It can seem a simple thing to somebody else but to me my world may have suddenly gone from calm to chaos. Since I have been writing more regularly in my blog I have also become more aware of when these changes take place and the triggers for them. I suspect that most of the problems are about control, one minute I am ordering my life and working through a list quite happy with my lot and the next a request comes in. My outer me will go, that is a reasonable request I will see what I can do whilst the inner me is trying to be heard saying stick to the protocol, get it in writing, regain your control. This is a verbal communication though and the other person is waiting for an answer if I am lucky, though sometimes it is just expected that the request is enough.

Making decisions is not easy at the best of times for me, but when another person is involved it seems to get more complicated. And of course the complexity will depend on the person. People who answer phone calls and make phone calls multiple times a day find it hard to understand that someone like me would positively choose not to answer phones given a choice. Somebody unexpectedly calling my phone line an asking me random questions on subjects I know little about is not conducive to a relaxing productive time. Making phone calls is little better. What will the person be like on the other end? Will I be able to understand them? Do I have all the information I need? It takes energy to admit that actually it is okay to not know everything, and there are ways to get around understanding somebody’s spelling of a road name (postcodes are easier).

Vague questions are even less helpful, “Would you book lunch for tomorrow?” leads to the unanswered questions of where? When? And how many for? How do I find answers to these questions when the person has already left the room and is in a meeting? These unset variables lead to chaos. Yet there are answers to be found or at least induced and after calming down a bit I can make progress. Partly it is accepting that whatever choices I made are okay because I will make informed choices using my knowledge and preferences if nothing else is available. I will do the best I can.

The number for lunch is probably two but one extra is probably easily catered for, do three people take up more room than two? If we get a two-person table, adding a third onto the end is possible if a little squeezed. Booking for three would mean a four-person table and potentially wasted space. Book for two then. Booking for when? Well it is lunch so anytime between 12 and 2pm I guess, 12.30pm seems logical to me because it allows an hour for lunch and there is still thirty minutes either side for flexibility. Where however is far more complex. I would choose south Asian cuisine but it seems most people don’t consider that a good food for lunch. Soup and sandwich is safe but boring for me. A French bistro then since I don’t really enjoy Italian food myself and Spanish seems to involve too much garlic for others. Which French bistro though? After all that, how do I book a table? At this late stage it is going to have to be a phone call. Bugger. Time to make some tea then.

It would be so much easier if the requests that feel like demands were never made but that would be a rather difficult world to live in. I may like being on my own and I may need to feel in control but I also understand loneliness and how destructive it can be to have not experiences and be stuck in my own mind for long periods of time. Interacting with others brings a perspective on my life, leads me to challenges and striving to improve myself. External stimulation is required to avoid depression too but how much company is enough?

I prefer to read by myself, watch tele by myself and write by myself. Other people though will see sitting in the same room and doing the same activity as a necessary social interaction. It makes no sense to me but for them it provides comfort. I guess it depends upon whether you are sharing that activity. Watching the same television programme or film can be okay, but interruptions can be irritating and needing clarification over a point is just plain annoying which can spoil the whole experience. A film is a personal immersion for me, a chance to leave my life behind, a chance to be someone else and be somewhere else. I don’t want to do anything else.

I can see though there is a benefit to sharing an experience; it reveals other sides to an experience that I just don’t see or get. I guess I can file these understandings away and use them for further understanding of others and myself. There are also tricky questions afterwards like “did you enjoy it?” or “what did you think?”. I measure enjoyment through whether I was aware of time passing during watching and if the film provoked some searching questions in me. I interpret “what did you think” as an opportunity for analysis so for instance “the force awakens” would be seen as a rewriting of “a new hope” with the killing rather predictable, but at least nobody got their hands cut off.

Groups can be useful but challenging, they can also provide motivation. I am far more motivated to do something for somebody else than for myself. I will go swimming because my daughter wants to though logically I would also go for myself for health reasons though somehow the latter is much harder to do. Perhaps it is the little push of sharing an experience that gets me over that inertial bump. I swim in the lane next to my daughter, we follow roughly the same programme, and at the end I can ask her how she found all the sprinting, kicking, etc. Swimming with my partner is not the same. We swim independently and I stay in the pool for much longer. The best comparison we can make is the number of lengths which in itself is not a great measure for my swimming which will mainly focus on technical development not fitness.

But even in the swimming pool there is anxiety to be had. Sometime I start swimming and I surprise myself at my speed and strength. My mind cannot understand how I can keep this going and anxiety kicks in and I have to stop and calm down. My body is capable of the swim but my mind panics and affects my rhythm, stoke length and breathing. Sometimes the panic is caused by my reaction to another swimmer. When a person swims faster than me I spend a lot of time at the end of lengths working out whether I am going to be caught soon and whether I need to wait for them to pass. It is much easier to be the fastest swimmer than the slowest, because the faster swimming usually gets let through and less interruption to the rhythm takes place. I guess the fastest swimmer controls to lane basically.

Last weekend when I got into the pool another chap joined me. It was obvious we were both about to set off so we had a little bit of “after you” conversation. He sounded a bit like he had a soft Australian accent which I guessed meant he was from New Zealand (apologies to all implicated). I set off swimming in front of him, but the fact that I had associated him with Australia in some sense meant that I was worried that he would be a better swimmer than me. I didn’t seem to be holding him up particularly, but the niggle kept going and eventually I had to stop and let him by because the anxiety became too much.

Small things can have big unexpected implications for me. Perhaps you want to support me by avoiding these situations. It is a nice thought I grant you, but If you want a rule book about what to avoid, it isn’t going to happen anytime soon. I can’t predict when a thought or a question will set me off, so why should you? Asking me to tell you what to do is actually one of those questions that makes things worse. Good luck getting to know me though.