It's a kicker...life as an aspie



I have a confession to make: I am a despicably unreliable person (in case you hadn't noticed). Obviously, I knew this already but I do tend to push it to one side and just get on with getting on, hoping for the best and trying not to dwell on my faults.

As you know, if you obsess over what you can't do and what you should have done but haven't, then the old self-esteem plummets and life becomes even harder. So, I've found it's best to ignore the very transitory nature of my reliability and move on.

The trouble is that life is full of surprises, unfortunately, and they have a tendency to kick you up the behind while you're looking at something else. Often, this swift, sharp kick carries with it some epiphany and we get a full-on, clear, no-holds-barred view of ourselves. And that's what happened to me today.

I needed to find an important email from years ago, but I wasn't sure when. Searching the emails by name came up with nothing (Hotmail just has a laugh at our expense so many times). So, I settled down to scroll through many, many pages of email history to find what I was looking for.

I needed to go back to 2007, which in email terms is like saying you're just popping out to see Cromwell and won't be a minute. I decided to look through my Sent folder, working on the logic that I would have sent far fewer emails than I received.

Yes, this was good logic except - and here comes the kick - the emails received are often from random people or groups, whereas emails sent are from yourself. By definition, this makes them all a lot more personal, even if a third of them are sharing funny quotes or Savage Chickens cartoons.

I'm an absolute sucker for nostalgia, it is a big thing with me and I have to avoid giving into it or I get nothing done and end up weeping quietly over old Christmas cards. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding some nostalgia when you have to scroll past all your old emails.

The first little kick was the cuddy-load of emails sent to my old school friend when she worked in an office. We got more gossipping done then than ever before. It never happens now as she left work to have her baby and didn't go back. We've lost touch and rarely talk more than twice a year.

The second kick was all the emails starting with 'Talk me down...' or 'You'll think I'm mad but...' or 'Can I run this past you?' and so on. Each one was some lovely new idea that was bound to succeed because it was just perfect and nothing could go wrong. Ahem.

My enthusiasm shone through even in the subject headings. I resisted the temptation to open a few and see if the ideas were still good as I knew I would only get caught up again and the freight train would be hurtling off down the hill before I knew what was happening.

I felt sad when I saw those subject headings. For instance, who on earth was ever, ever able to talk down an enthused aspie? Well, in my case, no one. The idea was too good, other people just couldn't see it, etc.

And as for me possibly being mad? Less said the better. And running an idea past someone is coming back to that freight train. It runs past people too and if they're standing too close they get sucked into the air flow and that's that. Also, it's very hard to have a proper look at an idea when it's moving at such a speed, so really I may as well have been talking to myself.

I glumly reflected that all my grand schemes have come to nothing and I still need to wait for money to come in before I can go shopping. Of course, if I had stuck with one of those ideas, to the exclusion of all else, who knows?

That's the trouble, though. What came through loud and clear was how often I went off into the sunset, waving my stick at the sky, happy I had cracked it at last. And then again. And again. In the end, I was relieved to realise I wasn't going to find the email and close down the program so I didn't have to look at myself anymore.

It's not all doom and gloom, though, as some of my plans did come off. Just some. As well as my tuition, I've done quite a few school workshops over the years, in creative writing. They featured strongly in the list as I sent out information and arranged visits. I was quite pleased to see those.

What was less brightening was the long list of jobs I applied for over the same time period. It does make you want to go back and tell yourself to Stop It!

In the middle of it all was a short email I had sent cancelling one school workshop. I gave illness as a reason, and it was, but not the whole reason. It was the time I lost my confidence and became terrified at the thought of going into another classroom. I came up against the brick wall and couldn't do it. I needed the money but I still couldn't do it. I didn't do any more workshops for about three years.

And the upside? Now I know why I came up against the brick wall. I was overwhelmed and didn't know it. I didn't possess the self-knowledge to understand I was being taken over by everything I was trying to do until I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

Between now and then I have come a very long way and am much more aware of my limitations. I am a little wiser and try to keep an eye on myself most of the time. It doesn't stop my grand ideas and running into sunsets, but it does tend to stop me before I reach the cliff. Or the wall.

I did go back into the classroom and realised, once there, that I had missed it and that I could still make a difference. I think this is the important lesson from today's scrolling through history - I have made a difference as I've gone along. For all my running about, my epiphanies, my need to be doing something else each time, I've changed things too and made some people feel a little better about themselves.

I don't mean that to sound big headed: I say it with an image in my mind of a little boy in one of my workshops who told me he couldn't write stories and didn't even like them. He said I should move on and not bother with him, then laughed cheerfully.

He wrote the most exciting story of a secret cave, full of magic treasures and adventure, with children who fought battles to survive with dragons and monsters. And with each small chunk written, he leapt up to come and show me then confide in me what would happen next.

It's thanks to people like him, with the light in his eyes as he rushed to sit down and write more, that I know all those emails were worthwhile. If I can't be reliable or methodical or any of the things which mean plenty of money for milk, at least I can open the window sometimes, to let in the summer breeze.

And we all make a difference, in our own way. As aspies, the normal, regular, usual things in life often get away from us and we can make life difficult for ourselves and other people. But this is because we are privileged to see behind the scenes, the unusual, the magical, the awkward and the mystical.

This is what we bring to our lives and the lives of others: a little bit of the extraordinary, wrapped up in cloth shoes that were never meant to be worn in the rain. No matter that we often have wet feet, so long as we bring some of the magic other people need. Even if they don't realise it.

Amanda

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