Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Wall

This story takes place one hole after last week's story of The Geese Whisperer. Once I made it to hole two I came across another golfer that was by himself and on the 3rd tee-box he asked if I would want to join him. "Sure" I said and all of a sudden I was no longer by myself.

Over the course of the next few holes he asked me where I was from, what I did, and if I golfed on any courses of note. He was an older gentleman who said he had just started playing a few years ago. And that was the only info I got because the wall got in the way.

My blog title is "Life on the other side of the wall" and it is something that I probably should reference or utilize more, but the wall hit in full stride on that golf course. While this golfer I was playing with asked me question after question I simply gave the shortest answer possible and never once asked him about himself. I didn't ask if he were retired, or why he started playing golf, or if he were from the Indianapolis area, or if he thought the weather was good, or anything. There was a one-way wall there and while I did respond to the questions never once did an independent word leave my mouth and reach the other side.

Why? Was it that I found his company to be awful? Was it that I was envious that he had the straightest drive I've ever seen? Or was it that I thought I was better than him and I had better things to do than to talk to him? All of those potential answers are wrong, but there isn't just one reason. The first is that I have no idea what to or what not to say or ask. Some people like stating their life story while others hate it. Myself, I would rather play 18 holes in a quiet meditation than to converse and perhaps I carry over my likes and dislikes to everyone else meaning, if I hate it everyone hates it (i.e. I think therefore you should know.) Also, there is a huge anxiety burst every time I do try to ask because, what would I ask? Do I just repeat the same question? But if I do, does that seem odd that everything I ask is simply the same? And, if I do ask something, or say something, and the other person gets mad, what then? How will I react to that? Then what comes after that?

The amount of questions I ask myself in terms of what to do and how to react is absolutely crushing. I may seem silent, or maybe even uncaring and standoffish, but my exterior lies as on the inside I am in a calculating mess of trying to figure out if it is right for me to say anything at all.

Often times my timing is off in a conversation setting and the reason for that is all the processing and thinking I am doing. By the time I've thought it right to say something the window of response time has passed. All in all each part of this thinking and delay makes me try and think harder which creates more and more self anger and after 15 minutes I've decided just to give up and stay quiet because it's easier and safer.

There is nothing I fear more than a social mistake. Perhaps this wall, as much as it is because I just can't come up with the correct question, is also a wall of safety. If I don't partake in normal conversations how can I may an error? And with no errors comes freedom from possibly saying the wrong thing, or having someone get mad at me. Of course, often times, being quiet makes people uneasy towards me, but at least there's a sameness about it. I've learned to deal with the odd looks as conversations take a one-way direction and a complete lack of reciprocity. That's easier than having to deal with making a mistake and having a person get angry.

But what makes a person angry? I don't even know that answer because what applies to one doesn't apply to all. Social rules are different by the person and I don't have the skill of knowing how a person will react at all so instead of playing a game that I don't know the rules of I simply abstain from the game. And that right there is the essence of the wall.

The one thing I want the world to know is that when I may be off to the side, seemingly not wanting any outside contact, I'm actually thinking on what to say. I may abstain from the game, but much like watching a new game being played as a child there is a curiosity in what that game must be like. What's the rules? Is it fun? How do you play? Yes, I may be off to side with this said wall between you and I and most of the times I do feel safe, but there is a sense of isolation on my side and I wonder what it must be like on your side where questions come easy and being free from over-thinking every single action.


  1. I know what you mean. I'm not sure if I have Asperger's, but my son has been diagnosed, and I, too, have difficulty with social exchanges, especially with people I don't know. I was brought up with the idea that it's rude to ask questions, then told later on that if I don't ask questions, that expresses a lack of interest in the other person, which is also rude. Seems like there's no way to win.

  2. Aaron how I wish I could persuade my son to read your blog, although diagnosed with AS since the age of 4 he hasn't accepted or embraced it and now he is 18 is so struggling especially socially. He is desparate to be included and have friends but just finds it so difficult to interact with people he doesn't know well.

  3. Call it frustration and a bit of jealously. Obviously, we've all had it... Just don't let it get the best of you...

  4. I used give the shortest answer possible, too. But since I started OT, the "wall" has been broken. Again, it's a mindfulness thing.

    Yes, rambling on and on is bad. But, not trying to find out some information on who you are talking to is also bad, and can be even worse. The latter is bad in friendships and relationships because unless you have someone who really understands you, people over time may think that you are all just about yourself (where you may be in fact not).

    That is why I now I make every effort in my conversations to get to hear a little more about the other person's point of view and opinions. This information will allow me to know what can be the right things to say to somebody and what can be something that I need to avoid for the current conversation and future reference.

    Like the 3 hours or so conversation with a girl that I mentioned earlier this week- I purposely asked her some questions.

    1. What did her instructor (someone whom is also my instructor for a different class) said about me that intrigued her?

    2. What are her goals and aspirations?

    3. How did she like her OT curriculum so far?

    The reason I asked her these questions because as a friend, I wanted to know if there are anything that I know can help her along her journey as an OT student and as a professional when she is done about a year or so from now.

    Having autism or not, if you want to build rapport with somebody, you HAVE TO ask some questions about the person(s) you are with so that you know what topics you can talk to the person next time you see him/her, whether you like it or not! As some of my OT friends implied to me up front when I disclosed the diagnosis to them, "We are doing our best to try to understand you and more than willing to help you along the way in your social struggles sometimes. HOWEVER, you have to prove to us that you put in the work to be a competent colleague in every aspect, including socially. We know that you are trying to expand your professional knowledge, which is great. But if you want to be respected for what you do, your social skills has got to catch up!" That's why I indirectly tried to seek feedback on my sit down meals with people so that I know what I did well and what I didn't do well.