Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Traditions

Autistics are creatures of habit. To a rather psychotic degree. If anything changes, what proof do we have that this is the same place we were yesterday? Reality isn't steady enough to handle changes!

Tradition, though, is the basis of holidays.

According to, tradition is: the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.

There are a few other definitions but this is the one to do with holidays. Holiday traditions seem to be steeped in emotion. Because grandma did it, I remember her when I do it and feel nostalgic and sad because she's gone and glad because I'm passing on something of hers. I'm sure this is very important in human culture.

So what is an autistic to do? We often - to a foolish extent - imbue meaning into objects. We imbue meaning into rituals. We ought to be very good at traditions. Yet it seems to be missing something. Some deeper emotional connection. They aren't doing these habits because to break them would be painful in their heads. They are doing it for a group connection, a family mind set, some weird borg-like assimilation of action that creates a common bond.

We don't bond like that. We are not, by any stretch of the imagination, incapable of bonding. We are just particular. We are much less likely to assume a bond for no other reason than genetics. We are also less likely to accept someone else's compulsion or habit as our own. We are perfectly capable of making up our own, thank you! And when we do manage to make a habit out of what the family does, we don't have an emotional "i belong" feeling about it. It becomes like any of our other obsessions. It must be done. It must be done correctly. It's lack brings about panic because our world is no longer our own.

It seems to me that the doing matters to most people. They feel a connection and a sense of continuity by doing it. They remember happy times and sad times and they enjoy reveling in all those emotions. They aren't just doing it because once something is done three times, it is a tradition, and we don't even know why.

So, again... what are autistics to do? Even when we make these traditions our habits, we don't do them "right". We are too rigid, too lacking in connection, too emotional about all the wrong spots. You put great grandma's figurine in a place of prominence to honor her this year, we freak out because that is not where it goes. We aren't going to care about the prominence or silly emotional components you are trying to confuse our order with. You are simply doing it wrong. And we are simply doing it wrong. And it doesn't match. And things that don't match cannot live in calm or perfection. And so it's all ruined.

And now the autistic is flapping, mom is crying, the cousins are giggling at the scene, the grandparents are wondering why mom can't control the autistic, and the dad is surreptitiously removing the figurine with a hammer.

So traditions are just confusing.

If anyone has them, and has an autistic, they have my sympathy. Or what passes for it, coming from me. I shall at least giggle at you.

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