The Impossible Task of Interacting
“I’m going to drive now. I’ll be back in 30 minutes.”
“It’s a busy day. Speech this morning and therapy after lunch.”
“I’m going to the store on my way home from work.”
Each of these means different things when interacting via online communication, my most used form of social interaction. Someone driving won’t be texting, so I know I’ll not receive a response for 30 minutes. Speech therapy? I may get two or three messages in a session. Therapy, none at all. Store, intermittent as things are picked up for dinner. I get to make a running tally in my head of what I can say and what can be responded to easily given the allotted schedule.
What can I say during these times and when can I reasonably expect a response. I calculate each. I don’t bring up heavy subjects without permission because what if person A needs to leave in the middle? I need to get someone ready for school. I warn others because half of them are Autistic like me. I assume they need to know whether they can expect communication back, and even if they don’t, it’s okay. I am just being kind.
Now… How much can I share? I have to step away for 5 minutes. Do I say I need to use the bathroom? or just say I’ll be right back? Do I say I’ll be back in 5 minutes? Yes, I should just say I’ll be back in 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter that I need to use the bathroom.
Oh! This person asked me a question that shows they know something about the topic I’m talking about. Now…. let’s see… How much time do I have? When do I think they’re going to step away. How many messages can I send between their responses? I’m not sure, but TOPIC! And as long as they continue to engage, I know I haven’t gone too far. Oh wait.. They just changed the topic a little bit. Does that mean Topic A is done? Let’s test, one more comment on Topic A. Yup, they actually changed to Topic B. Alright, so I guess I need to change too.
And so interacting goes. My carefully laid out day split up into 5 minute sections. And then it’s 5 pm. And I’m tired. And I’m sitting on the couch waiting for my wife to get home.
A few weeks ago, she was in the hospital. My day was not these interactions. It was surviving day to day with no interaction. I was also done by 5pm. Getting everyone to and from school. Lunches made. Eating. Store for essentials. Cleaning. All of that physical energy. It equated to the same as I daily put in mental energy to interacting with people. Even pulling up to the school and waving to the paraprofessional at my child’s school. My smile has to be right. My wave just right.