I want to hide in a closet when I hear someone say the words: Have you heard this joke? And then before I answer they plunge into telling the joke.
How they remember the words to the joke is beyond me. I was never able to memorize.
But the worst part is that I won’t get the point. And I won’t know when to laugh.
The person telling the joke will stare at me, their smile fading. “Don’t you get it?” they’ll say.
No, I never get jokes. I cannot explain to you why. I simply can’t find the humor or grasp the point.
I have learned how to do things by watching those around me. But that can only take you so far.
I cannot follow directions. The other day I went to my local nursery, which I’ve been to many times. It is only a few miles away. I tend to talk to myself as I pass points of reference. A farmer’s market, a grocery store, a bank.
Talking to myself, aside from sounding ridiculous and a bit strange, I can soothe myself and remain calm. No radio, just me and my voice.
I get to the nursery, make a point of noting that I had to go in one entrance because there was no other, and am inside maybe 20 minutes.
When I come out and get in the car and drive to the only entrance/exit, I am confused as to which way to go. Was it my right that is now my left? Or was it my left that is now my right? I can’t just sit there, so I choose one and off I go.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I had gone the wrong way. An immediate U-turn in the middle of the street because there was little traffic. So off I go in the opposite direction, and I start looking for my points of reference. The farmer’s market, the grocery store, the bank.
I am now completely lost. I do not own a smart phone because heavens, it costs enough just to pay the internet bill in my apartment. And besides, I can only imagine how confusing that would be to work.
So I do what I always do. I keep driving and turning around until eventually I manage to find something familiar.
This happens quite a lot. Hence, I don’t go out much. Getting lost is exhausting. I get very anxious.
I fear I will drift into gang territory and not know it. You do not want to roll your window down and ask someone where you are if you might possibly be in gang territory.
How many times has someone said: “But you seem so intelligent. I just can’t figure out why you can’t follow what I’m telling you. It’s very simple.”
It may be simple for them, but not for me. So if someone is measuring my aptitude and intelligence by the things I simply cannot master, I am going to score very low.
I really would fare better, I believe, if I lived in a small town with less distraction. Less distraction and noise means less anxiety.
I hear people say they’re going to the airport and flying out of state for something. A meeting or vacation perhaps. This is so far beyond my comprehension that the mere thought makes me break out into a sweat.
How would I handle the chaos of an airport? How would I find where I needed to go inside the airport? How would I know where to go when the plane landed? Directions, directions…
These things seem so simple for everyone around me. But you see airports are usually crowded places and people are jostling against me (I don’t like people brushing up against me). It is noisy and I cannot separate the various conversations.
It would be absolutely overwhelming to me.
My life follows a very strict schedule. If I get off the schedule somehow, I try to backtrack and start over from that point. For instance, if I have to be at a doctor’s appointment and don’t have time for my coffee, but need to eat a bowl of cereal because I’m hungry, I will do so.
But when I get back home, I will eat that same bowl of cereal so I can have my coffee.
People wonder why on earth I would do this. Why not just have the coffee when I get home?
Because patterns and habits are rules for me. If I get off track, I am easily confused and find it hard to catch up. If I go back to the beginning and start again, I am soothed by the ritual. I can catch up to my regular schedule and proceed through my day.
I’m sure these things sound rather ridiculous and certainly abnormally concrete. I live in a black and white world. There is little room for gray.
And it seems that somewhere in those gray areas are how other people somehow solve problems and get through their day.
What I would give for a little gray. I have some in my hair. But apparently none in my thinking patterns.
If this sounds like someone you know, maybe you should tell them that agonizing over the “whys” does not help. Getting a diagnosis might not free them from the difficulties of everyday life. But it might help them to forgive themselves for being who they are.
It might mitigate their confusion a bit. And they might not be so hard on themselves because they are simply different.
Whatever you do, please don’t say to them: “But you seem so intelligent…” Or: “How about I tell you a joke?”