17 January, 2010

Time is scary?

It's sort of hard to explain what I mean, but I think that a lot of my difficulty in Doing Stuff comes out of a fear of becoming so absorbed that I lose self-awareness or awareness of time. Of course this fear is not without merit.

It makes me nervous to watch a movie. This is funny because I watch so much TV, and in marathons. But I usually watch TV on my computer, so I know exactly when it will end. Also, TV shows are usually pretty much the same length--about 20 minutes, about 30 minutes, about 40 minutes, or about 60 minutes, depending whether they're on pay television or not. Watching a 72-minute movie is actually scarier than watching 2 episodes of Mad Men, which takes 80 minutes. My dad got annoyed at me last year because we were watching a movie and about halfway through I picked up my computer and started doing my Internet things (you know, email, livejournal, etc.). He said that if I didn't want to watch the movie we should stop and finish it later. But it wasn't like that, exactly. I needed the computer to ground myself in time.

I suffer from an urge to multitask when I am doing something that might remove me from time. I used to just think it was a sensory thing, and I still think that might be part of it. It's very important for me to have something to eat at movies and even at plays (for some reason plays aren't quite as intimidating to me as movies in the theater). I also tend to feel that I should have something to eat while I'm doing work. This probably accounts for certain things being my favorite foods and not others (a particular rhyming concoction comes to mind). I like foods that last a long time and are easy to eat while doing something else.

What is work? Work is whatever a body is forced to do. Okay, not really. Work is whatever my body thinks it's being forced to do. For example, since I was a kid I have wanted to be a fiction writer, so my body thinks it's being forced to write fiction, so I don't write fiction very much because it makes me nervous, and I have an idea that I need to set myself up with a big supply of food in a comfortable place or I won't be able to write fiction. The only reason this blog exists is because I started writing in it as a way to procrastinate. If I ever get too excited about this blog (whereas now, I just look on it with a huge amount of affection because it is the most calming place to waste my time, but it's not entirely unproductive because some people read it and sometimes I'm writing about important things), I'll probably start writing a lot more fiction.

I produce a ton of music because music doesn't feel like work yet.

Latin is work.

But anyway, back to the losing time thing. When I was six I entered kindergarten and turned into a monster. Everyone thought that I had probably been molested because I sat curled up in a corner reading the same books over and over, and hit anyone who tried to make me do schoolwork. (I went to a Montessori school so I was able to get away with this for an astonishingly long time.) Clearly I was lost. The first time I recall noticing myself being lost was when I was reading a Narnia book in the bathroom and I looked up and saw that the sun was setting. I was existentially heartbroken and terrified and came crying to my dad, "I read in the bathroom until sunset!"

I guess this is possibly why I don't read books; maybe they make me feel scared in the same way. Anyway, the reason I started thinking about this is that it's winter term, which means I'm supposed to be working on a project I made up myself, on my own. My project is reading De Caelo et Ejus Mirabilibus et De Inferno by Emanuel Swedenborg. It seems like a really cool book but in the four days that I've had it, I've only read two pages. This is embarrassing. Today--as I had been planning to do every day since I got the book--I finally trundled myself off to the library where I sat in the empty and unlooked after library cafe in the booth next to the vending machines. I bought some M&Ms to be my multitask. But I ate the M&Ms while writing in my notebook about how I like ASD culture better than queer culture. I thought about some more snacks and drinks that I could buy from the machines, but decided for the time being to just start reading the book.

I read. And read some more. I read twice as many pages as I read in the first four days, in two hours. I kept thinking I should stop. Or, I kept thinking I should want to go on one of the library computers and check my email, or that I should want to buy some Doritos. But I didn't want to that much. I just kept reading. I kept feeling vaguely anxious about what I was doing. I kept feeling like I shouldn't be liking it, because it was work; how could I stand it, without something to guide me through it, like a bowl of cheese and peas? Or an episode of Firefly going in the background, like I used when I was interning at the school and had to keep myself in time while I was getting dressed and making breakfast? But after a while, under the anxiety, I realized how happy I was and how much I was enjoying myself.

I don't know what to make of any of this. I love trains. My ideal life would be one where I had to commute to a job, maybe an hour each way, on a really comfortable train, like a Metro North. I love trains because when you're on a train you're stuck inside someone else's schedule and you can't get lost. Trains are the easiest places to write and read.


  1. Yes, trains have a schedule. A very precise one too, unless they are cancelled.

    I can very much understand your fears about time. I used to think that Sybil was the only one who lost time, and Donna Williams writes a lot about it too.

    What is happening in the two pages of Mirabilus? Does it get into it straight away, or is it introduction?

    Do you ever flick through books randomly or not read them in order?

  2. I used to read books out of order when I was a kid. When I was a kid books didn't feel like work. Now I feel like I have to read them in order. If I read books out of order, I read them really fast, the way I read stuff online, but I don't count myself as having read them.

    Swedenborg is saying that the church doesn't understand the Bible, and that people who think God is three people aren't going to go to heaven, and that when babies die, they go to heaven and are taught to be Christian and grow to be young people. That's pretty much all I got out of it so far.

  3. What did you write about why you like ASD culture better than queer culture?

  4. I just said I used to be really depressed because I didn't relate well to other queer people and I didn't feel like I cared about the same things they cared about. I could see that things were screwed up, but I felt like no one cared about the same screwed-up things that I did. I'm really happy that I got into disability stuff because I feel like I can relate to disability rights perspective and rhetoric much more easily. I've felt a lot happier and more purposeful since I started reading lots of disability blogs etc. in the spring/summer.

    I know this is the most politically incorrect thing a person could ever say, but I experience my homosexuality as an impairment. This doesn't mean that I am suicidal about it or something, but just that I feel like it's something I need to work around in order to be happy, and something I have been really sad about in the past. Other queer people don't seem to feel this way, and I find that really hard to relate to. And I think in some cases, people's expressions of happiness about queerness are completely insincere. I like disability writing because it admits difficulty. It shows that it's possible to admit difficulty while still being joyful and trying to move forward.

  5. Why do you experience your homosexuality as an impairment? I knew some gay people in high school who saw things that way, but it was always because of external factors: parents giving them shit, people treating them like jokes or tokens, the difficulty of finding other queers and queer relationships in a small town.

    In my experience, when you're queer AND part of a queer community of some sort, it can be a lot easier to be happy and proud of your sexuality because you're not so isolated. But, as a side effect of having their own distinct culture, queer communities aren't for everyone (I often got tired of queer stuff because it seemed like people would focus on being queer SO MUCH, to the exclusion of other things, that it just got tiresome for me since I don't really see my own gayness as being a big deal at all, and also lesbians can listen to some terrible goddamn music.)
    I agree with what you said about disability writing. It's definitely something I've noticed at FWD and other places.

  6. Well, all impairment is caused by external factors. That's the social model of disability. Blindness is an impairment because most people can see and homosexuality is an impairment because most people are straight.

    I grew up in a really accepting environment, at least in terms of my parents (not perfect, but much better than what 99% of gay people get). Because of that I think I have more clarity in terms of understanding the experience of homosexuality, at least for me. I have certain limits in terms of what kind of socialization I can do. Queer/lesbian socialization is often pretty much opposed to the way I am.

    I've never been in a serious relationship. I don't know if I will be for a long time/ever. This results from the fact that I am gay which makes a lot of factors more difficult (most women are straight, I tend not to be attracted to a conventionally lesbian self-presentation, I get along better with men than women). I feel like if I express this, I'm basically told that I'm self-hating, or that it's my fault for not being more mature or confident having better social skills (which I've come to understand is pretty ableist; I am not actually a weaker, less stable, or less valuable person than people who come off as "confident" and "mature" because of their social skills or body language). I think that in order to not view homosexuality as an impairment, you have to be willing to cloister yourself in a queer community until you don't remember that you're a minority. That's not something I want to do, and besides, it's probably not something that I can do.

    Rather than hate myself for being unhappy about my situation, I try to think about how I can live with it in a graceful way. Relationships are something that most people have a need for so it's not bad for me to be occasionally depressed and lonely. On the other hand there are a lot of things and people I love that fill my life and make it enjoyable and purposeful; at this point I don't think about the relationship/gay issue all that much.

    I love the name FWD/Forward. I know they probably just picked it because it's clever, but it's so great. It's not just about complaining or something. I really love that they don't believe in calling people stupid, I mean that's such a radical thing to say.

  7. What poor elements are our happinesses made of, if time, time which we can scarce consider to be any thing, be an essential part of our happiness! All things are done in some place; but if we consider place to be no more but the next hollow superficies of the air, alas! how thin and fluid a thing is air, and how thin a film is a superficies, and a superficies of air! All things are done in time too, but if we consider time to be but the measure of motion, and howsoever it may seem to have three stations, past, present, and future, yet the first and last of these are not (one is not now, and the other is not yet), and that which you call present, is not now the same that it was when you began to call it so in this line (before you sound that word present, or that monosyllable now, the present and the now is past). If this imaginary, half-nothing time, be of the essence of our happinesses, how can they be thought durable? Time is not so; how can they be thought to be? Time is not so; not so considered in any of the parts thereof. If we consider eternity, into that time never entered; eternity is not an everlasting flux of time, but time is a short parenthesis in a long period; and eternity had been the same as it is, though time had never been. If we consider, not eternity, but perpetuity; not that which had no time to begin in, but which shall outlive time, and be when time shall be no more, what a minute is the life of the durablest creature compared to that! and what a minute is man’s life in respect of the sun’s, or of a tree? and yet how little of our life is occasion, opportunity to receive good in; and how little of that occasion do we apprehend and lay hold of? How busy and perplexed a cobweb is the happiness of man here, that must be made up with a watchfulness to lay hold upon occasion, which is but a little piece of that which is nothing, time? and yet the best things are nothing without that.

    John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XIV.

  8. I put off doing things because I know they will take me too much time, longer than they should take me.

    Today it took me forever to get me started riding our exercise bike because first I have to go to the bathroom and brush my teeth but I get lost in there and it takes me so long. I start thinking of things, I lose track of time, and suddenly I've been sitting on the toilet for half an hour or more.

    I hate taking a shower because it takes me so long - I get distracted by thoughts again or I'm listening to the sound of the water hitting my head or watching it go down the drain. The only way I can take a short shower is if I'm putting as much effort as I can into only thinking about the steps for taking shower. It's hard and not fun or relaxing like (I think) it should be.

    These things don't make me nervous or scared though, just annoyed.

    ((I feel weird commenting here because you don't know me. I'm glad this blog exists. I really like reading what you write.))

  9. I used to have to sing in the shower. I would write a list on my arm of the songs to sing. Maybe you could do that? I don't seem to have as much trouble taking reasonably quick showers as i used to.

    yeah didn't you know the rule that you're only allowed to comment on the blogs of people you know? COME ON!! The Internet is only for talking to people you already know!

    (it really annoys me when people specify they are joking, but I guess I should specify I am joking. I'm glad you're glad this blog exists.)

  10. Haha, I guess I meant 'know' as in.. on the internet. I don't know. I'm excessively shy and feel guilty for things I shouldn't. I was afraid I was intruding somehow. I think part of this is because I don't have an ASD diagnosis. I'm just reading a lot about it, relating to a lot of what I read, and wondering about it. Though I know it's ridiculous of me to feel bad because it isn't like your blog (or any other website that has anything to do with ASDs) is some kind of exclusive thing meant only for people officially on the spectrum.

  11. I friended you on livejournal! We know each other!

    It's hard to get diagnosed and it was harder for us than people who were born in the 90s or 00s. So many people (on probably a lot of the websites you read, even) aren't diagnosed. There's this stereotype that people are going around self-diagnosing with AS just to make themselves feel cool, but actually, I've never encountered a person claiming to be AS who didn't strike me as AS. I was thinking about this today. It's a myth. You're probably legit.

  12. Since someone else is saying it... I am also glad this blog exists. I don't think I'm on the autistic spectrum, but I do think I have ADD and that means I can relate to a lot of what you write about executive function. It's nice to know there are other people who feel and think in some of the same ways as me. And fascinating to read about how similar autism and ADD can be in some ways.

  13. time eats everything so is it scary ? You tell me !