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:

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: