The Life Autistic: Let Us Do What We’re Good At!

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I’m good at maybe one or two things. Three, tops.

You’d think it would make sense to just let me do those things. They’re not arson, larceny, or crimes, either.

I remember talking with my friend Josh, and they’d gotten Michael, their son, into track. Michael’s autistic, and he’s an energetic boy, only more so. He loves to run.

My thought?

This totally makes sense.

He loves running. Getting him into track, which involves running, is logical. This makes sense.

Permitting a passion with a purpose is key!

Sadly, I have one very fixating obsession: vacuuming.

My house has dogs, and it has carpet. Do the math.

When it is time to vacuum, it is time to vacuum. I’m more rote and robotic than a Roomba would be here. I bought my expensive vacuum as a luxury item, and I enjoy vaporizing the dog hair and making lines in my carpet.

You would think this would go unopposed!

But no.

“Do you have to vacuum RIGHT THIS SECOND?”

“Can’t this wait until we’ve done XYZ?”

Dad, I’m trying to watch Netflix!”

The Life Autistic is driven by extraordinary propulsion for doing ordinary things.

It’s almost an unstoppable force.

Which is why — if it’s something productive — just let it roll.

It’s like interrupting a golf swing to stop.

It’s like hijacking our logic (good task = do) to bring to a halt.

When my mind and body converge to say, it’s TIME TO VACUUM – y’all, this house is getting vacuumed.

It sucks, I know.

But if it’s good, let it go, k?

 

 

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The Life Autistic: If being “weird” weren’t enough, add migraines

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Someone asked me what “the Hunter experience must be like.”

I wanted to joke and say “terrible,” but the question gave me pause.

It’s not something I’d wish on anyone.

Especially the migraines.

Autism and migraines apparently have a small relationship, a sort of fling. I’m stupidly fortunate not to suffer from many health related issues, but shoot — I’d give migraines away if I could.

Migraines are worse for autistic people

Yeah, neurotypicals can suffer from them as much as the next person, but they tend to be an unfortunate complicator to those of us on The Life Autistic.

Why?

We already feel bad (or at least a little ashamed) of our particular preferences

When I insist on keeping it cold, it’s not because I’m a robot (well, uh, anyway) — heat is a trigger. My avulsion to flourescent lighting is already odd, but when it’s migraine time, it’s critical.

My autism is already enough to generate sneers, but when it’s “oh AND for other reasons,” I’m already less thrilled about making insistence.

We also hate how it comes across as a crutch

It’s been more than once, but me needing to “go have a moment to myself” when there are too many people over, too much going on — it’s awkward AF to do that, even when it’s a legitimate migraine missile and not just “generally being autistic.”

It too often invites the question of “is he just faking it? you don’t look sick. you just want an excuse to get out of having to socialize with Aunt Cleotilda” or what have you.

Can we not just suffer in peace?

The Life Autistic: Say This One Thing to STOP THE PANIC

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If you’d like to know how we autistic people think, first, let’s explain what we think.

For me, at the beginning of each day, deep in my subconscious, on a normal day, I’m thinking:

Here is how my day is going to go.

The meetings, the tasks, when the kids wake up, what I’ll have for breakfast/lunch.

I take comfort knowing that this is how my day will go.

Welcome to The Life Autistic, where our comfort is in predictability.

But our discomfort? Well…

Since I take some extreme solace in my day’s order, anything that could jeopardize that order really freaks me out. It just does.

I wish it weren’t the case, but even innocent questions like “When are you off?” or “What all do you have going on today?” or “How long do you think you’ll be in this meeting?” just send these tremors through me.

Like I fear my order will be wrecked, and the nice, cozy routine is about to be altered, shaking my foundation.

SO.

If you want to STOP THE PANIC.

It’s easy.

Start with WHY.

Just start with why!

My family has known me for a while, so they’ve gotten accustomed to it.

“Hey Hunter, since we may be having an uninvited guest show up this afternoon, were you planning on heading to The Cheese Shop this afternoon?”

“Hey Hunter, since Mo’s not feeling too well, what time will you be off today?”

“Hey, something came up over at Dad’s and I might need help – how many more meetings do you have left today?”

Folks, this helps us so much.

And frankly, it helps EVERYONE.

Start with why, stop the panic.

The Life Autistic: Why I Can’t Sleep In Anymore

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I should just say “kids,” and then move on.

But the reality has been far more complicated.

I’ve got a reputation for being an earlier bird these days, to where I’m the one who “wakes the rooster up.”

It wasn’t always so, and while I’ve been “getting better” at my autism in general:

This is an area where I’ve gotten worse.

“Wait, did you not literally just write about waking up SCARY EARLY as a life hack?”

Yes. Sometimes life hacks you before you hack life back.

I can’t sleep in anymore. It’s not for lack of trying. It’s not

It is the dread of facing the day too late.

Perhaps it’s that as a kid, a teen, I had far fewer cares.

Now?

Autism and anxiety are strange bedfellows; the more I paint in the blurry corners of the former, the more I am toyed with by the latter.

I wish I could say I’m some superhero, wired like some C-Level exec or Navy SEAL impelled to face dawn first.

No, it is simpler, sadder.

I feel I cannot face the day unless my face is there first.

Too many others up? Co-workers already in? Entering an already bustling morning?

No, it’s too much. Too many adaptations to things in motion.

I can’t do it.

Not anymore.

I do what I can instead.

The harder road, less taken. Lonelier. Crazier.

Off I climb to the roof, knowing that the rooster sleeps. I have a little control of the day, and that is enough for me.

The Life Autistic: Embracing Chaos

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When I was younger, I’d find myself alarmed when visiting other people’s houses.

Why?

They were always so quiet.

My Life Autistic was a strange variant. I grew up as the oldest of five siblings. We always had pets. Toys were everywhere. Never a dull moment. Rarely a quiet moment, too.

Me being me, I needed the silence, the stepping away to recuperate.

But my “normal” was loud. Chaotic.

Yeah, I might prefer a more mellow environment, but even more so:

I prefer routine, even if that ‘routine’ is a little busy, bustling, and boisterous.

Call it adaptation, acclimation, whatever, I’ve grown used to my days with a pinch of chaos.

And now as a dad who’s 100% autistic but also 1,000% invested in my crazy daughters, I don’t mind their little lunacy, their banter, their normal whirlwinds of action.

Even though I’m not wired for messes and their loud antics, I’ve been rewired. 

I’ve embraced it. 

The Life Autistic: Managing Anxiety = Management Wins?

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I am not fond of the unknown, as I’m often searching for ways to make it known.

Sure, not the worst problem to deal with.

But when I moved into organizational leadership, into a role that called for dealing with a lot of ambiguity, moving pieces, and constrained availability, I discovered something crucial:

Manage the unknown into the known.

What does that even mean, H2?

I hated surprises at work. I still hate ’em in life.

I also hated not feeling supported, even if it was down to a simple availability constraint.

“Sorry, H2, I was in meetings all day and didn’t have a chance to —”

So when I took on a team of leaders, I told myself I’d model my managing in a way that would help someone like me.

If I knew I’d be busy in a given day, why couldn’t my team know?

I’d outright show my schedule.

“Hey team, I’m going to do my best to be available, but here’s my meeting monolith for today – please do XYZ if urgent, otherwise, I’ll be diligent about getting to concerns tonight”

Or if I knew something was coming up, some initiative, doo-doo hitting the fan, I could only disclose so much (being Apple, and all), but I could at least get in the way of fears and surprises.

I’d share as much as I knew and could allow, when I knew it.

“Hey team, I can’t say much, and I can answer even less, but I’d ask that you double check ABC when you do CYA, just to make sure that if BFD happens, that we’re atop concerns.”

It never hurt to be transparent.

And it worked amazingly. They felt like I had not just their back, but their front too.

I wasn’t trying any clever management trick.

I’m just an autistic worrywart who was once an autistic worrywart boss.

But I didn’t want my people to worry like I did.

 

 

The Life Autistic: Wake Up Scary Early (and other autistic life hacks!)

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I’ve been gnawing away at Tools of Titans, a ridiculously good compendium of success tactics, artifacts, dictums, and more — and it got me thinking:

The Life Autistic has its success principles that YOU could adopt.

Oh yes.

I have my own playbook, and while my life can be tough, I’ve discovered things that make it much more easy, much more successful — and you can try these autistic lifehacks at home yourself.

Here are a few:

Wake up scary early

No one is impressed if you stay up late. Waking up early? That takes guts. 3am, 4am, 5am guts. If you’re up later, you’re up to things: kids, emails, life. Early gets you ahead, sets your tempo, puts you in charge. And you’ll sleep a lot better at the end of it.

Make the bed before your day begins

I get anxiety if I don’t, but if I do, then I find I have at least put something in order. Order your first things, order your day.

Make “thank you” a habit

If you want to turn hateful into grateful, make this a routine. I’m ritualistic, so this has become part of my prose. Just say it. Say it often. It’s like planting sun, seed, and watering abundant without thing.

Buy extra laundry bags

The six dollars I spent buying six extra mesh laundry bags has completely eliminated the frustration of running out of laundry bags altogether. If you can spend a small sum to eliminate a large sum in headache – do it.