On path of sensations

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.

The only thing that is constant is change.


My current jog has stayed the same for about fifteen years. According to neurotypical people in my life, this is somehow odd. Sometimes they hint, that I should change my route in order to avoid getting bored. People acquinted with autism sometimes explain my behavior by talking about routines that bring safety.

This idea might actually have some credit to it, but the most important reason why I like my route is even simpler: from my point of view the route is still full of changes, stimuli, novelty and surprises. I have no need to change my route based on a need for variety and change. On the other hand, I do have a permanent need to limit my sensory load -and not changing my route just because neurotypical people would do so, is a pretty basic way of doing just that.

Sometimes neurotypical and autistic people find understanding each other difficult. When I am trying to imagine what my jog might look like to a neurotypical person, I try to think of it as a black-and-white, poor quality silent film repeating in an endless loop. Nothing new ever happens. Every detail has been noted long ago, every experience worth any significance lost its appeal after third or so repeat. Certainly, such bleakness would make me miss variation too!

I do, however, fail to see what is the connection between this bleak imaginary landscape and my beloved jog. Everything flows and exists in a constant state of chnge. Heraclitus knew that in ancient Ionia, and after millenia, I find myself agreeing with him.

This week, different flowers that were not there last week, bloom in gardens I pass. Changing of the season means that just about every sensation changes. Suddenly the landscape is completely different, instead of warm it’s cold, and I thank my luck when I see that at least the road itself has not moved. As I write this in midsummer I can remember from past years, what the wind carrying the first premonition of the fall season smells like, how strange it is to feel crispness in the air after weeks of warmth.

Remembering is, however, far from direct experience. Some things, naturally, change less frequently than others: the road passes the same buildings, contains two long rises and one railroad crossing. Also, the trees stay in the place, unless they sway in the wind or unless a zealous gardener has decided to cut down an entire apple orchard, as was the case last week when I noticed that in a certain place along the road I no longer can see an old orchard, only a large lawn dotted with tree stumps. So much for ”staying the same”, then.

So, as I am about to step out of the door, the only thing I can really say for certain is, that I will be experiencing something new, something that I did not experience the last time. Migrating birds, butterflies reporting about what stage of the summer we’re in right now, loud meetings of jackdaws as they discuss the matters of polis on an empty field and waxwings looking for frost-bitten rowan berries in darkness of November appear in their own time. Sun can be seen around the year, but bright summer sky, clear fall day full of color, pale winter light and brightness that is the first sign of the coming spring are totally different anyway. Everything is alive, changing, moving.

So when, exactly, in the middle of all this, am I supposed -or even able- to get bored or start thinking that I’ve seen and experienced everything this road has to offer? Why should I search experiences somewhere else even though I can find endless amount of sensations without having to bother turning my head? Why are the few things that have not changed since last week more important or essential than everything that is new and eager to offer me new sensations?

And so I have learned, that challenges of understanding when communicating with neurotypical people are so great that one must be careful to keep track of whether or not we are talking about same things every time we think we do. In the case of this road, we obviously are not.