Recently, I’ve started watching Psych , you know the show about the smart aleck Sherlock Holmes-type who pretends to be psychic to solve crimes… the emphasis here is on the smart aleck… and, here, at the beginning of season three, I realized that I made the terrible mistake of believing that that was the way you should live your life. I made the worser mistake of believing that everyone wanted to live their life that way. And, the worstest mistake that I made was believing that if I lived that way, I would be a success.
And, I believed that just like in those shows where it always worked out for the smart aleck in the end, it would always work out for me. There would be some miracle. There would be some special dispensation. God, Carl Jung’s synchronicity, Milton Erickson’s hypnotic reality, a spirit guide, magic would make sure that I was all right in the end.
The thing is… You know, about ten years ago, I started making the joke that if I was a crusty cynical sarcasticky curmudgeon, I wouldn’t be anything. The thing is that isn’t a joke.
A few years ago, I started using the descriptor — you can see it on my gravitar or on my twitter profile — that inside this crusty cynical sarcasitcky curmudgeonly shell is a deeply caring empathetic person longing to get out. I thought it was cute. It was funny. It isn’t true. The deeply caring empathetic side of me has always been out.
The problem is there just isn’t much else besides deeply caring empathy or crusty cynical sarcasm. And, as cool as both are in a thirty-minute sitcom, neither one are a solid foundation on which you build a life, career, marriage, or raise a child.
I made that joke, too — Living your life as the wacky neighbor in an 80’s sitcom whose on for twenty seconds of comic relief is no way to live your life — once I started to realize that my entire life was based the rules that I learned from watching 70’s sitcoms and Shirley Temple movies. The Shirley Temple movies are another post all together.
And, if it were just that I was awkward, clumsy, sensitive, shy, quiet, passive, eccentric, it would be okay. There will always be someone who is willing to tell me how badly I’m doing whatever it is, and I will always prefer to work far far away from the prying eyes of the critical public for just that reason. But, there is an even bigger problem.
Without the innards of a normal person, I don’t get anything done. It’s like I’m an NPC in a video game triggered to start moving and saying my lines when the player character comes within range. My lines are the snappy witty one liners that are sure to get a laugh. Mine is the clumsy fellow that hits himself in the face with the door, or turns at the wrong moment and stumbles down the stairs, but is okay. And, then, since I just don’t know what else to do, I literally just wait until the next time the PC shows up to trigger my reactions all over again.
It’s weird to look back over the decades of your life, all the little twists and turns, the big moments and the small, the jobs, the classes and realize the only consistent thing was trying to be funny — and usually just ending up being annoying. One of my most recent jokes is that I’m a Texas ambassador because everywhere I go, I’m greeted by that traditional Texas greeting, Oh fuck it’s that guy again. Pretty funny, hunh? Only it is true. And, that other constant: not getting much of anything done.
It is the not doing much of anything that is really important here. Because it means that most of that down time is spent deep in anxiety: worrying about what I’m not doing, worrying about what will happen if anyone finds out that I haven’t done it, worrying about how I can make up for not having done it, worrying about how to start over after having been fired or lost a relationship or fucked something else up by my passive inaction.
you know what that is called? It is called Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). Who knew that being an asshole actually had a nearly bona fide diagnosis? I say nearly, since it has been proposed but not yet included in either the DSM or ICD. That’s about right for an asshole, right? Can’t even get the fucking disorder right, right? Fucked that one up, too.
But, it’s true! There are websites and societies and books and everything. It’s part of the autism spectrum of disorders. And, if you go down the list of “symptoms,” I’ve got them all… in spades:
The distinctive features of a demand avoidant profile include:
- resists and avoids the ordinary demands of life: paying bills, bathing, laundry, mowing the lawn. When I was single, I had the lights turned off at least once year for non-payment and then would wait in the dark for three days before getting them back on because I just didn’t pay the fucking bill. All of my bills are paid late usually by months. Usually just to avoid having them turned off. This ain’t your mother’s resists and avoids here. This is pathological.
- uses social strategies as part of avoidance, eg distracting, giving excuses: That’s the crusty, cynical, sarcasticky curmudgeonly part of me.
- appears sociable, but lacks understanding: I can’t even comment on this one because I don’t get it. I don’t think I appear sociable most of the time. It is amazing what studiously avoiding eye contact, a quick step, and a place to sit where no one will disturb you does for your appearance of sociability.
- experiences excessive mood swings and impulsivity: I don’t know about mood swings, excessive or otherwise, but I am definitely impulsive. It’s the only way I get anything done. Here’s how it works: if I’ve thought about it too much, I can’t do it. In high school, I used to say that I was so rebellious that I realized that if I hung out with all the other rebellious kids that I’d just be conforming to that group, so I didn’t do that either. Same, same. If I think about doing something, it becomes a demand, so I avoid it. I can only act impulsively.
- appears comfortable in role play and pretence (it’s British): We’re back to the crusty cynical sarcasticky curmudgeon, again.
- displays obsessive behaviour (it’s British) that is often focused on other people: I focused on fictional people, never real ones.
So, that is this years celebration of Autism Awareness Month on Ye Olde Blogge, y’all! I hope you enjoyed it.