The world is my family, because I know nothing else

Treat others as you want to be treated, remember? Haven't we all had this explained to us at some stage, by well-meaning souls or angry best beloveds when they found out we told work they'd had a duvet day. But what about treating others as they expect to be treated?

In the aspie world, we learn by example, often because our own experience and knowledge seems at odds with what other people know. If we see our powerful parents doing something a certain way, then that becomes the right way to do it. This is true of all children, but let me explain why it becomes more true of the aspie.

Over time, other children learn by their own experiences. Aspies aren't immune to this. We also learn some of the many and complex methods of living in the modern world. Then we come up against a barrier. It's an invisible one, created gently by our younger years when so many 'rules' were set in place.

Over time, other children grow and understand that life isn't always what you expect or were even led to believe. The nursery teacher who said we should all be friends was right, but she was wrong when she said we could all be friends.

The parent who says we should be considerate at the dinner table was right, but when they said this is how all people behaved, they were wrong. Growing up, a parent who says this is what all people do, so you must do it, is instilling a lesson they think will help their little one. They don't often do it for spite, you know? Yet later, when we realise some people trough like pigs at the dinner table, the aspie knows this is wrong, knows it is at odds with what they were taught but fails to understand that other people, the piggy-troughers, will see it as wholly acceptable.

It is this ability to see the other point of view where we fall down. While we were young and spongey, our parents helped us to see life their way and learn from them. What we learned above all else was that our parents knew everything. Fast forward to an aspie adult and there is still a child in there, believing the parental world view.

If this world view stops you from jumping queues or eating off the floor, it's a good thing. The problem comes when you don't know why other people do these things and why, when you put them straight, they don't appreciate your help.

I believe that aspies expect the whole world to be like their family. The way they learned to live from an early age is how the world should be. We do understand that other people get it wrong, but we don't quite figure out why they don't want to have it put right.

This blinkered view is over and above any personality traits of the aspie themselves. They may be the most laid back, non-OCD aspie there is, willing to love the world and greet them as friends, but within lies the child who feels, even if they don't believe, that the way their parents did it is the proper way to live.

And there is the crux of the matter, where logic cannot shine. Aspies are good at feeling things, but often pretty bad at explaining or dissecting those feelings. If we feel a certain way, we know it's a truth because it's right there, in the middle of the chest, making you fill with emotion that doesn't leave room for any argument. A good person might come to you and explain why you feel this way and why it isn't necessarily the truth, but will you listen? Even if you try?

Our upbringing, with the all-knowing family members, never stops affecting the way we see the world. Even if you know your family was wrong or what they did was mad, it still feels right to do the same, because it's what you know.

Even if there is a moment, every day, where you have to stand and give yourself a talking to so you can behave how you want and not how you were taught, you will always be followed around by what you once knew to be the ultimate truth.

The world is my family, because I know nothing else. My family showed me how to live when I knew nothing. It made me understand what seemed incomprehensible. It loved me when no one else cared. And now, as an aspie adult, I'm supposed to shuck off that knowledge and teaching and take on a new one, so that I can work better in the world and feel better too?

Yes, that is what we have to do. Every adult aspie has a responsibility to their inner child to keep on growing and learn new truths, even if those truths have to squeeze in next to the old ones. Sometimes, inner compromise and balance is the greatest gift we can give ourselves as adults.


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The beauty of failure

There is a part of every aspie that would be relieved to find themselves destitute, so long as it was in a quiet corner. Not permanent destitution, just a temporary state where there would be no claims made upon their time or person.

This quiet corner is not meant to be destitution, it's actually supposed to be a calm moment, hidden from the world. The aspie isn't looking for a cardboard box to call home and a three-legged dog to bring in the contributions. What they are looking for is solitude.

If you imagine this as the end goal, a complete escape from everything that makes up a real, adult life, then you see it as it really is: an aspie who wants to step aside for a while and let it all pass. Now, keep this in mind and compare it to the aspie under pressure in everyday life. The two are inextricably linked but hardly ever are they seen this way by family and friends.

If you have supportive people around you, they know you need time off. They actually watch out for the warning signs because they've learned from experience that if they don't help you let off steam, you disappear and everything falls apart. So they are on your side, in as much as someone waiting to catch a rogue bull is on the side of the bull.

Your best beloveds know that the stressed aspie is a nightmare to live with and a disaster waiting to happen. No surprise that they might try to stop it reaching a bad stage, when it's too late to pull back from disaster.

A super-caring support network might be helpful sometimes, to make the right noises and help you move away from your troubles long enough to cope with them. I'm not sure such a thing exists in the world of the adult aspie, though. If you are grown up enough to have a job (or get one, at any rate) and to have relationships, romantic or otherwise, then you are deemed adult enough to cope with more problems.

It's different for children, they usually have more support. They have their parents, school, professionals and whoever else becomes involved. And they are only kids, you see. They're not expected to move mountains or even cope with stressful situations. If they run off or lie down and froth, it's written in a report somewhere and onto the next challenge.

As adult humans, aspies are complicated. Good days roll into bad days and worse days sneak up on you unawares. Before you know it, treading water has turned into a slow sink and you don't even realise it until you see sunlight through the waves.

Faced with sinking, we swim suddenly and strongly to the surface and break free. Gasping for air, we look for land and put all our energies into making ourselves safe. At this point, escape from the danger is a matter of survival. This is how failure becomes so important.

We don't set out to fail, we set out to survive. Most of the time, we can probably see that we're sinking before we have to hold our breath. Sometimes, it's not that simple. We are here, then there and nothing seemed to move between the two.

On the outside, we rush for failure, pushing through the responsibilities and worries of our normal lives and heading for that place where we feel safe. What a relief to be there! How warm and dry we are, how good to feel the earth beneath our feet. Now we can concentrate on getting our breath back and recovering from the whole exhausting experience.

To our loves ones we have left behind an opportunity, or a positive situation, where we had a chance to succeed in the adult world. We created even more troubles for ourselves and showed no signs of caring. We were selfish and thick-skinned, interested only in barging past and out of the door. How can you reason with a person like that? How can someone with so much potential be so prone to failure?

Think again of how it feels to be too far from shore, with a mass of water surrounding you. It grows colder the deeper you drift and you feel tired with the effort of staying afloat with nothing to support you. We can't see the little boat behind us with your arms outstretched to help. We only see the distant, familiar beach where we know we can be safe.

Forgive us if we escape sinking by heading for what we know and taking refuge there. It won't make any difference if you shout and try to get our attention. Survival makes you blind and deaf to any option other than the one you think will save you.

Failure is a beautiful thing, readers. It saves us, every time. We know there will be more problems coming out of it but we escaped the one following us on our way in. After some time, we can return and face the others. Sooner or later, we will try to come back. Until then, give us the quiet space with the view and let it always be gentle summer.


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Aspies are really, really stupid

No, bear with me, please don't send me dead hamsters in the mail.

I was reflecting on how many times I ask for things to be repeated because I haven't understood them. Usually this happens in a crowded, public place, with an audience (why do these things always have an audience?).

Always, there's a good reason I didn't understand. I would say that most of the time it's because I was distracted, either by an inner happening or an outer distraction. Sometimes, I'm just tired and have no idea what is going on.

To make matters worse, I hardly ever need something complicated explaining to me. Give me complicated and I can return it with extra complexity. In-depth descriptions are unnecessary, I usually know the answer. But set me in front of a simple situation, where my attention is elsewhere, and I'm lost.

One of my most popular decisions is to forget how to use cash machines. Not the hole-in-the-wall types, the ones on checkouts, with a queue behind them. I try to push the card in the wrong way or put in my mother's pin number instead of my own. Sometimes I just stand, staring at it, as if I never saw one before.

None of this happens at self-service, so I do avoid dealing with real people if possible. When it happens on a normal checkout, I'll usually get a gentle prompting from the person serving me and then I come away knowing what it feels like to be a little old lady who is assumed a simpleton.

Another one is any kind of machine where I have to choose and think and do, all in quick succession. Coffee machines! Ye gods, you'd think I'd never drunk coffee before. And if there's an opportunity to burn myself on the way through, I'll leap at it. And don't get me started on self-serve cake stands. How on earth does anyone catch and hold a cake with those flipper things?

On the plus side, as most of my mishaps happen in places where you're being served by staff who need to be nice to their customers, I'm not often treated like the idiot I appear to be. I've been met with more kindness and understanding in supermarket checkouts than the rest of my misadventures put together. As usual, the person who earns the least is the one who has the most time for people.

In my various jobs, the stupidity question has often reared up, like an amphetamine-fueled unicorn, ready to impale me as I struggle past. I will learn a task and really know how to do it one day, then proceed to repeat the task for many days afterwards and then, sometime soon, will forget completely how it is done.

I can't blame employers and colleagues for being frustrated with this. It must look like willful obstruction. I mean, how can an intelligent person, who wears their clothes the right way round most days, just forget how to do something they have managed fine for weeks? That doesn't make sense. They're being difficult, right?

Yes and No. Most of the time this forgetfulness will spring up from stress, tiredness, pressure or any of the other things which make the working world so much fun. So, by the time I've temporarily forgotten the thing I've always managed before, I've probably started to make other mistakes as the pressure of work bears down on me.

You see, stupidity at work is never a single occurrence, it's a sociable one. It likes to attract friends and make you look bad in an ongoing, forward-looking way. It won't be just one thing I forget, there'll be others. I might have a good day today but by tomorrow I'll be standing in the hall, waiting for someone else to come in as I'll have forgotten the security code. By lunch-time, half the work I did last week will be dripping into the deleted folder, unnoticed by me and only discovered five minutes before I go home.

These small-ish things will be brushed aside, laughed off even, until they are joined by others, until you look like a complete fraud. How can you have so many good-looking entries on your CV and act like a great, daft fool? How is it possible for one clever person to create so much micro-chaos on a daily basis?

And the longer this continues, the more mistakes you make because the stress piles up and leaves you a gibbering wreck. It can feel as if there is no return once this cycle begins, especially if you've been through it all before.

So, what is the solution to the stupid aspie? For me, it's retreat and recover. If at all possible, I recognise the elusive quality of my brains as a sign that I need to go home, hole up and keep away from any stresses. When this isn't possible, life gets interesting. Do you avoid anyone and everyone? Do you take a sickie from work? Again?

There are no easy answers. There aren't even easy explanations for your vacant expression. If you can blame stress, as an official reason, then people still won't understand. They are already dismissive of stress (when it doesn't apply to them), so there's no reason to assume they'll feel any kinder towards you when you accidentally switch off the office fridge instead of the photocopier for the third night running.

All you can hope for is some understanding and enough days with your brain switched on to make up for the times it powers down and leaves you alone, adrift, unable to function and with paddle but no canoe.

At least you know you're not alone and that you are not stupid, honestly. You do really, really stupid things - don't deny it - but you are not actually stupid. It's important to remember this when you come upon the latest catastrophe and know, without even thinking about it, that it was your fault.

(This communication was brought to you by the left-side of CG Brain #3, upgraded model 22)


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Showing the real it fades

I was choosing the latest picture for my writing blog and realised that when I choose pictures of adult women for it, they are usually atmospheric, unsettling and with smooth, calm, but unnerving expressions. In contrast, when I choose the pictures for this blog, well, you know how that turns out.

For some reason, once I had decided to seek out pictures of engaging little girls (and sometimes boys) to illustrate my posts, I was able to find ones which really emphasized the feel of each post. Mostly, I'm looking for an expression of emotion, sometimes the setting is more important.

I have great fun choosing them and often get a buzz from finding the one that fits, just right. Some of the girls are familiar to me, as I go back to the same photographer, finding their little models encapsulate the essence of my blog. Yes, like a bad parent, I have favourites.

And then, back to my writing blog, where it's mostly pictures of adults and away go the smiles, draining off the emotion, taking away the open honesty in the faces. Is this what it's really like in the adult aspie world?

It struck me that part of my reason for choosing girls for the aspie blog was because their expressions are often more free than an adult model. Children express themselves much more openly - and then, sometimes, learn the hard way and become more reserved.

As adult aspies, how many of us walk along with a happy smile, open to the world? Not many, I bet. And yet, if I meet children, I am open and can be myself much more easily than with adults.

What worried me more than this split in the pictures was that when I choose the writing blog pictures, I often reflect a part of me that has to do something, right here and now, in my creative world. It has a specific remit, to show the writerly side of me, including the practical aspects.

If I follow this logic, then the creative side of me is tortured and needs help expressing itself to the world. Whereas the aspie side is a bundle of energy and expression, shown in the pictures chosen over the lifetime of this blog.

The aspie blog deals with a wide range of issues and life situations. If I have lived it or tried to live it, then it will make its way into this blog. It encompasses lots of different issues and emotions too. The writing blog goes to the side a little and settles in one area of my life. My writing is obviously affected by being an aspie, but I think it's a more specific effect.

For instance, if I don't sleep then real life gets pretty difficult and weird. In terms of my writing, though, no sleep, at the right level, can stimulate the sort of creativity I only see once in a while. As I go off madly into the distance, I take the pen with me. Real life is in tatters, but the writing grooves on.

I think we all have very separate parts of ourselves, especially if we feel the need to protect the inner person from the outer world. I just hadn't realised how much of this is shown in choices we think are about something else entirely. While choosing pictures for two separate blogs, I have discovered a side of myself that I hadn't considered.

In other parts of our lives, what do we separate without even realising? How often do we turn away inside, then on the outside show people what they expect to see? How often, my friends, do we keep the blank face for the world and protect our inner child, full of nuance and expression, inside of us?

Like holding hands with our little selves, do we go through life with our faces ready to ward off dangers and make sure our smaller companion can go on being happy and carefree? Do we only show our true brightness when we turn to face ourselves and can be open and safe?

I have to say, I don't know if this is a bad thing. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that some people would dearly love me to show the real me always. The problem is, as a lot of you know, we have more than one 'real' persona. What the world sees is what we have learned to give, but it is also what we know we can cope with. If we were to be completely open, like children, even a kind world would be too much.

I'm sorry for any readers who think I'm in a quandary here. I'm not. I feel quite shocked that these different people within me have such a separate attitude to life, but I'm not looking to change it anytime soon. People I count as friends get to see the inner child and dance with her, hands clasped together as we giggle at nothing. The rest of the world can have the side of me that is able to be there. Sometimes, there is still dancing and laughter, just not as often.

Readers, say hello to your inner selves for me. From my jolly little girl to your true self, I can wave hello and know we see each other, truly, as friends across a distance.


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WARNING: Aspies at Large.

When entering Aspie-Dar Park there are a few things you need to remember to keep you safe and our aspies happy. Follow these simple rules and you and your family can enjoy your time at Aspie-dar and have a day out to remember!

1. Approach aspies with caution. Most aspies are quite friendly but easily startled. If you want to approach them, keep in plain sight the whole time and don't make loud noises to attract their attention.

2. If you have inadvertently startled an aspie, they will usually run away and hide. Do not try to chase them and calm them down. If you see their hiding place, pretend you haven't and move on.

3. Sometimes, aspies will have unprovoked shows of anger. These are most often harmless and designed to show the gentle creature's inner torment. It is still a good idea to keep your distance as aspies can be unexpectedly energetic.

4. If it seems like one of the aspies is going to engage in aggressive behaviour with you, lie down on the floor, holding your stomach and shout 'diarrhea!' loudly and clearly, then clutch at the back of your pants. This will be enough to make the aspie back down and leave.

5. Often, you will see aspies milling about in small groups, near each other but not interacting. Do not try to push aspies together to see what happens. It results in a sad, flapping display where they try to frighten each other away without making eye contact.

6. If two aspies seem to be friendly, don't try to join them. They will draw together and create a force greater than themselves which allows no invasion.

7. If one of your children or elderly relatives wanders off and finds themselves amongst a group of aspies, try to signal them without making loud noises or extravagant movements. Usually, aspies are unaware of others in their midst and will pass by without incident. However, if you startle them, there may be a stampede.

8. Some of our visitors complain that their relatives try to join the aspies and don't want to leave the park. In these circumstances, we recommend using a rein so that you can keep a close eye on your relative. All our aspies are carefully sourced and integrated gradually. The sudden arrival of a new member will upset our aspies and might lead to a large-scale migration.

9. If you lose one of your relatives and suspect they have joined our aspies, let us know. Do not try to find them yourself as this can be socially awkward. We have had instances where relatives pretend not to know their family, just so they can stay with the aspies. They seem to prefer this simple life to going home with their loved ones. We don't yet understand why but are conducting studies. In the meantime, see number 8 above and exercise caution.

10. Do not feed the aspies. They have their own food supply, carefully organised and made to a very specific regimen. If you introduce new foods to them, we may have to re-set our whole feeding programme. This is time-consuming and expensive so please be considerate.

11. Very occasionally, we have an escape attempt. If you find an aspie has tagged on to your group, or is waiting in  your car to go home, pretend not to notice it and get the attention of Aspie-dar staff. Retrieving an aspie is a delicate process and must be done with extreme care, otherwise they will have to be left with you until they grow bored. Unless you are prepared to re-home a wild aspie, please keep a count of your group members and lock your vehicles.

12. Souvenirs: we will not allow the removal of locks of hair, clippings, clothes and other paraphernalia from our aspies. They are individuals with complex needs and cannot 'just get another one', if you take their possessions. This activity may result in aggressive behaviour, in which case number 4 (see above) would be useless. Since 2007, we have stopped intervening in aggressive incidents brought on by theft from our aspies, so please be aware we will stand idly by and let the aspie retrieve their property in any way they see fit.

13. Before entering the park and after leaving, do not stand at the fence and gawp at the wildlife. Our aspies are particularly sensitive to this and while they may not seem to have noticed, they will be very aware of you and may react imaginatively.

14. Any incidents outside our park boundaries are not in our control and have nothing to do with us or our legal representatives.

15. Aspie-dar Park is proud to be a happy and safe environment for wild aspies. Please respect our rules and let our aspies live freely here. Our last request would be to enjoy yourselves then tell your friends how wonderful our aspies are. We need support like yours to keep our lovely aspies where they can be safe and happy and where they belong!


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Humour as a side effect of Aspergers

I've talked before about aspies and humour. It's something very important to me as I find lots of things funny, I like to be funny and am often funny at inappropriate moments. All of that is fine (well, except when it isn't) but I also think finding things funny is a direct side effect of living with aspergers.

Just when I think I'm getting away with it and being nicely normal, I'll find myself laughing. Not in a maniacal way, not like a happy witch, just a normal laugh at an abnormal moment.

It'll usually be that I've remembered something funny and laughed again. It's as funny the second or third time. Thanks to my photographic visual memory, I can re-live it, see the funny side and away I go. What a hahas.

Except that I'm in a public setting, often alone and with nothing to blame for feeling so happy that I laughed. Oh, well, ahem, you know, these things happen. It can actually be heartening to know that after so many years of messing up, I can still embarrass myself. Or should I say, still feel embarrassed?

I think my embarrassment is linked to a fear I have that I'll become one of those women who walk along, talking to themselves and waving their arms about. I don't want to be that woman but sometimes I already am, at least in private. I find if I'm relaxed enough, then I do have those out-loud arguments with myself. It's only a short step to doing it in public too.

In fact, it's just as socially unacceptable to laugh to yourself. People seem to find it unnerving, almost like you've walked up to them and jabbed them in the belly or nipped their little fat faces. Much as I often want to do those things, I haven't, yet. They should think themselves lucky I'm just having a giggle to myself.

I even worry friends and family when I do it, so I know it's a bad thing. Considering how well they know me, I'm worried at how surprised they are by this new-ish development. I admit, walking along in the dark with me, it might be a shock if I suddenly laugh into the silence. It could be scene from a horror movie, where you think you're with your mother on a dark pathway, but really she's been replaced by someone else. Even if the replacement sounds happy, that can't be a good feeling.

I always explain what I'm laughing at - usually because the unlucky companion jumps round like I've bitten them and demands to know what's funny. The trouble is, I have to admit I'm laughing at a scene from Father Ted or a comment on TV last week. I have to apologise, realising yet again that other people don't remember TV in the same high definition I do.

It's good to be able to laugh at things again, it's a useful way to be cheered up in the middle of real life. It also feels like a short cut to being avoided in the street.

It must be linked to poor impulse control, rather than a loss of inhibitions. My inhibitions are fine, thank you very much. They live in a nice house and like to keep their garden neat and their windows shiny. They don't come out as much as they used to, but they are still present.

No, the impulse control is at fault here. It's never been brilliant at coping, it was always thundering around, doing whatever it liked when I wasn't looking. The trouble is, since starting this blog, my impulse control has felt more free than ever and often does what it likes when it's standing right next to me and I'm watching.

You see, since writing on here, I see things differently. I'm more relaxed about myself, more at ease. That's great and lovely but what it also means is that I'm less strung up and watchful too. That's where the impulse control comes in - or rather, goes right out and does what it wants. If you don't keep an eye on yourself, then you don't control your impulses and if you're an aspie, your impulses tend to be unexpected and eccentric.

Here is where it starts. Today, I laugh unexpectedly, tomorrow I might speak without ever thinking. The day after, will I be arguing round Tesco or using melons as bowling balls? Who knows, but whatever it is, I'll probably blog about it.

So, you see readers, I can blame the blog and not myself. Before I started this, I was only out of control some of the time. Thanks to the Crazy Girl pages, I'm out of control more of the time and it's spreading.

Strangely, I'm not really worried. I just hope the people who know me don't mind as I change. I feel a bit sorry for them...


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Aspie daze...

It strikes me that one good thing about being unreliable and generally 'eccentric' is that when you have a proper off day and can't do anything, no one notices! This is not much of a compliment to me, but I sit before you, a squinting, red-eyed imitation of my former self and the only comment I've had so far is that I'm a bit grumpy.

A bit grumpy? Readers, I've had less than three hours sleep and am not even functioning on one engine, let alone four. We had an early night as IT Teen is doing a temporary job this week and needs to be up at 5.30am. The teens dropped off to sleep straight away - I lay there, waiting for it to be bed time.

Two hours later, at about one am, I finally slept. Then woke up, slept a bit, jumped out of bed, slept a get the picture. I finally woke up at four am, reading to chew at the walls. I stayed that way until fifteen minutes before IT's alarm went off. Then I slept, until I heard the buzzing from the other room.

It was the anticipation of him having to get up and go to work that bothered me. He was okay, he slept fine and didn't worry this morning. I was a wreck. You know the kind of thing, fretting over whether it would be okay, if he would get on with people, was it all a mistake and there was no job after all (this one at four am, obviously).

It must be so nice to just arrange a thing, then do a thing and not worry about a thing. I wonder what that would be like? I'm sure I'd get more sleep if I could be that way.

So, here I am, with bags so big and dark they've started to fall down my face. I've argued with IT, grumped at the dog, had a little row with the cat because I wanted my bed back during the day. I spilled tea, ate biscuits, stood in a mystery liquid then forgot to wash my foot and felt angry at myself for being too tired to do anything.

And amongst all of this odd behaviour, all I get is that I'm a bit grumpy?! I felt quite disappointed. I thought I'd been acting out of character, being this out of it, with no connection to reality and an irritable reaction to almost everything that came my way. Yes, when I list it like that, it does look like a normal day, doesn't it?

I guess the difference is that my usual days might look the same on the outside but at least the inner me knows what she is doing. Even if all of the above is what other people see and respond to, I'm the one who is on the laptop, writing the next book, or blogging or doing my internetty stuff. I know I'm not just sitting there, mouth open, drool on my chin.

So, here's a toast to low expectations! Or should it be, to unusual expectations? For those of us who seem to achieve little, compared to a normal life, take heart in the fact that your really bad days are only bad to you, on the inside. On the outside, you're the same as ever.


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Choosing your own games

You know when you were little and you had to play with rubbish educational toys that everyone buys for new babies? The cube with the shapes, for instance, with a hammer. Who thought it was good to give a baby an educational toy plus hammer? If you couldn't work out the right shape and hole then you could pick one and hammer it in? Is that the life lesson?

For me, I was bored with those. Having figured out the shape and hole conundrum, I took delight in seeing how far I could push the wrong shape and hole mixture, with liberal use of hammer. My proudest moment was getting the darn star into the circle.

Of course, after this high-end accomplishment, the toy was no longer educational or usable. I think that was the life lesson.

Like small children, we go through life kind of expecting things to make sense. Or, if they don't make sense, we hope someone will give us a nice rubber hammer, one that will force the wrong shapes through the right holes, without coming back and smashing out an eye.

The game of life has many, many wrong holes. This must be what it's like for those good children, who never use the hammer except for play-woodworking. The ones who sit quietly, waiting until they figure out the right shape. It never seems to occur to them to force anything. Patience, readers, marvel at it!

Unlike these good, silent children, I was the one who quickly moved to such games as metal-car-tossing and car racing with my best buddy, Paul. We were both two years old and prone to knocking nice children over, but what we had in common was our obsession with the race. Small children might go flying through the air, still clutching their hammers, but we knew that one of us would win in the end.

What Paul and I didn't realise was that it was an unwinnable race. We pelted around the nursery playroom, with the cubes stacked in the middle, our little legs running for all they were worth under the cars, never seeing the obvious - that we were going in circles.

For the thrill of the race we barged past good children, ran into slow children, bashed the side of the play house when we tried to avoid children we actually saw before we hit them. All of this intense activity and for what? To be the first to complete a few laps of an artificially constructed circuit.

Later in life, if we're lucky, we realise that barging through other people to compete on someone else's terms is a silly way to live. We put aside the racing car and the competition and focus on the living instead. If we're very lucky, we still get to be friends with those people who shared our journey before we made this realisation.

Sometimes, though, you need to leave behind that whole environment. Like nursery, it should be temporary, to live in a controlled situation where our challenges are created for us, to a schedule of improvement. If we follow this imposed schedule, then we risk forgetting that it is all just a circuit made by someone else, with no real goal, simply what we have been told is the aim of the game.

For many years, I went on like I did at a young age, either trying to succeed on an artificial track, or hammering those wrong shapes through the right holes, dodging the hammer each time it bounced up and flew past my head. Both of these sum up my old approaches to life.

If I couldn't succeed on the route someone else created, then I would make what I had fit the right holes. You see, it's like saying to someone, 'I know I did it wrong, but I can change!' This graduates to trying to use the talents you have to succeed in the areas everyone thinks are important. Again, the wrong goal.

I left the race track behind years ago and have only recently abandoned trying to fit shapes in holes. As you see me now, I have the hammer waiting nearby, for when I want to hit something without really hurting it.

I finally realised, after going through many years of confusion and needless competition, that the best games are the ones you make yourself. How much more personalised can it get than a challenge thought of by you, for you? And that way, readers, you have no one to beat and can just enjoy playing the game. Trust me, it's much more fun this way.


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I would help...but I'm an Aspie

Isn't it funny how, when people need you the most, you feel like slapping them and running off quick? Or is that just me?

I'm sorry if that makes me sound a horrible person. Think that way if you like. I know plenty of aspies would agree with me, that the idea of being helpful and useful is immensely attractive but the reality feels like pressure and gets the old legs moving.

I'm often reminded of geeky, cosplay Craig, a character from Malcolm in the Middle. He adores Lois for years, always dreaming of a time when he can be the one she turns to in a crisis, knowing that will be when she looks at him and recognises he is her perfect man.

His hour finally arrives when Lois is going into labour and doesn't have time to get to the hospital. Craig sees his chance to be a real hero! Except, his idea of helping and being a hero is Googling for information on home deliveries. By the time he finds anything useful, Lois is having the baby, helped by her daughter-in-law instead.

You see, in reality, aspies are much more like Craig than a 'real' hero. We have grandiose ideas on what we can do to help, then when it comes to it, our limitations shut down like a a submarine hatch and we are separated from the doing and back to the observing.

This looks, from the outside, like we have backed off and been worse than useless. The very moment when someone needed us for more than internet research or well-thought out advice, and where were we? As far away as possible, is the usual answer.

If we do have to help, or find ourselves in the middle of the situation without any choice, we behave as well as we can, mostly wearing the kind of smile you get when small, grubby children try to stick their fingers in your mouth and their parents are close by.

I offer no excuses, we're a lacklustre bunch who, faced with the pressure of actually being there, rather than imagining being there or being only an email away, want to run off and come back when it's all blown over.

At the very least, when the zombie apocalypse comes, there'll be a fair few aspies who survive. Our ability to hole in for as long as possible, surviving on repetitive food and avoiding other people will finally pay off. I'm not sure what we'll do when hand-to-hand combat happens, but hopefully by then one of the holed-up aspies will have found a cure for zombies and we can use them as our worker drones in a brave new world.

There, see, even major apocalyptic disasters can be solved with a little foresight. Call me anytime you need a plan for the zombie apocalypse, planetary meltdown or if you just need to know how to get an angry cat in a cat box.

Do hesitate to call me if you have made yourself bleed or you need to weep on someone, for many hours a day, while you get over your broken heart. I, erm, might not be in. I know I'm always in, but, erm, I've been really, really busy with...stuff. I can let you have this really useful website though! And anyway, why not just get back together? That would work too. Must dash...


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Forget the last step and trip over the next

I crept downstairs in the dark of night, feeling my way along the bottom of the stairs, trying not to switch on the light. I was doing my best not to wake the house as I made a return journey to the kitchen ages after we'd all gone to bed.

It had suddenly struck me that Custard was locked in the kitchen. This was not a dangerous predicament, it's just that he sleeps in the living room with the dogs. I had forgotten to put him to bed and I imagined him sat, wistfully staring at the door and wondering why he wasn't snuggled with Granny Tess.

Except he wasn't there. For a moment, I lurched as I wondered if he had escaped into the night. He's a house cat and has bad eyesight and very dodgy hearing, so the idea of him loose at night was Not Good.

Before I panicked completely, I went to check the living room. There he was, in his favourite place next to the antique clock he likes to push off, busy washing his bits. He looked up, understandably affronted to have me come in just then and waited, tongue stuck out between his teeth, for me to leave.

I wandered back upstairs feeling defeated. I'd done it again. Just like so many other times in the past week, I had forgotten the last thing I did.

It's not so much the usual flaky memory but a specific kind of annoyance: I'll do a few things in a row and then forget I've done the last one. Custard was a longer example, as it took me a while to realise 'here we go again'. Shorter instances have been when I've put things away from the living room, one at a time, finding them somewhere to go, only to discover the last one I come for has already 'vanished'; that, without remembering, I've tidied it up in the place I thought of already.

Taking my phone and inhaler upstairs. I came back down for the inhaler less than a minute later. Putting things in my bag before lessons, I folded some papers in there, then looked for the papers. Setting out cups, plates and cutlery for tea I only just stopped myself from adding a second lot of cutlery, less than a minute since adding the first.

That's what strikes me about it. I'm used to forgetting things normally, but not used to doing something then trying to re-do so quickly afterwards. It makes the whole forgetfulness business much more immediate and harder to ignore. To turn around and try to re-do something while you're standing in the same place you were seconds earlier, having just done the thing, is unnerving.

Before diagnosing myself with some neurological disorder, I had to admit it was probably tiredness. Sleep has been elusive, good sleep impossible, dreams everywhere, like flies. It's no surprise an already eccentric brain could find new ways to make me suffer.

What I don't like is the loss of control that comes with it, as well as the inability to lie to myself about what happened. Worse than either, though, is that I rarely remember having done the thing I forgot. There's no realisation moment following the discovery. It stays forgotten. I don't remember carrying Custard to bed, or putting the papers in my bag - I only remember planning to do these things.

The simple answer is to get more sleep but the next person to suggest that is in line for a smack. I do not lie there on purpose, being a non-sleeper. It has become a creature in its own right, with an identity separate from mine. Perhaps the insomnia-saur is the one putting Custard to bed and doing all those jobs I can't remember?

If the answer is more sleep, then I'll be happy to accept a nice, uncomplicated answer. What I fear is that I'm disconnecting a little more from reality. So easy to do and totally attractive, who ever wanted reality anyway? Perhaps I will, once I forget more, or do more without realising?

I'll let you know. Don't say it too loud, but last night I slept, properly. Today, I'm fuzzy and almost worse than with no sleep. If I don't forget stuff today, I'll know I can blame it on sleep. If I carry on as if I'm two people, with no connecting memory, then one of those people is in trouble.


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