Normalcy is Good
I'm grading finals, dealing with student pleas for homework extensions, and feeling overwhelmed — like every other instructor I know. A friend shared that he was up before 3 a.m. to grade essays and record grades by his university's deadlines. The end-of-semester crunch is what it is… no matter who you are as a student or instructor.
The only "autistic" frustration was our cat, Lucy, triggering the burglar alarm while we were on the PA Turnpike. For those unfamiliar with the Turnpike and Tollway systems, these are true "Expressway" systems. The exits are far apart (28 miles or more), and sometimes those exits are to service areas, not junctions.
So, when Lucy's Christmas tree curiosity tripped the motion sensor (which was supposed to aim above pet-level), we were about five miles from home… and 40 minutes away thanks to the nearest exit being in Ohio. We made the roundtrip, but I was so flustered I couldn't relax. Dinner plans were ruined, but I didn't want to be sitting at home, either. I wanted a break from grading and work. Unfortunately, there was no break. I couldn't find a place to sit and relax, and I couldn't relax at home.
People complain about some places being open 24-hours, but I happen to like those places. We have one 24-hour diner here where I have gone when my wife is away and the house feels strange. But, when I'm stressed the diner can be too loud and active. I wouldn't mind an IHOP… or a 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts.
When I mentioned the alarm to a coworker, she said that after their alarm has activated that she wasn't able to relax for a week. I explained, ours was a cat-incident. For her, the unknown was what made her anxious. Wondering if someone tried to break in would be upsetting. In our case, there were no footsteps in the snow, but Lucy was where she didn't belong.
Plans to take a break are necessary for most people. For me, they help avoid being too tired too deal with sensory input (and people). The missed dinner threw me off for a day. But, alarms apparently do that to people. You rush home, hoping it is "just the cat" — but that had me pondering a downed Christmas tree. At least the lights are always unplugged when we leave the house.
Anyway, life is pretty normal. Teaching and Christmas combine for a year-end crunch. None of my colleagues seem relaxed, and I know my students aren't relaxed. So, I'm perfectly normal.
I'll relax this weekend, after grading, by baking cookies for platters. I'll take those to work and distribute some to neighbors. We'll eat a fair number, too.