Friday, 31 March 2019
Another Friday night.
I’ve been having some conversations, if you wish to call sharing words in e-mail messages, or direct messages, across the internet, conversations. I call them that, because sharing words in this way is about the only way I can share them.
In person, I don’t talk. In person, I almost can’t talk. Because there is far more to process in person than there is when dealing with black and white text on a computer monitor. Most people don’t even think about that, about the body language, the facial expressions, the movement of eyes, the positions of arms, and hands, the brief pauses and silences, and an endless list of other things.
These are all things I have to process. I have to think about them. I have to try to understand them, and the parts of the conversation that are not being spoken with words. For most people, this is something they do naturally. It’s called social behavior.
For me, and for those of us who are Autistic, the unspoken parts of conversations, the body language, and all the rest, don’t happen. We don’t notice them. Until we learn, through endless mistakes, and endless frustration, that these things exist, and are used by everyone.
That’s when we start a life long study of what those things mean.
As I said, I’ve been having some conversations with friends I have who talk with me through these black and white text exchanges. I speak about an absurd number of topics, I know that. And I use oceans of words, I know that. I do so because I’ve found that’s the best method, and provides the best chance, that what I am speaking of, the ideas I’m trying to express, maybe, might, but probably won’t, be understood by those I’m speaking with.
One topic, today, has been my removal of women from the list of names Twitter recommends I follow, and why I remove them from that list. I have not fully answered, or responded, to the person I’m speaking with on this topic. But I felt I should make some things known.
I don’t hate women. At all. I can talk with them. I can share pictures of flowers with them. I can try to express my thoughts with them.
I can’t do that with men. As best I can figure out, through the decades of effort I’ve made to understand the unspoken language of other people, having such conversations is not what men want, and not what interests them. With the net result being I can’t talk with them. They possess a hidden language I literally can’t understand.
I’ve done some simple math tonight to illustrate the extent to which this is how things work for me. I’ve taken the list of those I follow on Twitter, and broke it into “obviously not a guy” and “a guy, or not not a guy.” This is really simple for me, as the list contains only 45 names (and I’ll discuss why in a bit). 37 names are in the “obviously not a guy” category. That’s 82% of the names on the list. 8 of every 10 names.
When I explain to you that I can’t talk with guys, this is what I mean. I can’t talk with guys. The numbers make that brutally obvious.
And, that’s where things suddenly become exponentially more complex.
#MeToo. #BelieveSurvivors. The patriarchy. Feminism. And a literal ocean of other words. As my friend informed me tonight, there is a great deal of emotional upheaval happening right now in US society.
But, here’s the thing with that emotional upheaval. I’m Autistic.
With respect to women finding their voices, and speaking out, I can honestly say I’m all for it. The stories need to be told. The truth needs to be placed front and center, and removed from being hidden in a closet somewhere, and not spoken of.
I have been told, by she whom I have spoken with today, that I’m not one of the problem guys. That I’m one of the good guys, and shouldn’t react as if this is about me. I understand that, honestly, I do. I know that. She’s one of many who have told me as much. I don’t argue that at all.
But, I’m Autistic. The ability to filter things, to read them and say, “they don’t apply to me.” The ability to blithely ignore them, and let them pass under the bridge on their way out to sea, is not something I have. Again. I’m Autistic. I have very close to 60 years of life spent pushing myself to observe everything. Every detail. Every body movement. Every change in tone of voice. Every eye motion. Every twitch. Every wince. Every brief shake of a hand. Every detail of everything someone does. Including every word they speak, and how they speak it.
It’s how I survive. It’s how I function in the world. It’s how I keep from getting injured by an overwhelming number of mistakes, where I didn’t understand what someone was saying, or doing.
I explain to people, “I see everything.” I usually leave out the words, “Because I have no other choice.” Remember how I mentioned, earlier, that I don’t speak well in person, face to face? Now you know why. Because my brain cells are going insane trying to keep up with all the information I’m having to process, so I don’t get something wrong.
But, with text, all there is are words. I can handle that. I can process that. I can respond to it.
Again. I’m Autistic. I don’t process emotional states well. If you ask me how I am on any given day, I can’t really answer you, because I honestly don’t really know. I know I have emotions. And I know they show up at the most inopportune times, and I don’t seem to be able to prevent that. But I have no idea what I’m feeling. Like what I’m feeling right now, this moment, as I write these words. I don’t really know. I can’t put it into words. I think I’m not angry, or frustrated. But other than that, I can’t really say for sure. It’s Friday night, so I’m likely feeling something. For a while, I thought I felt lonely on Friday nights. But I don’t think that anymore. Perhaps it’s more a feeling of I don’t fit into the social system, so I find it hard to treat Friday nights like most people treat them.
Whatever the heck that means.
Now, I get to explain the small number of people I follow. And this is for those who haven’t figured it out from the ocean of words I’ve already written. I can’t filter anything. I don’t know what I’m feeling, but I know I have emotions, and they do things, and I can’t really stop them, because I don’t understand them at all.
There is a limit to how much I can process. If I breach that limit, I overload. And I can’t process anything. And if I don’t resolve the overload, I end up non-functional. So, I’ve learned. I have no choice but to severely limit how much I have to process. That means, even in the land of black and white text, I have to limit how much I have to process. Because, I become unable to process any of it at all, if I don’t limit the amount.
So, I have an itty-bitty list of names I follow on Twitter. And for now, I’ve shut down Facebook all together. To limit how much I have to process. It’s survival for me. It’s how I can remain functional.
I wish I could follow oodles of people. And yes, like 82% of them would be women. Smart, intelligent, conversational, creative women. But, there’s a limit to how much I can cope with, to how much information I can process, to how many topics I can be exposed to, and maintain the ability to convince myself I’m not the problem.
So, I limit things. To survive.
Perhaps, in the days ahead, I’ll try to explain this in more detail. And to explain the problems that come with this lack of ability to filter, and highly developed ability to see everything, and almost complete inability to process my own emotions. Perhaps.
For now, just know that I’m OK. And that I’ve done the things I’ve done because I can’t find any other way to remain functional in this world.