#Aspergers: Perceptions of Waiting

No Patience

I accept waiting cheerfully in many situations.  If Big Corporation puts me on interminable hold, I doodle or paint on old book covers.  An hour vanishes in a short-staffed dentist’s office when I have a notebook. Bank lines are an opportunity to invent backstories for the characters I am in line with.

triangle cover
“Comcast Cable Triangles”

However, if I must wait for a phone call, I cannot focus. Even with a doodle kit or art room nearby, I am unable to sit, draw, or write. I think only of  the phone ringing so I can get on with my day.

Likewise, if the cable guy is due between two and four o’clock; I fret and pace from 1:55 to 4:05.

To understand why waiting is sometimes pleasant and other times misery-making,  I charted some observations:


My discomfort arises from what my brain is up to while I wait. In any line, I expect my turn will come. I foresee closure and it limits my thinking. The certainty of getting what I need removes ambiguity. My brain does not like ambiguity.

Ambiguity feels infinite. Faced with the intangible, my thoughts spin and branch, weaving an anxious web.  This internal turbulence is difficult to describe. I can best relate my perceptions with an analogy.

Imagine you are at the top of a tall building and must descend dozens of flights of stairs to exit. You walk and walk; flowing smoothly down.  Your feet know where to go, so your mind is free to think about dinner or other amusements.

The lights suddenly go out.  You might be surprised, but you recall how far down the next step is and keep moving.

Then you think, “When will I reach the landing?” and “How many steps until the next set of stairs?”  You cannot walk down the stairs without considering where you are. How confident are you that you can count your steps and navigate the landings without second-guessing yourself? Your mind becomes consumed with step-taking.

In my dark descent into ambiguity,  I count steps, hoping nothing unexpected happens. My universe permits new possibilities. The number of steps between landings can vary. Even the height of each step is impermanent. Processing the possibilities makes each step an anxious one.

Limits reduce anxiety. Thirty stories in darkness is easier down a continuous spiral staircase. One could even think about dinner again.

This insight helps on a cognitive level, but behaviorally–my mind needs bigger bait than doodles and journaling. I need something else to cope with open-ended waiting.

15 thoughts on “#Aspergers: Perceptions of Waiting

  1. “Limits reduce anxiety.”

    This feels huge to me. I struggle with ambiguity too, especially when it comes in relation to interaction with others. But how to place those finite predictable limits on the stuff in your “miserable” column? Sigh.

    1. Indeed. This is the great struggle of Asperger’s. Our curse also benefits mankind as whole. Anxiety is the impetus for creativity and progress. An anxious brain works hard to solve problems. All the flailing around we do gives us skills to solve problems others might not notice.

      It’s good of you to visit and share that you struggle, too. Maybe we can’t quite fix our selves, but the camaraderie makes it better.


  2. *sigh*
    I will do my best to be more concrete… but I swear I really do have to ‘wait and see’ sometimes,

  3. “I’ll call you right back,” is the worst! I literally expect you to call me RIGHT back, but what does right back mean? In ten minutes, when your done with your current phone call? How long do I wait until I call back because you simply took too long? I pace, I fret, and on more occasions than not, I harrass you until you indeed do call me right back! I am already fretting about the cable guy coming to install my new internet line on Monday, between ten and noon! It is those unknown factors, and the inexact times that I find intolerable! But then again, if I am given an exact time, I get very anxious if that time has come and gone and still I am waiting. LOL No–I don’t wait well.

    1. Oh, me! I write a post about waiting and make the dear folks who write to me wait for a response! My sincere apologies, weekends are challenging for me. Oh, and sometimes weekdays, too!

      I am terrible at waiting for call backs. Just like you, I fret and harrass! I also fret in advance. It is strange, but the idea of someone coming to my house strikes me as invasive–brr! today we had chimney cleaners visit. My hubby came home to help, but I was still anxious, hyper and jumpy enough to get the side-eye!

      I appreciate you visiting me and leaving me such a thoughtful commnet. I hope your cable instalation went well1 🙂


  4. I totally get this! Waiting makes me crazy. I am unable to focus on anything when I am in that waiting mode. I feel useless.

  5. Oh, my! Oh, my! The waiting, the waiting! With my already phonephobia I have anxiety that spins around in my head, but when I am expecting a call it will cause my brain to be all a flutter, uneasy, and not able to focus. Then, after the call I go through another whole series of anxieties coming down from waiting and the actual conversation…

    I will stop my comment now because I can feel another 500 words starting to pour out of me! Ha ha ha

    I feel your “waiting” pains. Hee hee

  6. Oh this resonates both literally and figuratively. I experience deep anxiety at waiting (even your ‘tolerable’ list is fairly intolerable for me – what if someone jumps the queue, for example!). But I also have a sizeable problem with stairs! I ‘forget’ how to walk down them, whilst walking down them. I can’t navigate spiral stairs at all because I cannot see the landing/outcome.

    Great post and a reminder to me not to ever use ‘wait and see’ with my anxious child

    1. Waggermama,

      Thank you so much. I am glad you empathize. I understand how all form of waiting can be agonizing. Those “what ifs” can creep up on you and crowd the peace right out of your mind. Navigating stairs can be awful if you feel disoriented, every step is an almost-fall. “Wait and see” is so hard for those on the spectrum. I think it might be related to all of the outcomes we can imagine, how it causes tension. I appreciate you visiting and sharing your thoughts.


  7. Nice imagery. I am like that too. Waiting is OK when you know where you’re at.
    I have to ask you about your illustrations though – I love them! – are they made digital or crafted ?? Or both? I have to take more time to go through your blog but they’re really so beautiful!

    1. I always wonder why some things bother me while others do not. Sometimes it takes months to suss out the meaning, and then it feels like 40 cups of coffee when you get it!

      My illustrations are primarily digital collage. I get pieces from all over. I also do a great deal of art journaling–but I get lazy and don’t scan them. You know those “Smash” books you see all over? It’s my personal mission to obliterate every ready-made image on their pages. I panic over white pages, but I’ll happily paste all over “LOL Cute!” pages in a Smash book. It kills performance anxiety. I’m saving my questions about your art for your page! 🙂

      1. heh. didn’t know ‘smash books’ although they might have them here in Australia too. I am a keeper of memorabilia of all sorts and I would love to sort them into scrapbook like albums, but i find the late commercial trendy scrapbook material pretty pricey – although there are certainly now styles for everyone. As a basic, those smashbooks don’t look to expensive actually ? i love crafts, but especially when it is re-using or completely changing the purpose of something in a still artful way. i love photography and enjoy digital picture manipulation A LOT, but I feel less confident to call the results of it my “art” . (like my comix, which are not actually drawn..)

Leave a Reply to A Quiet Week Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.