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.

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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.

The Life Autistic: We’re Not Crazy, Don’t Haul Us Away

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I love it when I’m the only one in the room who remembers something. Who sees what others don’t.

Ok, no.

Because then everyone thinks I’m the weirdo.

I’ve got plenty of other things that’ll prove that, but “remembering things that never happened” isn’t one of them.

I had told my folks that Bob Einstein, of Super Dave Osborne fame, had died.

“Who?” they asked.

“You know, Super Dave Osborne? That one stuntman character you told me about as a kid? We had that one neighbor you made fun of for mowing his lawn every day? And you called him Super Dave? Because of Super Dave Osborne? Right? Guys?

Blank stares.

Not this again. 

I think I ended up getting pissed about this, because this was a closed loop memory. I’d never heard nor seen of Super Dave Osborne outside of them telling me. And I never looked him up thereafter. Had no reason to.

But since they all didn’t remember and I did, this meant it probably didn’t happen.

But it did.

I have loathed this about The Life Autistic.

Sometimes you’re like a fated prophet, a loony seer, the only one cursed with memory.

And weird for seeing and remembering things that “didn’t happen.”

If no one else sees it and none else remember; we don’t count.

“Well, that’s cute, H2. It happens, but luckily it’s innocent.”

Yeah, not always.

As a frontline worker, I saw something telling in our call routing, where I could spot this particular imbalance in our routing, availability, and other boring stuff.

Of course, I’m the only one who saw this, got what it meant. I explained what I saw to my managers and . . .

Blank stares.

In one of my favorite Infinity War quotes, Thanos remarks: “You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.

Why?

Because we know what more of a terrible thing it is when you are the only one cursed with knowledge.

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!

 

 

 

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.