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Today we're going to talk about the colour blue...

Well, perhaps not quite so literally! (We'll get to taking things literally another time as that's a speciality of mine).

I was thinking about how distracted and distractable people with aspergers can be. How you can be having a natural, happy, normal conversation with us and suddenly, for no reason, you see the eyes glaze over and you know you've lost us to that strange inner world. Those of us who are used to maintaining the semblance of humanity, do try to carry on the conversation and struggle to listen to the rest of what you have to say. But it can be hard and sometimes we don't even know we've gone.

Well, here's the drama bomb: we're not distracted or distractible, we're overly focused! What you take to be our attention wandering is, in fact, our attention spotting something and zeroing in with maximum accuracy. This is where the colour blue comes in.
I have a love/hate relationship with this colour, but as I am generally very colour-centric, it still grabs my attention. Not the colour itself usually, but the associations that go with it. Bright blues are good and make me think of summer days and happy times at the beach. Blue cars are not good, unless they are pale blue. I love blue jewellery, be it sapphires or gaudy glass, but don't tend to wear blue clothes. Yes, this is complicated and not very important in the grand scheme of things. Now, back to our imagined conversation.

You're busy telling me something: it could be important and I want to listen to you, to show you that I care. You need to tell me the background so that I'll understand, as you realise I need extra information sometimes or I get the wrong end of the stick.

We're halfway through this background information when someone walks past wearing a nice blue raincoat. It's gorgeous! It's slightly damp so it glitters in the spring sunshine and it swishes as they walk, making a lovely noise. I'm reminded of my first car, my little blue Fiesta, with rain on the bonnet, dimpled into little beads of sunshine caught in showers.

Then I realise you didn't stop talking at the same time as I stopped listening. Oh dear. Now I have the awkward choice of pretending to have listened and hoping to catch up (90% probability of choosing) or 'fess up and get you to start from where I stopped listening, if I can remember where that was (2% probability) or wait to see if I've been caught out and you repeat yourself anyway (the other 8%, depending on how well you knows me).

Yes, I know this reads like an example of being distractible - from your point of view, it is! From my view though, it's a beautiful moment, one that reminds me of my beloved little car, long gone now but with all sorts of positive associations of its own. And in time, I'll have more positive associations with that shade of blue because of the lovely raincoat and the swishing noise it made. I'm sorry, I may not remember our conversation; or I may remember it forever, as it's lodged in my mind alongside the raincoat.

This distractibility/focusing issue is inevitably tied up with memory anyway. I do remember things, often as pictures rather than full events. Is it like this for everyone? I tend to remember in TV-mode, as if I was watching myself. But it does help if there was something else memorable going on, something visual to link up with it. My own Google search engine requires cross-referencing of a different kind.

I fear I haven't really helped the case for us aspies being focused. I think I may have proved what people felt they knew already, that aspie girls and boys are distracted easily by what they are interested in. Yes, in simple terms, this is what I've written. In real terms, though, I still think it helps to describe to you how magical these moments of detachment can be. On the outside, you are confronted with this person you love, who you want to communicate with on a meaningful level and, in the middle of it all, they go off into another place, their face a blank or a happy smile, the eyes looking elsewhere, the attention firmly OFF.

Please forgive us, for in that moment of turning away, we are never OFF. We're turned towards this other side of ourselves, the magical side that can marry up memorable parts of our lives which were never meant to touch in this world.

Give us the moment and someday, maybe not here, maybe somewhere else, we can tell you everything and we'll explain the beauty of the lost moment.


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