Evaluating Social Conventions
I have made a decision. It sounds real obvious, but I decided to only do things as long as I understand what I am doing and why I am doing it. I have given myself permission to do whatever I want—as long as I can say to myself, “I am doing X, for reason Y.” No mindlessness allowed.
Mindlessness is a variation of sleepwalking. If I wish to take a nap, I’ll do it consciously and deliberately. Just no numbing out. Staying awake is tough for me at times in this frozen tundra. Even the word “Buddha” means “awakened one,” which is a direct challenge to my hibernatory tendencies. Staying awake is a worthy goal that I am not always successful at.
My real target regarding consciousness is all those normal social conventions that I’ve never succeeded at and am now evaluating the worth of maintaining. When I was growing up, nobody ever had a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. If you weren’t full-blown autistic, you (I) could pass for normal. It has only been as an adult that I have met seriously Asperger-y people and done research on it. Looking at it, I realized, “Oh, my God. That’s me.” The shock of identification. When I thought of how I rock back and forth when stressed, it was like, “Wow. How autistic is that?”
I endlessly frustrated my poor mother. I continually retied my shoes to get my laces the exact same degree of tightness. I didn’t care how things looked, but they had to feel right. I am Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. A little less severe, but the same idea. I even admire Amy Farrah Fowler’s corduroy skirt collection. How wrong is that?
I have always felt like a freak, for good reason. I miss social cues. I have a really limited tolerance for physical touch and social contact. There is an episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and Amy break up. Leonard asks Sheldon if he misses the social and physical contact with Amy. Sheldon’s response is perfect. “I’ve lived with you for seven years and can barely tolerate you.” That’s me.
My challenge is to figure out what social protocols I participate in that I can let go of. Just because I (or others) have always done something in no way implies that it is actually worth doing. I went to great lengths to get a degree so I can work anywhere and be at least semi-functional. This is the first time in my life I am seriously evaluating all the crap I have felt obligated to do. I have never felt comfortable with all the social etiquette, but I also never felt like I had a choice. I am giving myself that choice now. I am 47 years old and too old to be playing these games. There can be no new me without consciously letting go of those pieces of the old me that never fit in the first place. This in-between is a place of great pain, fear, and hope.