Sunday, 30 December 2012


I am trying to find out how I feel about noise. I discovered a blog about sensitivity to background noise (and related challenges): and upon reading that, I tried to organise my own thoughts on noise.

One of my problems with social functions is that I lack a filter. I can't concentrate on what person A is saying because person B is talking to person C. I am afraid that people find me rude if I don't pay attention to what they're saying and therefore I refrain from asking: Sorry what was that, sorry I didn't hear, etc. I struggle to make sense of the about 60 percent of person A's message, that I actually got. And very often the conversation dies because I can't say much more that 'oh' and 'yes', afraid that A has already told me what I am about to ask.

Conversations that are utterly irrelevant to me are easier to ignore, which is why it worked out relatively well when I commuted to work. I usually sat in the quiet section on the train, but if I had to sit in the normal section, I was often (though not always) able to block out irrelevant people's irrelevant phone conversations.

At work, I have my own office. It is quite close to the coffee machine, a common place for office small talk. When my door is open, I can hear everything that is said in the kitchen. And often I forget to work and just sit and listen. In particular if the small talk is relevant for me. I don't really like my door to be closed. To me, it signals: Leave me alone. Being a senior researcher, involved in a lot of projects, I don't think it is OK for me to send such a signal. I also like the interactions with my colleagues, so I am not very happy with a closed door.

During my carrier, I've shared an office numerous times. It has, I think, worked out well most of the times. In particular when my roommate was a quiet, hard-working researcher like myself. I also had great friendships with my roommates, though friendship time tended to increase on behalf of working time. I've shared an office with lovable people that had an interesting personal life, or a work that required lots of telephone conversations. And work related phone talk, as well as personal life related phone talk, tend to occupy my attention. I really liked those people I shared an office with, I am so happy they were in my life. But they disturbed me.

So maybe my first priority should be to have my own office, and create my own space behind a closed door. And maybe not. Because I have other quirks... Temperature and light related quirks. And there are other types of disturbances than office-mates.

The reason why I am thinking so much about this right now is that my workplace is moving. During spring, we are moving into the premises of the institution we recently merged with. Some researchers have to share an office. Because nobody wants to, those that volunteer to share, get first-choice regarding where they want to sit. All offices have glass walls towards the corridor. Some offices have very little daylight.

These are my thoughts: If someone wants to share an office with me, I have a very good chance of getting THE office that I want: On the top floor, with loads of daylight, relatively high temperature, and in the corner, where the visual disturbance of people walking in the corridor outside the glass wall is minimised. I also get the opportunity of developing another great friendship, or at least having a favourite colleague. But I will be disturbed by his or her telephone conversations, and perhaps the friendship time will start eating at the work time.

On the other hand, if I don't opt in on the shared office-first choice option, I have a relatively high risk of ending up in an office where people are walking outside all the time, where I can't see the sky and where it may be cold during winter. But the probability of having my own office is close to 100 %.

My experience with one office-mate is positive (whereas I hated being 3+ in the same office - that was anarchy), but I have become more introvert, more Aspie, and less 'filtered' since last time I shared an office with one person.

Both options have pros and cons, the central question is: what is most important to me?

Friday, 28 December 2012


In the old Greek myth of Oedipus, the main character is told that his destiny is to kill his father and marry his mother. He does everything possible to escape his destiny, but eventually that is exactly what happens. And he doesn't even know.

In Freudian psychology, the myth has been used as a symbol of boys wanting to couple with their own mother, of young boys' jealousy of their fathers, and of the general tendency - for people of both genders - to fall in love with somebody reminding them of their own parent (usually the parent of the opposite gender).

To me, the myth is about the inability to avoid destiny. My thoughts on the Freudian interpretation are more complicated and deserve their own blogpost. In short, I think Freud is not exactly wrong, neither is he spot on.

I would like to think that there is no such thing as destiny. I would like to think that the way I present myself and the way I live my life is a product of coincidences and free will in combination. But I am afraid it is not. Well 'destiny' is some supersticious nonsense. But my genes and my upbringing (and a lot of things that happened after that) laid out a path for me, and I am surprised every time I discover I am walking on that path. You could call the path 'destiny'.

During my childhood, every time we (the family) or my parents were going somewhere, my mother always was a bit late. The last thing she had to do before leaving the house, was to pee. When we went on holiday, my brother, my father and I sat in the taxi waiting, while my mother went to the bathroom, got her coat, and left the house. I remember wondering (probably out loud) why she couldn't pee while we were still in the house? Destiny: Nowadays, when everybody are ready to leave, I discover I need to pee. It is like they have to take their coats on for me to find out.

If I told my mother about a choice I made for me and later on for my children, she would often say: 'Why is that?', in a challenging and demanding tone of voice. If she and I had an argument, she would simply state: 'You are wrong', and she never felt the need to explain why I was wrong. It was sort of God-given, that she was right. Destiny: Before I can think of it, I exclaim: 'You are wrong' or, more mildly: 'I am right', in arguments. When it comes to nutrition, I am right per definition, in that same God-given kind of way. When people close to me make choices I can't relate to, my mouth utter the infamous: 'Why is that?' before I know it.

On my Danish blog I wrote about my mother's tendency to sing if somebody said a line from a song in a conversation. I was always very annoyed because it was an interruption and it was like she put herself first: her need to demonstrate the ability to remember songs was superior to everybody elses need to pursue a conversation. Destiny: I have actually caught myself doing exactly the same thing.

Disgression: It is probably an Aspie trait to be able to remember lyrics. My mother and my youngest son are very good. And even not-very-musical me, I just recalled from a camp in primary school where I was walking with my teacher and my best friend in the wood and I for no apparent reason sang 'When I'm sixtyfour' - the entire song. And it was probably out of tune, too. My teacher said, slightly condescending: 'How nice to remember lyrics so well'.

End of disregression. There are several other examples, my point is that my destiny is to become like my mother. And I am fighting it, I despise most of what she represents, and still the more I think about it the faster I become like her. Truly Oedipal.

Monday, 17 December 2012


I've met quite a few people who probably qualify for an Asperger diagnosis. My mother for one. My brother for two. Etc. Two of the five women I consider my friends, have a lot of traits, too.

When I first started thinking my youngest son probably was an aspie, I was seeing W, who most likely IS an aspie. At that time my excellent student worker completed his education and we had to hire somebody else. I was at the interview when C applied for the job. I despised him, but my superior said his grades were brilliant and we had to hire him. I really disliked C. He was weird, aloof, and strangely immature. But he was also very bright, ambitious, and very good at computer programming stuff. In fact he was so good, that I had to do the menial work myself and think hard to come up with tasks that matched his competences.

I was irritated with C for almost all the time he was my student worker. Towards the end of his employment with us (he also completed his education), my irritation faded and eventually I almost liked him. He must have been Asperger.

Some time later, a woman applied for a job - a position similar to mine. I was again at the interview, this time with another superior and a close colleague. The woman, H, talked constantly for an hour. And said some weird things along the way. She had a strange expression on her face. She behaved like a robot and didn't notice when we were indicating that we wanted to leave. She also had the strangest CV I've ever seen. She had nurse training I think, a Masters degree in a foreign language and a PhD in science. She had changed jobs constantly. After the interview, which mostly consisted of H talking, my colleague and I just wanted to go back to work. We said she was strange, but, well, qualified. And my superior was anxious to get the 'problem' off his back. So we hired her, it seemed the easiest solution at the time. Regrettably, because a few months later, she and I shared an office. And I was annoyed beyond description. She couldn't understand 'signals' at all. Such as: When I sit and stare into my computer and look concentrated, almost angry, it means that I am concentrating on what I do and I prefer not to be disturbed. When I also put on big earphones, it means that I really really don't want to be disturbed. Of course, H must have been Asperger. And I was truly irritated with her.

I am not irritated with all aspies. I love my two dear female friends. I find Sheldon of the Big Bang Theory amusing, and only a bit irritating. I dated an Aspie for more than four years. In fact, I must have loved him. But when all the traits (my traits?) present themselves in one person, I feel very strongly (negative) about it. I remember the overwhelming irritation from my childhood, when my brother again said something that to me seemed inappropriate. And when my mother was weird, and seemed proud of it. And both C and H provoked a strong physical sense of irritation.

Why? Clearly I am reminded of my own defeats, when I did something similar (said something strange, inappropriate, or incomprehensible), and as soon as I heard the words I knew they were wrong. Or when I was aloof without knowing it, and people closed down. Or when I was immature. Or when I didn't get the signal. Etc.

Sorry C, H, mother, brother, and others. It wasn't you. It was me. I wasn't irritated with you. I was irritated with myself. Now I will be more tolerant. With you all. Including myself.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sensory senses

It has taken me a while to get my head around the sensory issues thing. It is not like I am OVERALL hyper sensitive. But in certain areas I am. Perhaps it would be easier to understand if it was an overall thing.

I don't wear perfume. I find perfume nauseating. It has such a strong sweet smell I can't breathe. I feel the same way about other people wearing perfume. Luckily I don't sweat a lot, but I sometimes think that I smell sweaty. If I have apologized to people around me, they have assured me that I didn't smell at all. Maybe they lied and I didn't get it... Generally, though, I often smell things that others don't, but almost as often it's the other way around. People ask me: what is that weird smell and I don't smell anything.

I am not fussy with food. I like hot food, and bitter food, savoury food and salt food. I like sweet things too, but mostly as sweets though. I prefer tastes separately but I don't mind mixing them up. There's a few food items that I think taste like plastic: cauliflower and earl grey tea. I really don't like that. I tend to loop a bit on nutrition, and I despise poor quality fast food because it is poor quality. That said, I would eat a MacD burger if it was served. So generally, food is not surrounded with any sensory issues.

I am always cold. I freeze almost all year. I wear gloves and hat outside from early September to early May. I sleep with skiing socks during the same period. And I take very warm showers. But if the bedroom isn't well below 18 degrees Celsius, I can't sleep. If the room (any room) is too warm, I can't breathe. I am just never content with the temperature.

Light is too bright. I love summer, I love being in the sun, I love watching the blue summer sky. I feel claustrophobic if I can't see the sky (whichever colour it may have) from a window. But the bright light still hurts my eye. I need complete darkness to sleep, I prefer to read with a dim light on, and I avoid fluorescent lamps. I don't want lamps in my home that have frosted glass or plastic-looking-like-frosted-glass shades.

Lots of aspies have issues with high sounds. I don't really think I do. But I really really love silence....

The final sensory issue, which in fact has its own question in the Aspie quiz, relates to those washing instruction marks in clothes. My question has always been: why are they there when they are so irritating? I know the answer now: Because NT people don't mind them. Apparently only Aspies are annoyed with them so why bother coming up with a clever alternative? In fact, 95 percent of washable clothes follow these simple guidelines: non-cotton clothes: 30 degrees C, cotton clothes: 40 degrees C, bed linen, towels, underwear, socks etc: 60 degrees C. So: can I please cut off the marks on clothes that follow the guidelines? I promise to maintain the rest!

Taking things literally

I often think far too much about what people mean, or, rather, if they actually mean what they say. But the thinking, constantly being on guard demands a lot of resources from me, so I tend not to. I prefer spending my resources on something more constructively (such as research).

And then things like this happens:
The other person: 'Wow it was so great to see you, we must meet again soon, it is such a pity we never get to see each other!'
Me: 'Great, I agree, let me get my diary... what about next week Saturday?'
The other person: 'Oh I didn't bring my diary, but I'll text you as soon as I get home'
Then follows several weeks of silence
Text from me: 'Should we have coffee one day?'
More silence

And things like this:
I talk about my cooking for several people, or I bake a cake for work.
The other person: 'Oh we have this function coming up, can we hire you for the cooking?'
Me: 'I'll be delighted. I love cooking and arranging'
The other person: 'Really? Are you serious? It's a lot of work?'
Me: 'I am serious. I really do enjoy it. When is it?'
After some months:
Me: 'So, should I cook for your anniversary/birthday/...?'
The other person (looking puzzled): 'Oh I thought it was too much work, I hired someone to do it'

And things like people saying things they don't mean or things that are not true. And when I ask: why did you say that, they say: 'For fun'

But I don't get the fun. On the other hand, I also don't get jokes most of the time.

What I don't understand is:
1. Why do people say things they don't really mean?
2. How do I know, if what they say is true and I can act accordingly, or if it's not true?