Monday, January 17, 2022

Positional Warfare

Having Asperger's, for myself, has many advantages. In the coming months I'll cover those but today I'm writing about the most tiring and anxiety producing element. This is the reason I try to avoid social situations at all costs. The cause? It's what I like to call "positional warfare".

There's much written about that, "people on the autism spectrum look like their uncomfortable in their own skin." While I agree with that sentence it doesn't give any explanation as to why. I was reminded of just how much of a battle the positional warfare is whilst at the grocery store yesterday.

Since the onset of the pandemic my social encounters has been cut drastically outside of my work for INDYCAR, and this has been a challenge for me because, in the five years I didn't blog, I got extremely apt at the random social encounters. As with anything in life, though, practice is needed to remain sharp and at the grocery store yesterday a battle of position raged.

My girlfriend and I were getting some supplies and food and while she was looking at shampoo in the soap area, which is more open than the traditional long aisles, an older gentleman came up behind and partially beside me. I could see him out of my peripheral vision, and he was just there. I didn't want to turn my head to fully see him because I didn't know what he was doing. Was he waiting for me? Waiting for my girlfriend? Did he just want to push his shopping cart past? Was something expected of me? So many questions and the only thing I could do was process more questions which left no answers.

Time, in these moments, slows down as the anxiety spikes to the moon. With each question I ask of his motives I in turn ask questions as to what I need to do. Should I turn? Should I speak? Should I tell my girlfriend there's a man in shopping limbo behind me? Should I change my arm position? 

When this type of processing takes place, I start to "question everything and react to nothing." What this entails is that I become so deep in thought and so flooded with a near adrenaline induced anxiety storm that I look unnatural in the environment I'm in, or as the literature says, "uncomfortable in own skin."

The difficult thing for me is I understand the near absurdity as I write this. If the roles were reversed, and I was the person waiting for the shampoo section, I would be doing exactly what that man was doing. I would want to stay invisible and off to the side with no chance of an interaction. Wow, okay, it's fun when writing and having a revelation like that; not only am I uncomfortable in my own skin in this situation I, in turn, could potentially make others a bit uncomfortable as I hang out in people's blind spot in a grocery store trying everything I can to not have to be in a situation where I'd have to utter the fear-inducing words of, "excuse me."

This is where practice and repetition come into play and where the pandemic has, at least for myself, made my chameleon ways not as sharp. I'm sure in the coming months this won't be the last time the positional warfare comes into play. Oh, how did the story end? As with so much of the high-intensity moments I have nothing came of it. The man eventually ran out of patience, walked past and said, "excuse me" and that was that. 

The last part I'd like you to know about this is that I wrote about an everyday occurrence in this blog. For most of you out there a social situation like this lasting no more than a dozen seconds is something that you'd forget about by the time you put the milk in the fridge, if you even recognized it at all. For myself, this is daily life; a random encounter that I can still sense a trace of anxiety almost 24 hours later. This is why the positional warfare rages on; it just isn't the moment of the battle but the fear of the next one when I'll be wondering, "Is this posture okay? Where should my arms be? Eyes... eyes... where should I be looking with my eyes! Wait, do I look uncomfortable in my own skin now?" 

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