Living with an aspie

Oh dear, how often must the non-aspie have thought, 'I can't do this anymore. It's like I'm going mad, nothing makes sense!' I understand. It's hard enough when you are the aspie in question, so I can imagine it must be impossible at times to cope with an aspie from the outside.

Things which have no meaning are important in the aspie world. Noises the non-aspie has never even noticed are magnified and become an unreasonable stress to the aspie. Little routines, recognised by the non-aspie. seem to hold the key to the day's happiness. How can the toast being the right colour have a bearing on a person's emotional health? What does it matter which spoon you use to eat your cereal?

So many mysteries, so many ways to drive the aspie mad when, it seems, it should be the non-aspie who gets in the van and goes off to happy land. After all, what better way to push someone off the brink than by dancing along it beside them?

I think a word that must often rise up between the aspie and non-aspie is exasperation, from both sides. The non-aspie looks at their beloved and thinks, 'Why does it have to be done this way? Why can't I whistle while I make my tea? Why do you have to have things your own way all the time?' The normally patient non-aspie can be pushed to a point of temper that creates damaging arguments or unhappy atmospheres.

From the aspie point of view, it's logical (isn't it always?). They have made it clear, lots of times, which way things need to be done. It's always been all right before, the best beloved was happy to make sure they didn't use the wrong spoon. They never minded the wasted slices of toast before. Why does it suddenly matter today? And why, when they know it infuriates you, do they have to whistle all the time? It's not as if anyone enjoys listening to it, only the whistler is ever happy, not the whistlee.

The aspie may be a supremely aggravating person to live with, for many reasons, but they have their ways and it can seem illogical and upsetting to them if the non-aspie suddenly decides not to suffer those ways, or play along with them. Routine comes in many different guises, and one of those is the behaviour of your nearest and dearest. If that behaviour changes, for no obvious reason, how confusing and exasperating it can be.

Now, I must pause here, in defence of the non-aspie. Your behaviour may change and, to the aspie, there is no obvious reason, but we all know how obvious some things have to be before the aspie notices them. They haven't noticed you are tired this morning, or feeling ill. They haven't remembered you had an argument with your sister yesterday, or that you still need painkillers for a sprained ankle.

Yes, they know you may be about to lose your job; that was old news from last month. It wouldn't occur to them you were lying awake, thinking about it, worrying over it. That's the aspie seeming cold and uncaring again. In reality, the imminent job loss has been thought over, worried about, cared about, all at the time you discussed it and a little while after. Now, weeks later, there are lots of other things that need attention and as you didn't come up to the aspie and say you were upset about it, then how are they to know?

You see, the non-aspie is as mysterious and annoying as the aspie. Their little ways, which seem to be accepted as normal by so many people, often make no sense in the aspergers universe. Why does the housework have to be done before you go out? There's plenty of time when you get back. Why do you need to have a routine for the unimportant things in life, like the shopping, ironing, going to the hairdresser? Can't you just do them when they need to be done?

Why can't you apply for that great job in the paper? We aspies know you can do it, we see the qualities you have that make you perfect for it. Why do you have to concentrate on the physical skills that are lacking, instead of shooting off to see if you can do it, before deciding you can't? Why does it always have to be based on a practical reason?

In the aspie world, full of colour, explosions of sound, familiar things making comforting feelings, distractions leading to intense difficulty, or bringing us to a new understanding of life: in this world, doing things because it's the way they should be done makes no sense. Aspies, though creatures of habit, are also creatures of the moment. We forget it's Wednesday, forget the appointment, forget what was supposed to be for lunch today.

We remember that dream we woke from at 3am, the one that would make a great mosaic if we can only find the right pieces. Or we remember the grand plan, that will make all other grand plans meaningless. Or we wake up feeling like soggy bark, mulching down into the forest floor, good for nothing and certainly not able to go out and meet life's routines.

This is where we can meet, non-aspies and aspies alike. We know why we want to do a certain thing, even if the reason is a tenuous emotional connection. The toast has to be just so, the spoon has to be mine, because I feel better if it is that way. That is my reason. And if I feel better, the day is better.

So, when a non-aspie is exasperated again in the face of trying to make the aspie see that another thing is important, when the aspie only sees it as boring, practical stuff that has no place in their universe, try explaining why it's important.

If you, as the non-aspie, were to say, 'I need to do the housework before we go out because it makes me feel good and I can enjoy the day,' then we'll understand. What so often gets said instead is, 'The housework needs to be done before we go out.'

The word 'need' doesn't compute in this scenario. The house will not fall down, you will not be dragged out and arrested if the housework stays undone. What's the need? Why are you delaying our day out for that? Don't you care? How did I end up with someone who would rather do housework than spend the day with me?

Explanations are key. The non-aspie will very likely be better at verbal explanations than the aspie. The routines loved by the aspie will have been explained by actions more than explanation - in other words, the best beloved will have found out which is the wrong spoon the hard way! They will have learned what to do and what not to do by the aspie's reaction, rather than a calm discussion.

So, although the aspie may not have explained in the conventional sense, it doesn't mean the non-aspie can't use normal words and conversation to explain their feelings. It's as simple as getting the aspie's attention (cough) and telling them how you feel. No, I do not mean by saying, 'You're driving me insane today!' I mean telling the aspie, 'I need to do this because-'.

I'll end there for today, as I feel exhausted at the idea of all that unnecessary housework. I'll be re-visiting the concept of aspies and non-aspies living together in future posts, as I know it's one of the major hurdles we all face.

For now, I'll leave you with the promise that we can live together, even if we have to learn new ways of doing things. Hang in there, walk carefully, listen to each other.

And non-aspies, please, if your aspie has taken the trouble to say they think you can do a certain thing, consider the fact that they may see in you this bright and special person that the rest of the world has missed. Have another look at that big opportunity you think you can't do. Take the aspie at their word and see if there is a part of you that can come alive by being seen through the aspie-lens. You'd be amazed how wonderful everything can look with the right focus.


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The unreliable aspie

You'd better not ask me to do anything, I'll let you down!

Well, we don't often put it that way, do we? No. Instead we wriggle, and struggle and slip away if possible. Or we have an amazing, or totally lame, excuse for not doing it - most likely accompanied by the light-bulb expression of just having thought of the excuse.

Okay, so perhaps I'm misjudging you aspies out there? Maybe you're always reliable and can get the job done? Or maybe you intend to be reliable and absolutely know you can do it? Then, just possibly, something comes up or you have an off day, or you forget and it still doesn't get done.

So, apologies up-front to any aspies who are reliable and can follow through on their promises. Now, for the rest of us...

How many times have you wanted to help someone and know what you can do to help them, then not done it? This includes either avoiding helping them, or saying you will and then not doing it. For me, I wouldn't know anymore. Time and time again, in every area of life.

I'm not proud of it, it's one of the major flaws I see in myself - compared to some of the major flaws I can't see! I mean to do it, have every intention of doing it and then flake out.

It's part of the self-sabotage effect, I think. You don't want to fail, so you avoid the issue. Or the thought of being the important part of something is just too unnerving and you back out. Better to let someone else do it than get in the middle, where everyone can see you when you get it wrong.

The agreement to help, the part of you that really does want to come forward and make things better for people, that is genuine. And they will want to accept your help because they'll see the offer is sincere. Your face will tell them that, your tone of voice will show them you're there when they need you.

Then when you back out, either a little while before if you're being honest with yourself and know you can't do it, or right at the last second if you're still trying to kid yourself; then they see that you weren't reliable and couldn't be trusted to come through for them. Mistrust sets in and, no matter how much they like you or care about you, they don't expect you to be there in times of need.

From this, the seeds of doubt are set in over whether you really care too. If you cared, then you'd be reliable and do what you could to help. This takes a little time to build up, a few failed attempts to gain help from you, a few reasons or excuses given by you that could be true, but always seem to come just before you're needed to do something.

It's not surprising if people begin to think you don't care, actions speaking louder than words and all that. If you cared, you'd be there.

This is made worse by what often happens over time: rather than step forward and offer to help, the adult aspie has learned that they're unreliable and are more likely to avoid offering the help in the first place. This is where the avoidance comes in, leaving the one who needs the help feeling abandoned. Whatever we aspies do, we still come across as not being there when needed.

It doesn't matter how subtle you think you were being, it's obvious. Don't forget, you're usually dealing with people who can read body language. They don't just listen to what your voice is saying, or what you think your face is doing - they see the whole you and they know you're avoiding the issue.

Oh, reader, how often I've stood there at that pivotal point in the conversation, my brain running the conveyor belt at top speed, all the options shooting past of how I could do this, and that and then I'd be helping someone. All these things rocket past and I watch them go, knowing if I say anything that we'll all regret it.

I slide off, hoping I got away with it and that no one saw me processing the fact that I could be useful but deciding against it. They don't know I'm avoiding it for their own good. They don't understand that it's better to have this moment of seeming uncaring and selfish, than to have the hope bubble float along until I burst it, letting them down far more significantly later.

Am I kidding myself? Do I really just want to be left alone and not help anyone at all? Am I just this selfish woman who cares about you only if you don't need anything from me? Sometimes, yes, I think I am that person. The one who lives in her own world and doesn't mind turning her back on the 'real' one.

Mostly, though, these thoughts that come are sent by me, to punish myself for not being the complete person I imagined I'd be. You're not reliable, so you decide you're selfish. You buckle under pressure so you call yourself weak. You back out at the last second, unable to face it all, so you must be a horrible person.

One decision leads to another, so one thought process also travels along and finds another. This doesn't mean it's all true, though. It means, as always, that you're searching for an answer, an explanation that makes sense so that you can look at it, file it away and know what it means for the next time.

It's at odds with the concept of wanting to do something, so you do it. With aspies there is a small crack, just where you step and you often trip on it. You intended to go straight from wanting to doing, then flap! your arms are in the air and you're trying to save yourself from falling again.

What to do? Shall I suggest that you be honest and say to someone, 'I don't think I can do that. I'd like to help you, but I don't think I'm able.' This leaves it open, as if you want them to think of a reason why you can do it after all. It sounds like a request.

What about the blunt, honest approach? 'I'm sorry, I can't help you.' Or even just, 'No, I can't help.' Feelings, anyone? They'd be lying on the carpet, gasping for breath by the time you'd finished. But hurt feelings aside, everyone would know exactly where you stood.

Is it better to be brutally honest and get it out of the way than to go along, hoping you can come through this time, only to let it slip out of your grasp again and let them all down?

On this one, I'm the wrong person to ask. If you'd be able to cope with the reaction you get from complete honesty, then go for it, but perhaps soften it a little around the edges. If you like, explain somewhat that you often find it difficult to help and are tired of letting people down.

I have to admit, if you're like me, you'd still prefer shimmying out of the situation, hoping to avoid  unnecessary feelings of any kind. Let's just leave those feelings alone, shall we? Let's sneak off or pretend we don't know what's happening. Or let's agree and then deal with the consequences later.

Hmm, the more I think about it, the more I see how much simpler it is to be a feelings-thrashing aspie. Honesty first and comfort later. And yet, I'm still not able to do that. Perhaps, when I can be totally honest with myself and admit that I can't face being the one people can depend on, then maybe I can start being as honest with other people.

Until then, I'll just do what I can, continuing in the hope of being able to help when I say I will, because sometimes I do manage it. And then, readers, what a relief to have it out of the way!

Mostly, though, I stand there, face a-twitching, distracted by the noise from that conveyor belt, wondering if I should reach out and pluck something off it or move gently sideways while no one is looking.


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I wish it could be Christmas every day - finding the safe place all year round

Oh, readers, I love Christmas! Yes, I know lots of other people love it, too, but this has ranked with my abiding obsessions for so long I can't look at it normally anymore. My worst part of the year is January, then after that I can begin the Big Countdown to next Christmas. I'm insufferable on the 25th June as then there are only six months to go!

I do wish it could be Christmas every day, and not for the usual reasons. Keep your presents, hold off with the visiting relatives; I don't even mind about the roast dinner or crackers. Let me keep up the decorations and the lights, let me wake up every day to the feel of tinsel wrapped round the bannister rails and baubles being tickled along the floor by Maisie's Pretty, our little cat.

Let there be songs and films about the feeling of Christmas, that feeling of goodness and happiness, of warmth and home. That's what I want every day of the year.

And what madness inspires this? Is it just another obsession? Is it my pet thing, the one idea that always knocks the others out of pole position, to re-settle itself at the front of the queue? Yes and no.

For reader, while others see Christmas, and other holidays, as a time of change and excitement, I see it as a time of coming home. It's my safe place, the time of year that validates everything I see as homeliness and comfort. It's the big blanket I hide under, made bigger and blanketier and decorated with glitter. It's security in giant, shiny letters, hung on the wall so I can't miss it.

It's a symbol, a way of bringing into the real world the feeling I could like to keep with me all year round.

When I watch A Christmas Carol, I identify with both parts of the story - Scrooge in his lonely life, kept separate from other people by his own, carefully-constructed barrier and then Scrooge as he becomes, warm and merry, with people to love, when he lets down the barriers and embraces life at last.

I've read Dickens' book, on which all the films, good, bad and horrible, are based. It's a much more sombre affair than most of the films. It emphasises the seriousness of Scrooge's separation, it leaves us in no doubt that he has been a bad person. He has destroyed lives and gone on regardless. He has been a terrible influence in the world and, if he carries on without change, will harm himself as much as others.

Does this sound at all familiar to other aspies? If you're honest, how many times have you thought about the harm you may have done by acting a certain way, avoiding responsibility or dismissing people's emotions as somehow not as real as your own? Or in just bustling on, afraid of finding out what you mean in the world, only content to be left alone.

In the Dickens version, Scrooge is brought to a true understanding of his place in the world and of the positive effect he can have on others. He doesn't get there alone: as well as the spirits who come to help him, he has the people in this world who have always been willing to reach out a hand to him, both his family and those who would be his friends.

By the end of the story, he learns to reach back and lives the remainder of his life in happiness and warmth.

To me, it's this glimpse of contentment at the end of the story which resonates with Christmas. I want that! How often do we, as aspies, feel truly content? How much more often do we have that nagging sensation of doing things the wrong way. Or worse, the sure knowledge that we've played a blinder, again, and left something in tatters.

What bliss to be able to reach out and grasp hold of that contentment, as if it's a physical thing you can hold in your hands, cradling it safely as you walk through life. A safe place, carried within, is worth more than anything, because then you can go anywhere, do anything, be anybody.

All too often, the contentment is fleeting, felt usually when alone and doing something routine and familiar. A different sort of contentment settles when we're engrossed in our latest obsession, or an old one that we love to re-visit. That isn't the same as there's always a buzz to go with it.

I guess that's part of why Christmas is so important to me, too, because it's also an obsession with a buzz. I like the thrill of it, the latent excitement visible every time the lights flicker or I smell the tree as I walk in the room.

I have a confession to make, too. The contentment I crave, the safe place, I want it always to have the buzz in it. I can't cope with pure safety, without any action whatsoever. I need that little tingle, the feeling that yes, I am safe, but soon I may go wolf-baiting.

Does it sound contradictory? It isn't, not really. I want to feel safe but I also want to be active in some way. I can't stand to be sedentary in my mind, so I need the promise of some movement or excitement, to keep me alive. The reason it isn't contradictory is, I want that excitement to be of my choosing, I want to be in control.

I'm talking about feeling safe and content with a life of your own making, one that doesn't have to be always sitting in front of the log fire, stroking the cat. Rather, a life where you can go out and sledge down the hill if you feel like it, or run against the wind on the edge of the lake.

I want to be able to choose the thrills and the excitements, like you can at Christmas, so you anticipate what will happen next, even if you can't always control it. So often in life, the 'thrills' are the wrong kind, which you don't see coming and bowl you over on their way past. That sort of excitement you can keep.

What I want is my hand on the reins. If we're going sleighing tonight, I'm in charge of the reindeer. I don't want to suddenly find they've turned into wild horses and we're careering towards the cliff. If there is a thud from the roof, it has to be the man in red and white, not part of a NASA satellite that chose my house as its way home.

If there's a knock at the door, I want it to be a best beloved, or at least someone with a big box of chocolates. I don't want any unwelcome visitors or awkward relatives breaching my safe zone, bringing rain and thunder.

I know when I think this that I'm not embracing how people see Christmas or even Scrooge's final lesson. No, I'm not ready to let in the whole world and treat every person as part of my fellowship. Was Scrooge really ready? Here is a quote from the end of the book:

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

Even Scrooge, portrayed as a chuckling old gent at the end of the films, is still a wily goose in the book. He knows not everyone will share his vision or agree with him, but he doesn't care. He does what he can and lets his own heart laugh and is content with that.

You see, like the Scrooge of the book and not the film, we are too imperfect and individual to suddenly become Disney bunnies and go skipping off through the forest. We can change, we always have that capacity, but we cannot become wholly different people - and nor would we want to be.

How boring would old Scrooge be if he only laughed all day, like a simpleton, and gave his money away? Far better to have the curmudgeon tamed within him, the wisdom coming through so that he can truly enjoy life because he recognises fully what he was before.

That's what we all must do, at Christmas or any other time of year. We must recognise our true nature so that we can make the changes we need to, without losing that special element which makes us aspies who can change whole worlds before we change ourselves.

Like Scrooge, we may need proper shocks to see things clearly, though I sincerely hope not to have ghostly visitations as part of this. We need to examine the past, the present and what will happen in our futures - not what we want to happen or hope will happen, but what will come to be if we don't change our present course.

Honesty leads us along terrifying paths sometimes, but always with a bright sky above. Take the chance of being able to hold contentment close to you every day of the year and see what you can change in your life, to become the greater person, the happier one who can open the door with a smile.

If all else fails, reader, a well-planned window display is enough to foil most visitors. Otherwise, do remember not to move or you'll make the tree shake and they'll know you're there.

Whatever you do, enjoy the tinsel and don't forget to always have chocolates on your tree.


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I'm an aspie not a Star Fleet Captain

Aspergers, it's just so selfish and demanding. Whatever you want to do, it has to come first.

You wanted to be a high-powered business man? Go on then, try it with aspergers running ahead and kicking people up the butt while you're not looking. A surgeon or a fire-fighter? Same thing; aspergers pushes ahead, trying to put you off, no matter what you do.

Scale it back and all you want to do is get ready for your exams, or an important job interview. Cue aspergers, bustling in at the door, acting like it knows best, making it seem like a great idea to concentrate on only this part of your upcoming trial, and not look at the whole thing.

Or perhaps aspergers clashes the cymbals and bangs the drum so you can't concentrate on anything at all? That's worse as you know exactly what you have to do and can't make your brain work long enough to get it done.

Scale it back again and all you have to remember is to pick up your mother from the train station. Aspergers lives for moments like these, because they come along more often than the massive job interviews or life-changing career decisions.

Somehow, while you're not looking, aspergers sneaks in and puts the kettle on, letting you get settled with your tea, looking at your emails and ordering that set of Star Trek firgurines on eBay. Great news! You won them and at a fraction of the price. You can't wait to have them set out in the space you already made in the bedroom.

Bad news: that annoying noise in the background, the one that kept interrupting the eBay auction, was your mobile phone on vibrate. Your mother is also vibrating, much more loudly, on the freezing cold steps of the train station. While you got on with your important work, she watched all the other commuters hurry home or get picked up. One by one they left until it's only her, waiting for you, as usual.

It's no good apologising, then trying to make it better by telling her about the figurines. It doesn't even work if you tell her about the figurines as if it all happened on another day. She will know. She'll know that you spent the time bidding on eBay instead of collecting her from the cold station. She'll know that the figurines were more important to you than your own mother. Yet again, she'll despair of you.

Yes, all of these lifestyle complications are caused by aspergers, that jester at the feast, that syndrome with the sense of humour only a fool could find funny.

Aspergers as a great distractor is well-known - ask anyone who has had to live with an aspie for very long. But aspergers as the saboteur may not be so familiar, at least to the outside world.

I think this is because, as aspies, it's easier to explain to people if you can say that having aspergers makes you forget things more easily, or become distracted or simply focus too much on the wrong thing. All of these are true and can be imagined quite easily.

It's much more difficult to explain the idea of aspergers helping you to self-destruct. And here, I can't put all the blame on aspergers, as if it's an annoying uncle who thinks it's funny to poke you in the ribs as you take a drink. It can be like that, but when aspergers enters the sabotage mode, it always needs an accomplice.

I can honestly say I didn't know that myself and aspergers were saboteurs until a few years ago. It's a surprise to discover that so many of your misadventures were helped along by your own willingness to participate, or even instigate, events that caused everything around them to collapse.

It's a hard thing to admit, that you could have achieved more and done better if you had only ignored some of your impulses and gone on, as planned. The number of times I've seen something good on the horizon - and fill in whatever positive life event you like here - and then found myself working against it in some way.

A simple example would be that all-important interview. You need the job, the money and, more to the point, would like the job itself. What do you do? Well, you know what you're wearing, but don't check it's all okay. You know what time you have to be there, but don't give yourself the extra half hour to get ready. You know you need to look your best, but decide to leave washing your hair until the morning.

Anything and everything can be scattered in the path of success. You only need to stand on one sharp tack to stumble and fall, but with aspergers you can guarantee you'll throw a few down, just to be sure.

Assuming you make it past all these obstacles and get to the interview on time, it still won't be what it promised because you're now flustered at having to fight to be there. The answers you might have given are subtly changed, lessened by the distraction of the morning's events. You're not looking quite as smooth as you should and you forgot to polish your shoes.

Now, I don't know if any of you are grumbling about it yet, but don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the aspies who find their niche and become brilliant successes. I haven't, honestly. Where do they fit in to this scenario of the sneaky aspergers making things go wrong? Surely they have no place as the self-saboteur?

I believe there is only the barest, most subtle difference between these successful people and the aspie toddling along with only one shoelace. The successful aspie recognised aspergers for what it was years before the rest of us even realised it existed. They saw that they were different and they factored it into their lives. They also never lost their self-belief.

How did they do this? What is their secret? Each one would have a different story, but I think it lies in them having a more positive view of themselves, which then made them see their talents in a good way too.

If you believe you are a good and worthy person, it's much more likely that you want to share your talents with the outside world. You believe in yourself so you believe in them.

It doesn't have to be this simple, but if aspergers can be spotted creeping in and if you have the self-confidence, you can quickly jump up and slam the door so it can't get all the way through. Better still, let aspergers creep in then jump up and offer it a seat. Make it part of the equation.

How you do this is a pickle, to say the least. Again, it's different for everyone. I think it's brilliant if you can bring up your little aspies to think this way. If little Tommy can't get his ideas down onto paper, don't study the textbooks or consult specialist teachers for ways to pry the information from his brains. Take him out to play in the leaves instead. If that information needs to come out, then it will, but only when he can let it pass.

Build up little Tommy's confidence and self-belief, let him see his aspie traits as a difference and not a disability. Let him know that you're there to help and not to push. Tell him it will all be okay in the end, that you love him and he loves you and it's a good day for a walk in the park.

If you're an older aspie, only now realising that you're up to your eyeballs in sharp tacks, take a step back and have a big, ponderous think. You know you love doing that. But this time, think about your role in life in a different way. Don't use the F word (failure), consider things in new ways.

What did you really do when the money ran out? Were you really being stupid and irresponsible? Possibly, but were you also thumbing your nose at the world and saying, 'I can spend it if I want! No one is telling me what to do!'?

Look at your motivations - the ones that power you to behave in a certain way. It may be the aspergers at work, it may not. Sometimes, it could be you at work, making sure you're not set up to fail again, by stopping things in their tracks before they go too far towards success.

There is no magic solution for side-stepping the difficulties caused by aspergers and fulfilling your potential. This is one of those areas where other people can play as pivotal a role as you do. For young aspies, it is essential to help them gain self-confidence and inner happiness. For older aspies, working it out for themselves is more important, because the defensive structures are already in place and they won't be as ready to believe what other people say to boost them up.

The main thing I would say is, be self-aware. See what happens and why, even if you have to go away and work it all out later. Even if the later is years down the line, still take the time to work it out.

And believe me, I'm not saying aspies can't do any and all of the jobs they want. It just may take a different route to get there and they may need to be a little more careful along the way.

We all need a clear view to see where we're going, otherwise we'll keep wandering into the same dead ends and side alleys, and bumping over the pot-holes as we go. Take your time and think about what happened the last time and what you really want to happen this time.

It could be that you're telling yourself you don't want this high-powered job interview, that what you really want is to get out the old guitar and re-visit a time when the music flowed, unbidden, into the world.

You see, aspergers isn't just a jester or a saboteur. Aspergers knows us so well and it remembers the music of our childhood, when anything was possible and the world didn't seem so big. Sometimes, you need to read between the lines and see what it is you're trying to tell yourself.

This is how you find the right road.


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Snap! Putting names to faces

Someone walks towards you, a half-smile on their lips. You run the smile through various internal algorithims and find it could be that they know you, they want to know you or they have an axe behind their back.

Erring on the side of caution, you smile back, uncertainly. They stop and begin to talk. It's obvious they know you. Searching their face for clues, you come up with

aspie-recog-failure error code nn231

In other words, you don't recognise them, either at all, or enough to remember how you're supposed to react.

From the way they're talking to you, they seem to know quite a bit about you and your personality. This is a relief in a way, as it means you can talk back and generally be yourself, without worrying too much about putting your foot in it.

All the while, you're looking at them, assessing what they say, working though the variables. What they say, does it match with a potential friend of a friend, or a past colleague or boss? (No, you always remember the bosses, unfortunately). Was it someone who knew you in school and who has changed enough for you not to know them?

Worrying thoughts cascade. In  my experience, as quite an anti-social aspie, I've still come across many people because of all the jobs I've done, so when someone seems to know me, I always re-visit past colleagues first.

Eventually, they move on, happy to have caught up with you. Watching them go, you're happy that you didn't walk past them and maybe hurt their feelings or leave another person wondering at how strange you are.

This is all part of the great dance of recognition, which many aspies have trouble with. It's not just about remembering, or forgetting, people you once knew. We can all do that. It's about not knowing the ones who should still be familiar.

In the past, I've had a friend jump up and down in the street when she saw me coming, having exhausted all other ways of getting my attention besides hitting me over the head with something. She had even shouted my name. Not a thing had registered. The jumping up and down did register and we laughed about it. She wasn't worried, she knew I wouldn't ignore her on purpose and was happy to do whatever it took to speak to me.

Others, I know I've ignored over the years. I'm attuned to the odd, sideways glance you get from people who think you're ignoring them. Attuned to that, but not to recognising them in the first place.

It comes down to people you're close to, or who have known you well. Readers, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I once followed a strange man down two streets, before I worked out it wasn't my ex-husband. I did wonder why he kept hurrying off.

I've heard it called facial blindness, but I prefer to think of it as a recognition problem, because it extends well beyond the face. It's down to how you expect a person to look, given what they looked like before.

If they appear in front of you, wearing the same things and sporting the same hairstyle as when you last saw them, then you're very, very much more likely to know them. They're programmed in as Nigel, curly-hair, two children, likes trains.

If you come across Nigel six months later and he's had a close shave, he might be familiar still, or he might have to come right up and start talking about trains for you to know who it is.

This one I find hard to explain, but at least I can describe it for the puzzled non-aspies out there. I mean, if I can't recognise my own ex-spouse, what hope is there?

A clue might lie in how we perceive the world, with our over-load of information. As we're always trying to weigh things up and work them out, the physical appearance of a person is also filed under  available information. We use it to match them up in our minds.

The problem lies in the fact that, if we were to meet them walking down the street inside our heads, we would know them instantly, as we have their features on file and it's all close to hand. Out in the world, with so many other distractions to cope with, a person has to fight with life itself to gain your attention and have you know them. A taller order.

Here's another one: I do think that we see people as snapshots, in our internal film reel. There they go, there's Nigel speeding into the distance, hair bobbing in the wind. Immortalised forever as he once was. How many times will he feature in the film reel as a different person, later recognised? Does he become a different person each time we meet him? Is he processed as a new encounter, until recognised as otherwise?

Just to confuse matters and make myself sound even more complicated, let's look at twins. I'm sorry, there is no such thing as an identical twin to me. Yes, I may pass a best friend in the street and not see her, but I can always tell the difference between twins.

At first meeting, I have to really check to see if they are identical. Half the time it doesn't occur to me that they are. IT teen showed me a video of Dan is Not on fire (search youtube without small children in the room). Dan had made a video with his two friends. I worked out after a minute that they were probably brothers, as they looked quite alike. It's hard to tell when they're wearing different clothes. Eventually, yes, you guessed it, I realised they were twins. Or probably twins. I checked with IT teen, who was irritated that I'd obviously been working out the twinship in the video instead of actually watching it.

IT teen also knows twins who went to the same infant school as him. They do like to dress almost the same, with different colours. To me, it's obvious who is who, they're very distinct people. To IT teen and the rest of his cohorts, the twins are identical. Sigh.

So, at least the twins of the world can breathe easy that I'm not one of those people who will look from one to the other and say, 'Barry? or is it Buddy?', at least not after the first meeting. No, I'll be the strange lady asking them if they're related.

So, what to do about this one? Nothing, actually. I've tried for years to make it work for me and now I've given in to it. If I'm in a crowded place, I'm likely to not recognise people. If I do, I may not know from where. If they recognise me first, I will speak and talk and have a conversation to the best of my abilities.

I'm not yet quite brave enough to smile sweetly and ask who they are. Too much risk of hurt feelings - it's not their fault I don't know them. It's not mine, either, as it's a side-effect of being an aspie. But all this would take too long to explain and their feelings would already be hurt by then, so I just leave it.

The only advice I can give is, if really pushed, to 'fess up and say, 'I'm sorry, my memory is terrible, what was your name again?'

If you can do it with ease, making it al about yourself and not them, the feelings are usually avoided. Personally, I'm rubbish at this kind of thing and would give them a sickly smile while I did it, making it obvious I suspect them of being an imposter who I have never, in my life, met before.

The most I can say is, this recognition error in the aspie psyche is one area that no amount of effort or self-chastisement will fix. So, there should be no guilt with it either. This one, we have to accept. Just do your best not to offend people and use it as practice for talking to anyone who talks to you. Sometimes you won't know them and they'll just be the friendly type, but it never hurts to make new friends.

Of course, the next time you see them you'll have no idea where you met them before. Was it the job at the zoo? Are they friends with Stella? You never liked Stella. Didn't she have strange taste in men...Oh! They're still talking! Now, where do I know them from???


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Journeys, taken alone, in a crowded life.

I want to talk about learning, self-knowledge and inner-journeys, taken by aspies who carry on with life and do what most normal people do. Readers, how is the world meant to notice when an aspie does this, if even the aspie themselves hasn't realised? Let me explain.

Around the time I left my full-time work and started to change my lifestyle, I knew I was spending a large amount of time thinking, considering, working things out, debating with myself. All this focussed on what had gone before; I wanted to know what it meant. I also wanted to know who I really was, what I meant, to me and my loved ones. I needed to work it out, properly, for my own peace of mind.

I considered going to a therapist and then imagined how the session might go, with an outwardly sympathetic face waiting for me to open up about things I could barely even vocalise inside my own head, let alone out loud, to a stranger. I realised, then, that if I was to explain everything I had going on to my doctor, I might be sent to a psychiatrist.

I mulled it over. Put aside the stigma of the men in white suits and wonder what might happen if they could really help me figure out what was going on. How many of you aspies out there have thought, 'I'm crazy! But you won't get me anywhere near those doctors, because I'm fine like this, thank you very much!'

Well, it's not so cut and dried for any of us. We all have reasons why we struggle on and fight our battles silently, separately from people who might want to help. In my case, I was a single mother with children who I feared might be taken away from me if I admitted to any kind of weakness.

Don't get me wrong, I functioned at a level where we all ate, and had clothes to wear, and we laughed every day. We were a happy little family unit. Yet, at the edges of it, was the spectre of what I didn't know about myself and what I needed to find out.

Don't forget, at this stage I just thought I was nutty, I didn't know I had a label for it. I had no idea that, if I found out I had aspergers, so many other things would slot neatly into place. So, I struggled on.

I wanted to work things out for myself, but wasn't sure if it was possible. Then something happened which set me on the right path.

I used to get outbursts of anger, over silly things. It was like a flare went off and POW! I was shouting. Again. It didn't make the situation better and, once I'd calmed down, the guilt wasn't worth the temporary relief of letting out my feelings.

I lay in bed, thinking about my outbursts and hating myself for it. What could I do? I thought, there's only me, but then, it's me who is at fault. Surely I can stop myself a little? So, I determined to scale it down, to try to get through the next angry situation without losing control. I also realised how much I was chastising myself for it and decided to forgive myself the occasional lapse in temper.

So, I had in place a very small plan, alongside a decision to forgive myself if I couldn't follow it perfectly.

It worked. Not every time, but the first time I held back and left the room instead of shouting, I could have cried instead. I had the control necessary to stop myself.

This was a massive boost to feeling empowered to change things for myself, but it was also a blow, as I realised I had been self-indulgent in the first place. If I could control the anger now, I could have controlled it before.

Although I had made a great step forward in learning this control, I was also still trapped in the cycle of negative thinking and the FAILURE word, which dogged me for years.

Looking back now, I am still sorry I lost my temper so much, but I'm also forgiving of myself for doing it. How could I stop if I thought it was out of my control? I couldn't work it all out at once, it was a process I needed to go through, to understand myself.

I understand now that my recovery from this time of intense introspection has been gradual, marked by a lot of deep thought and occasional revelations. The revelations cannot be forced, they have to grow, in the background, until there is the right time and space for them to burst through.

These revelations, about ourselves and our lives, are an essential part of the healing process. Without them, you are still just a mass of conflicting emotions and thought. You need this sudden burst of light to show you the perspective from which everything else must be viewed.

I reached a stage where I realised I couldn't work in a normal environment, with lots of other people, pressure, noise, routine. I had known I couldn't cope with this for a long time, but not that I would probably never overcome it. After each failed job, I would think, next time I'll try harder, next time it'll be better, next time I'll be stronger.

You are still yourself, you still have aspergers, no matter how strong you are. The realisation that I would always be with this way, with jobs and with everything else, felt like a mortal blow. Guess what, it was permanent! I couldn't outgrow it, or out-think it. I couldn't magically transform myself into someone else. I couldn't get a few nights of good sleep and wake up nomal. This was it, in some shape or form, for the rest of my life.

That was one revelation I may not have been able to cope with at the start of my journey. If someone had told me nine years ago, this is the real you, now deal with it, I don't know that I would ever have come out of the doldrums. Okay, maybe I would, but in the same way? I'm not sure.

Nine years ago, I started this journey of self-discovery by spending a great deal of time thinking hard about everything. Oh, everything! All the things that had never made sense, large or small, made it into my brains. All the times when I was very young and growing up, those times that you think you know inside out, I took them out and looked at them again, like it was new.

I looked at other people differently, too. At first, I judged them as I judged myself; harshly, as individuals prone to a failure they could avoid. Then, over time, as I understood myself more, I judged them less, seeing them as flawed, like myself.

Given enough time, you do work your way round to forgiveness, the real and proper kind where you do feel a softening towards them. But, you must forgive yourself first, for not being who you thought you were and for not being able to do what you expected.

In the end, everyone must make their own way. Each journey is completely different. Some will need professional help, some will fight on by themselves, trying to find their own explanations as to why it all happens this way.

Whichever way you choose, understand it won't happen overnight. We are all strange and wonderful creatures, each twist and turn of our dna a crazy riddle bound in secrets. Others can only help us along the path, they can't walk it for us or tell us what or who we are. Many think they can and we'll listen to them, too, like we always have.

Eventually, if you keep your mind open, your revelations will come. Bear them, inspect them, make them part of you as much as you can. Forgive, readers, wherever it is needed and hard as it can be -and please, don't think I expect it to be easy! I simplify these ideas, sometimes, for the sake of explanation.

Let each day be a new one, this is a major lesson I've learnt. Let regret have its place, because without it we wouldn't want to learn. Let failure lay in the compost heap with the cabbage and don't forget to keep throwing more on top of it. That rich mixture, made of you and life when you smash together, it'll be useful one day.

I'm still learning now. I know I'll look back in a few years and see this time as another stage of my journey, even though right now I feel like I'm a long way down the road. I hope I never stop learning, because as aspies, it's one of our bright stars, even though we often think the opposite.

Don't forget, like all journeys, you don't get anywhere without taking those little, individual steps. And, however it seems as you take those steps, it isn't an empty road, readers, and it never was.


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First thoughts, second thoughts, third thoughts...

First thoughts, second thoughts, third thoughts. How many times can one person come along the same road and see the same landmarks and try to look at them in a new way? Lots of times, if you want to know the truth.

I've spoken before about second-guessing ourselves. To an extent, everyone does this, it's a part of life and makes humanity the great thinker it can occasionally be. The main reasoning behind re-thinking a subject is to explore it, to see it from all possible angles and, ultimately, to make a decision about it, even if that decision is simply whether you agree with it.

The other, less satisfactory, reasoning behind second, third and fourth thinking is either the inability to make the decision or to re-visit past events, still thinking about them as if you could have done something differently. These are both closely linked with self-esteem and self-doubt, and often form a part of the internal aspie processes.

If you are already thinking through how to do things on a daily basis, even for events that are familiar to you, it's not so surprising that you plod through other events and experiences a few times, when they don't occur all the time.

Aspies have a need to make things familiar, even if they've never done them before or have no real way of knowing how things will turn out.

Similar to a wedding rehearsal, the aspie will plot out the variables of something that is yet to be and see if they can make it a little more routine, with the expected outcomes branched out neatly on a mental diagram. A map for life, perhaps?

If the event has already happened and something went wrong, or feels wrong or makes the aspie uneasy, it will be re-played on the internal super-computer. This can be the case even if we know exactly what went wrong and don't doubt the outcome. If the event has been disturbing in some way, it will be re-visited.

This isn't the same as laying in your bed, flicking through your regrets. It can be applied to anything, just so that life makes a little more sense. It's a way of bringing meaning out of potential chaos.

If the event went the right way but was dramatic enough to impact on the aspie psyche, then it will be thought through again, just to examine it, to turn it over and see if there's anything that went unnoticed the first time.

This is a way to understand life, other people, our reactions to them. We are always searching for hidden meaning; we assume there is hidden meaning, even in everyday happenings, because so much of meaning is already hidden from us.

I think this need to re-think and re-visit is fundamental to an aspie's sense of security too. There's the childish belief, not often expressed, that if you can think about and visualise something enough, then it will lose its power over you and you will be in control.

Rather like when children imagine what they would do in a dangerous situation - they have their actions planned out and are the champion of the story. It's the children who don't have an exit strategy you have to worry about, as it's a sign they feel powerless. As children, we are already powerless, so this planning ahead and imagining is a way of coping with that, of denying it and by denying it, making it not true.

As an adult aspie, we know that by thinking things through, however many times, we can't make them true or untrue. If they have already happened, it's too late anyway. If they are still to come, we have enough life experience to realise these things have a will of their own and are not often in our control.

And yet still we think, and consider, and wonder, and make decisions based on these internal musings which, sometimes, have little connection with the reality of the situation. Whole life decisions can be based on what an aspie imagines will happen and whether that inner visualisation has enough power to take on a life of its own and seem true.

I guess you might say that aspergers comes with its own, in-built quantum generator. We don't manufacture whole universes, but we do create endless possible scenarios of this one, so that we can filter through them to give ourselves the heads-up on what the future might hold. Or on what we could have done differently in our past.

There's the other side to this, where you re-imagine your past and place yourself in the future that would have been. Very dangerous territory, that one, as you are following a route not even born, that was never meant to be and yet it holds an allure for the aspie in trouble, or denial, as it whispers to you, 'this might have been your life, this could have been yours.'

It can be a useful tool to watch and listen to these numerous thoughts on how things might be, or have been. We can learn a lot, so long as we don't use them as a stick to beat ourselves with. If you can keep an eye out for your lurking self-esteem issues, then you can learn new things about yourself and the world by studying them again.

Look out for the complete re-write, though. That's the one you need to avoid. It can have you living a perfect life, with great hair and everything just so, if only you had done this instead of that. Life doesn't work that way, for anyone.

No matter what your logic tells you, once it's done picking over the past: life cannot be held up to the sun and peered at without squinting. If you could see everything clearly, without the squint, you would send yourself insane. What would be the point of living if you knew everything and never made mistakes? What would there be left to learn?

Have the thoughts, first thoughts, second thoughts, third thoughts. Be a little wary by the time you reach the fourth and fifth. Keep an eye on yourself beyond that. Use the inner visualisation to help yourself, not to fill out the jowls of winky old regret.

Become wiser, readers, even if your wisdom only helps you understand yourself. And if you do stray into those other universes, be kind to yourself when you get there.


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Show, don't tell?

The rule in fiction, apparently, is show don't tell. The idea is that rather than explain what your character feels and thinks, you write a storyline which shows the reader these things.

I never quite understood this, as some of the best books I've read have a narration element, where the writer steps outside of the story and speaks directly to the reader. What about Jane Eyre, that staple of ailing TV companies?

Reader, I married him.

Jane, or rather Charlotte Bronte, speaks in the first person, so is allowed to take the extra step and admit that her reader exists with this line. Terry Pratchett does it all the time, as part of his story, in the added footnotes in many of his stories. No one seems to have taken them outside and given them a talking to.

Life is like this, too, I think, which is why most people want fiction to follow. People like to be shown things and like to do things. They don't want the talking to get in the way. Often, the explanations are unnecessary as, in life, you exist and move and do and are probably about to live out the event you'd be talking about.

This is where aspies fall foul, you see. This is the point I'm leading up to (I'm giving you clear narration there, reader, and I'm speaking directly to you).

Aspies would quite like a narration in life. For one thing, it would stop them getting more than half of the blooming thing wrong, and would certainly avoid a lot of those stunned silences and people blinking in surprise. It would also avoid going into massively hasty decisions without your eyes open.

You may still decide you need that high-end computer, with extras, plus the excitement bundle at a one-day-only offer; but if you had a gentle narrator in the background who could explain that the computer is great, but tomorrow you have the rent to pay, then life might be less complicated.

I agree that aspies are pretty bad at listening to advice at times, and other times we listen too much. For an impulse decision, like the computer, we can be extremely, atrociously bad at listening to sensible advice. We wants it now!!

When it comes to what you should do in your emotional or social life, I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend to gather all the advice I can because I have no idea what I'm doing. The end result can be that I do something entirely diffferent from what I should have done and end up more confused than ever.

And anyway, I have to hold my hand up here as being one of those aspies who does already have the inner narration. I know this is true of so many others too. Unfortunately, it is not the narration of an omnipresent narrator who can advise us sagely because they know the whole story. No, it's our own voices, the narration built up from a lifteime of wondering what to do next.

With me, it would be less of the 'Reader, I married him,' than 'Reader, I spent all his money on this fabulous business idea that was bound to succeed, then I lost interest and me and his daughter spent the rest of my money on a weekend at the theme park because I'd forgotten her birthday, so it was only fair, and then I left him because he became really bad tempered and snappy all the time and was making my life miserable.'

It's true of all of us that if we had a kindly author in the background, manufacturing our lives so that we reached a happy conclusion. there would be less bankruptcy and more quiet marriages with country gentlemen. There would also, probably, be more tragedic deaths of surplus cousins, siblings and ailing mothers, or is it that I just read too much 19th century literature?

I still hold to it, though: aspies need the narration. It's no good expecting us to work out, from using our senses, what is going on and what we're supposed to do next. We don't see that straight line between cause and effect, we're too distracted by the noise going on between them to work it out. We need the cause and effect explained, or at least for someone to ask if we get it.

Actually, no, don't ask if we get it either, because we'll say we do. Part of the problem is that we think we do understand and act accordingly, still not linking up cause and effect and only going with what feels right or seems logical at the time. This is part of the reason we find it so difficult to explain afterwards, so many decisions are based on gut instinct at any given time, and are then lost on the wind and forgotten.

If possible, aspies, do remember to ask for a bit of narration. A few words can go a long way. And non-aspies and best beloveds, do remember to offer those few words. Yes, I know you sometimes (or often) get them thrown back at you impatiently - we know what we're doing! - but persevere because it will probably mean less high-end computing and more money for the rent.

As for the showing and not telling, every day, in confused looks, hesitant words, mumbled explanations and quick glances across the room, we aspies show and don't tell you how we're feeling and what we're doing. It's up to you, as the reader, to work it out without needing us to narrate it for you.


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Aspie apocalypse and how it's never our fault

The aspie stands alone, face turned to the setting sun as the walls tumble around him and the lights click out, one by one, along the darkened streets. The world as he knows it has ended and he is left, deserted, in a place no one can call home. He looks around, finally realising what has happened and wonders, How did it come to this?

I'll tell you: it started with a click.

The aspie has had enough of the clicking sound the washing machine makes, so comes to see what can be done about it. The noise only happens when the drum turns. In desperation, after trying a few cycles, he realises the machine is faulty.

Some time later and the machine is empty, with a spanner wedged between the frame and the drum so the aspie can fit his hand down the gap (don't try this at home, children).

The best beloved comes home to find the kitchen floor flooded from the piles of sopping wet washing and the aspie trapped in the machine, with his hand changing colour. He refuses help until he has found the source of the click.

The click turns out to be caused by the toggles on the tracksuit bottoms he likes to wear. As he will only wear tracksuit bottoms, there is always at least one pair in the wash, so it always clicks as the drum goes round. Having been enlightened by a furious best beloved, it is discovered that the hand cannot be released without the aid of the Fire Brigade.

One of best beloved's fantasies comes to life as a bundle of big, burly firemen surge through the door and into the kitchen. Unfortunately, the rest of the fantasy is unfulfilled because there's an angry aspie in the middle of the firemen, denying all responsibility for this predicament because how was he to know the annoying noise was from the washing?

Some small time later and the aspie is free, with advice to call at the hospital and have the pale purple hand checked out by professionals. Big, burly firemen leave, almost followed by best beloved who has had enough and only wanted to come home to a cup of tea and a little bit of the favourite soap on TV.

Instead, they now have to pull the shoes back onto those tired feet that have spent all day working so that the aspie can have a life they can cope with, rather than being out in the world, going mad and attacking little old ladies in shopping queues.

On the way to the car, the best beloved points this out to the aspie, who is still moaning about his hand and the toggles on his trousers. Aspie flounces back to the house, refusing to get in the car with best beloved who should have more patience when a person is in need of medical attention.

Best beloved makes comment that the person will be more in need of medical attention if they don't flipping well shut up about something they brought on themselves and should have had the brains to avoid in the first place.

More arguments ensue, followed by the aspie gesticulating wildly and hurting hand even more on the bannister rail as they try to make a grand exit up the stairs. Screaming follows as aspie believes hand has fallen off, pain is so bad. Best beloved considers pulling the hand off altogether and putting an end to the whole performance, but instead persuades the aspie to sit down and shut up.

Aspie does sit down and shut up and, thereafter, refuses to speak, choosing instead to have a high sulking session over the sore hand, lack of sympathy, the fact that their own trousers are to blame, the other fact that they didn't get to see the fire engine arrive with the lights flashing and the sorrowful state of affairs with best beloved going on about the bad day, as if it is their day that has gone wrong and not the aspie's.

Some time later, best beloved is faced again with the dreadful kitchen, puddles everywhere, all the clothes needing washing again and nothing to wash them in because the firemen had to break the machine to release the aspie's hand.

Silence ensues from best beloved who decides a night away would be the best thing and maybe, you never know, when they return in the morning, the kitchen could be cleaned up by a reluctant, but willing, aspie.

Words are said to this effect, to the monolith on the stairs, who only hears that the best beloved is leaving them and, to add insult to their injury, also wants them to do all the housework in the entire house before tomorrow morning.

Aspie monolith rouses self to speak, to point out that he cannot possibly do all that work, especially with a bad hand and it's probably better if the best beloved stays away, as they obviously don't want to be here.

This, on top of the hand, the firemen, the wet kitchen and the aching feet is too much. Best beloved packs their bags and leaves, hoping the mother won't go on too much about them being back in their old bedroom again.

Aspie, alone on the stairs, with no one to help look after their bad hand, may not actually be standing in the middle of a ruined civilisation, but it will feel like that to them. Those feelings, so rarely seen on the outside, will be roiling like drowning horses within them, to the point that whole worlds collapse within the heart of the deserted aspie.

They will be the sad, doomed hero of their own story, with not an ounce of blame on their shoulders. Well, perhaps they will concede some blame for the broken washing machine, but everything else was caused by the best beloved taking it all completely personally and not making any allowances for the aspie needing special treatment.

Once this period of dramatic sulking is at an end, the aspie will realise their hand really does need medical attention as it seems to have changed colour again. At about 3.30am, faced with riding in an ambulance or bringing down the wrath of their best beloved, they call b.b's mother's house and beg for help.

So, hours after the event, the best beloved forgives, yet again and comes out of bed to collect a contrite, but not vocally apologetic aspie and take them to hospital. The hand is saved (it was only a sprain) and so is the relationship. Complete doom is averted, thanks to the best beloved's ability to come round in the face of all-out provocation and also thanks to the aspie, in the end, for knowing which side their bread is buttered.

Reader, the aspie is not always a misunderstood, wounded animal. They can be the most aggravating creature and can combine real and actual need with absolute selfishness. When things go wrong and they are afraid or upset, the whole world pivots on its axis and begins to revolve around them. They will not, or cannot, see the other point of view at this stage. It is all about them.

When things calm down and they have been left to their own devices, some normality returns and things can be salvaged from the wreckage of either total meltdown, or massive sulk - or both. This salvage operation really does depend on the non-aspie being willing to recover from whatever has gone on in the dramatic stage of the action and to forgive the aspie enough to not want to lock them in a cupboard and poke them with a sharp stick through a special hole in the door.

I can only say, thank you non-aspies, and bless you best beloveds. Gosh, but we can be pustulous, ungrateful creatures, ready to get ourselves into trouble without a second thought, then willing to blame others for us being there, even when they're trying to pull us back out.

I would like to offer some rational, kind reason why we behave like this. I can say that all the usuals apply, like stress, confusion and dangerous curiosity, but really, when things like this happen I think it's a sign that the aspie needs to remember they are responsible for their own destiny and that best beloveds do not grow on trees.

It also serves as a reminder to best beloveds not to take everything the aspie throws at them. Sometimes you need to throw it back, or at least soak it in onion juice and hide it under their pillow to teach them a lesson.

Relationships are based on give and take, but it has to be from both sides. When the drama happens, as it inevitably will, count to ten, leave the house, eat chocolate, visit your mother and come back without doing anything rash in the meantime.

And aspies, dear aspies, please do sometimes consider the consequences of the proverbial hand in the washing machine drum. There won't always be a team of big, burly firemen to help you out of it. And next time, your best beloved may not come back from their mother's.


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Logic and the aspie point of view

I want to talk about aspergers and logic, or how aspies use facts to explain life and also to explain themselves.

Super-logic could describe what happens when you try to argue with a calm aspie. When an aspie is calm and in possession of the facts, there is no point in even opening your mouth. It won't matter what you say, you will be proved wrong.

I say this in all humility, believe it or not. I'm just being logical. I know that it's often me who gets worked up, takes things the wrong way and seems to provoke confrontations in the most unexpected situations. I just mean that when I'm actually right about something, it's no good you going and getting upset about it.

I've had many conversations with people who expect to come out as being right. They are used to me being a dithery, confused-face who will pause in the middle of a conversation while I play it back to see what was said. Yes, I admit it, I can often be an infuriating person to talk to as I forget what you've said, almost always forget what I've said too and then can't remember what we were talking about.

How incensing it must be, then, to have an argument with me and suddenly find my brain has tripped some kind of robot-overlord switch where I know all the facts and can disprove your point of view again and again.

Oh dear, the times this has happened and a nice conversation has turned bitter. You see, as aspies, we're used to being wrong about things and usually take it with good grace (unlike some non-aspies, I may say). We're used to giving the little smile, or the shrug and apologising.

When we know what we're talking about, though, there's no stopping us. Similar to the obsessions that carry us along, knowledge, once stored, is there forever and if we access it at the right time and place, we then access the whole of it. And we know it's true.

So in an argument (and it always becomes an argument), don't try to get us to back down if we know something. We read it, we heard it, we watched it, we stored it and now we're telling you about it. Whatever it is, it probably disproves the thing you were talking about. Your point of view is irrelevant because it came up against the solid wall of the Known Fact.

At this point, the aspie can be at their most annoying. Yes, even more annoying than when they ignore you, or make that weird sound on the escalator. Aspies when they're being eccentric or zoned out are bad enough: aspies who are being in the right are unbearable. Truly awful.

Sometimes, when I'm in the middle of proving whatever point it is, I catch sight of the whole situation from the outside. One of those rare moments of insight sneak up on me and I'm able to see it all as if I'm watching it.

If this happens, I can see that I'm being obnoxious. I can see the other person is inflamed and probably upset. I can understand how I look and sound, this monolith of logic, repeating the right facts, carrying on regardless.

You know what? The pull of logic is so strong that even when I have these moments of insight and realise I'm acting like a giant, phlegmy boil on the backside of humanity, even then I still say to myself, 'It can't be helped, I'm right.'

It sounds horrible, doesn't it? I've made myself and other aspies sound as if we couldn't care less that you feel so upset you don't know whether to cry or start throwing Grandma's crockery. It's not like that, though. Honest.

You see, things are what they are. Some things, lots of things, are confusing and unknowable. Other things are transitory pieces of knowledge, kept for a little while then set free. There are so many things to know and learn, we just can't keep track of them all.

But, if we grasp a hold of something and do keep it, then it's ours. We know it, we know it so much that we can feel it. It belongs to us and becomes part of us! The triumph of the gold-coloured Fact, the wonderful shine, the lustre, the feeling that here, right in our hand, we have something that we are certain is correct.

So, if that Fact comes up later, perhaps years later, in a conversation, we whip it out so that it can shine in the sunlight. We know it, we share it with you. If it doesn't fit what you know, then that's a shame because we know it's true, which is why we told you about it.

If you are determined to carry on the conversation as if our lustrous Fact didn't matter, then what else are we to do but draw your attention to it again? After all, it's important, because it's true. If you had listened properly, then you would know by now. We'll tell you again.

Why you might get worked up or upset is one of those little mysteries. As I said, we also get upset over things but are used to being wrong, so perhaps it's less of a trial to us. Now that we are right, there's no need to be upset. Just listen and you'll find out what we mean.

This can go on indefinitely, Readers. I know that most of you will walk away or scream first, then walk away. Mostly, these arguments won't get as far as Grandma's crockery. Sometimes they will. They can become those silly rows that end up in life-changing drama.

The trouble is, an aspie in the right, with the Facts to hand, is an immovable object. They have the Facts, you do not. They present you with the Facts, you ignore them. Repeat as necessary.

The carelessness with feelings which seems to accompany this ritual is not really intentional. It seems to be a by-product of firmly, stoically, repeating what you know in the middle of an illogical conversation. The conversation is illogical because it is failing to recognise the aspie's Fact as truth. And so on.

The aspie themselves may also get upset but that won't make the Fact any less true. The aspie might be the one to leave, to do the dramatic flounce out of the room, door whallopped against the wall, picture tumbling to the ground, feet on the stairs as the sound of a distant crash hails the meeting of temper and book shelf.

None of that matters, either. If the conversation is revisited, as a way of soothing and reintroducing peace, the Fact will still be true and had better be avoided.

Now, look at all that again and imagine how this plays out if the Fact isn't true. What happens then? What if the aspie is wrong or the Fact is old news, out of date and reinvented since learned?

That's the tricky part because if the aspie knew this, they'd back down. But it's no good just telling them and expecting it all to be over. Like all the other information that didn't make the transition into shining Fact, your new fact is small and easily lost. It isn't to be trusted, not like the one the aspie knows.

You can only replace the original knowledge in another time and place, by coming at it from a different angle. Is it important that the truth be known? If it is, then try and do it gently and with subtlety. If it isn't important, it's up to you whether you shy away or bring it up again.

Logic is such a funny thing. It can give aspies strength as it doesn't rely on feelings, expressions, learned behaviour, accepted humour or any of the facets of a troubling world. Logic is of itself, a clearly-defined creature with limitations you can spell out.

As such, Logic is smooth, stress-free, like a cool breeze on a hot day. You can turn your face into it and smile, knowing there won't be any rough edges or surprise corners to make you think again. Logic is a friend who can be trusted.

It appeals to the obsessive side of the aspie to believe in Logic, because if something is so utterly trustworthy, then it can be controlled. It's only the unpredictable side of life you have to watch out for.

In an argument, if Logic, in the shape of known facts, is under attack, then so is the aspie's feeling of control and safety. We know this Fact is true, truth is safety. You say it isn't true, but I won't back down. You can't take my safety away from me without a fight!

This isn't the thought process, but it is the feeling that comes with it.

Logic in the aspie world can be likened to the characters in the Wizard of Oz. No, I'm not suggesting we all trip off down the yellow brick road. That would be silly. It would mean leaving the computer, not having access to a kettle and biscuits and also seems to require linking arms with strangers, dancing in public and raising your voice high enough to be heard when you sing.

What does Logic have to do with this strange reflection of reality, in Dorothy's trip to Oz? Well, at the end of the story, Dorothy and her friends learn that what they thought they knew was always wrong. The Scarecrow could  be clever, the Lion could be brave, the Woodsman had a heart and Dorothy always had the power to go home.

Would they have agreed with that at the start of the film? No. Did it mean they were stupid or wrong to set off on their journey, in full and certain belief that they could reach their destination? No, of course not, because without the journey they would never have discovered the real truth.

Every aspie, even the ones with unassailable Facts, is travelling that same journey. We think we move along this way, for that purpose. What we are really doing is running through life, trying to learn enough along the way to do what needs to be done. We want to be bigger, better people, with more knowledge, a better understanding of others and the courage to keep facing the world.

We want to be able to find our way home and are always looking to other people to show us the answer to this and our other questions.

Aspies, like everyone, have the answers already inside them. It's logical to look outside and think we can learn the Facts there and there alone. What we aspies have to do, and what you best-beloveds must help us to do, is to look within and trust ourselves enough so that we don't need logic all the time.

It doesn't have to make sense to be true. It doesn't have to be logical to feel right. The facts aren't always what they seem, because they cannot stand alone, they must measure up to the world around them.

As aspies, we must learn to yield ourselves to fortune and other people. Yes, I'm saying we need to learn how to link arms with strangers and dance in public. Not literally, perhaps, but the need to connect is what saves us from the kind of rigid thinking that makes logic the king of every conversation.

For even aspies like me, who have random tattooed on their hard drives, are also slaves to logic. I believe, so many times, that I must do this to get that. I believe that life follows a pattern and if I learn the pattern then I'll know about life.

Through writing this blog and re-discovering the many ways my brain and heart can work together, I see there are more paths to knowledge than the one I follow. I need to make my own way, trust instincts before facts, be my own person first and a traveller second.

Readers, I hope you can join me and my fellow aspies as we learn that logic, knowledge, facts aren't always the answer. Be there to pick up the pieces when we learn we got it wrong. It can be terrible when logic fails you, when you feel deserted by a reliable friend.

Try not to notice that we got it wrong and just help us get started again. Pick up those apples, put them back in the basket and off we go again. It'll be all right, if only you are there too.


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Stop playing and just grow up!

I've heard it said a lot that people with aspergers are immature, or lack a full awareness of social rules and behaviours - which is just another way of saying we're immature. Like a child, in other words.

No one comes out and calls you a child, at least not in official literature. I have often been called childish by my nearest and dearest and possibly people have thought it without saying anything. No, we are immature. Big difference eh?

Immature is worse, in a way, than being called childish. If you are being childish, it infers it's a temporary state, rather like a tantrum. When you have quite finished acting like a child, then you can get up off that floor and pick up after yourself! So, being childish is moving from the norm, into the childish behaviour, then back again.

This one is pretty apt for those among us who can pretend to be normal in the first place, moseying along, being like everyone else (some hope) and appearing to cope and behave like a real person. Then it all gets too much, we crack under pressure, and like a wobbly dam, that one crack leads to a great explosion of feelings, all in one go. Small villages, family dogs, the loal hero, all drowned in one enormous, unexpected outburst.

So, perhaps, if I'm being kind (I'm not really feeling kind today), I could say I understand why others might see our outbursts, or the times we give in to impulse, as a childish aberration. When we have finished, we should be back to normal and we can forget it ever happened.

As for being immature, that does seem to live a longer life in medical circles. When an aspie is growing up, they very often are immature for their years. I mean, isn't it enough that we have to learn all the ways of the world in a few short years without also being expected to plow out into that world, carving our own furrow at the same time? No wonder we seem to hold back and linger on the edges of childhood.

When you're an adult aspie, being called immature is simply the same as being called childish, because it is usually an insult thrown out by the same people who would call you childish anyway. If it's used in another context, then you're likely to find it in medical situations, as an official way of explaining why this walking, talking, potential-filled adult sitting in the room cannot keep a job, manage their finances or seems to develop a tick if the doctor's receptionist talks at them for too long.

Being immature to a doctor is a milder term and one I can live with, if it helps them understand that my social functions are not fully formed, that I, as a person, am not made in the same way as others. Frankly, doctors can call me what they like, so long as they have a willingness to listen and understand and help. I know it's easy to take offence at the terminology of the medical profession, but just like aspies, they need a way to express themselves, so we shouldn't be too unkind to them.

No, what pokes my goat about being called immature, even in a medical sense, is not any intended or unintentional insult: it's the implication that it can be outgrown.

I know it isn't meant in this way; when used as a term relating to aspergers, it's just a descriptive tool. But immature, that's what you are before you're mature. You know? It's not complicated. First you grow, then when you've finished growing, you're fully grown. Right?

Except, aspies are often immature, which suggests they haven't finished growing or are stunted. Good grief, thinking of the word stunted has really improved my mood right now!

Yes, we are immature (and possibly stunted) when it comes to the ways of the world. Our brains didn't make it all the way to knowing when the axe is going to fall by body language or vocal tone alone. We are immature when it comes to understanding what behaviour to use in which situations. Apparently, we are stunted when it comes to our social level in this massive, heaving, brooding world.

Thanks. The more I think about it, the more I feel it's a compliment. If being immature means I use words and obvious actions to convey my meaning, rather than clicky little changes in body language or moody changes in tones of voice, then I'll stick with that. You can be certain that when I've finished speaking, everyone knows what I mean.

Also, if it means not pushing myself out into the world before I'm ready, then so be it. There are far too many people being pushed out into the world as it is. It's kind of crowded out there. Let them fight it out amongst themselves, I'll stay here, in this place on the edges, with the other aspies, watching the mass fight for position while we move around one another, respecting personal space and understanding when someone needs to be alone.

Yes, readers, I'll come out and say it. In terms of this world, the people in it and any medics who need to know, I am stunted and proud! I will stand here, with my little, half-grown self and hold the flag as high as I can for anyone else who has ever been told to grow up and get over it.

I'll poke them in the eye for you too, if I can reach, or kick them in the knees if I can't. Aspies, if you want to, stay in your rooms, or do a bit more gnashing of teeth on the floor. I'll stand guard until you're finished and then we can go and have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit and maybe a quick battle on the Wii.

So, beware, non-aspies. Childish and immature, we may be, but we have many years of practice in surviving the insults of our modern age. You don't want us to edge further along the road to being mature and grown up. If you combined out aspie talents with also being a fully-functional adult, then the world would be ours for the taking. And with our boundary issues, we'd know how to share it too.

Be thankful that we got to where we are: here, with you and me and a view of the world that differs just a little from yours. That's all it is. Not everything in life can be measured in the same way. Is it really immature to see the sun fall first on the leaf and then on your face?


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