The Best Days in The Life Autistic

I was once a big lad.

“Well I brought some harðfiskur with me. Would you like some?”

“Wha—I, uh, sure?!”

Autism has its good days and its bad days. And then on extreme occasions, I have a “best day.”

I’ve blogged about and talked about my worst days on the spectrum, and those don’t take much doing to happen. A few apples fall off the cart, the whole thing wrecks, and there we are in the ditch.

The “best days” are a rare event, an earthy syzygy; I had one about seven years ago, nearly unrivaled since.

(Mind you, there are those ‘event-level’ days: my wedding, birth of my kids, Tim Tebow upsetting the Steelers in the first round of the NFL Playoffs, high scores in Wii Bowling, but those are different.)

My wife and I went to Coohills, a French-styled restaurant in downtown Denver, for their Taste of Iceland event, featuring guest chef Þráinn Vigfússon. Having grown up in Iceland and having also been deprived of fine-dining opportunities, I’d been—gulp—getting autistically eager over the opportunity. The fact that this was happening made me giddy enough.

I speak a little bit of Icelandic, so I began hyperobsessing and imaginatively projecting that I’d be able to reel off a little islensku, parlaying my ability to actually say the chef’s name properly into a glittering conversation, and then—well, I didn’t get too far beyond that. I just wanted to be the cool one for a night. The grand imaginings, these.

Course after course, we were treated to Icelandic-infused haute cuisine: the langoustines and Scandinavian breads echoing with this faint imagined memory of what I ate back “home.” At the table next to us, two boisterous businessclowns tried to regale Chef Þráinn in vain (note: that’s a sight rhyme – those two words don’t actually rhyme) as he went table-to-table to serve up dessert, a liquid-nitrogen-frozed skyr ice cream concoction.

Since I observed him going through this tableside service, so I had ample time to rehearse (nervously) my lines and line of conversation. It’s taxing enough in English. Try it in Icelandic.

So when Chef Þráinn came to our table, I was ready.

“Er þetta skyr ís?”

I asked if this was “skyr ice cream” — he obliged and responded back, keeping in Icelandic.

I was thrilled. He asked if I spoke it.

Bara pinulitið,” I confessed. But that was enough to make his night and get him talking beyond just the superficial level — with me, the fine-dining novice.

We got to conversing, and I joked about how each course was way beyond expectation, and how I thought this would be more traditional, like with harðfiskur (a favorite, hardy snack of mine).

And he had some on hand. His own personal chef’s stash!

It was a joyous treat, replete special treatment, culminating with a pic and some charmed memories of the evening – plus an invitation to stop by his restaurant at the Blue Lagoon next time I visit.

So what made this an ‘autistic best day?’

The reality matched even my wild, specific expectations. Being able to imagine speaking Icelandic and making ‘fast friends’ with the chef was a bizarre daydream — but it happened.

My rehearsal paid off. I pride myself on autistically navigating myself through social dilemmas with pre-practice, and in this case, even doing this in my second language – every box was checked, and I felt 100% validated in my preparational oddities.

I felt different and special. While Chef Þráinn mingled and small-talked with the rest, he was genuinely impressed in our common ground and devoted a little more to the conversation with me — and that was awesome. It’s a great feeling.

We have our good, our bad, and our best. I could use a lot more of the best!

I’ll write more about the bad days later, but this was a good reminisce to put a smile back on my face.  To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.

If you like stories, I’m still making more of them and recording ’em along the way. Check out my latest below; it’s a funyun.


Autistic Creative Burnout

It only took five weeks, but as I sat down, said the quiet parts out loud, I confessed both to myself and out in the open:

I can’t keep things up like this.

The YouTube channel has been a thrill, I’ve enjoyed keeping up here with writing, and there have been plenty of things both at work and at home to stay ahead of, do, and enjoy. But just not all at once at this rate.

I can’t narrate The Life Autistic if I’m no longer LIVING.

Burnout is hard, but it’s especially hard when it’s fueled and propelled by autistic obsessions and fixations.

I’m going into each weekend gripped by the need to film, to edit, splice, and prep for publish weekly. And if it’s not that, it’s gearing up blogs on the cadence I’ve maintained for years. This has become its own special interest, and if you’re autistic, you know it is hard to undo!

But things have changed: work has seasons, I’ve had more kids since this whole outlet began, I’m helping stay flexible to let Mrs. H2 stay engaged in teaching – the list goes on.

So does time: it goes on and has not changed, nor broadened, nor expanded.

I’ve been to the burnout wall before, so I know it’s coming. Here’s what will be changing, for my own sanity:

Writing is slowing down. I do enjoy practicing my one key skill, but I am making my own pressure by committing to a 2x weekly pace. And I can’t keep that up. I’ll be here on Mondays, but I’m afraid the Thursday kicker will need to step aside.

Videos on Wednesdays. But maybe not every Wednesday. Some of these come together extremely quick, but not always. YouTube isn’t my day job. My day job is already pretty intense. I have kids, plural. I have to face the fact that, given everything else, I’m just not capable of cranking things out as fast as I could.

Balance. This may surprise some or none of you, but every minute of my day is pretty much compulsively driven to some objective — I’ve not “been lazy” in years, and the doing is always intense, and focused, and purposeful — and exhausting.

So while I realize, yeah, my audience is probably going to dry up because I can’t be as ridiculous a force, at least I’ll still have a Life Autistic to live, to enjoy, one that can’t afford to dry up.

I hope you’ll stick around, even if the updates aren’t as feverishly constant. But I need to slow down to keep going.  To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.

Maybe one day I’ll get around to a video on burnout. For now, here’s some other autistic things I wish I’d known sooner.

When Autistic Routines Bend, then Break | Going to the Mattresses with Stressors

There’s only so much I can manage. And at that point, I can only hope to bend my furthest without breaking.

Unlike everyone else on the planet, I don’t look forward to three day weekends or holidays. And it’s sad, because I genuinely enjoy what I have to look forward to — truly!

But the routine break can be backbreaking.

Lemme explain this autistic trait of routine. Routine and repetition are our R&R — we thrive on predictability, reducing the mental load in adapting, and being able to “opt in” and commit in environments that mostly remain undisturbed.

So when we hit structural changes to this routine, it’s tough sledding.

This weekend, instead of hauling off to church, we instead bought the girls their new bunk beds, grilled outdoors, disassembled beds, stored beds, assembled new ones, bought new mattresses, made up the beds, and then-whew-done.

It doesn’t sound hard. But when all of that runs counter to the rank-and-file Sunday/Monday combo, it becomes hard.

Mind you, I adapt and stretch the best I can — in my mind I chalk out the outline of the day (build beds, make beds, store beds, lift things), but as soon as something falls outside of that outline, yikes.

And that happened :/

I have to draw a line between my autism and my generally-acerbic expressions, and this weekend was more of the latter. Due to my own error, I ended up having to add some extra steps outside that chalk outline and just ended the day incensed, angry, and short-tempered.

So close, H2 — so close to accounting for everything, but just short enough to light off my fuse.

That was the story: what should have been a “yay party omg labordayvibes” weekend became a sweet memory turned sour by my own rigidity and bending just a little too far and breaking.

My advice to my autistic self?

Make that chalk outline bigger.

Give a wider berth to disruptions.

And don’t buy used mattresses.

Hope your three-day weekend went well! I’ll do better on my next one. To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!

Oh, and if you like words and videos, you’ll LOVE The Life Autistic on YouTube! New episode: