My wife and I started walking during the pandemic, a habit we continue. It’s a good thing, and I get frustrated when we can’t. We aim for daily, and usually do at least five days of the week. We’ve walked in the dark, in the rain, and during beautiful sunsets on perfect days.
It’s a good thing.
But, I like to talk. My wife is one of the few people who can listen to my rambling. The flip side is that she understands very little of it. I don’t say that to be mean; it’s probably partly why she can listen. If she tries too hard to understand, it’s a bit overwhelming. Other people have told me this. (Ironically, I would get overwhelmed quickly if someone did that to me.) My kids tell me I’m not as bad as my mother, which elicits a, “Thank God” reaction, although I fear I’m getting worse as I get older.
We have decided, or “wrestled” over what the boundaries are for discussion on our walks. In general, we’ve worked on boundaries, as it’s become more apparent to us both that those were not modeled well for us from our parents or learned at any point in our lives. My wife’s boundaries are stricter than mine, by far. She can stick to them to an extreme degree. I’d argue too extreme, and I was relieved this week when our joint therapist convinced her that she should listen to me discuss how she can help me with autism.
I felt like the boundary forbidding that was both unfair and hurtful. The key, or the compromise, is to have me choose three specific areas of focus. That might take a year to figure out. Maybe that’s the point. What a clever therapist if that’s true. No, I can do it. Compromise is good. Extremes are not.
Because I have had enough experiences in my life of being left out, picked on, and so forth, most boundaries cause me to assume the worst, a “here-we-go-again” attitude that this is, yet again, someone who doesn’t like me. That is not a uniquely ASD problem, but I don’t think it makes it easier.
For that reason, I fear setting boundaries with another person will make them feel rejected. In one of my supremely more ridiculously autistic endeavors this past year, I spent about six months trying to figure out how to create or clarify a boundary, only to fail. It’s hilarious, except for the fact it was disastrous. I really can’t explain it apart from the fear of rejection, a result of rejection in the past and present, coupled with autistic communication problems.
These were exacerbated by long-term burnout and, in my strong opinion, a lack of repeatedly-requested support from key people. I literally could have asked simple questions and gotten an answer, but I thought that would be impolite and possibly upset the person. In hindsight, it maybe shouldn’t have mattered. It’s one of those ironic moments where I went a bit too far in the other direction and bluntness would have been better. But, in this case, the risk, I felt, was too great, and that was my biggest mistake.
There is an online game I’ve played for years. Two people I’ve known for over ten years invited me to their wedding. Even though we’d never met, I considered going. But, I just could not, mentally or physically, figure out how to do it as it would have been a long trip.
This was months ago, and I’m still not getting on to play the game because I haven’t figured out how to tell them I’m not coming to the wedding that already happened! I wanted to go. I really did! How can I convince them of that and not sound insincere? I tend to question other people’s sincerity, though I know that’s problematic.
Our conversations do tend to be one-sided, but I have convinced myself it’s because my wife doesn’t want to answer many of my questions. I’ve been getting better at accepting that’s how she is, but it can be frustrating. It’s the price to pay for having her listen at all. It’s the price for anyone to listen to me.
Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for me to ask a question without remembering she hasn’t been studying the topic for five years. She maybe has been hearing me ramble about it that long, but she never did know what I was talking about to start with. This is something to keep in mind.
When I walk alone, I still have conversations. I do with myself and with other people. At some point, I realized when I talk to my therapists, I’ve already spoken to them several times in preparation. Preplanning conversation often is helpful, but when it doesn’t go as planned, it may be more frustrating. In my mind, I don’t understand why the other person doesn’t understand me immediately. In reflection, I recognize the error. And, it’s one of many I’m doing my best to fix. Being in burnout mode also makes communication much more difficult. Oh, I am waiting to see about December. Maybe I will just avoid family. Yikes.
And, now she enters the room, asks me a question, and I’m completely frazzled. Such is life, but now you don’t have to read so much! Maybe.
Ah, she wants to know if I would like to watch a movie. She says one other thing, and I say to stop, it’s too much information. Yes, I don’t want two things at once, even though I’ll give you twenty. I’m not trying to live by different rules; the two you tell me are added to the twenty (or more) already floating in my head. Did I tell you I also have ADHD? What time is it? Did that medication wear off already? I need to get that post up to about squirrels.
Wait, I make her listen to me read this post, part of it. She won’t read my blog. She listens and bristles occasionally at the phrasing of some sentences that she thinks are negative towards her. I push back, saying she hasn’t gotten to the part where I explain why my thinking was wrong! I also wonder if she’s conditioned now in a way I didn’t realize. We are working on it together. My autism (with a healthy dose of ADHD) has caught up with both of us now.
Anyway, I ask her what she wanted to do, refereeing to the movie.
“I’ll do whatever you want to do,” was her answer.
NO!!!!!!!! OMG, don’t ever give me a question that open-ended.
She didn’t want Star Wars, so we agreed on Marvel, whatever is next in all that web of movies. Maybe I can get through one. It’s a good test. The last couple of times, I lasted a few minutes. My past trauma has been so overwhelming this year that I haven’t been able to watch a PG-13 movie. Let’s see what happens.
Walking significantly increases brain activity!
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