Letter from the North

Letter from The North Fri 18-Aug-2017

Mutton dressed as lamb

Well, so much has happened since the end of last week’s letter. I’m not sure there’s enough room/time here to cover it all. 

So, first, despite my need for sameness, there are two significant (for me) changes: 

  1. Blossom is in a new place in the car park at work 
  2. I am sitting here in a totally different location at the The North and where I would prefer to be is available! 

The work thing was triggered by an email clarifying the car parking arrangements and where people should park if the car park was full. Well, the designated area would be in front of where I currently park and block me in. Even if I parked in the row opposite, Blossom needs the turning circle of the Titanic so it would be difficult to get out. The idea of having to find someone to ask them to move their car is terrifying. I just don’t need to spend all day checking if someone has blocked me in and that IS what I would do, obsessive behaviour anyone? 

So, I’ve selected a spot that would give me easy exit, at my time of day, and is not somewhere that could be double parked. I hope! Why do I need to do this? The problem is that people don’t follow the rules, why they don’t I don’t know but they don’t. Well actually I do sort of understand, it’s because the rule is inconvenient and/or unimportant to them at the time. Clearly not autistics ????. 

Where I am now is not the RIGHT place for me to park, the right place would be where I’ve been parking for the last 11 months. However, adapting to this it removes the stress and worry that when I am ready to leave, I can’t get out. I’m one of the earliest departures and so an easy block-in target. 

At the North, that’s more complicated, as I wrote last week. It is busy here in the North at the moment, probably busier that it has been in all the years we’ve lived here. Indeed, this week the landlord has added more table space in the main bar. 

The following section was written on Thursday or Friday morning (i.e. yesterday or this morning at the time of writing the rest of this letter at The North). When I came to insert it here some two weeks later I struggled to read the actual words – either the handwriting itself or the spelling were so way out that it didn’t make sense. The grammar was similarly bizarre and as a result I have had to use some reconstruction techniques (traditionally known as guesswork 🙂 ). 

I mention this because I keep going on about how writing, using language is not normal for me, and this is a perfect example. The same problem exists with the rest of these notes typed on a tablet but at least they are legible, that is I can read them; poor handwriting is not uncommon for people like me. So, how do ‘notes’, made in a lesson work out? How do exams or essays that must be handwritten or indeed just paperwork and forms work? It is a significant problem that I hide through typing and repeated editing, but it remains a major problem. So, what you read here (in italics) is my attempt to translate my notes:

 

Sometimes Teresa can read my handwritten notes better than I can. The handwriting problem is both an output AND an input problem (reading and writing for the non-computer geeks out there) 

As I said last week, when I left The North, I was just unhappy but that was at an intellectual not an emotional level. Over that weekend and much of the following week, the emotional consequences built up: 

  • palpitations 
  • heart racing,  
  • panic attacks 
  • adrenalin surge 
  • fight or flight reflex 

A lot of all of that this week and although I am more sensitive to what is happening to me, especially as Teresa and I work out some issues we are having, the pub/work car park problems are powerful triggers. 

Trying to socially engage is very difficult and I know I don’t understand and so can be getting it wrong without knowing. Hence it is hard for me to understand the rights and wrongs (or indeed if there were any rights or wrongs) in the incident last week. 

Ignorance is (or can be) bliss 

No matter how much children/adults are taught (self or by others) social skills, it doesn‘t change us, it just provides skills to allow us to ‘fake it’, As I am sure I have written before  

  1. It takes a lot of effort, no matter how effortless it may seem 
  2. It masks our trauma for the benefit of others and protects them from any issues they have as a result of not understanding our world 
  3. We can, short term, delude ourselves (and others) into believing we are coping not masking. Then something happens, the masks slips, we melt down and everyone (ourselves as well sometimes) is surprised! 

My mum would never use a shop after a single incident that upset her – I have no idea what the problem was, but it was a problem for her and she never set foot in that shop again no matter the inconvenience. At least that is my memory of what happened. I suspect it wasn’t as black and white as that, but that is my memory, … 

I could see (even at my young age at the timethat it was as stupid (daft if you want me to be politically correct and use language that means more to you than it does to me) for her as it is for me now. I know I have that desire in me – “that will show them” though chances are they will never even notice ???? I have to fight the pressure (instinct) to behave in that way, that fight increase my stress. Teaching me it’s inappropriate behaviour allows me to hide it from you, but it doesn’t do anything for me! 

And back to the original letter: 

So, here I am at a table which at a push seats four, but only has seating now for three (one seat gone to the main bar) and I’m probably more ‘secure’ than at my normal table and I’m not being ‘criticised’ for sitting at a big table in the main bar. 

It was hard accepting the change (see above) but it’s part of the compromise of being in the social world despite not really understanding what is going on. As I described above, my mum would blank somewhere on the first ‘fault’, and I understand that, indeed, that’s my default reaction, but learning more flexibility even if I don’t really understand why, means I can continue to do more than I otherwise would. 

I’ve been thinking about these Letters (Blogs), about why I do it. At the moment, if there are double figures of readers I’d be surprised (looking at the stats) but I write them (these letters) because I needed to be able to read them, indeed I’d like to being able to read them right now, never mind when I was younger. So at one level, they are for me; if you are reading, then they are for you and if you are in a small minority that is good. 

I understand how difficult writing is for me, I understand that even after I’ve done my best, it can be odd, but there is a part of me that wants other people to embrace that difference and consider it a good example of a different way of writing.

I’ve been writing these letters for many years; most of them are still in my notebooks waiting for me to transcribe. A few years ago, I also wrote a description of my early life, you might call it an autobiography, except that isn’t accurate as the book itself discusses. 

I have been editing that book off and off over the last 3 or 4 years but I can’t really believe that anyone wants to read it. 

Still, nothing ventured…

I entered a competition with Random House for new writers in minorities (gender, learning, race, disability, …) and since I hit a number of those categories, I thought well, maybe someone will be willing to look outside the accepted norm of ‘proper writing’. So, I entered ‘Bean and the Art of Being’. They weren’t interested (I wasn’t in the top 150 out of 1,700, never mind top three). Of course, any ‘proper’ writers out there will know that getting a book accepted by a publisher is not a simple process and full of many setbacks, so expecting my first attempt to fly was unreasonable ????.  

Yet, all through my life, I’d have liked to have known that there was at least one other person going through what I was going through. So, I’ll persist with these letters. They are for the me that I was; I will also publish the book one day, self-published I suspect, but who cares if it only has an audience of six, if it helps, it helps … 

Funny really, when I had problems on my proper table it was because I was one person on a table for six and yet here in this room there are two tables for six with two people on each 🙂 

Oh well, as I said to Teresa, let them (whoever ‘them’ is) have their posturing, if that is what it is. I won’t let my mum’s inheritance drive me away, nor other people even if they have no idea of their impact. I am a survivor in the social world; yes, I am rules driven, yes, I don’t like change, but yet I will find my way, find my path and I WILL make it work because I won’t be beaten, that’s the upside of mum’s stubbornness and very helpful at times. 

And there is the dilemma, for the last three days, once I realised the possible implications, it was so easy to over react (even if for me it’s not ‘over’) but I won’t, it costs but I want to be out and about. 

Juno Dawson is, as I listen, talking about the problems of being out in public as trans and not passing, and the work needed to even try and pass. 

I come from a world in which passing (as male or female) is out of the question and even as an autistic is a nightmare. At 6’2” (though at the doctors that came out closer to 6’ only so, I am shrinking!) and 18st at the time, though now reduced to 17st 3 and working well at 1lb a week loss (whilst I am a bit metric, I still think in stones, pounds and ounces for weight). With massive, albeit sloping, shoulders. You’d never confuse me for a girl and yet since I am always in a dress or skirt, you would wonder about whether I was a boy or trying to be something different or just not right in the head. That is why I just ignore the gender thing and do my own thing, very girly in dress but no wig and no makeup.

I have to put up with the funny looks, comments and staring but even so, it works for me and it means that ‘not passing’ is visible in my local community, which, I hope, allows others to experiment in safety, because if I can swan around in my Size 24 frock, anybody can? 

The visibility of being autistic is much more of a problem, all that ever shows are the differences, so long as I mask them and we all learn to mask, I am automatically ‘trying’ to pass and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but it’s much harder for people to get their heads around the idea of being autistic even being a ‘thing’ as it is so invisible, especially when compared to a frock! 

Postscript

I heard a comment in the bar (about me) about not showing your legs when you are “a certain age”.

Mutton dressed as lamb anyone?

Of course Mutton is a far more interesting meat than Lamb, but it does need a bit more effort to get the best from it.

A metaphor anyone?

The Bean, The North, Fri 18-Aug-2017

 

 

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