The Life Autistic: What We Do When You Don’t Talk to Us

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If you’re neurotypical, what words does this scene evoke? Lonely. Isolated. Ignored. Alone.

If you’re living The Life Autistic? Normal.

Sometimes that’s fine. Sometimes it’s discouraging, even disconcerting. Sometimes we’re just off in our own thoughts. Sometimes it’s our way of saying “come talk to me.”

But it’s always productive.

When you’re in a spot like this as often as I am, you learn some coping tricks, some of them clever.

I’ve made an art of treating it like a multi-input listening exercise, the aural equivalent of a panopticon.

In college, I didn’t come to conversations with seat mates easily, but I learned an awful lot about them, picking out details, concerns, insights.

At work, same story — I’m a reliable tag along, even if I just end up listening to everyone else talk and putting their stories in my back pocket.

The real trick is when I bring it back, to everyone’s surprise.

“How did you know that?”

“Did I . . . tell you about this?”

“Wow, I’m surprised you remembered that.”

I’m no good at breaking the ice. At least not right away. When no one talks to me, I just listen. And remember. And recall.

And that all makes one heck of an icebreaker.

Fast forwarding to a recent endeavor:

I’ve started getting back into the Sunday School habit, since it’s a smaller group, more of my age cohort, etc.

There I sat, as each of the couples there found their own little pockets, surrounded in discussion, finding other normal people to talk to.

At first, it discouraged me, since I’d thrown myself in the mix to try being more social.

But I know who I am at this point. It isn’t going to change. Neither are others.

So I listened.

Picking up what others say, things they share. What they’re about.

Maybe later down the road I’ll be looped into a conversation.

It’ll be a while, but it’ll pay off.

“So you’re Hunter, and — wait, well, how did you know—”

It’s . . . what I do when you don’t talk to me. 🙂

 

 

 

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