An Autistic Request to the Heavens: Could I Please Have the Right Thing to Say at the Right Time?
I’m sure every human has been there. You have a conversation and nothing you say comes out quite right. Hours later, you think of the perfect thing to say. It’s maddening.
While most humans experience this frustrating phenomenon on occasion, this happens to me ALL of the time. I hear my autistic clients voice the same concern.
I’m having a hard time articulating this. You know what - this exactly captures what I am talking about. It takes me time and sorting through my thoughts to articulate the points I am trying to make. I have to ramble a bit to get to what I am trying to say.
Trouble is, most people don’t have time and patience for a rambling in-person conversation. I also feel the pressure to keep up with a conversation.
When I’m around people that I’m not fully comfortable with (for example, some family members that I have tough relationships with), I often express myself in abysmal ways. I’m not as articulate, kind, thoughtful, or whatever else I want to be. I usually leave feeling misunderstood and disconnected. Afterward, I think, “Why did I say that? Why didn’t I just say…”
I struggle to be concise in a conversation. I struggle to be concise anywhere actually. I want to be fully understood. That takes many words for me. Why do you think I gravitate to writing essays on many different topics? It’s because I can’t get my points out in concise tweets or LinkedIn posts. No, it takes an essay.
Sometimes I introduce my essays on LinkedIn. I’ll say three or four sentences about my essay and then link to it. People on LinkedIn often don’t read my essays though. They just respond to my three or four lines. They’re often criticisms, noting exceptions, or asking questions. It’s maddening because I address it all in the full essay. There is no way I can boil it down to my little intro blurb on LinkedIn. It is not in my skill set.
My closest friends know this about me. They know I’m a rambler. They know sometimes it takes me a while to get something out. I’m still a little self-conscious about it. I have been the unsuspecting victim of a monologuer in a conversation. It never feels good to be trapped in a one-way conversation that feels like it is never going to end. I don’t want to provide that experience to others.
I want to somehow walk the line between knowing I take an extra five minutes and still maintaining a conversation - a back-and-forth flow between people. For my friends who have established that patience and space with me, it works.
A therapy room is even more perfect. As a therapist, there is lots of time for a slow conversation. Sometimes I feel I’m better at being a therapist than a regular friend (an ironic point I wrote about in my essay Sometimes It’s Easier to be a Therapist).
I’d like to say I’ve come to the point where I accept that I won’t always be able to say the right thing at the right time. In truth, I still wish I could. However, I do know the reality is very different and I can recognize why that is the case. This understanding helps me to be more compassionate with myself.
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