My wife is sitting in the same room as me and reading a book. I recognise the book from the cover. It is “Conclave” by Robert Harris, which will be discussed at out next book group. “Do you find that interesting?”, I ask her. This is unusual. I wouldn’t normally ask anything about our book-group book without other book-group members being present. Talking about the book before the meeting seems wrong somehow, perhaps I worry it will ruin the spontaneity of the evening. The book is about choosing a pope. It is nineteen chapters long and I’ve read the first three. On the front cover is a quote from the Times newspaper it reads, “Master of the intelligent thriller”. After sixty-two pages however I don’t feel thrilled and I can’t see where a thrill might be coming from. I wonder what the point of reading the book is? What am I going to get out of it?
Now there are obvious answers to these questions. I read the book so that I can go to a meeting of friends and have something to discuss. As an autistic person, going to a social gathering with a predefined topic and a set format means that my anxieties over social interactions are minimised. I’ll put aside the small talk hurdles. Another answer might be that I get to understand somebody’s imagining of the process that goes into choosing a pope which I assume is researched to model the real life process. I do know something about choosing popes though, there seems to have been many in my lifetime so I have the basics down. I am not sure I need to know more detail. I don’t think I want to know more.
This is a state I find myself in life at the moment. I am struggling to find things interesting. Now this can be a sign of depression and depression is something I am prone to but it doesn’t feel like that. I don’t feel sad and lonely, I feel pretty steady really. I just don’t seem to be interested in things that for a long time have been part of my life. I love to swim but I don’t seem to be interested in going to the swimming club anymore. I enjoy playing music with others but don’t go along to the weekly recorder playing session now. I used to walk the dog at the same time of day and chat with the other regular dog walkers, but now I don’t. Perhaps the biggest difference is that this dropping of things seems okay to me.
I am guessing this is all part of the reframing my life process in light of my autistic diagnosis. I recognise that swimming pools are noisy and the proximity to other bodies is unnerving for me. These are additional costs to the physical energy I expend. I also see that being told what to do at training sessions twice a week and being pushed out of my comfort zone is something that I currently don’t want to engage in. I am aware that seeing people that irritate me too often leads me down the path to disliking them which is unfair in a wider context and I don’t want to be that guy. But what sort of guy do I want to be? My mind is shooting off in different directions at the moment, I think I need a break to refocus.
Right, tea has been made. I think that was the wrong question to ask. The right question is, “What sort of guy am I?”. That is really what all this is about. How much of my life have I done because it was seen as a good thing to do, measured in a Neuro-typical sense rather than my own autistic one? How much of my behaviour have I forced upon myself in the name of “being normal”? These are tricky questions to unpick and something that I can only do when I become aware of the complexity of the situation. And situations change and develop like most things in life, so it will be an ongoing process. Hopefully though I will get better with time and experience. I might even work out what I am interested in.