I hate getting stuck.
Everyone does. Hate it, that is. And, everyone gets stuck too, although some of us get “stucker” more than others. Everyone has moments of indecision when they just can’t figure out what to do, thus losing momentum. For most people that just leads to the ordinary sort of stuckness, where one doesn’t make any active decisions for a while, but otherwise continues with the rest of their lives. Or sometimes there’s the “paralysis by analysis” where one dithers endlessly about the problems, analysing and re-analysing them without being able to just settle upon a choice.
Then there are the more obnoxious kinds of stuckness that are familiar to autistics (and to others), those moments of paralysing stuckness. There you are, toodling along in ordinary daily business, when something goes dreadfully awry. Generally we have routines, and we have Plan B’s for when those routines get glitches. But what happens when the Plan B’s fall apart? Or when some kind of glitch comes along that is so novel that it doesn’t fall within any previous parameters?
I can handle a flat tire. I know how to change tires. I have road service on my mobile phone plan for someone to call if there’s a major breakdown. But when I had a major flat and needed a new tire and I was in a new town, and discovered that none of the familiar service stations sold tires — I got stuck. Looking in the phone book didn’t help because I couldn’t tell which businesses were in my new town (or where in town they would be) or whether they were in far, neighbouring small towns.
In situations like those I don’t stay stuck for very long; I’ve learned to shove myself beyond the decision paralysis and ask others for ideas.
The worst sorts of stuckness are the kind that make one look like they’ve been caught in a game of Freeze Tag, or are suffering some odd form of seizure. Sometimes I start and stop repeatedly, beginning and reversing a motion in repeated changes of intent. Sometimes I just halt entirely because my train of thought has become entirely derailed and suddenly I have no idea what I was going to do. This isn’t the ordinary sort of staring confusedly at the interior of the refrigerator and humming idly, wondering what you were going to get, but rather stopping in the middle of my tracks, frozen in mid-gesture.
Getting stuck isn’t always about the paralysis of indecision. Sometimes it’s the paralysis of entrancement. My pal David calls it SES: Sudden Engrossment Syndrome (he’s both a psychologist and prone to naming things in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner).
I was at the hardware store getting greenhouse supplies yesterday afternoon, and it’s that time of year when they’re putting up the Christmas displays. One of the faux trees there was an entirely white one, for which I have a nostalgic retro fondness. (I’m not one for church holidays, but I do appreciate all the shiny bits to be found this time of year.) This one had no ornaments, but was pre-wired with little sparkly blue lights. I absolutely ADORE blue lights! After a couple minutes I realised what I was doing (or rather, not doing — I’m supposed to be an adult at work), and had to drag myself away, feet-first. There was a mental echo of my mother hollering at me, “Andrea! Quit staring at things and come on …” Some things never change.
As you might imagine, stuckness could have the potential for self-endangerment. I know that I have to come up with Plan B’s, and will sometimes do so to such a nearly-obsessive level that it can be a different kind of stuckness. I also know that I can’t admire the passing scenery when driving, neither the neon nor the street decorations nor the cloudforms.
And yet, once in a while Life will throw something at me that trips me up.