Welcome to 2014, a new year for those on the Gregorian calendar and for me a new home, new country, new business and lots of new opportunities. Aspies are not well known for their love of change and new opportunities are often greeted by anxiety over the unknown or the possibility of failure. However, I have decided that it is silly to be anxious about life’s exciting presentation at the moment and far more productive to be excited about all the possible opportunities that present themselves.
For example, I could have been anxious that our solar inverter had a ‘grid error’ and that I only noticed this on a Saturday afternoon, not a time for cheap electrician house calls. So instead, I thought about the opportunity to find an electrician for all future issues that are bound to crop up (three years of living through earthquakes has left me very realistic about house maintenance issues). I googled for a solar inverter electrician and found a hub that referred the job out to suitably qualified professionals. One phone call put me off – apparently my inverter was rubbish and would need replacing….. This could have provoked serious anxiety, but instead I decided this was an opportunity to say the job had already been allocated to someone else. Luckily the someone else was very nice on the phone and asked if this or that was connected and working….. I love technology but solar inverters are new to me and mine has a big sign on saying not to touch it or the mains or etc etc, so I said I had no idea. He offered to come out the next day (a Sunday) and I remembered to ask the cost – if I hadn’t I would have worried the whole time about how much it would cost. Turned out the fuse in the locked mains cabinet was off….. I felt very silly and said so, and he asked for a nominal amount to cover costs. I was more than happy to pay as now excitingly the solar is working and producing free power for us!
I could have got very anxious about the flat pack DIY cupboard which refused to be put together as per instructions, instead I decided I could do it, so that I would have a cupboard and not a expensive kit set! I took bits off, attached bits together out of order in a way that seemed logical and voila – almost perfect cupboard. AND NO I refuse to be upset by the slight mismatch in alignment between door and frame. I lived in a house with a split in two firewall and managed to ignore that, what is a slight gap (and the gap between wall and side due to angle of wall if just an opportunity to use ‘no more gaps’ (polyfilla).
I had a very successful autism consultancy in New Zealand and starting again in Australia could be daunting, but I refuse to be ruled by anxiety, instead I am framing it as a bigger place with more opportunities, some of which will work and some of which won’t. It helps my partner works in psychiatry and is constantly reframing other people’s lives and issues so that they turn weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities. My new year’s wish is for all people on the spectrum to learn the power of this reframing, as once a spectrum mind is made up it is highly determined and can be amazingly goal orientated. If you are on the spectrum start small with something that bothers you – for example, cold toast is so awful that it is inedible. Reframe this to be excited about seeing how fast you can get toast from toaster to the moment you start eating it! Then once you have reframed a few small things, congratulate yourself, pause and enjoy the lack of anxiety.
After really embracing and enjoying the lack of specific anxiety over that small thing, move on to other things. Last year I conquered my fear of getting lost on public transport (by getting lost and realising lost is ok), this year I am going to be excited about networking rather than worried about remembering who people are. Make small incremental changes and celebrate.
If you are a parent or teacher of someone on the spectrum, help them to reframe difficulties by enabling them to see their strengths and identify opportunities to celebrate and further develop those strengths. Enjoy their success with them, tell them how proud you are of their achievements and how happy their dreams and goals and path to those make you.
2014 – a year for autistic and aspie achievements! Enjoy