In Autism: Routine Conquers All

Well, maybe not all, but perhaps it can conquer my executive function disorder. Or executive dysfunction, as I like to call it, since that is what it feels like. I have always felt like I don’t really need a routine or anything. I don’t like schedules. I hate time. When I try to do anything at a specific time, I inevitably miss it. I am usually late for everything. (I have that Time Agnosia thing. I simply can’t deal with time. I don’t feel it passing. I don’t know how long it takes to do things unless I actually time it with a clock. When I am doing something, I don’t know if I’ve been doing it for five hours or five minutes without a clock.  I’ve been a mom for 18 years and a person for almost 41 and I still seem to be almost completely incapable of getting us anywhere on time, no matter how much I focus on it or how much effort I put into it. Anyway, that’s not really what this is about…)

5bec4e877ef949b9bbcd39c1e4cb932eI am coming to the conclusion that I need “routine” more than I ever thought. The days when I sleep in, it becomes a chore to do the smallest thing, even if I want to do it. The monkey wrench in our lives that our house guests entail continues to throw off any sense of familiarity and routine that I had. Last week, our basement leaked and wet much of the downstairs and between the extra stress of having to worry about whether it was drying out and so many extra smells (outside water plus candles burned to cover the smell of outside water), I was pretty low on spoons all week. By the time Friday came around, I made it through my early BSF meeting but I spent the rest of the day on the couch watching Numb3rs like I had the flu. Which is kind of what I felt like.

I’m starting to realize that this is not laziness on my part. If I’m overstimulated or stressed to what feels like the point of exhaustion, it’s not just me talking myself into exhaustion so that I can get out of doing things. I’m not lazy and I don’t hate housework. Truth be told, it’s a little embarrassing to admit, I rather like housework. I like to do mindless tasks that leave my mind free to think and ponder big ideas. I like to intersperse times of problem solving with times of menial labor that allows my mind to process everything that has gone into it. For those who have never tried it, this is a pretty good description of being a housewife. So why am I so bad at it? That’s not false humility, I really am. I mean, I keep everything functioning and we usually never have things growing anywhere (barring a leaky basement growing fungus or mold), but, that’s a pretty low bar. Basically, if I get the dishes done every day and all the necessary laundry done every week, that’s really all that I can reasonably expect from myself. Wanting anything beyond that is just going to result in me beating myself up and feeling like a totally useless waste. I don’t clean bathrooms unless they’re gross and the fancy takes me. I don’t vacuum unless someone is coming over even though I have pretty noticeable dust allergies. I just can’t get started. 973ff9da48c742f0bd5d9450d260eac2

But I think one of the things that I like about doing dishes and laundry is that I have a routine for those things. When I am doing them, I feel like I am where I am supposed to be and then my mind even likes to take it to all the generations of women who have done this very thing before me. It’s like the most beautiful cross-generational rut ever. So, maybe if I get a routine going for cleaning the bathrooms and the upholstery and other things that carry dust – which would probably really help my quality of life and not just be an aesthetic thing – maybe I could get that done. If I could get some kind of routine down for grocery shopping and menu planning and did it so that everyone would eat but our diet 3808f5ac9d4a47dd8ca17ee03f2998b3could still be mostly wheat-free – another thing that would really improve my quality of life by cutting out more allergens and reducing the strain on my system – maybe I could get that done. I think I just need to put my mind to it, get a system in place and then work the system till it becomes automatic. Alternating times of problem solving with times of menial labor. You know, like playing to my own strengths to give myself the best chance of succeeding? Hm. Novel idea.

I think rather than a schedule, I need to make a routine for each day and put each thing into that routine. The first thing I do every day after taking my husband to the bus and getting breakfast for Joseph, if necessary, is put in a load of laundry and do the dishes. Well, those are the first things I do every *good* day. =) It is ridiculous what an amazing sense of accomplishment I get just from doing what I plan to do. Then after I do the dishes and put in a second load of laundry, I do whatever BSF I have to do. Then after that…well, it kind of falls apart. I think I need to add more to the routine I already have. But I can’t make it time dependent, otherwise, I just fall apart if I get late or something keeps me from getting things done on time. And, apparently, I need visual reminders. At least, that’s what all the tips for overcoming executive dysfunction suggest. I have to admit, I do usually do better when things are right out in the open. Which is why it would probably be a good idea to have fewer things. =) But that’s a post for another day…