Playing it Safe

Playing it Safe

Social situations are a minefield in which the slightest misstep can result in things blowing up in your face. I picture the situation as a narrow path – the “safe” area in terms of what I can say or do – with increasing danger of stepping on a mine – upsetting somebody – the farther I venture from the path.

Safe Path image © Ben Forshaw 2012

Since I am risk-averse I do not often test the boundaries of what people find to be acceptable behavior – mapping out the danger area – and when I do, I tend to do so carefully and deliberately in the hope that any negative reaction will be small enough for me to handle.

I find it difficult because different people have wildly different standards of what they deem to be acceptable. Not only that, but the boundaries move depending on context. There is only a small patch of common ground on which the majority of people I encounter socially can agree.

My starting position with somebody I have not met before is to play it very safe – speak when spoken to, no slang or swearing, no physical contact. Over time I will observe how they act towards me and others, and slowly begin to introduce those behaviors that they demonstrate – the assumption here is that they are less likely to be offended by something that they do themselves.

This is not an infallible method. That’s people for you – they’re not always rational, logical or consistent. It can be a case of “do as I say, not as I do” – how confusing! But slowly, gingerly, I can explore the envelope and work out just how far I am able to take things with those I know reasonably well.

2011 Retrospective

2011 Retrospective

Goodbye 2011, you were a year of new experiences, happiness and sadness.

Last year started cold. We were snowed in for a week – too icy to drive – and I had to walk to the local stores, hoping their deliveries had got through. Bread was in short supply. But it was so enjoyable walking through the snow, the absence of traffic on the roads, everybody on foot. Parents towing their children on sleds. A peaceful, happy time.

I started working part-time as a barman at the local pub, just to help out at first. I took to it like a duck to water and now, almost a whole year later, I’m still there. It’s been a great help as it gave me a way to talk to people, initially within the boundaries of the job and then, as I got to know the regular customers better, beyond it. By now I think of the people there as a kind of extended family – I feel accepted and wonderfully comfortable among them.

My main job as a software developer continued to be a source of great pleasure – interesting, challenging projects and opportunities to learn new skills and technologies. I’m incredibly lucky to get paid for doing something I enjoy so much. I’m not financially motivated – the work is its own reward for me, but obviously I need to earn money to live.

I started this blog in July, initially just to write about my day-to-day experiences through the lens of Aspergers Syndrome but soon expanded to become a means to express my feelings, whether through my attempts at poetry or through prose. One unexpected result was that I’ve connected through blogging with other people on the autism spectrum which has helped me both to understand myself better and to feel less isolated by my differences – I now know I’m not the only one whose brain functions in this special way.

The past few months has seen times of great strain in the relationship between my wife and me. Various events, my Aspergers and her deteriorating health have combined at times to set us at loggerheads. When communication breaks down everything else starts to tumble after it in an avalanche of self-destructive behavior. But through our mutual love we have found the will and the strength to keep working on our marriage and, although I cannot say with all honesty that everything is fine right now, we are past the lowest point and building up again.

I saw the year out with a New Year’s Eve shift in the pub – 6pm to 3:30am. It was physically tiring but emotionally exhilarating. I can recall noticing the clock around 8pm and the next time I looked it was well past 11! It truly felt as if only minutes had passed, yet it was more than three hours later. An enjoyable busy night.

Overall despite the lows it was a good year and seems to have passed so quickly. Hello 2012, I wonder what you’ll bring. Interesting times, I’m sure.

Getting Through

Getting Through

I have times when I feel such utter frustration and helplessness, times when I feel buried under a growing mountain of pending tasks, times when almost everything I touch seems to go wrong or fall apart and I don’t know what to do to fix it, times when I just feel trapped by the flow of events – pulled in so many different directions that I feel dizzy and overwhelmed: adrift.

At times like these there are some things that help me get through, none more so than the support of kind words from friends. That gives me just enough of a boost – a positive feeling of hope and self-worth – that I can face the situation and start to deal with it instead of feeling dwarfed and powerless by the terrific enormity of what is facing me. I need to have my mind at peace to handle difficult, stressful situations – this is a great challenge to achieve and I often need help. That little bit of support, telling me that I’m doing OK and I’ve got somebody behind me who can catch me if I fall.

That’s all I need to reduce my anxiety and insecurity to a level I can manage, a level at which I can think straight. Because when my mind’s thrashing about, floundering, wasting energy in an attempt to keep afloat, it can escape my notice that I’m not really out of my depth – I’m just so flustered and panicky that I don’t realise I can touch the bottom and instead feel as if I’m drowning. That’s such an unpleasant sensation. The relief I feel when somebody helps me find my feet and steady myself is immense.

The Best Card Ever

The Best Card Ever

I’ve been meaning to put this picture up since my birthday last month. It’s the card I got from a couple of good friends. I loved it when I opened the envelope and read the front: “I like having a friend like you. You’re different…”

It might sound silly but I felt really happy – not just accepted but liked for who I was. I think it was the perfect card for me. I don’t usually pay much attention to cards beyond reading who sent them but in this case I made an exception – this one really means something to me and I’m going to hold on to it.

I was in one of my low phases at the time when I got this card and it comforted and cheered me immensely. So a big thank you and lots of love to “B” & “M” who sent me this card – you know who you are…