The Aspie Guide to Dealing With Christmas

How can you make people see how stressed you are by Christmas? Does it seem impossible? Can you not break through their glittered hides? Are they too caught up in the sociable season to even listen as you speak?

If you are stressed out by Christmas, or even the thought of Christmas, here is the simple route to making sure everyone knows how you feel.

Explaining this to people

They listen, their heads nod, most likely their eyes glaze over but then hope swells in your heart as their spoken words seem to reflect what you just said to them. They understand!
...and then they behave exactly as before and expect you to also behave yourself (not as you have before) and be a full participant in Christmas. Damn! When will you learn to communicate better? (cough)

Using pictures and diagrams to explain this to people

This feels like it should work. I mean, if they can't understand the spoken word then surely that means they are visual learners and will appreciate your carefully crafted/lovingly printed pictorial guides?
No, they don't, they're really too busy to look at your artwork just now because Christmas. They'll look later, when not Christmas. Well done, though, aren't you clever for being artistic?
(And if you can get them to look properly they often misunderstand drawings anyway and think this is some new phase of awfulness from you whereby you will be making a comic strip of your life that has to be kept on the fridge).


This also includes fleeing rooms, waving arms, hiding under bedclothes and prostrate on the floor of the living room, wailing like Timmy Two-Year-Old.
Sobbing should work, I have used tears very successfully in many different situations (works very well for call centres, they have no idea what to do with you and usually cave).
But when it comes to Christmas, your loved ones are used to seeing you cry so it doesn't have the same effect.
Also, Christmas, they are busy, you know? Can you not just clean yourself up and try to get into the Christmas spirit? Or at least go to the shop for more sprouts? What do you mean you don't like sprouts? You've had them every other year and never complained. What do you mean you always complain?

...leading us neatly to...


You can insert the fleeing room, etc, from Sobbing here, as shouting works well with dramatic show-and-tell.
Yes, I do get it, you want to shout. Shouting would help so much right now. Get it all out there, right off your chest, bellow to the ceiling, the sky, the mezzanine level in the bedding area - shout, shout, shout to the many gods of your suffering and hope that, by some miracle, your loved ones will perceive your shouting as evidence of pain and actually do something to help.

Shouting and Sobbing

To be honest, at Christmas these two seem to pair up anyway without any forward planning. It can be messy though, shouting at the same time as sobbing creates volumes of spittle. If you are prone to spittle do try to use it to best advantage by being near your audience as then they won't be as distracted by wrapping sprouts and sellotaping sausages, or whatever it is they are doing that stops them listening in the first place.
Try not to do it in the home of elderly relatives though as it can be:
a. Dangerous
b. Liable to become a Christmas legend, and
c. Elderly relatives, like small children, are much more likely to join in and have a good shout and sob with you because people don't listen to them either.

Explaining to other, kinder people who then try to explain it to your people

This might actually work, though it depends on how persuasive and understanding your other, kinder people are and how much respected they are by your nearest and dearest. At the very least it cuts out on the spittle and these kinder people are not as emotionally invested so can put your point across in a clear, logical way that doesn't involve you having to dramatise.
Also, if all else fails, you could go and have Christmas with the kinder people as they might agree to leave you to yourself and push dinner under the door.

Ignoring everyone

This works best if you can do it from the comfort of your home, preferably a bedroom with TV/Internet and food arriving without the need for human contact. Pets can be there too (they also enjoy quiet places and regular food parcels) and you can sit in your pyjamas and drip gravy down your front without having to be polite to anybody.
What tends to happen instead is that you end up in the midst of the Christmas celebrations and still Ignoring Everyone. There is a point in the festivities when your closed face and shielded heart is all you have left to give. You can do no more talking, conversing, chattering, answering questions, asking questions, being interested, not saying what you think, being kind to damn fools, not noticing when other people are rude and generally being some weird version of yourself that everyone thinks is actually you (I despair!).
Or you ignore everyone except Uncle Simon because he is Better Than TV. He eats with his mouth open, quietly steals from other plates, hides food in his lap (where does it go??), drinks from his glass and the little bottle he brought with him (which he goes to the kitchen to re-fill), burps like a 10 year old boy, laughs at the wrong places, and hasn't noticed you watching him - and at some tome after 3pm will start singing. (You can insert other relative/friend for Uncle Simon, if the gathering is big enough there will always be someone worth stalking watching).


You will be castigated mercilessly for ignoring everyone. Rise above it. You did not birth, fully-formed from the carpet on Christmas Eve, you did your best to make things clear before Christmas. Your loved ones should know what you like and don't like by now, you might even have warned them this would happen.
If you are listened to at all over Christmas, even by sympathetic people, be prepared for sly scolding mixed up with the softer words. Lovely people who want only the best for you will still feel entitled to explain why you might have tried a little harder to make Christmas easier for everyone, including yourself. Do not listen. If they had listened, if anyone had listened, you would have been in your bedroom with the cat/chinchilla/dog/Barry-from-next-door-who-was-on-the-run-from-his-own-Christmas.

And the best Christmas

is the one that is best for you. Much as you love the people in your life, some things are too big a stretch. Doing Christmas for others can be difficult at best and end up with the sort of behaviour that does more harm than good. Do make it clear how you feel, do say why you feel this way if you can, do tell them it is not because you don't care - do what you can. And then step back and have the Christmas you would like, as far as it is possible.

and next year

seek out like minds or a quiet space and do whatever you like. For the real spirit of Christmas is peace and light and only you know how to bring those into your life.


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Come, come, come, it's Christmas! or Not.

We had a major success at the weekend. We managed to put up the Christmas tree with barely any fighting, I didn't end up crying on the sofa, there was no storming upstairs and past Christmases were only mentioned twice in a growling whisper.

Granted it's now 5 days later and I'm still surrounded by bags of unpacked lights and decorations, but the tree is up!

I love Christmas, I'm horribly Christmassy, but still I haven't been able to face going out into the garden to put the lights up, or decorate the house, or even the baby fir trees I bought a month ago which are sitting bare-ass naked on the windowsills.

It feels like an ache, to imagine doing these things, like I'm anticipating the pain of a cross-country run in the middle of February. I'm Putting It Off, hoping for a sudden rush of courage so I can gather it all up and do the rest of the decorating.

At the same time, those people who live in a more normal world are out there spending their own bodyweight buying presents and still complaining about how short of time they are. Their houses are decorated so far past anything I could achieve.

I was transfixed the other day by a snow-twig centrepiece and shiny, glitter candles in one house. In another, my student looked up to catch me staring, open-mouthed at her ceramic Santa and I had to make something up to stop her worrying. (In fact, I had just imagined the creepy Christmas poem I posted here, so it wasn't a wasted strange moment).

All this grandery and I'm sharing the sofa with an aged cat and a giant bag of unplugged lights.

And still, I go on and think, tomorrow I will do it, tomorrow it will be time to get up and face Christmas, this thing that I love which is still difficult and strange, as if I never met it before and didn't know what to say.

It's an aspie irony that even those things I love most can still be hard to do, simply because they mean Change. I could kick myself sometimes.

I might do what I did last year. I waited til it was dark and went out into the garden to string up the lights. I couldn't see what I was doing and got whipped in the face a few times by stinging branches, but it meant I could light the lights and watch them sway in the dark as I arranged them, blown in the wind, moving as if there were no trees around them.

It was awkward and wet and I kept slipping and getting stuck in the bushes and I loved it. Hanging the lights to change my garden and face Christmas became an adventure with tiny stars gathering all around me in the night.

It was magical, in the end, and it didn't matter that I was wet or had fallen or that my face was covered with rain - all magical adventures are uncomfortable, ask Bilbo - I was there, alone in the dark and surrounded by the lights of Christmas.

I guess I have my answer and can finally make room on the sofa. Tonight, in the dark, with my hair tied down so I don't become one with the bush again, I will go out and string the lights. And, one by one, they will blink into life and become Christmas for me.

And how brave I will be.


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My step-father died

My stepfather died a couple of weeks ago. We hadn't seen each other for years and had a tumultuous relationship while he was married to my mother, then came to a meeting of minds when I was in my 20s. Since then he moved on, I moved on and we fully drifted. But still, a part of my life left this earth, taking with him his bad dad jokes as well as rows, clumsy step-parent conversations and someone who stuck up for me when I was bullied.

I felt like a fraud of a step-daughter when my sister told me he had died. He was my step-dad but she became my sister, an absolute rock in stormy waters. When she told me my first thought was for her, how devastated she must be. I was numb, so I assumed I didn't care enough to be upset.

That day I stayed in, and did nothing, and berated myself for doing nothing and staying in when I was fine. I didn't tell anyone he had died.

That evening I sat in a darkened living room and thought I must turn on the light. I turned it on then needed to leave, so took the dog for a walk with my younger son. I didn't mention anything to him (they hadn't met since RT was a very young boy and he didn't remember him).

I came home and did nothing, then went to bed. The next day, I didn't tell anyone.

I did more, suddenly rejuvenated into action and found myself buzzing round the house doing anything but nothing. Then went to work and tried to talk to little children and big children and, for some reason, kept thinking back to when I was a child. I didn't tell anyone.

I was still hyper the next day and the next, unable to settle or think but quite industrious. I kept getting a headache though, a migraine starting in my jaw and making me sit, sometimes, and rest a finger on the edge of my temple, looking down at the floor and thinking nothing.

Met up with my sister the next day and we talked about the mechanics of when someone leaves, of how she might be, what she might do, of how his wife was and a little of what she planned for the future.

Afterwards I was struck with how practical, technical the conversation had been and that I hadn't reached out a hand, or invited her to talk about more heartfelt matters and that I was a bad sister. I texted her to tell her I was sorry I had let her down, that I really did care, that she had my love. I was berated very softly for suggesting I had done anything wrong.

Why is it easier by text? Why didn't I react to her like other people? Even in the middle of our lunch an acquaintance came up and offered condolences to her and I remember thinking, this is what people do, is it what I should do?

I still didn't tell anyone he had died.

It's not that I was avoiding it so he would still be alive, or avoiding the love and compassion of my friends - which I know was there if I needed it. I still felt like a fraud, still numb, still-

By then I wasn't sleeping, the headaches having been replaced by a foggy mind which seemed to stifle out any small flame of lively inspiration. And like a fog my life seemed shrouded, the places I could usually see far were hidden, mysterious; I wandered in them, touching things around me to place myself and know where I was.

I dreamt at the end of the week and it was back then, in the bright, ultra-vibrant colours of when we are small enough to think we can keep up that level of shading forever. And there he was, after all, just as he had been when we fought in the mornings, sulked in the afternoons, then went out with the pony and talked about strangely fascinating subjects that didn't come up with other people.

At the weekend, I remembered his laugh. I could have described his laugh to you before this (it was a truly embarrassing dad laugh), but at the weekend I heard it, a caught moment in the middle of another busy, confusing, fog-filled day.

I didn't tell anyone about him.

And then another set of activities, distractions, utter focus on normal life and everything in it as if filling the dishwasher and walking the dog can ultimately take the place of deep, wondering reflection on a life lived and briefly shared.

I got lost in the car, forgot what I needed, mixed up facts and dates and names and kept coming back to what a fraud I was.

And remembered my sister's wedding, and his ex-wives and his brother who we visited when we were young and who had warm milk on cornflakes. There was the weekend with the cub scouts that we took with him, me and my sister the only girls in a youth hostel packed full of smelly, noisy boys. It rained the whole weekend and I remembered him trudging us all across the sodden grass to see the standing stones. I even remembered the whitewashed walls of the hostel, the big, thin-legged spiders there and the baked beans.

I thought about how hard it is that we have to get old and lose all our choices and wondered if he would have known me if I visited.

And even though I didn't feel upset, everything was so hard, as bad as trying to find those standing stones in the pouring rain, surrounded by yelling, happy boys who didn't care about the weather. And him holding the map, trying to see it through the rain and me wishing I was anywhere else but here.

Time passed so slowly, as if I had two timelines running alongside each other and I was living both. One kept getting the better of the other so that this life, this bland, fog-filled landscape, gave way to sharp shafts of winter sunlight that made me squint, or hot days spent in a garden that goes on forever.

I still haven't told anyone.

Today, for some reason, I cried and felt lonely, the room felt bigger, the world, I need the world to stay right away today.

There's winter sunshine today though, outside the window, and the trees are bare, the frost just melting from the path. Days like this I'd be dragged out on walks and left behind, glaring at the bouncing rucksack ahead of me, wishing I was somewhere else, alone.

I'm still in the two timelines but they seem to be merging. Perhaps that's why I'm crying in this one. I guess I'm frightened of what might happen once they come together. How can I face the past when there is no road back to it?

I think I need to tell someone today.


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It's okay to be afraid

Little you at the doctor's office, ready to have your injection, or medicine or to be prodded, and you're told to be brave - always brave - or told after that you were very brave. It sticks eventually and you try to be brave when things scare you.

My little student said to me the other day that she was so afraid, she had to go into hospital and she was just too scared to have the injection. Her chest heaved as she tried to hold it all in. So I told her how the injection would feel, that it might hurt a little but was really, really quick and how it had to be done. I said, 'Don't I always tell you the truth?' (We've had conversations about fear before) and she agreed I did. I told her it was normal to be afraid but it had to be done and then it would be all finished. I realise now that I didn't tell her to be brave.

It doesn't have to be needles, or the dentist, or going past the dog down the road or into your friend's house for tea, or school, or any of the simple, everyday events which make you anxious. Very big events, tiny events, even tinier worries which prove groundless - many have fear running ahead of them.

Getting so many things wrong, you either learn to manage the fear or carry on as if it doesn't exist. It does, of course, just whispering in the background until, suddenly, you hear it clear and close and fear gets the better of you.

Still, though, be brave, aren't you brave? Haven't you been brave today? You were a brave scared person today, doing what worried you so much, you should be proud of yourself!

You can be proud of yourself and still afraid at the same time, which really isn't fair.

I've been trying to be a big brave girl lately. Unfortunately, real life is knocking and I have to answer, so I need to be strong and brave and go forward with a sturdy heart, etc etc etc.

Every day I put one foot in front of the other and build on my plan to make everything okay, and I do it over and over because it should be all right, I can make it happen.

And every day I wonder if I can, if today I'll waver and the load will be too heavy. I know this is stress, anxiety, pressure, a real grown up life that so many people face.

Then, yesterday I realised that looking at it like this is another voice telling me to be a big brave girl. My own voice, which makes it worse.

I was driving home in the dark, feeling tired and so past the stress level that I'd come out the other side and thought the street lights were blinking at me.

I made my way along the dark road and looked fearfully at the next junction, in case a car might come out. And the thought popped into my head, 'I'm afraid.'

Momentarily I thought I was afraid of a car coming out of the dark junction, but then I realised I had admitted an important truth to myself: the stress I was feeling was a symptom, not the root cause of how I felt. Fear was the beginning of it and the truth of it too.

I was afraid, I am afraid, I'm facing trials in my life which are real and need my full attention. And you know what? It's right to be afraid. Why wouldn't I be? Why shouldn't I?

Why should I have to be a big brave girl and feel like this is the truth, when the reason any of us needs to be brave is because there is something to fear?

Admitting I felt afraid lifted a weight from me, it gave me permission to be honest with myself and understand that, for all I might want to be brave, there are times when I am also going to be scared.

Denying fear is counter-productive because it tends to let other feelings and behaviours come through instead. Stress reactions are always going to run higher if you haven't admitted to your conscious self that you are afraid - you feel the fear running underneath as a background emotion, making your mind and body think it is in imminent danger from an unknown threat. Far better to admit the fear, see it there, staring at you, lurking in the room, waiting as you leave, watching as you step and know it for what it is.

I am afraid: and now I can go on and do what I have to do with complete honesty.

Last night I slept well for the first time in weeks; today I went through the day without the weight of anxiety and stress.

I am afraid, and also looking to the future. I am afraid because I'm allowed to be, and can be unafraid too.

There is really no need to be a big brave girl after all.


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Blurting? Impulse control and Aspergers.

Today I had a small victory, one of many. I drove past the window cleaner at the end of the street without shouting 'Window Cleaner!' at him as I went past.

No, I don't usually shout this or anything else at him, it was just that today it was my first impulse. I saw him, he was up the ladder, cleaning the windows and there it was, the sudden impulse to shout to him.

It's as if there is a need to state the obvious, loudly, almost joyfully, so that seeing something or someone is all it takes for me to verbally state the fact I have seen them.

It feels like a natural expression too, not immediately something I should stop. I see it, I think it and at the same time I want to say it. And sometimes I do say it.

Aspies are well known for their brutal logic, seeing something and commenting on it, regardless of consequences. This isn't the same as unbridled blurting; it is the stating of logic, of a thought or a judgement. Shouting 'window cleaner' at the window cleaner is not logical - he knows he is a window cleaner, I know he is one and neither of us would really appreciate me announcing it to the world.

And I know I'm not alone in speaking when I should just shut up and keep it shut, in letting things slip and realising once it's too late to rein them back in. That would be blurting, even if the blurting doesn't feel like it to me. That would be the mind going along with the flow and inserting what seems like a good, relevant idea into the conversation at the first moment, without looking past the moment to what might happen next.

Wanting to label life, as I think of it, to call out what I see, or what I am feeling at the time, or (my personal favourite, readers) to suddenly give voice to a word that has presented itself in my mind, feels like my inner thoughts hopping the divide and being outside. They are still my thoughts, they just happen to be on the wrong side of me.

I tell you, this has created many small, hurried cover stories, especially in lessons and especially if I'm tired and my guard is down. I'll be sitting there, quiet while the student works in a hushed room, no background sound and then: Ostrich!

Yes, ostrich was one of those times.

I can't remember how I got out of that one. If the student is small enough it's much easier as they accept any old gubbins I can come up with on the spot, or I just tell them I felt like talking about ostriches. Try explaining it to a teenager though.

There is a joy to it though. These words are like singular little spots of light bouncing out into the world - I do feel better once they are said, even more so if I'm on my own at the time and don't have to explain them. It feels right to get them out there, to say them in the first place, and this means it can be hard not to speak and to keep them in.

So, I didn't shout at the window cleaner (really lucky, he was up his ladder after all), and I might not shout anything about ostriches or boats, cake or sluices (memorable one, that) for the rest of the day. I know it's only a matter of time before I do give in to impulse and let rip one of the many extraordinary, or ordinarily ordinary, words in my vocabulary and have to use my imagination to cover the fact.

Here's to the triumph of imagination over impulse control. And the safety of Window Cleaner!s everywhere.


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Do you have to care?

All the times and years and days of wondering if you can feel okay and fit right in...does it really matter? How would it be if you didn't care?

Not the blustering kind of not caring where you put on your best face and hurry past; the other kind where you go past because you were already going that way and-just-don't-care.

Not caring, not worrying or stopping to look back and see if it was all right this time. Not climbing into the car with that relieved sigh you keep for when something is almost over and you are on your way home. Let's just get in the car and go home.

Not looking sideways, edgeways, round your nose, over the top of the glasses, from under the fringe, behind the phone, round the display, out of your coat hood. None of it, just going by and being there and doing whatever you came to do and

it not even occurring to you to care.

Not caring, not being careful around others, not watching your words or what you wear, not trying to be this because there is no room, you are already being what you really always are.

No rebellion involved, no fancy thoughts of emotional freedom, mental strength or the other bull we feed ourselves in lonely hours trying to be real.

Just you as you were meant to be and me as I am, and Life as it was meant to be lived.

Don't care, don't cry about it, don't wonder if you got it right. If you fall up the steps, you fell, it doesn't matter if anyone saw you. It's the same with the rest of life, you go where you need to be, where you want to be and sometimes you fall right on your face.

If someone saw you, so what? Maybe they'll help you up. But don't start caring that someone saw you fall. No one puts the right foot forward every time.

Don't care, only be caring, be careful when you need to be, but mostly be careless and keep putting one foot in front of the other. You do that often enough, you learn how to walk without thinking.

Care only when it matters. The rest of the time, be care-free.


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The soft light of the quiet day

An empty room, a quiet house, an understanding that there is nothing to be done today, or tomorrow: that nothing can stretch out over as many days and weeks as I want.

The loveliness of being home, the joy of not having to be anywhere else. This is what freedom feels like.

There is no loneliness, only solitude. No knock at the door or grasping, grabbing world coming up in the street. The clock ticks, the hands turn, the light moves across the mirror.

Best would be a day of rain, gentle rain that takes all day to finish falling. The outside sheened through the glass and if I look close, the trees are blurred within it. The window, open enough to hear the rain without letting it in and the brief patters as the drops blow against the sill.

This is the sort of day that I want to last forever, the kind of peace I think of when I sit in traffic jams or wait for a student to do their work. Surrounded by the lives of others I yearn for my own, as if it also belonged to someone else.

We all know, in the real world, there is a price to pay for staying in, not meeting the world, not being the person who can do that. But in those quiet times when the perfect life is momentarily here, homesickness washes over me for the quiet room, the rain, the soft light of the quiet day.


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Being socially awkward

I have it down to a fine art, being socially awkward.

Mostly I cover this side with the role of Friendly Person. I'm sure some of you know this role. You change your face, your voice, even what you might talk about: you are Friendly.

This doesn't mean making new friends, it's just a way to get by, especially if small talk is involved.

I am a temporary Queen of Small Talk. My favourite is the weather because I like talking about the weather anyway. And if I also like the person wanting to talk small, I slot in other little subjects good for tiny chats.

Chitter-chatter when I am feeling on top of things is fine. I can do it, the pretence lasts long enough for me to be a Friendly Person. And then...

The times when the Friendly role won't fit. It's like waking up and being two clothes sizes bigger overnight. I get up, do what I always do, and it won't fit. The small talk that worked yesterday doesn't work today.

The words I normally use, sentences well-worked and easy, they come out all wrong. I can hear them, the tone, the muffled feeling of not having it quite right. And my smile, it doesn't work either. I can tell my face is doing something else, though I have no idea what.

Oh for the ability to just be socially apt for a couple of minutes at a time! But no, it isn't that easy. Those days when socially awkward will not be hidden, mistakes happen.

Easy conversations are suddenly hard. As my phrases fall apart, so the conversation wavers like a heat haze. I am in the middle of it, trying to make it stay still, watching the other person to see if they notice I'm doing it wrong (I do recognise this behaviour makes me no less awkward).

Invariably I will say something kind of stupid - not fully stupid, just stupid enough to make me cringe. And then I'll try to cover it up , which of course is like putting make up on a pig.

Good grief, why do I bother?!

Well, mainly because I have to talk to people a lot for my work and it's best to come across as nice and friendly. And usually it's fine and social and I don't mind. Then on the days I do mind and it isn't social, it's awkward because I am awkward. The whole thing becomes awkward.

One lucky aspect is that my work means seeing lots of people in small-ish time slots so if I show myself up it is over quite quickly and I can move on to the next person - and do it all again. Though I might have to cringe at myself every single time, other people only have to suffer it the once.

So the next time I see them I am hopefully back to 'normal', with no weird smile that was only half-born and no stupid comments either. Back to desperately covering up the fact I am totally, irredeemably, socially awkward.

Bliss for those times when I meet someone worse than myself! The empathy is palpable and so is my relief that, for a small-ish amount of time, I don't have to worry over odd comments about the weather and wrong smiles.

Like minds aren't just about being able to talk about the same things; sometimes it's about listening to someone else make a hash of it and knowing exactly how they feel.


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The bad days...

Some days it's so easy. I think to myself, Why do I ever think things are difficult? This is fine. If it's fine today, then it can be fine on every other day.

It's a kind of soft-focus logic where I judge each day to come by the one I'm living right now, as if it didn't matter how I was feeling or what was happening around me. Today I manage, therefore if tomorrow is much the same, I will also manage. Or even excel!

And then there's the yesterday I just had.

The sort of day where everything around me is normal, just as it should be. I have what I need, I set off in time for work, I walk there and that's a healthy, good-for-me act. Afterwards, I walk into town.

At some point in the middle of town I realised this was not the kind of day where soft-focus logic would help. Who cares what I managed on other days? Who cares how I felt then? Who on earth cares?

It was a long walk out of town, much longer than going in. On the way in I joked with a lady at the crossing as we dodged over between traffic. On the way out I crossed the street so I wouldn't have to walk near a stranger who had no interest in me - just the being near someone was too much.

Suddenly, somehow, in the middle of a normal morning, my fear-calm ratio tipped all the way over and the little weights scattered across the metaphorical floor. I was alone in town on a busy Saturday morning, surrounded by people who made me feel like hurting just because they were there.

I scuttled past market stalls, along the pavements I've walked since I could walk, hurtled past the social smokers outside the bar, down the quiet street that made me halfway home.

There are moments for those of us with too much thought where the very air around us seems to close in and, with almost gentle insistence, suffocate us at the same time as giving life.

Taking stock I knew I wasn't in danger, that the feeling of fear was general - all-encompassing, but general. There was no actual danger, nothing waited for me, nothing prepared a place in a darkened room for me. There was only me, on my way home, alone.

Yes, melodrama, but when you have this feeling of being trapped in open spaces, in peril from indifferent, ordinary people who mean you no harm, when every step home is a stepping stone over deep waters; those days are not melodramatic to you, they are just very hard.

I finally came to my street and saw the tree on the edge of the garden where the gate hides. I crossed the road where our old dog always liked us to cross and hurried the last few yards so I could close the door.

By the time I got inside I felt twisted out of shape, pliable like soft metal; my sharp edges still there, it was only their direction had changed.

Safe, I looked at my morning and breathed the open air of home. It had been a triumph all the same. I walked through the fear, saw it clear, took it in, softened under its harsh impulses and made it home.

Much, much later I went out again to the lake and tested the air. It was still open, the storm had lifted and I was able to look at the world again, a little at a time.

Every day is never the same. Managing now is proof you can manage again but not proof that you should be able to manage all the time.

When they say 'take each day as it comes', then that is what you should do and be glad of it. Someone with far too much time to think came up with that phrase, and then came back out the other side of their day to give it to us.

And feel triumph when you manage, be it melodrama or the quiet street.


 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie

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In celebration of oversharing

Oversharing is one of life's fundamental shortcuts: why spend weeks, months and years getting to know someone when you can find out most everything in the first half an hour? You don't have half an hour? Well, you'd be surprised (and pleased!) to discover how much can fit into a few minutes.

It's not confined to Aspergers but oversharing is definitely an aspie super-skill. It's the beautiful love-child of brutal honesty and naïve chit-chat. Springing up when there is a need or desire to be social, it exists most in aspies who have worked hard to be able to hold conversations with others.

You see, if you have to force yourself to talk to people then the difference between normal social chatter and deeper, more revealing words becomes very blurred. It's not that you want to share everything - and you had no plans to share anything when you opened your mouth - but once the words start it can be hard to stop.

If the conversation is about the weather then you talk about the weather, global warming, natural disasters (and eventually Space); if it is about puppies,  it becomes kittens or mongoose or snakes - the narrative flow is like a hillside stream, it stays connected but goes where it likes.

So it is that an innocent conversation about the other person's house becomes a slow-reveal about your own house, and by slow I really mean you take a few sentences to describe your living situation instead of just one. Startled by oversharing the other person, depending on what they are like, will either tidy up the conversation and leave, try to change the subject (ha!) or be interested/confused enough to ask more.

Then you can overshare as much as you like. They asked the question! They want to know and you know the answer too, which is all the temptation needed to reply in full detail. There is sometimes a part of you looking on which wonders if this is the right thing to do, but mostly this part doesn't stir until well after the event.

At the time you are glad to share, with varying success at holding back anything personal. Someone who shows a vague interest in your life had better be ready for knowing rather more than they expected. And, of course, this is where you can leave yourself open to unscrupulous people who would rather use what they know than make a friend of you.

The times I have left somewhere and realised even as I walked away that I overshared again. Mostly I shrug it off, there are too many agains to worry about all of them. Sometimes I wince all the way home. A lot depends on the nature of the person who found themselves in the flow of that hillside stream, hopping about in it as it followed their every move.

So why am I celebrating oversharing? Categorically, it is worth celebrating. Trust me! For every wince, every moment where you know you have done it again and shown yourself up and might as well have held up a sign saying Different - for every one of those there are many times when the other person gets over their surprise and ends the conversation with a smile.

Blurt it out, readers. If it has to be out there, let it. Conversations are often going to be winceworthy and with a tendency to replay. But the other times, when oversharing works, they are what makes it all worthwhile. The people who respond to this are the ones worth keeping.

They may know far more than expected about me but often I come away knowing more about them too. There are quite a lot of people out there in this cynical world of ours who react well to oversharing. By being too open and overly honest with them you often find they repay the compliment. A fresh breeze springs up, the air is clear, the sun is bright and the honesty is there between you.

Truth, like oversharing, can be catching.

And the next time you meet, you don't have to talk about the weather.


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I don't want to paint a rainbow

I don't want to paint a rainbow with my cartoon pot of instant paint, or pretend I skip when I trip. I don't want to be the one who, halfway through the door, falls back out. I don't want to check where I park my car three times because of the once I forgot

or check, check, check each time I visit because your house looks so much like the others

or feel my way along the fence outside because the one thing I do remember is how the metal pops out into a bobble shape where your gate begins.

I don't want to dance my way through the supermarket and smile happy faces at everyone as if it doesn't matter how my day is going. I don't want to make faces (but I do anyway).

I especially don't want to get the looks that tell me I'm talking with my hands without saying the words out loud.

I don't want the sympathy, the special look, the little smile that says I am being myself and you find it quaint. I might be quaint, I can't help that, but is it so strange?

I don't want to have to explain why my shoulders are not there for your arm.

I don't want comments instead of conversation or criticism playing at being help.

I don't mind if you help me up when I fall over or pick up the things I dropped as I went down. It's fine to laugh with me - I love laughing! It's fine to have a chuckle at my 'little ways' so long as you don't mind me returning the compliment - and telling you what your little ways are.

I do like rainbows, I do like painting, I just get the paint all over myself and then spend days picking it out of my hair. But those rainbows sometimes have to just paint themselves, or be painted by people with smiles for every day.

I don't mind if you cry when you tell me things, so long as I can cry too. I don't mind you asking me why I am crying if I start for no reason. I don't mind cups of tea and a face full of patience. I love it if I don't have to break the silence, but I will anyway.

I don't yearn for perfection or normality. There may be rainbows, or paint, or smiles, tears, spills, falls, laughter and dancing in odd places. And some of it may come from you instead of me.

I yearn for you to be you and me to be me without either of us expecting everyone to be the same.

And in the end I am me, and you are you. And we don't have to paint the rainbow to meet in the middle.


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Being Myself

I'm done. I'm not going to try to cover anymore, I'm tired of putting on my Normal Boots and walking out the door with a limp. I'm sick of not being myself for the whole of every day. That's it.

The way I act is the way I am and there's no more Little Miss Whatchulike. I won't go out of my way to be what I think people expect. Why should I?

I used to think I had to behave like a real live grown-up to keep the money coming in. Would people want the full me tutoring their children? Do I not have to keep up appearances talking to parents? Can I really leave the aspie door all the way open?

The answer is a simple one: there is no door. The aspieness is there all the time, sometimes hidden, sometimes parading in full view. I can see it clearly in others so why not let everyone see it in me?

I have seen some surprised faces lately. You see, I hadn't realised that my decision to be fully myself had already happened. I think it was sometime last week when I stopped trying to be as expected. There has been so much to do lately, so much to cope with, both physically and emotionally, that at a point in the middle of last week my brain must have thrown up its metaphorical hands and let loose the balloons.

I remember thinking Susie's parents looked a bit confused while I was talking and then later, when I was explaining something to Janine's dad, his face twitched as he processed it and then he grinned. Hugely.

The next day I was hugging. Good grief, I was hugging! Freaking hugging! It was a necessary hug, love was needed and I did it! It was only later I realised it hadn't hurt and I was still all in one piece.

Being Me has been a revelation. All the way me, the true face showing, the smile and the tears. This is me, the aspie woman, the one in the patterned frock, wearing snowflakes on the hottest day as a way to keep cool, the one falling out of her car because she doesn't do pavements, the one who can't work a retractable eraser and lets small boys paint battle stripes on their faces with her marker pens (erasable!).

What A Relief. It's like walking out onto the back steps in summer and finding a place where a cool breeze blows by. From now on it's going to be real in real life and no more worrying.

There is so much in life to worry about, after all. Why worry about being yourself as well?


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Talking, talking, talking.

Ask me anything and you'll get an answer. It might not be the answer you wanted or expected, but you won't leave empty-handed. And it might be some time before you get to leave as well.

I don't have a 'shut-up' filter so someone asking me a question is like a green light. I answer whatever seems good at the time and after this verbal roll of the dice I carry on. And on. You asked, right? You wanted to know? That green light you gave me probably turned to red a while ago but I haven't noticed.

Neither have I noticed the change in your face and by the time I do, I'm so far into my explanation that I gloss over the wriggling worm of doubt and strive to bring you back into my answer. It's a good answer, you're going to like it! Just keep listening.

This is why I can be so good at interviews. Doesn't matter if I'm nervous or not, a question is all it takes to fire me up and set me off. Being on high alert in an interview means I do leave gaps for other people to talk (we can do anything for 15 minutes), so my easy, occasionally random answers give an impression of confidence and make  me seem like a people person.

This is hilarious.

I am a people person, a few minutes at a time, if being a people person is talking without brakes and managing to keep your subject relevant (and relevance is very flexible). Otherwise, I am a runaway mouth powered by the belief that I can do most jobs if you just show me how.

The self-confidence lies in my innate belief in my ability to learn, not in my ability to communicate with other people.

It's all about discussion rather than communication. I love a discussion, cannot avoid one if offered, find it impossible to dodge a question and almost always have a ready answer - and sometimes that answer haunts me for days.

And then there are those times, so many, many times, when a person asks a question they don't want answered or they only want the answer they chose already. Oh dear, red rags and bulls. There's no way a question goes unanswered and if my answer happens to be different from what the asker wants, that's their bad luck.

Might they try to argue? To persuade? Go on then, you have your seconds while I hesitate to see what you want. Then I can go back to my opinion, thinking that you wanted it and not realising that my opinion had the wrong shape or I had answered a rhetorical question.

A question is one of the most simple ways to communicate with people. In the most dire social quagmire we can be saved by asking someone a question. It's a door you crank open and peek through. If someone else asks it means they want to have an answer, this is also simple.

So when I chat in public places and ask questions, I can learn about people I would be otherwise studying (possibly fearing) and make myself feel calm at the same time. The great side effect of this is that I end up talking to lots of different people who are often happy I have asked questions.

Being social can be as simple as asking a question or answering one. As always the difficult part is finding the subtle balance people expect from life. The answering of a question is fine; giving a full, honest answer is not usually expected.

People can be put off or don't understand what just happened. On the flipside, this is a wonderful way to find like minds.

The comfort, the creative common ground between two people who spy each other across an answer and know they are not strangers. This makes all the talking worthwhile.


 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!