Monday, September 9, 2013

Master of My Surroundings

Over the weekend I went to two new places with my girlfriend. Where they were are irrelevant except that they were new to me and also I met friends of hers. Up to this point, well, over the past year my blog has not had experiences of where I was in a new environment and having issues. When I first started blogging, and you can go back and read some of my 2010 entries, there were a lot of blogs about eye contact at supermarkets, awkward pauses ordering food, and run ins with mean golfers (okay, the golfer topic seems to be a mainstay.)

Yesterday morning was one of those new experiences and it's been a long time since I felt that small. Friends of my girlfriend were saying hello to her and I was being introduced and I didn't really know what I was saying, and one person tapped me on the shoulder (long time readers know that's a big issue) just furthering the episode.

It's weird to say this but I forget how these feelings feel. It's like trying to imagine what hitting your funny bone feels like a year after the last time it's happened, or trying to imagine what it's like having the wind knocked out of you five years since it last happened. Yeah, you know it hurts and feel awful but there's no way to fully understand the feeling unless it is happening. So too is this sensation, in my mind, with social paralysis.

As I was trying my best to not look like I was that uncomfortable yesterday I realized something; I have become a master of my environment. What does this mean? This means that I have become rather adept at putting myself in situations where these episodes won't happen. I know how to better navigate society to stay invisible. Yes, I'm sure my interactions have gotten better as well, but I'm better at skating through society unnoticed.

This is a big part of my presentation, and in my book with the chapter "The 4th Wall" where I say that I simply want to be an invisible person in the audience as if the world were a play. That's my goal and I think this is something I continue to get more skilled at simply by measuring the amount of episodes that used to occur compared to today.

Becoming the master of my environment took a long time to do. As we were driving later in the afternoon I apologized to my girlfriend for the way my mind and body reacted to the situation earlier in the morning but I said, "Seven years ago, what you saw this morning, was how I was all the time. Truly, every social encounter used to give me that response." and I am so dearly grateful that she understands that there are going to be times that I am just going to become closed off. I will try my best not to look too uncomfortable, but at the same time there isn't simply a switch that says comfortable to an on position.

This is one of the reasons why I get so tired at the end of the day when I am outside. To become the master of my surroundings I have to be on guard the entire time. I have to be constantly analyzing what the best tactic is to minimize an awkward situation. It's something my brain can't turn off as well. I know, at least for me, the good news is that I know I can manage my surroundings and minimize those moments in time that I am socially paralyzed. It's also good to have that reminder as I did this weekend because it is something that is forgotten. But after yesterday morning there once again is no mistaken the high degree of difficulty in navigating the social aspect of life but I'm glad I have slowly learned the ways to become master of my surroundings and truly excel in the art of keeping the 4th wall intact.


  1. Hmmmm...meeting a girlfriend's friends. An awkward situation at the best of times. At least for me it is. Since I've never travelled in a large circle of friends I've never had to introduce anyone to a large group of people at one time. But I've been put into that position on several occassions, to my horror. I suffer through it and usually my Type A personality will take over at some point and I probably end up making a loudmouthed ass of myself, I'm sure. I'm with you, I'd just assume avoid those situations if possible and just meet people one or two at a time.

    I'm just not the type to continue a relationship after whatever common situation has brought us together so whenever I was in a new relationship I didn't have too many people to bring into it with me. Conversely, my current wife introduced me to approximately 12 of her friends at a concert all at one time. HATED IT! But hey, I got through it and we stayed together so all's well. Meeting new people is never comfortable for me and I'm sure it's doubly so for you. It's pretty cool how you've conditioned yourself to handle these situations and I can definitely see how it could be exhausting for you at the end of the day. Hang in there sir, you're doing everything right.

  2. I think there is a fine line. At home, I am very used to time spent in solitude, as I will be in my own little world a lot- whether I am going on the Internet for fun or work. However, in work or business settings, I am adapt in being reasonably social rather than hide in the background. The skills I demonstrated in work/business setting, in my opinion, are important for autistic individuals in terms of community integration skills.

    My secret of switching gears fast?

    1. Keeping my job is the most important thing in the world. That means I must do the best I can to build rapport with whoever i work with, no matter how significant they are related to my work.

    2. In some business situations, I only have limited opportunities to see my colleagues who are meaningful/will be meaningful to my career... so I must interact or I might regret later (including sometimes an indefinite wait)

    3. In some social situations at my work, I MUST be the protagonist at conversations. Teachers might ask me for pointers. Parents might ask me how their kiddos are doing. My boss/co-workers might ask me of how I am doing or how a kid on my caseload is doing.

    Yes, social situations can be uncomfortable for us autistic individuals. But there are times we must burst our bubbles and join what is going on... as we have nowhere to hide. In these situations, we must face our fears and fake it til we make it!