Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Call Me Crazy, But Communication Can Be Really Exhausting

We were walking up to Ethan's school not that long ago when he noticed one of his buddies up in front of him. He then did what he often does when he sees someone he's really excited about seeing -- he hid behind my back. It's almost as if the moment is too much for him and he needs time to figure out what to do.

This particular day I found myself unreasonably annoyed. Maybe because he was tugging really hard on my shirt in order to hide; maybe because I was running late. I stood there huffing and puffing at him for a moment, and then I remembered an excerpt from a book I read in the 90s. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think it was Seinlanguage by yes, Jerry Seinfeld.

In one chapter, he talks about work and the "corporate environment," and specifically about the silly little niceties we exchange with people. The memory hits home especially now as I've been back in corporate world for a few months working part-time. I remember laughing out loud as he recounted the way some days lend themselves easier to small talk. On Mondays you can talk with people about the weekend. Friday and perhaps even Thursday you can look forward to the weekend. Wednesday you can make the obligatory "hump day" reference, but what about Tuesday? Tuesday has nothing.

I thought I was the only one who obsessed about stuff like that.

And then - this one really got me - he talked about that awkward moment when you have a brief conversation with someone you kind of know, wrap it up, and then pass by them again a few minutes later. It just doesn't feel right. You've talked already. What do you do? Exchange the little half-nod and smile? Blow on by, acting like your busy? You can't say just talked. It sounds so ridiculous, but I've been there!

Again the layers of nuance that go into communication blow my mind. Is it any wonder that Ethan gets overwhelmed?

Full disclosure here, at the risk of being judged big time. The last time I was honest about this, someone years ago in a mom's group I was attending suggested I had anxiety issues and should maybe go on medication. Thanks. That was encouraging.

Anyway, the truth is: what right have I do be annoyed? I am one who stresses about if/how to have an elevator conversation. Should I tell the woman "have a good one" as she gets off a different floor, if we've had at least one exchange during the ride?

(While we're on the subject of elevators: I once had this mentor in the corporate world who I'd meet with to discuss...I don't know...being more "professional," I guess. He suggested we ride in the elevator together and he would critique afterward the way I interacted with strangers. I just couldn't do it. The thought completely intimidated me and left me feeling that I'd start hysterically laughing every time I knew he was watching me).

There are times I prefer there be no one at the park or in the library kids area, because sometimes I'm just not in the mood to make small talk. You introverts out there will understand. I like people, and I love having conversations, but sometimes standing there and chatting and keeping a conversation going feels like I enjoy them, but I'm tired after parties...particularly the company parties Dan used to have. Those were the worst. Nod and smile; try to remember people's names; attempt to look sophisticated while drinking alcohol when my drink of choice is usually a Diet Coke. Yikes.

I imagine that stress all the time. The stress of being on the spectrum and trying to navigate the world, of being expected to engage and sometimes wanting to engage while simultaneously being exhausted by the whole thing.

"Mamma, I just don't want to talk right now!" Ethan will say sometimes in the car. And I'll feel frustrated, although I don't know why. I'll feel frustrated, when sometimes I am the one riding in the car with others, and a part of me feels drawn to just look out the window and take it all in, rather than gab. A part of me feels annoyed at being shaken out of my own little world.

Yup, my boy. I know. How could I have missed it? And so I pray for patience and understanding, in those little moments when I forget who he is, and forget who I am.

1 comment:

Floortime Lite Mama said...

I loved your insights
R is the same way - he will hide behind us as well