Christmas Number Twos...or how to manage Christmas a little differently.




One of the difficult, unrelenting things about Christmas is that it only comes once a year, so if it doesn't go well, or well enough, you're left until the next time to make it right.

First, it's debatable whether trying to make it right is even worthwhile. Surely we should just be enjoying the day as we see fit and not trying to make it into something gloriously wonderful, as per the latest made-for-tv-movie showing on the backburner channels.

Christmas should be what you want and maybe sometimes what you actually get instead of what you think it should be.

Having said all that, after spending this Christmas in a paroxysm of discomfort and emotional fatigue, I felt particularly cheated. It is my favourite holiday! The thought of waiting a full year and hoping that chance might throw me a decent Christmas just seemed so...harsh.

That was when it hit me. I looked at our two little trees, bought in a fit of inspiration when the massively big one looked too unwieldy and I thought, Why not have two Christmases as well?

Yes, two Christmases, just because.

Imagine, if you will, Christmas without all the hype and the expectation. Without feeling the need to buy enough presents for people or to make lots of food in honour of the day. Most importantly, without the pressure to make it just exactly right.

Imagine instead a Christmas where you have a small amount to spend on each person (we're buying more presents!) and can decide on an economical meal of what you would like to eat, minus the extras. The lights are lit on the trees and the decorations are still willing from the day itself.

So there we are, tomorrow is Christmas Number Twos. To the rest of the street it will be the Monday between Christmas and New Year but to us it will be a special day.

I'm very much looking forward to a lack of presents and pressure, food and forced enjoyment and a definite, absolute lack of Shoulds. Let the sleigh bells ring, readers, even if it is for the reindeer as they trot out to play in the snow-skimmed fields.

Tonight I feel the glow of Christmas Eve and if we are doing this one without Santa, well, I have a feeling he would approve.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Do not behave like an aspie on Christmas Day




Christmas Day Meltdowns are unacceptable.

Do what you like, the rest of the year, you awkward, noisy, silent, clumsy aspie, but not at Christmas.

At Christmas, we behave like decent human beings. We pay out lots of money to make people happy and we put down an awful lot of time and effort in making everything look right. Most importantly, we pull out every stop to make it run like clockwork.

Clockwork runnings do not happen when someone older than 5 has a meltdown. Even the under 5s are greatly discouraged from acting like spoilt brats at this time of the year, so don't for the life of you think that you can aspify this Christmas Day!

...

And there it is, the unwritten, mostly unspoken ultimatum: do not behave like an aspie on Christmas Day.

The expectation that if you try hard enough, your Aspergers will be held in check, like a headstrong mule trying to get through the grocery store door. If you try, you can stop it. It's only a door and it's only a mule.

Except the analogy is only half-right because once the meltdown starts, the door doesn't matter: that mule will crash through the window, hooves flying, mane glossy and wild as the head is thrown back in angry, resistant triumph. And what do you do then?

What do you do when you tried your hardest and were sure you could keep out that mule, then you suddenly find yourself standing in the middle of broken glass, trampled carrots, mashed cabbage and all around you are shocked, fearful, angry faces, waiting to see if you will break them too?

Unlike the mule, who would likely start chomping down on the hard-won goodies, you sidle off, or storm off, but you go off, leaving the people who thought you were human to watch you leave, their mouths just starting to open so they can gossip about you once you're gone.

Be cheered, dear, post-meltdown, failed-social-butterfly aspie. Now that you have broken the glass, shattered the vegetables, destroyed all confidence in your ability to hold yourself in good standing, now you can do what you wanted to do all along and hurry off to a safe place.

This is when it starts to feel better. This darkened room, lit by a gentle light and hosted only by a purring cat or snoring dog or sleeping computer...this space so un-full of other people is where you can rest your weary soul and breathe that long-anticipated sigh of relief.

With a bit of luck, a cup of tea will be pushed through the door in a while. And maybe a little box of chocs. If necessary, you can slip out later, under cover of loud, other-room merriment, and get your own refreshment.

Whichever it is, if you have spent this Christmas trying to behave and failed - or outwardly succeeded but inwardly screamed - then here it is: Christmas Night is waiting to take you in its arms and make it all better.

Merry Christmas, readers.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!



How do you feel your feelings?




How on earth are you supposed to figure out what an aspie is feeling? What if they won't or can't tell you? What if they tell you everything is fine and then act like a monster - and still say they're fine?

There's often a disconnect between aspie feelings and aspie brain: your aspie knows they have a situation which requires feelings but the feelings don't seem to be there. Instead of experiencing the feelings and talking about them, your aspie is more likely to have the feelings independently, almost as if they happen to someone else.

"Yes, yes, of course there is a reason to be upset but just let me get on with my reading, will you? Yes, I'm fine!"

And then later, when the tin opener breaks and they cannot have special chicken-inna-tin pie for supper, voices will be raised, hands flailed, tears fall and those pent up feelings will come rushing in for something as stupidly simple and unimportant as a trapped pie.

The other situation, the really important one full of life-changing possibilities and endless worries is still not spoken of or cried for, you understand. Only the pie is cried for because your aspie wanted that pie, it was going to make them feel better and now it's stuck forever in the tin and it's all going terribly wrong and nothing can make it right.

Solutions for trapped pies are simple, so long as you have access to a shop. Solutions for trapped feelings are slightly more problematic.

This week, I have trapped feelings, readers. They are there, I know they are. I can sense them, bubbling away like bad soup, right under the surface. But do you know what I got upset about instead?

I bought new Christmas lights and I forgot to put them out and then it was dark and I went out anyway in the cold and the night and then it turned out the wires were wrapped in that special way and I had to undo them on the night-time path in my front garden and my hands were cold and I was struggling and it seemed so hard and if I pulled too much then the wires would pull and the new lights wouldn't work.

I undid them, my fingers twisting in the light from the street and me shivering in the cold and it was with no small amount of satisfaction that I wound them prettily around the Cotoneaster and then turned them on in their splendour.

I went indoors and looked at my feelings again, still having a sniffle about the lights but that bad soup was bubbling out of sight and I couldn't get to it.

Yesterday I went to the garage and had my front car light replaced. I sat in the waiting room and fretted over whether there would be other lights that had gone and whether my tyres would need replacing, right before Christmas and if my car was going to need more doing than I expected. All of this had my stomach in knots and I turned towards the bad feelings soup to see if it was ready, but it wasn't.

In the end, the garage man said to me, 'Merry Christmas! The light is on us, have a good Christmas.' No extra charge, no charge at all and I left with a smile.

Then in the car I thought of this small act of kindness when I'd been worrying so much and how it had made one tiny part of my life brighter and I cried as I drove home. There was no need to cry, but I still did, all the while telling myself off for it.

But I still couldn't see the feelings soup, only sense it there, while I cried over the kindness.

Then in the evening when I sat in my Christmas-lit living room, watching the lights sparkle on the trees and wondering if now I could think about everything, instead I thought about the long year since I lost my old dog, a week before last Christmas.

Readers, I can still cry over Tess, but other, more pressing sorrows leave me dry. Why is it, when I need to think things through, my mind will only let me feel these extra experiences, the ones which have no bearing on my problems?

Is it that the situations I face which are most difficult are just too much? I need to think only on those I can manage or process? Or is it more simple than that?

Feelings can be accessed accidentally or on purpose, but to truly feel something we have to connect to it and if we don't feel that connection then it has to wait. If it seems too complicated to make the connection, then the feelings are pushed aside.

And then another connection is made, a simple one, and away we go: tears, words, thoughts, movements, sighs, actions.

What we don't realise is that these small, simple connections which open the floodgate are actually bringing us into touch with the hidden feelings beneath. They are different, not part of whatever we need to think about, but they are still a part of us and if we need to connect, to experience emotion, then somehow or another it will be felt.

We may cry over the wrong things but we still cry. The feelings which seem closed off or seen through a glass darkly are part of a much larger, fluid state where we can dip a toe in this part and make contact with the whole.

Sometimes, feelings have to be viewed from overhead or from a distance. We need to look at the whole of a person and the complete picture of how they behave to understand whether or not they are reacting emotionally - and even then we may not be able to tell for sure.

Just be sure that somewhere, deep within or bubbling right under the surface, those feelings exist. The trick is knowing which moment reveals them and recognising that all moments flow together, part of one complete parcel of Time.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!




How to give your aspie a quiet Christmas




How on earth do you get it through to family and friends how to treat your aspie at Christmas time? The time of good cheer and all things sociable is a nightmare not waiting to happen but which happens in real time for at least the next two weeks. And that includes those of us who like the season.

So what do you tell people? How do you tell them. Let me count the ways.

Please note

Avoid the obvious tactic of painting a great big sign and sticking it outside your front door with your direction of choice written on it. If you want to do that, go ahead, but your family will still knock on the door and say,

'Did you know you have a sign saying Piss Off at your front door? You did? Oh, well, I guess it wasn't meant for me.'

With that in mind...

It's a simple method and it's mainly in the execution (no, not that kind of execution).

1. Tell people to stay away.

Yes, stay away. Right away. Presents? Post them. Cards? Made for posting, damn it. Too late to post? We don't mind them late. Too stubborn to post things? Determined to deliver to your door? Deliver to the door then, just don't expect it to open.

2. When your friends and family turn up at the door anyway.

Don't open the door, but if they peer at you through the glass and you don't have the face to continue standing behind the Christmas tree, come out and wave them away like you would with pigeons.

3. When your friends and family think you haven't recognised them because you appear to be waving them away and not letting them in:

Hold up a pre-made sign with YES I WANT YOU TO LEAVE printed on it. Hold it close to the window as they will scrunch their eyes up as if they have lost the ability to read.

(This part of the process includes some waiting time as they stand, mouth open, aghast, trying to work out if you are serious).

4. They knock on the window and ask if you are letting them in (having decided you really cannot be serious).

At this point you will be tempted to fling open the door and ask them if they remember the conversation you had only yesterday where you told them you were not having any visitors over the festive season because your aspie finds it too stressful. Please resist this temptation. Of course they remember the conversation, they just didn't think you meant them.

5. A discussion takes place whereby your relatives decide how to deal with this latest madness from you.

Take the opportunity to close the curtains while they are having the discussion. If you do not have curtains or your blinds are flimsy, lie down on the floor and pretend to be in a deep sleep. This isn't actually a very good tactic but it does confuse people.

6. Your phone will now start ringing.

It's strange how, having seen you only yesterday and had that whole conversation about keeping away and then having come today and been kept away by you, that people who are wanting to visit will then call you to see why you are not letting them in.

7. If you have a toddler, or can borrow one, let them answer the phone. If you do not have access to this age group, please make sure you have pre-recorded an answer phone message containing a small song about Not Today, Thank You. Singing answer phone messages are quite unnerving and should get the job done.

8. Be prepared, after all your effort and suffering, for your aspie to ask you why no one is visiting. The fact that your aspie hates these unexpected visits and detests having to open presents in front of people means nothing at the moment of asking.

9. Don't forget to spend at least half a day planning how next Christmas will be easier because (fill in the blank with whatever got past your defences this year).

10. If all else fails, refer back to the giant printed sign posted at the front door. This counts as a Christmas craft and can be decorated to suit the message. Use as much glitter as you like and don't worry too much about teaching passing children new words.

Above all else, do whatever it takes to have a Christmas to suit you and your aspie first.

Not today, thank you
I want to be alone,
Not today, thank you,
Please don't even phone.
I want to have my Me Time
I want to lock the door,
And if you keep on phoning,
I'll not answer any more.


Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!









A very aspie Christmas




'Come in! Come in! and know me better, man!' said the Ghost of Christmas Present.

And there, summarised by the spirit who wishes to enliven and embolden the hearts of all mankind we have the reasons most aspies hide from Christmas: we do not want to come in and we do not want you to come in and we really, truly, do not want to know you better.

Well, maybe at another time of the year, but at Christmas any comings and goings are likely to be from one safe place to another, with quick trips for absolutely unavoidable human conflict mixed in. And I actually love Christmas!

At least, I love the lights and the decorations and the cold, dark outside comparing with the warm gold of the inside. All that other stuff, where you get together with other human beings and are much more social than any other time, it galls me.

At Christmas we all love each other and our hearts warm up in ways we don't manage the rest of the year. We pat small children on the head and listen to their tales of reindeer; we help little oldlings across the road and stay for hearty good cheer as they tell us something or other, in oldlingese. We go into shops and are maddened to buy at the sight of all the staff in their Christmassy jumpers and the repetition of Christmas classics on the radio.

We are held up by the idea of Christmas, carried abreast as if it were a giant, tinsel-tossed wave taking us to untold shores of jollity and good humour.

Or rather, we take a look at all this and put that one foot back inside the door before anyone notices we have shown our face.

I have never quite figured out how this change in personality which signals Christmas spirit is meant to take place. I have plenty changes in spirit, I'll have you know, usually occasioned by other people and my inability to interact with them, but as yet none of those spirits has sent me out into the world in a fervour of reckless sociability.

But if I am confused by Christmas splendouring of hearts, then other people are much more perplexed at my apparent indifference to drawing them in and being drawn. I have no need to be drawn into anyone's heart, be it figuratively or (saints preserve us) physically. If you draw me in, you will be Dealt With - be warned.

I have never made a secret of my love of solitude so why is it so surprising that I wouldn't change my feelings for Christmas? After all, at times of change and great stress, do you feel like rushing out into the street and finding acquaintances to love? Well, maybe you do, maybe I shouldn't have asked, but I don't.

Keep your hugs, your mistletoe, your bottle of good cheer which I can't drink anyway. Keep your best cake and hand-made mince pies (I lie, give me those). Keep your expectations that I will join in and be one of you, just for the season.

I am not one of you, no more than I was in November or will be again in February. I am one of me instead and quite happy with it.

I have no Bah Humbug about me, though. I do love Christmas and am happy if you love it too. Just, let me be like the spirits as they take Ebeneezer round the snow-filled streets of his childhood and let me also tread unseen and unheard as others have their warm welcomings.

To me, the glow of the window in the dark street is far more welcoming than the sight of the door opening as you beckon me inside.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!




What we see by the light of logic.



When we feel we have no control, there is a helplessness born of terror. How can the world be a safe place if we are powerless? How can we step safely if the way is strewn with dangers? What are we meant to do to stay safe if other people seem to lead us constantly into cold, hard paths with no sunlight above?

At the age of 7, I walked into school with a box of matches and a plan: I would stop the bullying and the never-ending stream of fear by making the school go away. I was calm and I knew it would work.

I never meant to hurt anyone (and no one was hurt). I planned it so that the children would be out in the playground. I thought that meant the building was empty.

In the end, I burnt a poster and the edge of some books. And, finally, people took notice of me, but for all the wrong reasons.

I had no control over going to school and, after telling everyone about the bullying and nothing being done, I knew it was up to me to stop it. It seemed logical that with the school gone, I wouldn't have to suffer anymore. And I had suffered. My childish plan to solve the problem was never going to turn out well but I have finally forgiven myself for hatching it.

The trouble is that logic can be an untrustworthy substitute for real resolution. Logic is a soothing alternative to emotions, especially as logic seems easy to work out whereas emotions just kind of happen by themselves.

It can be very tempting to say to yourself, Today I will not feel this problem, today I will solve it. You don't know if you can solve your problem but approaching it logically is such a relief after all those feelings washing over you for so long.

Feel bad about a tricky situation? It's logical to walk away, as that removes you from the situation. If you let your feelings rule you then you stay in the situation and flail and cry and kick at stuff until you felt better or cry yourself out. Give it over to logic and you can depart without all the drama and be safe.

Feel bad about your job and don't know how to make it better? Normal logic says you can't walk away because you need the money and grown-ups don't walk out of paying jobs. But logic driven by the need to keep yourself safe wakes you up early one morning and says, You don't need to go back to work, there are other jobs and anyway, you know it isn't going to get any better.

Whether it would get better or not is not important to you at this point because the application of cool, undramatic logic has given you the excuse to leave and feel safe again.

It seems that logic can be manipulated to suit your own purposes; I guess it becomes self-justification when viewed from the outside. But from the inside, logic is safety and safety is a vital lifeline amidst the aspie maelstrom.

From meltdowns to major life decisions, selfish logic carries with it the promise of release from the latest anxiety and freedom from the inherent threat of more crises later on.

Aspie logic, when applied to aspie life, means this is what I do because this is best for me. It is a selfish logic built up over many years of not being kept safe any other way. If you are the only one who realises what feels safe and what is dangerous, then you are also the only one who knows when it is time to do something about it.

You see, in a lot of cases that faulty logic which has you making strange and impractical decisions is your only way to keep safe. It is what means you can go to bed and sleep, knowing in the morning it will be a new day and not just another dark, old one.

The light of logic is not always the most trustworthy one: it can glimmer and touch your life in a way that picks out strange aspects in the everyday. It makes you follow it, glittering along the dark path ahead. It promises you gleaming treasures which, when viewed in the daylight, are simply what you had already.

Logic is a beautiful light, though. It takes you on when your emotions would have left you in the dark. Who can help but love such a light, when it is the only one you see?


Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

The long road to new shoes.




It's safe to say that many aspies get overly attached to certain items of clothing. They may not be beautiful shimmering garlands of fancy, but those favourite clothes will be worn and better worn until they fall to pieces or are stolen by well-meaning do-gooders who want to deny you any happiness whatsoever.

And then, damn it, you have to go shopping for new ones. Do these people have no souls?

As it turned out, I was one of these soulless demons when RT Teen's shoes breathed their last.

They've been sporting a hole for about six months. I lose track, it might have been nine months. I know that RT has been wary of puddles for quite a while and ran when it rained.

They lifted at the front in that peculiar way old shoes have where they start to look like they might sit and beg as you walk past. Also, they had A Smell lingering about them. You know what I mean.

They changed colour after the first few months of life and became a nondescript browny-grey beloved of elderly footwear everywhere.

Then the hole grew.

It grew to the point that the holey shoe looked like a Disney shoe that might, at any moment, start to sing about life on the road and the dream of finding a glass slipper. But even this did not persuade RT it was time to go shopping.

Things came to a head when he had to wear only one sock because wearing the sock somehow made his toes pop out through the hole in his shoe. (Perhaps they clung inside it, like Fay Wray clinging to King Kong and the sock made them lose their grip?).

I hurried RT into town before he decided his shoes were fine (again) and we arrived at our destination, hope in hand and in one piece.

Except it had been a cold day and RT said his ears were cold and they were too cold and did I not know how cold his ears were and they were actually so cold they were hurting!

I waited a couple of minutes while RT stood, a picture of despair in the middle of the shoe shop with his hands clapped over his ears, staring glumly at the floor.

Once his ears had let up with their whining, we started to look at shoes. At this point, the same as happens every time we come shopping, RT decided his feet were a size smaller than they really are. No, I have no idea why this happens, it just does. It doesn't matter that he has been the same (larger) size for the last few years - once at the shop, he has shrunk.

He tried on the first pair and they were okay, even though a size too small. Just like when he was little, I sent him for a walk around the shop. He took two steps - literally - then came back. They were still fine. I sent him away again and he took a longer walk, this time coming back limping as the shoes were strangely tight.

Having realised that his feet were bigger than he expected, we chose another pair which turned out to be fine, except they rose up on the heel and threatened to rub.

The next pair looked really nice and were fi - oh no, hang on, that one was tight so they were a no-go too but he would keep hold of them in case he didn't find anything else and they felt better later.

I should add that RT has a very particular taste in shoes. They have to look a certain way, be a certain type, usually be a certain, very limited, range of colours. We were fast losing choice.

Another pair presented and he liked them a bit, they were okay, they didn't look as nice as the others and he didn't like them as much but they were supremely comfortable. He begrudgingly took the shoe-shop-walk and discovered the rotten things were still supremely comfortable, even though they didn't look any nicer.

We chose those, in kind of a hurry, in desperation if I'm honest, as I was very, very afraid of going home with the same old holey shoes sitting forlornly on the floor next to the foot mirror.

RT put the old shoes back on to walk home in and we bought the new ones. Flushed with the kind of success not valued by ordinary shoppers we left the shoe shop and rejoined the throng. At this point, having refused to wear the new ones home, RT changed his mind and balanced on one foot and then the other outside the shoe shop window, his long hair swaying from side to side as he hopped to get into the shoes and then wobbled down to fasten them shut.

'I don't know why people keep looking at me,' he said, grumpily. 'Haven't they seen anyone putting on shoes before?'

'Possibly not,' I answered, then I pointed at the old shoes now in the glossy new bag. 'Are you going to put those in the bin on the way past?' I asked.

His face fell in shock, then he coloured up a little and answered  sheepishly, 'Maybe not right, right this minute.' He brightened as a solution presented itself. 'Maybe tomorrow,' he said and happily swung the bag as we walked away from the shop.

Readers, would it surprise you to know that the old shoes are now in the kitchen, keeping the cats company at night and keeping me on my toes during the day? They are closer to the back door (and the bin) than they ever were before, but these things take time. And a little bit of patience. And perhaps a few weeks of new shoes being worn in before the old ones are really ready to go.

I just hope it doesn't turn out like the pair he loved when he was six: those ones stuck around so long that they were 'accidentally' left in the car we sent to be crushed. I still feel guilty about those, and RT still hasn't forgotten them...

Sooner or later, all old shoes need to be replaced. And when that happens we all suffer, for life is full of horrors and some of them are small and come in pairs.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!



How to deal with an aspie in a mood




I'm sure you know what to do when your aspie is in a mood. Yes, leave them alone but also be there when they come out of the mood and need you again. Simple.

But when friends and family hear about the mood they cannot help themselves: the advice comes, the super-knowledge borne from lots of experience with non-aspie people. The ability to see past everything you know to what they think is true.

So, with that in mind, here is a helpful list to pass on to these would-be mood-breakers.

How to deal with an aspie in a mood.

Tell them to snap out of it.

Go on, I dare you. I'm just going to be over here by the fridge, pretending I'm not with you.

Did it work? No, um. Well, how about not telling them to snap out of it? Maybe ask if you can help instead? Or just come over here by the fridge.

Ask them what is wrong.

and don't stop asking until they tell you.

Well, this is bound to work. I mean, if you find out what is wrong, then you can fix it, right? Or you can tell them they are being silly and worrying about nothing and it will all be fine.

Tell them how bad you have it.

This is a winner, this one. When an aspie is into the deepest fugue and would rather chew plaster board than talk to someone, what really helps is being told how the other person has it worse. Yes, please explain to someone who struggles with empathy how your feelings are going to make their feelings go away.

Make jokes!

Jolly 'em out of it. It always works on cousin Gloria's little Eric when he's trying to climb into the potted plant, so why wouldn't it work on my aspie when they're behaving like Eric? Being joked to when you're in a mood is a great way to break the atmosphere and have everyone laughing their faces off.

Honestly, does it work with you when you feel bad? Do you want someone to come along and jab you in the arm and start telling you something 'funny'?

Bring tea and cake.

Best idea you've had all day. This one might possibly work, if you count an aspie arm snaking out, retrieving the cake and snaking back into the room again a success. Otherwise, let us just drink the tea and eat the cake while we wait for the mood to diminish. That way I won't have to listen to you telling me how I should be dealing with my aspie as your mouth will be full of cake.

Have some more cake, why don't you.

Explain how granny would have dealt with it in 1952.

Oh yes, this is always a good one. Aware that your own advice is waning, you turn to granny's solid, no-nonsense approach to child-rearing which made sure nothing like Aspergers would have got in the way and no mood of any kind would be tolerated.

Except that granny was probably bringing up half a dozen small children all at once and she didn't know about Aspergers and how do you know she didn't sit quietly and wait for her child to come round from their dark place?

And assuming granny knew exactly what to do with wayward children does not mean she would have know what to do with my aspie. If granny was here, I'm sure she could give me a hand, probably in putting the kettle on and brining more cake.

Ask what's wrong with my aspie.

Go on, ask what's wrong with them and don't mean you want to know why they're upset. Let's all pretend you don't know my aspie has Aspergers or you don't realise what Aspergers can look like. Let's imagine no one explained Aspergers to you.

Let's just make like this mood is all about my aspie being an awkward beggar who has no reason to be upset. Shall we?

Tell them not to be selfish.

One of my favourites, this. My aspie is coming to us today from a dark, cold, grey-lit place of broken dreams where everything has crashed away from them all at once. Their mood makes us all miserable, I know, but their misery comes from within and has nothing to do with upsetting other people on purpose.

It is not selfish to be upset and show it, or not to be able to control your feelings. It would be selfish if they did it on purpose. And no, that's not happening either.

Behave yourself!

We covered the fact that this wasn't an on-purpose, right?

Being exasperated with my aspie will do nothing to help the situation. I think I already explained that your feelings do not feature very highly in this drama.

And telling them to behave is only confusing as my aspie is behaving: they are behaving sadly, angrily, with anxiety and so on.

So, behave yourself, why don't you, and stop making things worse.

Blame me.

We were bound to get here eventually.

I think this is the point where I either hear (again) how I could control my aspie better, or I guide you to the door and send you through.

Blame me if you like. In fact, say or do anything you like, just don't come to my aspie and make them feel worse than they already do.

And don't expect me to put the kettle on the next time you come.

and later...

With time and patience, the aspie mood lightens and then, from that moment on, you can help your aspie to recover from the bad feelings and put in place ways to help them deal with it better the next time.

If you have helpful family and friends who know exactly how to fix things, do what you like with them. If you have a choice, keep the door closed, unless they really do know how to help. Otherwise, trust you know how to love and help someone who is understood more by you than any other person.

Without love and patience, no mood is lifted entirely and only waits to come crashing down again. The last thing you want is someone who needs instructions marching into the scene,

Put the kettle on, readers, and cut the cake. Push a slice through the door and hope your aspie takes it. Then wait.

Amanda



 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!


Just to be clear...is this bullying?




I have a situation, or at least RT Teen does. It's a real-life, right here and now situation, so I must be careful what I say, but...

He has a new tutor at college, someone with less experience than the others and who seems to have taken an instant misunderstanding towards RT. Notice I don't say dislike: I can't say dislike, as I'm not in the classroom and can only judge on what I've heard.

As far as I know, this tutor is a very, um, easily swayed type who finds it difficult to keep order with students sometimes. This seems to have driven him to try to assert himself by being more domineering. The other students in RT's class appear to be ignoring this but RT is being driven mad by it.

RT is quite placid normally. It's me who gets aeriated by things, people, irritations, everything really. He tends to sail through and has stress from typical aspie triggers but is generally accepting of other people and able to get along with them.

Then came the new tutor.

Apparently, he takes offence at what RT says. A lot. A lot a lot. It sounds like RT is giving the impression that he is permanently angry with his tutor and the tutor then lectures him, in front of the class, about how he is only trying to help.

He explains things in very great detail to RT (he spelled the word STOP one day) and also, maddeningly, repeats back most everything RT says to him. (If this was happening to me this one behaviour would have sent me over the edge on the first day).

To make matters far worse, RT's course has gone from having a variety of tutors through the week to almost all the lessons being given by this one man.

And this week he looooooomed over RT's shoulder as he tried to read something, ostensibly to help RT understand it but in the end making it impossible for him to work - who can work when someone is looming?

RT explained he couldn't deal with his tutor being right behind him like that and he got another lecture, in public.

At this point, RT almost walked out of college. It was the final straw for him. So, is this strange behaviour bullying, misunderstanding, inexperience? Or a combination?

I wonder if the tutor has read RT's file and is trying to treat him as an aspie? Is this overbearing approach meant to be helping RT to cope with work which must be beyond him, because he is on the spectrum? Does his tutor spell words and repeat back to him to make sure he understands, due to his being special? Is it what the tutor thinks you have to do, to explain in detail to an aspie in public, when they have got something wrong?

Or is RT experiencing that strangely debilitating facet of adult life, the personality clash?

Does the tutor in fact treat everyone as if they are five and RT simply hasn't noticed it's not just him? Is everyone else in class also seething or is it personal? And how can I find out without installing hidden cameras or hiring a spy?

I'm going to see the head of department next week to talk about it, armed only with one side of the story. It really is awkward. What I feel like doing is roasting some chestnuts over an open fire (that's my baby you're getting at, mister!) but I need to bear in mind the many times RT has got the wrong end of the stick and misconstrued a situation that should not have made him feel bad but did.

If I go in ready to roast, then I could find out the hard way it's another misunderstanding. But if I behave moderately and it turns out this tutor is a tick on the college's behind, then I will have let RT down.

From my own point of view, there is a simple way to look at this though. Regardless of whether the tutor knows RT is an aspie, no one likes to be told off in public or treated as if they are daft. And no one I have ever met likes people standing right behind them, looking over their shoulder as they work.

At the very least, this is a misunderstanding which has become so bad for my son he is wanting to leave college if it continues. At the most, those chestnuts had better watch it. I already have the fire good and hot and open.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

The friend who just doesn't get you. Ever.




Sometimes people are honest if they don't like you. If you are lucky, they come right up and tell you they don't like you. This is good, honestly, because it saves you ever having to care what they think and you can just delete them from your inventory.

Other people do not like you at all but they continue to act like a normal human being to your face, leaving you either with the feeling you are imagining a strange atmosphere or, far worse, imagining you have a friend.

Others do not get you. They want to, they do, because people they value like you and talk about you in glowing terms, so they want to find out why their friends are your friends. Your conversations will be peppered with thoughtful pauses, confused looks, unspoken questions, misunderstood questions and, the summation of someone who doesn't get you, the open mouth.

I like the spirit of the people who don't get me but try. I appreciate their effort and faith in their friend's choices. But really, if you don't get me then is it worth me tilting your world until it rattles and still finding we have nothing in common? Let's just smile and say hello the next time we meet.

Worse than those who try to get you and don't are the ones who don't get you one tiny bit but think they do. Please, for the love of cake, save us from these ones.

They think they understand you, they think they know about you, they think they can talk to you and put you at ease - failing to see you were much more at ease before they waded in. They laugh at your jokes without ever realising you weren't joking. They laugh at jokes about you, knowing you have a sense of humour and can laugh at yourself. They think, because you are friends, you can be jostled at the elbow, grabbed on the shoulder, patted on the back and kissed at seasonally-appropriate moments and parties.

To complicate the whole liaison, these people often really like you. Yes, it's genuine. They like you! They like being friends with you. They think of you as a person who they want to talk to and include in their lives. They think you are as one, riding the same wavelength, even sharing the same surfboard.

In reality, they haven't noticed you fell off at the first wave and have been dragging yourself out of their undertow ever since.

The person who doesn't understand you but completely believes they do is almost inevitably jolly with you. I have no idea why this is so. I think they are so keen on being a friend that they play the part of the friend until it becomes true.

Again, I cannot just brush aside this attempt at friendship. Botched as it is, how can it be a bad thing to have someone who wants to be your friend and is so willing to include you?

Well, this is true except for those moments when you need a friend, when you need someone who does understand you. When you mention something you've had on your mind and need someone to say they understand or even to say nothing, but still know. The person who thinks they understand will launch in with their world view, usually at odds with yours, and tell you how to fix it, or what you should be doing.

Major life decision? Easy! This is what you do (because that is what they would do).

Small life decision that feels major? Well, what are you making a fuss about? Stop making a fuss, stop being silly! This is what you do, this is what everyone does!

And there is the difference between your friends who know you and the one who thinks they do: the depth of understanding when it comes to difficulties. If something is difficult for you, then it is difficult and it doesn't matter what everyone else does. It doesn't matter what your non-getting-you friend does either. What is fine and easy for them is out of your reach and is not brought within reach by calling is simple.

So however keen this friend is and however many times you are included in their lives, if they cannot or will not see your differences, they are not going to become close to you. It may feel like they are close - to them there may be no distance at all between you - but if someone just does not get you, then how they can be close? There will always be a barrier of misunderstanding.

Be aware, some friends who misunderstand can be made to understand by seeing you in action (or inaction) and by having your point of view explained to them. This is the growth of friendship, it is what helps people to come closer.

In some cases though, your friend can have it explained to them many, many times, along with pictures, diagrams, videos, books, articles, shouting matches in the supermarket and heated discussions online. All of this can happen and some friends will still not get you. They will be proud of having listened to you and proud of their ability to talk to you about Aspergers. It's simply that the next step of real understanding is never taken and you are left forever on the periphery of a true friendship, wondering how many times you need to explain something for it to be understood.

Whether revealed over time or revealed instantly, with an offhand comment or action, the friend who does not get you is someone you should regard carefully. All their words are tinted with a view of you which does not actually exist but is how they think you are or should be. Let them be your friend by all means, but let others be the ones who speak when your heart breaks.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

You're special, yes you are.




I don't mind people being kind to me. It's nice to be treated well, isn't it? To have someone think of you and sometimes do things for you that you might find difficult.

I don't mind when people are grumpy so-and-sos either, as long as they are like that with everyone and haven't just decided to make my life cloudy and grey. The grumpiest of people can become a good friend, to the point that you no longer see the grump and only the friend.

I do mind being treated as if I'm Special. You notice the capital there. Not special, you see. Not like a person who might be showered with gifts, boxes of choccies, small dogs in  hand baskets or guinea pigs in bandannas. Special...

Special like Aunty Millicent when she couldn't be trusted near the Tesco trolleys anymore. Special like that little dog down the road who thinks all other dogs are space aliens coming for it. Special like that old pair of shoes you refuse to get rid of even though they let in at the heels and have changed colour.


Now, don't get me wrong. The vast majority of people who treat you as special are probably transient actors in your grand play of life and you can bear it when they coo over your ability to cross the road as well as temporarily hold down a job.

What worries me are the people you see more often, close or simply nearby in life, who treat you as special all the time.

They are liable to fall into one of two main types (I know you can't apply two types to everyone, but bear with me).

Type One: Your standard loving relative who wants what is best for you and wants you to achieve all you can, given that you are crippled by the stigma of rainbow-fuelled specialness.

Type Two: Your standard loving relative who knows how damn special you are and wonders when on earth you're going to get over it already and start living life like a normal person.

I must add here, right here before we go any further, that having people take account of your Aspergers is not the same as being treated as if you are special. It is quite possible for loving relatives and friends to know you inside and out and expect you to carry on being the awesomest, most wonderful person they ever met. And they mean it too. And the Aspergers? To them, it's a feature, not the main event. Person-first thinking!

So, being treated as special can have real drawbacks. People tend to see the Aspergers first and then either nod kindly as you fail or glare until you get it right. Somehow, this amalgamation of who you are with the Aspergers itself makes them see you differently than other people they know. It becomes a tinted lens they cannot see past, even though they have the choice to use it or not.


To one relative, your latest kitchen accident is proof they were right to buy a metal tea pot this time; to another relative, this is the latest in a long line of accidents and either you should be supervised so you can be looked after or you should have learnt by now how to handle a pot of tea without spilling it all over the place.

I don't diminish the impact of being an aspie in a world full of breakable chinaware, but I would like it to be part of the whole and not the reason why things happen. It might be the reason why things happen, but so is my innate ability to daze off into the realms of magic and forget I'm holding anything. It's a blurred distinction as to where the Aspergers starts and my dazing begins.

If I fail, I fail and it might be because I'm an aspie. Or it might be because of a myriad of other things. Or it might be chance and you would have failed too in the same situation. If we could know exactly why we do or don't do things then we would  be as little gods, each in our own universe.

If I succeed, I would like it to be a success coupled with Aspergers and not despite it. I don't mind you saying I've done well but don't say I've done well considering.

And if I sometimes storm off in the middle of a conversation, please consider this time might not have been my social anxiety, need for freedom, distraction by life or incipient panic attack. It might have been because your face changed in a way which signals how special I am, one way or the other.

If I am special, bring me presents and leave them at the door so I don't have to open them in front of you. But if I am Special then you'd better be prepared, sooner or later, for a show of Specialness brought on by expectation and demand.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Facing the Clown




Firstly, I've been asked by Mumsnet to speak at their blogging event, Blogfest, in London this November. That is rather amazing, folks, especially given the quality of their guest speakers (and obviously the quality of their audience of fellow bloggers).

http://www.mumsnet.com/events/blogfest/2014

Right, that's the good news. The bad news?

I have a fear of travelling long distances and a wonderful ability to get lost. I have a fear of people, especially large groups of people and public speaking has a tendency to bring out the worst or the best in me, without any warning of which way I will swing until it's too late.

I have a fear of being lost in London, wandering the streets and finally being snapped on my way into the wrong door, as burly security guards descend on me.

I have a fear of getting there and not knowing where to go or what to do and making it into the event but ending up under the stage somehow.

I have a fear, readers, a specific fear for each part of this process. And then, there are the clowns.

I don't expect there will be clowns at Blogfest. I hope there won't be. It's just that I listed all my fears to RT Teen, then said, 'And to top it all of, there'll probably be clowns!'

And he said, 'Yes, maybe the whole audience will be dressed as clowns!' and burst out laughing. 'Or,' he warmed to his theme,'there'll be just one clown, sitting in the middle somewhere, watching you silently, and you won't notice it until you're halfway through.'

I doubt there will be clowns, or at least not more than one, and if there is a clown I would hope it's a Mumsnet blogging clown and not some random evil clown off the street. But it shows how one fear, or a list of fears, can grow and become a creature of its own making, a thing with talons and bright eyes, waiting in the shadows, waiting for me to notice it just before it pounces.

My list of fears, all brought on by the offer of a wonderful opportunity, is long and detailed but comes down to the very real and practiced anxiety of becoming lost and confused in a big, public place and with no one there to help me. I will be surrounded by many talented and grown up people and will be expected to move as one of them.

What I really need is a helping hand here, someone who knows I lose my mind in a crowd, who knows my face is changing not from fear of the speech ahead but at the sight of the double doors into the foyer opening more and more and more to admit people, pouring in off the street, until the place is so full there are people swimming above each other, reaching for the ceiling as we all drown in societal agony.

I'm sorry, I really should go and talk to a responsible adult for a while. One who can explain to me why London is not a terrible place and how all cities can be managed and how most people are good and welcoming and won't pour in off the street in a smothering, rippling torrent.

What I have to remember is that, if I make it down there and cope with the journey and get past the clowns, I can use that magical 5 minutes to explain how, for me, Thinking Outside the Box is often just getting out of the house in the morning. And then I will produce The Box, because if we're thinking outside of it and talking about it, we should at least have a look at it.

Readers, I will be the wild-eyed woman on stage, holding a box and a crumpled, hand-drawn map which I daren't let go. And I will be scanning the audience for the tell-tale sight of a curly wig, blackened eyes and a wide, wide smile.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

How to deal with an aspie meltdown




How do you deal with an aspie in  meltdown? I deal with it very badly, even though I'm on both sides of the fence. When I'm in full lava flow down the hill myself, I'm in no mood to be dealt with at all; but when RT Teen is being the lava, I feel like I should fix it.

Even knowing how he is feeling and how supremely, outrageously aggravating the whole world has suddenly become, I still tip-toe in and try to help. I poke him with verbal offers of help, I reach out a hand (I must be insane) and try to give him a comforting pat. I talk to him from a distance, hoping logic will prevail (you can guess the result).

I don't do this to make it all worse, though I know it might. I risk making it all worse to make it better. And sometimes it does help, just not very often. But there is that magical moment where you can stop the meltdown before the volcano has done more than choke out a few smoke sobs and done a bit of lava-spitting.

When RT Teen has a meltdown these days it is much more emotionally charged than when he was little and that makes it harder to deal with. When he was younger, he was a raging ball of sorrow, fury, anger, despair - you name the negative emotion and he was the raging of it. I treated him like when he was younger still and let him calm down on his own, unless there was something breakable between him and his predicted crash site.

The smallest things set him off then. Once he was given the choice between sweets and candy floss at the Christmas fair. He chose sweets and ate them, but then we walked past the candy floss stall...

The result was a full-on meltdown: legs, arms, head held in that special arc of protest which gives the lungs their best chance of shouting to the heavens. He also would not move. (Only an aspie in full meltdown can somehow be a flurry of action without moving from the spot).

In a crowded Christmas shopping centre what could I do? I couldn't let him bellow out his temper with an audience like that, so I did the next best thing: I moved him to a place where he could bellow it out in peace. I lifted him by the back of his coat (carrying him normally would have meant getting hurt by flailing limbs) and I carried him through the whole of the fair, back to the car.

The walk was a long one. At two hundred yards, it wasn't long in steps but in terms of suffering, it lasted a very long time. Right through the crowd, screaming six year old being carried by his coat, his arms and legs pointing downward but moving like his batteries were on overdrive; his head pushed back as far as he could manage while he screamed, maroon-faced, eyes clenched shut in pure, candy-floss-deprived anger.

Whispering, voices, stares, pointed fingers, tutting, shoulder-turning: a general wave of why-isn't-she-doing-anything as I struggled through the crowd. Not Helpful. What might have been helpful was to recognise I was actually doing something - I was carrying my raging child out of their way and back to a safe place.

I know now that all the whispers and condemnations were probably not what they seemed and some were a result of me feeling so watched and judged. Now, I can look at a situation like that and recognise a child on the spectrum, along with struggling parent. Then, as the parent, I felt alone amid a sea of people whose children had stopped this behaviour before they were three.

Now, with RT Teen as an almost-adult, I couldn't carry him through the town if I had to, so I suppose it's a good thing that his meltdowns happen mainly at home and are so focused on emotions rather than frustration-fuelled physical activity. But even so, you can look to the child he was to see what must be done.

If someone has reached the stage of meltdown, be they child or adult, and you have missed your chance to stop it before it starts, then all you can really do is make sure they are safe (and the rest of your house/pets/family are safe) and let them be.

You know that volcano analogy? Imagine you could pop a top on it, just as it's about to erupt. The relief as the lava is held in, the terrible, ravaging destruction is stopped, the world is safe. But then, you know, volcanoes do not erupt because of forces coming down on top of them, do they?

They erupt because of pressure building within, beneath the seen, under the visible part. They erupt because they are forced to and nothing in the world can stop them reacting to that build-up of pressure. The only way to be rid of the pressure is to allow it to pass.

Putting a lid on it and forcing down the eruption does nothing to stop the pressure building underneath. What it does is the opposite. That pressure now builds even more, it has to if it is to escape and re-set the balance. It now has to push against your imposed control, as well as what has built up within the volcano. It has to break through two barriers instead of one. And the eruption, once the pressure builds enough, is far, far worse than it might have been.

When your aspie is having a meltdown, try to help if you still can. Otherwise let them be, let it out, let the pressure rip through the air instead of through your aspie's feelings and defences - and then through yours. Let the meltdown do what it is designed to do, which is to reset the balance.

And when it is over, take comfort from the fact that if your aspie did not erupt and could not let go of the pressure, they would not be the person you know between times.

How to deal with an aspie meltdown? Just be there, somewhere, for when it's all over.

Amanda



 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Conversation Code




Category: Conversation

Sub-Category: Small talk/gossip

Subject: Mrs Neighbour and her front garden

Response Required? Y/N

...

N

Change subject? Y/N

Y

Y...Y

Change subject? Y/N

(hammers internal keyboard) YYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Subject: Mrs Neighbour and her front garden (continued)

Response Required? Y/N

Y

(respond that if front garden such an issue why not finally confront Mrs Neighbour and solve issue)

Interruption in conversation - restart? Y/N

Y

Subject changed: Successful installation new software patch

Interruption in conversation, error code 33anger2

Subject changed: Mrs Neighbour and her front garden (restart)

Response required? Y/N

...N...

Response request: (empty file)

Response request: (corrupted file)

Response request: (there was a problem opening this file)

Change subject? Y/N

Y

Y (please)

Subject changed: Successful transmittance of relationship advice to new friend

Subject interruption: Broken message, garden, neighbour

Would you like to quit this conversation? Y/N

Y

Are you sure you want to quit? This conversation is still Open.

Y

Quitting conversation failed. Cannot quit.

Response request: (error: distraction code face-change)

Conversation quit successful. Would you like to walk away?

Y

Congratulations! You have successfully Walked Away.


Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

The Disgruntled Aspie



It stands, like a disgruntled bull at the farm gate, watching you as you cross the kitchen. You are followed, the angry eyeballs moving only to track your progress as you tip-toe past on the way to the bread.

'Would you like a sandwich?' you ask, your voice an imitation of innocence. You know your aspie won't have a sandwich, it's the wrong bread, but you pretend not to know and ask anyway, just to break the thunderous silence.

The silence holds, then an exhalation like hornets exiting stage left as your aspie loses the fight between frozen anger and needing to answer a question when it is asked.

'No,' they manage, breathing in, then out, then failing once more to resist routine, 'thank you,' they add, angrier with themselves now as well as you.

You make the sandwich, very conscious of the laser-beam gaze fixed on your back. In trying to pretend normality, you hum a little tune, like you do when you are on your own in the kitchen. Big mistake.

'Stop it!' a strangulated whisper comes from your aspie. Yet another misdemeanor to add to your list. Or their list, you can never tell whose list it is anymore.

'There's yoghurt in the fridge, would you like some?' you venture, feeling awfully brave. If people who understood could see you now, making conversation with a fiery aspie, they would be very proud.

'Ungh!' Your aspie sounds like they just bit their tongue but you are complicit in the ways of such creatures and know the pained squeakish grunt means they are biting back a torrent of flaming fury because you asked another question and now they have to answer it.

'It's cherry!' they gasp, forcing out the reply. 'I don't like cherry!' they add, getting a better hold of their temper and fanning the flames again.

You sigh. This isn't going well. You did hope that by ignoring the steaming firebrand in the middle of the kitchen that you would also avoid the meltdown associated with your terrible crime. But it seems that pretending everything is fine is not going to make this go away.

You sigh again, opening your mouth to say something mollifying, still hoping for salvage.

'It's not like I ask for anything!' The wailing starts from behind and you pause, hand on cheese. 'I only wanted one afternoon to myself!!'

You take your hand off the cheese and look longingly at the waiting bread. Oh well. Turning to face your aspie, you rearrange your face into what passes for I'm Not Going To Lose My Cool and open your mouth again.

Sensing comforting words, the aspie gets in first, keen to stop you from minimising their suffering. 'And I am not making a fuss about nothing!' The hands clench at the sides and the face thrusts forward.

'I know you're not,' you say, accidentally doing an eye roll. As usual, the aspie who notices no expressions ever sees this one thing and takes complete offence.

'Stop rolling your eyes at me!' they shout and turn on their heel, ready for the Storming Out. At the last second, they pause to look back. 'And for what it's worth,' they add, looking justifiably superior, 'I might have wanted to come to the birthday party, if you hadn't sprung it on me.'

The feet march off, the aspie body marches almost in tandem with the feet and the kitchen is clear once more. You turn back to the cheese, thinking how nice it is to have uncomplicated dairy in the room instead of an aspie.

Soon you will have to risk offending them again by re-springing the party invitation. Until then you know to enjoy the quiet time in between, just you and your sandwich and maybe a little glass of something later. With a bit of luck your aspie will sulk all the way through your favourite show and you won't have to swap over to Trucks That Tumble again.

Perhaps tomorrow you could bring up the party? Or maybe the next day? Sometime soon anyway. You have only a month between now and your brother's birthday to convince your aspie to come along. And you know your aspie hates having these things sprung on them.

What was your brother thinking, only giving you four week's notice? Does he not know you need lots of extra time to spoil your aspie's day/afternoon/morning/bedtime? Does he not realise how horrid you will have to be between now and then, with all your awkward silences and making of sandwiches?

Sighing happily, you retreat with your sandwich, pausing a moment to listen for the keyboard clicking in the other room. Safe.

Nodding to yourself, you settle down, ready to recharge for the next time you need to corral your aspie into doing something awful, against their will and just because you want to spoil their day.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!


Once more, with feeling.




'Do you like it?'

Some bright and wonderful thing is held before my eyes and I take in the iridescent gleam of light bouncing off its surfaces. My eyes sparkle in reflected beauty and my mouth opens to praise it in all its magical glory.





'Hmm, it's nice,' I say, 'I like the sparkles and stuff.'

The gaudy treasure is replaced as my less-than-enthusiastic response renders it unworthy. We move on with me giving backward glances to the beautiful thing and wondering why it remains unbought.

I said it was nice and I said I liked the sparkles but if my opinion was really needed, perhaps it would have been better to pass me a pen and paper instead of asking me to speak my thoughts.

I can love something and sound lacklustre; I can adore and covet a glorious object and only be able to stand, holding it this way and that, revelling in how I feel about it without expressing myself.

And then I can love something and go on about it so fulsomely and endlessly that the other person is turned off it before they have reached the shop door.

If I am in favour of something, it seems to be an irritating fact that I either sound only vaguely interested or as if I am from the Cult of Glitter-Ball Refugees.

The same applies to being told good news. If I am pleased by the news and interested, I might exclaim,

'That's brilliant, well done!'

Most of the time this works quite well, though I never sound as enthused as I mean to; the rest of the time my words will be right but my tone sounds sarcastic.

Why on earth do I have to sound sarcastic so much of the time? Not many people respond well to sarcasm, especially not the ones who want you to congratulate them on something marvellous. You don't want to go through life with a Bill Murray-esque tone at the ready to crush the hearts and minds of anyone with news to share. (Or do you? Tempting, at least half the time).

It only makes it worse if you try to explain you always sound that way, you don't mean it, you really are pleased, and so on. People don't want you to make up for it after the event - that means nothing! They want you to react the right way at the time, because that means your feelings are true.

And there is the problem: people think your first reaction is the true one, so if you sound depressed or bothered or irritated or sarcastic, then that is how you feel about them and what they are talking about. You can't blame them, can you?

Once your brain has caught up with the conversation, you realise how you feel and you can then express yourself perfectly. Or at least sound more enthusiastic. But by then it is too late. Feelings have been hurt or the moment has passed and you are left looking like a Sarcastic Susan or a Terse Terry.

Yes, I like your new hair (now I've had a moment to get used to being able to see your face again). Yes, I like your new car (though why you needed to buy another is beyond me). Yes, I like the pot plant your Aunty Flossie got you that looks like the offspring of a giant alien mixed with a small, ugly dog. And yes, for heaven's sake, I do like your child's rendition of Alice Cooper's loudest and most explicit song, even though she is only ten. Lovely!

So yes, once more with feeling is the way to go when someone asks what you think or how you feel. Instant answers are not always to be trusted (and neither are considered ones, if it involves bad cover songs).

Trust me when I say that most of the time I am not as sarcastic as I sound and that I do appreciate you sharing this with me. Trust me, I can express myself, given the time. Honestly, give me the chance to say it once more and then we can move on.

And please, don't ever ask me about your hair again.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!