Shampoo Thief

Here follows an example of my problem solving abilities:

Freshman year of college, my mom and I flew out to my new school and supplied me with all the various things one needs when living in a dorm. I was all set-up and prepared with multiple toothbrushes in case I dropped one and soft blankets because those are the best and notebooks for everything and lots of snacks. However, at some point in the semester, I ran out of shampoo and conditioner, as someone with relatively long and thick hair tends to do on a somewhat frequent basis.

The previous way in my life that this issue was dealt with was going into my parents’ bathroom and getting a new bottle from under the sink. Of course, this was not an option 2,000 miles away. I knew that theoretically people got shampoo by going to the store (although I was not super clear on what type of store sold shampoo besides Costco). But it was a Midwest winter and I was from Southern California. Also, I didn’t know how to get there and the only transportation I would have had was my feet.

So, the only logical answer was to become a shampoo thief until Christmas break, when I could resupply myself with shampoo.

Luckily, in our dorm, people kept their shower things in shower caddies on shelves right outside the shower. I was not brazen enough to grab an entire shower caddy and take it in the shower with me. Someone may have noticed that if I accidentally grabbed theirs. Nothing was labelled (and I didn’t know most of the people on my floor anyway, because faces). I did not have a plan for being confronted with stealing someone’s shampoo or any idea of what would happen if someone (accurately) accused me of that, especially since they would most likely catch me when I was clothed in only a towel, as I usually was immediately prior to showering.

The plan I came up with was much more complicated. I would only shower in the dead of night, when most other people are asleep. Since I lived in a dorm with a lot of other college students who also stayed up late, the dead of night meant at least 3 am. Then, mid-shower, I would sneak out to the shower caddies and grab a handful of shampoo and then dart back into the shower. (Later, I would repeat with conditioner). I would spread out my borrowing, so I wasn’t stealing only one person’s shampoo. I wouldn’t take anything from an almost-empty bottle (or anything that looked overly expensive). Since there is a lot of options of shampoo in the floor of an all-girls dorm, I never really used more than one or two showers worth of shampoo from anyone in the whole semester.

This was not the most comfortable way to shower, running in and out in the cold, in the middle of the night, but it was the only solution I could come up with. It also had the result of making me feel incredibly guilty every time I showered. It also made me rather tired, from staying up late a few nights a week in order to wash my hair.

Asking someone for help or advice literally never occurred to me. I could have asked boyfriend or other friends or my RA, who probably could have also figured out a solution or told me that I could buy shampoo with fake money at the store on campus that was literally visible from my dorm-room window. My mom literally asked me if I was washing my hair every time she called me and who I always answered yes and told the most recent time I had washed my hair (hiding the guilt of my stolen shampoo). If I told her I was running low on shampoo or had run out, I would have gotten more somehow, or at least directions on how to solve the problem.

Instead, you got my deepest darkest secret of freshmen year (I was not full of deep, dark secrets yet at that time in my life): the months I was a thief every time I showered. (Also, now that I’ve actually thought about this story, I find it amusing although I’d likely be just as impractical today).

Rocket

There are things I know I need to do if I am going to be happy and productive and just generally function as myself and get the things done that I need to have done.

I need to go outside. Even if it is freezing cold, I have to go outside regularly. And not just walking-to-and-from the bus stop, but wandering outside by trees. Luckily, I live by a lake. Unluckily, I am bad at forcing myself to go outside, even if I know it will make me happy. Also, I am uncomfortable going outside by myself if I’m not going somewhere directly. I haven’t worked out that why, but I know it’s true.

I need to exercise. It doesn’t have to be extremely vigorous episode, but I’m definitely happier if I have the chance to dash around a bit from place to place. Little bursts of running about and around. Going on runs makes me feel better, but I’ve never been able to stick to a consistent running schedule for more than a week.

I need to eat regularly also, for maybe-probably-obvious-reasons AKA food is important to function. And I stop functioning quicker-than-average when I am hungry. But I’m also bad at remembering when I’m supposed to eat, even with Todoist reminders and alarms and lists. (And once I remember to eat, I have difficulty figuring out what to eat and the steps to eat, especially if I am already to a hungry-reduced-functioning-level.)

I’m happier when I have regular physical contact. Physical contact makes me feel grounded. But boyfriend lives relatively far away and works decently long and I can only see him on weekends. And most people are not in my comfortable-with-physical-contact-list… and also it would be weird I think since mostly I encounter fellow lab mates on a daily basis.

Luckily, there is a solution to all these problems.

This is Rocket.

Black retriever mix smiling at the camera

He reminds me to go outside several times a day. He makes it not scary and makes it fun. We go on walks with little bits of running to chase geese into the lake.

Big black dog looking at geese in the lakeblack doggie snuggling on a couch

He gets two meals a day and feeding him reminds me that I need to eat. And he is always willing to snuggle with me.

He also solves my used-to-taking-care-of-things habits that come from growing up with goats and dogs and sheep and horses and rabbits and chickens. Life always feels incomplete without something to take care of it. And as much as I like my plants and Dr. Seuss, taking care of them did not use all that much of my input or effort.

For clarification purposes, this is my super-pretty-but-not-very-
cuddly betta who is named Dr. Seuss.

Balloons

Growing up, we had a two-story-height roof in a mostly 1 story room, and balloons would escape and just float up to the roof, unreachable but still visible if you looked up. Even the adults couldn’t catch them, because even my parents didn’t have thirty-foot long arms. The balloons would just sit there for days, above our couch and our table and our living room. Eventually, they would float back down to the ground, but by then they would be sad-shriveled-not-floating balloons. The fun was in the floating and the bobbing and the magical-THIS-BALLOON-IS-FLYING.

That’s where all my thoughts and ideas are. I forgot to hold on to them or I miss the chance and they float away up to the ceiling. They are there, but by the time they come back to me, they are sad and are missing the parts that I was interested in. I miss posting things on here and figuring them out by writing about them. I figure so many more things out by writing them, but I keep missing the chance to grab them. There are tons of half-floating ideas that I think of when I am biking to school or walking to the bus or somewhere else. They are half-remembered ideas just out of reach and it’s frustrating.

  • I have ideas about sensory overload and spoons on crowded buses home, but then I am too tired to write them down, and they float back up to the ceiling.
  • I have a half-developed theory on my ideas and thoughts on Appropriate Social Behavior and eye contact and my semi-autistic family.
  • There’s something I remember on my bike half a mile into the trip about keeping Bad Thoughts Out.
  • There’s something about executive function and what bits and pieces I have and what bits and pieces are broken.
  • Some more bits about thinking in general.
  • There are other ideas there, too far away to work out what they were, but they are still there, hitting up against the top of the roof, bobbling around in my brain. 

I can tell they are there, but I can’t tell what they are. I want to be able to reach out and pull them down and figure them out. I want to classify  my thoughts and order them out so I can figure out how and what I’m thinking. And whenever I succeed in grabbing them, they are only half-there. It’s the sad old not-flying balloons. The essential part that made them good and interesting and desireable has diffused out.

I’m doing fine, generally, in life, but busy with TAing and actual lab work and grant writing and literature reviewing and wedding planning, and I just don’t have the tools available now to reach up and pull down those thoughts. I want to be able to figure out how to grab onto them right away so they can’t escape to the roof immediately, to take them and run to my normal-sized-roof room right away, where even 5 year old me can reach the string of the balloon if I stand on a chair. But I don’t have thirty-foot-long arms to reach the ones on the ceilings, and they always appear when I can’t grab onto them. It’s a minor annoyance. I don’t need balloons. I can get along fine without them. But they make life better and I want them.

Creating my own standards

This is not relevant to this article, but it was one of the earliest images that popped up when I googled the title of this post looking for a good image. And I really do love xkcd, and I didn’t come up with a better image for this, and I prefer to have images in my posts, so I am sticking with it. Because it’s always good to have a bit of fun in there. 

 I’ve been struggling a lot lately, with prelims and lab choosing and moving and a million pieces of life (which is why I haven’t written much in August). Errands and jobs and tasks that require communication and planning and new skill sets. There is the constant low level anxiety about being in a new place right now, which uses up spoons just existing until I get adjusted into life here.

And I’ve been trying to keep up with graduate school and doing my best and trying to make a good impression so that people like me and let me into programs. And maybe I have been trying my hardest and maybe what I have been is good enough.

Or maybe it isn’t. I sort of think that I should be trying harder. Trying to improve myself and be better. There are always things I need to work on.

Today I read this (emphasis mine):

“I feel as though many of our autistic kids can never escape from this idea that they must always be being corrected; must always be being taught; must always be building on skills; must always be attending therapies and classes; must always be being “consistently disciplined”; must always remember every second of every day that they are autistic and that they have so much to learn, so far to go, so much more that they need to be.”

~“Are We Trying To Hard To Teach Our Autistic Children”, Suburban Autistics (Also read the rest of the article, it’s great!)

There are so many things I need to work on. I identify a new area where I struggle when talking with boyfriend and he says “ok, we can work on that”. But if we add up all the things that “we can work on” then I don’t know how I have any time in the day to actual get my work done*. I can’t always be working on not panicking or working on not hiding my face or working on one of the million other things I struggle with that are things that need to be done to be professional and successful and effective at communicating and get things done.

And then I get overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to do and it is a horrible positive feedback loop that just spirals out of control.** And that is no help at all and does not lead to more things getting done.

I have to remember I am the one who is creating the standards for my behavior. I can make them reasonable.

As long as I get by, I am doing ok.

I need to eat. I need to do reasonably well in grad school so that I don’t get kicked out. I need to pay bills and pay rent. I should try and avoid going into debt. As long as I stick to that, I am doing ok. It is fine if I watch a lot of tv. Or if I hide in my room and don’t talk to people. Or if I do talk to people. Or if I don’t exercise. It is all ok. I am surviving.

On days I remember that, I am fine. I am more productive. I am happy. Of course, determining what “reasonably well” means is a whole issue on itself…

~~~~~~~
*They are usually things that I do need to work on, like being able to make appointments or go to the doctor or go to a meeting or such things.
**I really want to say a negative feedback loop, but that is wrong. A negative feedback loop will turn itself off or regulate levels, because it negatively effects itself. A positive feedback loop builds on itself and increases and increases. One biological example of a positive feedback loop is peeing.

hows and whys

I have to choose a lab and that is no fun because they don’t really tell
you the hows or the whats or the whys and whenever I go to try and talk to
people, they just ask be questions. When what I am asking for isn’t the
questions but the process. What is the process for choosing a rotation. For
choosing a lab to work in. I would like a protocol. I would like some
directions other than “find a lab”. How do we find one? Once we have
identified one that we think we would like to join, how do we go about it.

They say go and talk to the faculty, but they don’t say what to talk about.
So I go in and talk and end up just as confused at the end with no specific
progress.

When I ask how to choose a lab, how to join a lab, they do not tell me.
They ask me questions that lead down a different path. I want to know how
to contact people. I want to know the how about it.

Even if I get the strength and spend days and days making the words and
walking around outside the building to prep before going in with explictly
said words “I would like to join your lab” it does not work. It doesn’t
come out… the words don’t want to listen at all. So I just sort of go
there and nod and murmur along and agree to all the things and say
everything is doing great and run quickly quickly quickly through the
little bit of the script I can still remember. And we end up more confused.
Both of us.

Once I tried to write it down on a post-it note I brought in.

Sometimes they ask me questions I haven’t prepared for and I have no answer
for and I scramble for them in bits and pieces and try to make words out of
things that aren’t words.

I know it is because there are multiple of us trying for the same lab and
there is so much that depends on it on funding and who to choose and what
to do but I do not know how to do it. I do not know the how.

And I’m terrified I’m too slow. I sort of already had one person tell me no
because I didn’t express interest and I don’t know how to show I can
express interest in a clear and obvious way. I know how to do it in the
ways my interest and happiness works. Although the lab I want to join was
the first, when I was less skilled at digging into the problems and hiding
in the data and building a home out of it. I’m afraid the other person or
people trying for this lab will win. Because they know the words and the
procedures and don’t seem to have to prep with words on a post-it note or
walk around and lie down in the grass afterwards to process and figure out.
And they know the words and the ways of people and all I have is the
long-ago memories of the brownies and blondies and other treats I brought
into lab in October November December.

Processing is not my strong point.
People is not my strong point.
Choosing is not my strong point.
Fighting is not my strong point.

Processing processing processing.

Why do I want to join your lab?

I know in the patterns. I know from the part of my brain that doesn’t think
in words. With the following of patterns. Where all the things come from
patterns. I can tell somehow. I know I was happy. I know I liked the work.
I don’t know the how the why the reasons, at least not in words. The part
of me that knows things like this doesn’t know in words, not always, and
there aren’t words or translations leftover.

But that’s not an adequate answer. That’s not a coherent explanation.
That’s not a convincing reason to choose me over someone else. If I can’t
articulate *why* I know, just that I know, it isn’t particularly helpful.

The hows and the whys and the words and the work and the reasons.

Thoughts on food

Just a heads up, I will be talking about eating habits and food and various related topics in this post. I havent had any really big struggles with food as a whole, but there are definitely some issues that will pop up now and then. Sensory issues and executive function issues mostly. 

So I like food.

But, like really. I like food a lot.I spend a lot of time thinking about food. When I am happy, I like to bake and cook fancy things. A large portion of my time with my college friends was spent baking cookies and cakes and brownies and bars and cinnamon rolls. Probably a good 50% of my Facebook posts are recipes. I have an ongoing cheese commentary with one of my friends.

Sure, I’m a picky eater. I like very specific foods. It’s probably more accurate to say that I have very specific dis-likes.

Like tomatoes.
And food with green bits in it. (Unless they are green onions. I will eat those, now.)

Only recently did I learn that there is a difference between not-liking a food and gagging when you eat it. I thought when people didn’t like foods, that is what they meant. That the only way to eat it was to mask in in something else, whether it was eating the cooked spinach in a giant cup of milk so you couldn’t taste or feel it (as in taking a giant sip of milk immediately after to allow me to swallow the spinach.)

I thought that meant I did not like spinach. I assumed when other people said they hated certain foods it meant they also had physical difficulty swallowing it. Or that it made them actively gag.

Admittedly, I didn’t think too much about these differences. If I think about it closely, there is a difference for me between foods that I cannot will not eat unless I hide them in something so my mouth doesn’t have to feel or taste them, and foods that I find unpleasant. Probably.

There are certainly foods I prefer not to eat, but I will eat them if they are offered to me* or are part of the dinner made my my parents.

I think I have a high bar set for disliking food versus being indifferent to it.

I also like to store food. I’m afraid of running out. It is illogical. I have never had a significant food shortage in my life, other than all the food is at the store and I am not at the store.  (And even then, there has always been some food at my apartment, just not the food I want, so it is really more ‘all the food I want to eat is at the store’). So when I have good food, especially good, easy-to-make food, like Trader Joe’s potstickers and Trader Joe’s everything and costco stuff, I don’t want to eat it. Because maybe there will be a day later that I need it. So I should save it.

Of course, then when I am tired and hungry and need a quick meal, which is why my mom got me these TJ’s stuff, I still won’t eat it. Because I need to save it for an emergency. Which is quite silly because the food is replenish-able. Sure, TJ’s is a bit inconvenient to get to, but I have a car. I can do it. Also, I still have tons of it before I have to worry about a shortage and the need for a refill trip.

Maybe I am a little tiny bit possessive of my food. I maybe used to hide the good leftovers in the fridge so no-one else would eat them. (I knew I didn’t have a fair claim to them all, so I could only eat so much at a time, but I wanted them so if I hid them, people wouldn’t notice them as much and I would be safe.) Also, when we were sharing the dessert at our birthday dinner, I realized I was being possessive of it. But I shared, and I even let him have the last bite. It was difficult. (When I commented on my dessert-possesiveness, he told me my whole family is a bit dessert-possessive. Which I believe. We take dessert very seriously in my family.)

And also there is the issue of making food.

It is just so difficult.

It requires me to be out in the kitchen. The kitchen is not as safe as my room. My room is the safest place. Admittedly, I have been doing lovely recently, and even talking to my roommate, but I feel self-conscious about cooking when other people are there. Also, more importantly, I do not want to share. (I would be fine with sharing if we maybe both took turns making meals, or even if she sometimes occasionally made meals, but all she makes is soup.) Because, again, I am possessive of my food.

And then there are all the steps involved. Decide what the meal is. Prepare the ingredients. Cook them. Eat it. Clean the dishes. The first and last steps are usually the ones that I get stuck on. I won’t be able to decide what to make. Or I won’t want to clean dishes. Or all the pots will be dirty from my roommate making soup all week (or admittedly, they can be dirty from whatever I made last, too) and I won’t want to wash them. I guess this is maybe a little bit of the executive function fun coming into play here.

I need to make a menu. When I decide what I am eating for dinner before I head home, I actually make dinner that night. And sometimes it will even be healthy.

And I like eating vegetables, too. But there are just more steps involved in eating and making them, usually involving chopping, so if I don’t have that planned out in advance, if the kitchen isn’t empty, then I will not make them.

Or I will just end up eating yams. But yams are good for you. And also the most delicious thing in the world, so really, I am fine with eating lots and lots and lots of yams.

I like food.
I wish it would magically appear in meal form again, like it did at home.
But in a few weeks I am going home for a week, and then it will magically appear at dinnertime (and probably lunch and maybe even breakfast, because my parents spoil me) and then that will be just lovely and a nice break from being a real grown-up person.

~~~~~~~~~
*Although, honestly, I will try and eat everything that is offered to me if I am a guest, because that is The Rule If Food Is Served To You and refusing otherwise is Rude and Has Consequences, but my family does have weird hospitality/guest traditions that don’t seem to be common in the US at least, so I am probably ok not eating tomatoes at other people’s houses instead of very carefully destroying and hiding the offending items in other pieces of food, and thus destroying the good qualities of the good food in order to make the meal consumable and Avoid Rudeness. But that is another complicated issue that luckily doesn’t come up much, especially since boyfriend has told me that it is Not The Rule for his family, so I don’t have to eat food there that I do not like.