I couldn’t sleep last night, which perhaps was inevitable after sleeping so much during the day (even if it was Yom Kippur) and having an evening that was not-brilliant from a sleep hygiene point of view. I just have to deal with it now. I lay in bed resting for a while and got up around 5.45am to eat breakfast. I had therapy at 10.30am, so trying to sleep through the morning wasn’t an option. I napped for an hour and a half before therapy, which was probably a good thing even if it meant I wasn’t fully present in therapy.

Therapy was good. We spoke a bit about my frustration at not having intense religious experiences on festivals. I mentioned that my rabbi mentor said that probably most people were not having them, whatever the Jewish websites say. I also reflected that I do have some religious experiences, sometimes, as I think happened on Wednesday evening at shul (synagogue) and I shouldn’t discount them just because they are fleeting and/or inchoate and hard to put into words afterwards. I also feel that Shabbat is a time when I’m less distracted by social anxiety in shul and anxiety over ritual than on festivals and that I do have spiritual experiences on Shabbat more frequently as a result, and that I could be more accepting of them, but also unconsciously discounting them. One of the things I want to work on about myself this Jewish year is being more “present in the moment” and not worrying about the future or focusing on abstract thoughts. I think this openness to fleeting, inchoate spiritual experiences is something I can work on in this area too.

***

When I couldn’t sleep, I finished skim-reading the autism memoir I’ve been reading. The main thing I take away from it is that it’s important to ask for adjustments if you want to get them, as people aren’t psychic and often don’t know much about autism. I can see that it will be hard for me to learn this lesson, as I was diagnosed relatively late in life (thirty-seven) and have spent most of my life being told to “force myself” to do things that I don’t feel I can’t do because “everyone else can do them.” My mentality (probably for psychological and religious reasons as well as experiential ones) is indeed to try to force myself to do things and hope they will become easier with practice. Some of the things the author got adjustments to avoid doing (such as making phone calls) are things I struggle with, but “force myself” to do with a lot of anxiety and internal resistance.

Also, in my current office set-up it’s just me and J, so if I can’t do something, I’m putting it all on him, which is uncomfortable. I’m mostly OK with what I have to do (my occasional absent-minded incompetence aside), aside from the Very Scary Task and one or two other things. J usually handles the Very Scary Task that unless he really can’t. It’s basically our core task, and it has to be dealt with quickly for halakhic (Jewish law) and other reasons and it is basically a mitzvah (religious commandment), all of which make it hard for me to back out of it. On which note, I may have to do it next Thursday, when J will be at a theme park with his family on Chol HaMoed (the semi-festive middle days of the festival of Sukkot, when the work restrictions are looser than on the other days). The unpredictability of when I have to do the VST is another issue, and, again, unchangeable given the nature of the task (which I don’t want to go into here).

The author of the book is also a lot more obviously autistic and in many ways less functional than me, although sometimes I feel that I’ve spent so long masking, I’m not sure I can do it much longer. It makes me feel that I “should” be able to cope better. If she can hold down a full-time job, I should be able to too, if I’m not so autistic. But it doesn’t really work that way, especially if you don’t have the fortunate autistic ‘good at numbers’ gift as she does.

***

I helped Dad put up more of the sukkah. Dad and I putting up the sukkah, or doing any DIY really, is worryingly like Laurel and Hardy (or the Chuckle Brothers, depending on what your comedy frame of reference is). I worry how I could put up a sukkah by myself, even a (supposedly) easy-to-assemble one like ours. More worries for the future.

Aside from that, I spent forty-five minutes or so finishing the first draft of the short story I was writing. I’m glad to have made progress on it.

***

Reading Ashley’s post on conformity, I commented:

I find it hard to tell how influenced by conformity I am. I pretty much always feel ‘different’ in a social group, but I’m not sure how much I am different or how much it’s just my perception. Maybe on some level I want to feel like a non-conformist.

I certainly have beliefs and practices that are different to my religious community, but I’m not sure whether there’s any pluralistic ignorance going on (thanks for the term!).

Politically, I’ve shifted quite a bit from where I was brought up. I have friends across the political spectrum, but my more political friends are the ones most different to me. But mostly I keep quiet about politics, even more so than religion, to avoid that kind of trouble.
I do feel that in politics, like religion, I don’t really fit in one ‘box’, but, again, that could be more my self-perception.

I do find it very hard to disagree with people to their face, though, even if I disagree strongly in my head, even on trivial things like whether I enjoyed a particular film or book. I don’t often leave disagreeing blog comments; I would more likely walk away from a situation like that unless I felt extremely strongly or felt very secure in my relationship with that person.

Thinking about this after posting, I can see that not being authentic in my social interactions and fearing rejection would be stressful, particularly as authenticity is an important value for me that I am often not observing. However, I also feel that hiding my opinions has let me have a wider friendship network than many people have, in the era of social media echo chambers, not in terms of absolute numbers, but in terms of the diversity of the views they hold.

8 thoughts on “Spiritual Experiences, Conformity, and Autism in the Workplace

  1. The expectation for intense religious experiences on festivals seems like the kind of thing that would be very conducive to pluralistic ignorance. The people who have them some of the time have a strong incentive to speak up about them, whereas who wants to speak up about not meeting the expectation?

    In terms of asking for adjustments, I wonder if websites that offer ideas for common workplace accommodations for people on the spectrum would be a good place to start. Then it’s not just a matter of your not forcing yourself, it’s something objective that people with autism commonly need to function at their best in the workplace. The Job Accommodation Network has has lots of different suggestions for a variety of conditions, including autism: https://askjan.org/disabilities/Autism-Spectrum.cfm

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I ask myself what would be gained or changed by disagreeing with someone on politics or religion. Would it make me feel more empowered? Is it because I enjoy “winning” arguments? Most of the time I simply walk away because most of the time, it isn’t worth the stress and very little positive would come out of it anyway. A discussion is different but those are getting rarer and rarer these days.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think the spiritual experience thing is one of those things where there is a strong disconnect between what the inspirational books/writers tell you and what most people actually experience. I’m not saying no one experiences this, but that I strongly suspect that most people are not actually experiencing this most of the time.

    It’s sad that the nature of public political discourse is such that if you share your views, you’ll find yourself in an echo chamber, and if you don’t share your views, you’ll have more diverse array of friends, but at the expense of being able to share your own authentic views. I struggle with this as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can relate to not feeling like I fit in any one box. I think the more diverse a person’s experience is, the more they’re aware they can’t reside neatly in one box.

    Lately, I veer pretty far from discussing politics or religion on social media, though I did go on a bit of a rant recently about how some anti-maskers were claiming a religious mask exemption. Most of the time, I realize I’m just triggered, and that tends not to make for good writing or conversation. There’s so much negativity these days that I want to try to stay off that bandwagon. If you’re just giving facts dispassionately to help others see a situation in a way you believe is more accurate, that’s one thing, but I often just want to combine emotion with it, which tends to tune out people who likely need the info the most.

    Liked by 1 person

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