Doing what normal people do...
It strikes me that I should be in bed instead of writing this blog post, but as I was having a moan to my friend, I realised that the moan I was moaning was actually turning into my next blog post. Perhaps this is what happens when you blog about fundamental aspects of your life? Every moan is a potential blog and every blog is a little bit of a moan?
The moan in this case is the way that today seems to have been one thing after another, without room to breathe. When I examine it carefully, it hasn't really been like that, it just feels like it has. And the reason it has felt that way is because I needed time to recover from yesterday, but didn't get it.
So, working backwards, my moaning, occasional ranting and the innate feeling I have that I've turned into a piece of thin leather, fit only for patching a pair of old jeans, can all be traced to yesterday evening, when I went to a jewellery-making workshop.
I was very much looking forward to the workshop. I have a frustrated artist hiding within me who makes frequent, ill-judged attempts to escape and create masterpieces. I have the perfect vision inside my head of how the latest masterpiece will look, then when I'm finished it always, always looks like an angry five year old did it.
I can't sew, paint, draw, make curtains or patch that old leather onto the jeans. I can do cross stitch for some reason, but I think that's just Nature having a sense of humour with me. My practical talents are much like my artistic ones - if it requires artistic abilities, do not ask me to do it. I can match the colours well, I can tell you if the finished article is well-made or hanging straight. I know what it should look like - I just can't get it there myself.
So, when I heard about this jewellery workshop I was rather excited. At last, without needing to struggle, I could learn to make beautiful and useful things. I would take RT teen with me, as he is artistic on the outside as well as the inside and I also invited my cousin, who is 18 months older than me and obviously used up all the practical genes before I arrived.
It was only going to last an hour and a half, so even if it was bad or I was bad, then it wouldn't be too long before we were released out into the night.
It started, as so many things do, with me getting lost. After accosting an old man in the street, we found our way there and arrived 15 minutes behind everyone else. I was already playing catch up. There was another group using the same room, so while we made beautiful objects they appeared to be painting puppies. The room was awash with artistic intention.
RT teen and I made our way to the empty seats and looked at the bewildering array of tools and, erm, shiny-things-what-stick-stuff-together all laid out on little sponge mats on the tables. When I saw the tools I did panic a little as you can cut things with them and I have fingers, but then I had a little talk with myself and decided the lady running the group would most likely tell me how to use them without any harm coming to me.
We had to start by measuring our wrists with chain, as we were making a charm bracelet. Funny how often a piece of chain can fall off you before you catch it and measure it. Myself and RT teen sitting there, with identically swinging pieces of chain, both trying to catch them.
Then we had to choose beads and such to go on them. I instantly took against the charms box as they were all small and girly and looked like my inner five year old would like them. I went off to the bead box instead and chose all sorts of nice things. Actually, I confess. What I did was go to the bead box and feel panic setting in.
As I looked down at the compartments packed with beads I realised that there was too much choice and that I had no idea what I was doing. I loved the colours all shining up at me and their lovely shapes. I knew which ones I liked and which ones I didn't but was worried about choosing too many or the wrong ones or that I was taking too long.
RT teen had already chosen his and sat back down and the lady was getting ready to tell him what to do. I hurriedly chose my beads and went back to my seat, hoping it would be okay.
You can see how I was stressing myself out here, without any help from other people, but I didn't realise what I was doing.
I sat opposite the lady and she explained how you have to take the linking thingy and hold it with these special pliers, then pull it apart with other special pliers. And they have to be the right pliers. And, readers, at that point I realised I had no idea how to pull the linking thingy apart as I couldn't tell it was a linking thingy; it just looked like a solid circle to me. My eyesight was letting me down so badly that I couldn't see where the tiny gap was in the link, so didn't know where to hold it with the pliers and where to pull.
This nasty moment was compounded by the fact that once I had the thingy trapped in one set of pliers, I couldn't catch hold of it with the others because the nerves which started at the bead box had made their way into my hands and I was shaking. I had to physically take deep breaths to calm down so I could steady my hands enough to get the second set of pliers onto the linking thingy.
Once I had finally, painfully, achieved the impossible and prised the link apart, I realised I had to do this many times, obviously, as they were what held the charms on the bracelet.
What other people were having trouble with because it was unfamiliar was almost impossible for me as I couldn't even see what I was doing, and that was before understanding the procedure. I think this could be a handy metaphor for aspergers and life in general, don't you think? Other people find it tricky, learning how to do things the right way, but when you start from a point of not even being able to see the thing you're meant to be working on, then how can you achieve the same things as everyone else?
Shall I tell you how I achieved it, in this case at least? Readers, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, but I felt for the flipping gap in the link, then put it into the pliers, making sure not to lose my place. This worked remarkably well, my only hurdle then was getting hold of it with both sets of pliers at once as my left hand desperately wanted me to grip onto my right hand instead of the link. Such is the life of the aspie, one hand doing as you tell it while the other one rushes in to undo all your hard work.
Just when I thought I was getting the hang of it (hold on for another metaphor), I was told we had to thread an evil pin through the bigger beads then turn it in a special way to make a loop so it could be threaded onto yet more of the infernal thingys. The lady said that men usually found this bit easier as they were good with tools (mwwahahahahahah).
Cue indignant hoffing from both myself and RT teen as he is into equal rights (and pretty bad with tools anyway) and I am appallingly bad with tools but objected in principle to the idea that this meant I would also be bad at bending an evil pin into a loop shape.
It turns out that this, at least, I could do. My loops were great and I could see the beggars. I could easily follow the instructions on how they should be turned because they were logical and made sense. Also, it brought back memories of my happy days in school sewing classes when I would amuse myself by bending needles and pins into artistic shapes before using them to pull threads through my thumb.
By this time, I was feeling like I could be getting the hang of things with the hideous charm bracelet, which left me enough attention to eavesdrop on everyone else. It was then I realised how out of step I was with the rest of the room - or at least, I felt like I was.
The conversations going on around me had that odd, otherworldly quality where you sit there, just being yourself and feeling okay, then other people come along and talk about their lives and you suddenly feel like a pimple on the behind of a massive alien.
They were talking about shopping and TV and concerts and drinking and all kinds of things that were ordinary events in their lives. I was listening to the words and knew it was all fine, they were real people and I was real people too, but still feeling as if I would be revealed, at any moment, as someone who was in the wrong place.
How does this happen? You're in a room full of friendly, cheerful people, most of whom would be considered your peers by anyone looking in from the outside, when you yourself feel as if they might turn on you and rip you apart if you put a foot wrong? How strange it is that we do this to ourselves, make such a detour with the mind so that a friendly situation becomes threatening and makes us feel we need to escape.
Oh dear, the more I write about it on here, the more I see why I was so stressed! At the time I was concentrating so hard on not looking like Mr Magoo does jewellery, that I kind of lost sight of the fact I was having a whole new experience, filled with new people in a new place at the end of a very busy day. This is where you could do with a narrator who could step in and say:
Amanda was feeling very tired by the end of the day and shouldn't have been surprised she found the situation so difficult. Instead, she blamed herself for being half-blind and an introvert and hoped she could come back the next week without finding the doors locked against her.
I think I'll do without the narrator, on reflection. I narrate enough of my own life and find that distracting at times so it would be even worse if I had a disembodied voice explaining things when I'm trying to concentrate on just getting through the day.
When we returned, alive, from the jewellery workshop, we showed IT teen our charm bracelets. RT teen's looked lovely, a symmetrical delight in pinks, purples and silver charms. Mine looked like I'd been running from something as I made it, which wasn't too far from the truth.
I told IT teen I didn't want any proper food for supper, I would just have cereal as I felt sick. He had a mini-rant, telling me I wasn't sick, I had just spent an hour and a half with strangers and that was all that was wrong with me, He said I shouldn't always come away feeling ill, just because I've had to be sociable. He made me have supper and I felt almost human again.
I did feel properly sick, readers, I would swear it wasn't phantasmagorical. But then, why should it be? I was having a real physical reaction to something that had felt like real physical danger. At the very least, the stress was real.
So, today, I'm not really surprised that I've been moaning and unable to think straight. By the end of yesterday, I was already tired and then had my adrenaline firing at the workshop. Today I needed to recharge and feel steady again and I've only reached that point now, after writing about it.
It takes so much effort sometimes, to just live your life and behave in the right way. It's no wonder that we can't understand why we feel or act the way we do, when it's taken everything we have just to play our role in life itself. Sometimes, we don't know things are too much until they are and then it's usually too late as we're in the middle of events, with no easy way out.
Last night was a friendly little workshop, aimed at helping me make jewellery. Thanks to my annoying tendency to make life as dramatic as possible, it turned into a struggle for survival and a series of high emotions all centered around a little bracelet with beads and charms hanging off it at odd angles.
Really, though, last night was a reminder of how aspergers can rear its head at the most unexpected moments, when you think you have everything pegged out just right and know what goes where. You have to learn to shrug it off and not worry too much. It's no good blaming yourself for taking things too seriously or for not seeing them coming: the truth of it will always be that life is as it will be and we are always going to be ourselves in the middle of it.
There are always going to be adventures where we don't expect them and where other people could never see them. That's part of the excitement of being an aspie, you never know quite what to expect.
Seriously, though, the next time I mention any kind of workshop, can someone just distract me into the book store instead? That's so much more me...
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