I don’t like playing Legos in front of my boyfriend.

He stood over the dining room table surveying my various solid-colored stacks of Lego blocks for a moment and then asked, “what are you doing?”

“I’m organizing them,” I said, hoping that would be enough of an explanation, even though I knew from his tone that he thought how I was going about organizing them was strange.

My birthday was a month and a half ago and he’d gotten me a set and a half of Legos that I had, until today, not touched. I almost wrote “I haven’t given them a second thought,” but I know that’s not technically true. I’ve been thinking about them a lot. And I have been choosing not to introduce Legos into my life for the exact reason I didn’t want to talk to him any more about them. I knew what itch they were going to scratch.

“Okay…” he said, trailing off to imply he found my answer inadequate. I hate when people do this. It’s always because you answered the question they actually asked and not the question they assumed you’d know they also wanted the answer to. I don’t think it’s fair to just expect me know what you want from me, even if I have some educated guesses. So I didn’t say anything. “The question is…” he continued, “why…?”

I had been separating all of the blocks into little piles by color. Then I was going through each color and organizing them by type, stacking the ones that match onto each other so my piles became separate little towers of varying shapes and sizes. Then I started to organize them by shape and size again, taking just the towers of traditional blocks and plugging them into a base by color. His ‘why’ could have meant any number of things so I thought for a minute. He could have been asking about my ultimate plan, which is as-yet to be determine. He may have been asking about my immediate plan, which is detailed and spans the course of several days. I didn’t really want to go into all that. He might have been asking about the motivation to even come up with such a plan, which was also kind of a long explanation of how I’ve been feeling mentally exhausted from this new job and how I feel a need to do something with my body, with my hands, where the rules are inherent and I don’t have to really think too much. But the overlap between that specific need and this specific activity seemed also simple and straightforward so I just answered “because I like it.” I even thought for a minute about how, after all this thinking and analyzing, the short answer I came up with felt like the most honest I could be. What it all comes down to is this makes me happy. It does beg the question, this same question that’s always hanging around the periphery, of why this type of activity makes me happy, but honestly, all the thinking and analyzing and fucking explaining takes away from the actual doing so I just went back to organizing my Legos.

“Alright,” he continued, clearly still not satisfied. “So… Ok, what are you going to do after it’s all organized?”

He wanted my plan. He wanted to know that I’m going to organize each type of block by color and put them in rainbow order. He wanted to know that, tomorrow, I’m going to use a pdf of an inventory of all the types of Legos and a chart of all the colors to put together a database of all possible Lego parts and colors. He wanted to know that I’m going to go through all of the Legos after I’ve organized them and create an inventory of all my Legos. He wanted to know that I’m going to buy individual blocks until I have even numbers of all the colors in the different type of blocks. And probably that wouldn’t be enough because he’d then want to know why I was going to do all of that, some answer other than ‘I like it,’ and the answer is I don’t fucking know. It makes me happy. It flashes the lights in my brain. It checks the boxes. It scratches the itch I knew it was going to scratch when I’ve been thinking about whether or not I want to do this whole fucking thing for months and then he made the decision for me. They were in the house. I just had to dive in. But if he wanted to know why all that was…

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know.” I looked at him for a minute and then said, “I feel like you’re making fun of me.”

“I’m not making fun of you!” he assured me. He thought for a minute and then said “I’m going to let you do your thing.”

I know he wouldn’t intentionally mock me but I figured if I told him that it felt that way, he’d stop asking. And I needed him to stop asking because he’s not going to understand, no matter what questions he asks or how he phrases them. This is not going to make sense to him. And it’s exhausting. There’s no question he can ask that will help him understand why I’m not playing with the Legos the way he would play with the Legos. So maybe I should just play with them in private next time.

But it’s OK when I do it.

Why can’t I cut anyone any slack? I have this view of myself as being incredibly conscientious. I know on a rational level that this cannot be true given how absent-minded I can be, except that, no matter where I am or what I am doing, you can be sure my brain is on overtime, analyzing myself and how am I coming across, how much space my body is taking up, how others might perceive the words I am saying, being sure to phrase things in a very specific and intentional way to limit the risk of being misunderstood. On an intellectual level, I know that my experiences are not universal and yet I subconsciously hold everyone else to this same standard.

I have a meeting this morning with a consultant my company was working with. I interviewed with her before I got the job and I think she was instrumental in my getting hired. I like her a lot. We do the same work and speak the same language and, while verbal communication can often be pretty taxing, speaking with her is energizing. It’s exciting! It’s actually fun!

But today I am annoyed. We’ve booked out six different virtual meetings to transfer the work she’s been doing over to me but none of the meetings in my calendar contain a location so I have no way to join any of the meetings until she sends the zoom link, which, evidently, she typically sends at the start time of each meeting. My coworker suggested she might have other meetings going on so she does it this way to avoid potentially having two different clients join the same zoom session. Having managed booking sessions on zoom, I know that’s entirely avoidable, but I didn’t push it.

I think this morning was my third or fourth of six meetings and, in addition to sending the link at the absolute last minute, she’s now sent the link for two meetings to my personal email address, which is an understandable mistake since that’s how we communicated before I was hired, which is why, the first time it happened, I responded from my personal address with my work email and let her know. Then it happened again, so I forwarded the email to myself and joined the meeting. But this morning it happened a third time and this is where I am getting really frustrated with myself.

I could have responded again and asked again for her to please remember to email my work email address since I don’t like to be in the habit of having to check my personal communications throughout the day. But that’s the thing. I have my phone with me at all times and I check it constantly. I saw when she sent the emails. But, on principle, I should be working from my work email and using personal email for personal matters, so when she sent the zoom link to my personal email address for our meeting this morning, I just pretended I didn’t get it. I expected that she would wait for a few minutes and then, when I didn’t show, I assumed she would check her email to make sure she sent the link and then realize she sent it to the wrong address.

I waited for five minutes and did not hear from her, so my next tactic was to email her from my work email asking if she had a link because I hadn’t seen one come through. I figured if she would notice the address I was sending it from and that would be another clue for her to check her email and make sure she sent it to the right place. She responded with the link a few minutes later and I even waited for another few minutes—to punish her, I guess?—before joining. Did I mention any of this when I joined the call? Absolutely not. I am meeting with her again later on in the week and I already know that every detail to this whole song and dance is going to be repeated. So why couldn’t I just ask her to please make sure to send it to the right place next time? I even emailed her from my personal account a couple hours later to apologize for missing the link she sent there as yet another clue for her to realize her mistake and subsequently course correct but she responded back with something work related so, like, I’m not even accomplishing what I set out to do with all my indirect passive aggressive manipulation tactics.

Why am I like this?

This theme of trying to get my needs met without having to verbalize them is going to be the death of me. Why is it so hard for me to just state what I need? Is this related to the trauma of an early childhood where many of my needs were not being met so I learned to feel shame for even having needs? Is this a neurodivergent struggle that I just haven’t seen anyone talking about yet on TikTok? (Except that idea literally came from there lol)l

How often have I said I’m not a mind-reader? In my last job, I had to contend with a LOT of communication that was indirect or implied, and I was constantly reminding everyone to be direct and explicit. I would even play dumb and ask for clarification even if I knew what they were asking, thinking that the process of having to clarify might make them be clearer next time. I’m not a mind-reader… but no one else is, either. How ironic that I would voice my irritation over indirect communication in the very manner I found so offensive in the first place. And they never changed! So you would think that, coming into this new environment, I would learn to alter my approach. You would think that my own struggle to communicate my need for direct communication would give me some compassion for others who struggle to communicate directly but, I think I might think that my struggle is their fault. If they communicated in a direct manner in the first place, I would then feel safe communicating that way. That’s the logic I’m peddling to myself right now, anyway, but part of me thinks that if I could just take the first step and just be what I am expecting of others, then they would follow suit. And there’s another louder part of me that’s just wondering why? Why am I like this? Why is this a struggle? Why am I even thinking about this at all? How is this tiny non-issue so adept at hijacking my headspace?

If I could just clean up.

Everything always feels so familiar. Sometimes I wonder about this feeling and question its authenticity. Though maybe I do have memories here… I live within half a mile of the location I was born, a few streets down from where I lived through kindergarten. Maybe a part of me remembers these streets and sights from back then. Or maybe I am stoned and just feel stoned and this familiar triggered feeling that I associate with shame and trauma is all in my head.

But it happens a lot.

I did ECT for 12 weeks almost a year ago. Sometimes I wonder if maybe that knocked some things loose. I don’t know anything about the brain. Maybe I should have looked more deeply into what I was getting myself into before I committed to it but I won’t judge my past self for being desperate to feel better.

But everything feels so familiar. It feels like trauma.

Sometimes I think it’s from the decade I spent getting blackout drunk with my friends all over the city. As I mentioned, I don’t quite know how the brain works but I wonder if the memories are all still up there but just inaccessible. I actually think that the alcohol blocks the ability to even record the memory so I don’t know how valid my theory is that my memories are in some file cabinet that’s hiding in the back somewhere, like if I could just take a day off—or maybe a week or so—to clean up and go through everything, I know I could move things around and find a filing cabinet hiding in the back somewhere. Or like a pile of papers I just didn’t notice before. Maybe it is like that.

I think I might be autistic. It feels.

It feels surreal even to type those words, though I’ve said them to myself so many times. There were so many clues over the years that I didn’t know how to interpret, (or didn’t want to,) but thinking of myself in this way now somehow pulls everything together in a way that makes sense to me.

It feels a little silly to have come to this conclusion with the aid of social media. Primarily the aid of social media. I have talked a little bit about this in therapy and my therapist is always supportive, assuring me it’s a good thing to be seeing myself in the stories of others and immersing myself in things that feel affirming. But if I, an almost 40-year-old man, mention TikTok in conversation, I’m often met with patronization or rejection. I guess it’s not often but if any of my peers are familiar with this particular app, it’s more in the context of comedy and trendy dances and less about neurodiversity and autism. But they say the algorithm shows you what you want to see so maybe it’s telling that while all of my friends want to see something light hearted to escape the lives they live in the world, I am looking to dive a little deeper into something that makes sense of the the life I live in my head.

It feels rather foolish to be starting a blog in 2022. I thought about putting this out into the world publicly, with my name and face behind it, but it just felt too scary. I want to explore this part of my identity and make sense of it and maybe I’m not actually autistic but I want to know that, too, if that’s the case, and why does it feel so scary? At first I thought it was because I was afraid of how the neurotypical people I know would react. But I realize I’ve craved belonging for as long as I can remember so it’s not as though I am risking something with their possible rejection. But it’s all the reactions I’ve experienced so far at the very notion I might be some flavor of neurodivergent that makes me question whether this sense of belonging I feel to the autistic community is authentic and how it might feel to face rejection from this community. I’ve always heard “but you never had trouble in school,” “but you have so many friends,” “but you have a successful career,” but you don’t do this, but you don’t do that, and while discouraging, I can see where this is coming from a neurotypical perspective, always, and based on neurotypical expectations of how neurodivergence would ought to appear. It’s one thing to hear “no, you’re not one of them,” but “no, you’re not one of us,” hits more painfully.