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.

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!)

What do I do at football games also I am tired

I went to a football game this weekend.

Some of my friends were going, too, and it was on my old campus where I am an alumni (of less than a year! gasp!).

Also, I’m still tired and thinking weird so that is why everything is broken up into segments. Because I like segments. But hey, I’m mostly using sentences now even, so that’s cool. Grammar and stuff! Yay word choice and organization or structure or whatnot!

BEFORE THE GAME

So it was an efficient way to see a lot of people that I miss. And one of my close friends from the group of 4 bio majors was coming up and another one lives near by so it was 3 of the 4 all there at once. And I spent the night before with them and played with their dog and talked and drove to school on the long car ride up (well, talked while one of them drove).

It was super super awesome to see my friends again. Although the friend who was coming from far away missed their flight because Colorado is flooded so it took a long time to get to the airport so she didn’t even get in until 1 am and then we talked a lot. But we also slept in a lot and then the friend whose house we slept over at has awesome parents and they made us BACON for breakfast (and other foods). And also we all got to sleep in beds there, and that’s always cool.

And then saw a few more people and said goodbye and went to meet boyfriend because I had seats with him.

ON CAMPUS

It was super crowded. There’s a bazillion people on campus before football games. But boyfriend’s family usually tailgates somewhere quiet, so I could sit in the grass and eat chicken and talk to people I knew only. And we got to see boyfriend’s old roommate and his girlfriend and they are awesome people, and also I miss them, and also they do cool things in science so it was fun to learn that. And there was food.

DURING THE GAME

We got to the stadium early because we always get to the stadium early. Boyfriend because he likes to watch warmups and predict who is going on the field when and possible lineups and who even knows what and me because I like going in when the entry is less crowded and when it starts less loud so that I can get used to the noise and so that it slowly increases.

And we got to watch the marching band and I LOVE marching bands. With the lines and the music and the patterns they make OUT OF PEOPLE!

And then there is the whole announcer thing in the beginning where the announcer says all the same things all the time and I like that. Except it sounded different today than it did as a student so I didn’t like that.

And then there was the sports part. Which was ok. I’m not super interested in them, but they can usually hold my interest for the first quarter. And then there are fun things to look for and I like to watch the clock change and I like to watch people on the sidelines. And I looked for people I knew and sometimes was bored. But also boyfriend likes sports so sometimes I go to them. And I had fun sometimes.

And it wasn’t even hot which is good because I hate hot and also I tend to faint in it, or almost-faint, and that’s no good.

And also then there is MORE MARCHING BAND AT HALFTIME! I really love marching bands.

And it was quieter than watching in the student section because there were more adults there so no drunk people yelling right behind us or falling on me. (Boyfriend liked student section better because of “atmosphere” but I was very glad to be quieter with more space to sit and less drunk people.)

And boyfriend lets me play with his hands and do fun stimming things with them like when you hit your fingers through another person’s fingers or just repeatedly run into their hand with your hand or things like that. Also his hands are large so my whole hand fits inside which is good when it is cold.

And also I saw someone on the other team punch someone on our team, which amused me and I think is not supposed to happen in football.

And also our team won, which made boyfriend happy. Although I don’t know why because the other team lost so half of the people on the field are sad and a lot of the people in the stadium probably are too because people who go to football games often tend to be emotionally affected by them, so I don’t know how people can be happy when other people are sad. But I don’t think I understand sports probably the way “sports people” do.

AFTER THE GAME

We saw more people. I saw my baby cousin who is now in college which is really weird because she should be small.

Also it was weird to go in buildings I used to live but where I don’t anymore because I am grown up and graduated.

But it was nice to see people and talk to people.

THE DRIVE HOME

We got in the car and drove away. I went home with boyfriend and his family because my friends were staying overnight and going out and stuff and I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. And then boyfriend’s dad was stressed about getting to a specific route onto the tollroad and it was stress and loud and noise. But we found it.

I have a silent meltdown in the car on the way back, because I am driving back with my boyfriends family and don’t want them to know, although it is ok if boyfriend knows and luckily he and i can sort of talk in sign so no one else notices. (The not wanting anyone to know is the reason for the silent, not the meltdown.) And boyfriend is good at helping with meltdowns even at the one the day before where I lost all my words. I like boyfriend. (I think I will need to come up with a good name for him so that I stop just referring to him as boyfriend because that sounds sort of silly and I might end up referencing him a lot or he might pop up here and there in posts because I see him a lot.) So boyfriend helped and then I got better and went to sleep in the car almost and he talked of silly things that would make me laugh once I got more focus back and I was ok until I got home.

LATER AND ALSO NOW

I got home and went to sleep for a very long time.

And then I woke up.

and now I am still off and sad and floppy and tired.

And also starting school.

And changes. And tired.

and I probably need to remember that I can do loud crowded stuff and even have fun at them sometimes

but that is certainly does have an effect

(after football games freshman year, I would fall asleep within an hour wherever I was, even if it was on the floor in someone else’s room, and basically sleep the whole rest of the weekend)

But maybe not the best timing because it is a day later and I am still super tired and I have orientation starting Monday and there are social things there and other things there and I have things to do and paperwork and SO MANY THINGS.

Friends are good, though.

Multiculturalness and thoughts on family

So I am 1/4 Indian. (My Nana is from India.)

That is an important part of my life. Even though I basically look 100% white. And I’ve had people tell me I’m lying when I tell them this. I’ve had to show them pictures of my grandmother to prove it.

And my Nana lived in a basically 100% white area since she married my grandfather. My mom and her siblings grew up as the only “ethnic” people in their school. The isolation probably helped contribute to the alcoholism that affected my mom’s childhood. And that lead to differences and rules in how I was brought up. This is where the importance of keeping up appearances and the need to fit in comes so strongly from.  The overwhelming importance of belonging and of making a good impression. (While at the same time, about being independent.) This family is the one that fiercely guards its secrets. Things are not spoken about directly but passed along in whispers. But I sit quietly and I hear whispers. I have good ears and people forget. And people just tell me things. And I watch. Even my family, my wonderful family. This is my safe family, where I am free to be strange and free to bounce and flap and dance happily. But only in private. Only with just family. 
Because we are taught strongly the importance of impressions.

We are taught strongly about keeping things in the family.

To the world, we do not tell our secrets.

This is not the family that mingles naturally. At group events and parties we would be quite happy to hide in our group of cousins. But this is the family that is forced and taught to mingle. But it probably is because of this that we are the ones that are forced to mingle.

This is the family where there are rules about mingling and drifting and appropriate socializing (some of this is also because this is the lawyer-family). But we were taught the rules of this, as well. Because this family does not mingle naturally, but we all knew the need for it. The importance of it, the social effects on it. We were taught the rules of conversation. How to ask questions and answer them and how to direct a conversation.*



The Indian side of my family is almost certainly the side of my family where my autism is inherited from.

And then there are the traditions and habits we have. The way I pronounce “us” and “theatre”. Always taking off shoes when we enter the house. Samosas as appetizers at every party. Late late late nights and dinners and start time. (Does thanksgiving dinner regularly start after 10 pm? Why I can’t remember the last time it started earlier…) we grew up with stories of how delicious fresh mangoes were and stories of Hindu gods (even though my Nana’s family are Catholic). The constant stream of visitors from foreign countries (a lot of them moved out of India) made me so used to a variety of accents that I never understood how my friends could have so much trouble understanding professors.

….

Cultural appropriation

We always dressed up in the clothes brought back from India for Halloween. (And other times.) Because they were so beautiful. And we liked to pretend we were from India, where my Nana grew up and where we heard stories.

But is this cultural appropriation?

My nana is the most recent immigrant from any country. All the others have been here a while, many more generations. So I am a mix of American (made up of various European immigrants) and Indian.

So, on enrollment forms and stuff, I’m always a bit conflicted. I suppose I should choose white/caucasian for them, since that is what I mostly am. I look white. I get the benefits. I don’t want to cheat.

My undergraduate school only had one option, once you were enrolled (which was strange because on the application, you could put multiple). So they chose Asian as the part for my enrollment (we were not a very diverse university). (Even though I had out both on my initial forms). And I always felt like a bit of a fake. Because I had all this clearly white privilege stuff because basically that’s what I look like.

But THEN…

I was filling out enrollment verification and student information stuff for my graduate program AND they let me put UP TO 7 CHOICES under ethnicities. And they are specific, too, because I am always concerned if Indian counts as Asian, because sometimes it seems to not.

And that was exciting, because I am both. 3/4 and 1/4. And it has influenced my life and I do like having the choice to put down both.

Because I am both. 
(And I am neither alone).
And I was glad to be at a school that lets me put both down on this probably small, unimportant piece of paperwork.

Related thoughts:
Kassiane A. Sibley’s Open Letter to Identity Police
______
* I am not nearly as good at this as some of my cousins, but I think because we were specifically and concretely taught conversation rules as long as we could talk, this is one of the big reasons why I can function relatively well socially. (And probably a big reason for the delay in diagnosis.)