Some Overthinking of a Sixty Year Old Aspie

A common autistic trait is overthinking.  This explains why driving on Oklahoma State Highway 1, a stretch of highway I frequently take to the city of Ada, a pair of shoes hanging from the wire over the highway.  I notice the pair every time I’ve driven under them.  I’ve wondered each time how strong wind would have to be to knock ’em down.  The high winds that knocked trees off their roots in the summer storms have not been able to knock them shoes off the wire.  If someone down the road decides to take ’em down, what time of day or night would one do it since the highway is a frequently traveled two-way?  And, I wonder how someone would do it; maybe a ladder on a fire truck.  Maybe they don’t think the shoes are worth bothering with.  I’d like to see the pair come down since I’m tired of analyzing about it every time I see ’em hangin’ by their laces.

I know I should have learned it by now, but better late than never.  When sitting for my brother and sister-in-law’s dogs, I should open the door with me behind it and let the dogs go out first.  Why?  Better that than being knocked down on my rump by ’em.  Walking behind the older dog, Bleu, going up the hallway is like being behind a semi-truck on Interstate Highway 75 that runs through Oklahoma and Texas (my neck of the woods).  Bleu switches gears when reminding the donkeys or cows they are getting too close to his turf.

It isn’t suburbia…


My hometown is a Dallas suburb. Keeping that in mind, while standing in line at one of Oklahoma’s small towns, Coalgate, at a Dollar General store, the lady in front of me asked the lady behind me, “Hey, sista’, what were you doing yesterday?”  Her sista’ says, “I canned “x” number of squash.”  The lady in front said, “Wow!”  Her sista’ said, “Yelp, Ed and I were up until 3 a.m. canning.”  

In its sister store up the road, I was again in the check-out line.  The topic of conversation was a young female cashier asking her co-cashier, an older woman who could pass for her grandmother, for advice about mothers-in-law.  She didn’t look like she was out of her teens but that doesn’t mean anything since teen marriage isn’t like a rare bird.  I don’t know if she was asking out of sheer curiosity or if she was about to get one.  The older cashier described her own mother-in-law as being as friendly as a grizzly.  There were two other female customers, one my age and the other younger, who chimed in with how they dealt with their mutual mothers-in-law.  Chatter is something I like as little as buttermilk but I wasn’t in the check-out line that long to bring on a meltdown or shutdown.  I didn’t tell the young lady to follow my example and not have one.

It took a few dog sitting tours in the Oklahoma countryside to learn when passing a motorist on a gravel road, I should expect to be waved at and be obliged to wave back. If I’m traveling on the Interstate, I am not obliged.

I Don’t Let the Grass Grow Under my Feet

This is one of my funny ordinary illustrations from my daily life of “what’s it like to have Asperger’s as 60”.


When my 83-year-old Mom says, “I was thinking we needed…”, I know there’s a better than 50% chance I’m not gonna like it.  Her “thinking” likely means labor is in my near future.  Just how much labor depends on what task popped up in Mom’s head.  


This time she was thinking about the section of fence that had been leaning against the backyard fence.  It had been there for almost a year since a side of our fence was replaced by our adjoining neighbors when they first moved in.  Since we are getting a new fence in the back next to the alley, she wondered if we could unscrew each piece of the fence and carry the pieces out to the front curb where we put the trash can.  Maybe someone, like our other neighbors who have a junkyard for a backyard, would take the wood off our hands.  

A common autistic trait is to take words in conversation things literally which puts me in danger of missing the point of what someone is saying.  My Mom confuses me all the time or I confuse her.  Such as I figured out not long after moving in with Mom that when she says “WE”, nine times out of ten she means ME”.


After weed-eating some, I went over to the section of the fence and saw the screws might come out with one of my gadgets, a battery-charged screwdriver.  (One of my obsessions/collection is gadgets attached to power cords or run on battery juice.) I tried the tool out and it worked!  There were like a dozen or more posts, each having 6 screws to unscrew.  That’s like 72 or so screws. 

It wasn’t a cool time of the day that I picked to tackle this thing that kept my Mom up the night before.  I could have asked for help, like from my 50-year-old something brother, but I didn’t.  I could have taken a break, but I didn’t.  I could have stretched it out, a little each day since the new fence won’t be put in until a little over a week, but I didn’t.  Why?  It’s my autistic brain!  Once I start a task, the pressure is in my mind to finish and to do it by MYSELF!  My brain won’t let me stop!  I thought about leaving it to my brother to at least carry out the wooden fence pieces to the front yard, but since they weren’t too heavy for me, I did that by myself too. 

Once the section of the fence was out of the backyard and piled on the curb, I raised my arms and cheered over my VICTORY!  Like someone might do if they climbed to the top of a mountain.  These are the kind of moments my autism brain is immensely gratified!

An Autistic, a Scooter, and Two Dogs

When I opened the door after arriving on Thursday afternoon for another dog-sitting tour of duty for my brother and sister-in-law’s dogs, I expected to see the dogs, or at least one of ’em, right behind the door.  NOPE!  They both showed up but they were in no hurry like they would be if I was one of my brother and sister-in-law’s three donkeys that broke in. 

During the afternoon, Bleu was at my feet but Bailey took up residence in Mama and Daddy’s bed.  Bless her heart!  I’d visit her now and then to give her some lovin’ attention.  I went for a walk to the mailbox and back.  Bleu was my only escort.  Bailey didn’t leave the house.  I was confident, though, that Bailey’s depression would pass as it had before on previous dog-sitting visits.

A DOUBLE PORTION

After letting them out, I filled the dog’s bowls and then went to the restroom.  MISTAKE! When I got back to the kitchen, Bleu had eaten his and was working on Bailey’s bowl.  Bailey was still conducting his business outside.  I attempted to stop Bleu but I didn’t try too hard.  He growled and I thought a BITE wasn’t worth it.  One should carefully pick their battles and I chose not to fight for Bailey’s rights.

I scolded Bleu and he knew what I was saying but I didn’t get the “guilty” look I had seen on dog videos on Facebook.  I might as well been talking to a fence post.  Now whenever I’ve been scolded, justified or not, I will be in a funk for months.

Bleu is more touchy about things that he considers are HIS and nobody else’s! I relate to being protective of my possessions. Okay, overprotective! I am protective of my stuff like a mother bear is over her cubs. My younger brothers could attest to that since they knew stepping into my bedroom would tick me off back in our childhood days. So, of course, they repeatedly did it tossing me into meltdown country.

My dog sitting routine has been firmly established after my first dog sitting tour. I routinely go for a walk on the gravel road leading to the mailbox mid-morning.  A half of a mile’s worth of exercise. The dogs will not let me walk alone!  I could lock them in the house but that would be too unkind.

My Scooter

Many autistics keep collections of their interests such as stamps, calendars, toy cars, etc. One of mine is electric scooters/bikes. I have seven. I don’t go dog-sitting without taking at least two of them. While dog sitting, I went to a big city lake parks located in the historical section of Ada, Oklahoma to go scooter riding. I was enjoying it until I got lost.  There were a lot of trails, plenty enough for me to get lost; although, it doesn’t take much area for me to lose my way when I wander off into my own world.  At least, I was lost on the scooter instead of on foot. I once got lost in a park a few years ago and I was on foot. It took two whole weeks for the foot blisters to heal.

The city park wasn’t scooter or bike friendly because the walks through the park were too narrow for pedestrians and riders both. Since I try to avoid passing people on the trail, not knowing whether to speak or not, I decided not to return to that park.

A day later, I went to a park with a trail in another town to take my electric scooter for a ride.  The walkway around the lake was wider than the one at the city lake park.  That was a good idea I had but it’ll have to happen another time.  Why?  I forgot to put the scooter in the car.

Me and My Sensitivities

Many of us on the autism spectrum have difficulty taking in everyday sensory information. Any of our senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times.

The following are effects of visual hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity:

SIGHT

UNDER-SENSITIVE

Objects appear quite dark, or lose some of their features.

Central vision is blurred but peripheral vision quite sharp.

A central object is magnified but things on the periphery are blurred.

Poor depth perception, problems with throwing and catching, clumsiness.

Ways you might help include the use of visual supports or coloured lenses, although there is only very limited research evidence for such lenses.

OVER-SENSITIVE

Distorted vision – objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.

Images may fragment.

Easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object.

Has difficulty getting to sleep as sensitive to the light.

Things one can do to help cope with visual sensitivity is to make changes to the environment such reducing fluorescent lighting, wearing sunglasses, using blackout curtains. I work as a substitute aide and my assignments include autism units. I have noticed that these classrooms use dim lighting to block out visual distractions. Some use blackout curtains.

I personally struggled with visual sensitivity well before I learned I was on the Spectrum. One of the apartments I lived in was downstairs and the window was facing the parking lot. Those arriving home after the Sun went to bed took their sweet time turning off their headlights that penetrated through my window. It was so hard on me that I had meltdowns. I found a solution when I bought an eyemask to wear at night. Since then, I don’t go to bed without the mask!

Hyperfocus is an intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses consciousness on a subject, topic, or task. In some individuals, various subjects or topics may also include daydreams, concepts, fiction, the imagination, and other objects of the mind. Hyperfocus on a certain subject can cause side-tracking away from assigned or important tasks.

I daydream on a daily basis. When I’m on the job working in a classroom or gym where chaos reigns, I’m more inclined to drift into daydream land. Or, I’m in a group meeting, family gathering, a friend’s party, and the social chatter is just static noise. I sometimes get carried away with my writing or fiddling with my obsession with my collection of gadgets that I lose all track of time.

Although hyperfocus can have a negative effect on a person’s life by distracting them from important tasks, it can also be used positively, as evidenced by many scientists, artists, and writers.

Others, however, are less lucky — the object of their hyperfocus may be playing video games, building with Legos, or online shopping. Unrestrained focus on unproductive tasks can lead to setbacks in school, lost productivity at work, or failed relationships.

I confess right up front I have to work on cutting back on my online shopping! I’m visiting Amazon way too much!

Does Everyone Have Asperger Traits?

I first answered this question with another question: Does everyone have pregnancy symptoms? Well, I hear one of those symptoms is backache and I’ve had that complaint a few times. Of course, such did not mean I was with child.

Fidgeting is a common Asperger trait. It is also a common trait among mankind. Fidgeting alone doesn’t mean one has Asperger’s any more than a backache means one is pregnant.

One of my Asperger traits is routine. I am sure there are neurotypicals who also like having a routine as opposed to not having one. However, for me, a routine is almost as essential as breathing. If my routine is abrupted, I am in a state of anxiety. I may not show it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it in spades!

It isn’t just any of my Asperger traits themselves, but the frequency and depth of them. There’s not a single day I don’t do the self-talk while retreating into my imaginary world and I have no choice about it. It is essential to my getting through my daily business of living in a world I don’t quite understand.

God Has My Back

Ever have one of those moments where you say “I’ve had enough! I’m done!” If you haven’t, you are a rare bird!

Maybe it’s the evil that’s captured in headlines and pictures around the world or in your own backyard. A world that you believe is just getting worse. Maybe it’s all the political infighting going on in the nation’s capitol where the government of the people, by the people, and for the people isn’t getting done no how and no way. Maybe your fears are more local as to how how you’re going feed that family of yours after being laid off or a lay off looming in the wind. Maybe it’s a job it takes all you have to show up for work. Maybe a marriage gone sour or an illness with no relief.

In my case, a blessing and thorn – living on the Autism Spectrum. Some days I’m thankful for my positive Autism traits, just some days more than others. There’s the dark side, too, of living on the Spectrum. The meltdowns, shutdowns, and misunderstandings. I have moments of having had enough.

If you ever felt like throwing in the towel, take some comfort in knowing you are not alone. I’ve been there and so have most of the human race. There’s even a story of it happening to one of God’s prophets. His “time-out” is told in the 19th chapter of I Kings.

A prophet’s job could be a dangerous one. One of his duties was to relay a message from God to the person(s) on the receiving end. Sometimes God’s message was something to the effect of “Get your act together or you’re going to regret it.” You may have heard someone say “Don’t kill the messenger!” Well, sometimes that’s what some one would try to do to one of God’s prophet because God’s message was not pleasing to their ears.

Elijah served during the reign of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Even to this day, the name Jezebel conjures up the word “evil” and other bad words. I’ve not yet met anyone who was given the name “Jezebel” to wear for life. She was without a doubt a “Queen of MEAN!” Jezebel’s thorn in her side was Elijah and she was his. She sent a threatening message to Elijah, ““You can be sure that I will kill you, just as I killed the other prophets. I’ll do it by this time tomorrow. If I don’t, may the gods punish me greatly.”

Understandably Elijah feared for his life and he took off to the desert. He literally prayed that he would die. It was his “I’m done” moment. The scripture tell us that Elijah said, “Lord, I’ve had enough. Take my life. I’m no better than my people of long ago.”  Then he laid down under the bush and took a nap.

I can’t blame Elijah for running off from the arena. He was scared, frustrated, angry, and just maybe depressed isn’t too strong enough a word. The outlook for himself and Israel looked dire! He was the only prophet left and many of the children of Israel had rebelled against God despite all of his efforts to turn his own nation back to God. I can relate because sometimes I get down and out about what’s going on in my own nation. I tell myself not to care and don’t bother to vote. It just won’t matter.

Elijah’s break from work had God’s attention. The first thing God did wasn’t to scold Elijah but to send one of his angels to tend to his physical needs. An angel touched him and told him to get up and eat. There was some hot bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water for him to drink. The angel came back later and gave him another round of food and water. After having been nourished, he traveled for 40 days and 40 nights. He kept going until he arrived at Mount Horeb known as the mountain of God. The prophet found a cave where he took up temporary residence.

Now this is the time in the story that reminds me of a situation such as the boss asking the employee, “Why aren’t you at work?” Or, the spouse asking “Why are you still in bed with a yard that is aching to be mowed?” A message from God to Elijah was simply this question, “What are you doing here?”

Elijah’s response was first of all to say he knew that the world was under God’s rule and that he, for one, was committed to Him. Then spoke of the Israelites who had turned their backs on God. He had ran away for dear life since God’s altars had been torn down, backs of God’s people had turned on His covenant, and prophets had been put to death and he was the only one left standing.

 The Lord said, “Go out. Stand on the mountain in front of me. I am going to pass by.”

The Lord then demonstrates His power. First, a powerful wind strong enough tearing the mountains apart and breaking up rocks. Then, an earthquake followed by a fire. After the fire there was only a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his coat over his face. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”

Elijah gave pretty much the same answer. Now it appears to me that God was telling Elijah not to be afraid of anyone or anything; that He had Elijah’s back. If God so chose, he could plow his and Elijah’s enemies down with wind, or knock them down with an earthquake, or burn them with fire. No matter how grim things looked, God was still in control. Even if someone took the prophet’s life, well, to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord.

This powerful demonstration of God’s mighty power was followed by God giving Elijah a “to-do” list which included appointing his successor. His naming someone to succeed him may have been the task Elijah might have looked forward to completing the most. Thus, Elijah went back to work and finished his term.

It wasn’t as grim as Elijah had thought. There were still 7,000 people in Israel who had stayed loyal to God and had not bowed down to Baal. Just as it may look to me sometimes that my country is on the skids. I should remind myself I can’t see what God sees. I don’t know all the acts of kindness that are done on any given day as I do the most evil, heinous acts. There are still good people on this earth because God is still at work in the hearts of His children who respond to His call.

Ultimately, Jezebel didn’t get her way of doing in Elijah. No one took Elijah’s life. God had him carried away in a chariot of fire while Elijah’s successor, Elisha, witnessed the prophet’s departure. As for Jezebel, she met a very bad end. You can read about her final scene in the Bible but don’t do it on a full stomach. It’s a rather bloody one.