Back when I first started reading about ASD, I came across David Finch’s “Journal of Best Practices.” If you haven’t read it, all you need to know is that after being diagnosed with Asperger’s he started keeping a journal filled with social rules (best practices) that he wanted to remember.
What a great idea, I thought. I should do that!
Yeah. It turns out that I’m not anything like David Finch. He went about cataloging the rules he was learning with a humor and fanaticism that I just don’t have. I wrote down the rules I was learning for approximately . . . two weeks. Then I got distracted by some other bright shiny thing I can’t remember and abandoned the file.
As I was cleaning out my Google docs folder recently, I came across the rules I’d written down. And I have no idea what the point was, because unlike Finch, who actually set about following the rules he’d learned, all I did was write snarky explanations to justify breaking the rules.
That was a year ago, so I thought it might be fun to revisit them. For each, I’ve listed the rule, my response from a year ago and my current response.
The rule: If you stare at someone, they’ll think you’re interested in them or angry with them or are being intentionally rude.
What I thought then: When I stare at someone it’s because there’s something about them I can’t figure out or because I’ve zoned out and don’t realize I’m staring. I can avoid staring when I’m conscious that I’m doing it but that isn’t always the case.
What I think now: I’m an unreformed starer. This isn’t something that’s going away. It may have to do with motion, at least some of the time. The other morning The Scientist said, “did you realize you were staring at that car?” and I replied, “what car?” He pointed to a car that was then stopped at the light on the corner. I was stunned to realize that not only did I not know I’d been staring at it as it drove by me, I hadn’t visually registered the existence of the car.
This is also why, at least once a month, I nearly walk in front of a car while crossing a street or parking lot. My visual processing seems to turn itself off when I’m staring. Which I guess means I’m not actually “staring” because staring implies seeing.
The rule: When you say goodbye or thank you as you’re leaving a restaurant (or other place) look at the person you’re talking to, not at the door or in the direction of the exit.
What I thought then: When I look for the exit, I’m not being rude, just getting ahead of myself. This is pretty easy to fix because I can prepare in advance.
What I think now: Yeah, no. If I get this one right half the time, I’m doing good. There are so many things to think about. Where is the exit? What am I supposed to say in this situation? Is there anything in my path I might trip over or walk into? There’s also the fact that being in a restaurant or other crowded place wears down my interest in social interaction. By the time I’m leaving, I’m in go mode.
The rule: If you encounter someone in a hallway or other place where you need to pass them, look at their eyes to see which direction they’re looking in (right or left). That’s the direction they’ll move toward as they pass you. Once you determine this, look in the other direction and go that way.
What I thought then: My instinct is to look in the same direction as the other person which apparently causes them to change course. Then we do that little back and forth dance a few times before passing each other.
What I think now: I’m much better at this now! At least 75% of the time, I can pass someone without doing the back and forth dance. You can’t imagine how exciting this is. Okay, you probably can.
The rule: If you’re sitting on the train and a person you’re with is standing up and holding a bag/package, offer to hold it for them.
What I thought then: When The Scientist tried hinting to me to offer to take my daughter’s bag, I had no idea what he was getting at. He finally gave up and told me explicitly what he meant and even then I was a little mystified. If she wanted me to hold her bad, why didn’t she just give it to me? I was also mean about it afterwards, repeatedly taking the bag with our dinner leftovers from him while we were walking down the street and then asking him why he wasn’t offering to carry it for me. Bad wife.
What I think now: Not one of my finer moments, that. I might be better at spotting opportunities like this. I get the general rule of try to sense when other people might need help and offer to help them. Still, generalizing is hard.
[Rule redacted due to TMI – the pitfalls of no longer writing anonymously . . . ]
The rule: When a conversation lags, ask a general open-ended question like “what are your plans for the summer?” or “have you been watching the Olympics?”
What I thought then: I live in mortal fear of a conversation with an acquaintance lapsing into awkward silence. It’s what makes me dread small talk in the first place.
What I think now: I’ve improved my conversation skills a bit, mostly through practice and actively taking note of how others use open-ended questions during a lull in conversation. It helps to plan ahead and have some questions prepared in advance. Also, I’ve found that once I ask an open-ended question, I can encourage the other person to keep talking by asking for their feelings about or reactions to things they describe. This reduces the number of questions I need to prepare and avoids turning a conversation into a mini quiz.
The rule: If you want to talk about something important, wait until you’re face-to-face before you begin the conversation. Face-to-face conversing carries more weight than saying something when the other person is walking up the stairs ten feet away with their back to you.
What I thought then: This makes sense and I need to work on putting it into practice more. The problem with this rule is that I often have difficulty suppressing the need to talk when something important pops into my head. A strategy may be to mentally “schedule” a time to talk so I can reassure myself that the conversation will happen at a specific time.
What I think now: This is another one that’s still hit or miss. I have trouble inhibiting my speech until a later time. The more important a subject feels, the more difficult it is to inhibit. I have noticed that waiting and raising important subjects at more appropriate times gets a better response though.
* * *
Although I’ve had mixed results, there was nothing on this list that I’d completely forgotten writing down. To some degree, I’ve attempted to work on each of them. When the results have been less than stellar–the staring thing, for example–it turns out that there are probably underlying issues.
More importantly, doing this little exercise has shown me that I’ve changed the way I go about change. Initially I was all about learning things piecemeal and to some degree about improving my ability to pass. I have mixed feelings about this now. In general, I think my focus is shifting toward being healthy and improving my coping strategies, which is challenging me to learn a whole different set of rules.
48 thoughts on “Rules to Live By”
I definitely empathize with your “what a good idea, …too bad that doesn’t work for me” thought. I’ve read Finch’s “The Journal of Best Practices,” parts of it two or three times, and sometimes out loud with my wife. I’ve thought that writing down such rules might be helpful for us… but then I get pulled away by our busy life, or our children, or my work, or the pattern in the louvers on the ceiling vent, and then all I mange to write down is a cryptic half-sentence. When I get back to the thought later, I find that I often don’t remember the details about the “why” or “how” of the specific “rule” I’d been thinking about. Sometimes I can go back to those cryptic half-sentences, and play a sort of charade-like game with myself trying to figure out what exactly I meant. As an aside, my therapist and I talked about the OCD that comes through in Finch’s book, and we both feel that David demonstrates a much higher level of OCD than I do, which is perhaps part of the reason that not many of my own rules get past the cryptic-sentence-fragment stage!
Your post caused me to flip back through ten or fifteen pages of my own scribbled notes, identifying a few things that I’d forgotten I had previously committed to try to do (or not do). Some of them look potentially valuable to my situation, maybe more so now with a bit of temporal distance between the time they were written and the present. In any case, thanks for sharing, and thanks for helping me get back to those valuable “rules!”
I liked FInch’s book a lot when I first read it. His “best practices” are a great conceit to build a book around and I saw a lot of myself in the traits he talked about, especially in terms of relationships. I’m glad you raised the issue of OCD and the role that might play in being able to or interested in developing rules. I feel like his ADHD and OCD play at least as big a role in his story as Asperger’s but they didn’t seem to get talked about/acknowledged as much.
There is definitely some benefit to learning or at least understanding why people behave certain ways, but as you say life gets in the way and we each need to pick and choose what we value enough to work on.
Yes, I felt like several parts of the book had been written about me! For me, my own ADD also plays into the challenges that I have, particularly with work, but also with relationships. and work. In some ways I wonder if the process of drafting and editing the book narrowed the label to “Asperger’s,” when in reality there seem to be several other things at play. Of course, we are all unique in how the spectrum in manifest in our own thoughts, feelings, reactions and behaviors, and for David, perhaps he relates the things we may label ADHD or OCD in with Asperger’s. I have definitely taken some of his rules to heart, as evidenced by observations my wife and therapist have shared with me, but others of his rules are less appropriate to my challenges, while others still will be harder for me to assimilate.
I believe that your approach of being healthy and improving your overall coping strategies is a very wise one. In the whirlwind of the past several months since my diagnosis, I’ve probably forgotten more potentially-helpful nuggets than I’ve remembered, but the ones that I’ve been able to remember (and practice regularly) tend to be broader strategies rather than specific tactics. I suspect that is sort of similar to building a foundation before trying to place a structure on top of it!
Yes, I imagine it’s difficult/impossible to separate out which traits are autism vs. OCD or ADHD or some combination thereof. Also, having one big concept to wrap the book around is probably more feasible in terms of marketing, etc.
I like your analogy of building a foundation. The broader, more basic concepts definitely feel more doable and also easier to remember to practice, perhaps because they come up much more often in daily life than things like greeting someone in a restaurant.
So I guess the staring part could be related to sort of a mild fixation on a random object? I actually have a somewhat funny example of this that just happened yesterday. I came home, saw my fiance laying on the couch watching a movie. So I gave him a quick hug and peck on the cheek and went to change my clothes and prepare dinner. When I came back out, he 1/2-jokingly said, “You didn’t even hug me hello”. I had to remind him that I did – & he was stumped and puzzled because he had no memory of it. I have noticed that when distracted by a movie or on his computer, reading something, whatever I do or say doesn’y get through and he will have no idea I was even talking.
I definitely get visually fixated on random objects, especially moving objects or objects that seem out of place to me. Or at least that’s the conclusion we’ve recently come to, after much analysis. 🙂 I also do that thing about not hearing someone talking to me if I’m engaged in something, but my husband is far worse in that area so I don’t feel too bad about it.
When reading David Finch’s book, what struck me that most of his rules were only about making others happier. I think that’s why he stuck with them. Because he felt he needed to fix himself to stop making others unhappy. It was a great book, don’t get me wrong, but the implied “I’m not a good husband or father if I’m just being my autistic self” was present in nearly all the rules. I think that’s why starting a similar set of rules didn’t work for you. Because you don’t feel broken.
His rules were very much about being a better husband and father, which I think is a good goal. But as I’ve learned more about being autistic, I feel like my strategy for “self-improvement” has changed a lot and by working on being healthier and improving my coping skills, I’ll naturally become a better partner/parent. Which isn’t to say I’m not open to suggestions for how to do that. I guess it’s rather complicated, isn’t it?
Your last sentence did it for me – it’s what I want to do for my son (age 6). I want for him to be healthy, and improve coping strategies. At his age, for adults anyway, he “passes”. Not so much for kids his age – little kids don’t care, and older kids make allowances. He’s going to need strategies to navigate the NT world while having peace inside himself. I’m so glad I’ve found autistic bloggers to help with this journey.
You sound like a terrific parent! I’m finding that I’m increasingly gravitating toward a big picture, top down kind of work. My husband says that I’m more relaxed these days, which is so much better for our relationship and has naturally “fixed” a lot of things that I might have tried tackling piecemeal via rules. So that’s been a nice development.
I find it very hard to find a balance between teaching my son some manners and allowing for his own comfort that is different than what society and social instincts normally produce. He’s a very poor ‘greeter’ and although I don’t care when adults may find him rude (if he likes them, he will hug them..) I can see his classmates and potential friends are put off by him ‘ignoring’ them. I know he aches for friends so I have told him, every little ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ (even if you have just left them in class and are just running past them again in the school yard) is for them a sign of affection. he will give a stiff, grumpy return when prompted, but when I say nothing, he will not hear them (i think. or he hears too many other things at the same time) I wonder at what time he will have the self-reflection that you seem to have to realise those things better and make his own pick of those ‘social rules’ he finds himself worth to work on..
I’m not sure how old he is, but I was 42 when I finally got started in earnest, so maybe don’t get your hopes up too high . . .
Kidding. Sort of. I think it’s good that you’re giving him explicit help with how to connect with other kids. It can be really hard to remember to do those little things (like saying hi and bye) that other people do very naturally. And when you prompt or remind him, he may be putting forth a grumpy effort because he feels awkward or embarrassed at having to be prompted. I suspect he already knows that he’s doing “something wrong” but might not be able to get a handle on how to “fix it” so he’s sort of bumping along, looking like he’s ignoring people. Have you tried brainstorming with him about other ways to connect with friends/potential friends? I literally had no idea as a kid that I could simply walk up to a group of kids and say “can I play with you?” Never even occurred to me until last summer when I saw a kid do it on the playground while I was walking my dog. That probably sounds ridiculous but I missed so much when it came to social skills as a kid.
I’m rambling but I guess what I’m saying is that giving him lots of options might be helpful, so he can try them out and see what fits him. In the process of talking/thinking about social skills, he might begin to think more actively about the possibilities on his own too.
Some quite recognizable things here for me. I’m quite well known by my friends for my “1000 yard stare” where I will be apparently staring at something but not seeing it, my mind being otherwise occupied. The conversation thing still gets me: I always end up relying on the other person to keep it going.
I’m a champion starer. I’ve just decided to accept it and hope nothing terrible comes of it.
Conversation is hard! Especially if the other person isn’t comfortable with some prolonged silences.
For the hallway dance (or the four way stop dance) once I can tell it’s underway, I will often just stop all my movement until they pass, especially if I don’t know them.
When it comes to conversations and silences that might come in I just ask more about the other person, assuming they aren’t the silent type to begin with. Funny thing is, I hate it when the topic gets turned to me. Sure, we all like giving small updates about what’s going on, but that’s enough for me. Even if the person seems genuinely interested, I don’t really want to talk about my paintings or animations… there’s always that risk that I’ll get into it, and then start talking in too much depth as their eyes fog over. One time (1999) I had a cousin over for dinner and he made the simple mistake of asking me about my paintings. At the time I was in the middle of an interesting series and I went over nearly 50 paintings with him in detail. Well after the fact I realized how I had monopolized the evening as he was too polite to try and shift the flow.
Stopping seems to work too, if I can manage to inhibit my body’s urge to just get the heck away from them. 🙂
I find that talking about myself in general is pretty uncomfortable, which is odd considering how much I talk about myself here. I’ll often deflect questions about myself back onto the other person as a way of simply avoiding having to answer. Maybe, like you, I have a (I guess, subconscious) fear of “getting going” on a subject and not knowing when to stop.
after i was sharply rebuked as a child, for staring, i learned to avert my gaze and surreptitiously dart my eyes in microbursts of observation so as not to be noticed noticing. there is a poster on Wrong Planet who calls himself “staremaster” and i wish i had taken that username for myself.
Staremaster is priceless. Surreptitious intermittent staring sounds like a good skill to have. I’ve tried to recognize when I’m doing it, but I totally zone out so it’s hard to catch myself.
sometimes i miscalculate and my microstare lasts a microsecond or so too long and they micronotice me, at which point i duck out of the way or start whistling and gazing up in the air like i’m preoccupied or something.
I’m prone to saying my departing social ritual statements as I’m on the way out. With my back turned. I’m pretty impressed that you are even able to say it looking at the door!
I often am in my car and half way home before I realise that I never properly said my goodbyes. I’ve probably said “goodnight” or “I’m off” to anyone between me and the door and who I notice is trying to make eye contact with me. My preferred technique is to wait until until someone else leaves and depart at the same time. I can then just echo what the other party is saying and I don’t have to initiate anything myself.
“My preferred technique is to wait until until someone else leaves and depart at the same time. I can then just echo what the other party is saying and I don’t have to initiate anything myself.”
Yes, I use that one too. It’s very useful, because that way I make sure I do things ‘the right way’ without having to pay too much attention to it, which is the difficult part because I’m in the middle of leaving, putting my coat on, not forgetting my bag, etc.
That’s a great strategy. I’ve also found that being part of a couple can lessen the burden. If my husband is doing most of the leave taking chatter (which he’s great at), I can just stand by his side and do the echoing thing or smile and it’s considered some sort of package deal, I guess.
If I’m with my wife, I do let her do the leaving chatter. However, She can take AGES to do the rounds saying her farewells. And I can only hold a smile and nod in agreement for so long before I begin to feel very uncomfortable.
One issue we haven’t resolved, even after 41 years of marriage is that she expects me to initiate leaving at least half the time. Apparently I’m supposed to recognise her signals that she’s ready to leave. What signals?? I’ve spent entire evenings, doing little more than watch her for those elusive signals, but never see them. I quite often get the cold shoulder treatment on the way home because I missed the cues.
Hmmm, have you asked her what the signals are or would that not go over well? My husband knows I need very explicit signals. He’s started literally saying to me “I’m asking for help here” when I’m not picking up on his “asking for advice” signals. It’s a little awkward but it seems to work.
Old habits die hard. We’d been married over 35 years before even the possibility of me being on the autistic spectrum was considered. 35 years of considering one’s spouse of being thoughtless and inconsiderate at times is very hard to break. She understands that I have ASD, but finds it difficult to comprehend the implications. She can’t seem to grasp that it’s not that I can’t read body language – I don’t even see it much of the time. But we’ll get there eventually. She grew up more than 10,000 mile from where I did, and we’ve been making language and cultural adjustments since we first met , and still are. This is just another element to add to the mix 🙂
barry, you could make a show by telling your wife you’ll go out ahead of her so you can start the car and get it warmed up for her. just a thought.
Tried that. Warming up the car for half an hour or more is not very ecologically friendly 🙂
well barry, i don’t know if this is strictly pertinent to your situation, but i am reminded of that old gary larson cartoon where the hosts had to play dead [lying awkwardly on the floor with their tongues sticking out and their eyes crossed as though stroked out] before the guests would take the hint and leave. you could pretend that something is up at home and you have to go.
I think I have figured out what is supposed to happen: I’m supposed to detect that she would like to leave about an hour before she really wants to leave, publicly announce that I think it’s about time we were leaving, then find something to occupy myself for the next hour while she goes through the drawn out process of saying her good-byes. There’s obviously something to this “good-bye” ritual that I haven’t fathomed yet. I could possibly draw the process out to a minute with a lot of effort, but an hour or more is beyond comprehension. It seems to be a woman thing as most most of the wives and female partners in our circle of friends seem to take a long time saying their farewells, while the men twiddle their thumbs. It’s just that my wife has perfected the technique better than most. I, on the other hand can better all the men on the shortness of mine. Like everything she and I do, we’ll find a working solution…… eventually.
Oh, actually by looking at the door I did mean with my back turned. 😀 I’m still terrible at this. Is there maybe also something about leaving that is basically flustering? It’s a transition and transitions are hard.
I’ve found the hardest place to control the staring urge is on my morning train ride. The movement & sound of the train seems to put me more in that mode. A couple of times I’ve caught myself doing it to someone right across from me & I’ve explained it away by saying how much they look like a relative of mine! The reality was I didn’t even know they were there as my mind had completely zoned out.
Oh, I know that startled feeling when you realize you’ve just been staring at someone for way too long and not even seeing them. The looking like a relative excuse is a good one. I need to remember that. 🙂
Thousand-yard stare- check, hasty/awkward good-byes-check. Thank you sooo much for the hallway dance awkwardness avoiding tip, I had yet to figure that out. The carrying of the bag- Aspiehubby and I go rounds about how we have to spell everything out for each other- both of us. If I don’t say something right then, I’m in danger of forgetting, even if its important.
Yours was the first great Aspie blog I found in my research, and I remain eternally grateful. Thanks also for your great article on adult female diagnosis! I shared it a lot. I would be honored if you stopped by my blog. Thanks again!
Thank you for the kind words. It’s always great to hear that someone has found my writing helpful. Especially at the moment when I’m finding writing and communicating in general incredibly difficult.
It’s funny how much we all relate to this stuff and how we continue to struggle with it, even when we know it’s going on. It feels good to know we’re not alone, doesn’t it?
The problem with rules is that they are so difficult to define accurately, at least for me that’s true. As a child I remember being scolded for not looking at people when they were talking to me. I eventually I figured out they meant making eye contact and not just looking in their direction. So I understood that the rule was to look the other person in the eye while they were talking to me. Unfortunately I was then criticised for staring at the other person. If I was being spoken to sternly for some misdemeanour, then the staring was interpreted as being defiant, which of course I wasn’t. I was just applying the rule. I must admit this is a rule I still haven’t got right.
I was reminded over the weekend that rules aren’t always appropriate. I had been taken to hospital by ambulance due to a migraine which is a regular occurrence for me (the migraine, not the trip to hospital). I have learnt there is a difference between the question “how are you” and “how are you feeling”. To the former question I generally answer along the lines that I’m fine, even if I have a migraine, as they are part of my normal life. However, if I’m asked the latter question, I’m likely to go into some detail if I’m feeling well, or a non-committal “not the best” if I’m not the best. So while most medics in the Accident & Emergency Department would ask how I was feeling, one doctor would ask “how are you”, to which I would always mumble “Fine”. He obviously though I was being difficult as my release notes record I was being “uncooperative and refused to answer questions fully and accurately”. No, I was simply applying the rules. Mind you my cognitive and executive skills are almost zero during a severe migraine. In hindsight, I also interpreted some questions too literally so I gave inappropriate answers, which might have also given rise to the “uncooperative” label.
Off topic I know, but I find being in the emergency department of a hospital pure torture. The continuous noise and commotion and the bright lights would be difficult to cope with at the best of times, but add photophobia and phonophobia caused by the migraine and it’s like hell on earth. I spent the entire 28 hours there with a finger firmly pressed into each ear and a pillow over my head.
You’ve really nailed it about how hard the rules can be to apply. A while back I read a blog by a mom who was trying to teach her 6-year-old son social rules and she pointed out that it wasn’t the rules that were hard to teach, it was all the exceptions to the rules and the exceptions to the exceptions.
Sorry to hear about your difficult trip to the ER. I have a lot of trouble communicating with medical personnel too, especially in that kind of situation. They often end up looking at me like I have two heads when I describe my symptoms, no matter how well I think I’ve scripted it.
Definitely recognize the “not seeing something while staring at it”. Always baffles me that that is even possible.
The rule on how to pass someone in a hall or something is very useful, I always get into that little dance thing. Not that I really mind, I always laugh it off, it’s one of the few mistakes you can easily laugh off (btw, if you get that Douglas Adams book, be sure to check ‘corriearklet’ and following words :))
And I also find that “wait until you’re face-to-face” thing difficult. I’m afraid that by the time we are face-to-face I will have forgotten what I wanted to say! The other person might start talking about something, or something else crops up in my head and then it’ll slip my mind. When dealing with people like my home coach or a therapist I just immediately say it, in order not to lose an important piece of information or question.
I have considered writing a lot of this kind of stuff down, too, but ‘a) I already write so much down and b) it won’t actually help me in the situation anyway.
The face-to-face rule I learned when I tried to have an important conversation with my husband while we were walking up 3 flights of stairs. When he basically ignored me, I got mad and asked him why he wasn’t taking it seriously. He pointed out that I was talking to his back while he was 10 feet away and could only half hear what I was saying, so he didn’t think it was as important as it obviously was to me. That made sense, though I’m still prone to blurting stuff out at times.
Your point b is exactly what I’ve found. Writing things down is only helpful if I remember them, which I so rarely do in the heat of the moment.
There was one rule I knew about but hated. A lot: “Be a little more indirect”
While I still don’t enjoy being vague or indirect, I start to see the value in this in certain situations. For example, you could get asked about soemthing you’re not comfortable with discussing, like “how much do you make?” Being vague and saying, “I make enough” is a one way to deflect the question and talk about something else instead.
That rule in itself is frighteningly indirect. 😀 I like your example of deflection. I’m terrible at that and it’s something I’d like to improve. I always admire people who are able to graciously redirect a conversation away from uncomfortable territory.
I’m 49 soon. 23 of those married. One son 21 soon who had just been diagnosed with Aspberger. Another soon to be 19 who is most likely on the spectrum as well. I am on the spectrum myself.
I think the most important thing I have learned, and maybe it has become rulish for me, is openness. I now tell people that I have no clue when I am supposed to leave, so they need to tell me. I tell them that my oldest is an Aspie and that is why he sometimes says and does what he does. I try to pass but I let people know that I’m going to do and say weird stuff and that they have to let me know if that happens to hurt them.
I remember learning the staring rule. I was told that it was rude not to look people in the eyes. So I did, but stared. As an adult I have tried to learn to not stare, but it is hard. I too end up looking at something without seeing it. I can pass friends and they claim I was looking right at them and didn’t say hello. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to continue to try to pass, but that I cannot let passing rule my life. I’m going to make mistakes and look a fool. But life is a joke and all I can do is laugh along with it and the weird stuff I do and say.
I’m so excited that you commented about passing because I’m about to post something on passing that I’m a bit nervous about putting out into the world. You’ve pretty much summed up the place I’m arriving in – we can try to pass and it’s helpful in some situations but it’s also so so much work and not always worth it or even possible.
I love your principle of openness and I’m working toward that. I think it actually makes things less awkward to simply be up front about what you need and let people know that there will be some awkward moments.
Oh, and I wanted to say that I REALLY like your blog. You are open and direct and have answered some of the questions I did not realise I had.
Thank you! 😀 It’s always great to meet new readers (or long time readers who comment for the first time).
I heard the TAL segment he did, but haven’t read the book.
Can’t say I’m a fan.
I’ve just been diagnosed in my late 30’s, and have been largely functional.
What it seems to be doing is what I’ve been doing for myself all my life. Struggling to memorize rules and behaviors so that people will accept me.
Which I guess we all have to do, moreso for those on the spectrum.
But it is an absolutely exhausting way to live, and makes every interaction rote.
Yes, exhausting and rote sums it up pretty well. 😦 And I think you hit on something important in saying that everyone learns the rules to some degree, but we do it in the extreme, which seems to be true of so much of being autistic.