Getting Stuck

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.

“Ooh, shiny!”


  1. qw88nb88 said,

    15 October 2006 at 9:56

    Ms Clark, I love the shiny aluminum wind chimes. Actually, I have several garden spinners here near my desk, various kinds of metallic-colored plastic helices. Come to think of it, I’ve been meaning to take one or two to the school greenhouse, where I do horticulture therapy with some of the students.

    Mum, the inertia is a slightly different flavour of stuckness, and one that I was contemplating writing about anyway. It can be a big problem sometimes, for AD/HD people as well.

    One of my favourite plant close-ups is looking at bean leaves under the microscope; all the cells and the veination between them reminds me of polygonal lawns of housing subdivisions as seen from low-flying aircraft (during take-off and landing).

  2. 15 October 2006 at 8:09

    I’m glad you wrote about this, someone was talking about being ‘stuck’ recently and I honestly didn’t understand. I was embarressed to ask, but I think I have an idea of what they meant now.

    I get stuck on visual stuff a lot, but inertia is probably the worst kind of ‘stuck’ I have to deal with. Sometimes there is a task that needs doing that I just can’t start and the stress of it can be overwhelming. Paperwork usually does this to me.

    Painting is a good kind of stuck, though, that’s why I usually paint things I like to stare at. Sometimes I spend over a month painting one thing if it’s something l like a lot. Once I painted a plant and spent hours looking at some of the bits under a microscope to get a better feel for it. That’s weird lol…but it was a good sort of being ‘stuck’.

  3. natalia said,

    15 October 2006 at 7:07

    I like blue-shinies, too. Or other colors, but blue holiday lights are one of my favorites. Also a whole (natural) tree or a whole line of them, covered in tiny white lights.

  4. Ms Clark said,

    15 October 2006 at 1:08

    The last “oooh, shiny” experience I had was interesting. I needed to get bottled water for my place of work (just 2 gallons for tea and coffee, the local water is very hard and makes icky tea and coffee). My boss has this cube shaped, clear blue plastic water dispenser with a spigot on it and a big lid.

    I put the water dispenser on a rack which was at about eye height and pushed the button to start filling it. By the time the thing was about half full I realized that this jug had a very smooth, clear, panel on the side that made the thing sort of like an aquarium. As the water got closer to the top there was this great underwater fountain thing with lots of bubbles happening and I was sort of mesmerized and realized that if I didn’t stop the show I was going to create a flood right there in the store. I didn’t want to turn of the water, but I did. I wish I had had a bunch of them to fill. It was so pretty.

    Our hardware store sells these fancy aluminum windchimes. I can stim on those for a few minutes, too. It’s hard to make myself stop making them chime, but I think that it must be kind of irritating to the other shoppers, so I stop…

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