Time is linear… right?
I don’t know many other autistic people, unfortunately. While we have one major aspect in common, the ones I do meet usually have completely different likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. So our relationship never develops into friendship. Because of this, I lack insight into more complex topics like time, and how it’s perceived for other people on the spectrum.
I feel bad, on occasion, when it comes to situations involving time. Specifically, spending time with other people. My father is a very social man, he enjoys talking with others and visiting as often as possible. Currently, we live six hours away, hindering how frequent he can visit, but the want from him is there.
I on the other hand, am not as social, often opting out for seeing friends or family no more than a couple of times a year. It’s partially due to how exhausting socializing is, where even the closest person requires a substantial amount of effort to exist around. However, another big part is my perception of time, or lack thereof.
Days blend, like milk mixing with tea. Not in a sense of time lost, but of time folding, surrounding me like a warm blanket. Or when you’re floating in a pool, limbs outstretched while the cool water ripples gently around you; cradling your existence. Events which took place years ago can feel as if they happened only yesterday, or even, simultaneously.
This is where some difficulty lies. If to me, my last visit with a friend two months ago feels as real, tangible, as the apple I’m currently holding in my hand, what need have I for another experience so soon? How do you describe to a parent who asks if you miss your hometown, part of your existence never left, so there’s little to miss?
I tell people I live in the moment, not worrying about things out of my hands (so to speak), or anything beyond the day in front of me. The reality is I live in several moments happening simultaneously, with little to no control over what my brain decides will be the primary focus. I can be standing in line at the bank waiting to make a deposit, while part of my consciousness is at a grocery store I visited two years ago, feeling the ripeness of a melon. Another part, for no particular reason, is only six years old, enjoying a swing-set in the backyard of our old house; wind pushing through my hair.
These moments are more than basic memories, they stimulate the senses. My body will feel the effect of wind on itself, even though I’m indoors. My nose can smell the melon as if it’s only inches away, despite standing in a bank. The confusion, which arises more times than I’d like, comes from my inability to exist in the different realities. For example, the fact that I can’t close my eyes for a moment, then reopen them seven years in the past feels confusing. Like if you tried to reach for a glass of water but your hand couldn’t grip it, despite being able to previously.
It can be challenging, carrying on conversations you aren’t sure are really happening in the moment. Putting on smiles when you forget where you are or what you were doing, only to go with the flow because… What other choice do you have?
I’d like to ask, to any and all people (autistic or not) who stumble upon this site, do you view time differently?
To be continued