Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean I don’t still have to do the processing.
I know you’re sorry you’re late. You’ve broken a small social contract, and sorry should be enough to mend it, but it’s not the social contract that is troubling me.
You’re sorry you didn’t let me know that plans had changed. You could have, but you didn’t. The sorry should fix any upset caused by your actions, but it’s not the upset that is troubling me.
You’re sorry that you turned up with a couple of extra people, you hope that’s ok, a sorry and a packet of biscuits should cover any change to catering needs, but it’s not the catering issues that are troubling me.
My life is built of stories.
There’s the long story about where I came from, where I’ve been, where I want to go.
There’s the more immediate story of what has happened recently, what will happen soon, fixed plans and moveable plans.
There’s this week’s story of who will be where when.
Then there are today’s stories. The story of what is about to happen.
The more today’s stories are familiar, the less detail needs to go into the telling of them. The more of a story I can create before an event, the less processing needs to be done during it, so I can concentrate on what is happening, I can enjoy the moment. I can live in the now, knowing that my story is slowly unraveling just as it was supposed to.
I can rewrite my story, given the time to do so, but if things change whilst I’m in the middle of it, then I lose its thread. The ends start to fray, I can’t stay on top of which thing will now happen when, the variables begin, tendrils flail, and I’m lost. The moment is lost to me as my brain goes into overdrive. I lose the now.
With the loss of the moment, goes the loss of the future. As my processing amps up to compensate for the loss of the narrative, I am borrowing energy from tomorrow. I’m stealing time from me. I’m spending what I don’t have.
When the story changes with no warning, I lose myself. If you look carefully, I won’t be looking engaged anymore, I’ll be responding with stock-phrases (if at all), my expression may be blank or sullen or in some way false.
That’s me taking the processing I normally apply to projecting feelings and body-language, and putting it towards finding the story.
Picture Scotty on Star Trek shouting, “I’m Givin’ Her All She’s Got, Captain!” as all my brain power is being redirected to essential functions.
I wish sorry taped over those things. I wish it was the social contract that was the problem. I really do. Being a bit miffed can be dealt with so easily.
I’m not miffed. I’m not cross. Believe me, any anger I have will mostly be focused on me and my inability to change gears the way everyone else does.
But that anger is useless. It leads to guilt and isolation. I’m learning not to feed that anger anymore.
For now I have to file that sorry away. I’ll deal with the feelings of miffedness later, because for now my brain doesn’t work. I’ve overheated it. I’ve made too many demands, and now everything is so very far away. I’m lying at the bottom of a pool of cotton wool, everything is slow and silent. I’ll talk in short bursts and then nothing.
In a few days, when I’ve replenished and rested, I’ll have a look at the sorry, and I’ll agree that it covers the breaking of the social contract, and I’ll be a little miffed and then I’ll get over it.
Sometimes changes are inevitable; emergencies, traffic, unexpected hippopotamus. The consequence to me will be the same. It’s unavoidable. It’s no one’s fault that this is how my brain works. Sometimes I will have to feel like this because that is how life is.
But if it’s not unavoidable, if you know beforehand that change is happening, if you have any inkling that there may be an alternate ending to the story that you haven’t told me, a quick text can make all the difference. It means not losing days of my time. It means the world to me.