I knew a long time ago, you know, back in the 1980’s, that people, in general, aren’t good listeners. I think about it most days so it wasn’t unusual that it came up for me today at the gym while I was on the treadmill. So let me talk about that.
The worst listener of all my life was my dad. I loved him and he was a good man. But he wasn’t a good listener. If you opened up and talked to him about your love for chocolate chip cookies he’d completely listen and open up and be game for that conversation. After all, he loved chocolate chip cookies. But if you opened up about something he didn’t like, say, raisin cookies (actually, I’m making this part up, he probably liked those, but stick around), and he’d stop listening because, well, you’re just wrong. And if you said you like coconut something-something cookies, something he’d never tried, he’d change the subject.
It reminds me of the many times my life went to hell and he didn’t know well enough to say, listen. It wasn’t I split with my first fiancé (well, I didn’t split with her nor did she split with me, but that’s probably a subject from my old blog at www.greenpygmies.com) that he wrote me probably the most heart felt letter I’ve ever gotten from him where he shared intimate details of his divorce with his first wife (before my mom). Yep, we both had to eat chocolate chip cookies and love them before we could have a deeply emotional, honest, and real conversation about it.
I spent half an hour on the phone today with another type of bad listener: the American healthcare system. I had my last appointment with my “primary” on December 11th, 2023, and though he’d committed to me to get me on some kind of plan by the end of the week (it was Monday so he had plenty of time, after all) I haven’t heard a goddamn thing since. I’d made a call inquiring last week but, despite the promises, have heard nothing back, so today I spent a lot of time on the phone today with someone who, while super nice and doing their very best to help me, resulted in nothing. Sure, I’d get an answer by end of day, she’s stop my “primary” in the hall and tell him how bad I was doing. Well, it’s after 7pm and I haven’t heard shit.
The funny thing about people listening is I know, from experiments (many of which I’m not terribly proud of) while I was younger, that acting like a Emo (overly emotional) neurotypical has benefits. That is to say, I know for a goddamn fact if I’d been crying hysterically at my last three appointments I wouldn’t be sitting here in January wondering why I wasn’t getting any help. Cry, moan, scream, show all the signs of pain and misery of a neurotypical, and you might get just what you need (I say “might” because people listenings is also on a spectrum). But act like a Vulcan and just tell someone what’s going on with you and what you need—trust me, I have fifty years of experience saying (most times) you won’t get shit.
So it shouldn’t be too surprising that I was overly dramatic on the phone today. I let my voice go a bit. I complained a lot more than I normally would. I let a few swear words fly (followed by the requisite, “Forgive my French”—which is something that as a higher functioning autistic I’ve learned to do over the years). I corrected the person on the other end of the phone more than I normally would have. In essence, I acted like the muted version of a neurotypical person going through what I’m going through (because I think that most high functioning autistic people in my shoes might have already called a lawyer—yeah, my health care has been that bad!). It all comes back to masking, that is, how autistic people put on masks to blend in with neurotypicals, and how, uncomfortable as it is, I have to pretend to be something else to get attention because—and fuck me—I can’t just say, “I can barely work. I’m now spending half of my work day in bed. I’m having random hallucinations and abnormal pain in my head. Maybe you should prescribe that goddamn medication that helps up to 80% while you people take you GOD DAMN time figuring out what’s going on with me?”
I’ve only met one good listener in the past ten years. Pity I can’t talk to her anymore. Come see come saw. Tomorrow and Friday I get some more cheap toys to take my mind of things for a bit, because that’s all you can do when you have every reason to believe you might not make it to the next year, or at the very least, will be suffering in hell while the folks around you aren’t interested in listening to any of your views on all the other cookies out there.
And with that I will say goodnight.