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Why can't you do it?...Explaining aspergers to friends and family.

I was trying to explain to IT teen last night why I couldn't go out and get full-time work. He said that with my CV I could be earning mega-money. I would only have to stick it for a few months and build up some cash, then I could do what I liked again (translate to 'whatever it is you do when you say you're working').

I pointed out that my CV was lovely, but had giant holes in it, or lots of little holes where I had started and finished lots of little jobs. He waved a hand and said that could be glossed over, I don't need to tell them everything. Yes, he knows me well - how many of us, when job hunting, tell them everything?

He pointed out how much money I made years ago when I did 'that full-time job' - fill in details of the job I mention as being the catalyst for finding out I couldn't cope with normal life and was the real beginning of my aspie journey.

This was something I'd covered before. I've occasionally tried to explain to IT teen, and other friends and family, why full-time 'proper' jobs don't work for me. I can explain it to you, readers. It comes out fine then. When I try explaining it in real life, with spoken words and expressions, to people who know me well, can you guess how it comes out?

"I can't do full-time work."

Sounds lame, doesn't it? Usually followed by the person asking why not. So, when IT teen asked the usual question, I wracked my brains. For a second I saw these blogs floating before me, I remembered how well it can be explained on here and I tried to summarise it for him.

"I just can't cope with it."

Yes, lame again. Followed by, 'it's the routine, the people, the stress' and so on. Cue raised eyebrows and snorts of disbelief (he is a teen, after all) and the comment that surely doing the same thing every day is easy??

You know, doing the same thing every day can be easy, especially when it's something you've chosen to do, like your routines at home. But I've found that doing the same things every day in a job sends me batty. It becomes part of the drudgery and stress and nearly always contributes to me leaving.

I tried to explain this and told him the only exception was when I worked at Tesco, as a personal shopper. I had to choose items from the shelves, match them to the computer and pack them in the boxes. Readers, that was wonderfully repetitive! It was so relaxing! Kind of like a real-life computer game. Plus, it was very, very early in the morning and I wasn't expected to talk to staff or customers.

I gave up this small oasis of tranquillity to go to work at the doctor's office, very busy and with constant staff and customer contact. I wouldn't make the same mistake again.

Unfortunately, bringing up the Tesco job did nothing for my credibility with IT teen. I had broken my own logic in avoiding doing the same thing every day by quoting a job when I did just that. I was also telling him that one of the most basic jobs I had ever done was one I enjoyed, and this was while he was trying to convince me to fulfil my potential and get a fabulous new job that would pay lots of money! You can see why he was exasperated.

As usual, I gave up trying to explain things to him. I know he meant no harm, he wants me to be able to do a job that uses my skills in a way that actually makes real money. Being self-employed is great when it comes to organising your life and using your skills, but as an aspie who always needs to keep an eye on the pressure-meter, I'm not likely to make big money anytime soon.

I could have explained more. I could have threatened him with no internet and made him read the blogs. I could have sat him down and read out the blogs to him (I'm becoming more cruel by the minute here). Yes, I could have rammed home the fact his mother is not like other mothers and reminded us both that I haven't turned out as expected.

I didn't do any of that. I guess at the bottom of it, you have to decide when and who you want to explain things to. As I've said, I have tried explaining to him before, but it's a drip-drip process. He knows his mother isn't like others, I don't want to emphasise that. I'm not ashamed of who I am but I am sometimes ashamed of how it's pushed me to live a life that is okay for me but perhaps isn't the best way to finance and support a household with children in it.

Yes, some of you may have spotted that I'm circling a familiar word here: Failure. I didn't want to explain fully as it does sound lame to a hale and hearty teenage boy. I didn't want to remind us both that I failed to become the person I expected to be and failed to create a well-off, balanced home where the socks always match and you don't have to panic-buy the packed lunch before school.

I avoided all of this because I need me and my children to be reminded of the home we did create: somewhere full of ideas, conversations, laughter, love, understanding of differences, night-time trips to spot meteors, day-time trips to the beach in the wild, windy Winter.

I want my children to remember that I worked for myself, around them and my other commitments, that I chose the home life over the career. Perhaps it was more a case of it choosing me, as I couldn't have coped with the career, but it created a new kind of life for all of us, where people and activities became more important than what was expected in a normal world.

So, when it comes to explanations, I try to keep it brief. I want my son to understand me, but I also need him to be a teenager, a dismissive, occasionally selfish creature that sees the world in clear lines with straightforward answers. There's time enough in the rest of life to see all the shades of grey that make up our world, our lives, our personalities.

I'm just hoping that the next time he brings up my CV, or a new job, or proper money, that I can remember more of my blogs than, 'I can't manage full-time work,' because, as much as I don't want to burden him with the full explanation, I would also like him to see the sub-text behind my words.

I guess what I could say is:

"I chose this life because it brought us all together."

It's so often the case that the explanation we offer fails to explain anything important. Perhaps we need to concentrate on emphasising the choices we make, rather than the ones we avoid. We should talk about choosing, not failing. We didn't choose to have aspergers, but we can choose to live creatively, in the glow of our differences, doing what we can to make it all work.


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