at their farm in the remote hills of Oklahoma. I can freely talk to Bleu, Bailey, and Luna.  I can say those silliest things without fear of being overheard.  Although they can’t talk back, there’s no fear of them leaving me behind.

Don’t Underestimate the Quiet Ones

Alis Rowe, a well-known writer about Autism, “the girl with the curly hair”, posted the following statement:

‘Because I do not speak much and because I just get on with things quietly and independently, people can underestimate my abilities and not recognize my potential.’

I relate to many of her postings and this one took me back to a memory of over 40 years ago.  At the time, I was on my very first job working at a Sears catalog department in downtown Dallas.  It was part of my Vocation Education training in my senior high school year.  I went to school half a day and then to work the other half.  The supervisor’s first performance rating was the worst that I would ever receive for the next 40 years.  She gave me the lowest rating that could be given for behavior and productivity.  The worst, mind ya, to a student who was at school an honors student.  My high school vocational teacher was surprised too!  She did say this supervisor was notorious for giving low ratings to vocational students.  She instructed me to ask the supervisor the reason behind these low ratings.

This was the last thing I wanted to do – confront the person who hurt me terribly.  I still remember crying my heart out in my car after work on the day I received the grading.  But I was put on the spot by my teacher and I knew she’d ask me what the supervisor said.

I met with the supervisor and told her that my teacher instructed me to ask.  In other words, this was not my idea!  She said I was slower than she liked me to be with checking catalog orders which back then were done on microfiche.  As far as behavior, I was too quiet!  You’d think someone who got the WORST rating on behavior would be someone close to being tossed out of their job for rudeness, vulgarity, idleness, or other excessive bad behaviors.

I wouldn’t know until some 40 years later that I had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  I understand looking back with my ASD pair of lenses as to why it was that I was quiet and still am.  I understand why my speed wasn’t top-notch but my accuracy, I was the TOP person on the catalog team. I still to this day don’t think I was slow as molasses and deserved the worst rating for such.  One of the bright sides of my ASD is I have a strong eye for the small details.  This explains why even back then on my first job, my accuracy rate was such that my working supervisor commented that she wished that the speediest person on the team had the same accuracy rate as I did.

Ya know, as a customer, as much as I like my order to be filled sooner rather than later, it’s far more trouble if the speedy order isn’t what I ordered, not the right color, and above all, the size doesn’t fit.  But, oh, well, accuracy wasn’t one of the things I was graded on at the time.

This life episode as sour as it was ended on a fine note.  When my senior year ended, so did my employment with Sears.  I did have a choice in staying.  The supervisor, who was hard on ratings, asked me to stay.  I give her credit for that.  She came to see potential in the quiet one.