I am always learning. If I ever write an autobiography this will be the title.
I. Am. Always. Learning.
Even when I don´t want to learn, I learn. What else can I do, with eyes and ears endlessly registering everything around me?
But I also learn from experience. Oh, how I learn from experience. And oh, how hard and painful that can be. Some things I have to learn over and over again. But now I´m going to stop whining and do some good. Turn this into something useful.
Lately I´ve been absorbing everything I can about women on the autism spectrum. Naturally, being recently diagnosed on said spectrum myself. Fortunately, knowledge about this topic grows every day, as the female side of the spectrum is gradually receiving more attention.
One of the common threads that show up repeatedly is that women and girls on the spectrum mirror. We all learn through mirroring, everywhere a young learns from an older, whether we see it in a video of a kitten trying to wash like its mama, or in a child copying an older sibling.
Our brain is partly made up by mirror neurons, for example responsible for making us gag when other people throw up (sorry for the difficult reference, your mirror probably got triggered just by reading this).
Girls on the spectrum seem to depend on mirroring a lot, long into adulthood, especially in regards to social interaction. That mirroring isn´t always useful or helpful.
Listening by talking
Since people on the spectrum struggle with social interaction, especially the effortless flow of unspoken communication, we rely on all kinds of training wheels when learning to interact with others. Consciously or not. And then we ride on into life with those awkward contraptions poking out from our bikes well into adulthood. Even if they no longer offer any support and maybe even bump into other people. Even if we trip over them ourselves.
One of the things we seem to do, and can be very annoying to others, is trying to get other people to talk by speaking out ourselves. If I want to know something about you I will probably try to ask for it by dumping something on you about myself.
And then I wait for you to mirror
But there’s no guarantee that you will do that. Maybe you just want to get away from this talkative woman.
And if I really want to know what you have to say, I may just go on talking.
This is not very practical at all. And it’s also really embarrassing to realize that you’ve been carrying on like this your whole life. I´m so sorry, I meant well…
I have to push myself to even write this, I’ve been so ashamed of my constant talking and so often felt rejected because of it. But I am learning and have to get this off my chest in order to keep on going.
See there – I’m still dumping unsolicited information on you. But here you at least have the option to just stop reading 😉
I don’t know how often I’ve complained about never hearing about anything. Why doesn’t anyone tell me what’s going on?
A coworker is suddenly away for a whole semester, I only notice when he’s gone. People leave for travels I knew nothing about. Something important happens and I’m the last one to know. And so on and so forth. I don’t even hear rumors about myself.
I now know it’s because i don’t know how to ask. I’m not familiar with this aspect of small talk; asking others about their plans, what they dream of doing, what’s going on in their lives. I am interested and I do want to know, but I will have to learn how to ask for this information.
All too often I feel like the lovely Saga Norén, when she starts asking: “should we smalltalk or not?” And then starts off with something way too personal. “My period started today” “Are you two sleeping together?” I feel so stupid when I ask people about personal stuff.
But I am trying. Maybe I’ll start small, by reminding myself to ask the people around me how they’re doing. And focusing on listening instead of sharing.
Hopefully I’ll get there in the end.
But until then: how are you doing? Everything good?