Walking away from it all

I'm thinking of making a spectacle of myself. Isn't this what it's called when you lie down on the ground, kicking and screaming?  I'm not sure I want to fall flat on the floor and have a toddler tantrum, but I do feel a little bit of a scream would do me good.

It's been a week of minor frustrations which have climbed up the back of the sofa and niggled me on the head when I try to sit down. Nothing major, nothing that would keep me awake at night (if I needed an excuse). Just the usual irritations of life.

Except I've reacted by creeping back under the blanket and this is not a good thing. In a few weeks, my tuition will have died down for Summer, leaving me with an unlucky handful of students who don't get rid of me over the holidays. This is the time I can take stock and recharge a bit. So why should I be under the blanket now?

This is what I've been trying to work out. I like to have a reason for things. I don't like to say, I don't feel like it today or just that I'm having a bad day. That's what I might say to other people but I almost always know why I'm feeling muddy, even if I don't share the reason.

I often start with the muddy feelings and then have to work my way back to the reasons. This is an aspie thing, to not understand why you feel like you do and have to re-trace your steps or have someone explain it to you.

I've been re-tracing my steps all week though and am still lost in the woods.

Yesterday I had to face the scary idea that I might just be having a bad week for no particular reason. How woolly! So many loose ends, so little logic - I don't like it. I tried afresh to work things through and see what had happened but came up blank again.

I fell against the stalwart reason, often put forward by friends and family, that I'm tired. I am tired a lot of the time, it takes a great deal of energy being this annoying on a full-time basis. My energy is channelled into the minute detail of life and used to make things more difficult, for me and other people. It's no wonder I'm worn out.

So, last night I looked at myself in the unforgiving, traitorous close-up car mirror and wondered if I was just tired. Is it possible, readers, to have a week full of muddy emotion and blame it all on tiredness? Being tired always seems like a symptom to me, rather than a problem in itself. Unless I'm falling off the back step out of sheer exhaustion, I don't accept tiredness as a reason it itself.

I tried this new thinking on for size, glowering at the grumpy face in the car mirror. Tired, pure and simple? No big problems, no hidden agendas, no atmospheres between me and my loved ones, no new worries, no current worries I didn't know about.

You see, the list was whittling down and I was having to face the prospect of tiredness, in and of itself, being the root of my sad, grumpy little week.

I'm still undecided. I hate to admit defeat and accept that there isn't more to it. Am I not missing something here? I know tiredness can change mood but, to be honest, when I reach a certain stage of tiredness I actually feel better as I've disconnected from reality by then.

Could I just need a break sooner than expected? Can Summer not come soon enough? Am I not tired, as such, but weary?

There we have it, I think. The conclusion is a simple one, that can't really be solved. I want a break, not from tuition as much as from everything. That's why I'm under the blanket at the first whiff of trouble. I need to step back and hide, out of the way of all complications, until I feel able to swing life's pick-axe again.

What does an adult do when they are weary? In the real world, we can't just let go of everything and hide, can we? I've often advocated the need for temporary relief, to be able to take yourself out of your current situation and hide from trouble until you can cope again. What about when you need more than the temporary but aren't in a position to find it?

Well, in my situation, what happened was that I bought a Yorkie bar and had chocolate therapy on the way home, then had home-made spaghetti bolognese therapy once I got there. This explains a lot about my coping mechanisms, they seem to revolve around blankets and food. Oh dear!

For the longer term view, I'm uncertain. I recognise in myself that if I don't address this weariness, if I don't deal with if properly, I'll turn tail and Walk. Fellow aspies will know exactly what I mean by that. I will be in danger of abdicating responsibility and letting the weariness have its own space.

In real terms, this means I'd be landing myself in it, yet again (and again, and again). It's logical to say this is not a good thing, I can't be bailing on life whenever I feel like it.

I don't, though. I often carry on, regardless of how I feel. The exit strategy is a simple one - you reach a stage, often in an unexpected moment, where you turn and leave. That's it, all done, Bye Bye.

Some time later, hours, weeks, months, you have to stage a return and try out normal life again. How difficult that can be, especially when it was your own fault you went outside the loop. But how necessary it feels at the time.

Readers, I am not about to walk out of my normal life, pack up the cats and go live on a hillside somewhere. Nothing so dramatic. If I did that, I'd have to set up a whole new routine and it's a break I need, not more work.

What I want to do is close that front door and not open it unless I want to. Expect the boiling oil above the lintel. The dogs will be primed to herd and corral any wayward visitors. The cats have their ball bearings ready and catapults in back pockets. I have the spare broom out, ready to sweep away bigger visitors, who make it past the pet army.

You see, the moment when you come out from under the blanket and are ready to walk away is when you get your fighting spirit back. You glimpse the freedom beyond the present moment and you'll do whatever it takes to reach it.

Afterwards, I may regret arming the cats and training the dogs in defensive shepherding, but I'll know how good it felt to ward it all off and be rid of it. The trick is in managing this feisty approach to life without then trapping yourself amongst the battlements and finding you're stuck in a siege of your own making. If that happens, you have to surrender and return to a place close to where you first left.

Readers, no one wants to surrender and admit defeat, but sometimes you need the in-between phase, the break away from it all, the defences against everyone and everything, to make you feel human again. Without it, you come to the point of no surrender, no return and the permanent move, physical or otherwise, up the hillside in a tent.


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Other people always think they're right...

I would like to know why decisions I make are treated with scrutiny and suspicion, whereas decisions made by other people are fine because they are made with due care and attention? How frustrating for me, to be treated as if I am, by default, going to land myself in it. And, also by default, to accept that other people know best!

Yes, I admit, I do land myself in it quite a lot and other people, generally speaking, are less adept at the landing and the in it parts. All of that I take on board. Hand on heart, I know I am a flake and given to rash decisions based on the colour of my hair clips.

What I want to know is, why does this mean other people are automatically infallible? Don't get me wrong, I've already said I know I am fallible, but when does the subtle movement begin which seems to mean that my own failings make other people inherently more reliable?

This is how it seems, you see. As an aspie given to randomised decision making, I am used to people stifling a sigh or giving each other a look or steeling themselves to say the right things to pull me back, just in time, from a self-made precipice. I wait for it. I know my decisions will be doubted and I'm ready for the doubt. Usually, nothing can stop me; occasionally, I listen.

When it comes to other people, it seems my ability to land myself in trouble reflects well on them. Their decisions, good, bad and in-between, gain a glow of justification when measured up against mine. They are the strong, sensible ones, so that means whatever they decide must be right.

It doesn't matter what I say or how logical I am - and I can be very logical, very very, especially when it's to do with other people and not myself. My comments and advice are seen as inconsequential. How can I be taken seriously when I get it wrong so often in my own life?

You want to know how? I know Wrong when I see it, that's how. I've met it so often that it doesn't matter how you dress it up, or try to disguise it, I know it as soon as I set eyes on it. When it comes to my own life, Wrong and I have had a heady, on-off relationship for years and we never know when to call it a day. But if I see Wrong elsewhere, when it has nothing to do with me, I recognise that wily creature for the sneaking trickster it really is.

So, believe me if I say something is a bad idea. Listen if I give advice. Even if it is couched in daftness and colourful metaphors, there is truth running right through the middle of it. Trust me if I try to persuade you to try something else.

Sometimes I have trouble explaining myself and this is often true when I need other people to listen. Later, once we've fallen out and nothing I say will make a difference, then I can work out exactly why something is wrong and what I should have said. At the time, I will have either bumbled about saying it doesn't seem right, or I'll have come straight out with the declaration, 'That is a terrible idea! It couldn't be any worse! Are you insane?!'

Comments like this pop out before I even know they exist and are absolutely great for ending a discussion and alienating the very person you want to help. It also doesn't help that often they are true. I'm not saying the person is insane, but if I react this strongly and quickly it is almost guaranteed to mean that the idea or decision under the spotlight is a right and proper stinker.

Later, much later, when I have had to beg forgiveness for telling you the truth in a brutish manner and when you have graciously accepted the apology and sailed off on your boat of decision, then it will work itself out. And by that I mean the decision will prove to be a disaster after all.

I don't say this with any satisfaction or to gloat. It really, really frustrates me when other people discount what I have to say. I do get the logic of ignoring me, I see why it happens, but as I can't help but say 'I told you so', it's not as if there isn't a foundation for my frustration.

You see, I've been proved right before, many times. My words, unheeded, have turned out to be right, even if they were phrased badly. I've had people say, 'I wish I'd listened,' and then, then readers! they've gone on to expect my sympathy over their misfortunes!

This usually ends in a familiar way with me realising this sad person needs sympathy, only to find myself pointing out if they had done as I said, none of this would have happened. For some reason, this doesn't help and they end up behaving as if I'm partly to blame for the whole thing.

You know, it's no great surprise I prefer cats to people. They also rarely listen, they do their own thing, they are selfish and they blame you when things go wrong. But they're honest about it. A cat will never turn around and expect sympathy when they get stuck on the curtain rail - they'll go off and wash until the embarrassment fades. If a person caught themselves on the curtain rail, after you'd told them not to climb on it, they would expect you to help them down and then blame you for not telling them it was so high.

Sorry, readers, I have ranted a bit here. And unfairly, in a way, as other people are entitled to do whatever they like and shouldn't have to listen to a bossy aspie telling them what to do. After all, we aspies hate being bossed about, don't we? So why should other people be any different?

I'll tell you, though, if a reality-deficient aspie can see something is a bad idea, then it must be a real humdinger. If your aspie is ever truly horrified at what you suggest, do try to listen and see if they may be right. It could be they just misheard and thought you were 'leaving forever' rather than 'feeling clever', but on the other hand, you might be about to make a real mistake.

If you do go on, without listening to your aspie, don't expect any sympathy when it all goes wrong. We told you so, do you remember? No? Right, well it was on a Tuesday and you said...


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Being at the back of the crowd

I was wondering if my future self was previewed by my role in the school Nativity play? I had to be an angel, which didn't really please me. Unlike most small girls, my goal was to be Joseph. I wanted to look after the donkey, you see. Yes, it was an imaginary donkey, but all the same, looking after a nice little ass seemed a lot better than standing at the back of the group, trying to look angelic.

There we are then, me, as an angel, at the back of the crowd, trying not to look bored. It does sound rather like most of my life in a nutshell.

It was a home-made costume, consisting of white nightie and coat-hanger wings edged in tinsel. I have a vague memory of pain so I think there must have been a wire/tinsel halo too. I know my hair looked like it had been through the heavens before I got to school, but that was my usual look.

I was an awkward child, fluffy blonde hair, wonky plastic glasses, a tendency to scowl and not in the least interested in being an angel. The only part I liked about it was the silver tinsel and that love affair ended once I realised how uncomfortable it is to wear tinsel next to your skin. Have you ever tried it? It feels like angry beetles trying to have a barn dance.

Also, even though I hated being the centre of attention, I didn't want to stand at the back. I was short, even then, and wanted to be able to see what was going on. I wanted to see if my mother had turned up (as if she wouldn't, but this is the way 6 year olds think) and I wanted to see what Mary and Joseph were doing.

You would think after all the rehearsals, plus forced attendance of Sunday School, that I would know exactly what Mary and Joseph were doing. I probably did, but I also wanted to see what they would do when they were being played by people I knew. I guess I was expecting a twist in the familiar story?

Like in normal life, I've never been at the front of the crowd, where things were really happening. In a very real sense, I've spent an awful lot of time at the back, fidgeting, wondering why I had to wear tinsel when everyone else is in impressive costumes with non-itching accessories.

Even as an angel I was out of place. The other two angels were tidy, meek little girls who looked at home in their nighties and didn't seem to fight against the tinsel either. I remember them giving me some looks, as I shuffled and tried to ignore my itching socks.

I know I would have made an impressive Joseph. I had all sorts of ideas on how I'd say the lines and what I could add to make the story better. I wasn't going to change the story, just make it better. It would have been fine...

Looking back, even if I'd been a boy, no teacher in their right mind would have cast me as Joseph. I was quiet, most of the time. Did as I was told, most of the time. Got on with others, most of the time. You do notice the recurring phrase there?

Most of the time just doesn't cut it. In life, society at large and other people in particular, they want the good side of you all of the time. Or the bad stuff. To be honest, what they want is consistency.

Be really rotten as a human bean if you want, be rubbish at everything you touch and be too smelly to share a cab with - but do it all the time.

It's an extraordinary truth that most people would rather put up with a complete disaster of a person than experience an almost complete disaster who randomly throws out something wonderful.

Yes, you may create chaos wherever you go, but beware if you suddenly make sense and do something great. That makes people uneasy. What do they do with you now? Can you repeat the performance? Will you get better, shuffling off the chaos like an old coat and embracing a whole new world?

No, probably not. You'll carry on as you were, then later, who knows when, you'll do something great again and worry society into taking another look at you.

It's the same if you cope and are great, most of the time. This is much harder, in fact and people react even more negatively if you are this kind of person. Most of the time you are capable, with skills and talents others need and appreciate. Then you have an off day and whooooooo, down you go, suddenly becoming the chaos in the centre of order. All is lost and you make life very difficult for yourself and other people.

It is explained as a blip and, because you are so useful and usually wonderful, people forgive you and move on. You inspire some worried looks or thoughtful glances but that's about it. Until the next time. Dowwwwwwn you go again and all is chaos once more. That's when it gets really difficult for people.

Once in a while, you can be trouble, once in a blue moon everyone is trouble. But if it looks like this is part of your personality, then it almost doesn't matter what you do in the meantime, how good you are, how talented - those momentary lapses are enough to have the apple cart shooting off Bonny Road and up-ending into Muddy Brook.

So, when society has tagged us as unreliable, whether we are usually a positive or negative force, we become too unwieldy to be categorised. We must be pushed to one side, out of the way, so that good, sane, sensible people who only take days off in advance, can step in and be the lead players.

For those of us who can't manage the donkey full time, or who would smack that inn keeper if he tried to turn away our little wife who can barely walk anymore, then we are pushed to the back of the crowd. We need to be trustworthy, even if it's trustworthily bad.

I've dressed up many times since I was in the Nativity. Just like then, my image of my own success is often at a different angle than expected and I end up failing in some way. What I do succeed in though, is having a go. I'm always willing to put on another outfit and thrust myself into the role, adding my own spin on it and seeing where it can take me.

People still feel uncomfortable when you do this and I understand why. But these days I just don't care. If I want to be Joseph, I will be. There's no reason why we shouldn't all have a turn as the leading gent or lady, whatever other people say.

In my view, if you want to wear the tinsel halo and the nightie, knock yourself out. Be Mary if you want. Stage your own production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and fight over who gets to be Howard Keel. Grab your petticoats and make sure no limp-wristed simperer gets the role of Annie Oakley. Take up the hat and be Willy Wonka and let someone else be an Oompa Loompa for a change.

Do it yourself, readers. Don't wait for the teacher to pick out the roles, giving them to the usual suspects who can read half as well as you but don't chew the blackboard chalk when no one's looking.

If you want the starring role, one thing I have learned is you must take it for yourself.


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Troll days

Hmm, I did quite well yesterday, considering it offered itself up as a day of trolls and ogres, all running about with axes, ready to take a swipe at anything I wanted. So, considering the axey activity, I came out of the day feeling pretty good.

In other words, it was one heck of a day. No, nothing major happened. I have no significant events to report, I was just reacting, as usual. And when you start from the position of being a sorry-for-yourself aspie, who feels very delicate at the start of the day, this compounds, drawing in everything around it, to make an utter fright of an aspie by the end of it.

I was having the kind of day when I could have done with seeing no one. No trolls, no ogres, no people. Cats were fine, dogs were okay, IT and RT Teen were bearable in small doses. I got the cats and dogs fed first thing, shuttled RT Teen to college and then the day began.

As I say, I'm not able to report anything bad to you, not really. The thing is, it doesn't matter how fragile you feel, the world carries on and it has people in it and they expect you to be the same person from one day to the next. Funny, because to me, other people are different nearly every time I see them.

So I avoided social stuff in the morning, then couldn't avoid it in the afternoon. At this point, I was faced with the necessity, readers, a proper need, to be sociable. I had to be nice and pleasant and...all those things which become meaningless when you're in aspie lock-down.

On the inside, I was making a pretty good go of it. I knew how my face should be and how my voice should sound. On the outside it was a different story. My face and voice had decided Enough, and were presenting me exactly as I felt: like one of those trolls I mentioned earlier, made of stone and carrying an axe.

It didn't matter what the inside me tried to pull off; the outside me glowered, stonily, hand on the axe, voice monotone yet menacing. I'm sure you get the picture.

The visit ended with me thinking I should feel glad to be alone again but instead assailed with that terrible guilt which comes when you have Failed, yet again, to behave in a reasonable, caring manner to the blameless people you love.

Cue a headlong slide into dreadfulness. All the delicate, fragile feelings of the previous hours came together and carried me off down the hill, with Guilt as the sledge. No stopping, no hard-edged drop at the bottom to halt the descent. Just a catapulting ride, down, down, down...

Except then I had to go to work and be a sane person who can do things for money. This wasn't too bad, once I forced myself out of the door. And I mean forced. I managed work and it took my mind off things for a bit. The downward slide was temporarily halted on an outcrop of rock and I was able to view things from my precarious stopping-place, waiting for movement to re-start.

After work, I had to go to my beloved Tesco. No, I can't say I love Tesco, but it is one of my significant relationships.

By this stage, I suddenly realised that my downward descent had ended while I wasn't looking. The cloud had lifted and the guilt had abated enough for me to give myself a firm shake and stand myself up on my feet, with a little push to get me started along the road.

I sat in the car for 40 minutes, waiting to be human enough to go into Tesco and face the inevitable noise, bustle and self-service tills. After this time, I was finally able, finally, finally able, to go ahead and do things in a more normal frame of mind. It had taken until 8.40pm to feel like I could start my day.

And there we are, except it wasn't quite the end. I did the usual jobs of going into the shop, then doing supper when I got home. RT Teen and I took the dogs on a dark walk as we were too hungry to do it before we ate. We walked along the cycle track, using my phone's torch, watching giant, terrifying moths and dragon flies come across our path and dance in the light. Even my best friends, the midges, came to say hello.

The dogs enjoyed their forage in the darkness and then we went for a dark drive too. I spoke to my mother, the blameless person I had been a troll with in the afternoon and all was well again. As it turned out, she was feeling something of a troll herself, so it's not always all about the aspie, is it?

Then back home in the warm night, feeling at peace with things again and wondering, like I often do, if this calm sensation is what other people feel a lot of the time.

Readers, I went to bed wishing it was the start of the day instead of the end. I felt like I could have stayed up all night and done the things I missed from being trollish. I reflected on the day and realised we can't win them all and I had the great blessing of being able to go to bed happy, knowing my fragile, difficult, tortuous day had been soothed and put to bed too.

Sometimes, all we can do is put our days to bed and hope they'll wake up feeling better in the morning. Other aspies and wise people will know that it is a blessing to be able to feel you resolved a bad day before you go to sleep and wait for another one.

Often, we lie there, still tortured, wondering what happened, where we went wrong, what we should have done and if we'll ever manage life in the right way. It's so easy to do it.

Try not to let it win though, this feeling of blame. We sometimes are to blame, don't shy from it. The important (and difficult) part is to accept you did it that way and to understand why. And the other thing, readers, is to make peace with yourself about it before making peace with the people who got hurt in the process.

Unless you make peace with yourself, you are trapped in the cycle of guilt-blame-sorrow which stops you from growing and learning from the bad days. It's a struggle to rise above it but it can leave you unfettered by the end of the day, able to see it all from above.

And if all else fails, put yourself to bed, wipe your brow like a little sad person and then give yourself a sharp nip on the end of the nose. You will not wake up tomorrow feeling sorry for yourself! Put the whole thing to bed and decide that, tomorrow, you will not be a troll.

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Tired, handle with caution

Sometimes, I think it would be better to be a cat. Or at least, to behave like a cat when it comes to some people.

How much more empowering would it be, if you didn't like someone, to just smack them in the nose, with or without claws? Or better still, stand a few feet away from each other and yowl wildly, showing your potential prowess on the battle field, but never lifting a paw.

I would just love this. I can do a mean impression of an angry cat anyway, so I'm confident of winning any yowling battle. Also, though my arms are short and my claws not very good, I think I could aim for the end of the nose without much trouble.

Unfortunately, I am not a cat and neither are the people who need a smack on the nose. I have to be a good person instead and be pleasant, polite, professional - all the 'p's that cause trouble for the honest person.

I have to resist my natural aspie tendency to tell the truth and make myself clear. I have to also resist the extremely aspie urge to let slip what I really want to say, even when I'm trying to not say anything at all. Most of all, I have to keep the face happy and the eyes devoid of spit-balling fury.

A major barrier to all of the above has been my extreme tiredness lately. As I said in my last blog post, I've had a lot of disturbed nights over the past few weeks. Besides driving me insane, the lack of sleep has had an 'amusing' side effect. What I've been thinking has wheedled its way out of my mouth, without me realising it.

For instance, I'll be having a normal conversation with someone, not even thinking bad things about the person. Next thing, in a kind of flash-back after the event, I'll realise that instead of saying,

'Oh yes, I expected John to drop it off. Did he forget?' I'll have actually said,

'I never expected John to drop it off and he didn't.'

So poor old John, never the most trustworthy of people but the favourite of the person I'm talking to, is now outed as someone I despise and mistrust.

Or, my favourite of the week, when I mistakenly said something true about a mutual friend to my mother. Ahem. To protect the innocent, details have been changed, but it went something like this:

Instead of agreeing with my mother that Janet needs lots of sympathy and is having a rough time, I actually said that Janet had been having a rough time forever and it made you wonder if she'd ever stop. A slight difference in tone there!

Luckily, my mother is hard of hearing and also used to me getting mixed up, so she auto-corrected what I had said and replied as if I'd been sympathetic. Narrow escape there, though I do wish Janet would just get on with things for a change and not keep making me want to go round to her house with a wet tea towel.

You see, it's all very well being an honest aspie, or a grumpy one or an accidentally insulting one. (Actually, the last option is never popular but you can just about get away with it, if you learn to apologise quickly).

What is very frustrating and makes life complicated is if your brain decides to tell the truth for you, without you noticing or stopping in time, so that it's only apparent what you've said or done when you replay it to yourself. By then, you have to face the person you offended and try not to seem disingenuous when you grovel.

And even if you keep your mouth in tow, extreme tiredness relaxes the muscles in your vocal chords too. I don't suppose you knew this? Oh yes. Just when you mean to say, lightly, 'Yes, I know the way to Tesco,' your tone drops, your inference changes and you more or less growl the words instead.

There follows a small row about your tone and how it's never pleasant to spend time with someone who obviously needs no help from anybody and shouldn't they have learned, by this stage in life, to be nicer to people? After all, people are nicer to them, even when they're being a selfish, ungrateful aspie who makes life difficult for everyone else. And so on.

Just when I could do with life as a smooth ride, I've managed to make it more complicated. The tone, the words, the brain drop-kicking relationships into the mud - life is never dull when you've bypassed tired and gone deep into the thorny realms of innnnsommmmmnnnniiiiaaaaaa.

There is a bonus, though, Despite all of this, tiredness has one side effect that I've found quite soothing. I'm so caught up in my own insanity that I have failed to care very much about anyone else's. So, those times when I have offended, upset and so on, I've come away thinking, 'Oh well, that's not so bad, Janet needed the right kind of advice for a change.'

You see, it can be nice to have your plug half out of the wall. You may get unexpected shocks and some sparking but you also get a dimming of the power that is sometimes useful. I'm not recommending insomnia to everyone, but for those of you blessed with it, don't forget to appreciate the numbness as well as the conversational buffaloes. You just never know when being half-switched-off will come in handy.

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Never knowing when to give it a rest!

I'm even obsessed in my sleep. Yes, I know this sounds like you've arrived in the middle of a conversation. And you have, in a way.

Over the last few weeks I've had many internal arguments and even more monologues. As anyone who has watched The Incredibles will know, when super villains start monologuing, they always set themselves up to fail. In a similar way, once an aspie starts listening to herself and no one else, doom awaits.

Okay, perhaps doom is overstating it a bit. But I had reached the stage where other people talking meant their faces were moving, but no sound was reaching me. I could only hear my voice, no one else was getting through.

I'm not being arrogant, I wasn't deliberately ignoring people. What I was doing instead, was obsessing on me and my situation, to try to worry out my problems. Just like when you have a splinter in your hand, your instinct is to get it right out of there, when usually it's best to leave well alone.

I can't leave well alone, though. Never ever could leave anything alone. It doesn't matter what it is, if there's something that is not as it should be, call it loose ends or unfinished business, I have to be in there, fiddling with it and having the last word.

So, when I'm having an awkward time myself and need to sort through everything in my head, there is no end of fiddling and last-wording to be done. Imagine, if I can't leave other people's loose ends hanging in the wind, how on earth am I going to ignore the ones right in front of me, in my own life?

Issues, problems, potential problems, ideas, all did the merry-go-round through my head, round and round, meeting each other as they perambulated at different speeds, waiting for me to spot them again. I would think I was done with a thing, only to see it at the edge of my vision, sneaking up for another turn.

How exhausting, readers. How annoying. How stressful to find that, no matter how often you examine your problems, they still come back as if you had never bothered.

Why bother then? Why not leave it all to Fate and get on with life? Yes, well, I will refer you back to my earlier comments about leaving things alone (or not).

Sometimes, I swear, I almost felt sick with the constant motion. I just wanted to find a solution, get off and have a cup of tea. That doesn't seem too much to ask, does it?

And, before people start worrying, I wasn't fretting over imminent danger or eviction or anything really terrible like that. This was middle-range stuff, the kind of things you need to sort out in your mind once in a while. Housekeeping for life, you might say.

I had definitely got into an obsessive cycle about it. I was waking up in the night with thoughts ready, like eager cub scouts, hiding at the side of the door, ready to do jobs and earn their badges. The kind of thoughts you want to swat away but can't.

I became used to waking up every hour or so. Then, of course, became obsessed with counting the time between wakings to see if I was getting more than an hour's sleep in one go. Then lying there, first thing in the morning, trying to work out if I'd be safe to function for the rest of the day if I was to give in and get up now.

And what happens when you get less sleep? Besides feeling tired and craving carbs? Yes, you go insane, don't you?

The merry-go-round of ideas, so resolutely fixed in my head, was even crazier now. What had been a random image of a child's ride before was now something from a Darren Shan novel (look him up, way amazing).

With this kind of hoo-haa going on in my head, I had no hope at all of sorting out the middle-range problems which started the whole thing, but because I was stressed and over-tired through lack of sleep, I became even more fixated on solving them. And so on.

What ended it, then? Hmm, I was sitting here today, wondering that. I've had a lot more sleep this week, though am still in the habit of waking up. I feel calmer and the merry-go-round has packed up and trundled off to the next town.

In the end, I got it out of my system by diversion. This is the logical explanation. What actually happened was that I re-started writing a book I began months ago. It's called The Ghost Killer and involves many elements of time, loss, love, despair, pain, humour and, on top of all that, has an aspie in the lead role.

This book gives me a migraine almost every time I write a chapter - and they're short chapters. It affects me in a way nothing has for a long time. I actually pushed it to one side because it was such heavy going. I really was enthralled with the story but found the side effects hard to deal with.

Now, I picked it up again and found, despite the migraines, it settled everything else into a shape I could handle. My problems, worries, issues, whatever you call them, were still there, but I had to leave them alone or I wouldn't find out what happened next in my book.

So, technically speaking, I did what you do with a wailing child: I offered myself a virtual lolly and pointed out the ponies in the field. I diverted onto something else, to take my mind off what was upsetting me.

Finally, after weeks of driving myself round the bend with the endless merry-go-round, I was able to get off, put the kettle on and settle down to a good story.

This means I come to you now in an unusually languid frame of mind. It's amazing how writing a story that makes you suffer so much in a condensed span of time, can make the rest of life ease along and do its own thing.

I feel now that I have found a secret to peace of mind. I'm not saying it will work every time, or even ever again, once the book is finished. But for now, I'm so drawn in to this other world, my real one is having to wait its turn.

And readers, I have a feeling that by the time I emerge, those middle-range problems, like the splinter, will have worked themselves out while I wasn't looking.


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