Me (holding my forearm up) (almost breaking my spouse’s nose with my elbow in the process): This doesn’t look scary, does it?
Me: I banged it really hard about twenty minutes ago and it still hurts. There’s not much of a mark or anything. I just want to make sure I’m not ignoring something important.
Spouse: No, it looks fine. Are you okay?
Me: yeah sure
Spouse: What happened?
Me: um I banged my arm
Me: I mean to be fair we’ve only lived in this same apartment for gosh what is it now
Me: oh yeah THIRTY YEARS
Me: and I mean if I’m going to pull a stunt like putting a cup away in a cupboard, I should expect trouble.
Spouse: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your shenanigans.
Me: Seriously – I’m so tired of this!
Me: I want to be able to do normal things without kerblamming into every single hard surface in the whole entire world!
Spouse: That is a lot to keep track of.
Me: Other people get to do the dishes without registering on the Richter scale!
Me: And go for jogs without almost breaking their arms, which never stops being humiliating in case you wanted to know.
Me: Nice normal neurotypicals get to live in a world where the gravity is always the same strength. Once they finish growing physically, they’re fine.
Me: Meanwhile, I get to spend every day feeling like I live in a popcorn popper.
Me: …that made it sound cute, didn’t it?
Spouse: To be fair, everybody loves popcorn.
Which is true, or as close to true as any “everybody likes this” statement ever gets to be.
What’s also true is that while there are aspects of autism that I appreciate, enhanced clumsiness isn’t one of them.
The first time I started to read Cynthia Kim’s I Think I Might Be Autistic, I didn’t get far. But I did get to the chapter where she mentions a “set of characteristics to consider – traits you won’t find in diagnostic criteria but you will frequently hear autistic people talk about experiencing.” One of those traits is “impaired gross motor coordination: clumsiness at sports, bumping into stationary objects, etc.”
I don’t know why it was such a relief to have someone tell me, “Listen: a lot of autistic people are uncoordinated.” In a certain sense, it’s no different from telling myself, “Guess what: apparently, you’re a klutz.” Either way, I’m doing a lot of falling down for no good reason and bumping into stationary objects with extreme prejudice.
But at least it’s not just me.
Before, it felt like a personal failing. Now, it feels like a simple matter of fact.
I’m part of a group, and my group struggles with gross motor coordination.
I recently joined some online support groups for adult autistics. I remember knowing one of them would be a good fit for me when the first post I saw read, “Does anyone else find themselves being even clumsier than usual at certain points in their cycle?”
Clumsier than usual.
I’d found my people at last.
That’s made it easier for me to be pragmatic. I’m trying to slow down a bit, whether I’m going for a jog or doing household chores. That’s helped some in when it comes to minor but deeply painful injuries.
I’m also trying not to get so worked up emotionally when I do fall down go boom, or add another bruise to my forearm collection. There’s no point in getting down on myself. This is just what my group does.
Unfortunately, getting all worked up about what should be minor incidents is also something my group excels at. So I’m fighting an uphill battle there.
Yesterday, when I earned that new sore spot, I went ahead and let myself wallow a bit. I gloomily pondered the fact that “grace” has multiple meanings in English. It isn’t just a quality, a characteristic some people have. It’s a blessing. It’s even a virtue name, right up there with Mercy and Charity. Which also means it’s associated with femininity. Which I shouldn’t care so much about failing at, but I grew up in the ’70s and that’s hard to just walk away from. Especially for someone who trips a lot.
I let myself roll around in that nonsense for a few minutes, and then I went and griped at my long-suffering spouse. And then we went to see a silly movie in an actual movie theatre, because we’re vaccinated and the world is opening up a bit and there’s a lot for me to be thankful for and I should stop getting so worked up about what a klutz I am.
I splurged on an extra-large Coke Zero and smiled at the stranger next to me and enjoyed the scent of fresh-popped popcorn. Who doesn’t love that?
Especially when you can just sit, secure in the knowledge that even The Human Popcorn Kernel can’t trip and fall when she’s safely ensconced in a big floofy theatre seat.