This Season’s Autistic Positivity Tools

I’m not your typical “positivity guru.”

I don’t have time to measure whether a glass is half full or empty. I don’t think of who has it worse, because I can think of who has it better. And I don’t count blessings, because their quantity has nothing to do with their quality.

So when I share some of my autistic positives, they’re not gimmicks. They’re not tricks in the sense of generating wealth by pulling a coin out of a child’s ear.

When I talk about positive outlooks and tools in autism, I’m referring to actual, replicable, tangible things that help my autistic experience.

See that gigantic tree? It’s not just a tree. It’s a tool. I enjoy this tree.

So every morning, I make a point to plug it in first thing. I’m the last to see it lit each night and the first to see it lit each morning. Why? Because I love the way it looks, and I intentionally put time into making it visible in my memory and my routine.

So that’s one tool: a big good thing in the routine. And it’s sorely needed this season!

This holiday has brought to mind a few more. I’ll share some:

Say ‘Yes’ and complain later. I can way more often say no to a lot of things. I’m practically Dr. No, like my father before me. But when it’s coming time for Christmas events with my kids, I’m just lightly brushing it with logistical though and saying ‘Yes.’ I’m not overthinking. If it’s a short event, yes. If it’s cute, yes. If it’ll make the kids smile, yes. So even though I froze my nose off at an outdoor tree lighting ceremony, I captured a small pocket of good memories and deferred the far fewer complaints afterward. Sometimes you have to know your map and where you can make the shortcuts.

Embrace what you love amidst what you don’t. I had to endure a bit of an awkward, uncomfortable change in one of my routines, where there were going to be some different events, seating arrangements, and transportation detours for an event. But despite all that, I didn’t have to drive. So I applied that tool with force, hugging that small and lovely fact with both my arms: I don’t have to drive. I DO NOT HAVE TO DRIVE! Sure, it might be insignificant and not enough to make up for the rest of the odd arrangement, but, y’all — I didn’t have to drive. And I loved it, and I hyperfocused to embrace it.

Tell yourself how funny the story will be. One of the reasons people find me funny — I’m an advanced “coper” with many faults, slights, wrongs, and tragic turns that age well into comedy. I’m often more sad than I ever let on to people. I’ve spent more of my life frowning inwardly and laughing outwardly. But then I think, “Gee, if things weren’t so bad, where would I get my jokes from?” Other than my daughter pooping through her tights and leading me through a calamitous episode doing haphazard laundering with a soap foam dispenser in a public restroom, I don’t have a recent story to recount. I just remember that in the moment, despite how sharp the awkward conversations and autistic abrasions may feel, if I can just live to tell the tale and practice my comedic timing, then at least I can tell a few good yarns at the next uncomfortable party I endure.

I’d be interested in some of your tools too! 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.

Oh, if you’re still here, would you consider subscribing to my YouTube channel? I’m well-taken care of, so I don’t need any “buy me a coffee” donations — but you’d make my day with a subscription. It’s far less expensive! Thanks ^_^

The Best Birthdays in Autism

My birthday was last week. Very little ado was made of it. Mission accomplished.

Surprises aren’t my thing, nor are extravaganzas. Since I had neither the impetus, nor the friends, nor the general energy for birthday parties after age 8, I found the absence of celebration sad, but liberating.

Maybe you’re the “birthday celebrator extraordinaire” type of person.

As an autistic fellow with a recurring birthday, I am not.

Here’s why:

We (generally) don’t like changes in routine. I like when my birthday falls on a weekday, because then I go to work, get things done, and make it a mostly normal day. Predictability is a fine present. Sure, I wouldn’t mind an Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Co-Axial Day Date either, but barring that, I’m most at ease and happy when things go “according to prescription.”

Were not fond of misaligned expectations. There’s a great phrase I borrow from The Patriot: “Aim small, miss small.” With hypervivid imaginative capacity and keen abilities to construct what amazing events look like, it’s only dooming us to failure when those things can’t come to pass, due to scale, complexity, meltdowns, whatever. I asked for three things on the day: for me not to have to make the bed, an empty sink, and $10 worth of tacos from El Michoacano — a taqueria in a part of town where I’m the only person who orders in English. I got all three, as expected, totally perfect.

People. Well, it’s nice having people around, but I like keeping my energy reserves stored. My wife and three daughters made sweet and special company, and they let me be me at my most “me.”

Normal people are quick to claim an entire “birthday month,” paint the town red (whatever that means), and get a pass on their vanity for bending the world to their whims on the one day they can afford to do so.

Me? I’m not normal.

Yet I had a great and happy birthday in my own autistic way.

I’m 3# years into my life autistic, and I hope it won’t take all too many more for our differences to pass from ‘misunderstood’ to ‘tolerated’ to ‘accepted’ and maybe even ‘celebrated.’ Even if I don’t have much by way of birthday celebrations, right?  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.

Speaking of celebrations, check out my latest video for something I actually celebrated perhaps even more than my own birthday:

Autistic People are Cat People?

People often assume I’m a cat person. They’re wrong, but not in the way they expect. They’re also right, but not how they expect.

The other night, I was invited to meet and catch up with some out-of-town acquaintances at the Denver Cat Company, which was less about feline manufacturing and more about keeping company with cats. There were around 14, darting, slinking, and enjoying cuddles and play from others.

It was a great catch-up and meet as well, one of the first and few in which I could engage with and listen to other resplendent, neurodivergent people. I cracked open my tin of Fancy Feast™ and enjoyed about 75 minutes of late-evening conversation. It’s nice when, within my tribe, I can almost finish someone’s sentences with the word ‘anathema‘ and not be thought strange or odd, but perfectly welcome.

But back to cats, when I saw the sign, I asked to snap a pic and muse on my own enduring question:

Are autistic people cat people?

A lot of those feline guidelines sure apply to me:

  • Touch at your own risk
  • Watch for claws
  • Leave me to my refuge
  • Leave me be
  • Don’t chase me
  • Don’t pick me up off the ground

I see why we get that reputation. We’re cuddly, but only on our own terms. We’re social, but we opt into that and need to be able to bail at a moment’s notice. We’re not declawed, and if we scratch, it’s not because we hate you. We don’t want people invading our bubble, unless we somehow faintly signal that we want you to.

But we’re not all nor always cat people.

We get a puppy-like exuberance about our special interests. Sometimes we’ll follow a scent or a thing without breaking focus. We can be intractably loyal and fixed to a single person as their aggressive defenders and faithful friends. Sometimes we’re distracted by squirrels.

And that’s the autism spectrum for you: variety within variety, difference within difference.

Fun fact: Despite my cattiness, I’ve only ever owned dogs.

Cats, dogs, reptiles, fish — whatever: every time I try to fit autism into a stereotype, I fail spectacularly. Word to the wise there.  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.

Unrelated, but my two dogs cameo in my latest video. It’s far more entertaining to see it vs. read about it. Check it out: