Pause and Affect: Autistic Reflections Away

It was an unannounced break from the blog.

Nothing happened; I was out of state, away vacationing. Months and years ago, I’d have felt guilty for not hanging an out-of-office sign here, but I’ve learned to trust people to be more understanding.

But I still felt a teeny bit uneasy while on vacation.

Vacationing while autistic just isn’t vacationing.

That’s OK.

Many people look for the BREAK in routine as the object, the major events that rakes across their dreadful monotonies, the joyous, carefree lightning locks of freewheeling adventure, perfectly-framed travelogues, and limitless Epicurean delights —

No, that’s not me.

I live in the routine. I glide through the monotony. I rest easiest in the pulses, knowing where the surges and pauses are to come.

This vacation was a better one.

In The Life Autistic, you’re probably not living for the weekend nor readying to plunge headlong into the idyllic charms of beach, amusement park, or [insert stock vacation here]. You’re planning. Preparing. Adapting.

Or in some cases, you’re undoing yourself from the stereotypical notions of what a vacation should be and readying, preparing, smoothing out the folds of dread.

This is also OK.

I’m back now.

But I’m not quite back here.

Vacation was a good break from the creative ventures too, where the pause helped me reassess where I am burning bright or burning out.

It clarified the kind of things that are still burning hot and fueling a lot of joy, despite the expense. Videos (short and long) remain a fruitful endeavor, and I’ve found myself being worked into more speaking and podcast engagements — those are both new, and I enjoy contributing where I can.

But that leaves, yes, my writing.

Despite this being my first autism advocacy venture, it’s veering closer to burnout. Ironic, given my Hephaestean craft, writing as a first love as well. It’s a fickle beast — the fires temperamental.

I won’t be forsaking this in total; I just need to extend the vacation to this domain too. The stories will be told, not forced. For as much as I devote myself to routines, I’ve learned to pinpoint when they’re serving me, and when I’ve veered too far into serving them.

Vacation had a purpose.

I’m glad for the purpose in unplugging, enjoying some sand, enjoying time with my family, seeing my kids enjoy their first visit to the Atlantic Ocean, seeing weird birds, and then following up with a more mellow staycation at home. It was purposeful, and I enjoyed it at my autistic best.

But it served a good creative purpose, helping me see better what I really wanted to come back to and what I felt could wait a little longer.

The words can wait.

They’ll always be there.

Lessons in Autism from an Austrian Strongman Legend

Would you just LOOK at the SIZE of the biceps on that dude? you also share the same kind of era-specific special interest of strongman, you probably don’t know of the behemoth on the left. That’s Manfred Hoeberl, an Austrian Strongman competitor in the mid-90s, known for his 26-inch biceps. Bandana-clad and big-armed, he cut a characteristic figure among his strongmen peers, making him an eminently watchable competitor.

Of course, being in Iceland, I rooted for Magnus Ver Magnusson, as one does. But Manfred had the strongman LOOK.

And then there’s me on the right. I can barely fit my hair into a bandana, and I’m not as well-known for my biceps.

Through absolute happenstance, I caught an episode of one of my personal favorite YouTubers: Big Loz Official – an English strongman whose commentary, insights, and content just ticks all of my special interest boxes. He finally landed an interview with Manfred, one whom I’d been wanting to hear from for a while.

What does this have to do with autism, HUNTER?

Among the many anecdotes he shares, Manfred recalled being a half-point ahead of Magnus Ver in the 1994 World’s Strongest Man competition heading into the final event. And not only was he leading prior to the event, he led during the event (Atlas Stones).

Until he made a fatal mistake.

Well, not literally fatal.

He looked over.

To see how Magnus Ver was faring. Breaking focus. Checking out the competition. Side eyeing for a split second.

Magnus took the event and the title, winning the event only just, and the competition by a single point. It was the closest Manfred came to a title.

I’m paraphrasing, but Manfred remarked that THAT was the decisive moment. Where his claim to glory was snatched away a glance askance.

I’m guilty of that too.

Where I compare my experience to peers. To other creators. Even to other autistic professionals. To those lifting their own Altas Stones, where I should be focused on my own.

That’s never a winning move.

My Atlas Stones are mine own. I’m my own competition, not others.

My autistic experiences, joys, successes, failures are not a competitive event.

It’s hard not to fall into this trap, for my autistic brain and soul to seek additional inputs, vectors, data to frame whether or not I’m “doing well” or “doing good.” For all my innate hyperfocus, I am equally strong in zeroing in, but also perilous when I zero out and break the turbolaser beam of me and my own word.

Manfred’s advice: “You do you.”

True words there.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can apply some similar wisdom to my biceps.

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 Instagram.

Speaking of YouTube strongmen and creatives, well, only one of those applies to me, but I hope you’ll check out my channel and subscribe nonetheless. Thanks so much.

New Normal? In Autism, it’s something different.

My hair is back to normal. As you can tell.

Which begs the question: that’s normal? I guess so. These days, my hair is normally longer than it is short.

If I were to walk around town, it’s pretty normal. At work, it’s not necessarily abnormal. At church, yeah, it ain’t normal. Even in the autism community, y’know, it might be abnormal by comparison — I grew this awesome redness and haven’t given myself a ‘normal highlight color’ like most of us else in the neurodivergent community.

What is normal?

I had an abnormal week. I worked only two days, non-consecutive. I spent Monday mostly outdoors. The other days I spent being a stay-at-home-dad, working every trick in the book to get my daughters to nap at the same time, for hours on end — which they did. Yay me. Go Dad.

Was that normal?

I tend to talk more than others do when others don’t and talk less when others expect me to. I’ll answer some emails in as few words as possible, while waxing labyrinthine and poetic in others. I’ll begin meetings with wild stories and pack a rabbit warren of tangents into what becomes my trail. At times I feel like I’m the only one who gets it. It’s not a matter of smart/dumb — it’s just different, and I feel my lens to be clearer.

Is that normal?

I’m finding more and more people who share the same ‘abnormalities’ I do. The obsessive lateral interests. The hyperfixations. The same categorical social miscues. The similar toolboxes of coping with people and environments and life. The penchant for prolixity. The aversions to contact: eyes, handshakes, proximity.

Aren’t those normal?

Autism is my normal.

It’s normal for me to overexplain, to conjure obtuse analogies, to confuse literalities, to cringe at a lack of specificities, to walk in unpredictable gaits as my mind cycles through ideas, to rehearse conversational possibilities before they happen, to analyze details that you’re uncomfortable with me knowing but you’re just not mindful enough to obscure, so of course I’m going to ask about that reminder to give Richard a heartworm pill and comment on how unexpected it is to either have a dog by the name Richard or a person named Richard who requires a heartworm pill.

It’s normal for me to forget things in front of my face, to ignore things beyond the periphery of my routine, to seize up and shudder at a full sink, to spend hours emptying my dishwasher, to want to help so bad that I become an annoyance, to earnestly come back with details about episodes and events that impact you, to reach the apex of achievement and wallow in pity within a day, to cry at random and have nothing to explain the rare and strange event.

This is normal.

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 Instagram.

As for what really sparks joy, join the many others who’ve followed my exploits on my channel. But watch out: I don’t have “casual fans.” If you dig it, YOU DIG IT. This episode is a GREAT affirmation of the autistic experience. Hope you enjoy.