I wrote a post here a few months ago, for Autistics Speaking Day, about pens. I realise that I didn’t write much about what I do with a pen to combat stress. I always carry at least two pens though usually my everyday pen is the one I carry or use when I feel stressed. When walking through busy places, I usually have one in hand and often click it at least twice. I think the rhythm calms me down, being able to focus just on the clicking, the feeling of my thumb against the cold metal of the pen’s top and the sound the spring makes, in and out, in and out.
Luckily I am also a writer and I often write notes when on day trips to remember things for later. It passes as being a writer thing rather than being an autistic thing. Yet when I am in a crowd, a pen is crucial in seeking comfort in an environment that is ever filling up with more stimulation. It also explains why my fingers are often covered in pen marks.
I often fidget. In being able to be comfortable and confident in my surroundings, I try to have something to focus on. In meetings, I make notes. Milling around, as I was waiting for a tour at Easter Road recently, I stood near the door and looked out of the door to the buildings around or towards the busts of the club’s founders across the foyer. I used to carry a keyring everywhere. Once we were on a school trip at the food court at Princes Mall in Edinburgh. It used to have a water feature and I lost a particularly prized keyring in it, leading to one of my teachers having to fish around in it to try and get it back. Then I had a figure of Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit, which I lost walking across Winterfield Park one winter’s night. The next day I walked across the whole field, carefully searching without success.
Now I usually have a pen or an elastic band. Luckily these things are very common in my surroundings so they blend in. Plus lots of other people, autistic or neurotypical, fidget with them too. I think that what is considered a necessary adjustment can often help other people. I have learned in my years that we are more similar to other people than we sometimes think. Everyone is strange. I have a T-shirt that bears the legend ‘Normal People Scare Me’. And it’s true. While we can be a lot more tolerant and accepting of differences as a society, I think we are getting ever closer as time goes on. What I enjoy about working with people is their great variety. One of my favourite memories was a few years ago when I issued some books on economics to an elderly lady who simply wanted to understand what she heard each day on the news. We should never be so quick to judge.
There is a famous adage that the pen is mightier than the sword. According to the BBC, it comes from a play called Cardinal Richelieu by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. A pen is my sword. I am able to communicate to the world by means of a pen, as well as a computer keyboard but you can’t carry one of those in your pocket as readily. It is also how I keep myself calm, when what I think doesn’t work or is part of the problem. A pencil doesn’t quite have the same benefits, neither does a pen with a lid. Clicking pens is one way forward, inexpensive but they save a whole lot of hassle in the long run. Plus they actually write when placed in a hand and positioned as appropriate. Who could ask for more?