How Open is Too Open? — Autism & Oversharing

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As I caught myself referencing my children, by name, to a co-worker, rambling on about their ages, what they’re like, how they get along with each other, how they’ve fundamentally altered my work & life balance as a parent — it hit me.

I have this conversation with everyone. Everyone knows my kids. It’s all I talk about.

It comes and goes in cycles, where I open the shell and share what my life is about, its shimmering joys, vicissitudes of pain and progress, the random beats to my offbeat tastes:

Then I feel like closing it.

I think of the phrases. Oversharing. Too open. Personal. Talkative. Unguarded.

I remember how little I glean from others directly and how much it comes from hyperobsverational acuity. And I do shudder at that.

How I’ve laid myself and everything so open now.

How open is too open?

In The Life Autistic, I could assure you all on our behalf that we’re not always the most socially keen on limits.

Oh, of course we know not to stand too close. Refrain from certain questions. Pry too much. Monologue on niche topics.

But is this a byproduct of socially misreading and overshooting what’s acceptable?

*deep sigh*

I’ve worked hard to strip the machinery from my humanity. To feel OKAY about sharing more about my life, laying open the book without coming across as some distant riddle to be decoded.

You hear the stories of folks where, you ask how their day is going, and by the end of the conversation you know their life story.

Those tales aren’t told in the best lights.

And I worry whether that is the tale others tell of me.

“I know H2’s life story, and I only just met him five minutes ago.”

“I’ve seen more pics of Mo and Zo than I have my own kids; I don’t even know whether those are their real names.”

“If you happened to forget where Hunter grew up and what he majored in, don’t worry, he’ll bring it up every other conversation.”

It is hard for us to navigate what’s socially acceptable if it isn’t socially harmful.

I wish I had a better answer, a guide in which I know “ok this is too much” or “this is probably fine, but it’s a little more than a regular person should be sharing.”

The shades of sharing feel nigh-impossible.

Too little, and you’re distant and cold. Too much, and you’re inconsiderate – or worse, “lacking boundaries.”

Where is “just right?”

 

 

How and When to Interrupt Our Routines

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The short answer to this post’s premise is “Don’t interrupt or disrupt our routines.”

When you’re dealing with us autistic folks – help mind the routines.

We don’t build them or follow them to inconvenience anyone. That would create awkwardness. We hate that as much as you do.

We develop routines — consciously or subconsciously — to add a sense of structure to our lives, minimizing stress, fear, meltdowns, anxiety, and more.

Would you rather we just teeter on edge and act out, crumble, lash out for a lack of routine? No.

Would you prefer we just live carefree and “go with the flow?” Well, uh, that doesn’t just work.

Routines are a kind of coping mechanism, but we get that our routines cannot dictate the entirety or majority of your life as it does ours.

So how can you help gracefully interject and alter our routines (if and when needed) without us blowing up or melting down?

I gotchu, fam. 

Start with why, start with why, start. with. why. This one is just stupid easy: even if we don’t agree with the reason or the rationale, we at least know you’re being thoughtful about the interjection and will give us a chance to rationalize the need. Intentionality goes a long way.

Warn in advance. I’m not going to promise that we’re always going to like the events, but if you want to ensure the most civil outcome – get ahead of the surprise factor and just tell us ahead of time. Here’s a cheat: if you use early warnings as leverage to encourage us to deal with our reactions in the moment and during the event, we’ll play ball, ok?

Understand how routine disruption disrupts us. Sometimes our assessment of a day’s “goodness” or “badness” is predicated on predictability. And sometimes nothing more. The more you can help us navigate “the newly minted map,” the better. Expectations are hard to recalibrate, but not impossible.

Mitigate the impact. My work involves a lot of rocks and boulders of blocked time that, when shifted, make my day far less recoverable. Sometimes they just have to shift, and it’s incredibly irksome to my autistic core. They just are, and I can’t help that. Underneath the routine, though, there are goals: build dashboard X, present keynote Y — if there are other routines that can be altered or things made easier to help offset that disruption, we’re not going to turn take “making our lives easier.”

What do you find helpful when your routine has to budge, or when you have to budge a routine?

How The Mandalorian’s Coolest Character NAILS The Autistic Experience

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Star Wars wasn’t supposed to make me feel this way, but I’ve never felt so giddily associated with the autistic experience than after watching The Mandalorian.

MAJOR Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen The Mandalorian on Disney+ yet, then you need turn away and come back to this one, k? It won’t make sense otherwise, and you’ll be glad you both watched that show, then read this post. Thanks!


 

Yeah, everyone says IG-11 — a bounty-hunting, gun-toting, torso-spinning assassin droid — is their new robot spirit animal. And I don’t blame them.

He’s a TANK, brutal, laconically comic, and fearless.

And as someone on The Life Autistic, my main thought: IG-11 is totally “us.”

We’re not all programmed to terminate bounties, nor will we ever have the shooting, twirling, lithe grace of IG machinery, but here’s where we relate:

Terseness. His economic responses are the kind that’d make Calvin Coolidge look loquacious in comparison — coldly judging options as “acceptable” or confirming simple veracities with “This is true.” I only wish I could be as succinct, but I need people thinking I’m less a robot, not more.

Facts first, assessment later. When IG-11 is hit, Mando asks if he’s ok. His response is almost classically autistic:

“Running a quick diagnostic. It has missed my central wiring harness.”

Mando: “Is that good?”

IG-11: “Yes.”

It’s the kind of thing we folks on the spectrum would say, assuming that the question would be answered by the facts we share.

Adherence to routine. In harm’s way? So what? Routine is routine.

Mando: “Now let’s regroup, out of harm’s way, and form a plan.”

IG-11: “I will of course receive the reputation merits associated with the mission.”

Mando: “Can we talk about this later?”

IG-11: “I require an answer if I am to proceed.”

We are often equally inflexible — even in the heat of the moment.

Fatalism. “Manufacturer’s Protocol dictates I cannot be captured. I must self-destruct.” Unlike IG-11, though, we sometimes just go ahead and do this without announcing it. We can’t be compromised, so we melt down, shut down, and sometimes just blow up given the wrong circumstances.

Redeeming ourselves. We are aware that we’re difficult. Prickly. Not always easy. But we have our merits, and we’ll prove it.

Mando: “You know, you’re not so bad. For a droid.”

IG-11: “Agreed.”

I’ve gone back and watched all IG-11’s scenes, and there are so many resonant little gems, like his clunky-graceful movements (that hip pivot when stepping over a dead alien!), retorts (“Species age differently.”), sheer bravado in taking on hordes of mercenaries, and pragmatic pivots to team up when necessary.

The Mandalorian wasn’t meant to deliver a ‘cool autistic character,’ but IG-11 is about the coolest and closest we’ll get.