John is a 55 year old man with Asperger’s Syndrome. I met him almost 5 years ago and it wasn’t until I moved in with him in 2014 that I found out about the routine.
This routine absolutely runs his life. He has told me that he is mentally ill, that he has OCD and he can’t help the way he is.
When I have a routine it tends to be along the lines of, I get up, eat, shower, dress, work, come home, etc. If along the way I throw in a gym workout or a trip to the store for some milk, it doesn’t affect me. It might get me home a little later than usual, but that’s fine. I am completely unaffected.
With John, everything in his day down to the smallest detail, must be planned in advance. His days are physically and emotionally draining, therefore he must be home by two-thirty every afternoon.
His daily routine is as follows:
4am- John wakes up. He has a swig of orange juice and makes a half cup of coffee in the french press. He sits at the computer and checks his calendar and sends or answers emails until 5.
5am- He gets his weights and does lifting and floor excercises for 20 minutes.
5:20am- He goes on a bicycle ride throughout the city. He will do this no matter how cold it is and regardless of how hard it is raining or how much snow is on the ground. We only get blizzards every few years here but he will ride even in a blizzard.
He has a duplicate bicycle in case he wakes up one morning and has a flat. He can’t be off schedule for one minute so instead of pumping his tire up he has another bike ready to go.
6:15am- He comes home and prepares a bowl of bran flakes, raisins and nuts that he soaks in plant based milk for awhile until it’s mushy. While the food is soaking, he does his bathroom thing. With his breakfast, he has a half of a slice of expensive, healthy bread and a half a banana that has been ripened until its mushy. He eats his food standing up at the kitchen counter while reading the Wall Street Journal.
He washes dishes and puts everything away.
To get the proper visual, imagine he is doing all of this in kind of like a robotic way. His gait is always steady and fast paced no matter whether he is walking from the kitchen to the living room or if he is walking through the city sidewalks. His movements are absolute, sharp. He even opens his newspaper exactly the same way each day, in a quick, matter-of-fact manner.
7:00am- He irons his clothes and heads to work, where he is a janitor and maintenance man for several churches. It’s the only job he has been able to keep. He has gotten fired from many jobs. He works until 2pm and heads home. Except for Wednesdays when he leaves an hour early so he can go to the gym. He must always be home by 2:30pm.
2:30pm- He arrives home and eats a handful of grapes. He doesn’t eat lunch because he likes to be super hungry when he eats his dinner at 3:15. After grapes, he goes right in to his salad-making. He pulls out half of the food in the refrigerator, including many fresh vegetables, some of which include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, onions and many others, plus cheese, tofu, walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and fresh eggs he buys from the chicken man down the street.
He spends 45 minutes preparing his salad and steams the cabbage, brussels and carrots and boils the egg. He then cooks pork or some kind of lean meat in a pan and pours himself a vodka tonic. The salad is huge and very filling. He eats it in one of those large glass casserole bowls.
He opens all the windows in the house to let out the food smells. It doesn’t matter how cold or hot it is outside, the windows are opened. I have sat on the couch in my winter coat and a blanket over me to keep warm. He closes the windows after an hour or so.
3:15pm He eats and drinks, usually alone, which is how he likes it. I am usually at work and join him on the weekends for dinner together.
Before eating, he flips the cushions on the couch and shakes out the blanket that covers the couch. He adjusts the oriental rug that somehow has moved a milimeter to the left or to the right in the last 24 hours.
While eating, he sits on the floor in front of the TV, with all his food and drink surrounding him, and watches brain shows. He records a bunch of science shows like quantum physics and how the universe operates. He is the smartest man I have ever met, but he didn’t learn it from college. He learned from reading and watching these shows that most people don’t even know are on TV. He watches shows about space and earth and math and how space and math make the universe operate…or something like that.
Oh, and his business nightly news, the one with all the stock news.
5:00pm- He falls asleep.
6:00pm- He wakes from his nap, washes dishes and watches more brain shows which can also include Frontline, world news, politics, history, old relics, money shows, etc. He can hold his own in just about any conversation with the most educated people.
7:30pm- He goes for a brisk walk through the city. Again, he goes 365 days a year, regardless of the weather. He has come home with his feet and hands numb from cold. But he “has” to do it.
8:15pm- He arrives home from his walk. He sits in the chair opposite me and takes off his shoes. He stands up and leans against the wall beside the chair and takes off his pants while talking to me about whatever. He makes a point to talk about pleasant things to me, not about his investments or science shows, which he enjoys talking about, but doesn’t want to bore me with.
He then heads off to take a shower. Afterwards, he wipes out the entire bathtub including the walls, with a towel.
Then we go to bed. We always chat for a while before bedtime and while in bed. It’s a very relaxing, close time for us.
On weekends, his routine is the same except that during the times he would normally be working, he schedules all kinds of chores and errands and gym workouts, timing it so it can all be done by 2:30, in time to make his salad.
Of course, as life would have it, there are times when things happen that throw his schedule off. These are not happy times. He will go into meltdown mode if anything at all happens unexpectedly, but I will write about meltdowns another day.
This routine gives John great pleasure. It makes him feel safe. The rest of the world is a scary, unpredictable place.
I never would have thought in a million years that I would ever fall for someone like John, but his kindness and sweet disposition towards me has won me over. His meltdowns will always be a struggle, but he never means any harm. I know his true intentions are never to hurt me.
He speaks of his routine as a comfort in one way, but a prison in another. He is like a caged animal, unable to escape. While “trapped” in his routine, he sees others outside of his “cage” playing ball outside, or walking hand in hand in the park on a nice day, but he can’t do those things like other’s do.
We do go out a few times a year and we both have a great time, however, the anxiety about the concert/dinner date (it always seems to be a concert and dinner) starts weeks before the date and stops when we are on the date. Once we are there, relaxing and having a good time, he is fine, but it’s super hard on him leading up to the night out.
I love my dear Aspie, and I don’t challenge him or try to change him. He says that’s why I’m still in the picture. Other’s have challenged him and his ways and it resulted in breakups.
He is not mentally ill. Asperger’s, yes, OCD, yes, but mentally ill, no. He’s just different.
I simply accept him and love him as he is.