In the details and routines

Not everyone* is built for the story of adventures or super-mega-career-intensity told to us** that we should be doing (or maybe I’m spending too much time on the internet and not enough time around traditional old ladies who seem to tell people in stories and movies to settle down and this is a fake problem I’m creating for myself inside my head). Sometimes all we*** want is somewhere safe and familiar to base ourselves in. What is wrong with wanting to settle down? With wanting to put down roots and settle into comfortable routines of life? (Nothing. The answer is nothing.)
I was born too practical a person for reckless adventure. If I won a million dollars, even as a small child, my plan was to pay for my college education and then for my sisters. Now, I would add probably a house for myself and pay off my loans and my husband’s loans.**** I would never go vaguely off and adventuring. I’m not comfortable in new places (alone) or around new people. I like the familiar. I like knowing where my meals are going to come from next week and having all the ingredients and recipes for them prepared ahead of time. All these plans and routines make me HAPPY.
I’ve always been looking for reasonable solutions. There’s love in the details and negotiations of a slow and steady moving relationship. I have the letters saved from when my husband and I were dating and discussing if we wanted to take the next step (of kissing). It was slow and methodical and reasoned out. I can go back and look at them and while it first lets me know how young we both were, I can see the care and concern in each carefully typed letter I have folded into envelopes in the shoebox in my nightstand. There’s care and concern and thought put into these letters that have been outlines.
As we settle into routines of being married, it is safer and happier. The first week back was not as great, with jobs and schedules. There was a person in my place, where it had just been me and my dog before. And the dog listens to me (mostly) and doesn’t talk ever. I would come home from work to happy silence. I don’t like change, even when it’s ultimately good change.
But now as we have morning routines (more) figured out and are falling into patterns of life, it’s getting better and easier. Now that each moment of the day isn’t something new, there is time to think about the details of what is going on. Husbands will accommodate quirks that you can’t ask of roommates—I don’t like not knowing when people will be at my house. There’s love in the “at the bus stop” texts so that I have time to prepare. There’s love in the details when we count backwards to plan the timeline of a weekend day. Or in the weekly planning of meals where we trade each others dislikes to find meals we both will enjoy. Or in going through the Simpson’s episodes slowly, every few nights getting to one.

We are falling into patterns now and it’s comfortable and safe and good. Once you have a pattern and a base, then you can work towards something, because you are safe and can concentrate energy on doing things besides just surviving.

*aka me
**once again, maybe just me
***Pronouns are hard and I don’t like using first-person pronouns even when it is clearly appropriate.
****Also, now I know that a million dollars isn’t nearly as large of a sum of money as I thought, but I think I’d still be able to get a fair chunk of things out of the way. Or maybe the amount of money will increase in this hypothetical situation I am creating for myself.
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NOT home for the holidays

Note: Talking about food and eating and not eating

This year for Thanksgiving I did not go home (I haven’t for several years, because Thanksgiving weekend is short and I live several thousand miles away from home.) But usually I would meet up with some family that had been scattered around the area or eat with friends or something.

This year, I did not. (People moved around again, and I suppose I did too, now that I am in graduate school and in a different city and other people live in different places and different countries and such.)

But don’t worry I will definitely be home for Christmas, and for a good long time, too.

This year, I went to boyfriend’s family’s Thanksgiving.

Different families have different traditions.
Family traditions are really confusing if you don’t understand them.
Even things less formalized than traditions. Just family habits.

Like shoes.

We wore our shoes the whole time. In the house. All day. I carefully watched people, so I could tell if it was ok for me to take my shoes off. Usually I do that first thing when coming inside. My whole family does. We have shoe piles by all our doors and have to wander around to the various doors when leaving to try and find where our shoes are.

Boyfriend’s family wears shoes inside. (Later I discussed this, and was informed it would be ok for me to take me shoes off. So now I know that for the future.)

And food.

I have come to the conclusion that my family is overly attached to food. We have very specific dishes. And large numbers of them. Each family makes a few of the different ones to spread out the work. When you have a 30 person Thanksgiving*, you can have more dishes than a 13 person one. And then there are the desserts, which is a whole new meal that you wait several hours for so that you have enough room for it. And the rules about who does which clean-up chores. It is very carefully regimented.

This is the dessert table from the Thanksgiving that my family had that I did not go to. It was much smaller than normal because a lot of people are still in college or are off in various other parts of not-home doing things, like me. Usually there are more cheesecakes. And ice cream. And normal cakes. And whipped cream. And just about everything. But also usually there are 30-50 people, which there wasn’t this year. Also, it was rather cruel to send me this picture. 

These rules do not apply in other families.

Also, they have different food and apparently they make the mashed potatoes taste like water and the sweet potatoes not taste like delicious orange things that are my favorite food ever. (And so then I had a lot of food on my plate that there was no way I was going to eat because it lied about what it was. But it is against the rules not to finish your food when you are a guest. But I couldn’t eat it. So I got stuck there a while until boyfriend noticed and ate the various potatoes for me and then saved me and then I could go eat more turkey and stuffing [which was also wrong, but at least it was yummy, so it was ok].)

And that (mostly the food) makes me sad because it is probably an event I will be going to for years and it is not a potluck thing, so I guess I will have to just deal with it by making my own later after the event** because I do not know if there would be a way for me to offer to make the food without offending people. I will confer with boyfriend on this. But he probably doesn’t know because the food just appears. And also everyone else seems to like it. So I will pretend to like it and remember which ones I don’t like and serve carefully of the things I like so that I have enough food and no one questions me and finds out I don’t actually like most of the food.

And then there are other secret codes and languages. Hidden jokes and words and ideas. “I’ll explain later”s. Songs and dances. What is the order for getting the food? Is there rules to who can sit where?

Boyfriend is good and reviewed things with me before. Where we were going. What would happen. Who would be there. How loud it would be and when and where. But there are things you don’t think of explaining because that’s how you have always done it, so why does it need to be explained. But different families do things differently.

And most families don’t have quiet rooms that you can go to and take a break in and have it be perfectly ok and normal and expected. (And I don’t know them well enough to start exploring the house.)

But boyfriend is important to me. And so is his family. And I want to learn their traditions and get involved in them and be part of their family, too, because that is part of the end goal and in the five-year plan that we have made. And also my family is too far away to go home to for Thanksgiving, so this seems like a good starting place.

But also his family is weird (although I like them very much) and also has issues which are not mine to discuss here and those can be upsetting and confusing to me. Because I mostly know how to deal/cope with/ignore my family issues (because we have our deep dark hidden secrets, too, but I know how we approach them), but I am confused with these issues when I know what they are but I do not have a lifetime of dealing with them to have developed coping mechanisms or to have learned the rules regarding them.

Luckily, there were small children and dogs present. Those are my strongest groups of social interactions. I made new friends, even with the shy ones. We put together puzzles. Both of those classes of living things have a tendency to like me because I don’t mind sitting on the ground and acting embarrassingly. I also discussed farming and coyotes with someone else, which is another one of my strong points.

And his family that I know was very very nice, and most of the people I didn’t know were also nice.

So it was good. And then I came home and lost all my words and boyfriend came over for a bit until the meltdown-shutdown-crying-panic-overload went away and I was happy again.

And then I slept for 13 hours.

(Which threw off my sleep schedule which is why I am still up past 2:00 now…)

~~~
* Or a 50 person Christmas
**Definitely made one-person sweet potato pie the day after to make up for the fail.

Holidays and families

I love my family. We’re a great big mess of extended people with all sorts of strange traditions. For a long time, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have great friends at school because I always had cousins and sisters that I could talk to and be weird with and not be lonely. And now that we’ve all moved out to college and don’t live within 2 hours of each other, Christmas is often the only time that we can actually all be together at once. 
But holidays are still loud and crowded and not always sensory-friendly. But they also have some other great things going for them. 
Tradition.

AKA mega-routines

I love holiday traditions and our family has buckets of holiday traditions. The same foods every year, the same seating, the same place. We have the same time frames for everything. 
And admittedly, sometimes they got a bit people-busy. There are always a few random relatives and you always have to hug them. (But luckily a lot of them were from different countries where they air-kiss you on the cheeks instead, which is much less space-invasive if you have to interact with strangers/people who have maybe met you when you were a small child but aren’t positive because there were a lot of us and babies are all pretty similar.) And remember their names. And remember their faces (now that’s the tricky part). And it can get loud. 
But there was also always so many food options that I didn’t have to eat the ones I didn’t want. (And then a couple hours later, there was an entire table of desserts!) There were people to talk to and play with that didn’t require much difficulty. With cousins you didn’t really have to worry about social rules. You could be as delightfully weird as you wanted and spend the whole night talking only in quotes and not be alone. Because they would be quoting right along.
And also there were always rooms or places outside that were quiet. You could sit and read (and there always new books to read at Christmas) or just sit somewhere alone if you needed to*. You could go away from the main crowd to have small conversations if large conversations were too big.

And even the conversations… Very very very little small talk. We talked about new laws and current events and discussions on the death penalty. They were all conversations about SOMETHING. Something logical.

(Or sometimes they were stories, but they were all interesting stories about my grandparents’ lives (they are very interesting people). And I love stories.)

(Or horses. We talk about horses a lot. I am good at talking about horses. So are several of our other cousins. Sometimes we would just name horse breeds at each other. Although, now we tend towards quoting LOTR at each other instead.)

And this is why I love my family and I love holidays so much.

So have a wonderful holiday season, everyone! (and all and any holidays, or if you don’t celebrate any in particular, I hope you are just having a generally lovely day.) (I hope you are happy and enjoying yourself wherever you are, whoever you are with (or enjoying the nice quietness of being by yourself), and eating delicious food.)

Be happy!

*and it really is perfectly normal. Like I said my family definitely has autistic tendencies so it actually took me a while to realize that taking a break somewhere delightfully quiet is not something that is acceptable in general society… For years and years I probably had read at least one book during any party I went to and didn’t understand why people thought it was unusual that I brought a book with me. (It was for when I took my break!)

Adventures in Apartment Living: Paying Bills and Talking to Banks

I don’t like dealing with money, especially in large amounts. Or paying bills. (Who does, though…)I cannot remember to pay bills on time. I can remember to have enough money in the appropriate amounts, which right now I am handling by the “avoiding spending money method”. So automatic bill payment is amazing.*

And grad school pays me quarterly, too, which means it is a very large sum of money, all at once. That I have to use over a period of 3 months. So I need to have an idea of how much to spend and when. Which I really have no concept of, whatsoever.

(Boyfriend is going to help me make a budget soon. And Mint.com is nice, too**, but I also don’t know really what to set as reasonable limits for my various financial goals, so I need an actual person. Who know my income. Which is why I am dating an accountant. Well, not really, but it is a perk.) But I like that it gives overviews of EVERYTHING including my student loans and various accounts at different banks (I manage to pick up credit union accounts at several different places that I’ve lived and I haven’t quite managed to close any of them yet, so I’ve got small amounts of money currently scattered through several banks across the country, which aren’t all really accessible, but at least I know how much is in them. And I suppose it is online banking so I can probably move money around and such.)

(And don’t worry, I know this is a privileged problem to have.)

Sometimes I need to talk to banks to figure out how to work things out. Like how to set up automatic bank payments. Because bank websites confuse me.*** And that is ridiculously stressful. Because phone conversations and me do not get along best.

But…

Now sometimes banks have this new wonderful feature.

At least Bank of America does.

It has this wonderful button. That says “Chat with a specialist”

Which means I can message a person. Nonverbally. Typing. And get an immediate response. Without really dealing with a person directly.

It is so amazing.

I can ask them when I forget how to find my routing number (I don’t have checks… so I can’t look at them to figure it out.) I just talked to them to set up automatic bill payment. It took 15 minutes, maybe less. It would have taken me hours to figure it out on the confusing website. And calling things wouldn’t have worked and would have ended in me having to hide for a while afterwards and be useless.

But this way, I can get questions answered immediately. Without talking. And it is amazing.

~~~
*Although there seems to be no way to automatically pay my rent, which is unfortunate.
**And also that’s why I don’t use cash because there isn’t a record of my spending so I have NO IDEA how much money I’ve spent. And then I just get confused and panicky and that’s no good.
***So much. It is a good thing I have so many accountant friends because I just cannot understand the numbers on the credit statement. Or how much I have to pay or how it works. But I can check that all the transactions are real, and then you can set up “pay balance in full” and then all is good.

I don’t understand

TW: Depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts. And something along the lines of thinking a disability doesn’t count or isn’t real.

In which you learn how I am secretly a horrible person.

My freshman year roommate and I generally got along. We weren’t really friends, and had rather different schedules, but were generally respectful and would study somewhere else when the other person needed to sleep and get dressed quietly with minimal light-turning on to not wake up the other person. She’s actually a cool person and I think I could have been good friends with her, except we never actually talked except greetings and stuff. (She had a rather intense long distance relationship the whole year that was not going super great, so it occupied a lot of her time.)

Sophomore and junior year I lived with the same girl. When I agreed to live with her freshman year, I knew it wouldn’t work well. But I couldn’t figure out how to say no. Sophomore year was ok though. Not super great but not awful.

And then junior year hit with the depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts. (Junior year was just not a high point in my life).

And what had been a non-ideal but still functional living arrangement really just got awful. Because I had nowhere to hide.

And my roommate was having her problems with ADHD and stuff. Which meant that she was MESSY. (Which actually wasn’t that big of a problem because I am messy too, but I am usually only messy with stuff. Not with time.) And would sleep in late. And miss classes. So times when I expected to be home alone were totally destroyed. My schedule was gone and off. And meltdown over meltdown over meltdown and I couldn’t even hide in my room, since she was in there.

I need schedules.
Especially when my world is already going to pieces, I need my schedules and my routines.

And I hated ADHD. And thought it was fake and made up. Because CLEARLY IF SHE JUST GOT OUT OF BED when her alarm went off then she could go to class. If she just went to class, then maybe she wouldn’t have been failing her classes. Or maybe if she studied instead of internetting all the time.

I just didn’t understand why she couldn’t try harder.

Or why she kept missing her classes.

And to be honest, I still don’t really.

I don’t understand how someone can’t just sit down and do their work.

Or just wake up when the alarm goes off.

And then a couple years later, my youngest sister, who I’ve never gotten along with great, was in high school. And did a really bad job freshman year. And so my parents got her tested and found out that she had ADHD. And this made me even more mad and I decided ADHD was even more fake.

This is the sister who yells at me that I don’t know what it is like to be her because people like her and they don’t like me. And she has friends. And that’s important. And I just wouldn’t understand. And how she has other things that are important like sports. And I just don’t understand what it is like to be bored in class. (Also false, I didn’t learn a single thing in a math class until we got to the proofs in geometry in high school.) And who is generally difficult. And who lies to our parents so she can go do things she wants to do. (This is a big one. Even Medium Sister, who was much more social and fought a lot more with our parents than I did, never lied to them. Our parents are generally fair, reasonable people who just want us to succeed at life and be happy, decent people.) And she even lied about being sick to get out of school sometimes (something, again, I never did even though I hated school sometimes because lying was wrong. And incorrect.)

So it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that Small Sister was using this to get out of doing school work. Or other work. And to make things fit her life.

(And also I was mad at my parents for getting her tested but never thinking about it with me, even though I did go through various periods of life where it would have probably been somewhat obvious. But I was quiet and didn’t make trouble. And apparently, if you made trouble, then you got excuses. And that wasn’t fair at all.)

And I just didn’t understand why someone couldn’t just sit down and finish their homework.

Or why they would lie about things.

Or why they wouldn’t ask for help if they didn’t understand things. There are tons of people in my family that can help with math.

Or why she didn’t follow the rules my family has created about not forgetting things at home (homework isn’t done until it is in your backpack and your backpack is in the car.)

There are so many things that just don’t make sense to me.

But then again, I also don’t understand how people could have trouble with basic calculus. Or be biology graduate students and not understand how to look at simple recombination or complementation data.

Or how people can talk to other people without needing to take naps afterwards.

Or how people can just go up to random strangers and ask them for directions.

Or how to talk to a professor during office hours.

Or how to call and order food from a restaurant.

Or how people can remember other people’s faces.

Or how to remember to take a shower every day.

But I can not understand things about other people and not be a jerk about it. Because I’m sure there’s a lot of things people don’t understand about me. And I’d appreciate if they weren’t jerks about it either.

And I can not understand something and still know that it is a real experience for other people. Even if I don’t really understand it.

Catholicism

So, I’ve been raised Catholic. (And I know the church has issues and there are things it does I don’t agree with all the time, but this isn’t about that, so I’m not talking about that here. Because that is a different thing SLASH not the point of this article) 
But anyway, there are nice things about Catholicism and my brain.
I love going to Mass on Sunday. It’s part of my weekly routine. It would always restart the weeks during summer when days would otherwise blend into one. It’s part of the schedule that’s always there. It’s part of how I was raised. I am definitely culturally Catholic.

Also, Catholicism is full of repeats, word for word rituals. (Especially Mass!) It is extremely easy to follow along (same words all the time). It’s a script! I love scripts. 
Repeated words and actions. And everyone else is doing it.  And you are taught specifically what to do at each point (and WHY!) It’s delightful. (No guesswork or uncertainty. You know just as much as everyone else!)
It’s a lovely way to feel like you fit in. Which is the second point.
Freshman year of college, before I made friends (which was late), sometimes mass would be the only times I made actual contact with people. So mass was an opportunity for me to get actual physical contact (brief hugs!) with other people.*
Because sometimes you need to feel like you belong, and sometimes you need things that remind you of home, and sometimes it’s nice to know as much about what is going on as everyone else.
—-

*I am used to semi-regular physical contact with people. I like short hugs. At home, we sit on each other a lot. I like physical contact. I like how humans feel warm. (So do animals. I love snuggling animals). 

Trouble at the Library!

A rant!

The library is a wonderful place. One of my favorite places. It has my favorite books. It has my stories. It has chairs for reading in. It is safe. Even with the people and the voices, it is safe. And now there are no book limits (although those might have been made by my parents, on further notice) and there are self-checkout machines, so really, even the people are mostly avoidable.

AND THEN

THEY DECIDED TO RENOVATE IT!

And it wasn’t just adding more comfy chairs. NO! They MOVED THE BOOKS. (And added no comfy chairs.) They split my books off. They made a “young adult” section and moved half of my books upstairs, to the nonfiction part! (Not that I don’t mind the non-fiction. They have James Herriot there. And also books full of facts and science and history and all sorts of fun things. But upstairs is for non-fiction and reference. Downstairs is for fiction. The “normal AKA adult” fiction is downstairs. So is the children’s section fiction.)

And the way they divided up the sections is completely nonsensical. Some authors have books in both the young adults section and the junior young adults section (which is part of the children’s section). (And even the children’s section is divided up into more details than it should).


And now my favorite stories are scattered. Upstairs, downstairs. Some of them are missing. They can’t be found.

On my visit to the library, I went up and down and up and down. I got books from the young adults section, the junior young adults section and the upper elementary section. (I also do read grown-up books sometimes. And even enjoy them. But I was home and wanted to reread all my favorites. At school, all the books are adult books. Who knows if the libraries in the city I’m going to grad school in will have these books?) These books all used to be right next to each other. Within maybe 10 or 20 feet. A couple of shelves. All of my books were home.

Even the books that didn’t get reassigned aren’t in the same spots. They reorganized the whole set. (The JYA section is where the books on tape belong!)

I never learned the titles or authors of half my favorite library books. I just knew where they were and what the cover looked like. I want to read my book about Robin Hood on the bottom shelf in the middle of the farthest back alcove. I want to read the books about goblins two shelves from the top.

AND NOW THEY ARE GONE.

(And my wonderful, relaxing trip to the library became a lot less awesome.)