Stark monochrome: black trees, white snow,
Gray skies above, dark ice below.
A freeze-frame landscape, time stood still
‘cross patchwork fields pervasive chill.
Laid in the hearth, upon the grate,
The source of Yuletide warmth awaits
Its kindling, when the flames will dance,
Bright heralds of the sun’s advance.
When rising at the turn of year,
Blood red! sun’s light comes running clear
With warmth as if from sacrifice
‘t were spilled to flood across the ice.
And here like frozen drops of blood
Are holly berries from the wood,
Nestled amid the leaves’ dark green,
Reflected by the lustrous sheen.
In your world the light is cheerful,
In my world the light is painful,
Sounds caress: a background murmur.
Sounds assault: a foreground clamor.
A crowd of friends; you rush to join them,
A crowd of friends; I can’t avoid them,
Slip into the conversation.
How to join the conversation?
You read the tone and body language,
Non-verbal cues: a foreign language,
Instinct means no mental load.
Too much input: overload.
You do these things without a thought,
I try to cope, my efforts fraught,
The world and you: a perfect fit.
The world and me: it won’t remit.
People often confuse me. Not intentionally, I’m sure. Just when I think I’m getting the hang of understanding NTs they come out with some seemingly simple comment where all the individual words make perfect sense but the meaning when combined into a sentence eludes me.
It usually involves metaphor or analogy, or else overgeneralization: something that is broadly accurate but where exceptions exist that I am unfortunately aware of. I say “unfortunately” because if I know that some statement is not true in all cases then I get hung up on that fact and go off on a mental tangent cataloging all the exceptions I can think of. Needless to say I then lose track of the conversation. I get an urge to correct the speaker, “helpfully” pointing out to them that what they have said is not strictly true, and offering examples to demonstrate this to them. In most instances I manage to suppress this urge these days – it isn’t usually well-received (to put it mildly!).
I’ve mentioned before how my literal interpretation can interfere with understanding even familiar figures of speech, but when they are unfamiliar it can be a serious impediment: I can get such a strong literal image of the phrase that it precludes consideration of alternative interpretations. I’ve become quite used to the expression of disbelief when I ask them what they mean – they might respond that it’s obvious. Not to me it isn’t. That’s why I asked.
All this assumes that I’m paying attention to whatever conversation is going on – I’ve got a habit of drifting off into my own thoughts if I lose interest in the subject at hand. I gaze into space and become very still, lost in thought until somebody deliberately attracts my attention, usually because they have just asked me something and I’ve not responded.So I have to ask them to repeat what they just said, and explain what they’ve been talking about for the last five minutes. A lot of the time they don’t bother and resume whatever topic was under discussion while I tune out again.
One thing I notice again and again about NT conversations is the amount of detail that is either omitted or assumed as common knowledge. They might be talking about something that was reported on the news, or some recent event, and I find it incredible how far they can take a line of reasoning without any solid foundation of fact, or even stating their underlying assumptions for the benefit of the other participants. I wonder if that’s because they don’t consciously analyze their subjective views, their unconscious prejudices. Indeed they appear resistant to any attempt to expound or elucidate these unspoken assumptions: I know that I rapidly lose the ears of my listeners when I attempt to build up an argument from basic principles. But unless I articulate the foundations on which I am basing my opinions, how can they understand my position? Perhaps they just don’t have the patience to appreciate a pedantic, pedagogical approach and dismiss it as grandiloquence.
Time pressure – a compulsion to complete a task or be somewhere by a fixed time – is a major cause of anxiety for me. As the deadline approaches I feel myself getting increasingly tense, short-tempered and twitchy: sure signs of anxiety. It can happen in any situation: at home, at work or out and about; when I am alone or in company.
I’ve never had any success trying to find a strategy for handling time pressure. I’m not even sure why I feel under such pressure and get so anxious. It might be a fear of failure – an aspect of perfectionism – but I’ve not been able to analyze it sufficiently. It’s pretty much impossible to take a detached, objective view of my own behavior when I’m in that state of mind.
The effects on me include a tendency to rush and miss details, and my concentration is impaired. If it’s one particular task I need to complete I will become increasingly manic and unreasonable in my attempts to resolve it in the time remaining. It’s worse when I’m around other people because I stop noticing things like tone of voice and body language that indicate that people are getting annoyed or offended by what they perceive as rudeness on my part.
It happened last night. We were taking part in a pub quiz. There were a number of people around the table which can be stressful because I need to maintain a space around me to feel comfortable. There was one question that we hadn’t got an answer for and time was running out to hand in the answer sheet. So I was feeling under pressure to both come up with the remaining answer – I feel compelled to complete tasks – and also to hand the sheet in before it was too late. It’s a wonder there wasn’t steam coming out of my ears! I managed to really annoy my wife with my repeated insistence that we put an answer down for the last question and hand the sheet in – apparently I appeared very impatient and rude, almost shouting at her, and I just didn’t notice what effect I was having.
It’s hard to explain just how strong the urges are when under time pressure: I’ve used the word compulsion because that is literally how it feels to me. I have no control over it, I am pulled along by the tide. It doesn’t matter how important or trivial the task to be completed is. It might be something big like getting my wife to one of her appointments on time or it might be something so small and unimportant that nobody else sees any importance in it. The key aspect is that to me there is no distinction. There is simply the fact that something has to be done by such-and-such a time.
Swirling snowflakes fall without a sound,
Blanketing the ground in folds of white.
Sitting here I watch as patterns form:
Fleeting moments captured by my sight.
Morning comes: the rising of the sun
Illuminates the scene, clear and bright.
Wrap up warm in winter coat and hat,
And step out on this stage, set by night.
Early birds have left the only tracks,
Out despite the season’s frosty bite.
Rambling over heath, mind open wide,
Calm comes streaming in upon the light.