The Emotional Pendulum


Or, to put it more bluntly - aspies are moody.

Seriously moody. I mean, I can say that from the place of experience. I am an aspe, I live with an aspie, I've worked with aspies and, if the magic diagnostic thingamajig could go backwards in time, half of one side of my family would be aspies too.

Let me be more polite, though, for sensitive aspies and their delicate best beloveds. We'll say that aspies have an emotional pendulum. It can sway from one extreme to the other in what seems like a heartbeat and the aspie goes with it, clinging grimly to this pendulum, trusting it with everything, as Life flashes past in startling Technicolor.

The emotional pendulum is not like one on a grandfather clock - it doesn't have to choose between still and in regular motion, though it does often need an experienced hand to set it off in the right time again. It can splutter and falter in mid-swing, holding the aspie at a curious angle, unable to let go but terrified of the view.

It can stop in the middle, with emotions in a calm place. This seems good, I like this one. If I wasn't feeling so blooming calm, I would say I love this one. I like the way it feels not to be swinging from side to side, to be able to stand steady and look at the view without feeling I'm falling off a cliff.

Readers, when the pendulum stops in the middle and leaves me feeling flat and stable, I find it so restful.  I admit, everything is also kind of muted, as if I'm wearing special glasses, but I think I might prefer that too, to the alternative.

All too soon, though, it starts swinging again, set off by anything or nothing or simply the need for the human mind not to stagnate. Before very long, I'm clinging on, trying to close my eyes to the images flashing past as I wonder if I'll ever, ever get the hang of this to-ing and fro-ing.

I've met some people, non-aspies, who are nearly always calm. I've felt like studying them, which would possibly require a locked room and inadvisable methods. But I've been friends with some and they fascinate me. They've had trauma in their lives and moments of intense joy, yet they still have this calm exterior.

For a long time, I just assumed they didn't feel things the same way (the arrogance of youth!), then as time passed and I became more wise, I could see the truth behind their eyes, or hidden away in their words. I learned the value of emotional subtext and the important lesson that people don't reveal everything in the way they speak or act.

I gradually learned the amazing, terrible truth - some people can live their lives in a state of near-calm (at least compared to my own state) and this near-calm is their normal operating function! I mean, really? To learn there was such a thing was bad enough but to find out people can live like that is just mind-blowing.

Imagine, readers, not waking up, wondering what mood you'll be in today and whether your emotions will get you into high jinks again. Just imagine waking up and only thinking about what you have to do and it never occurring to you that you might not feel up to it, or you might throw a wobbly at the wrong moment. Imagine your emotions being your friends!

This was an epiphany for me and shaped the way I viewed myself as well as my relationships. The people I have most in mind are old neighbours of mine, a calm, happy, contented couple who would have belonged in a Dickens novel as the kindly friends who show the young hero how stable and happy life can be. Dickens liked calm and stable people, no matter how many grotesques he created. The good people could be eccentric, but the truly good were often serene, showing how they had achieved this state of goodness by not indulging in the diabolical deeds which others enjoyed.

My old neighbours showed me a different way of being happy, one which I always wished for myself. I wanted to be like them. I wanted what others might perceive as the 'boring' life of just being together, at the end of each day, in quiet conversation. I didn't realise at first, but what I really wanted was the gentle contentment.

To anyone who thinks high passion and grand gestures make a life more worthwhile, try having high passion and making grand gestures throughout your life, at the moments when a bit of steady thinking and a calm hand might have saved you a lot of trouble. It's all very well wanting excitement and drama, but in real life, especially the aspie life, these things come not when you want them but when they feel like coming.

More years down the line and my old neighbours further into the past, I've learned something else about myself. I'm too restless to be contented. This was a major disappointment but being truthful to yourself is very important so I've faced it head on. Much as I'd like to mimic my old neighbours, I'm not sure I could.

I can't even sit with a cat on my knee without having at least one other thing to do. I can't just be content with me and Custard, resting on the sofa. I have to turn on the TV and have the laptop suspended on the sofa arm at the same time. Then I can enjoy the cat on my knee. The only time I'm content doing just one thing is when I'm ill (the cats love it then).

It's in my nature, and in the nature of many an aspie, to be buzzing, mentally at least. Physically, that all depends on the individual aspie, but mentally, how many of us can just zone out? Properly, no cheating, no sidetracking, no listening for the slightest excuse to set off the brain again?

That's where the middle of the pendulum comes in. When it does stop, in the greyed-out area where everything is muted, I can relish it in a quiet way because the drama is off to the sides of me and not where I am. I can appreciate this quietness, drab as it may be, because the alternative is high emotion (or low emotion) of one kind or another. Even those times when I don't think I'm feeling high emotion and am just feeling anxious, that's also an emotional reaction caused by the almost-constant swing of the pendulum.

So, readers, when it does stop, I stop with it. Did you know, the pendulum stopping almost feels like I've climbed off it for a while. I haven't but I can kid myself that I have. For some time, I can draw in a deep breath and look out over the bleak landscape, enjoying the absence of vivid colour and activity. I can enjoy the slow, peaceful movement of grey clouds in the sky and feel the chill in the air, the clean, crisp scent of winter.

Sooner or later, the pendulum swings again and I go with it, not only clinging to it but also to my memories of the calmer times, when things become simple and muted. Closing my eyes for a second, I see the barren lands, then open them again and face the rush of life once more.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
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Behind the masks - are people really as they seem?


For as long as I can remember, I've hated masks. This could be because of watching Dr Who from a very early age. Masks and disguises counted for a lot in those early Dr Who episodes, as the BBC budget never stretched far and they needed to show the alien's differences. Usually, this difference was a threat, rather than a simple non-humanoid form. Behind the mask, or behind the differently-shaped face, was a monster. We all knew it, often well before the Doctor and his companion did. These aliens didn't need to be in a Dalek outer-shell to be ravenous beasts or evil super-villains.
Masks didn't have to be physical structures hiding the face either. They could be heavy make-up, meant to show different alien skin tones and features. Or they could be more subtle, the disguise of the person who is not who they are meant to be. And this is where it gets really scary.
For anyone who has watched Dr Who must agree with me here: for all the terrifying aliens and creatures that have graced our screens, one of the most deplorable, heartless, merciless, unsettling and revisited is The Master.
He may not have spiky fingers, green skin, a metal suit or a need to eat humans for supper, but he is more dangerous than these roving aliens because he always has a different agenda, a new reason to cause harm and he does it often because he can, not for a greater purpose.
What is more terrifying to a viewer, especially an aspie viewer, than someone who looks human and behaves like one but then is more evil and uncaring than many of the alien baddies? What does this tell the child watching the show?
It tells them that masks are not always visible, that people can be hiding behind a mask, even if you can see every bit of their face. That the greatest harm can be done by people you would pass in the street, without a second glance.
And the reason this idea is so frightening to children is because it makes us feel helpless. How can we know when danger is coming if we can't tell it apart from everything else? How are we meant to be able to see the tell-tale signs of a dark heart when the face looking back at us is as ordinary as our own?
In everyday life, we don't often meet people as evil as The Master, or anywhere close. Thankfully, we normally come across people whose worst trait is telling little white lies or being too impatient or not caring about the answer when they ask how you are. Aspies are used to people like this.
Then there are the ones who may do you harm, on a smallish scale. The gossip-mongers who sully your name, whether they have any ammunition or not. The ones who put in a bad word for you and diminish or destroy your opportunities. These people do you no good, and can make life very difficult indeed, but they're not waiting behind the sofa with the woodsman's axe.
The dangerous ones, the real bogeymen, we can do little about. The in-betweeners, the ones who smile to your face and immediately hurry off to do you harm, they are also outside our power to change. And the ones who just don't get us, or who snap when we don't get them, well, people are just people.
So why, given all the above, should masks, visible or invisible, be such a big deal still? If we can't do anything about them or the people who behave as if they live behind a false face, why should we worry?
Can we count the number of times our loved ones have said to us: take no notice, ignore them, put it out of your mind, don't let it get you down, don't be obsessive about it, why are you still thinking about that? And so on and so on.
Yes, we aspies are the ones who still, despite everything, don't expect people to wear masks. We don't expect them to behave differently to how they said they would, even when experience has taught us they might. We are still willing to trust that when someone says a thing, they will do a thing.
If we stop trusting someone, however, that trust is usually gone forever. We are not bearing useless grudges or clinging on to the past. Without a good reason for someone being false, we will often never trust them again. It's just the way it is. Our instincts, to take everyone at face value, have been beaten down by what people do, so if someone does lose our trust, they've had to do quite a lot to lose it in the first place. And, logically, they'll have to do even more to win it back. We have learned they cannot be trusted and once we learn something, it stays where we put it.
So, the mask idea is very, very important because to aspies, anyone who wears a mask is inherently untrustworthy. If we discover they're not who we thought they were, what's to stop them showing their other side again, in the future? Why should we risk going near them and being hurt again?
We also show a different face to the world than the one we hide inside. We've had to be what people expect us to be, so if someone behaves oddly or out of character and they have a reason for it, we can understand that. We can fathom certain reasons for not being who they say they are, if we've experienced those reasons for ourselves.
If someone is living behind the mask just because that's who they are, then we're going to have a full-on problem with that. They may not be a sci-fi super villain, or even a bad person, but they are not who they pretend to be; they are someone else and we don't know that other person, so how can we trust them?
Lack of trust inspires anxiety and fear, so not understanding why people behave the way they do, that inspires anxiety and fear too. And there we have it, turning a full circle: masks mean fear.
Readers, I'm not saying that we should be brutally honest all the time. I do believe that society has to have some oil to smooth the motions. If we were all like three year olds, shouting the truth no matter what, life could be quite trying. I really do understand that society as a whole, and individual people, need an element of privacy and mystery to function.
Whether that excuses the masks people wear is another matter. Perhaps to them and other non-aspies, they're just the same as I am when I'm trying to behave normally. Perhaps it's all a matter of degree and I've misjudged them.
I just feel that instincts are a powerful thing and, when understanding people and situations can be so tricky, as aspies we do learn to follow our instincts at times when other people would simply be talking about the weather.
This means that, if my instincts kick in and tell me someone is hiding their true nature, my first impulse is to vacate the scene, be it emotionally or physically. I'm naturally wary of anyone whose features can falter as their mask slips. Do I trust they have a good reason to be someone else, behind the mask? Or do I move on and keep myself safe?
I guess it all comes down to whether we see masks as a natural part of being human or not. If we don't, if we see them as a way to deceive the unwary, then the only natural part about masks is my need to stay right away from them!

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
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Aspies in Space


If aspies were in charge of a space ship, going on a super-important mission that meant life or death to everyone back on Earth, what do you think would happen? The fate of mankind hangs in the balance and the aspies have been chosen because, for whatever reason, they are immune to the catastrophe that has befallen the rest of the human race. Only we can save mankind, etc.

It would probably start well, with lots of good intentions and checklists. Aspies are often highly intelligent and the geekier ones would love the whole idea of living out the sci-fi dream. Yes, at last, we get to traverse the stars and meet robot overlords face to face. Finally!

Then the arguments would start about whose turn it was to press the trash-chute button. I can guarantee that something like this would be the first sign of instability. It would be nothing major. A small thing, the smell of uncompacted bananas mouldering behind the corridor wall would be enough to set it off.

Aspie Glen in sector 2 would deny it was his turn to press the button but Aspie Boot from sector 9 would have the job list to prove it was Glen's turn. Aspie Derek from sector 5, who had always wanted to look after the trash button, would wade in and make things worse by letting his latent jealousy get the better of him.

Aspie Susan from sector 1 would find a small tussle had broken out next to the trash button, with Glen repeatedly pressing the button to prove he was fine with doing it while Derek fought to reach the button and Boot did all he could to stop him reaching it, because it wasn't his job and it wasn't on the list.

Being the calming influence she is, Susan will immediately tell Glen he has now broken the button and they will all have to manually compact the trash, which involves a small bucket and a hand held macerator. Glen will start crying and go to his room.

Boot will have decided by now that the whole thing was Derek's fault and they won't speak for the next four years, until the time Boot finally discovers that Derek has the last surviving copy of Dungeon Keeper, as well as the appropriate cosplay gear.

Susan, content she has scared the living daylights out of them, will re-set the trash button and get rid of the smell of rotten banana. She will then forget to go back and finish what she was doing and the whole mission will fail because of it, leaving the Earth to whatever fate awaited it and meaning that the human race now consists of a space ship full of aspies, most of whom don't actually like each other and at least half of whom would prefer to mate with robot overlords anyway.

Yes, when it comes to saving the world and/or the universe, aspies will have the right idea but, for the most part, the wrong personality-type to get it done. For all that so many of us love things like Star Trek, you never found Captain Kirk obsessing over his RPG holographic unit - he only ever wanted the real-life experiences and very often got them.

Mr Spock, perhaps the one people may think of as a latent aspie with his coolness of demeanor and difficulty with emotions, was actually a highly efficient officer, always able to save the day and a counter-point to Kirk's unashamed lechery. Spock was just cool, people, he wasn't an aspie. He had control of his emotions, he wasn't repressed.

If Mr Scott had been the aspie, there would never have been anyone to refuse to push the engines a little harder or to hand out the malt whisky. He would have given in and pushed the engines too hard, the ship would have exploded or broken and he would be permanently drunk, as a reaction to the stresses of life.

The true aspie in the equation was always Dr McCoy. He hated the transporters, even though he knew how they worked and why they wouldn't vaporise him. He was argumentative and fond of telling people what he would and wouldn't do. He was always speaking inappropriately to Spock, pointing out his physical and emotional attributes. And given any encouragement at all, he fell in love (without the lechery) and then, usually, the lady in question would die or turn into a monster.

So, you see, to be successful the space ship has to have non-aspies in abundance, with only one aspie to spice things up. Isn't that right? Isn't life like that?

To function, do we need more non-aspies than aspies? Do we need aspies to be in safe places, away from buttons that operate more than the trash? (Does anyone else know they would push a big red button, no matter what it did, if they had to stand near it for long enough?)

I would like to say that aspies could save the world on the illustrious space ship. I would love to promise you that we wouldn't be petty enough to make the mission fail because we fell out over little disagreements. I would also like to attest that a mass gathering of aspies, forced to live together, would not fall into anarchy. Actually, no, I can definitely attest to that one as anarchy requires a sustained level of action and rising up against something. Come on, we're not going to manage that one.

I think, given the right support, we'd be pretty happy on the space ship, though. So long as we didn't hold the fate of the world in our hands and didn't always have fights over the trash buttons. Imagine, floating through the stars, surrounded by technology and only the quiet peace of computers doing all the organised, methodical, attention-to-detail stuff on our behalf.

Perhaps, if the human race was reduced to a ship full of aspies, we could make a decent go of it. There would be hiccups along the way, but with the right checks and balances and no enormous red buttons linked to self-destruct mechanisms, we would probably be okay.

Also, we would always, always be ready to believe the impossible and so would never be surprised by what space threw at us. Sentient goo? Naturally. Brains as big as planets? Why not? A peaceable race of aliens that wants to be our friends and invites us onto their planet?

Are you kidding? We'd never fall for that one!

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

The socially awkward aspie



Okay, why not just say that most aspies are shy? And that the ones who aren't are the exception/ Would it be truer than saying aspies are socially awkward?

I'm not convinced. I am shy, I always have been, but plenty of people are shy without being on the spectrum. My son, when he was young, was the opposite of shy. Sometimes, I would have preferred him to be a bit shy and less likely to burst into groups of people, ready to make friends, no matter what.

Is it truer then, to say aspies are socially awkward rather than simply shy? NO, it isn't. Let me be firm about this: being socially awkward is totally different from being shy or from being too extroverted. I can prove it.

Let's see. If you're shy, you don't feel comfortable making new friends as you worry how they will behave and you don't know what to say. But once you've made friends, you're not shy anymore because you feel comfortable now and don't need to worry as much.

If you're socially awkward, you can still make friends but that won't stop you behaving inappropriately or oddly the next time you see them. You may be friends, but you'll still ask them why they had such a bad hair cut or you'll get distracted and peel the stickers off their brand new bag.

As aspies, we often hit the jackpot in social relationships because we're usually socially awkward to begin with, then shy on top of that. Imagine it, readers, not only do we have the talent to offend without trying, we can also do it at the same time as dying a thousand deaths because we have to speak in public! How extraordinarily interesting we are!

As for the extroverted aspie, it seems that being socially awkward is even more exciting for them than the shy aspie. At least the shy aspie has some chance of not showing themselves up as mostly they daren't speak or interact anyway, so they don't have the opportunity. The extrovert, though, has ample opportunity and makes great use of it.

As I've said, when my son was small, he loved to make friends. If he was going somewhere for the first time, he had a habit of entering the room, his top half hunkered down, arms swinging and gorilla noises coming out of him. It was an easy way for everyone in the room to see him at the same time. He would then straighten up, laugh and run into the group, usually tickling people on their faces as he passed.

I have to admit, this unconventional method made him plenty of friends. Little boys love this kind of thing and it was a shortcut to helping him find out quickly which children would be friends with him. Also, it made it easier for me, his ultra-shy mother, to enter the room with him as all eyes were on him instead of me.

As an adult extrovert, most aspies don't subscribe to the animal impressions or face tickling. Perhaps this is a mistake as it would probably still work as a way to quickly sort friend from foe. Extroverts have their outgoing personalities on show and, logically, they also show their awkwardness too. If someone doesn't mind who they speak to and isn't always worrying about what they say, then it soon becomes apparent if they start to do or say things outside the norm.

There is a man who works as a salesman in a shop near here. He's extremely sociable and it would never occur to him not to speak or make conversation with customers. They probably have to lock him in the back room when it comes time for his break. He's a very good salesman, if you don't mind the wall of friendliness that descends on you when he approaches.

I'm not too happy with personal-space invaders, but I must admit I knew of him at school and his personality has always burst into a room ahead of him. I was in the shop one day when he wanted to help a very cultured looking middle-aged lady. He bellowed across the shop at her, to ask if he could help. She flinched and told him she wanted to make a payment for something.

He rushed to the other end of the counter, where the card machine was and patted it hard, saying to her, 'Come on! Come over here then!', for all the world like she was the family dog at tea-time. She blinked at him, her eyes bright with shock and her face rigid. Then, because he has the sort of personality you don't ignore, she went and she paid.

It would never have occurred to him that she might be offended by his approach. He had no intention of upsetting her and only wanted to help, but on the surface he appeared loud and brash. She probably came away wondering why she hadn't spoken up to him.

I use this man as an example of how an extroverted personality can still be socially awkward - as well as unaware of the fact. It's a happier state than the perennially fretful shy aspie, who always wants to do things right but is hampered from doing anything at all.

The trouble with aspies, shy or extrovert, is that they have the full potential to do the wrong thing, in word or deed, but only some ability to recognise when they have done it. It's no wonder that worry becomes so familiar! Imagine not knowing when you've done or said the wrong thing, even when someone has pointed it out to you? It's like learning new rules, except the rules are always changing so you can never keep up.

And that's what it's like: constantly changing rules. To a non-aspie, the rules of social behaviour are learned and then become obvious, so that if they do end up making a mistake, they know what it was. To an aspie, each occasion is different and can only be viewed from what we have learned so far. We can hope that the situation is similar enough to a past one so that we know what to do and say, but then if things change or we get confused, the past situation no longer seems relevant and we're on our own again.

Rules learned once are stored, as much as possible. It's just tricky fitting the rules in our heads to the life being lived in front of us. It's like playing snap with a lightning-quick ten year old - you know you're never, ever going to win but you have to play.

It's impossible to match up the rules with the situation quickly enough to make them work. Half the time, it's guess-work. If the situation is simple or very familiar, then it should be fine. If it's an unfamiliar situation or it seems stressful, then we can't always remember the right rules, at least not in time for them to be useful.

This goes some way to explaining why quite a few aspies are very well-mannered. It's been said that aspies can seem old-fashioned in their manners. That's because manners can be learned, the rules are pretty simple. When someone does something for you, you thank them. When they thank you for something, you say 'you're welcome'. When you want something, you say please.

If you appreciate how aspies can learn these rules, then you see why we stick to them so closely. We know we can do these ones, we have these down. It falls apart slightly if we have to thank you for something we didn't want, as a thwarted alligator would be more genuine, but we still say it.

I use the same approach to help me through social situations that are more demanding. Always have manners, you see, as they help enormously. So, at the checkout or when meeting new people (yikes!), I can make small talk because it's polite to do that. I sometimes struggle for a subject, as my brain likes to slot in inappropriate conversation-starters, but if I can keep an eye on that tendency, then it's pretty easy to chat.

I've seen people look surprised when I talk to them. I think it's because, before I opened my mouth, I probably looked quite severe and serious - intimidating, even. They didn't know that the reason for my expression was the concentration it took for me to have a run at speaking to them and also, the thought involved in everyday living.

What I do like is that people respond when you chat. These days, it's not that common for strangers to have little conversations and people usually enjoy it if it happens. I also come away with a new sense of accomplishment because I've spoken to someone I didn't know and made them smile. It helps the day go well and it also helps to remember these times when the day goes down the drain, along with the house key.

There's no solution to being socially awkward, except for learning rules that help, rather than trying to learn rules for every situation. We have to accept that we're never going to fit perfectly into general society - there's always going to be a slight squeezing sound as we struggle to slip through the gaps in the fence while everybody else uses the gate.

Now, years after realising I didn't quite fit, I take heart from the fact that there are many other people who don't fit either, and some of them are my brightest and best friends. It doesn't matter if we get it wrong, we just have to move on and try not to dwell on the temporary mortification of the moment.

We can be different and also social, even the shyest of us. All it takes is practice and a belief that there will always be people who are willing to open themselves up to us and be our friends, even if we never meet them again.

To corner-hiders and face-ticklers everywhere, thank you for reading my blog and please visit again!

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

We all have to live in the real world


Don't we? Do we? Well, unless we have a very undemanding sugar daddy or rich parents, then yes, we do have to live in the real world. It all comes down to money and, whether you go out to work or are on benefits, there are things you must do to afford life itself.

I genuinely think if money wasn't an issue, then lots of aspies would be a lot happier. Imagine them, roaming the fields and glens, at large, free range aspies, their happy little faces beaming under a soft sun. No money to earn, no bills to keep an eye on, no constant worry that they've forgotten to pay the rent. Yes, I like the idea of aspies roaming free and easy. Their groups would never be big, if they came together at all. You would just see them, keeping a safe distance from one another, respecting personal space and daydreaming their way through life.

Still, we'd get bored soon enough. No, honestly, we would. The same applies for those aspies who are quite happy free ranging at home, in front of the computer. If you had absolutely no calls on your time and were expected to veg out, you would be bored.

Except, there's the secret, readers. Aspies, despite appearances, very rarely do nothing. Rather like my manic collies, even at rest the brain is active. The aspie may seem serene or lazy, depending on your point of view, but they are a-buzz with activity on the inside. So, given the chance to be free range, without responsibilities, I think we'd get along very nicely, thank you.

Here's the rub, though. If we could live life following our own interests, boredom would be a thing of the past, something experienced when we had to work for a living. We would be pursuing our favourite thing of the moment, or our long-standing obsession. We would be content.

There would be none of the stress of day to day living. None of the routines we have to impose to get ourselves out of the door, dressed and in one piece. None of those moments when you shock yourself, suddenly feeling you're meant to be somewhere else doing something important. No need to call people, or text them, to check whether you have forgotten. No worries about turning up at the wrong place and being embarrassed because everyone but you knew about it.

In the real world, though, we often need to do all these things just to make a living. Usually, we don't have anyone to pay the bills. And if we did, it would be a rare person indeed who didn't come to resent the aspie for not doing anything productive while they had their bills paid. Lots of aspie endeavours involve much thought and sitting down - it's just the way it is - and to the non-aspie mind, thinking and sitting down do not constitute a valuable use of our time.

So, yes, let's assume we all have to live in the real world. We have to earn money or be given money to survive. We have to learn the fundamentals of survival in a world that needs cash or card to function.

Just suppose, though, if this wasn't so. I don't mean with the replacement stress of someone paying for everything, then breathing down your neck to see what you do with your time. And I don't mean those times when you might have to live off benefits, as that can be far more stressful than going to work by the time you've kept up with your side of the bargain - filling in forms, talking to lots of unsympathetic people, proving you need the money, then proving it again at very regular intervals.

I mean, what if we didn't need money at all or it wasn't what we used to pay for things? Yes, a Utopian ideal and one with its own problems. Let's be simple about it, though. From an aspie point of view, a society without this need to pay in only one way would be a gift. Our talents, whatever they may be, are often genuine talents. Also, they are often talents undervalued by a society that needs people to go out to work in great groups, doing the same things every day, in order to keep everything moving on a grand scale.

The aspie, by dint of their personality and particular talents, is very, very rarely suited to doing work that most people can do. Their talents are often based around solitary activity, misunderstood as 'messing about', irrelevant or unimportant. If the aspie could be recognised as having a valuable talent, a talent worthwhile for its own sake and not just its monetary value, how different would things be?

With the stress of needing to do things for money, which often means you need to do a lot more work or spend more time on what you enjoy than is comfortable, the aspie is less likely to be able to live off their talents. If money was removed and worth measured in a different way, how valuable might the aspie's time and talents become?

Yes, this is definitely an ideal, isn't it? The aspie would still be the aspie and there would be days, even weeks or months, when using their talents became impossible because the rotten old brain threw a wobbly and then took time to get back on track. Yet still, even taking into account that we are always ourselves, it is an appealing idea, that you can live from doing what you enjoy.

Here's the important bit, readers. I am not yet living off doing what I enjoy, but I'm nearly there. Very nearly. If I could put in more hours and not go mad, then I would very happily live off it. It took me years to understand that work could also be something I might be good at, that it didn't have to be an endless round of suffering and defeat.

Steadily, building self-confidence as I go, I have managed to incorporate more and more of what I am good at into my daily working life. This means that the magic formula of money+talent=life is achievable. It really is.

It doesn't happen overnight and, if you're like me, even the idea of waiting for anything can drive you crazy. But looking back I can see that it was vital for me that it didn't all happen at once, as I wouldn't have coped.

Readers, today is the 6th year anniversary of the day I started using my talents to make money. I made the decision to have a go at using my writing skills to make a living and so, terrified and literally shaking, 6 years ago I sat in my mother's front room, waiting for my first students to arrive.

It turned out they expected me to know what I was talking about and they kind of expected me to be eccentric, so I pretended to be confident and jumped straight in. I wonder if any of them guessed the shivers that went through me every week as their cars pulled up outside? Or how much of a relief it was to meet the wonderful Isaac, ex-haulage contractor, who decided to try writing in his retirement and could hold a room captive with his hilarious monologues. Thank you, Isaac, you helped me so many times by taking the attention away from little old me, quivering in the big chair.

From this tentative starting point I branched out to giving English lessons and school workshops (the terror). I remember how hard it was when I first had two lessons, one after the other, as I was so unused to working intensely for any length of time.

A few years after that I would have evenings full of lessons, one after the other, with the only break the car journeys in between. That was hard but not impossible. It was so important though, for me to build up to this stage gradually, finding my feet and paying attention to what I could manage and how I could organise myself. Every lesson learned is a valuable one.

Readers, there is no magic fix to help you use your talents to earn the great and powerful money. This one is up to you and also up to the people who know you best. If you're unsure what you could do, ask others. You might get some narky replies along the lines of 'try working for a living', but you should also hear some interesting, possible revelatory, responses. Sometimes, you really need other people to lay things out for you before you can see them for yourself.

Do try, though. It's tempting to think you've tried it all before or considered all the angles and found no solutions. Life changes us as we move through it, so it's always worth revisiting what we might think of as old ideas, to see if they can be made new.

In the end, it's up to you to decide if something is possible. It might be that it's a little bit possible, just a teeny bit. Take it and see what happens. That small beginning might lead to other things, even if they aren't what you expect. At the very least, we all need some adventures in our lives, even if they are very small ones.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Didn't you think of that before?!


How many times have I been asked this question? I expect it's a question most aspies are familiar with. You do something, long or short term, it doesn't matter, and before you know it - wham! It's gone wrong and there is always someone willing to come forward and say, 'Didn't you think of that before?'

The situation is irrelevant, as is the calamity which ensues. All that matters, at that moment, is the implied criticism. No, of course you didn't consider the full consequences of your actions. If you had, would we all be standing here in the ruins of yet another plan?

Ahem. Well, if we're completely honest, we might admit that we did think a little bit of it might be possible. We're not complete fools, we do plan ahead quite regularly. But that doesn't mean we expected the pitfall to actually happen. We might have been able to take into account that it might; we just never thought it would. Do you see the difference?

With the kind of aspie mind-control we seem to believe we possess, we looked into the future and saw the whole thing as a glorious success. Like Picard, we only needed to raise our finger and say, 'Make it so!' for it to happen. It always slips our minds that things running smoothly is something that generally happens to other people, not to mention the fact that Picard had as many takes as he needed to get everything right first time.

So, when the ever-helpful person asks us if we didn't see it coming, we are never going to admit that we might have. Usually, we'll have forgotten we did consider any downsides or consequences by this time anyway. And if we remember them, why invite even more embarrassment by admitting to it?

In unguarded moments, I have admitted to seeing possible mishaps, but decided to risk it anyway. You know, when you forget all the other times things went wrong and people pointed it out. Those instances when your guard is down and you feel able to admit that you did wonder if it would go wrong.

Oh dear, what a mistake that always is! Cue the eye-rolling, the hand-flapping, the exaggerated body language. No, not from the aspie, you understand, but from whichever trusted person we were honest with.

What started as generalised and implied criticism over how things have turned out becomes very specific criticism, mixed with stage-subtle disbelief when we admit we foresaw trouble and jumped regardless.

It seems that admitting you may have been wrong earlier than this point, at a stage when you could still have called it all off, is an open invitation to be jumped up and down on by people who think you should have known better. It's aspie open season once you agree that you did think of this before.

After all, if you did see it coming, why did you carry on? What madness possessed you? What is the point of having that quirky but intelligent head on your shoulders if all you do with it is nod, sorrowfully, when things go wrong? Did it not occur to you to stop before it was too late?

I don't think any of us would risk all-out honesty at this stage. My own response, once I learned some sense, has always been to accept that I've messed up (again) and try to move on. It's no good taking hold of the shovel and digging yourself an even bigger hole.

If I was honest, and if you were honest, we would admit that yes, we saw it coming, Yes, we saw the disadvantages. Yes, we saw the possible calamity awaiting us. And yes, despite all of that, we did it anyway. And no, we aren't completely mad, we just thought it would be okay. Why? Well, because we hoped it would be and we could imagine it being okay, so, logically, it follows that it probably was going to be okay.

I know, logic doesn't really belong in that kind of argument, but it often strolls in anyway, looking dapper in its long coat for best, wearing that slightly smug smile that everyone hates, but we love. Yes, it wasn't technically logical to believe everything would be all right no matter what, but in our hearts, we love logic so much we believed we could make it happen.

Non-aspies might be grimly familiar with this scenario, wondering how we don't learn from our past mistakes. Things have gone wrong so frequently that it does defy belief that we'd be willing to get it wrong again, and often on a grand scale. Then we have the temerity to take exception to a little bit of criticism! I mean, it's the non-aspies and best beloveds who have to sort it all out once we've finished making our magic, so they are entitled to having a small dig, aren't they?

Humph. Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know about the rest of you aspies, but I do hate that people feel they have the right to point out our failings. It's not as if we don't know about them, is it? And at least we have a go, you know, instead of just playing it safe all the time. The told-you-so brigade can fettle that kettle, while they're at it!

No, let's face it, the real reason we can't take this (often justified) criticism is because we know you are right. There, I've said it. You are right and we are wrong. We did it again.

This time, though, it might have been different. It might have worked out and a great and new and wondrous thing would have been let loose across the earth, for all to see and feel uplifted by. Or at the very least, the toilet might have stayed unblocked long enough for the bathroom to be safe.

We try, you see. again and again, we try and hope that it will turn out all right. Our ideas may  be off course and strangely skewed, but they're pretty fabulous ideas half the time. You have to admit, if it had worked, it would have been great!

Just remember, aspie and non-aspie, that we don't do these things to make life horrible or awkward. And we certainly don't do them so we can have someone stand at our shoulder, tutting.

We do them because sometimes they do work and someday we will set the world alight. We just have to keep trying and trying often means thinking of the consequences and doing it anyway.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Real life is looming


Yes, next week I'm going back to work. I like what I do, even if some days are better than others. Sometimes, I love what I do. And alongside the money-making endeavours, I'm also looking forward to getting stuck into the writing again. So, why am I feeling hemmed in all of a sudden?

It happens every year. I look forward to being off for Christmas and promise myself that, the next year, I'll have time off during another holiday, instead of just having two weeks at Christmas. Don't get me wrong there - I'm not worked to the bone like some Victorian housemaid who only has Sundays off and half a day every other Wednesday. I work part-time, self-employed and don't work weekends anymore.

Except, if that was all I did, there wouldn't be any problem. But like so many other adults in the sandwich generation, I am the middle tier of a family with teenage children and an elderly parent. I have my own household to run, the usual problems to sort out, as well as the many and various problems that crop up with an elderly parent.

So, on a normal working day I drag my sorry self out of bed, drag even sorrier teenagers out of bed, get them sorted for college, organise the ranged cats and dogs, do the college run, come home and have a peaceful breakfast. This is usually the time of day I do my blog, in the quiet house with only myself to look after.

During the day there are other things to do, all related to the responsibilities outlined above. From 3 p.m. onwards I'm back on the college run and then I go to work. It varies, so some nights I'll be finished by 7 and when I'm busier, it's after 9.

I'll come home, having had to go to the shop on the way, eat a late supper, watch TV for too long, fall into bed, occasionally sleep and then repeat.

Somewhere along the line I try to write fiction and non-fiction, though I have to say, if I do get any done, it feels like quite an achievement!

The Christmas break is my time for relaxing and doing as little as possible. I've done so much of this that I'm now having to avoid feeling guilty over how many Miss Marple episodes I've watched in the past week. And I don't need to tell you where all the Christmas biscuits went.

It's been so nice, not having to be anywhere or remember to be anywhere.

Now, unfortunately, real life looms and I have to get my semi-working brains out of the bauble box so that I can get back into the swing of things next week. I'm already dreading the teens going back to college as I'm a sucker for having my kids at home, but I know they'll revel in seeing their friends again.

I'm just about, by the skin of my teeth, avoiding the January blues. As a Christmas lover, I do hate January. It's almost a cosmic law that I have to hate it, because it's the furthest point from the next Christmas. It's also full of people with good intentions and new plans, all with lots of enthusiasm for the year to come. I do find other people's boundless enthusiasm hard to stomach.

Let's face it, what I'm really not looking forward to is going back out into the world at times and days to suit my responsibilities. It won't be so bad, I'm not as busy as I've been in other years, but it will be a jolt after doing my own thing for a while.

I'm pretending to myself that it doesn't matter, you see, when it actually does. I'm being bright and jolly (as much as possible) with other people. I'm talking about normal things and seeing what the teens need to do before they go back to college. I'm already talking about work and planning ahead.

All the while, I must confess, the real me is not joining in. The real me is so not pleased, it isn't true. I am really sitting in a corner, sulking, still wearing my party hat. I have my arms folded and a grimly determined expression on my face. I will not be organised! I will not be ready! You can't make me so I won't do it!

Yes, I'm a properly sulky aspie about it. Why should I start being sensible again? Why should I plan ahead before I need to? It'll be fine if I just leave it. I don't want to think about it until I have to and I don't have to, not yet.

Except, I do. This is Saturday night. After tomorrow, it will be Monday. I start work properly on Tuesday but the teens start college on Monday and I have a lot of things I need to do before Tuesday, so really, Monday is the beginning of my back to work phase.

It doesn't matter how much I sulk or pretend to myself, the new year has happened and it's travelling along at its usual speed. I can't ignore it. That's why I act as people expect - ready and glad to be facing working routines again. If I can't change the thing, I may as well behave like it's okay, in the hopes that it will become okay by default.

Really, the problem I have is that the real me isn't just sulking. That's a front. So, behind the front of the cheerful me is the sulky aspie. Behind the sulky aspie is a worried looking woman, staring at her hands as she thinks everything through. And behind her? What lays behind the pretence, the sulking and the worry?

I think what lays at the very heart of it all is Fear. Being at home, watching my beloved Miss Marple and not worrying about the time or the day, that is the opposite of always having to know what time it is, what needs doing, what has been done, where I need to be. I fear that level of organisation and the side of me which must come forward to take charge of it all.

I fear having to be the responsible one. There is no one else to do it and no one should have to do it for me. All these things are my own responsibilities and I take care of them and do them because they're for the people I love. It's right that I should do them.

It's also right that I should feel fear because it's the pressure that looms with the new year. I know it's there, waiting for me to come out and play. Like an unwanted party guest, it never comes in, only stands by the gate and waits until you have to pass by. You can never avoid it for long, it's always going to be there.

Sometimes it doesn't matter what I have to do, and sometimes it really matters a lot and I can't cope. The new year is like opening the door on all of that. I don't know what it will bring but I do know what went before. I need to be here again, do what I must and face what I can.

From Monday, no more relaxing with Miss Marple, no more biscuits and no more ignoring the calendar. The working week starts in just over a day, the working year starts with it.

The best thing I can say is that, as usual in January, I have plans afoot to make it better and more interesting. This year, there are things I can achieve without needing to change my personality first, so I do feel more hopeful this time.

This year will be the first year since I was very much younger that writing will play a greater part in my working life than anything else. That's why, for once, I have some of the excitement within me that usually belongs to people who love new year. I haven't made new year resolutions, I haven't set myself impossible challenges. What I have done is look at what I can do and what I enjoy doing, then worked out how they can be combined.

So, allow me some small excitement, especially as it waylays the fear. Next week, I still need to be the grown up who knows where all the socks are and remembers to buy food for packed lunches. As well, though, there will be a newly-awakened schoolgirl part of me, the one who thought she would spend her whole life writing stories and everything would be okay.

Here's hoping everything will be okay, in the simple way that we used to look at things. One way or another, readers, let it be okay and let us have excitement for the future. In the words of a very great philosopher and friend to the outcast and misunderstood:

"This frog has to go his own way
This frog doesn't care what the other frogs say
This frog wants to be happy, and this frog has to try
This frog is gonna make it or know the reason why
I'm not gonna sit here like some dumb old bump on a log
That isn't me!
I'm gonna be this frog!"

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Aspergers, the subtle disability

I admit it, I was going to title this one the sneaky disability, rather than subtle, but I didn't want people thinking aspies were sneaks. Some of us probably are sneaks, I don't suppose there is any reason to suppose we are all saintly little creatures who never put a foot wrong. But that's not quite what I mean.


In an earlier post, I talk about aspergers being the part-time disability, because it allows us so much freedom, then reins us right back in and we're unable to behave as other people would like. Now, I want to look at how it sneaks in, right under our noses, making life difficult even when you don't realise it.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has made bad decisions because of aspergers. In fact, I could very probably say, we have all made bad decisions because of aspergers. It's part of the scenery. Decision-making or pretending to decide and then rushing in, it's what makes aspergers such a creative way to live. Even those aspies who prefer to hole up at home, in the lovely light of the computer screen, will have been prone to this decision-making process.

You see, aspergers lets us think it belongs to us, as something we can see and almost touch. We know it's there, we can feel it looking from the edge of the door. It's all the way in the room with us when we open our big mouths and land ourselves in it again. Aspergers can be like some large pet, following us around, always ready to make it obvious who it belongs to when trouble ensues.

The notion of aspergers belonging to us is reinforced by those times, as in the part-time disability post, when we can pass for normal. Those times in life when you feel you can cope with things, you can act like a grown up for a change and none of your throught processes are dangling off the aspie cliff.

I guess I can sum it up by saying that while we may always identify ourselves as aspies, the aspergers itself can feel sporadic. One day we may stagger through our routines with the weight of the world on our shoulders; another day we can climb every mountain etc.

So, it's tempting to view aspergers as an on-off disability, one that allows us to get the job but not keep it, for instance. And this is where we have the big sillies, people, because none of that is true.

It's true to say we are always aspies. Sometimes, we are aspies who can manage anything and everything, but are you sure that isn't just because you had enough sleep or ate too much sugar or are going through a manic phase when the whole world can be yours?

Sometimes we can speak our mind and explain ourselves without aspergers getting in the way and tripping us up. It can feel like a triumph - we have beaten aspergers or managed to speak while it was looking the other way. Hmm. It's a nice thought but not true either. We have done these things and yay to us! But it's more likely the wind inside the mind was already blowing that way and gave us the extra push towards full expression.

I can corroborate this one as I was always a meek aspie, rarely speaking my mind, unless my mind spoke for me. As I've got older and gained more understanding of myself and the world in general, I have become more likely to speak my mind and not be meek. These days, if I keep my mouth shut, it's usually because I have decided to and not because I dare not speak. Another yay.

So, if we recognise that aspergers is here all the time, that we just react differently sometimes, due to many variables, what do I mean about it being a sneaky disability? Sorry, a subtle disability (sorry, aspergers, I love ya really).

I'm talking about those times when you acted, reacted, behaved or misbehaved in a way totally unrelated to aspergers. The times when you were the aspie but aspergers itself had been pushed to the background and you found yourself able to cope without mishap.

I mean those times when you have clarity of thought and speech and deed, when you could run the country if they let you, or at least hold down a steady job. Not the times when you feel manic, or so depressed everything seems clear because you've stripped all the goodness away. Those times when it all seems stable and you just happen to be able to do it.

You know what, I've had many times like that and I've lived normally for a little while; I've made decisions and accomplished things and, I admit it, wondered if this was what it was like to be normal.

Then, later, sometimes years later, I'll look back and realise aspergers was there all along; I just couldn't see it.

I'll give you an example. When I needed to go back to work the first time, I had reached the stage of being absolutely desperate for money. I was also passing through a very creative phase and had started a new book. It was going extremely well, but however good it was, I needed money.

At the same time as applying for jobs, I contacted agents about the book before it was finished. When I got the job offer, I also had a couple of positive responses about the book, one of which wanted to read the whole thing. But I didn't have the whole thing! Instead of replying and telling them this, I ignored the letter, feeling if they was positive, then later, once the book was finished, other people would be positive too. I took the full-time job and the book was never finished.

At the time, readers, I was well aware that I was choosing the job over the book - or over the writing as a whole. I felt I was making a sensible decision, given my finances and the fact I was a single mother. It was the only decision, I needed the money.

I had the idea that the writing would always be there, ready to be picked up when I was coping with my new work. It would still happen, everything would be fine. I just needed to get some money now and lift things up.

The trouble is, aspies sometimes can't cope with going to the corner shop, so I don't know how many of us could cope with a stressful full-time job as well as trying to write and run a household.

Now, I'm not saying I should have made a different decision. I still see that I had little choice. But looking back I still regret that book not being written. It had the glimmer about it, the magic of something which was able to write itself.

What I should have done was write back to the agent and explain. She may have lost interest, but who knows? That's one thing I could have done differently. Another is, I could have looked at part-time work. I was fixed on full-time because of needing the money. I also had the idea that I should return to full-time work because that's what real and proper people do in a normal life. Going part-time was always half measures, right? Real people do full-time and have mortgages and need to buy suits and stuff.

Yes, there are things that I could have done differently but I was convinced I was making rational, grown up decisions. I didn't know about aspergers then, so I couldn't take it into account - but I did know I found things hard to cope with. That couldn't matter though. Lots of people find life hard, we just have to man up and do it anyway.

So, where was the aspergers in this? Very definitely in my head-in-the-sand reaction to the agent asking for the full book. I even recognised that as 'cowardly' at the time (I was very fond of calling myself a coward back then).

Putting that aside, the rest was an adult decision-making process, with no bearing on aspergers, don't you think? I was facing my responsibilities and doing what needed to be done for the good of me and my family.

Except, what I was actually doing was ignoring any downsides and pushing myself to become the person I needed to be. I was shaping myself to fit, like so many aspies do. I was sure if I tried hard enough, I could be this full-time worker who coped with normal things.

As I needed to be that person, I made decisions based on what that type of person could do. I pretended to be her in the interviews, I tried to pretend to be her in the job itself. I bought the clothes and had my hair done. I re-scheduled our lives around it and wept tears over not being able to collect my children from school.

I slowly drizzled away, not coping with the imposed personality or lifestyle. It didn't work. With what I had chosen, it was never going to work, I just didn't realise it then.

The aspergers was always there, informing my decisions like background music lends atmosphere to a film. Even though I couldn't see it then or take account of it, I was behaving as a true aspie - creating a world to fit what I thought I needed or wanted. Any decisions made within this premise are bound to be faulty, however impeccable they seem, because at the very heart of it, we're not being true to ourselves.

Even now, when I can look aspergers in the face, I still get caught out on a regular basis. I can think I'm taking account of it, but I end up making decisions based on what I think should be instead of what is.

This is where aspergers is sneaky, you see. It's a very good mimic and can look at the world of other people and see where we are lacking. We can see what we're meant to do, compared to everyone else. If we accept we can't do it, then that's fine for a while, until we move onto a different scenario and decide we can do that instead.

The problem is, the different scenario often isn't very different at all. A good analogy would be all the jobs we work through. This job will be better than the last one because the hours are less. This one will be better because it's easier. I was so bored at the last one, this one will be better because it's more challenging.

Each time we swap the job, the aspergers is in full control, even though we've made the decisions based on good reasons. What we are doing is moving the scenery to suit our view that we should be doing this instead of that. As long as the scenery keeps changing then the situation is different and we can trust our decisions are objective.

Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way. What we end up doing is moving our lives around while forgetting the one thing that doesn't change - ourselves. If you are the main character in the play, it really doesn't matter what the scenery looks like or how the lines change: you will be that character in the end and your actions will eventually match your personality.

And this is where I have to drop the big drama bomb. Aspergers is not our pet, our possession or even our disability. It is part of us. Not like a dart that has been fired into your behind, or a needle pushed under the skin to administer a steady dose of aspie-ness. Not like carrying a baby or having an ingrowing toenail. And not like having a split personality (though it often feels that way).

The shocker is, that aspergers is woven into the very fabric of our being, so that you cannot tell where it ends and where we begin. That's because aspergers is a name used to describe a set of behaviours that have things in common. It's a short cut. The very essence of being on the spectrum, of having a 'rainbow disability', is that we are all different.

Don't feel bad that aspergers is at the very heart of you, because all I'm doing is telling you that your aspie-ness is a part of you, not some alien, unfriendly thing. You are you and no one else will be an aspie in the same way. We can speak a lot of the same languages and relate many misadventures, but none of us is the same.

Aspergers is the subtle disability because it is so deeply bound to our real selves that we could never tease it free - and nor should we.

Everything we do and say is linked to being an aspie; it's a fact of life. I'm not saying don't trust yourself or always shy away from decisions. Better to go on in the best way you can and, when it comes to making a decision, view aspergers as a dear friend who is always with you. You're in this together so, as you move through life, remember to turn to aspergers and say, 'What do you think? Shall we?'

The funny thing about this subtle, sneaky disability is that it only wants to be heard and taken into account. Once you do that, the sneakiness and subtlety fall away and aspergers brightens, full of relief and hope for the future. If you work together with your aspergers, you can move mountains after all. And best of all, you can do it in the right way for you.

Amanda


My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

A different world...altered perceptions in aspergers

Now, I have to admit before I start, I'm not sure how common some of this will be to other aspies. I know I'm not the only one who sometimes sees the world a different way but I have no idea if it's widespread or not. With that proviso out of the way, here we go.


To put it simply, I sometimes see the world in high definition. No, I don't mean I have a new TV or special glasses. I don't mean the kind of high definition you might get from illicit substances either. In my experience, aspies don't need illicit substances to have an altered perception of reality anyway.

Let me explain. At certain times, often under stress, I will see things differently. There are two main elements to it: a perception of richer depth, colour and meaning in the world or a perception of increased strangeness. We'll go with the strangeness first.

The best way to describe it is to imagine you're driving along a familiar road. Up ahead there is a bridge, with banks built up either side of it. There is a lamp-post on the bridge and the banks have been planted with shrubs and small trees. Your car has passed this way many times before, in rain and sun, dark and light. There is nothing new.

Yet, today, there is something new. As you pass under the bridge, the light catches the edge of the tree closest to you and, for a moment, no more, it is a person standing there, bent in thought, strained against a hidden burden, neck turned to feel the pain. This is not a trick of the light or your position in relation to the tree. No, this is one of those moments when your mind takes something mundane, tosses it into the air and changes it as it comes back down.

I think it's possibly an imagination overload, brought on by stress or just too many things going on at the same time. The reason I say that this kind of perception is not a matter of position or a trick of the light is that, as well as seeing the tortured figure, I also see the tree. My rational mind knows it is a tree and can see exactly how it looks, at the same time as my irrational mind sees it as something entirely different.

This is one of those moments when perception turns the day strange and makes the world more than it is, but in an unsettling way that does nothing to comfort. Usually, this kind of weirdness happens once or twice in the same day then won't happen again for quite a while. I now see it as a sign that I'm probably going to react badly or blow a gasket in the near future. It shows me that my mind is working in a different way and needs a little more TLC than usual.

The other way this happens is even more unsettling because it involves other people. As if life isn't hard enough for aspies, when it can be impossible to work out what people want or need or mean. Their expressions can often be a mystery and that's if you notice them at all. What about if you look at their faces and see something that shouldn't be there?

Rather like the tree, I've had occasions where I've glanced across at someone and seen a face that didn't quite fit with what should be there. Again, I could see them also as they should be and actually were, but then there was another expression, a subtly different face beneath, a bit like the way old cameras could have two pictures developed in one shot.

Yes, I know I sound like I'm describing the hot-trot into madness here. I don't mean it to sound like that. I do think it's like an allergic reaction of the psyche - sometimes it becomes just too much to process everything that is laid in front of us so we react by stepping it up a gear and instead of greater understanding, we are given an imaginative filling in of the gaps, a twisting of the perspectives.

It did used to worry me quite a lot, as I thought, 'This is is, I'm finally on my way out.' But then I noticed that the less stress I had, the less it happened and, well, it's logical after that to assume you're not going mad, or if you are, it's temporary, like having a fever. I decided to deal with it differently and try to be glad that I had an unusual, but accurate way, to tell if I was too overwhelmed.

Now, back to the more positive high definition; rather like the strangeness, but much more welcome, I also sometimes see everything as if it had colour enhancers added. It happens even less frequently than the strangeness and I haven't linked it to anything specific, yet.

All I know is that sometimes I will suddenly look afresh at the world and see the colours imbued with more depth and vibrancy than before. It's quite welcome, to be honest, and beautiful. I realise it probably means my oddball brain is making its own dope in a back-room somewhere, but as I've not actually taken anything, I feel I can enjoy the effect guilt-free.

It may not be a good idea to roundly welcome perception changes like this, especially the ones you enjoy. I mean, if life was meant to be enjoyed purely through what we are given, why would people smoke stuff, or drink or use other means of stimulating the senses? Should I be worried that I don't need outside help to have a cosmic experience?

Possibly. I admit, it is not ideal to have the kind of brain which can flick a switch and have you tuning into imagi-mode without any warning. I guess a more normal person might panic and run to the doctor or at least have a stiff drink. In my case, when it happens I just accept it and know it will pass. I also rejoice in having the kind of insane imagination that can make it a bonus to see tortured figures in trees - what a gift for a writer!

I've put this post out there not to enhance my reputation as a mad woman in a llama hat, but to help others who might have experienced this and been tempted to blame it on something else. Or who know it was caused by themselves and were fretting over it.

I've also written this for those friends and family whose aspie has told them about things similar to this. It can sound terrifying and I'm sure there are some of you who have listened and struggled valiantly to look calm and not terrified.

No, it's not normal to perceive things differently, but aspergers is not normal anyway. I think, unless it causes difficulties or lots of extra stress, it's okay to file this under the misc. section of aspie behaviours. If it doesn't cause a problem, don't make it into one.

In the end, like so many other aspie nuances and behaviours, it's all about personal judgement. If something like this causes upset or problems for the person concerned, look into what can be done to help, even if the help is simple reassurance. Otherwise, let it be and accept that we all see the world in different ways. Some of us, very differently!

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!

Inappropriate honesty

'Inappropriate behaviour' - the number of times I heard this when my son was growing up, mainly from his teachers. Now, don't get me wrong, he wasn't doing anything really bad here, at least not the kind of things which always sprung into my mind when they used the word inappropriate. And, compared to me trying to burn down the school, I always thought RT teen's childhood exploits were pretty tame.



I guess the thing is, as a little boy, he kept on with the inappropriate behaviours. He was very inventive and each day would bring some new thing he had done. Some of them were dangerous, some were funny, most were simply annoying - no one can be annoying like an aspie can. Nearly every day, after school, I would stand and listen to his catalogue of disasters, with the teacher talking about him while he stood there, head bowed as he listened.

I had two main gripes with this: that she always talked about my son while he was present and that she always told me what he had done when it was too late for me to act on it. Perhaps if they'd called me in when he was plastering the little girl head to toe with mud then I could have impressed upon him that it hadn't been a great idea?

The problem is that most schools expect children to behave themselves a certain way and to be semi-independent of their parents. By semi-independent, I mean they don't want the child to bawl or throw up when separated from mum and dad and they do expect the child to hold their water until they reach the toilet. The other thing schools mainly want is as little parental involvement as possible, while maintaining an illusion of the parents being involved in their child's schooling.

This was never more apparent to me than when mini-RT teen got up to his high jinks. Yes, I sympathised with the teacher that it wasn't safe to leap from the top of the toilet cubicle (a 6 foot drop to the floor), I knew she resented him blocking the sinks with the little towels all the children took into school with them; I would have resented it too. I know it was bad that he loved to make a flood (having used the little towels as makeshift plugs). I realised it was bad form to play with the light switches while she was out of the room. And I understood how difficult it must have been to explain to the little girl's mother how her daughter came to be some miniature mud-kip who had to be sent home in borrowed clothes.

I don't know if you've spotted the constant which links all these events together? Yes, besides mini-RT teen himself. I always used to wonder, where was the teacher when this was happening? I did make some noises to this effect when she told me, but was too young and nervous to ask her directly. Now I would speak out and say, in my best English battle-axe voice, 'And where were you at the time?'

It's not that I expected her to take responsibility for my son's misdemeanours, I really did think he was uniquely responsible for each one of them. But was it too much to ask for a class of 4-5 year olds to be supervised by someone, even if it wasn't their teacher? Also, I always came away with the impression that she would have much preferred teaching the older children - she had been moved down from the oldest class to the youngest. Perhaps with more mature children it's easier to 'nip out' of the classroom, or ignore it when they have elongated trips to the bathrooms.

My proudest day of mini-RT teen's inappropriate behaviour came when he stood up to the school bully. The child in question was well known for being a horrible bully who singled out the youngest children and would get them out of sight and properly hit them. This was a boy of 6 years old, so goodness knows what he was like in later life.

He looked forward to each new class coming up from Nursery into Reception. In Nursery they had a protected, separate playground. In Reception they joined the main school, who all shared the same areas. He chose children from Reception and picked and would hurt little girls as much as little boys. He was despicable.

Yes, the school knew about him but nothing was really done. The headmistress was the same one who had been my teacher when I was there and she didn't like any bad press for the school, so, rather than dealing with it out in the open, it was brushed under the carpet.

One day, the bully decided to pick on my son. As usual, mini-RT teen was doing something inappropriate: this day, he was swinging, monkey-style, on the metal bars on the ramp next to the school building. Curling himself up, he was spinning round on them in a way that would give health and safety people a panic attack.

Bully-boy saw him doing this and came to teach him a lesson, using the swinging as an excuse. He came up behind him and challenged him. I don't know what he said to my son as no one was close enough to hear and my son couldn't remember. It must have been pretty bad, whatever it was. My excitable, sociable, kind-hearted mini-RT teen swung off the bars, whipped round and charged the bully, head-butting him in the stomach.

At the end of the day, the teacher came out, as usual, to 'have a word'. This is the only time I saw a glimmer in her eye. She explained about the latest inappropriate behaviour and said she had told min-RT teen how it was unacceptable to be violent to people. She told me they were overlooking it this time as other children had stood up for him and said he was being bullied.

All of this was said with a twinkle in her eye and a softer tone to her voice. This slightly cold, humourless woman was barely concealing her delight at my son's actions. He had done what they as teachers were not allowed to do. She couldn't condone it but she could be pleased at the final comeuppance of the school bully.

This changed my son's notoriety in school, at least among the children. He was looked at with admiration and they were proud of him. I was proud of him too, even though I knew he had acted out of instinct and could never have inflicted harm on the bully if he had thought about it first.

The inappropriate behaviour, in society's terms, has continued. These days, RT teen is at college, doing his Art course. His behaviour is exemplary; in most ways he is a model student. Except that now, his mouth is inappropriate. No, I don't mean he curses and he isn't mean to people. What he does is Speak His Mind. He also speaks out for other people, in his own quiet way.

His tutor, a woman who is often at cross-purposes with him (no changes there, then), is fond of explaining things many times, to her 'special' students. I'm sure she is a woman of the best intentions and only explains things a lot because she thinks her students will understand it better that way. I don't know about the other 'specials', but as far as RT teen is concerned, as soon as he hears the repetition coming, he switches off.

One day, she asked him to show the other students how he had done something on the computer, as she was pleased with his work. She wanted him to explain the steps he had taken. So, the group gathered round and he started to explain. Except, like some aspies, he tends to hesitate before speaking - a non-verbal full stop between sentences. Each time he hesitated, his tutor jumped in and said what she thought he had been going to say.

After a few goes at speaking for himself, RT teen asked her, quietly, if she would come out of the room with him. Once in private, he explained, with suppressed fury, that he did not want her butting in, that every time she did it he lost track of what he was saying and what was the point of asking him to explain to the others if she was going to do it for him? She flinched and apologised. They returned and he carried on as he wanted, giving the group his undivided attention.

I know this is standing up for himself and, I must admit, I flinched a little myself at the anger it must have taken for him to speak to his tutor like this. But it's still counted as inappropriate in some way because it's seen as rude, or too forthright. I mean, the tutor should always be right and be respected and if the students are in the assisted learning programme, then her way is best, right?

I feel that RT teen should continue to be inappropriate. He has an inappropriate way of only ever seeing the person and never their looks, disability, or age. They are always a person first. Inappropriately, as far as assisted learning is concerned, he treats them just as he'd like to be treated himself and explains things in a quiet, demonstrative way that gets to the heart of the matter.

I don't know if he always explains things to them in a way all of them can understand. I do know that his soft voice, kind eyes and willingness to show rather than tell will probably have them listening to his every word.

I have mentioned inappropriate behaviours a lot today and I realise that the last examples, with RT teen at college, will seem very different from the little boy plastering his classmate with mud. It is different, as we all grow. As we get older, our behaviours change and so do our challenges. In the written and the spoken word, RT teen can still struggle to express himself, unless it's a subject he holds dear. But that means when he does express himself, he gets to the point and is honest.

I know there are many aspies out there who suffer from inappropriate honesty - I'm one of them. And this is often coupled with expressing yourself in a way that seems designed to cause offence. How can it be acceptable in a civilised society to speak to people in a direct, no-nonsense way that might hurt their feelings? Isn't it better to be subdued and kind instead?

I'm not sure. I've tried the subdued and kinder route and ended up gnashing at the furniture once I'm home. I've also tried inappropriate honesty (usually by accident) and then worried afterwards, but had a curiously satisfied feeling too.

When you are honest, brutally, genuinely, inappropriately honest, people will almost always flinch. If you happen to be that way with another aspie, they might gasp, then agree with you, then tell you something about yourself that you don't want to hear.

If it's obvious you meant nothing by it or it was an accident, then you're more likely to have it overlooked and be forgiven. If, like RT teen, you fully intended it but spoke in a soft voice, people are unnerved. They don't know how to deal with explicit honesty dealt out with a gentle voice. It clashes in their heads that you could say something uncomfortable to hear in a kind tone.

In my experience, you will always keep the friends you're meant to have and get along with people who would like you, no matter what. The ones who find such honesty too off-putting are probably already put off by your other little ways so there wouldn't be too much harm done there.

I also think that society as a whole is rather like the school system: we are meant to be semi-independent within it, while always obeying the rules. As adults, society will not run to our parents if there is trouble, but it will challenge us and expect the right kind of behaviour. If you separate this behaviour from obviously criminal acts, you have a social code that we're all meant to follow.

It may vary from country to country, but in general we are not meant to tell Mrs H that her dress has three night's worth of supper down the front or explain to Mr P that his breath smells like the cat slept on his tongue.

We are meant to fit in with the rule, the norm and be like everyone else so that society can function. There are large types of inappropriate behaviour which clash with this, such as stripping in the chippy or shouting down the street at other people's dogs. There are also smaller inappropriate behaviours, like brutal honesty and laughing at things no one else finds funny.

Well, there we are. I can safely say, most aspies are tilted to the wrong side of peculiar when it comes to complying with all the social rules. Sorry, that's how it is. Whether aspie or not, there's nothing you can really do about it.

What comes to me the most is, if we are faithfully honest, as much as possible, be it on purpose or by accident, people will relax more and forgive it, especially if it isn't meant unkindly. There may be a temporary taking aback, but we will feel much better in ourselves for being the full-on aspie who tells it like it is. In this instance, if no other, it pays to be inappropriate.

Amanda

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!