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Boxes, Lists and Ants

I have always been a box thinker. The boxes that hold my thoughts are neatly stacked, clearly labelled and cross referenced to within an inch of their lives. The labels may fade over time but I still have a pretty good idea where everything is. Occasionally something may happen in life where a box gets moved, or shaken or the contents taken out. It will take me a few days to resort, refile, and get the cross referencing back up to date. Once in my life I had all of my boxes shaken, moved and emptied. I discovered that some of my behaviours weren’t as justified as I thought, my Autism had been lying to me. Just because someone didn’t do what I thought they would or should did not mean they were wrong. That one shook me quite badly and it took me a while to sort all of my boxes and redo all of the cross referencing. I not longer trusted myself. I have managed to put myself back together but this post isn’t about that.

I also have lists. I always have lists. I have lists of lists. Some are written just so that I can get them out of my head, but most are in my head. I wake in the morning and my head immediately starts listing what I need or want to do that day. On a bad day I list everything involved in actually getting out of bed. But this post isn’t about that either.

This is about ants.

The other day my husband came home from doing the shopping. (I love him so much for saving me from supermarkets). I thought I would be helpful and meet him at the back door to take the groceries from him because I knew he had other things in the car to get out and other tasks to do outside. While I meant well it was not a good thing for him at the time. We are both adjusting to this whole Autism thing but he explained it brilliantly. I had put a rock in front of his ants.

If you have ever watched ants they follow each other on the same trail, running backwards and forwards to get their tasks done. They know where they are because the other ants are there to tell them. If you put an obstacle in their way they group up until a scout ant finds a new trail to get around the obstacle and rejoin the old trail if possible.

Ants are a gentler form of lists. The brain has taken the tasks that need to be done and organised them in a logical order. By taking the groceries from him, I had disturbed the trail his ants were taking. He needed to take a few moments to rejoin where his ants currently were (standing at the back door) to the next logical step now that entering the house was no longer required.

Ants are a great way to explain things. ‘Will your ants mind if I do this now instead of later’. ‘I can’t deal with that now I’m dealing with my ants.’ They take the personal out of it. Its not about me, its not about him. Its about the ants. We both know that the ants are autism but the ants make it not about that either. Its also become a bit of a code when we are out and about in public. We can let each other know where we are mentally at without having to bring attention to it. At some time family or friends will ask what we are talking about and by then we may be ready to let them know.

If you wish to extend the analogy, never step on someones ant nest, the ants will swarm up your legs and bite the living shit out of you.

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