Sticking to Small Talk

It’s often remarked by autistic people that we don’t “do” small talk. We’d rather not talk at all, or talk endlessly about one of our interests — there is no middle ground. We’re all different, of course, so this isn’t an absolute, but it does resonate with me. But I’ve been thinking about one way in which I sometimes prefer small talk, because it’s more comfortable than self-disclosure.

I don’t necessarily mean disclosure of my autism; I just mean any kind of revelation of who I am and what is important to me. Small talk isn’t my strong suit — I’d much prefer a deep, intense conversation about one of my passions — but it’s safer to stay on blander, neutral ground.

And that’s because all too often my excitement or intensity about a subject has put people off. I’ve learned how not to totally monopolize the conversation, so it’s not that; it’s just that a lot of people seem to get “spooked” by too much enthusiasm. (Their definition of “too much,” that is.) Similarly, the specific thing I’m enthusiastic about has often led to rejection: it’s too nerdy, too arcane, too incomprehensible. I’ve learned to introduce those parts of myself slowly and deliberately, and only to people I expect to (read: want to) interact with again in the future.

So I get impatient with small talk in a social setting, but I also get nervous that someone will ask a deeper question and try to get to know me when I’m not ready for that. The specifics of the setting matter, too; I am very conscious of people around me who might overhear what I am saying and take things out of context. There’s also the question of whether we have enough time (and enough mutual interest) to really get into the subject and truly understand each other, because most of my interests, beliefs and opinions do not make good soundbites. They need some shared context, in many cases.

But mostly it’s about trust, and that takes time to build. In the meantime, I’m likely to stick to small talk until I figure out where we stand.

(Addendum: I should add that I do have some go-to subjects that function well as small talk with most people, but are also strong interests of mine. I can talk about my dogs all day, for example, as well as just about any aspect of nature. Luckily this includes the weather, which is a common topic most people bring up. 🙂 This makes it easier to handle these sorts of conversations while feeling out what else I could go into detail about.)

Authentic Autistic Cooking

I have never liked to cook. I did it a little back when I lived alone, and a little more when I was with my first husband; he didn’t really like to cook either, so we agreed to split the job. But my current husband loves to cook, and, well, I like to let him. 🙂

The only problem is, he works in the evenings three days a week, which means I need to fend for myself for dinner. Sometimes he makes me something in advance, other times I get take-out, and yet other times I eat leftovers or some frozen dinner type of thing. But none of that is ideal, and one consequence (besides me not eating as healthily as I wanted) is a feeling of dependency on my husband; when he isn’t home, I’m not sure what to do, which leads to increased stress. It took me a little while to pinpoint this, but when I did I knew something needed to change.

But cooking? I have never really enjoyed cooking.

For one thing, I like to have clear instructions when I am first learning something. Once I’m comfortable, I can start to wing it, but I don’t like to do that right away. The trouble is, when trying to follow a detailed recipe, I’d inevitably run into ingredients (or sometimes tools) that I didn’t have, so I’d have to adapt it. That involves evaluating what I do have, and making decisions. This quickly becomes overwhelming. Of course, I could always choose a recipe ahead of time and make sure I had everything I needed, but somehow that never seemed to happen. (Good old executive functioning…)

So I decided that if I was going to start cooking for myself on nights I was alone, what I needed was a) step-by-step instructions, and b) the knowledge that I had all the ingredients required. Enter meal subscription boxes.

There are a lot of those out there now; you may have heard of Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, but there are several others. After a bit of research I ended up choosing Sun Basket, because I liked their ethic of using organic and ethically/sustainably sourced ingredients. I also liked that I could choose which meals I received, so I wouldn’t be surprised by a main ingredient that I absolutely abhorred. I don’t have too many food issues, personally, but there are some things — eggplant, for example — whose texture I just can’t take.

So I just got my first box this week, and cooked my first meal last night. This…was a lot of work. With a few small exceptions, what they send you are raw ingredients, so that you are cooking entirely from scratch. That’s one of the things I liked about this plan, but it is quite a lot more than I am used to doing. Also, while the recipes do include timing instructions (while the X is baking, prepare the Y, etc.) at least this first time, things didn’t work out exactly to plan. So it was a bit of a scramble at times.

I also have some sensory issues around getting my hands sticky, or slimy, or in contact with raw meat. So I was frequently stopping to scrub my hands free of oil, lemon juice, and/or bits of food as I went. (That probably didn’t help with the timing bit.) On the other hand, I did enjoy the sensory experience of smelling everything as I chopped and cooked it, as well as the visual display of all the fresh ingredients on the cutting board.

And in the end…this was by far the best meal I have ever cooked to date. The mix of flavors was very nice, and there was plenty of food. Beyond that, I had a fantastic sense of accomplishment from making this meal, as well as a pleasant sort of fatigue that left me very relaxed after I ate it. I’m looking forward to trying a different dish tonight, and tomorrow my husband and I are going to make one together. It’s only been one night, but so far this seems like a great solution to my original problem of what to do for dinner on my own.

Impatient for Change

No, really. I am.

I have been itching to try new things, learn new skills, begin new ventures. But I’ve been trying to temper that with the knowledge that I am already about to do all of those things, because I am starting school in a month. I’ve still been spending time with online classes and beginning new projects, but I keep having to remind myself that my available time will be dramatically impacted by two college classes, and I have no idea how much.

Will coursework just replace the existing time I spend on self-directed reading and learning, or will it be more? Will I get frustrated not having all of the time I currently have for those self-directed projects, or will I find new areas of inspiration from doing my coursework? How will it feel taking classes that actually have deadlines and consequences, rather than free or inexpensive online courses that I can dip in and out of as I want? How will it feel to be studying social work/human services as an autistic person who really wants to help people but finds social interaction awkward?

I won’t know the answers to any of those questions until I start, and I’m getting really impatient to do that. Actually, I was already impatient back in — holy cow, it was February; how time flies — when I enrolled, but now that it’s only a month away I am really ready to get started. I’ve got my textbooks, a spiral-bound notebook for each a class, and I’m ready to do this thing!

But I still have a month. So I’ve been trying to set goals for this month that will get me ready to really get started — I want to make sure I am relaxed and rested, and I want to establish some new habits that I can hopefully keep going. One of those new habits is committing to a weekly blog post, of which this is the first. (Yes, it’s Sunday so it took me all week, but I’m hoping to get some momentum going!) Another is establishing a daily spiritual practice that is sustainable and can help keep me grounded as I move forward. But as much as I’ve been wanting to try new things lately, establishing new habits is really difficult.

Some of the difficulty probably comes from trying to adjust my existing routines. I don’t really have a rigid daily routine, where I have to do things in the same order or at the same times, but there are certain segments of the day where I feel like some things fit and other things don’t. For example, while I take walks multiple times during the day, other forms of exercise really only feel right in the morning. So does spiritual practice; if I want to establish a daily routine of meditation or prayer, it needs to be in the morning. But then, both of those get disrupted quite easily if I have a bad night’s sleep and don’t wake up as early as usual, or if I have something else going on that day that breaks into that time. I feel a lot of resistance toward simply doing them at a different time that day, and unfortunately once that habit gets broken it’s very difficult to reestablish it.

So I am relying on lists, reminders, and a new journal (with sections for yearly, monthly, and weekly goals) to keep me on track this time. And I am allowing myself some flexibility in just what I do for my spiritual practice; it doesn’t have to be the same thing every day, or take the same amount of time. Same with what I focus on each day for this month — there are some things I’d like to finish up before I get busy with school, but I also want to avoid putting too much pressure on myself in this last month of summer break.

Because things are going to change soon. And I can’t wait to get started.

Conferences And All They Entail

Yesterday, I attended the AANE (Asperger/Autism Network) 2017 Spring Conference, which was titled Hiding in Plain Sight: Shining Light on Women with Asperger/Autism Profiles. It seemed primarily geared toward professionals working with people on the autism spectrum, but two of the keynote speakers were autistic women, and there were quite a few of us in the audience as well.

VoxVisual wrote up an excellent recap at her blog already, which is great, because I am still too wiped out to be that organized. <grin> And honestly, I don’t know that I would have too much to add when it comes to describing the speakers, the venue, and the overall experience. So go read her summary, if you want to get an idea of what the conference was about.

(And yay, we got to meet! 🙂 That was really cool, even if we had to postpone dinner plans due to exhaustion.)

But while I don’t want to duplicate her efforts in recapping the conference, I do want to write about my subjective experience of planning for, getting to, and physically attending it. First of all, I was selected to read an essay I had submitted, as one of six personal accounts of being a woman on the autism spectrum. (You can read that essay here, if you like.) So even before conference day, I was interacting with the organizers to polish up my essay and make sure I was ready to present it. The volunteers I emailed and talked with were very good about setting expectations and answering all of my questions — clearly they (as women on the spectrum themselves) were aware of some of the anxieties that might arise.

The week before the conference day, I made sure to print out all of the information I would need — directions, schedule, a clean copy of my essay to read — and make a checklist of other things I would need to bring. I wanted to bring plenty of water, for example, and I would be bringing my own lunch. Lunch was included in the conference registration, but having recently cut wheat out of my diet, I was concerned about the gluten content of the sandwiches offered. Besides, I figured the day would be stressful enough without subjecting my body to unfamiliar food (which doesn’t always agree with me).

Google Maps told me the drive would be about two hours each way, but I would be driving in toward Boston (and back out again) around rush hour, so I gave myself extra time. It ended up taking me about 2 1/2 hours each direction; I left home around 6 am and got to the conference center (after parking and making my way through several wings of the hospital building) a little after 8:30. The first speaker didn’t start until 9, so that was perfect.

Check-in was easy, but walking into a large crowd of people outside the venue was disorienting. And it wasn’t just the people: there were tables with food and coffee, other tables with pamphlets and fliers for the organizations who put together the conference, and too many other things to look at. So I went in to find my seat; at least I knew I was supposed to sit down in the front, and when I got there someone recognized my name tag and directed me to a seat.

Since I was early, though, I stood back up to see if I could find Vox. We had told each other what we would be wearing, and shown each other pictures, so this turned out to be easy. 🙂 I felt like we immediately clicked, and spent the rest of the time before 9 chatting about several different things. (As would come up later at lunch, with some other women, socializing with other Aspies/autistics can be soooo much easier!)

I went back to my seat just before 9, where I met a couple of the organizers and some of the other speakers. I felt a little exposed sitting in the front row, right in front of the podium where most of the speakers would be standing (and therefore where the camera for the live-stream would be pointed). This didn’t become evident until the second speaker, though, because the first was himself being live-streamed from the UK. Being in the front row also meant I was looking up most of the time in order to see the slides, or up at a different angle to look at the speakers’ faces. The venue was fairly bright, too, and sometimes the sound was too loud, while other times it was too quiet.

By the noon lunch break, I had finished all of my water (I was very warm for most of the day, as well) and was developing a low-level tension headache. My neck and shoulders were tight, something that had crept up on me without my really noticing it. I think it was all of the ambient noise from the crowd — people turning pages as they followed along with the speakers in their printed slide packets, occasional whispered conversations, people moving around. These are the same sorts of things that had stressed me out while working in an open-plan office, things I didn’t even consciously notice until I learned I was autistic and tried wearing noise-canceling headphones. I guess I still don’t notice them until they’ve built up into tension and pain.

(As an aside, it was interesting to read Vox’s observations of the reactions from the audience, and what things seemed to surprise or interest — or upset — them. Since I was in the front row, I didn’t get a perspective on that.)

Lunch conversation was great, and it was good to get some food. (I also snagged some more water.) It probably wasn’t the best idea when I suggested we seek out a table in the larger hospital cafeteria to eat — it was busy, and sometimes hard to hear each other over the dull roar — but it wasn’t clear where else we could have settled down to eat. The rooms near the conference venue were already pretty full by the time we all got our food.

Settling back down for the afternoon, I was already pretty fried. As I mentioned earlier, I was really warm during most of the day. It was a very cold day, but I thought I had dressed in a way that struck a balance between keeping warm outside and not being too bundled up inside. Apparently I should have worn something a little lighter. It also didn’t help that I was scheduled to present my essay in the mid-afternoon, so I had most of the day to be nervous in anticipation of that. My nerves weren’t too bad in the morning, but during Liane Holliday Willey’s talk after lunch, it was all I could think about.

I also felt like my voice was going to be hoarse from all the talking over lunch and during breaks — but I didn’t want to drink too much water before I had to talk, because I hate the feeling of having to pee while trying to focus on something else. So I decided it was probably for the best for my mouth to be a little dry; it would probably help my voice sound a little clearer than if I had too much moisture.

(Seriously, these are the logistical practicalities that run through my head all the time. All. The. Time.)

In the end, I was very happy with the way my presentation went. My knees were shaking, but my voice wasn’t, and I had a podium on which to steady my hands. After I was done, I was very happy to be sitting in the front row, because I only had a few steps to walk before I was back at my seat and out of the public eye. And I definitely felt my shoulders relax — though not completely — when it was over.

Maybe because of that feeling of finally-now-I-can-relax, I kind of floated through the last talk of the day. It also was a bit less relevant for me, as it related more to parenthood, but I did enjoy some aspects of it. Mostly I was just getting hit by the cumulative weight of all of the sensory input of the venue, the social interactions during lunch and breaks, and the cognitive processing of listening to all of the talks, as well as all of the logistical planning required to navigate through the day. I managed to have a few more — really excellent, I have to say — interactions after the event was over, but yeah, I was very much done.

My brain was foggy with all of that by the time I left, and I still had a 2 1/2 hour drive home — over half of it in the dark. At least in this direction I was leaving the city traffic behind, and most of the night driving was on familiar terrain. I had listened to an audiobook on the way in, but by evening I was talked out and needed music. So I put all of my Dar Williams albums on shuffle and sang along with her for the whole way home. 🙂

Overall, this was a great day, and I enjoyed the conference immensely. While I think there may have been some ways in which the venue might have been improved as far as sensory issues — Vox mentioned several in her post — I also feel like a lot of the things that eventually wore me out were just…going to wear me out. I also think I might have been better off sitting somewhere in the back for the morning, and only down in front during the talk right before my presentation. I would have felt a bit less “on display” and also would have been farther away from the epicenter of all the light and sound.

I feel like there is so much more to say — for example, I really, really enjoyed listening to the keynote speakers and the other first-person accounts, and think they provided a lot of good information and perspective, especially to those in the audience who weren’t on the spectrum. But I wanted to write this up as an example of how…involved it can be to attend something like this as an autistic person. And now I’m going to enjoy a nice quiet weekend to unwind, because I can. 🙂

Traditional Music and Change

My taste in music is eclectic (like so much about me), but one style I have always loved is traditional Irish music. Scottish music, too — bagpipes are awesome — but I grew up listening to Irish music with my dad, and so the songs are a lot more familiar to me. And one thing about traditional music is that while you might hear familiar songs from different artists, they’ll never be exactly the same.

It’s a bit like listening to a live version of a favorite rock song, but more so. With live recordings, there are usually changes in the delivery of the song — different emphasis on words here and there, maybe a change of speed, changes in the instrumentation or backing vocals, that kind of thing. Some artists change the lyrics slightly, but generally not by much.

I often don’t like live versions of songs I love, unless the live version was the first one I heard. I want to hear the familiar cadence that I’ve memorized, that I sing along to in the car. I don’t want to have to learn a new version or stumble along thinking I know it, only to find that it’s changed. Favorite songs shouldn’t change.

But with traditional music it’s different. I love discovering new renditions of my favorite songs, especially when someone manages to create something completely new out of the familiar. Traditional Irish songs can have multiple versions that are all just as traditional, with significant differences in both lyrics and melody. But it’s not just that there are multiple “acceptable” versions — instead, the very practice of changing the song is at the heart of traditional music. It comes out of an oral tradition, after all, with lots of regional variation.

It might seem a little contradictory to call something “traditional” when it incorporates constant change…but it works. I think that’s because there’s still always something familiar about the song that maintains continuity. It’s still that song.

And here’s why I started thinking about this last night. As an autistic person, I often have problems adjusting to change. Change feels threatening when I don’t know what to expect. But I think listening to Irish music has helped me learn how to appreciate change instead of resisting it. Maybe it’s just because I do know what to expect: I know ahead of time that this new rendition I’m listening to will not be the same as others I have heard. I know to expect change.

That may sound like I’m still resisting change, because I’m only accepting it when I know it’s coming — and there may be some truth to that. But looking at it this way does serve to remind me that change occurs everywhere, so maybe expecting an element of change in life will allow me to appreciate both the new and the familiar as simply variations on a theme.

Thanks, But It’s Just Tuesday For Me

I don’t really do Valentine’s Day. In fact, my husband and I tend to forget about it completely. (The day after, though, is our dog’s birthday, and she gets spoiled. Can’t forget that.) I know some people really enjoy having a special day to celebrate their relationships, but we just haven’t felt a particular need for one.

But my lack of affection for the holiday goes beyond that. It’s not just because the modern celebration of Valentine’s Day is marked by persistent advertisements for sparkly jewelry, mass-produced chocolates and cliched greeting cards, although that consumeristic element annoys me. And don’t get me started on all the gendered expectations around “dating” traditions, which seem to get thrown into high relief on this holiday. No, mostly it goes back to my memories of Valentine’s Day in grade school, and how much I hated it.

In the early grades, V-Day was a whole-class thing; everyone made cards for everyone, and placed them into little folded-paper “mailboxes” that we hung at the front of our desks. This wasn’t terrible, but it was awkward. I never knew what to write to anyone, and the cards I got were equally as vague. It never felt like any of the cards I got were actually written to me (and, to be fair, the ones I wrote were probably just as devoid of connection).

Later, of course, when kids were starting to pair off, Valentine’s Day at school started to take on the qualities of the romantic holiday adults celebrate. In junior high and high school, kids could buy candies or roses to have delivered to their “sweethearts” during class. I was always torn between terror that one of those deliveries would be for me — thus bringing me unwanted attention — and despair that no one would ever think of me in that way. To my memory, my first wish remained intact; I never received a Valentine’s delivery in school. But every hour of that whole day, each year, I would feel torn in half by those diverging desires.

None of this is meant to elicit sympathy; it’s not meant as a “poor, lonely me” story. It’s an illustration of the larger pattern of how I see this holiday playing out for large swathes of the population. Even as adults, people are bombarded with messages about how people are giving their loved ones gifts in a celebration of romance, and isn’t it wonderful that everyone’s so happy, and…aren’t you pathetic if you’re left out. I mean, isn’t that the flip side of seeing the holiday portrayed as if everyone is happily (and heterosexually, I might add) partnered up?

At least the public display of Valentine’s-worthiness that marked Valentine’s Day in school (I think some students even did these kinds of gift-delivery things in college, too) segues into something more private in adult life — but to me the holiday is still tinged with this worthier-than-thou feeling that leaves out so many people. And once I started to have my own romantic relationships, it never felt right for me to abandon my standing critique of Valentine’s Day and wholeheartedly embrace the gift-giving spectacle. It felt like that would be a sort of “too bad for those suckers, I’ve got mine now” attitude.

I feel the need to say at this point that I’m mainly talking about the cultural trappings of Valentine’s Day — the advertising, in particular, and practices like those I saw in school, where public displays of relationship status are encouraged in a way that (I think) is alienating to others. I don’t have a problem with anyone’s personal celebration of the holiday, or happy feelings on receiving gifts from a loved one. I like gifts, too. 🙂 But I also want to say that it can be a really crappy day for people who are feeling lonely, or who aren’t lonely but don’t fit the mainstream sexual/romantic relationship mold and are tired of having people think they should. Ultimately I just think it’s ironic that a holiday supposedly about love can feel so mean.

So a happy Tuesday to everyone who isn’t into Valentine’s, for whatever reason. And tomorrow you can celebrate my dog’s birthday instead. 🙂

Tracking Myself

I like tracking things.

Right now I’m not talking about following animal signs in the woods, although I like doing that, too. 🙂 Instead I’m talking about tracking things like my activity/exercise, my water intake, my reading habits and my spending. Noting something down (or seeing it recorded using an activity tracker) is motivating for me. It gives me the same good feeling as checking something off a to-do list.

I’m thinking about this now because I just got a new activity tracker. When my old one was starting to fall apart I considered not replacing it, because there are also good arguments (that I’ve made to myself) for not quantifying everything in your life, but when I went a week without it I really missed it. I like seeing the trends and statistics that it gives me, and I do find that it motivates me to move more.

Tracking some things also reminds me of who I am. That probably sounds weird, but I’m thinking of how I track the books I’ve read — glancing back over the list reminds me of different subjects I’ve been interested in. And seeing the whole eclectic collection reminds me of who I am in full.

For similar reasons, I keep a file on my computer with a timeline of major things that happened each year. <Reminds self to update that for 2016…> I feel like I forget parts of myself sometimes, like things that I’ve done, if I’m not doing them right now. “Oh, right, I was in that community chorus for two years.” Things like that, and sometimes even bigger parts of my life, just slip my mind once they’re over.

So I like keeping track of things, sometimes for multiple reasons. Keeping track of money flow in and out is just practical, for example, but it also helps me to feel more relaxed about that area of my life, because I know what’s going on with it. And like having to-do lists, tracking things in an app or on my computer helps keep me on track (no pun intended) and supplements my memory — plus I like having data in which to find trends and patterns. Even if I don’t do anything further with it, it gives me a sense of accomplishment, a visual “trail” to show how much I’ve moved my body, what I’ve been reading, how I’ve been living. It reminds me of me.

Weekend Overload

Some days I don’t have too much to say. Last Friday, for example, was a fairly routine day with nothing much to blog about. Saturday and Sunday, however, were days where I had a lot going on, but not enough energy left afterwards to write about it. It was a pretty busy, mostly good but also draining, kind of weekend.

Saturday my husband and I went out shopping. We had planned to go in the afternoon, but there was snow forecasted for later in the day and we wanted to get back before the roads got bad. So we started out a little rushed, but I was looking forward to getting this stuff done.

The first stop on our trip was a local department store, where I wanted to pick up a new pair of jeans and a few other things. That whole experience was extremely draining in an aggravating, over-zealous sales clerk kind of way. I hate clothes shopping in general, and I just want to be left alone to figure out what I want. On top of that, I was looking for men’s jeans (because I’ve basically written off women’s jeans at this point; don’t get me started) and I didn’t want to explain myself. I just wanted to do my shopping, but this one saleswoman wouldn’t take “No, thank you” for an answer and kept trying to be “helpful.”

So I was frazzled by the time we left that store (but happy I had found a pair of jeans I liked), and then we went food shopping. I have recently altered my diet to try to avoid some digestive issues that have been bothering me, so instead of my husband doing the shopping on his own he wanted me to come with him to pick out some new foods. At least here there weren’t salespeople hovering over our every move, but I find grocery stores overwhelming on a sensory level. It’s mostly the sheer volume of STUFF to look at and process. Plus there are bright lights, obstacles to avoid, and decisions to make about this or that brand.

We picked up a lot of good stuff, though, and got back home just as the snow started. By this point we were both starving, which didn’t help my energy levels, but then the rest of the day I could just relax and get some energy back.

Usually we try to do errands like that on Saturdays so that Sunday is free as a real decompression day before the next work week starts. This Sunday, though, we had afternoon plans. I had a local Asperger/autism support group to attend, and he had a meeting with his friend and business partner, who lives close to where my group meets. Both of us were looking forward to our activities, but the place we were going is almost an hour away, so all in all it’s close to a four-hour outing whenever we go, and in wintertime that means driving back in the dark.

My group had a good talk (and I got to vent about the combination of social anxiety and sensory overload I had experienced the previous day) and my husband had a good meeting. It started snowing again on the drive home; it wasn’t sticking to the road yet, but visibility was bad at times. By the time we got home I was again feeling pretty burned out from the driving and two hours of discussion.

The good thing is, my husband had just bought me my first weighted blanket as a present. 🙂 So I curled up under that while he cooked dinner, and by the time we ate I was feeling much more relaxed. Those things are really amazing; mine is only 4 pounds and doesn’t feel like it’s all that heavy when I first spread it over me. But it has such a soothing effect — and more so if I double it up. I let my husband try it after dinner, and he said, “It feels like a hug.”

Even with the blanket, though, all of that is probably why I didn’t sleep very well last night; I had a lot of tension in my body (especially my jaw) and my brain was definitely over-processing. I’ve been trying to take it easy this afternoon, and reminding myself that I have another three-day weekend coming up, when I don’t have any particular plans to go out. If I were still working a job where I had to be in an office with other people every day, I would be in for a very bad week.

It Is Raining in My Brain

Rainy days make me sleepy. Rainy/icy winter days make me want to hibernate for a good long time.

I had a pretty good day despite the weather — decent work day, great session with my therapist (though that did require driving in the aforementioned rainy/icy weather), and some interesting reading on gender that is going to be swirling around my mind for a while. But now I’m just done.

I was hoping to get in some good project time after finishing work, or put in a little time on  some training I am doing on a new area of testing, but I am having trouble stringing together enough words for this short blog post. I describe this feeling sometimes as my brain being “fuzzed out.” Thoughts become a static fog, like a three-dimensional version of old-fashioned “snow” on a TV screen when channels weren’t broadcasting. (Since I know I’m dating myself, here is a YouTube video of TV static.)

Sensory overload can trigger this for me, as can mental fatigue, and apparently when it is raining I have a much lower threshold for it. Fun.

So I am going to relax now, maybe do some light reading instead of study, and maybe play a game for a while. Happy Tuesday!

Of Errands and Kingfishers

Today was a weird mix. I had to go out and run errands in the middle of the day, and that was draining — and a bit frustrating, as one of the stores I wanted to go to was closed because of the holiday. (I had known that was a possibility, but even so, I do not like having The Plan change.) Those errands did include picking up some new notebooks and a whiteboard that I am hoping will help me organize my various creative projects, so that made the outing a great success in the grand scheme of things.

Then I also had a lot of time today for some of that creative work itself, including some writing on a novel that is still in the formative stages, and some practice drawing. I’ve been wanting to get better at drawing, as it’s something I’ve always found difficult (and therefore always thought I sucked at). I started sitting outside and drawing things in nature back in November, but as the weather has gotten colder that is a lot less appealing. So today I decided to draw something based on a photograph of a belted kingfisher (a type of bird) that I took back in June.

My biggest problem with drawing is perfectionism. If I’m looking at the thing I’m drawing, then looking at my sketch, I’m disappointed. I’m not capturing every detail perfectly, I’m clumsy with the pencil, I’m inadvertently smudging things with my hand. But when I go back and look at my drawings later, I think they’re not half bad.

I’ve also always drawn with too heavy a hand; elementary school art teachers tried to teach me how to sketch the initial lines lightly, but I never got it. Maybe it’s because I often find that my fingers don’t do exactly what I want them to do unless I am pressing down a little harder.  Since learning I’m Autistic, I have wondered if this and my related difficulty with handwriting (I still have to concentrate in order to make Bs and 3s correctly) have to do with the fine motor skill issues that often go along with autism. This is something I’m trying to stay aware of now.

So here is my kingfisher. I thought about including the original photo for comparison, but given that comparison with reality is exactly where my insecurity and perfectionism about my drawing lies, I’m not going to. 🙂Pencil drawing of a belted kingfisher (bird) on a branch.