The Guide to Dealing With Christmas


How can you make people see how stressed you are by Christmas? Does it seem impossible? Can you not break through their glittered hides? Are they too caught up in the sociable season to even listen as you speak?

If you are stressed out by Christmas, or even the thought of Christmas, here is the simple route to making sure everyone knows how you feel.


Explaining this to people

They listen, their heads nod, most likely their eyes glaze over but then hope swells in your heart as their spoken words seem to reflect what you just said to them. They understand!
...and then they behave exactly as before and expect you to also behave yourself (not as you have before) and be a full participant in Christmas. Damn! When will you learn to communicate better? (cough)

Using pictures and diagrams to explain this to people

This feels like it should work. I mean, if they can't understand the spoken word then surely that means they are visual learners and will appreciate your carefully crafted/lovingly printed pictorial guides?
No, they don't, they're really too busy to look at your artwork just now because Christmas. They'll look later, when not Christmas. Well done, though, aren't you clever for being artistic?
(And if you can get them to look properly they often misunderstand drawings anyway and think this is some new phase of awfulness from you whereby you will be making a comic strip of your life that has to be kept on the fridge).

Sobbing

This also includes fleeing rooms, waving arms, hiding under bedclothes and prostrate on the floor of the living room, wailing like Timmy Two-Year-Old.
Sobbing should work, I have used tears very successfully in many different situations (works very well for call centres, they have no idea what to do with you and usually cave).
But when it comes to Christmas, your loved ones are used to seeing you cry so it doesn't have the same effect.
Also, Christmas, they are busy, you know? Can you not just clean yourself up and try to get into the Christmas spirit? Or at least go to the shop for more sprouts? What do you mean you don't like sprouts? You've had them every other year and never complained. What do you mean you always complain?

...leading us neatly to...

Shouting

You can insert the fleeing room, etc, from Sobbing here, as shouting works well with dramatic show-and-tell.
Yes, I do get it, you want to shout. Shouting would help so much right now. Get it all out there, right off your chest, bellow to the ceiling, the sky, the mezzanine level in the bedding area - shout, shout, shout to the many gods of your suffering and hope that, by some miracle, your loved ones will perceive your shouting as evidence of pain and actually do something to help.

Shouting and Sobbing

To be honest, at Christmas these two seem to pair up anyway without any forward planning. It can be messy though, shouting at the same time as sobbing creates volumes of spittle. If you are prone to spittle do try to use it to best advantage by being near your audience as then they won't be as distracted by wrapping sprouts and sellotaping sausages, or whatever it is they are doing that stops them listening in the first place.
Try not to do it in the home of elderly relatives though as it can be:
a. Dangerous
b. Liable to become a Christmas legend, and
c. Elderly relatives, like small children, are much more likely to join in and have a good shout and sob with you because people don't listen to them either.

Explaining to other, kinder people who then try to explain it to your people

This might actually work, though it depends on how persuasive and understanding your other, kinder people are and how much respected they are by your nearest and dearest. At the very least it cuts out on the spittle and these kinder people are not as emotionally invested so can put your point across in a clear, logical way that doesn't involve you having to dramatise.
Also, if all else fails, you could go and have Christmas with the kinder people as they might agree to leave you to yourself and push dinner under the door.

Ignoring everyone

This works best if you can do it from the comfort of your home, preferably a bedroom with TV/Internet and food arriving without the need for human contact. Pets can be there too (they also enjoy quiet places and regular food parcels) and you can sit in your pyjamas and drip gravy down your front without having to be polite to anybody.
What tends to happen instead is that you end up in the midst of the Christmas celebrations and still Ignoring Everyone. There is a point in the festivities when your closed face and shielded heart is all you have left to give. You can do no more talking, conversing, chattering, answering questions, asking questions, being interested, not saying what you think, being kind to damn fools, not noticing when other people are rude and generally being some weird version of yourself that everyone thinks is actually you (I despair!).
Or you ignore everyone except Uncle Simon because he is Better Than TV. He eats with his mouth open, quietly steals from other plates, hides food in his lap (where does it go??), drinks from his glass and the little bottle he brought with him (which he goes to the kitchen to re-fill), burps like a 10 year old boy, laughs at the wrong places, and hasn't noticed you watching him - and at some tome after 3pm will start singing. (You can insert other relative/friend for Uncle Simon, if the gathering is big enough there will always be someone worth stalking watching).

Recriminations

You will be castigated mercilessly for ignoring everyone. Rise above it. You did not birth, fully-formed from the carpet on Christmas Eve, you did your best to make things clear before Christmas. Your loved ones should know what you like and don't like by now, you might even have warned them this would happen.
If you are listened to at all over Christmas, even by sympathetic people, be prepared for sly scolding mixed up with the softer words. Lovely people who want only the best for you will still feel entitled to explain why you might have tried a little harder to make Christmas easier for everyone, including yourself. Do not listen. If they had listened, if anyone had listened, you would have been in your bedroom with the cat/chinchilla/dog/Barry-from-next-door-who-was-on-the-run-from-his-own-Christmas.

And the best Christmas

is the one that is best for you. Much as you love the people in your life, some things are too big a stretch. Doing Christmas for others can be difficult at best and end up with the sort of behaviour that does more harm than good. Do make it clear how you feel, do say why you feel this way if you can, do tell them it is not because you don't care - do what you can. And then step back and have the Christmas you would like, as far as it is possible.

and next year

seek out like minds or a quiet space and do whatever you like. For the real spirit of Christmas is peace and light and only you know how to bring those into your life.

Amanda

 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Come, come, come, it's Christmas! or Not.



We had a major success at the weekend. We managed to put up the Christmas tree with barely any fighting, I didn't end up crying on the sofa, there was no storming upstairs and past Christmases were only mentioned twice in a growling whisper.

Granted it's now 5 days later and I'm still surrounded by bags of unpacked lights and decorations, but the tree is up!

I love Christmas, I'm horribly Christmassy, but still I haven't been able to face going out into the garden to put the lights up, or decorate the house, or even the baby fir trees I bought a month ago which are sitting bare-ass naked on the windowsills.

It feels like an ache, to imagine doing these things, like I'm anticipating the pain of a cross-country run in the middle of February. I'm Putting It Off, hoping for a sudden rush of courage so I can gather it all up and do the rest of the decorating.

At the same time, those people who live in a more normal world are out there spending their own bodyweight buying presents and still complaining about how short of time they are. Their houses are decorated so far past anything I could achieve.

I was transfixed the other day by a snow-twig centrepiece and shiny, glitter candles in one house. In another, my student looked up to catch me staring, open-mouthed at her ceramic Santa and I had to make something up to stop her worrying. (In fact, I had just imagined the creepy Christmas poem I posted here, so it wasn't a wasted strange moment).

All this grandery and I'm sharing the sofa with an aged cat and a giant bag of unplugged lights.

And still, I go on and think, tomorrow I will do it, tomorrow it will be time to get up and face Christmas, this thing that I love which is still difficult and strange, as if I never met it before and didn't know what to say.

It's an aspie irony that even those things I love most can still be hard to do, simply because they mean Change. I could kick myself sometimes.

I might do what I did last year. I waited til it was dark and went out into the garden to string up the lights. I couldn't see what I was doing and got whipped in the face a few times by stinging branches, but it meant I could light the lights and watch them sway in the dark as I arranged them, blown in the wind, moving as if there were no trees around them.

It was awkward and wet and I kept slipping and getting stuck in the bushes and I loved it. Hanging the lights to change my garden and face Christmas became an adventure with tiny stars gathering all around me in the night.

It was magical, in the end, and it didn't matter that I was wet or had fallen or that my face was covered with rain - all magical adventures are uncomfortable, ask Bilbo - I was there, alone in the dark and surrounded by the lights of Christmas.

I guess I have my answer and can finally make room on the sofa. Tonight, in the dark, with my hair tied down so I don't become one with the bush again, I will go out and string the lights. And, one by one, they will blink into life and become Christmas for me.

And how brave I will be.

Amanda

 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

My step-father died



My stepfather died a couple of weeks ago. We hadn't seen each other for years and had a tumultuous relationship while he was married to my mother, then came to a meeting of minds when I was in my 20s. Since then he moved on, I moved on and we fully drifted. But still, a part of my life left this earth, taking with him his bad dad jokes as well as rows, clumsy step-parent conversations and someone who stuck up for me when I was bullied.

I felt like a fraud of a step-daughter when my sister told me he had died. He was my step-dad but she became my sister, an absolute rock in stormy waters. When she told me my first thought was for her, how devastated she must be. I was numb, so I assumed I didn't care enough to be upset.

That day I stayed in, and did nothing, and berated myself for doing nothing and staying in when I was fine. I didn't tell anyone he had died.

That evening I sat in a darkened living room and thought I must turn on the light. I turned it on then needed to leave, so took the dog for a walk with my younger son. I didn't mention anything to him (they hadn't met since RT was a very young boy and he didn't remember him).

I came home and did nothing, then went to bed. The next day, I didn't tell anyone.

I did more, suddenly rejuvenated into action and found myself buzzing round the house doing anything but nothing. Then went to work and tried to talk to little children and big children and, for some reason, kept thinking back to when I was a child. I didn't tell anyone.

I was still hyper the next day and the next, unable to settle or think but quite industrious. I kept getting a headache though, a migraine starting in my jaw and making me sit, sometimes, and rest a finger on the edge of my temple, looking down at the floor and thinking nothing.

Met up with my sister the next day and we talked about the mechanics of when someone leaves, of how she might be, what she might do, of how his wife was and a little of what she planned for the future.

Afterwards I was struck with how practical, technical the conversation had been and that I hadn't reached out a hand, or invited her to talk about more heartfelt matters and that I was a bad sister. I texted her to tell her I was sorry I had let her down, that I really did care, that she had my love. I was berated very softly for suggesting I had done anything wrong.

Why is it easier by text? Why didn't I react to her like other people? Even in the middle of our lunch an acquaintance came up and offered condolences to her and I remember thinking, this is what people do, is it what I should do?

I still didn't tell anyone he had died.

It's not that I was avoiding it so he would still be alive, or avoiding the love and compassion of my friends - which I know was there if I needed it. I still felt like a fraud, still numb, still-

By then I wasn't sleeping, the headaches having been replaced by a foggy mind which seemed to stifle out any small flame of lively inspiration. And like a fog my life seemed shrouded, the places I could usually see far were hidden, mysterious; I wandered in them, touching things around me to place myself and know where I was.

I dreamt at the end of the week and it was back then, in the bright, ultra-vibrant colours of when we are small enough to think we can keep up that level of shading forever. And there he was, after all, just as he had been when we fought in the mornings, sulked in the afternoons, then went out with the pony and talked about strangely fascinating subjects that didn't come up with other people.

At the weekend, I remembered his laugh. I could have described his laugh to you before this (it was a truly embarrassing dad laugh), but at the weekend I heard it, a caught moment in the middle of another busy, confusing, fog-filled day.

I didn't tell anyone about him.

And then another set of activities, distractions, utter focus on normal life and everything in it as if filling the dishwasher and walking the dog can ultimately take the place of deep, wondering reflection on a life lived and briefly shared.

I got lost in the car, forgot what I needed, mixed up facts and dates and names and kept coming back to what a fraud I was.

And remembered my sister's wedding, and his ex-wives and his brother who we visited when we were young and who had warm milk on cornflakes. There was the weekend with the cub scouts that we took with him, me and my sister the only girls in a youth hostel packed full of smelly, noisy boys. It rained the whole weekend and I remembered him trudging us all across the sodden grass to see the standing stones. I even remembered the whitewashed walls of the hostel, the big, thin-legged spiders there and the baked beans.

I thought about how hard it is that we have to get old and lose all our choices and wondered if he would have known me if I visited.

And even though I didn't feel upset, everything was so hard, as bad as trying to find those standing stones in the pouring rain, surrounded by yelling, happy boys who didn't care about the weather. And him holding the map, trying to see it through the rain and me wishing I was anywhere else but here.

Time passed so slowly, as if I had two timelines running alongside each other and I was living both. One kept getting the better of the other so that this life, this bland, fog-filled landscape, gave way to sharp shafts of winter sunlight that made me squint, or hot days spent in a garden that goes on forever.

I still haven't told anyone.

Today, for some reason, I cried and felt lonely, the room felt bigger, the world, I need the world to stay right away today.

There's winter sunshine today though, outside the window, and the trees are bare, the frost just melting from the path. Days like this I'd be dragged out on walks and left behind, glaring at the bouncing rucksack ahead of me, wishing I was somewhere else, alone.

I'm still in the two timelines but they seem to be merging. Perhaps that's why I'm crying in this one. I guess I'm frightened of what might happen once they come together. How can I face the past when there is no road back to it?

I think I need to tell someone today.

Amanda

 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie



My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!