The Life Autistic: Give Us a Chance to Fix It!

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I remember asking my dad if I could help unload groceries into the fridge.

He said no.

And I remember losing it over that!

“Dad, I just wanted to help! Like THE BIG HELP, geez.”

I don’t know why I’d expected my dad to know of the Nickelodeon campaign, and at the same time, I had no idea why I’d been rebuffed on what I thought was simple enough.

Folks, I’m not often charged out of my indolence, but when I am, it is strong.

When I want to pitch in and feel like I can solve something, the urge is almost impossible to shake.

I hate when it’s shot down.

Hate.

In my journey on The Life Autistic, I’ve reflected on this more.

To try solving a problem, that can be a strong compulsion, obsession. As if, logically, we don’t see this as a problem unless we cannot solve it after trying.

Yeah, I get that it’s a waste of time sometimes. I may not be equipped for it.

And in the case of loading the fridge, my dad had a system. And it wasn’t one I’d have followed. (Gee, maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree here).

But to this day, when a problem, concern, task, or tinker comes up — I’m almost afraid of the urge.

Sometimes I just want a crack at solving something to prove it can’t be solved!

 

 

 

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The Life Autistic: “But Hunter, you . . .”

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Let’s hear it.

It’s ok.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe it from the outside.

Folks, I’m definitely autistic, even if I don’t look and don’t always act it.

But Hunter, you . .

I what?

Moved out?

Yeah, because my family thought it’d be easier for me to be out on my own and not have to worry about me during their next cross-Atlantic move. I was 16. It wasn’t easy for any of us.

Have a career?

So? Even many neurotypical, non-autistic people don’t! That’s just as normal as it isn’t. I was fortunate to learn, to adapt, to grow, and to work in a place that has mostly valued my work. I’m different, and I work for a place that thinks different.

Got married?

Well, hah, ok, I lucked out there. ^_^

Have friends?

I don’t have a lot of friend-friends. They are special and rare. They’ve stuck around. But I’m an odd duck. And even to this day I’m afraid I’ll lose them if ever I’m too weird. But I haven’t yet. I still have them, and I hope I find more.

Have emotions and empathy?

It’s not that I don’t feel. The intensity is different, the expression isn’t what you’d expect. This surprises me as much as it may do you. I’m autistic, not inhuman.

Are almost fun to be around socially?

Who am I kidding, no one says that.

But if they do – it takes effort, it’s all been work, and none of it comes naturally. I’ve worked hard—HARD—to be a more likable person, and it’s work every step of the way.

Folks, I’ve never grown out of it. I never will.

Autism and its quirks and perks are with me forever.

If they’re not obvious, that’s because I don’t make them obvious.

I’ve grown with it. Into it. Learned to cope, to adapt, to respond, to foresee and plan better.

 

The Life Autistic: Be More Specific than THAT

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I remember telling my daughter to get me a tool.

Mo, can you get daddy the red screwdriver, with the short handle; it’s in my office, on the left by my chair, in the top drawer of my cabinet with the Hot Wheels, and it might be under a stack of yellow paper.”

There’s no way she’d miss that.

Because I did what I’d want y’all to do for us.

We autistic folks can have some challenges when we’re trying to figure out what you mean when you’re not specific.

If you’re asking me “OK WHAT IS THIS??” — folks, I’m gonna low-key freak out, because I can’t answer your question if I don’t know what THIS is.

Or if you’re capping off a long list of things with “THAT needs to be done urgently,” then I’m gonna pause and make sure I know what THAT might be.

Does that sound simple?

It is simple.

Many of us are really logical, precise creatures, and we LOVE unambiguous communication.

So help us out with that.

That, being “being more specific.”

The Life Autistic: Stand and Deliver

This last week I had one of the most intense, searching, and revelatory experiences of my professional life.

EXECUTIVE PRESENTATION TRAINING

Even for you neurotpyical folks, this would have been a daunting ask. Getting each “uhm” clipped, every extra qualifier pounced upon.

For me, I knew what was coming.

I’ve polished my “presenting version” of Hunter Hansen down to where there’s only one thing left to refine.

Me.

I’ve cut out all the big words when I need to present to directors, leaders, etc.

I don’t ramble in circumlocutionary, concentric circles of narrative excess.

But eye contact?

Oh man, if I had a nickel for every time I was reminded to keep my eyes up, eyes down, eyes on the audience, I’d have a lot of nickels.

It’s so hard for me.

It’s like I need a BREAK, because I can only hold a gaze while speaking for so long.

And I almost need a stopping point to look away and “download more content.”

It’s a lot to process!

*But before any of you would cry foul here or think this is some attempt to change part of what makes Hunter, Hunter*

Here’s why I was given that advice.

I’m extremely expressive.

Apparently my face alone does so well to read, reflect, and react to an audience that it draws people in.

And it’s good enough to where I shouldn’t kick them out.

Imagine that. Young H2 would never have believed I was in any way captivating.

In fact, I was told I couldn’t Botox my forehead because of it.

In the end, I was happy. Exhausted, but happy.

The best piece of advice I got?

“Stop performing and just be you.”

Ok, I’ll be me.

You ready?

The Life Autistic: Learning from Children

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I marvel at the hearts of my daughters. In a way, I feel they’ve given me more of a heart of my own.

This was a small but poignant moment that I was lucky to capture in sequence, something so natural, so pure.

And it’s something I feel I’m learning as an autistic adult!

I forget what kind of scolding Mo got to where she retreated pouting to a corner, but it involved probably roughhousing my youngest, Zo.

Not soon after Mo’s whimpers echo in our laundry corridor, on scoots Zo, as if to come ask Mo “what’s wrong?” 

She’s a 9-month old baby, yet she’s already in possession of a beautiful trait:

She runs to comfort sorrow.

What a profound little thing.

And of course, Mo reciprocates in kind.

They such sweet little humans, my greatest co-creations.

And this — this is how I learn about having a heart, by watching my little ones who do.

The Life Autistic: Hugs, Hugs, and more Hugs

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When I travel on business, there’s a lot of hugs.

“But H2, I thought you autistic folk didn’t like hugs!”

Some do, some don’t!

I know they’re going to happen, I plan well, I’ve mastered my distance, steps, duration, high-low-you-name it.

It’s part of meeting and greeting and I roll with it!

This past visit, I’ll share the encapsulation of the experience.

Across from me were three of my primary customers who I saw for the first time in person. As they came in line, I realized what was up.

This is going to be a conga line of HUGS.

YES.

I’m two folks in, and the third fellow asks “Wait, who is this and why are we hugging him?”

“Oh!” they exclaimed, “it’s H2!”

*SQUEE* MORE HUGS

To some of you, this is normal and 100% unremarkable.

To others, this may be a terror, in which your space feels violated and senses assaulted.

The Life Autistic is a spectrum, a complicated one, where even the simplest embraces might not be so simple.

I wish I could say I worked my way up from crippling anxiety here, but it was more just overcoming awkwardness step by step, hug by hug, embracing the embrace.

Of course, it’s easy when the hugs just go around.

Just don’t ask me what to do when a non-greeting situation calls for a hug, because I’m still figuring that one out! I’ll take tips, please and thank you. ^_^