Rules


I can’t live without them. As much as I’ve tried to rewrite history and tell myself that pre-kids I was very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, it’s just not true.

I need to know where I’m going. I need to know when I’ll get there, or at the very least when I’m leaving and what the rest stops will be. I need to plan and plan and plan, and make lists, and follow. I can re-arrange the lists without too much anxiety, as long as I’m sticking to what I know in that moment is true and real.

I don’t cope well with surprises. I don’t know what to do when rules change without warning. It ramps up my anxiety, and messes with my capacity for trust. I become much more risk-averse, because if one thing is so easily changed, it stands to reason that anarchy is waiting in the wings.

This is one of the many blessings of having kids on the autism spectrum: I was given children who get how hard it is when the rules suddenly no longer apply. In many ways, I think I am most capable of parenting neurodiverse kids because of my own neuro-atypicality. The funny thing is that they often cope with the rules suddenly going sideways much better than I do.

I am, I suppose, a bit rigid in my perspective of the world and how it needs to be for my wellbeing. Rationally, I know that change is inevitable, and necessary. I am not against it, as stressful as it is for me. I know there is peace to be had if I can relax into change a bit more, if I can accept that the parts of the world over which I have no control will change regardless of the rules I’ve developed to make more sense of them. I accept that there are exceptions to every rule I have, and I accept that most of those exceptions are externally imposed.

That doesn’t make it easier for me in the moment. Knowing intellectually that something makes sense doesn’t mean that my emotional responses will reflect that knowledge. I will be frustrated, and upset. I may cry (because my goodness, am I one who cries). I may withdraw from the situation because I’m feeling overwhelmed (and ridiculous). I will feel anxious, and shaky, and all-around not good.

There are some rules that have gone by the wayside in my life recently, and I’m a bit all of the above as a result. I’m fighting the urge to find a nice tiny warm cave and hide there for a while from a world that confuses and upsets me. Instead, I will choose to focus on what I can control. I declare today a list-making day. New year, new rules. Maybe I’ll even try to make some of them flexible. Maybe.

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