Monday, December 23, 2013

Please Don't Rush Me.

It’s Not Always As Funny As I Make It Be

There is a subfield in educational psychology called risk and resiliency studies, and it is pretty interesting. It is not my field but I keep track of it because the findings of my colleagues here have bearing on the things I do in my work. One of the first things I heard from them which stuck with me is that a major resiliency factor, or something that can what they call ‘inoculate’ you against whatever may happen in life so you bounce back maybe better than you might have done otherwise, is a sense of humor.

For me, I think this might be true. I am a generally joyous person and the fact that things which happen to me in life can crack me up even if they are mostly on the heinous side probably is what keeps me like that.

But this blog, We Are Like Your Child, was created because so many of us who are resilient because of this and similar reasons may seem to people who are not-us as if we are performing “Dancing Through Life” in the musical Wicked. This does not help others relate much in the practical realm, because it is not, strictly speaking, what they call Keeping It Real. (But I still recommend keeping it funny and musical when you are able, because it does help me and my friends bounce back, and also Studies Have Shown.)

Recently I have been having a very hard time with time management, conflicting and equally unhelpful notions of fast and slow that people might get about me as a result of my time agnosia coupled with lateral thinking and divergent communication style, and the catastrophic results of rushing. The hard time I have with these interactions sometimes is probably accurately described as ‘crushing’ or ‘devastating’ even though it is difficult for me to type such emotionally fraught words, just to let you know, because of my natural desire to keep it light… I should just now also report the discovery that when not keeping it light, more pain is experienced. OK: on with it.

In my blog I talk about time agnosia in my ordinary manner. Here are some links. A silly one HERE and this one HERE which is more useful but still light in tone. But if you think about what it really means, you will also find that it is often quite the inconvenient impairment and can create threats to such important things as my job security and my ability to let people know the true extent to which I care about them. In the culture in which I live in the northern part of the US, predominantly organized by “white” heteronormative values, middle class, academic, etc., “being on time” is meant to communicate respect, caring, and a host of other things. Whole virtues such as ‘promptness’ and ‘punctuality’ are built around this concept. It is even part of our construct of ‘reliability.’ This means for me that in the baseline of my normal daily life, there is always thrumming throughout the fabric of everything social a high-anxiety expectation and probability of failure, shame, miscommunication, etc., even though I have a remarkable system of electronic and social scaffolding in place to ward off actual disaster...

Notions of “fast” and “slow” are related to this, for me, and equally permeate my life in hurtful ways. I believe these have to do with time-to-respond, which is not something I am easily able to gauge in myself, but I have seen in interactions among others and also in the way people react to me. Apparently “fast” (or “intelligent”) people respond rapidly and “slow” people (who might be called insulting words and condescended to) take a while. I am both of these alleged kinds of people at different times and in different contexts or activities.

I think that sometimes people expect me to be “fast” all the time because I can be “fast” sometimes and that is what they consider valuable in other people. But it is not possible for me to do this, usually because some of the things expected are areas of non-forte, but sometimes because other circumstances such as migraine or sensory overstimulation are throwing a spanner in my works. In these eventualities, I have experienced people getting angry as if I am doing something wrong towards them and/or doing it on purpose. I do not think this is logical, because why would I do that? But it is what happens sometimes. They might then proceed to try to rush me more. This rushing thing is understandable in a way because the people might believe that rushing someone will make the person speed up. But it is likely to have the reverse effect. More than likely: probable. Rushing is very stressful and actually causes me to be less excellent at thinking, speaking, writing, etc. Or really anything, because I am so busy trying not to melt down about the stress of being rushed that no resources are left open to try to do the thing the rushing person wants me to do more rapidly.

This is what actually prompted this column. If someone you know to be sometimes “fast” is being “slow” or something, especially if they are not the kind of person who does well with time management (so they might be time agnostic like me or anyway to some degree have issues with that) or maybe even if they are any kind of person at all, please try not to rush the person. Being “fast” or “slow” is not controllable at will and being rushed is stressful and counterproductive causing great anxiety and loss of dignity if the person contemplates and notices that you are saying how “slow” they are or such, which many of us are aware is code for 'less valuable as a person' even if it is not consciously meant that way in the moment. If you are rushing someone who is "slow" most of the time and does not usually or ever present as "fast," please do not do that either, because the least harmful assumption is that their experiences of rushing would be similar to mine. Value is not velocity, even though I can see why it would seem like that given our cultural ideas of reliability, "time is money," etc.

It is very helpful to know the person and what kinds of things cause the particular person to have glitches and anxiety or difficulty doing the things they are trying to do, if you get a chance and want to be useful in the situation and really need results. Then, do what you can to minimize the distractions or items causing pain, distress, and/or confusion and the like. This is likely to be in practice that you are basically doing the polar opposite of rushing the person or telling them to hurry up or telling them that you need it right now when in reality there is more leeway. Also if you are good with time you can create a situation where things are not last minute and in need of rushing because you have used your ability to plan ahead better to the benefit of both of you by creating a bigger span in order to do whatever it is at a more relaxed pace. People in my life who do this last thing have probably increased my lifespan. I am not exaggerating. It makes everything worlds more doable and I feel it as love. Reduction of anxiety is golden.

Thank you very much for listening to that. Also this: our humor and resilience keep us going. Please do understand that many of us don’t go around thinking and talking about how difficult things are all the time because then our lives would be focused in a direction of gacksville. Your child might be like us in this, and if so, it's a good sign for resiliency and bouncing back in the world! We are like your child.



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. this is not a spam comment like the one above, lol, nor is it meant to be disrespectful or rude.

    my partnerr's daughter has great difficulty being on time for anything, and while i understand how rushing her might cause more distress, we are wits end over here. she has made her father late for work several times, which means less $ for him as he doesn't have sick or vacation time. she has caused me to be late for very important occasions (like my art show opening). her lateness, while a part of her being on the spectrum, causes some real life issues for our family. it's very difficult not to get upset with her in some of these situations, even though i logically know that it's not intentional.

    we have tried starting her getting ready earlier, but often at the last minute she will discover that she HAS to trim her nails, or some such thing. it can be infuriating. do you have any suggestions?

    1. You could use a schedule/checklist, visual or written. Both agree to it the night before, and agree that it won't be deviated from. Even if it means sometimes it's less advantageous to you, the consistency and predictability would probably help tons.

  3. I feel like I should consider time agnosia is my "primary disability," is. The combination of language processing/translating issues and time issues can be just...incredibly terrible. Not just in face-to-face or short-term situations either; I have the worst problem with writing papers...If I say papers take me longer to write because I have to spend tons of time organizing my thoughts (non-linear-autisticADHDbrain), I basically get people assuming: 1. I can't write (not true); OR 2. That I'm one of those mystical lazy, cheating, disabled students; OR 3. That I'm a bright but disorganized puppy that they can remediate back to health by completely altering my writing process to be more "efficient." All of those things lead to complete shutdown (either immediately, or progressively).
    The worst might be when, after I reveal that I need more time, the other person asks me how much time I'll need. I get that normal people often will be able to answer this question, and will appreciate being able to set their own deadline to fit their needs. I, however, will never be able to answer that question. Ever. I have no idea how long it will take me to do X, or finish Y. I don't know how long it takes for me to do some things that I've done hundreds of times; how am I supposed to guess how long it will take me to finish a project for the first time ever?

    Also, with regard to the comment above from katilady-
    Things that work for me/might work for your partner's daughter are:
    - If at all possible, find way for her to get herself independently to events/activities so that other people aren't reliant on her being ready on time (obviously, this can be not possible for a ton of different reasons, least of which being her age, needing to drive to get places, etc. but it's worth a shot sometimes)
    - Plan to get to anything important very early, if possible. Like, don't even just start her "getting ready" earlier: literally plan to leave earlier than necessary, in case it takes longer than expected to get out of the house.
    - Create lists of the things (tasks, items) necessary for her leaving the house, and put them everywhere. This helps prevent someone getting lost in one task and forgetting about the time.
    - Have a "travel bag" of sorts, with snacks, some toiletries, hair accessories, and so on, so that if it's time to leave and she's not quite ready, she can take that and finish getting ready in the car or at the destination.
    - Put together a "getting ready to leave" playlist of songs, where each song (or pair of songs) corresponds to a specific step in her routine, or point in her process. Then have her turn it on (either on a stereo in her room or on some portable thing with headphones) when you tell her to start getting ready. This is one of the only ways I can even vaguely keep track of time passing. But make sure there's a list of what song corresponds to what time/task, and that it's readily visible, b/c otherwise you forget to keep track of the songs and just bounce around to music forever.
    - Set aside time earlier in the day (or the night before) to put together the clothes, or items, or snacks that will be needed for her to get out the door. If she is the kind of person who likes symmetrical, precise things (like me sometimes) it can actually be calming and nice to have all your things ready and arranged in rows/stacks way before you need to leave.
    Hope that stuff can help!