Who needs tact when you have over-sharing?



What is this mysteriously magical pull between my brain and someone I barely know? Why do I feel the need to bridge the gap by telling them something they never expected? And why do I always share things you're supposed to keep to yourself?

Yes, those times when normal chit-chat would do but I fill it with nuggets from my life, hard, gold, treasure-finds that leave people at a loss for words - which then leaves another hole in the conversation for me to fill with something else.

It's as if one piece of information, unasked for but wholly perfect for the moment it pops into my brain, then opens the door for all the others. As if one metaphorical cat, instead of running into the garden, turns round and opens the door wide for the rest of the cats to pour through.

All I had to do was fill in one simple piece of conversational by-the-by. There was no invitation to share (whoever really needed one?), there was no suitable opening only the size and shape of that one share: I could have talked about the weather and it would have been good.

But no! Why talk about the weather when you can open a door into your life and let all the cats out? Wouldn't people rather have this great little conversation-stopper than the same old guff about the cold and the rain?

Personally, I love it when I get gossip instead of guff. People over-share and they are safe with me. If it's too much I say to them, 'That's probably more than you should be telling me!' So then they know they're over-sharing. Also, they're always surprised it's too much information, so at least I know I'm not the only one who finds it confusing.

Unfortunately no one ever seems to say that to me. Rather they listen, trying to fix their face into Not-Surprise so that they can respond when I finally shut my mouth.

So I apologise if this great bit of gossip is over-sharing, or that tidbit about my toilet habits; don't worry if you have no comeback to this as your silence will be taken as rapt interest and I'll just carry on where I left off, if I ever did leave off.

When we have to move on and I realise I did it again, at least you'll know me better than either of us expected. The best of friendships can start this way, you know? And you might feel like over-sharing yourself sometime. I promise to tell you if it's too much, but also I'm full of great advice for that little problem of yours.

See how great over-sharing can be!

Amanda




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Are you feeling blue today?



Sometimes it's hard to be an adult. All that to-ing and fro-ing in the real world takes its toll. One minute, blindly rushing along the great path of life, the next huddled to the side, wrapped in your blanket, watching all the proper grown-ups go by.

Just so: one moment a person who does, the next a person who does not.

And, to make life extra creative, the does and does not can be as simple as not wanting to be somewhere or leaving a whole portion of your life behind because it can't be done anymore.

This can be the very hardest of things to explain to people who are not on the spectrum, that what you did today might not be done tomorrow. How can you explain that this person in front of them, same-faced, same-voiced, same-souled, can react so differently from one moment to the next?

I used to read a series of books when I was very small, where the people in the town were divided according to the colour of their hats. For some reason I liked these books, I liked what seemed a logical division of people and I most especially liked that you were never in any doubt as to who everyone was. You just had to look at their hat to know.

The problem in real life is that hats come off and we change colours, it's a part of human nature. What makes Aspergers so interesting to live with is that you change your hat a few times every day, sometimes every hour. Or you leave on that same old hat for weeks at a time, long enough for everyone (including yourself) to become used to you in blue, only to walk through a door one day and emerge wearing a bright red cap.

The change can be so immediate, you have no idea it is coming and have to learn to go with it. No good telling yourself to act like you're still wearing your blue hat when the red one is already there. If you do that then you're lying to yourself and, sooner or later, you will have to admit there has been a change.

The trick is in knowing how to react when this happens. For a long time there is the temptation, egged on by your nearest and dearest, to cope in a certain way so that you can get on in normal life. Please insert the curse of your choice here. Normal life knows what it can do with itself. The only reaction which brings long-term peace is to bend your life to suit yourself - and this very rarely turns out as anything resembling normal.

If you can go to work every day and stay there for the whole day and earn your monthly wage without going insane, then I applaud you. But if you do all of that and are withering inside or screaming in your own head while smiling at the people around you, it could be time for a change.

Sometimes the screaming bursts out of your own head and happens in real life. Or you stop yourself from making any sound and leave, quickly, efficiently, letting the door close behind you on your way.

This moment where you feel you have failed again, weakened in the face of life, is not necessarily a bad thing. Take a look in the mirror and see which hat you are wearing and if it looks at home on your head.

Screaming, panicking, leaving, slamming doors, walking out on whatever it is that makes you bend too far and too often, can be the first step to finding what really suits you in life and making it yours.

Here's to the yellow feathers and damask, the flowers on straw hats, the black and shady trilbys, the top hat in glossy purple, the white, silken creation made only for you. Here is to the hat you make for yourself and never have to take off, until you make another one.

Amanda




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The art of being unreasonable



I feel like being totally unreasonable today. You know the sort of thing, when your nearest and dearest fix you with A Look and say, 'What on earth are you doing?' or 'Why aren't you doing anything?!'.

Being unreasonable often seems to involve verbs: you are either doing what you shouldn't or not doing anything at all. Somehow even inaction brings in the doing words, spelling it out where you are failing yourself, and everyone else.

No, sitting does not count as a doing word! (Well, actually it does, because sitting is doing something) and looking at the computer doesn't seem to count as being busy.

What counts is being out there, looking like you want to be out there and joining in some terrible team sport like conversation or social inclusion.

It's totally unreasonable to avoid these activities and not at all creative to find good ways to sneak out of them. It doesn't mean you are a clever person if you come up with a get-out clause and people don't admire you for your short-lived but eloquent speech given just before you leave.

In fact, the art of being unreasonable isn't admired very much at all, which is a disappointment because I'm so good at it.

Team games, talking, doing, being together, not pulling faces, making conversation, not giving expositions on the benefits of time travel to future generations and absolutely not sliding sci-fi into any political debate are the valued whotchamacallits.

So today I am being unreasonable. As much as possible, my doing words will be sidling, shifting, shuffling, edging, ducking, wriggling and disappearing. If I can also manage smiling as I vanish (like the Cheshire cat), then I'll slot that in for good measure.

You see how, even when being totally unreasonable, you can be a very busy person. Verbs, people, it's all in the verbs.

And if anyone tries to argue with you, then refer them to correct word usage and the fact that, two hundred years from now when we are all living in the future, none of this will matter except to them.

Amanda




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The real, real, real you. No, not that one, the other one.



People are guilty of saying they want to get to know you better, to know the real you, as if the one they have been talking to all this time was a pale copy and the real one was in a cupboard somewhere. You can feel you have shown your best, most honest face to the world and then still have it pushed away, refused in favour of the 'real' one.

Why do people so readily believe they are not seeing the real person? Is it the aspie nature to disguise and hide beneath multiple facades? Or is the brutally blunt persona so different from what people expect, they refuse to believe it's the right one?

To have someone say they want to really get to know you is tantamount to them poking you in the gut or pulling you on the nose and saying, 'It's a costume, isn't it? Go on, where's the zip? Let's see what you really look like!'

This wouldn't be so bad if we always got to see the real them in return. Assuming we are up for this kind of revelation, if a person wants to see the real us then how about showing us the real them too? Let's see what lies behind the pretence at understanding, let's see the full face to go with the impatient eyes.

Part of being on the spectrum is often feeling like you are on the outside or that you have to wear a mask to fit in. Unfortunately, this is the mask of normality so if someone wants to see the real you, they had better hold onto their socks. Except, and I know I'm not alone here, if I am to reveal my real self to someone, then it's unlikely to be to someone who has to ask.

The real me is no mask and no button-up costume, it is the very heart of me, the essence of what keeps me awake at night and takes me away during the day. This face you see is unfamiliar to me, I can look in the mirror and stare back, as if we just met. This hand twirling the pencil on the desk is somewhere else, engaged in world-changing, universe-shaking mishappenings that have nothing to do with the reality between us.

The real me is not here, not looking at you, not talking to you and not even thinking about you. The real me isn't even thinking about me. It is thinking about that other place where there are no pretences, no masks, no words spoken in a different tongue.

And here is the crux of the matter: as far as I want, I already show you as much of me as I want you to know. There is usually a good reason that the rest is hidden. I have a suspicion that most people we meet in life have an image of what is within us and if we deviate too far from that, they turn away.

The ones who rush to meet us, in sudden surprise at seeing us, here, in this place together, are the ones who see the real face and already knew it was there.

Amanda




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The unexpected horror of social niceties




Anyone who is more familiar with the inside of a book than the outside of a vacuum cleaner will know the horror with which I anticipated the arrival of a New Friend who had not been to the house before. Worse still, not my new friend but RT Teen's. If it had been my own friend I could have warned them about the house being 'creatively messy' or the cats re-enacting Game of Thrones key scenes or the dog and his incredible butt-dancing trick.

When it is the friend of your children though, you can regret not being more like other people - and this side of you suddenly being revealed to the world (i.e. the new friend).

So it was that myself, RT Teen and Custard the cat (House Targaryen) set to with the housework. We busied and we bodied and we did what we could in a short time, even though we had known he was coming for a week.

Me and Custard polished windows and fought the fur corners, RT braved the new vacuum cleaner and discovered that it blew as well as sucked. House Tyrell and Stark had a nee-naw contest in the hall, practising for when they had a proper audience later.

Then, finally, they were here and I readied myself to be nice and friendly and not scare another new friend to the family. Best face on, make sure to show less teeth, lock all available cats in the kitchen and try not to let the dog out as soon as the door is - Oh...

So, the lad and his dad fought their way in past he dog and that was when I realised: the dad was also coming in. He was coming in! Right in and through the hall and into the living room! And he was looking at stuff!

I followed him through to the living room and, despite my horror, invited him to sit down. No, he would stand. Which meant I had to stand because I'm short enough already and I hate sitting down and talking to a person who is standing up. Except that as I stood there, my toes decided to go in and out of joint. So I was trying to talk and listen and not gurn at the man as he told me...lots about himself and his work and all the things people tell each other.

I stood as he talked and joined in somewhat, all the time wondering if he was staying for the full visit. And how long was the full visit? And was he going to eventually sit down for the rest of the afternoon?

And if he did, what would happen to Rupert's walk? Or our trip to the shop? Would I end up taking the dad to the shop and on the walk? Was it acceptable to make him go?

All the while, on the window, House Stark is desperate to get in but won't meow because meowing is for southern cats who can't stand the rigours of the wall. But I'm trying not to look at him because you can't shove your visitors out of the way just because the cat wants in.

It was no good, I cracked and let him in, instantly becoming the Crazy Cat Lady as I scooped him up and presented his dark, battle-chiselled ears to the new visitor, describing how tough he thought he was, compared to how tough he actually was.

This did seem to do the trick and the dad decided he would leave and come back later. Once out he trotted up the path, still talking and I am there at the door, closing it-closing it-closing it, until I was fairly sure it was the right moment to close it altogether.

He chose this moment to call back, cheerily and happily confident of a reply, 'Nice to meet you!' just as I slammed the door shut without any chance to catch it in time.

I turned back to House Stark and let him into the melee waiting for him in the kitchen. He found Tyrell and they re-started their politics and I finally got to the shops.

One good thing is that, after all this strain and excitement, I had nothing left with which to scare the New Friend and he is still ensconced happily downstairs.

His dad is coming back later to pick him up...

Amanda




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