Letter from the North

Letter from The North Mon 31-Jul-2017

Warwick – part II

I am here at THE North (the proper North that is). It’s Monday lunchtime and our wedding anniversary. We should be over at the Gurnards Head having lunch but Teresa was poorly on our drive home and so it seemed a bit daft going out for a nice meal a few hours later when she might not be able to handle food! So, I’m here at The North, unexpectedly, but I am very happy for all that 🙂 . I will be at work tomorrow, 🙁

My original plan (when I was planning the trip to Warwick) was for me to come here when we got back as a ‘reward’ (to myself) for all the compromise I had to do to leave home in the first place, the rights and wrongs of which are considered in Friday’s letter. Indeed I see nothing wrong in celebrating our wedding anniversary (today) here in The North either. However Teresa does, and quite rightly too, she’s not a pub person, the food is good here but it’s not a restaurant and I come here every week, so coming here on our anniversary would not be special for her and apparently that matters. So, it was ME who suggested that, since Monday (today) is our wedding anniversary, we could go to the Gurnard’s Head for lunch, knowing it would be much more Teresa’s cup of tea (well glass of wine).

The only thing I asked was that rather than me driving when we go out anywhere (other than The North), which is what I always do, so Teresa can drink (seems fair to me since I get to drink every week at The North), I wanted to catch the bus/taxi, so I could have some beer which is also nice at the Gurnards Head. Teresa felt that was a reasonable compromise and so we had a plan.

The best laid plans? As I said, Teresa was poorly.

Before coming here I rang the Gurnards to cancel our table and re-book it for Saturday, that went down well with Teresa. From my point of view, in cancelling, we’d saved money I didn’t see any need to spend, if it wasn’t on the day of our anniversary. However I DO understand that is not Teresa’s point of view so I didn’t say any of that and suggested the alternative, which went down well 🙂 .

So, what to say about Warwick? It was, for Teresa, a good festival; for me, hmmm, I still haven’t worked out how I feel about festivals in this new world of mine. In the past I have been very controlling and hence had things how I needed them, but it was not very nice for my wife (this one or the previous ones). It is 7 years since Teresa and I were last at a festival – that was Warwick too and was also the weekend before we got married. Back them I was much less ‘reasonable’ and now I try much harder, but that means I no longer really know how to do a festival.

Still we have a better understanding (well I do) of Teresa’s needs and I still need to work out how it works for me, but I am getting there.

We left Warwick around 5:15pm and I was originally planning to push it to arrive here in Pendeen and park the van at The North. It was only slowly that it occurred to me that arriving around 10:30 pm (our very best ETA, without stops) would mean that I would be entering the site in the dark and:

  • The entrance is very tight, and if I can’t see the gateposts (granite, of course) then chances are there would be damage.
  • People who were camping would be asleep and it felt anti-social.

As we got closer, time got later for our arrival and so I planned to stop overnight somewhere close to home.

Unfortunately Teresa got more and more poorly as the journey progressed and so I had to work out plan B to get us home that evening, rather than stopping somewhere overnight. My plan B was to park (the caravan) in the car park next to our house. That is fraught with issues, there are notices up saying “no overnight camping”, I knew we weren’t camping, but that wouldn’t be clear to anyone seeing the caravan parked. I was breaking a rule (in my eyes), but I couldn’t see an easy alternative (well I could see a number of alternatives but they were all poorer).

We knew that Teresa’s car was in the best place for the caravan, so I could drive in, move Teresa’s car then use the motor-mover to position the caravan. That all worked well, but I was faffing around the car park at 11:30pm in the evening, terrified of being ‘caught’, or something going wrong. Teresa, being ill, went straight into the house when we got home and I had to sort it all on my own, without an NT to run interference for me if anything untoward did happen. But it all sorted itself in the end, phew. The stress, well, off the scale, knowing what was to come was bad, doign it was bad, knowing it was what Teresa needed is what helped me push through the stress and not freeze up.

This morning I had to move the caravan to The North, that all worked surprisingly well, it went back to it’s ‘proper’ place, i.e. where it was before we went to Warwick, and I finished all the unpacking and moving and here I am. You see how easy that sentence is, no sign whatsoever of how worried I was when I went into the house last night:

  • What would happen if someone parked in front of the caravan – either because the car park was full or they were angry I had put the caravan there.
  • Would I be able to turn left out of the car park to drive straight to the field – it is a tight turn and needed the road outside to be clear (and it rarely is as that’s where the village shop is)
  • If I couldn’t turn left how could I turn around – worst case at Mount Misery roundabout which is 10 mins drive away outside Penzance
  • Would there be ANY space in the field
  • Would there be MY space in the field

It is not a good idea to assume that any sentence I write or thing I say is exactly what it seems to be as I rarely actually explain all of what is going on and how hard I have to fight to avoid paralysis and inaction.

It occurs to me, as I review Friday’s Letter, (Link) and the list above that it’s possible to view the concerns listed as whining, or just being pathetic. That I should “get over myself”. I realise I could get ‘lectured’ as to why none of those things is really a problem.

ALL of that would be true, I do actually understand that. Even whilst having those worries, feelings and panics, I also understand that in the view of others that they aren’t the end of the world – which is what they feel like to me.

So, yes, I use my intellect to balance my emotions and come out with what most people would consider to be ‘normal’ behaviour.

The whole purpose of Friday’s letter was to highlight the fact that whilst I may appear to be behaving and reacting ‘normally’, that is not what is really happening and the effort involved in behaving in what most of society would consider to be an acceptable manner is not trivial, indeed can be so debilitating that I often cannot undertake activities that I want to do.

The issue here is really diversity. In my world, those worries are quite normal and instead of dismissing them as trivial, society could actually agree and adapt around them and not leave me feeling that there is something wrong with me.

It is not having to deal with my problems that I have an issue with, it is the assumption that somehow it is ME that has to learn to hide it rather than society learn to accept it, as I have to accept their views.

When autistics (especially children) are taught social behaviour what they are actually taught is NT social behaviour. Nobody teaches autistic social behaviour and nobody is expected to learn it!

Hence my concern is that people don’t confuse me being honest about the actual thoughts I have and the difficulty I have in adapting to an NT social view with me not understanding that it is necessary for me to do that as I want to interact with a predominantly NT social world.

The real issues are:

  • Don’t assume that teaching me or my learning such social rules is the same thing as me understanding them innately as most NT folks do, or that learning them is as easy for me as it is for NTs.
  • Don’t assume that all the responsibility is mine. Your social rules are not better than mine, they are different and if you want me to learn yours then surely it is important to set an example and be willing to learn mine? I am reminded of the stereotypical Englishman abroad who just speaks English more loudly so the foreigner can understand them. Not recognising that the foreigner is actually the native and it is the Englishman who is the foreigner and that simply speaking English LOUDER does not aid communication. Change English to NT and Russian (an example I often use) to autistic and I hope the concept is easier to understand. I am NOT ‘Johnny foreigner’, I am a native of my country and you are the stranger in my land just as much as I am the stranger in yours.

My major battle with social rules is not that I don’t recognise that the world around me is based on a set of social rules that I just don’t process. It is in the world around me not recognising the validity of the social rules of my world or indeed my right for them to be different.

I believe that if you want someone to adapt to your world you should be willing to adapt to theirs – whatever those worlds are. I am and do. Indeed my experience of being in France (for example) is that just speaking English can hit resentment and yet my pathetic attempts at schoolboy French get a better reception. That is, people are more understanding when they see you make an effort to understand their world. That works both ways.

Postscript

Nobody likes situations that feel unbalanced. Autistics often have a very strong sense of fairness, right/wrong and an exaggerated sense of absolutes. So, we can be more sensitive to issues of fairness and balance that NT’s are and deal with such situations less well.

Please remember that when insisting that we learn your NT social rules, and you don’t think you need to learn ours.

 

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