Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Imagine I am a sentient, emotional robot. I can learn anything you teach me, but I can't imagine what you know, which is a lot more than me, about social cues.

So we play a game where you teach me about feelings: I imitate you, and learn to associate a feeling with a tone of voice, an expression and/or body language, and then later, I can understand that you have that feeling when you make that expression, use that tone of voice, or hold your body that way. And when I have that feeling, I do the things I learned from you, so you can understand my emotional state. The more you teach me, the more I can pick up. You may start to think I'm "just like you."

But the subtle, complex cues are hard. If you later show me a set of behaviors I've never seen before, or that are too hard for me to follow, I won't know what's going on.

Because you think of me as human now, you will think I'm ignoring you, or being mean. It can hurt your feelings a lot. Eventually you may show an expression obvious enough that I understand, but I won't know why you're feeling angry, upset or sad. I'll only know if you tell me. I may have to learn a subroutine called, "I can't read your mind, what are you upset about?"

Saturday, April 25, 2020

No rejections.

Many years ago, my therapist (after 10 years of seeing her), told me "If you care about someone you better not reject them."

I didn't really understand that some of the things I said to people were pushing them away. These were things people I loved said to me all my life. Criticisms, complaints, nagging. Being autistic makes understanding this social stuff harder.

I had to ask her to spell it out to me, and I had to think about it for a long, long time. Watch it happen over and over until it sunk in. And I still catch myself doing it wrong. The coworker who asks me out to lunch when I brought mine -- say yes, not no. My kids who wanted me to play with them instead of reading. Say yes, not no. My mother, wanting me to pick up the phone.

There are nuances to this: people who invite you to something but don't mean it, really. People who ask to come along to some event but don't really intend to. Apparently you're supposed to say yes here too, and then just deal with it. This is complicated.

There are keywords-- come by "sometime", let's go for drinks "next month," "call me next time you're in town."  I imagine some people say this and mean it, and are disappointed when I don't follow through. I assume what most of them mean is "I don't dislike you and I don't want you to dislike me, but."

But they really don't know how to deal with my oddness, or my inability to read them, or anyone. Cues are wasted on me. It's their way of not-rejecting me. Sometimes I get it. Sometimes I've even used this method of protecting my distance. I like being alone because I don't have to ride the people roller coaster.

Back then, I was probably talking about my partner, back when I was the kind of person who got upset about how the dishwasher was stacked or who dusted the bookshelves last (it was always me, unless I nagged him). It took us oh, a couple of decades to reach a stalemate on things like that.

Truth is, we both get angry when we're stressed. We both let things build up. Because of my health, there's less i can do now, and he has had to take up the slack. So I try not to be that person. Still, when the frustration bubbles up from him, I feel indignant, rejected, alone. Only now I tell myself, this is how it feels for them if I don't keep my own house in order.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Regarding bad options

Once I got lost on hike deep in the Sangre de Cristos mountains, on a stretch where the slopes were overgrown with brush and trees. The trail had disappeared under my feet, and it was getting late. I stumbled into an abandoned campsite that seemed haunted -- why just walk away and leave all your stuff? Did they make the mistakes I did, and never make it back?
The sun had begun to sink below the next ridge, but I could see the bright sky and the last sunlight still lit the eastern slope. Ahead of me was a river of boulders that had cascaded down from above. No water, just boulders bigger than me, piling up to the top of the ridge. I'd have to hop from one to the next, hundreds of feet up, to get high enough to hope to get a glimpse of my campsite, or the trail. If I slipped on the moss, I'd break my leg at the very least, and no one would ever find me. Worse was what might live there. It would take me hours to climb that.
The only other option was to hike down the overgrown slope through dense brush I knew hid rattlesnakes, bear and elk, toward the foot of the ridge, to try to follow the river back to camp. I knew both options could end with me dying alone in the middle of nowhere. But at least the river had water, and it knew where it came from.

Thursday, March 5, 2020


I'm outside all the labels I've had stuck to me over time. The ones I embraced, and the ones that drove me away from everyone I knew, and every other place I've lived.

Weird, that's a good one. I didn't mind it. After all, I didn't want to be normal. Normal felt dishonest. It seemed to me then that everyone was "playing" normal out of fear. And I was not afraid.

But "weird" is what your family and schoolmates and teachers, everyone uses to mark you as untrustworthy, flawed, maybe dangerous. Weird lumps you in with creeps and serial killers and pagan goat worshipers. You don't even realize how you feed into that perception.

I was... possibly 50? When I realized that other people really meant and felt the things they said and did. They weren't afraid, mostly. The socialization was what they wanted. It was also when I realized they really meant and felt the things they said about me.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Okay, it's a little funny

She stopped posting shit about me. About our family, about my nephew. She stopped, and she deleted most of the posts on her facebook page about how terrible we all are. She stopped egging on all the kooks in that town, and the outlying areas, she just stopped. At first the silence scared me.

Where did they all go? Where did all the anger and  hate and heat go? But she kept deleting posts, and now I realize, she knows it wasn't him. She knows she was wrong. She won't apologize or try to put things right. She can't call back all the stalkers and trespassers, all the false reports to the PD. All she can do is pretend she wasn't part of it. Hope nobody calls her on what she did to us.

Of course, I've saved all of those posts, and all the responses, going back to the days after Katelyn disappeared.