Full stop, course zero mark one eight zero, maximum warp, engage.

If you are a Star Trek aficionado you might understand the above sentence though I don’t think you would have ever heard it in the various series or films. To put it in colloquial terms it means: slam on the breaks, turn around in the opposite direction and run away from here as fast as you can. To be be honest I am not sure about the frame that the coordinates are aligned to but I assume it is the direction the ship is pointed in. Mathematics aside, the “get me out of here” manoeuvre is a common impulse of mine and one that I am becoming more and more aware of since my autistic diagnosis. It is closely aligned to “violating the neutral zone” which means going into an area that is uncomfortable for me. Generally this volume of space can be defined by the line-of-sight because I am probably on alert as soon as I see anybody else. I guess this is situational though. When at home I will only truly relax when nobody else is in the building because even the sound of someone else moving around reminds me of possible intrusion.

Why all this Star Trek speak though? Well it comes from the engage word. I wanted to write more about having an interest in things in my last post which my brain linked with the word engage. Engage is a word I also associate with Captain Picard in The Next Generation and from there the whole encountering difficulties theme reconnected.

The travelling into the unknown and encountering strange cultures and beings that seem like you (head, two arms, two legs, etc) but behave in mysterious ways is a reasonable analogy for autistic people. For me the only truly safe place is by myself but being human I also have an insatiable drive to learn new things and meet people. It is a common saying, “don’t judge a person by their words, but by their actions” and it is certainly true that that is how I seem to look upon myself. Words have little meaning to me, it is the actions that are important. I feel better about myself when I have ticked a few things off the to-do list whether it is doing some yoga, watering the plants or writing a blog post.

All well and good but there is the added qualification that I also need to be learning something new to my keep interest in that activity. Repeating something that is easy isn’t enough to keep me happy, I need to keep pushing boundaries otherwise sadness and depression is just around the corner. Okay, so that sounds rather challenging and it doesn’t take much imagination to see that that is an impossible need to sustain. I can’t keep pushing boundaries on everything I do. I just don’t have the energy for it and besides my brain doesn’t seem to be up to the job. For instance I have done an online course looking at our solar system and as part of that, looked at the evolution of stars. I know that what happens to stars depends upon their mass and I can remember the different paths a star can take around the main sequence but what masses trigger those different paths eludes me. It is knowledge I don’t seem to retain. If I can’t retain the knowledge, how can I build on it?

Perhaps the problem is that I have too many interests? I push myself on too many levels. This is possibly true. I only have so much energy to expend on activities, so perhaps I should concentrate on those ones which give me the most payback for the least effort? Fine, but the problem with that is that those activities are going to be things I can do by myself which I know is not enough to make me happy. I need to do activities with other people because I need the feedback other people can give me, I need to share the success. What about sharing failures? Well failure is just another stepping stone to success, isn’t it? Actually it is much easier to say such things than believe them but when other people are involved, I find it easier to understand that not succeeding now doesn’t mean never succeeding. I think I find it easier to put faith in other people rather than myself.

So there are three things going on inside me. First I need to do things. Second those things need to be testing otherwise I am not learning. Thirdly, I dismiss my judgement somehow and need other people for support.

That is quite a challenge for an autistic. I prefer to be by myself but I need to do things with other people to feel happy. How do I cope with that? What I find I am doing is reframing the issues. Not being interested in something can be seen as a challenge too. The “Quick Creations” project is an example of this. I needed some framework to encourage me to be more creative but also reduce the burden of that creativity. I was over ambitious in what I could achieve timewise but the project is continuing at a slower pace. I may have lost interest in the concept I created but I like the habit of trying to come up with three pieces on a random word. My timeline is now days rather than fifteen minutes but I am okay with that.

My most successful challenge has been to do some yoga each day. Whilst I still have a resistance to starting each morning, once I get going it is fine. More importantly perhaps, I notice when I have missed a day. The yoga has become habit that is part in my life. I now want to extend what I do, but do it in way that imposes little on what is already there. I have identified a new pose I want to work on but how I will add it in doesn’t worry me. That will be the next challenge to solve but I don’t mind when that happens, the option is there when the time feels right. Having the option is good enough for me.

The lesson from all this seems to be that doing something little each day is much better for me than doing something bigger on a less frequent basis. It is better to start small and regular. Let the action become a habit and then build on it from there if I want to. It is quite enough to accept that it is challenging to keep repeating a thing, an increase in knowledge or some measurable quantity isn’t necessary. Being engaged in an activity doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Now do I have the courage to try a little and often approach with the rest of my universe?