Worse Than a Weightlifting Accident: Autism and The Machine

I don’t have a lot of fears. But in my top five:

5: Uninvited guests

4: Getting called on to pray when I haven’t been writing the prayer requests down

3: My workout bench collapsing under me whilst hoisting weights overhead

2: Anyone asking me “Can we talk?” without any context

1: [REDACTED]

Number 4 ended up happening a couple weeks back, and after intense counseling, I feel I have recovered from the trauma.

Number 3 happened last week.

Every time I lift, I bear this latent fear and hoist it ahead of me. It’s the most likely cause of any critical injury and would be the odds-on favorite “freak accident” (freak as in rare, not as in ‘occurring to a freak’) to befall me.

But so it happened in a backward-hurled blur, falling flat from an incline to a sharp decline — arms and hands held aloft, bracing my pair of dumbbells in place so as not to fold inward and pancake my face into my skull.

Within a second it was over.

I’d fallen, shocked, and rose unharmed.

But not unhurt.

One of the clips on my weights had snapped from the impact, rendering it unusable.

And yes, folks, I missed the forest for the tree here.

I wasn’t upset at the bench collapse.

I wasn’t upset at the fall.

I wasn’t even as upset about the broken part.

I was upset because I couldn’t complete my workout routine cycle for the day.

“Hunter, how absurd can you be about getting upset by THAT?”

Ok, first of all, it’s “How AUTISTIC can I be” and second, yes, I can be patently absurd about it.

Autistic routines are finely tuned machines.

It doesn’t matter how flexible I make them. I doesn’t matter how much slack I leave in them. Wide berth, narrow berth, consequentiality, inconsequentiality, life, death — even when I’ve found ways to adapt.

The brokenness of a routine still stings.

That’s how I know I’m still autistic.

Behind the many masks, counter-routines, adaptations, self-talk cycles — the hollow at the core still bellows back in this recalling and reverberant echo. There is a hole here.

Yes, of course I have a counter-routine. Yes, of course I make contingencies. Yes, I’ve learned to bypass a lot of the defeat and desultory feelings that come.

I weathered the accident pretty well. Falls happen. Breaks happen.

But of all the things that broke and snapped in sequence, I was left most smarting at the smallest routine thing.

And that’s The Life Autistic.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — and follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram as well.

The Only Way You Learn about Anything – even Autism

Last summer, after the rains abated, it was time.

I searched for the same video I’d been using to turn my sprinkler system back on. This is one I watched only once a year, if lucky. I usually needed to reference it more than once. Not because I’m terrible with retention — which can be true — but because, inevitably, something would break.

I’ve learned a lot about my sprinkler system and sprinkler systems in general. It’s not a special interest. I’m not particular keen on it.

When things are broken, I learn more about them.

My sprinkler turn-on ended up being a summer school, with humiliating coursework. Things broke. Things I couldn’t name, with parts I couldn’t explain, with pieces that fired upward toward my brain. Literally.

I’d adjusted the test cocks, turned the screw heads to what I thought was perpendicular, parallel, or whichever — I’ve still yet to learn the difference, which is awkward when I end up perpendicular parking in crowded downtown confines — turned off the main shutoff valve, and sent the vacuum breaker skyrocketing into my frontal lobe. Thank you, skull, for taking a shame-inducing hit for me.

All those italicized terms — those were just thing A, thing B, doohickey C, and whatevertheheck D in my mind. But they all conspired to break.

And as they were broken, so I learned.

I did repair those things, after vain and errant hunts for parts. Off we went to find that video, re-open all the valves, ensuring my dome steered clear of the potential blast radius —

We were clear — until a sprinkler head rocketed off behind me, propelled by a spectacular geyser, cold arc of water gushing and glorious, unbound and unyielding to that former node.

And as this was broken, so I learned.

This was far less injurious to both my pride and forehead, so the endeavor of sprinkler head replacement came with far less shame, far more digging, much more dirt.

I’ve come to similar learnings in autism.

I’ve surveyed the things I found broken.

Empathy.

Relating to others.

Masking.

Social graces.

Saying “the right thing.”

Inflexibility.

Sensory overload.

Devotion to routines.

Meltdowns.

It has been a year of learning.


This summer, after the rains abated, it was time.

I learned more about my sprinkler valve assembly. I’d learned to keep my bell from being rung. With a harsh whishhh, the vacuum breaker held.

And again, malady. My backyard sprinklers defied my clocks orders and sprayed without beckoning.

As more things were broken, so I learned.

My wife insisted I do a very unorthodox thing and read the manual. After sitting on that for days, I relented. And so I learned. I learned about resetting my sprinkler clock. I learned about how to adjust and test my valves manually.

Once my system ran, I noticed an errant head midday, laid shattered upon the dry grass.

Something must have broken.

But using what I’d learned, I’d made a key discovery. It wasn’t MY sprinkler head that broke this time. Sorry neighbor – this was yours.

Things weren’t broken, so I learned.


I discovered the same exact thing in my autism this past year.

Things break.

But I am not broken, so I have learned.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — and follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram as well.

Latest episode, enjoy.

Oh, so THIS is burnout — Autism and Emotional Soreness

After enduring a day in which I had to throw my bones ahead of my soul, nap in between meetings to recuperate, wrote way too much in musing poetic howling meter, and falling asleep cold whilst still daylight at 07:54 PM — the reflections converged.

Yes, Hunter, you can indeed burn out.

It wasn’t how I expected, nor did it come about like I expect this would for most autistic people.

You may know I do A LOT. It’s not a complaint: if anything it is a compulsion and pseudo-showcase of the insane autistic inertia I generate.

I can do and overdo a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily burn me out.

For me, my burnout appears to be emotional soreness.

Let us revisit the previous day:

This would not be a routine Wednesday, so already, my defenses were compromised.

My eldest daughter graduated Kindergarten, a first for us, in terms of experience as a parent, and in attending one of these ceremonies. I don’t remember my own Kindergarten graduation, but this carried some emotional heft — where it involved a mix of baby/toddler wrangling, event socializing, and a mix of finality. Our first official school year done.

My youngest daughter turned 1. She achieved this milestone in a year, so we’re proud of her in that. The day began with getting her cake shoot pics and just wrapping our hearts around little Jo — where we wanted to make the day special, knowing it would be a full day. Then again, she’s 1. She’s pretty happy with Goldfish crackers and being picked up.

We had an awards event that night too – I’ll leave the details scant, but we still had a major social obligation that night

AND THEN I was relayed some news (not bad, don’t worry) that packed a leveling blast-from-the-past punch, enough to where I basically tripped a fault wire and couldn’t process the enormity of it in the moment. I can’t wait to share that.

So the chain of events, plus a workday, just led to a lot of heavy emotional and practical lifting in the moment. And it was just that, lifting.

I didn’t feel it until the next day. I was hollowed. Vacant. Drained. Emptied and spent.

In the day I don’t think I could explain it.

But this must be my kind of autistic burnout.

Where some events are too much to process in the moment.

Where some enormities set in, but not all at once.

Where the emotional toll is felt as a booming echo that steals my strength.

I don’t remember the last time I collapsed into sleep before sunset — but the events of the previous day had taken my shell and plunged it into the blackened sand.

And that was that.

I was feeling it as emotionally sore.

It burned me out.

And now I know.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — and follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram as well.

Oh, you’ll like this, by the way: