A SAD AND HAPPY REUNION

My Mom and her church lady friends used to meet twice a month at someone’s house for Bible study and good ol’fellowship. Then, COVID put a halt to that.

Their first gathering since being shut down occurred was both a sad and happy reunion. It wasn’t a re-installment of their in-person Bible study meetings. It was a virtual event like so many are in “these days” of COVID. They came together to watch an online viewing of their friend’s memorial service. The biggest talker of their group, the one who livened it up with some eye-raising stories, their table centerpiece, had been added to the casualty list of COVID-19.

When my Mom told me their plans of watching it together, my response was to analyze it. Not hours or days but weeks. Analyzing to death is one of my “living on the spectrum” chores. This gathering of my Mom and her friends was just ironic to me. It was COVID that kept them from meeting as they once did, but it was the death of one of them to COVID that brought them together for the first time since we all started saying “these days”.

I myself met their friend a handful of times. She was so different from me but that difference drew me to her like a magnet. She talked and I listened.

I remember back in the day before COVID that if my Mom came home earlier than usual from the ladies bible study, I’d say, “She must not have been there.” I was usually right! If she was in the room, one would have to be hard of hearing not to know it.

When I heard that she was so bad that they couldn’t save her legs, I thought about how hard it would be for her to live without the use of them. It would be hard for anyone but for someone like her who was a bundle of energy, always seemingly on the go, it would have been even more challenging. And, there probably would have been more after-effects than her legs with her having had severe COVID and for such a long duration. I take it on faith that she is in a better place but it’s awfully hard on those she has left behind.

She was the family’s “Rock of Gibraltar”. She was a constant presence in the lives of her husband, children, and grandchildren. She was a strong advocate for her grandson who has epilepsy. How so? To put it simply, the school he attended knew his grandmother by sight and sound. She had his back and now it falls to his Mom who has her mother’s shining example to follow.

She did not get the vaccine shot. We can’t know what might have been if she had.

I was invited but the person inviting me probably knew I wouldn’t come. She is my “second Mom” and I have talked to her about my life on the Spectrum more than most anyone else. I grieved for this loss in my own way, by myself, as I do most things.

I am hopeful for these ladies that this sad and happy reunion won’t be the last but a new beginning. I hope they will eventually start meeting regularly again with each other and their new church lady friends who have joined the church since COVID and attending services virtually became a constant in their lives.

Due to COVID, there have been so many endings. The number is beyond my comprehension. But yet, there have been some beginnings too.

The Gift of Asperger’s

With all the sadness Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) can bring, it also comes bearing gifts. I admit some moments are so bad that I think of AS more as a curse. On the other hand, in my better moments, I see an entirely different picture. One of privilege.

If someone were to ask me what was my all-time favorite moment in high school, I would not have to give it much thought. I don’t have many favorite moments in that chapter in my life. Maybe I had more good moments than I think; I just don’t remember them. The high school memories that pop up in my brain primarily are the bad ones and there is plenty of those.

My best moment was one day in history class. History was my favorite subject. World, U.S., Texas, etc. didn’t matter. I liked all kinds. That day there was a game going on between one half of the class against the other. Pre-test questions were called out by the teacher. There was a tie and so the teacher gave the tie-breaking question. My fellow team members had their eyes peeled on me. To them, at least during the game, I was the team wizard. I did not let them down. My hand was raised and it was the only one. I don’t remember the exact question or answer but I do remember the answer was the year when whatever happened. When I gave the correct answer, the teacher’s mouth was wide-opened and his eyes round as saucers. He was amazed that anyone, include me one of his “A” students, would know the answer. My team members yelled and clapped with their eyes all on me.

Me? The one who was bullied for her size and looks. The one who had no one to sit with in the lunch room. The one who had too few friends to mention. The chunky kid who couldn’t do cartwheels in P.E. The one who stood no chance of being invited to the prom; nor would have accepted the invitation if there had been one. The one who was an honor student but was so lacking in social skills.

A common trait that some with AS have is possessing a good memory. A memory for facts, figures, game scores, license plate numbers, etc. It would be decades later before I knew that I had AS. Thus, it was a long time before I learned what are my AS abilities/traits. Once I was AS-aware, I could look back at moments in my life with a different pair of lens such as that day in history class.

My best memory in high school wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have AS. My high school years, as well as the other chapters in my life so far, would have been far different if I had not had AS. Like I might have had a date to the prom. I might have had several dates. One of them might have been a wedding date or a date in a hospital delivery room. I might have gone to parties and enjoyed them. I can’t know what my life would be without AS. Speculation only gets me as far distance as I would in a rocking chair rocking in it from dawn to dusk.

There are things I miss and have missed living with AS. But there are moments, some of them life-changing, that I wouldn’t change for any amount of money in the world. And those moments would have never happened if I didn’t have the gift of Asperger’s.

Disappearance on the Spectrum

Magic is not my forte but I do have one trick under my belt. It goes down like this. I’m having a chat with another. Someone joins us. This is when I pull off my one and only magic trick. It comes so natural that I don’t even think about doing it. I turn invisible. It is quite simple for me to pull off. The downside? My trick is oblivious to the others.

In living with Asperger’s Syndrome, I do most things better by myself. Talking is no exception. Self-talk is a more sophisticated way of saying “talking to myself”. I am full aware that talking to oneself is quite common in mankind. I dare say all or at least most people do it.

I’m not referring only to saying to myself, “I need to remember….” or “where did I put that…” or “what day is it now?” My self-talk goes way beyond that. The topics may be plans for the day or it may be a rehearsal for an upcoming appointment with the doctor or plumber or spouting off on some political or social topic such as my view on gun control. No topic is off limits.

My imagination has no limits either. My self-talk may be playing out a story taking place only in my mind where I am both the author and a character in it. It is like an escape hatch from living in a world I have a hard time communicating in.

Self-talk is not something I do once in a while. It’s a daily requirement! I don’t go a day, or even hours, without doing it. I just try not to do it with any eyewitnesses.

Since I don’t live alone, I do converse with others beside myself. In fact, a one-on-one will boost my spirits provided what is discussed is of interest to me. If it isn’t, it’s okay if the other person is carrying the ball of conversation. I have learned from imitation of how to do the “nod” or say when the other is catching their breath, “you don’t say”, “no kidding”, “how interesting”, etc.

Alis Rowe, an author in the U.K. known as “the girl with the curly hair” wrote, “I can talk ok with someone one to one, but if someone else happens to join in, the other people usually end up talking to each other as if I’m not even there.”

I relate to Rowe’s statement. A one-on-one spoiler only takes one other person to join in the conversation. Its like I have a mute button attached that will automatically turn on in such situations. If I stick around pretending engagement or walk away, I am still invisible. That’s not their fault; it’s not mine; it’s just it is what it is living on the Spectrum.

My Billy and my Mom’s Fall

Imagine being wakened up in the morning by a stranger calling your name? That was how my story began for me, my Mom, and my Billy (my nickname for my Asperger’s Syndrome).

The stranger standing in the doorway was one of a few who had stopped when they saw my 85 year-old Mom fall on the sidewalk in front of our house. The picture of her on the sidewalk grimacing in the pain is etched in my brain. What had happened was her wheeled walker she was sitting on while bending over to do yardwork had come out from under her.

It took some “trial and error” for me and my youngest of two brothers to get her up the three porch steps and back in the house. Her right hip had taken the direct hit and I feared she had broken it. She initially wanted to wait for my other brother to arrive before doing anything.

One of my “Billy” traits is my first response is less likely to be one that my fellow neurotypicals would have taken. I have a better track record in situations where I have time to mull it over in my head. This wasn’t one of those situations.

My out-of-state brother advised me on the phone to call 911 since it would take nearly three hours before he would get there. After about a half-hour, she told me she was in a lot of pain. Finally, a lightbulb went off in my head. I asked my youngest brother to do what was too much for me to do – call 911, deal with the paramedics, and follow her to the hospital. That was not a small thing for my brother because he has mental illness issues. And, I have my “Billy”.

I was impressed at how my brother did a good job. Maybe one blessing in disguise of my Mom’s fall was upon being asked, my brother could follow through and in the process feel useful. He just needed direction.

I didn’t want to go to the hospital. The thought of going gave me such anxiety to the point of nausea. I confided in a dear friend of how just the thought of going to a hospital, an unfamiliar environment, felt. The picture in my mind was of riding a roller coaster inching slowly up to the top knowing the big drop was coming that would turn my stomach upside down. I told my Mom before the ambulance arrived about my anxiety and she was most understanding.

Her hip was indeed broken and required surgery. It didn’t require replacement and that was good news since she had one artificial hip as it was. My other brother arrived and took over in keeping her company at the hospital and communicating with medical staff. His daughter and other family friends who lived nearby pitched in with visits as well.

My Mom went from the hospital to a rehab center close to home. It took some talking by her doctor and my sensible brother to talk her into it. She’s a firm believer in no place like home. My Billy is a fellow believer in that, by the way!

During her time at rehab, a social worker left a phone message for me to set up a conference call to discuss my Mom’s care. This brought on ANXIETY big time! My brother is better at handling such calls while I’m better at keeping my Mom’s house in check. He told me not to bother with them and he would handle it. I was so thankful for him to do that. It came easier to him than for me in dealing with strangers over the phone. All in all, it was a family team effort with each member working from their strengths!

Someone who gave me tremendous comfort was my Mom’s best friend and someone I affectionately call “my second Mom”. I was on the phone every day with her during my Mom’s stay in the hospital and rehab center. She not only wanted to know how my Mom was doing but how I was doing too. In many conversations with her, I talked a lot about “Billy”. I told her if I revealed all my autism “secrets”, the things I do and think that I don’t tell a single soul about, she’d see even more how “Billy” impacts my daily life.

A family member reported one day after visiting that my Mom did “group therapy”. In one session, group members passed a ball around to each other. The evening session was even more fun. They played “BINGO”! I imagine my Mom hasn’t played that game in I don’t know when, but her lack of experience didn’t keep her from winning the last game! . I was not surprised my Mom would take to group activities like a duck to water. For me, though, my “Billy” takes to group activities like a deer tangled up in a wire fence.

My Mom returned home almost two weeks after her fall. I was so thankful for my niece who brought her home and helped to get her settled. She was so glad to be home! She plopped in her recliner with utter delight! She came with a host of instructions. My “Billy” was agitated with those instructions coming at once. After I adjusted to the new routine of my Mom’s medicine and such other things, Billy settled down as he usually does after a new routine sinks in.

In hindsight, my Mom’s fall brought to light to family members that my “Billy” is not a figment of my imagination. I was forthcoming to family as to why I would not visit my Mom. My Mom never asked me to come visit or asked why I didn’t. Since she came home, she has been more patient with me. Maybe she gets it now too.

I wrote this blog because maybe someone who lives with a “Billy” reading this has been through something similar.

Alis Rowe, a well-known writer about living with Autism in the U.K., known as the “girl with the curly hair”, once wrote:

It can, at first being very isolating taking a path nobody else takes. But it’s far, far more isolating taking the path everyone else takes (because it is not the right one for you.)

The Rug Undoing

I have lived with my Mom back in my hometown in Texas for nearly 8 years at this writing. In the previous chapter of my life, I was one of millions of federal workers living in or near Washington, D.C. I’m 62 and my Mom is 85. I reveal our ages because the story I am writing might be more typical of a pre-teen or teenage daughter. That I am not!

Once upon a time, my Mom called me into the kitchen and started off with, “I’ve been thinking…”. Whenever she starts off a sentence with those words, I know I’m more likely than not in for chore duty.

There has long been a black spot on the rug that dwells under the kitchen table. The spot is located on one of the four corners of the dining room rug that is in my Mom’s line of vision. It is in mine and my brother’s too but we don’t give the spot much thought. She has tried more than one brand of carpet cleaner and they all were no match against the black spot. What she had in mind was to turn the carpet around so that the black spot was on the far side of the room out of view. It would require moving the chairs and the table to make things right. She added, “We’ll do it sometime.” So I went back to whatever I was doing.

Later, when I got a whiff of energy, I decided to do it solo. Why? Well, for one thing, I wanted to surprise her. I’m not crazy about being on the receiving end of surprises, but I delight in giving them.

Now this is where my Autism kicks in too. My first preference is to do chores on my own! I do mean that! I’m the same way with hobbies, shopping, dining, etc. My next preference is to do chores with my Mom. Most especially those chores that require an extra pair of hands or they won’t get done.

She was sitting in the living room with one of my brothers watching TV. I had to be QUIET so I could do it without her knowing it. I will pause by saying I’m 62 going on 12.

I had no problem moving the chairs out of the way; the table was not as easy but nothing I couldn’t handle. I managed to do it without attracting attention. I wondered to myself just how long it would take her to notice the black spot was out of her sight.

Just after I put everything back in place, I noticed something. It’s a darn good thing I noticed too! I would have had a heap of explainin’ to do if I hadn’t noticed. The black spot was right back where it was.

I suspected right away my Mom elicited my brother’s assistance in moving chairs, table, and rug. So I had basically UNDID the rug project. I was relieved I caught what my “undoing” but frustrated at having to do it all over again while trying to be quiet about it. Knowing full well how easy it is for my Mom to detect something out of place, she would have spot that black spot right on the spot. She surely would have been scratching her head and wonder “what in the heck happened!” Followed immediately by yelling my name!

But that was all averted! Quick action on my part! I quietly moved the chairs and table again while both my Mom and brother were sitting in the next room. I was sweating bullets because there was more at stake if my Mom heard me moving things. I didn’t want to have to explain the “rug undoing”. Finally, the table, chairs, and the RUG were back where they had put them. All’s well that ends well!

The following day, my Mom asked me if she thought the rug looked better. I told her sure it did since the big black spot was no longer in her tunnel of vision. I let out a big chuckle but I didn’t let her in on the story behind my chuckle.

No Kidding!

I do my own stunts like trip and bump but never on purpose.

I am not willing to give up the face mask when in public. Really! For one thing, it has helped keep the cold and flu bug away. But mostly, with something over my mouth, I can talk to myself without attracting attention.

A meltdown is a big thing that can be over a little thing, such as the nerve-breaking sound of someone singing soprano beautifully.

It’s a delight to put away my Mom’s groceries in my own organized fashion. If she can’t find something, I’m just a holler away.

Sorry to interrupt you but something so exciting popped up in my mind and it popped out.

I have a large size pizza worth of clothes but I only wear a couple of slices worth.

A major rule in my daily life: NEVER run out of my favorite food! Must have at least two of each item or it’ll occupy my thoughts until I rectify the emergency.

I require rehearsal time and gumption before I make a phone call.

I do try to explain my autism but it is like trying to explain what the Sun smells like.

Not My Thing But That’s Okay

My Mom went over to her friend’s house. A year ago, it would have been unthinkable for her to do such. She sees it now as a treat after a year of living through the COV-19 lockdown. My Mom missed the family holiday gatherings, church services, and get-togethers with friends that didn’t happen in 2020. Me? Not near as much.

I didn’t see my Mom for over three hours. Knowing how much she enjoys socializing, I wasn’t alarmed enough to conduct a search. If I had been at a friend’s house half that long, my Mom would have sent my brother out to check on me.

I like it when my Mom gets an invitation to join family or friends somewhere. It puts her in a really good mood and since I live under the same roof with her, that’s a good thing for me too. When someone has invited me over for lunch or whatever, flares of anxiety light up my central nervous system. If more than one person would be there, I am anxious as a dog might be at a half bowl of dogfood. Now I have on rare occasion visited a friend and it was my idea. It met the criteria of one person whom I felt as comfortable with as my worn-out favorite pair of jeans and we had mutual interests so there wasn’t worry of a lag in conversation.

I’m glad my Mom can now enjoy visiting her friends, meeting up at a restaurant, and going to church in person. She enjoys being with people as much as I enjoy not being with people.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I enjoyed such outings as much as she and others do. Just as I suppose maybe one of my family members with OCD wonders what life would be like going a day without worrying about germs. Speculating is like rocking in a chair from dawn to the setting sun. At the end of the day, I won’t have gotten anywhere.

It is true I can go to a social outing of whatever kind and pretend I’m having a good time. I have done that more times than I can count in my 60+ years of living. But since learning about my autism four years ago, I don’t pretend as much as I used to. I’m more comfortable with declining invitations. I delight in communicating through e-mail with folks nearby and far away. I get such a boost after enjoying a one-on-one conversation where I got to let loose with my thoughts without the other person yawning.

It’s wonderful my Mom enjoys being with loved ones and all. It’s okay that it isn’t my thing and what is my thing is wonderful too.

My Plush Pups

A bright side of my living on the Autism Spectrum is some of my obsessions provide magic in my everyday life living on the Spectrum.

My obsessions usually start when I try something new. If I like it, I’ll go overboard. That’s how come, for instance, I have three computers, three TVs, three Echo devices, three Google Home devices, and several boxes of my favorite snack bars.

This obsession started with an eye-popping ad on FACEBOOK of a cute Alaskan Husky black/white stuffed puppy. If it had just been stuffed and cute, I wouldn’t have been enticed at all. It fit my tech/gadget/toy obsession because it does run on batteries. The dog is advertised for the ages of 3+ … so I easily qualified at 62. It attracted me because it looks like a dog, walks like a dog, and woofs like a dog.

I am a dog-sitter for my brother and sister-in-law. One reason I like dog-sitting is I am a long-time dog fan. Another is they live in a secluded area in the country where I can roam without people around. I’d have a dog myself but I live with my Mom who has the deed to the house. She might allow me to remain under her roof and even with a dog if I brought home one, but I don’t want to put that to the test.

It took a little over a month for my Alaskan Husky to arrive since its birthplace was China. I gave him the name “George”. When I turn George’s button on underneath his belly, he can walk on his own, wag his tail, and bark. George isn’t the same as a real dog. I didn’t buy George expecting all the things a live dog provides. I receive that when I dog sit my Bailey and Luna ever two or three months.

George is a good match for me and my Autism. He doesn’t interrupt my routine such as getting up at sunrise to take the dogs out to conduct his/her business as I have to do when I dog-sit. I don’t have to make appointments to see a vet which is a positive for me since I hate appointments. Also, George’s diet fits my tightwad-budget since he fasts around the clock and never gets thirsty. His barking doesn’t impact my sound sensitivity since he comes with a turn on/off button.

Realistic Breathing Alaskan Husky - Perfect Petzzz Life Like Husky Dog -  Walmart.com - Walmart.com

Again, when I like something, I go overboard! Shortly after George arrived, he got a playmate. It didn’t come all the way from China like George. It is from a company called “Joy For All”. These dogs are popular with senior citizens. I think it makes a good companion for those who are sensitive to the smell or touch of dog poop.

Dog, Joy for All Companion Pets | Objects | Collection of Cooper Hewitt,  Smithsonian Design Museum

I named my dog “Bear Two” since he reminds me of my grandniece’s dog Bear who I have sat with too. George can walk and bark, but that’s it! Bear Two can’t walk, but he can move his head and bark. He has sensors at certain parts of his body that will activate him to turn and woof. Bear Two is bigger than George and so he’s more of an adult dog; whereas, George is a puppy that sits rather nicely on top of one of my three computer monitors.

George and Bear Two are a bit different from robotic dogs. They don’t look like robots; they look like … well…dogs.

Sometimes there are moments when living on the Spectrum is hard. I can’t make those moments disappear, but I can weather through them in various ways. Such as turning on my plush pups, watching them play, or just holding them tight until the storm passes.

Autistic Lady in Waiting

My favorite comedian, Michael McCreary, “You Dont Look Autistic”, is a frequent poster in social media. His humor is most appreciated by those of us who live with Autism. One of his posts had me chuckling because it hit close to home:

Gas Pump: See the cashier inside for your receipt.

Me: Absolutely not!

I don’t get all jokes, but I sure got this one! I am not against cashiers or those who work behind the counter. I have in my career worked behind a Help Desk counter and my being there felt like I suppose a polar bear would feel on a beach during Spring break. I feel at least a certain amount of anxiety when I do have to appear at a cashier window, or visit a customer service desk, or a grocery store deli-meat-bakery-pharmacy counter, etc. If there is no waiting, my anxiety drops. If there is, my anxiety goes in the opposite direction.

Recently, I went through an ordeal that shook me up pretty good. The scene of the meltdown was the grocery store pharmacy. I dread picking up prescriptions because it requires interaction with a human being at the counter and the possibility of a wait. So it is already a given for me to walk into the store with some level of trepidation. I know this sound strange but, well, my autism constantly baffles me. I keep my head down as I walk inside the store towards the pharmacy. I fear there’ll be more than one in line. I wish I didn’t do this but it never fails that I do. On this trip, I breathed a sigh of relief when I lifted my head and no one was at the counter.

The man behind the counter told me my prescription wasn’t filled yet and it would be another ten minutes. I was taken aback since the pharmacy called and said it was ready. I sat in a chair next to my grocery cart a few feet from the counter. I had been in that chair more than once before and each time I felt like I turned invisible to those working behind the counter. I tried to calm my anxiety by pulling out my smart phone and browsing the apps on it. But after the ten minutes and one customer after another, I had entered meltdown country.

I would have waited until there was no one waiting to go up to the counter and ask how much longer it would be. However, the line got so long that a co-worker had to open the other window. I felt utterly helpless. It pushed me to do something I rarely do – confront! I stepped up to the other window and asked if she knew how much longer it would be. She said, “I don’t know ma’am, I don’t know your name.” She was right but her response hurt. I told her I had been waiting for over 10 minutes. I was willing to leave and come back if it was going to be much longer. I realize that I should have asked the man who originally helped me but he was tied up with a customer whose refill was complicated.

I was a wreck! I was literally panting underneath my mask. I looked down at one of my hands and it was shaking. I imagined the other customers’ pairs of eyes on me. I didn’t look at their faces to see if that was indeed the case.

My suspicions was correct! The prescription was ready. It was just sitting there and no telling how much longer if I hadn’t stepped up to the window. I hold no grudge against either person behind the counter. They couldn’t know how much I dread coming up to their counter or why it is hard for me to wait.

I am most calm and happy when I’m on my own and doing things on my own. That’s typical of autistics. A pharmacy counter is one of a number of places where I have to rely on another person to get what I need. If I have to wait without an end in sight, it compounds the feeling of helplessness.

What do I take these two prescriptions for? ANXIETY! As of this writing, over a week later, I haven’t walked back in the store. When and if I go back, I’m taking my 85-year-old Mom with me! She isn’t afraid to ask, confront, etc.

I wrote this for myself because it helps after I’ve been through a rough spell to write about it. Writing is my hallmark coping skill. If I can write about whatever, then whatever hasn’t defeated me. I share it because there just may be someone out there who is reading this who can relate and will feel less alone.

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”.