family impact on family

I’m going through and rescuing some old drafts that got lost in the draft box, so hopefully for the next couple weeks I’ll be posting more frequently. Some of the details might be a bit out of date and sometimes the topics are a little bit silly.


So in my earlier-autism-maybe-read-everything-watch-everything-even-slightly-mentioning-it but before my allowed-to-consider-the-possibility-to-myself days, I started watching Parenthood. Also, admittedly, mostly I think I started it because of that thing where when you finish all the episodes of one show on Hulu, it throws you onto another one.

But then it got older and I stopped liking it as much

(mostly because things got sad and stressful
and then so did life
and so I started wanting my tv not to be sad. But to have it be happy thinking.)

And then I’ve rewatched some since.

And what bothers me about it is my oldest-sister-thinking. My oldest-sister, always-responsible thinking. Because I love routines and I love rules, but I also know that the overriding rule has always been, it has to be done. People have to be safe. If my sisters don’t do it, then I have to do it, even if it isn’t fair. (For things that have to be done.)

Because I watch scenes where there are
“THIS ISN’T MY JOB”
and know that I never could have done that because it was my job. It was my job to help. It was always my job to help.

My sisters have screamed that (and I sure I have too, but rarely rarely rarely because as the oldest helping WAS MY JOB) as an older sister HELPING WAS ALWAYS MY JOB.

(And I know I don’t have to like every autistic character ever*, and that I don’t like middle school and teenage boys in general** which probably made it even worse but this made me hate it for a while a long long long while because I would have never screamed THIS ISN’T MY JOB)

And to watch everything be a CATASTROPHIC CHANGE and CATASTROPHIC REARRANGEMENTS


It’s weird how I was considered a big kid at 10 who had responsibilities and had to stick to them, and my youngest sister at 17 is still considered little. My parents commented on how she has a very different life (which is certainly completely true) and my parents weren’t nearly as old and frequently injured as they are when she is the same age. And its true.

But I also spent high school waiting for rides because with two parents and three children, the one who is old enough to wait at school as opposed to having to go to a place for an activity, is the one that waits. Once I was old enough to drive my siblings, I spent (some but not all) late afternoons doing homework outside soccer fields and dance studios.

I wonder what pieces are autism and what pieces are older sister-responsibility-pieces.

Because some pieces are both.

I hear stories about how everyone centers around the autistic kids life. And disruption! Well, in my mind, nothing was a bigger disruption than my sister’s dance classes almost every day and sometimes over an hour away.

Mine were the quiet kind, where we turned into a family that didn’t do birthday parties because I didn’t like them, so my parents never got in the habit of big parties. The differences between my parents telling me to stay out later and the strict curfew my youngest sister has.

We almost never had babysitters because I was usually scared of them.

Of course, I never went to high school parties like the ones on tv. I thought they were mostly plot points to move the story along, like cafeterias. Both of them were things I learned later on were very real. In “peer counseling” sessions which were mandatory school-wide discussions that occurred in section and lead by older students, I heard all about them. And my youngest sister goes to them full of all the alcohol and activities and sometimes lies to my parents to go different places and all the storybook high school things.

Sometimes when I see and read and hear about other people melting down, I think of all the times I wish I could have but I couldn’t because I was responsible and it was NOT ALLOWED. Where you have to wait to wait to wait until you get home because you are driving or IN PUBLIC or I can’t think of any of the top of my head. I can’t think of reasons why I am not more visibly noticeably autistic.

I’m usually in somewhat vague denial of it.

I went to small schools. (Catholic schools–I would have gone anyway.) Uniforms. I could learn the names of 60 other kids when only two or three names changed from year to year. Eventually. I think by third or fourth grade I knew most of them.

Everyone was decent mostly.

I went to plays and dance recitals. I had to go because where else would I have gone? But I also don’t think I ever—well, ever is not true—I very seldom had to go to places that made me uncomfortable. My parents were good about that when they were able to. And they usually were able to. But mostly, we didn’t go to those places. Sometimes there were sister’s soccer parties and such, but those events didn’t really start in loud until I was old enough to stay alone. Benefits of being the oldest. There was a brief period of time maybe where they were starting to get loud but that was also when my youngest sister was born so then we didn’t go to things that babies couldn’t go to also. And then I was old enough to stay home alone.

But I also don’t remember being a small child, or at least not well, so who knows what they worked out then or when. (They do, I’m sure). I suppose I could ask some.

But I was my first parents child so they didn’t know what was normal and not, so they assumed everything I did was normal.

So I got my autistic normal imposed on my siblings, slightly, slightly, slightly.

I wonder what it’s like to have that. Introverted autistic normal imposed on extraverted siblings. Still slightly brainweird, though. Our whole family is. At least my mom’s side. Smatterings of dyslexia gathered in there, with various (sometimes un)diagnosed ADHD and  definitely autistic traits. Brainweird.

(It sounds like a chicken looks.)

And I’ve been thinking so much about family and differences because of getting married and how I will have different family things to join and be part of in a family that hasn’t been shaped and adjusted to fit our pecularities like my cousins and my mom’s side, where there are quiet rooms at Christmas for breaks and no one minds if you disappear for a few hours.

I didn’t realize how weird we were until all the things we went to with boyfriend (now husband). (And sometimes not until after complaining about how their family does X or doesn’t do Y to another friend who tells me her family also does X and doesn’t do Y and who is generally in touch with the scope of things).

Inconclusive.

normal normal normal normal?

Oh hey, maybe it’s like me being a person with specific characteristics and preferences and needs affected my family as much as the other people in my family also being different people with different characteristics and preferences and needs.


*Also because many of them are bad in general. And I don’t really remember much about this show TBH but I do strongly remember this feeling of “I must be helpful”. ALSO THIS IS VERY MUCH NOT A DISCUSSION ABOUT AUTISTIC PORTRAYALS IN TELEVISION. It’s just that this was a starting off point.

**This is a detail that has changed. I am much more comfortable around boys and men in general than I was however many years ago that I wrote this.

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Listening to music

I realized that not every post I post here needs to be 100% insightful and 100% perfect, because … this is the internet and I can post what I want. Also I control this site here. I do want to get in the habit of writing more frequently (in general, but also on here) and so I’m going to try and start with some more mundane posts. So here it goes…


Some people really like music. They talk about it and go see live concerts and all that jazz. It is very important to them.

“They are fine with just listening to music as an activity.”

Chemistry, Weike Wang*

I am not one of those people. I mean, I don’t dislike music but I’m pretty neutral to it, especially just LISTENING. I don’t think listening to music is an activity (that I would enjoy). I enjoy singing it or playing instruments because that seems like an activity. I don’t really get the appeal of live music. I actually usually actively dislike it (it’s usually so loud) unless it’s a nice classical concert in a park or something casual like that. On the other hand, this makes me pretty easy company for someone who is really picky about music choice, because I am up for almost anything on a roadtrip.

Except for musicals, because those have STORIES and are easier to sing along to, and I am just generally a musical fan. So when I need to listen to music (to hide the sounds of the neighbor’s upstairs activities or to muffle the sounds of fireworks on the 4th of July), I listen to musicals. Currently (as in the past 2 years), it’s almost exclusively Lin-Manuel Miranda musicals. Luckily for my husband, he also is a big Hamilton fan (although I don’t think he is as big of a fan of In the Heights).

This is legitimately the only reason I have a Spotify account. I got it to listen to Hamilton. I have expanded it to now listen to In the Heights and occasionally Next to Normal and test out the soundtracks for other musicals. Sometimes, but rarely, I will use it to play the Lord of the Rings soundtrack if I have to work on things in lab.


* Grad students (and former grad students)! Read this book. I mean, maybe not if you are struggling with grad school and want to not struggle, but then again, maybe because sometimes it is nice to see your struggles in fiction. But this book is hilarious and also does an excellent job of capturing grad school and the sometimes soul-crushingness of it. It’s one of the more accurate portrayals of late grad school that I’ve seen. Also, then come back and talk to me about it because no one I know has read this book.

Different colored chicken eggs

Ordinary-ness and happiness

I’m going through and rescuing some old drafts that got lost in the draft box, so hopefully for the next couple weeks I’ll be posting more frequently. Some of the details might be a bit out of date and sometimes the topics are a little bit silly.


Quiet happy lives

That’s what I really want to live. I want to find a nice patch of land near my parents (or at least within 50 miles or so) and live a quiet happy life. I want to have kids and dogs and some chickens running around in the yard in a nice coyote-proof coop.

I like traveling, but never alone. I like having a home base and a solid, reliable life to return to. I like following the rules and always having a stable life. I think I would be perfectly happy living a quiet happy life. I will save up my money and put some away into retirement, which I have done starting with my babysitting money (I was a very financially responsible 14 year old who also had no real expenses). I want to spend the time building a solid foundation and structures of my life.
And it is silly for me to think that this isn’t absolutely, positively accepted. It’s presumably the basis that people say they are rebelling from or rejecting when they are rejecting things?
Idk
internet stuff

I guess I come to the same conclusion about this now. Internet stuff. Also, maybe something about what people expect of you in your 20s to be wild and crazy. But I have never been wild and crazy so there’s no real reason to think I’d start just because I’m in my 20s.

Coordination is a thing?

I’m going through and rescuing some old drafts that got lost in the draft box, so hopefully for the next couple weeks I’ll be posting more frequently. Some of the details might be a bit out of date, though. Also, some of these posts might be a little bit silly and maybe not my best writing.

 

I have horrible proprioception. I used to think it was depth perception, but maybe it is actually proprioception. But I have always been excellent at climbing things. I scared all the other moms when I would climb to the top of everything in Mommy&Me classes and just lie on the poles. I’ve always climbed trees (except now… it is a lot harder to find trees to climb in a city because mostly they are other people’s trees and you are supposed to ask for permission before climbing other people’s trees.). Of course, I didn’t run until after my younger sister learned how to run.

I have excellent fine motor skills. I can inject DNA into a single-celled embryo and dissect very tiny glands from larvae. This requires really intense hand-eye coordination because the forces and tissues are so small and delicate, you don’t get any sensory feedback so you have to learn to judge your movements by the microscope and without any touch response. When I rotated in a neuro lab, the first chick brain I dissected was perfectly dissected (even though they had set aside many brains for me to learn how to mangle the first few). I also do some other very complicated and rare embryo manipulations that would definitely be identifying because VERY FEW labs do it and I am pretty darn good at it, and I picked it up super quickly.

But I also fell down the stairs daily at high school, walked into the counter daily at home, walked into walls regularly. But maybe that was because I insisted on wearing shows two sizes too large in high school because I hated shoes that touched my toes. I haven’t fallen down stairs in years. I also tend to struggle A LOT with doors, specifically with opening them but also with walking through them instead of into them.

Criss-Cross Applesauce

I’m going through and rescuing some old drafts that got lost in the draft box, so hopefully for the next couple weeks I’ll be posting more frequently. Some of the details might be a bit out of date, though.

I don’t sit still.


At least not as a general rule.

As a general rule, when I sit in chairs, I swing my feet. I kick things
(accidentally) and make unfortunately loud noises in class. Sitting
formally in a quiet room is a struggle, because if I am sitting properly,
feet on the ground, maybe ankles crossed, I have to spend so much focus on
being quiet and not distracting.

Which I don’t mind, really, because the tapping of feet and the clanging of
hitting chairs and the resulting table bouncing is an awful thing. I hate
when other people do it. It is distracting. It is painful. I understand
that there are situations I need to sit quietly.

But if I can sit on my feet, or criss-cross, with legs folded and wedged
into place, then I can sit quietly for hours (assuming I am also doing
something else, like typing or listening or reading or learning). Because
then my legs are comfortably wedged into place. I don’t have to worry about
forgetting that they are there, because they can’t go anywhere. It
generally requires conscious effort for me to take my feet out of
criss-cross. It is something I seldom do while I am paying attention to
something else.

But of course, not everywhere you can sit like this. Most of my clothes are
criss-cross appropriate… it is something I try to keep in mind when I buy
skirts and dresses (I’ve never really seen a pair of pants or shorts that
threaten flashing by sitting criss-cross, or at least not anything that
would fit my other clothes requirements.) Sure, I definitely have a few
skirts and dresses where I have to sit on top of my feet instead of
criss-cross, but I also usually wear shorts under those, so as long as it
isn’t too formal, I can usually get away with sitting criss cross.

The thing that is the real problem, though is desks. Those desks where the
desk and the chair are attached. Those can be difficult to sit criss cross
in. Those I generally have to settle for just sitting on one leg.

The other problem of course, is that sitting criss cross isn’t the formal
and appropriate way to sit at nice events. That isn’t how to sit at formal
dinners or at interviews.

And I have manners very thoroughly well ingrained, with the rules at least.

(I think my mom taught us something along the lines of “I know it is less
comfortable to sit with your feet down but manners don’t make sense they
are just a thing that everyone sticks to and then the other person knows
you are putting in extra effort because you respect them instead of just
being extra comfortable and easy).

P.S. I should write about manners and social expectations sometime.

P.P.S. I’m writing this while sitting very successfully quiet in a library
box working on prelim stuff. I am not the annoying library person. Well—I
am typing furiously, which I actually do get annoyed by other people doing
but that is a relatively quiet thing which I probably just need to get some
headphones to avoid.


For instance, from this P.P.S. I can tell that I wrote this over 4 years ago, since I took my prelims near the beginning of grad school.

Loud Places

I have very good hearing in general. I hear the buzz of the cable boxes when they are turned on and the tv is not, even several rooms away. I could hear the click in my old alarm clock before it turned on to the ratio set to the lowest volume static I could set it to and still hear if I sat up in my bed. I grew up in a quiet place and it took me a long time to get used to the city. It was much better once I moved away from the hospital. My new apartment still has noises, but it’s the quiet steady noise of the cars on a busy almost-highway. It’s consistent and easier to get used to. When I come home now, I can feel the silence in my ears as they expand without the noise to push them back in. I was used to the silence.

I generally can’t tune out things selectively. I can tune out the world when I’m reading or focusing, but I can’t tune into just the conversation I am listening to while not hearing all the other ones going around me. Buses and restaurants make conversations more difficult, but it can still be enjoyable. It takes effort to sift through all the words and assign them to the different conversations, but it is always how I have talked that way. It can be a problem when the group of new moms two tables down from us at a crowded restaurant are talking in more detail than I would like to hear about the processes by which they obtained their babies. I can tune them out, but not if I would also like to continue the conversation I am having with boyfriend. Boyfriend, on the other hand, has no idea of this conversation until I bring it up after dinner. Otherwise, I like going to restaurants and delicious food is often worth the effort of sifting conversations.

What does loud noise sound like? Does it sound like everything, just louder? Like the difference in talking volumes when you are trying to talk to someone in a library compared to talking to someone across a room? I want to know if other people can feel loudness, can hear it as a different sound. In crowded places, I can feel the conversations as they move around the room. It made sense to me, that you could feel sound, because sound is waves in the air. Even people with not-sensitive hearing can feel the very-loud-music of speakers from your inconsiderate neighbors. You can see it move sand in science experiments.

In loud places, even not-rock-concert-loud places (because I don’t go to places that loud!) but twenty-or-so-people-having-a-few-separate-conversations-in-a-room-loud places, the buzzing starts. It layers over the words and conversations that people are having. My ears will buzz and pop and bubble a little. It doesn’t hurt, but as it gets louder or as I am there for more time, the words will fade into the buzzing and I won’t be able to understand really much or most of what is going on. Even if I’m otherwise fine, and not overloaded or headed towards meltdowns, at some point, the buzzing gets loud enough that the conversations can’t be filtered and sorted out. This happens in family gatherings (we have large families) where I’m perfectly happy to keep sitting the night away while people chat around me. I might get out a book, or find a quiet corner for a while until the buzzing goes away if I want to come back and talk.

Autistic People and Imagination

When they say autistic people don’t have imagination and don’t engage in imaginative play, what do they mean? I knew I had imagination, and that was one of the biggest things holding me back from thinking I could be autistic, because that was something always stated and listed and formalized. Autistic people don’t have imagination.

I never really was into playing school or house, like other kids were (why would you be a grown-up when you could be a HORSE?). But I would play all sorts of imaginative games with my cousins and my sister and myself.

I played Orphan Kittens. We played all sorts of games with our stuffed animals and model horses. Admittedly, we often wrote out the scripts before and they were usually similar patterns that happened… but that is a trait common to children. (You notice it when you babysit or have younger siblings or really just encounter things like that).

We played Lord of the Rings and went on quests where grapefruits or a pomegranate were palantir. There was a game where we were princesses that also involved horses and we would switch roles between them back and forth. We also played a lot of complicated games involving chickens and occasionally my cousin’s goat which we were all afraid of, but those were not always imaginative games–I don’t really remember the point of them, so they are a bit irrelevant.

In 4th grade, I made snail houses and fairy houses and for one brief moment, I was a trendsetter when everyone else in 4th grade also made “fairy friends”. (Although I was a bit upset that they treated it as a game, because I at least half–probably more–believed in it). I played games where the swings were the way to outer space and the only way back was to go down the slides. I was good at coming up with games and stories, so as long as everyone else was still young enough to play stories and pretend at lunch, I had company. They grew out of it earlier, so I switched to books.

And I lived in stories and books (and still do) despite the best efforts of literature analysis to beat that love out of me. And I still half-live in a world of stories, although I read much less than my high school minimum of a book a day. (I have a lot more reading to do of other materials than I did in high school.) (Also, I don’t like going new places myself which is why I haven’t been yet to the [non-campus] library even though I love libraries.)

Anyway, on any given day, I’m about 80% sure I’m autistic and I’ve had official professional people agree with me, so I just wanted to summarize this to say that autistic people can be creative too and that is a silly requirement to say they can’t.