How We’re Happy

Autistic people identify with their work and their obsessions. If they are not allowed to do that work associated with their obsessions, it is much like putting a neurotypical person in solitary confinement–they become antsy, anxious, and increasingly stressed.

For an autistic good mental health consists of being able to do one’s work at least daily, in some fashion or other. Even if they are “taking a break” from it, the mind is never far from the topic. It often intrudes. Absent-mindedness is often actually topic-mindedness at an inopportune time.

Speaking for myself, self-organizing scale-free network processes (or, spontaneous orders) and literature (particularly writing poems and plays and other forms of fiction) are never far from mind. I cannot help but think of them and on them and about them. Since they both involve reading and writing, if I cannot do either (especially write), I start to get antsy, anxious, and increasingly stressed.

Ideally, one’s work becomes one’s employment. That minimizes stress. The worst thing that could possibly happen is to have a job that separates you from your work, that prevents you from doing it. Because then you spend all your time at your place of employment thinking about what you want to work on. And if you have a family, it means what would have otherwise been family time is taken up by the work you must desperately do.

Some people, like Temple Grandin, are fortunate that their passion became their work. I haven’t been so lucky. Poems don’t pay, and while I occasionally send things out, I just can’t muster the passion I need to constantly, consistently send out my plays and prose fiction (or, perhaps more accurately, I get anxiety at the idea of trying to contact strangers about anything). I desperately need a secretary. My spontaneous order work has been fed by a series of people asking me to write articles for their journals and collections, meaning I don’t have to send anything out cold.

The satisfaction is in my work. That is all. I like sharing it, but in a strange way that’s not even the point. I do the work anyway. Because I must. Because my work is me. It’s what makes me happy.

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