Last week at my autism late diagnosis group (LDG) we looked at a weighted blanket that one of the group had borrowed. It met with generally favourable reviews. We had a discussion on how it was made and one member decided she was going to make one for herself. This week we had an update. The material and cotton thread had been bought, the washable beads were being delivered today. Youtube videoes had been consulted. I checked with my friend over the construction techniques to keep the beads reasonably distributed across the blanket. My theory seems correct. Another person commented on how impressed they were that the blanket maker had made such good progress in such a short time. And so we got to discussing our difficulties over getting things done.

When do you find the best time is to get a difficult thing done? For me it is first thing in the morning. Something seems to get in the way later on in the day. A reluctance builds or the reasons not to do it grows. For success I find that I need to be completely focused on my task. It is no good lying in bed thinking about it. That just seems to make the task harder. I need to wake, know what I am doing and get going straight away. Simple things can throw a spanner in my plans. Things like deciding what to wear (I find it easier just to back on what I took off last night). My wife talking to me often adds confusion. Even taking a pee can be too distracting (that sounds ridiculous to me too but it’s the truth). No, I need to get started on the task and then visit the bathroom.

The only problem with this get up and go technique is that there often needs to be a bit of planning in order to plough into the flow of the job. Whilst putting on yesterday’s clothes is okay for tacking cleaning the bathroom, digging the garden or going for a jog needs preparation. Clothes need to be sourced the day before and laid out. Equipment needs to be readied and in place on hand. I need to know I am waking up and doing my task the night before. Otherwise such obstacles start to get in the way and momentum is lost. And of course this planning takes effort too. When do I find the time and space to plan?

It is a vicious circle I suppose. I need time and energy to develop the larger picture so that I break down the task into more manageable tasks. Then each task needs to be planned too. Then we get to the doing stage which needs pre-tasks actions to make sure the task action can go ahead on the day. It’s complicated trying to write that down, let alone do something about it. It all feels a bit overwhelming to me.

I think there are cultural difficulties for me, at least here in the UK. British people really struggle celebrated success. It’s not the done thing. I hope this is changing with my kids generation but the way I was brought up, I was taught to move onto the next task as soon as one is finished.  The may be a tea break (possibly with a biscuit) but basically you kept working away until the project was done. The nearest we would get to celebrating the end of a project would be to say, “that looks good”. I think the problem with this work-ethic is that it doesn’t engender self-worth. There is none of this “hey look what you created, isn’t that great”, the focus is always on what hasn’t been done.

The chair I broke during my last meltdown is one such project. I left it in pieces on the kitchen floor. My wife moved it to our bedroom. It stayed there for a few weeks moving between the floor and my side of the bed. A reminder as to what I had done. Eventually I found the tools to take it apart removing all the bits of metal that kept some of it together. This was an achievement to me and it felt like I was acknowledging my responsibility for the chairs state. The chair now sits on the kitchen table (although sometimes it is on the kitchen floor). I have said I would chop it up so that it can be burnt on our fire. I am aware though that this stage is struggling to move forward. I am worried about how easy it will be to saw the wood but also how I am going to hold the bits so that I can saw them. I intended to make progress today for the second day in a row but haven’t. It is now raining and dark outside. Perhaps I will go and find a torch in a moment and work out what to do next.

I suspect one of the difficulties in planning for me, is that so often the issues are flying around my mind somewhere. Often I find I need to let something sink into my mind and mature before I can do something about. But if too many things get going in my head some things become more prominent than others. Thoughts get lost until they are triggered again. For instance, I was aware I was struggling to deal with the kitchen chair, but until I wrote down just then what was going on in my head, I was struggling to move forward with the obstacle. I think this is a general issue with autistic people, too much is whirling around our minds and we can’t concentrate enough on one thing to become really aware of it, examine it and make a decision.

The chair is one of many things I am aware of needing attention. There’s the planting of the azalea in the front garden. The tidying of the garden. The weeding of the garden. The removal of unwanted plants in the garden. There’s the state of the room I am in now. I think we need to rearrange it but I don’t want to loose it’s use. There’s the work’s website. The bathroom sink that needs a new plug which seems weirdly complicated. What do we do with the sound system that my wife can’t get her head around? The study I want tidied. The dog that should go and see the vet again. The weekly workout plan for running. The desire to get back into swimming. The tidy of the shed.

I am sure the list goes on. These are the things that have not been done today. How about celebrating what I did do? Like walking 3 miles. Playing some music with my LDG friends. Giving the dog his drugs and taking mine. Updating one of my websites. Eating lunch. Making a blood pressure check-up appointment. Folding up my clothes and putting them away. And writing a blog post.

I think it is important to acknowledge my successes. It helps me life a life. It is also important for me to write those difficulties down. Perhaps then I can move forward in solving a few things. Now where did I put that saw.