You know how they say, if you hear something often enough, you start to believe it? I was torturing myself with some past stuff last night. I was caught up in that replay mode, where you know you've heard it a thousand times before, a bit like granny's stories of when she told Mrs so-and-so just what she thought of her, but can you stop it? Of course not.
It's not just at night. Through the day, in normal life, the replay starts and you hear the old voices, the familiar phrases. Most of them tell a 'truth' about you, something you learned growing up or which formed part of a significant relationship.
One of my truths was always that I was not practical, followed by the well-worn and amusing diatribe on how the practical gene skipped a generation, how my children would probably get it instead. And then the sideways jump to how it didn't skip past my cousins though - at which point I'd be likened to my great-grandmother, who preferred her gardening to keeping the house clean and tidy. She died a heroine so I never minded that too much.
Except, when I've become more assertive with age (and it took a loooong time), I discovered that while every nail I might knock in was likely to bounce back out, I was very good at looking at the bigger picture and showing other people where to put the nails.
This often meant I was seen as being critical too, but my advice or reasoning usually solved some difficult problem that the practical people had spent an hour scratching their heads about. It was obvious to me, but being so resolutely not practical, I stayed away until the sound of cursing and nails being removed was too much to bear.
As a non-practical person, I have also been pushed away from sites of busy-ness and doing, as if my very presence would hold up the fine industry of real people, the ones who can knock in a nail. 'Here, get out of the way!' was the usual phrase, or 'Can you not do anything but stand there and look?'
If you get used to being sent off or made to take part (rather than stand and look) then cause problems, you start removing yourself from the situation. You grow accustomed to sitting in another room and listening to the sound of those hammers, working away with the kind of industry that built empires (and you know how they usually turn out).
You become adept at reading through the disturbance, or pushing refreshments through the gap in the door so you won't be drawn in to helping or told off for being there at the wrong moment. And, you really, really get used to admiring other people's shoddy handiwork because you know you couldn't have done it half as well yourself.
In other words, you train yourself to step back and only take part when it's all over, by which time you have no choice but to say it all looks good. You have no room for manoeuvre once you have vacated the situation.
If you have the courage to stay and help in your own way, not by wielding the hammer but by looking at things from your unique perspective, then you have a far greater chance of helping out. You can often make things better than by leaving the room. However - and this is a big however - this only works if the nail-hitters will allow you to help in your own way.
If they insist on doing it their way, or on your space in the plan being dictated by how they see the world, then you will do little to help and might make things worse. Blaming you for your part in this compounds your feelings of helplessness and detachment, making it less likely you will be involved the next time, and so on.
So, taking part in situations you have been trained to avoid does take courage and not just on your part. Other people need to put down the hammer occasionally and consider there may be a better way to make the world than by fixing one plank at a time. They also need to be brave enough to look at their aspie and say, 'What do you think? Is there anything else I can do?'
And then, they have to listen to the answer too.
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