Every Little Thing She Does – Part 5
An Adult Aspergers Experience of Living in a Distracting World
There’s a story in the Memosphere™, largely apocryphal, that tells us that Albert Einstein, that most famous of physicists, had a closet filled with identical clothes, and wore the same thing every day. The reason for this? He did not wish to “waste brainpower” on choosing what to wear each morning.
While there is apparently only a small element of truth to this story, I find the notion beguiling. It points to a sense of personal self-awareness and empowerment that I value and strive for in myself. It reveals a delicious, liberating selfishness, as though Einstein happily took daily doses of Fukitol in order to thrive in a crazy-making world. And it creates space for me, to notice my own needs, step into my own power, and find my own optimum dosage.
I spoke in Part 4 of two territories, the Outerlands and the Innerlands, and said that I prefer the latter to the former. And here’s the primary reason why: I find the Outerlands largely distracting, and major parts of it uninteresting, and I don’t want to waste my “brainpower” choosing how to relate to it.
Back in the “pre-Asperger’s” days, I often spoke of my anxiety in terms of distraction. If I had an appointment or meeting on the calendar, if I had a phone call to make (or knew that one was coming in), if I had a rehearsal to go to or a social event to attend, if there was somebody coming to clean the house, or repair the furnace, or deliver firewood, or share a meal, I would spend the day with feelings of anxiety that rose above my ambient background levels. And I would speak of being distracted.
As we began, Sally and I, to explore the Asperger’s Experience, it became more and more clear to us how strongly I was disturbed by certain aspects of the sensory or “outside” world. Rather than being a “slow-processing-speed computer,” a “blunt instrument” with “only a few crayons in my emotional crayon box,” it began to feel much more correct to think of myself as highly sensitive, extraordinarily sensitized, surpassingly observant, deeply aware, decidedly quick-thinking, and filled to overflowing with feelings, sensations, and emotion. While I might appear to some to be a “blunt instrument” from the outside, much of that came, not from an inherent dullness of being, but from the need to shut down in the face of overwhelm.
The Zombies of the Outerlands come clawing and snarling at my doorway and banging on my windows and I, in order to keep them out, bolt and bar the doors and pull down the steel shutters.
Overhead, bright, or peripheral lights, distant, overlapping, or out-of-place voices, fleeting, unexpected, or irritating textures and touches, disturbing or assaulting odors, strange or suspicious foods, social needs and expectations, faces that do not match words, obvious but unspoken emotional energies, expected and unexpected interruptions, asymmetrical bodies and faces, out of place elements, unnecessary or constant or obvious conversation, evident mistakes and imperfections, unannounced changes and unilateral decisions, affronts to reason and efficiency and logic, unwarranted stories and unfounded pronouncements, all of these and more are the zombies that chase me. “All the world will be your enemy,” Frith told El-Ahrairah. No wonder I shut down.
For most of my life, I didn’t realize that this was how it was for me. I can look back now and remember my distancing, my shutting down, my going away, my acting out, my hidden, smoldering fury. But there was no story of Asperger’s to wrap around it all, no lens through which to view myself that helped me to make sense of it, no compassionate space of allowing into which I might step, like the Prince of Rabbits, and begin to speak the truth of my experience. There was just “normal,” and “one of us,” and a vast ocean of expectations and stories about how people should act and what they should do and want and feel and think and believe and need, and I did my best to live into those expectations, and I hid the parts that did not fit.
The Outerlands is a boundless realm of Distracting Sensations and Expectant Others and I, fearing the zombies, and standing in front of a capacious closet filled with fashionable responses and outside needs and social expectations, waste an inordinate amount of brainpower deciding which “me” to wear when I go out.
Which is why I spend as much time as I can in my nice, comfy, zombie-proof home in the Innerlands.
(Part 6 Coming Soon)