I have a few proper posts in various states of preparation, as well as several other outlines of posts that I want to share with you one day. But right now, my general state of existence precludes me from sitting down and writing anything that involves planning or concentration. So, in this liminal time (for many of us) between Christmas and New Year, I bring you another unpost, begun in a café.
Even an unpost takes some doing. Several times over the past month, I’ve sat in a café with the intention of rattling one off in an hour or two. But I’ve lacked the executive function to start the task and have instead settled for scrolling through my Twitter feed and occasionally adding something to the pot there.
This has been a bit of a different Christmas for me. It was always going to be. For a start, this is the year that I moved out of my matrimonial home – the flat I’d lived in since 1994, with my wife since 1997, and with our son since 2002. Before March, I don’t think I’d ever lived on my own for more than a few weeks. I also finally got my autism diagnosis this year (and failed to get an ADHD diagnosis). I found out that I would probably be getting GRS next year and also that my son needs a back operation, which will also happen in 2020.
So a bit of a different year, and a bit of a different Christmas. My son and I were invited to spend Christmas with my parents up in Inverness. And my sister and her husband and his mother and my three niblings. Ten of us in all, for an intense series of family rituals, elaborate meal preparations and enforced socialisation sessions.
I told my parents I probably wouldn’t come. My sister protested, saying it would be fun and that I could always hide away if it got too much. (She knows me: I always hide away, for most of the time.) In the end, I took advantage of my diagnosis and played the autism card.
No. It’s not fun for me, and I don’t see why I should put myself through something that takes so much out of me.
So then I had to decide what I was going to do. I didn’t really want to spend Christmas Day with my ex and my son either. It would have been quieter – and we’re all on perfectly amicable terms – but there would still have been a bit of unnecessary meal preparation (nice though Christmas food is). More than that, though, it would just have felt weird. I felt it was important to make some kind of clean break – although I felt bad about leaving my son to go paddling in the cold sea with only one of his parents! Mind you, I did see them both at church on Christmas morning.
I definitely didn’t want to spend Christmas Day on my own, though. That sounded like an unimaginably sad thing. Maybe that’s just because the people we hear about who spend the holiday on their own are usually elderly people with no relatives or friends nearby, and we’re told to pity them.
Now I’m very bad at approaching people individually to ask for help or to seek out company when I need it, mainly, I think, because the energy involved in each failed attempt has to replicated until I succeed, but partly, also, because I feel bad about imposing on individual friends who may not feel able to say no.
So I did what I always do: I broadcast my plea to the world (well, to my Twitter followers at any rate)! To my immense delight, one person responded, saying that they would be alone this Christmas and would also appreciate some company. They are also autistic, and I thought it might be nice to spend the time with someone else who would be happy to keep things low key.
Christmas Day arrived, and after the morning service at my church, I headed over to my friend’s flat. We had a slightly unconventional Christmas lunch of tomato soup (in mugs) and cheese-and-marmite toasties (which I can thoroughly recommend!). We drank a lot of coffee as well as hot ginger cordial. And we chatted for a few hours in between playing games of bananagrams (which were all very closely fought). I then popped home for some tortellini. It was by far the most chilled Christmas I have ever experienced, and I’d definitely want to do something similar next year.
I did go round to see my son and my ex the following day, and I ate some of their leftover Christmas dinner. It was nice but left me with no regrets.
If I were to make a new year’s resolution, it would probably be to continue developing my friendships in the autistic community. I’ve got to know some really lovely people in a short space of time.