No Help Wanted

I am a do-it-myself. If at all possible, I carry a task out without any assistance.  I do not desire any witnesses either. If I ask for someone’s help with something, it only means one thing — sheer desperation!

Once upon a time, mid-February 2020, I was dogsitting for my brother and sister-in-law at their place in the hills of southeastern Oklahoma.  They have three dogs and three donkeys too.  My duties didn’t include donkey-care since they are self-sufficient stationed in the pasture.

I noticed that the donkeys were coming up close to the house instead of keeping their distance in the pasture.  It was fun watching the doggies go after the donkeys to get them to go back from where they came from.  The dogs eventually came back to the house with their heads hanging low at their lack of success.

The joke was on me!

I was talking to my Mom on the phone after she had seen the pictures I posted on Facebook of one of the donkeys up close to the porch. She asked, “If you don’t walk the donkeys up that close, why not close the gate?” My Aspie brain didn’t even visit the proposition of the donkeys being trespassers, much less of them escaping the pasture through an open gate. After the phone call, I checked and as my Mom guessed, the smaller gate near the barn was open. Even worse is that I was the guilty party of leaving it open when I went for a walk in the pasture. If the doggies could talk, they would have asked me, “Whose side in the doggies vs. donkeys game are you on?”

My brother commented on my Facebook picture that the donkeys would leave BIGGER deposits than the dogs ever would. Until my brother’s comment, the donkey’s version of hockey putts in a few piles in the yard had not gotten my attention. Since I was the guilty party in allowing the donkeys to trespass, I considered it my job to transplant the “putts” to the other side of the fence on the pasture side.

It was a first-time task for me to deal with donkey deposits.  I figured the best tool of choice for this task was a shovel.  My brother has more than one barn of tools.   There were plenty of tools but none of them resembled a shovel.  I tried a rake but that didn’t work well.  When I saw I wasn’t being productive, I wracked my Aspie brain for another way.   What method did I come up with? I can say unequivocally that I did NOT do it the easy way. The first putt was the hardest one to do. After that, it got easier to pick up by hand and throw each one over the fence. I wouldn’t recommend doing this chore without hand gloves.  Oh, based on how many, the donkeys weren’t starving.

A few hours later after the disgusting donkey chore, I noticed my brother’s shovel sitting pretty next to a woodpile.  It was just a few feet from the fence that I had been throwing “donkey putts” over.  I laughed to myself.  Since the chore was history at that point, there was no point in tears.

Other people in my situation would have picked up on the clue that the donkeys were getting out of the pasture and that was a bad thing.  Other people might not have picked up on the clue but they would have called for help.  My brother is a jack-of-all-trades.  He can repair a tractor, tile a bathroom floor, and plant a garden without looking at a manual. He was just a phone call away, but it didn’t enter my mind to call him for help.  I will not ask for help unless I am desperate.  Despite the nauseating chore, I was pleased I had gotten the dunk back where it belonged all by MYSELF!

I wish it was a simple task to ask for help when I’m in unchartered waters.  I feel too anxious to ask for help even from someone who is an expert in whatever those chartered waters are.  I prefer to do everything I can by myself and if I have to learn the hard way, so be it!

 

 

 

MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

I plead guilty to being as stubborn as an old mule.  I don’t remember a specific time but I am pretty sure my Mom has informed me of this and probably more than once over the years dating back to childhood.

 

I moved in with my Mom after I moved back to my hometown after I retired.  Since my Mom’s hip replacement surgery, my chore list has increased many times over.  No complaints about that since I don’t like “idle” time.  The thing is I don’t imitate my Mom’s way of doing chores.  Such as the laundry.  Unlike the way my Mom does it, and probably how most people do it, I carry in my arms the laundry to the washer and the dryer rather than toting the load in my Mom’s laundry basket. She did ask why not use the basket, but I refused to give in.  So even though she scratches her head at me, I persist in doing it MY way!

I don’t mind amending MY way if I alone discover a different way of how to do whatever.  It’s similar to a mistake not bothering me as much provided I am the one who discovers the mistake.  If someone catches my goof and points it out to me, it feels every bit like a punch in the stomach.  I will not soon forget not only the mistake but the humiliation I felt when it was pointed out to me.

I occasionally go on vacation when my brother and sister-in-law do.  They go wherever and I have the privilege of hanging out at their home in another state where I am surrounded by hill country all to myself with their three lovely dogs.  That’s what I call the ideal “Aspie” vacation.  On some of my dogsitting trips, my brother asked me to pick vegetables from their small gardens.  He always leaves a map and drawings knowing I might not know a zucchini from a pepper.  Smart fellow, my brother.

I would pick what I thought was ripe enough to leave the vine and carry them by hand back to the house, wash them, leave them on the window sill to dry, and then later put in the fridge.  After doing it this way during several dog-sitting visits, I figured out there was an easier way of doing it.  I noticed a pail on the back porch area and that’s what got me to thinking of another way.  Instead of carrying the veggies, I could take the pail with me when I went garden shopping and carry the veggies back in the pail.  That way I might not drop any from the garden to the house and cut down on trips.

Oh, I did wonder why I hadn’t thought of using a pail sooner but oh, well, it gave me a good chuckle at myself.  Sometimes it takes me a while to figure things out that to others comes natural-like.  Since I had the luxury of being alone, there was no one around to suggest why not use the pail.  If there had been, I would not have welcomed the suggestion.  I might have reacted with stubbornly continuing to hand carry.   Or, I would have relented and felt miserable than someone had to tell me to something I should have known in the first place.

If there is a hard way to do a task, the odds are better I’ll find it before I stumble onto the easiest. Whenever possible, I work alone in my own way.  No backseat driver required unless I am desperate enough to ask for one!  If my thinking cap comes up with an easier way, great.  If not, well, I just took a longer highway to get the job done.

 

 

 

 

FINISHED HAS A NICE RING TO IT

When my 80-something Mom says, “I was thinking we need…”, I know there’s a better than 50% chance I’m, her 60-something daughter, is not gonna like it.  Her “thinking” likely means labor on my part.  Just how much labor depends on what task popped up in my Mom’s head.
Such as when she was thinking about the section of fence that had been leaning against the fence since one side of our fence was replaced.  Since we were getting a new fence in the back next to the alley, she wondered if we could unscrew the screws in each fence post and carry the pieces out to the front curb.
A common autistic trait I have is to take words in conversation literally which puts me in danger of missing the point of what someone is saying.  My Mom confuses me all the time and I reckon I confuse her at times too.  After I retired and moved back in with my Mom, it took me a while to understand that when my Mom says “WE”, nine times out of ten she means ME”.
After moving back, I discovered I like yard work since I never had a yard in all the apartments I had lived in over the years.  Edging is one of my favorite outdoor chores since I enjoy working with any tool that is attached to a power cord or has a battery compartment.  I do mean “obsessed”.  After edging, I went over to the section of the fence and saw the screws might come out using one of my other gadgets, a battery-charged screwdriver.  I tried it out and it worked!  There were like 15 posts, each having 6 screws to unscrew.  That’s 90 or so screws at least.
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, 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 was more than a week away from being installed, 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 if at all possible!  It is no exaggeration that I’ll be tormented until I finish whatever.
I thought about leaving it to my brother to carry out the posts 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!  You’d think I climbed a mountain.  It’s the kind of moment that my autism brain immensely relishes!
This was not the end of my yard work.  After the heat loosened its grip, I cleaned out the roof gutter in the backyard using my handy blower.  This meant getting on the roof.  I’m more fascinated with operating my battery-operated blower than my fear of heights.  My Mom supervised from the front porch while my brother held the ladder for me.  I won’t brag on my gutter cleaning ability, but I will say that my Mom is really good at supervising.

The Signs Were Always There

I don’t know if the signs for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are as numerous as the stars, but it seems that way.  ASD is such a broad umbrella and each of us on the Spectrum is as unique as those who aren’t.

MY SIGNS

I run in place or pace the floor when I’m excited and when I’m just the opposite.  I do it when I’m doing chores around the house.  I do it to help me think.  I do it to calm my anxiety.  I do it every day.  I used to do it “in the closet” so to speak outside the view of witnesses, but I have since come out of the closet at home with my stimming.  I don’t bother hiding it from the two family members I live with.  But beyond the house, I am on guard of where I stim and where I don’t.

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When people come to visit my Mom’s house where I live, they’ll usually find me in my bedroom pursuing one of my interests if they care to find me. I’ll pop in and out if I think of something to say. 

If I see someone I know at the store, I’ll go in the other direction because I can’t think of anything in common we have to talk about or fear they’ll ask questions I am not prepared or want to answer.

I am a “soloist”!  I prefer to eat alone, I prefer to watch TV alone, I prefer to play video games alone, I prefer to go walking or bike riding at the park alone, I prefer to worship in a quiet place alone, and I prefer to do chores and errands alone.  An exception would be shopping but only if someone would do the driving so I wouldn’t have to.  There is no one I live with who will volunteer though.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'love to be left alone to get on with things. It is important to me that there are clear instructions, a clear project outline and a clear goal from the start, because it makes the process of working alone so much more efficient.' Alis Rowe facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhai &'

 

An in-person conversation can be a delight or a booby trap.  I treasure the few I know who I feel as comfortable with as my overworn faded jeans.  However, most times I feel trapped in a conversation.  Questions I didn’t see coming, for instance, can throw me for a loop.  I tell a joke and the person doesn’t get the punch line.  If the topic is about something I know little about or care nothing for, I am racking my brain for an excuse so I can get out of the trap.  

 

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Crnde Jolkes A good way to get out of a conversation is to take off one of your socks and hand it to the person talking. Dirty Crade'

 

My daily hobby is having a monologue with myself.  I don’t just hold one in my own space, my bedroom.  I’ll have a good talk with myself on a walk at the park or a ride on my bike.  Back when I was a kid, I would do it at the side of the house while pacing back and forth.  How often?  I actually made a trail in the grass.  When I retired and moved back in with my Mom, I am in the same backyard but instead of the side of the house, I take the whole backyard to walk and talk.

Autistic Axolotl meme: I monologue more frequently than characters in a Shakespearean tragedy.

 

I am quiet as a mouse in group settings.  My mind is a busy bee taking it all in.  I will dwell on the topics of discussion long after the group chat was over.  But on those rare occasions when I have the podium, my mask comes off and the extrovert in me takes over.  The best compliment I ever received after giving a presentation was “I didn’t want you to sit down.” 

I am a never-married.  I guess I fall under the category of asexual.  I admit the thought of homosexuality has crossed my mind.  I crossed off the possibility though.  I had a tremendous crush, on a male co-worker a decade or so ago.  I had it hard for like two to three years.  This was before I learned I had ASD.  In hindsight, with the knowledge of my ASD, my “crush” was obsessive behavior.  My attempts to get his attention were downright awkward.  Poor guy!  My not getting the hints that he didn’t have a crush on me was just one example of my being socially awkward.  I will say this:  It was as close as I ever came to this thing called love.

My signs are just mine.  Some of my fellow travelers on the Spectrum share some of my signs and some do not.  For instance, I have worked with ASD students who were quiet, like me, and I have met a few chatterboxes too. 

I suspect there are a lot of adults out there who are living on the spectrum who don’t know they are. This is just my opinion that those adults who know they are on the Spectrum, and those adults who are but don’t know, have this in common:  We know we are different.  And that difference was agony for me until I learned the explanation of what was behind that difference.  The agony of being different has eased tremendously since I have been in the “know” category. 

It took me 58 years, the right job as a special education aide, and a 12-year-old to introduce me to what was behind the signs that were always there.

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

I give credit to my being in a better place to my having learned I have ASD. It’s one thing to live with it in the dark; it’s quite another to live with ASD in the light.

What I lack in seeing the big picture I make up with my “attention to detail”.  While others peer through a telescope, I eye through a microscope lens.

I am not a non-show at appointments; not a latecomer either.  The appointment date, time, and details are on my mind from the date I made it to when the appointment is history.  I lived the appointment in my imagination numerous times before the real one takes place.  The appointment seldom, though, ever plays out as it did in my imagination.  I say that is a good thing since I tend to go for the worst-case scenario in my dreams.

My elderly Mom never has to remind me the lawn needs mowing, edging, or shrubs need trimming.  It is because I look forward to doing this yard chores.  Really!  It is only because of one of my ASD obsessions is electric or battery-powered gadgets.  Mowers, edgers, and battery-operated clippers are members of my herd of gadgets.  And when I use them, these gadgets get a work-out!  The weeds are doomed when I rev up my gear.  One would be hard-pressed to find a yard or alley more trimmed than the one under my thumbs.

I have strong attention to detail.  This is the reason why the person who taught me library cataloging told me I was a “natural”.  It was the job I held the longest and earned me the most awards and most of all, that awesome feeling of success!

I source my passion for writing as an ASD trait.  My self-diagnosis came about through working as a substitute teacher’s aide with elementary students who have Autism.  After I was introduced to my ASD, I began writing about living on the Spectrum and some of my blogs were about the students I had met.  One of the blogs was about a student who not only had Autism, but other challenges that had so far denied him the ability to talk or to walk.  But he could smile and I wrote about that.  My blog got the attention of the special education teacher of the student I was writing about even though I didn’t reveal his identity or the school.  She forwarded the blog to the students’ mother.  I later had the privilege of meeting the mother in person who thanked me for writing about her son.  It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.  If I had not had ASD, it never would have happened.

There is a bright side to my ASD.  It is worth it to take the time to ponder over the bright side and appreciate its glow amidst the darkness ASD brings as well.  Oh, yes, ASD is a thorn in my side, but I for one know it is a blessing to my soul.