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This is a question that often gets thrown at me in terms of the hours I work. For much of my life I’ve worked more than full time, varying between 50 and 110 hours a week, depending on what job(s) I was doing. Of course, I like having free time, although there have been periods when all my non-working time was spent asleep.

But… how do I manage? what does that even mean? I manage by getting up when the alarm goes off, driving to work, doing my job, coming home, and in rest of the time I fit the unavoidable stuff like supermarket trips, cooking and sleep. If there’s time left over then I spend it writing, throwing pots or gardening. Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I have extreme sensory overload and its consequences, sometimes I don’t. If there’s no milk in the fridge because I can’t cope with the supermarket, I drink water.

This is what I do. Is that managing? Not managing? Am I supposed to tell them about the sheer physical and mental effort it takes to get through each day – an exercise in pointlessness, because I’ve yet to come across a NT who would believe it.

But in fact I think it’s another of those things, like the how are you – fine, how are you – fine thanks script in which neither person has the slightest concern for the wellbeing of the other. What the how do you manage? question is requesting is the reply I manage fine, thanks. My treating it as a genuine inquiry or concern is one of those ‘too literal’ moments. What is really being said is please tell me that you’re managing fine so I can feel I have expressed deep concern for you. And when that’s the subtext, ‘managing’ actually doesn’t have any meaning at all, which is why a literal interpretation of the question ties me in knots.

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