Walking in the dying sun



In a few moments, I have to go upstairs and find some way of disconnecting RT Teen from the computer. It's a tricky procedure involving distraction and bribery dressed as encouragement. Like a sad little flower at the back of the room, RT needs to feel the sun on his face and top up on his non-vampiric vitamins.

I know he's done some writing today and I also know he has made amazing progress with his spectacularly creatively mathematical mega-structure on Minecraft.  It's just that every time I walk in the room he's playing some strange cookie game. And I mean an actual cookie game, with a giant choc-chip cookie on the screen, not some weird hybrid of those internet sprites meant to make our lives easier.

If I was able to go in, unseen, he would be sitting there, his face alight in happiness and his body glowing gently in sympathy with the screen. And he would be socialising.

This is what happens whenever I try to get him off the computer. I know he's been working, Minecraft or otherwise. I also know he's been gaming, cookies or otherwise. But when I go up to detach him from the tech, his American friend will have come online and they'll be chatting.

There is some tech-connection charm which is activated by online chatting. When the chatting begins, all other pursuits are put on hold and I am barely even allowed to look at him. It is paramount that he not leave the computer, though he seems able to chat and still play games. He must stay where he is because their time-lines have coincided and they are communicating across the waters.

No matter that the sun is going down, or the dog is dancing. The fact that he has sat there for a full day means nothing. Neither does that ache in his mouse hand or the weird dryness in his throat which will eventually turn out to be thirst.

It is chat time and America is online, or at least the very particular part of it which shares exactly the same interests as RT Teen.

If I was a non-aspie mother, I would rail at RT and explain about the sunshine and the exercise and the fresh air (don't we all remember the lectures about fresh air?). I would insist he comes off and tell him he can chat to his friend another day. I would make sure he ate and drank away from the computer and did Other Stuff with his day.

I would not go up, see his happy face and leave him for another half an hour. I wouldn't feel ever so gently jealous that I didn't have the internet when I was growing up. I wouldn't go back downstairs and dance with the dog awhile, before going online to find out how much time before the sun goes down.

The aspie life isn't always complicated. Sometimes it is as simple as the hours spent in happy pursuits, the kind of activities which don't have to be what the majority think are good for us.

Readers, I know vitamin D is very important and so, apparently, is fresh air though it was never explained why. It's just that friends and play and contentment aren't always found in a bracing wind or a dying sun. Sometimes they are right here, at home, just on the other side of the water.

Amanda
  

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Manic Optimism




I never understood people who talked about doing something and then, well, talked about it some more. How long does the talking stage go on if someone really wants to act? How long is it before plans become events?

I know there are lots of people less hasty than me. They plan things out, think it all through, consult sensible others and make real strategies for success which have nothing to do with my manically scribbled notes in many notebooks. These are the ones who know before starting if their plan has a chance of success.

Then there are the ones who do all of this and make the right noises but never seem to get off the ground. They haven't discovered the plan is unworkable or even very risky, they just don't move. The next time you see them and bring up the grand scheme, they are pleased to talk about it but the conversation is either a re-hash of the last time you met or it's yet another nuance of the scheme they need to iron out.

They are the careful ones, the ones so very careful they rarely do anything. This is a shame because many of their plans are great and I'd be happy to dive right in and help.

Except that I'd be happy to dive right into the lava flow if you told me the suit would hold. And I'd be the one diving into the shark pool, if you said being dressed like a shark would keep me safe. Diving into tricky but exciting scenarios is one of my favourite things.

I love the exhilaration that comes from hoping and feeling a plan will succeed and diving in to see if I'm right. There is nothing quite like the swoosh of warm air as you sail through the atmosphere, hoping it will be a soft landing. Having visualised the soft landing, it is almost a truth it will come to pass.

The planners know a soft landing should be built into the plans and the careful ones know that they're not silly enough to dive into anything, not with a family, house, pets, retirement plan and good causes to think about. The only one diving in is me, whizzing past with a superbly-optimistic grin on my face, just knowing it's all going to be fine.

If anyone lacks confidence in their plans they can come to me and have them shored up for free. I can tell them how it will succeed, give them extra ideas to make sure it does and dive right in, to encourage them onward.

The careful ones better watch out as even with their determination to act only when the earth collides with the sun, I have been known to make the most stolid, reliable person jump before they were ready.

And then my own plans: diving in is happening even as I am planning. A vague idea, drawn with the end of a matchstick, is enough to have me in motion. I can sort out the rest on the way. No matter if it is a short trip to the ground and the rough or soft landing, on the way is all the time I need to fine-tune the details. Trust me!

I should add that despite this maniacal need for action, I do try to learn from my mistakes (it would be super-human of me to ignore my mistakes as there are so many of them). So even though I'm diving in, I do look around to see if there is anything familiar that can go wrong. This knowledge of past pitfalls is what can make me so useful to other planners as I know what can go wrong. It's a pity it never stops me trying again though.

Diving in, over and over, is a stalwart part of my aspie life. Optimism is under-rated: it keeps you young in mind, if light in wallet. It means you are always ready to try new things and have the confidence to make them work, no matter what, right up until something better comes along.

Here it is, readers, the recipe for an exciting life. All you need is a short plan and a platform to dive from, then you are all set. No, don't wait until you find something suitable to dive from. Look here, I have this box you can use. Just make room for me beside you. Now, don't Blogger is a free blog-publishing tool from Google for easily sharing your thoughts with the world. Blogger makes it simple to post text, photos and video onto your personal or team blog.be shy, just jump!

Amanda
  
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How to Talk to Your Aspie


I wish I could talk to people, you know? Talk to them in the same way as when I write my blog or my books. The written word comes so easily compared to the stilted, stuttering, compacted conversations I offer in the real world. How does this happen? Why can I write it and not say it? It is the same brain behind both things!

And this is how I came to the second book in my Crazy Girl in an Aspie World series. I realised that a disproportionate amount of my blog posts were spent analysing communication and explaining how hard it can be for aspies to talk to other people, let alone explain their feelings.

People who found my blog searched using phrases like, ‘talk to an aspie’, ‘why can’t aspies talk,’ ‘weird aspie talk’ and ‘strange things that aspies say’. Yes, we are weird and say strange things or we can’t talk or people try to talk to us and come away confused.

Faced with the real world, lots of aspies freeze and need to give themselves a push to carry on into the maelstrom. It is hard out there. The world is filled with a myriad of aggravating events which impact on the aspie psyche and leave us reeling as if in pain. On top of all this, we are expected to communicate too.

I often think that communicating with other people is like trying to talk in the middle of a thunder storm or while being chased by wild, hungry animals: the other person doesn’t see the storm or the pursuit, they only see you, stood like a great wedge of cheese, staring at them with your face fixed in confused thought. They wonder why you don’t speak, they ask if anything is wrong and then they leave.

The storm abates, the animals vanish and the aspie is left alone, quiet, annoyed with their inability to communicate but at the same time relieved that the danger is over. They can relax until the next time someone wants something from them. And maybe by then they will have got the hang of this talking business.

This book is titled, ‘How to Talk to Your Aspie’ but much of it is written from the aspie viewpoint. Some of these chapters are adapted from my popular blog, Crazy Girl in an Aspie World and are included because other people have found them relevant and helpful.

Family, friends, best beloveds, have a look at the world from an aspie point of view and see how creative, frightening, annoying and enlightening it can be.

How to Talk to Your Aspie is available on Amazon as an ebook (paperback due out soon) and on Lulu as a paperback.

Amanda
  

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Overwhelmed...




How do you cope when everything seems to happen at once and you feel overwhelmed? How do you keep yourself going when you face real and complex issues? If a 'normal' problem sends you catapulting from the path then being overwhelmed by problems, challenges, difficulties is not going to be a simple fix.

The Aspergers mould already leaves little space for extra problems - being aspie-shaped is usually enough to bring stresses where other people see none. So how is an aspie meant to cope when life head-butts you and leaves you reeling from events which the most placid person would find stressful?

I'm talking about the big events - not necessarily marriage, divorce, moving house, bereavement and so on, but the other big events where problems come to a head and angst-ridden times carry you on the crest of sharp, glittering waves towards an unknown shore. Those moments in life when you find yourself in the eye of the storm with nowhere to turn.

In other words, those times when anyone would be stressed and when aspie-stress goes off the scale.

I was lying in bed a couple of weeks ago, relaying all the sudden and tremendous stresses I was facing. Events had come to a head and I was there, right at the forefront of it all with absolutely no way of avoiding any of my problems. Although there was one, big central issue, the process was a huge mass of smaller, sharp, nasty little problems which vexed me on their own, let alone with a load more to deal with.

I realised I was not just overwhelmed in the usual sense, I had gone past this to a whole other level of strain. I looked at what faced me and could see nothing to be done, no way to affect things for the better and, somehow worse than these, no way of fully understanding the situation.

It feels me to that understanding problems is the key to coping with them because knowledge helps you to realise what and why and where, meaning if you find yourself unable to change a situation, you can at least say why it happened. It matters to have this understanding, it makes life liveable on so many levels.

I looked at the dark ceiling in my bedroom and visualised the issues facing me. I felt like they were an enormous heap of separate problems which had been dumped together and were heaving in a giant mass right ahead of me. They were a living thing, stinking and moving under their own weight. They blocked the road and rose up before me with only a small patch of sky visible past them.

I saw myself as this tiny person stood before the heap, one hand raised to touch it so that I could work it out. But how could I work out such an enormous mess? What sense could I make of it? It was just too much, there was no way I could sort it out. And I also knew I wasn't making too much of it or enlarging the problem - it was as it appeared, a heaving, frightening pile of emotional garbage.

Readers, I let my hand reach out and touch one small part of it which I could understand and then I stepped back. I looked at the mass and knew I could not hope to work through it, definitely not that night and perhaps never. I saw that there are some things we are not able to understand.

This is letting go of the control which usually helps me cope with problems - not the type of control which means I can direct events but the sort which means I can say, 'I see this and I know what it is so I can walk with it,'. To completely let go of this control is a massive step, possibly a step bigger than the pile of problems I am facing.

I realised that it was healthy to tell myself to leave things alone. I should understand only what I could and not bother the rest. If understanding was to come then let it come of its own accord and not through my own pushing. I stepped back and let it be, let the mass of problems lie in my path, undisturbed and unconquered.

Now I wait. I step through the days and keep my eye on the quiet, close horizon of the next hour. I go on as well as I can and don't force myself to see the whole of it. I'm not avoiding my problems, I am letting them exist with me until I can look at them again.

So much of life is knowledge and control, but this time is a place of reflection, of waiting for things to become clear. Sometimes what we need instead of clarity and deep understanding is a sense of where we are and what we need, without words. I needed quiet and peace, so I took it.

In the whole of life we are faced with situations where we know a certain path must be taken or is likely to be the best way: just sometimes we need to sit by the road and wait for it to become clear, without any expectation of what we should or should not be doing.

Understanding the whole of it or part of it is essential to me. Waiting is anathema to my normal way of working. Now I set aside understanding and take up patience, relying on instinct to guide me through.

Sometimes the very best we can do is step back and let it all be until it is the right time to face the next step. Sometimes the next step is all we can take.

Amanda
  


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Sensory Overload




Have you ever tried to explain sensory overload to your nearest and dearest? Yes, me too. And usually this conversation happens apart from the overload because, not surprisingly, when you are overwhelmed by sensory input and your body thinks it is being attacked by life itself, you aren't in a position to explain.

In fact, I would say that sensory overload is without words, a feeling, a condition, a point in time when you are purely a mind in flux, a body entrapped in experience, something which cannot be described at the time it is happening. Trying to describe sensory overload from inside the experience is like trying to explain logic to custard: the custard is susceptible to logic, like everything else in life, but it is unlikely to be listening.

So I want to let you into a secret room where you can see what sensory overload looks like, to me at least. We have to tread carefully here as it's all quiet at the moment and the last thing we want to do is set off any drama alarms.

It's a lovely room, full of colour and vibrancy. The walls are covered in heavy, rich wallpaper, the furniture is ornate, gilded, carved and upholstered in velvet. The curtains, heavy enough to block out natural light, nevertheless shine in the dazzling patterns thrown by the grand chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

The mirrors on the walls show your face if you look in them but are placed at angles where they also show each other. Try looking at yourself and you see a confusing array of selves, all at the wrong angle with one face repeated in many places. These mirrors reflect the light from the chandelier and it cascades around the room, following the vision of your face, becoming part of the air itself.

But no, I am letting my calm slide. I must not think of the mirrors or the light or the darkly-engrossing colours around me. I must focus on moving from the door to the window, from this point to that. This simple, small journey is what I can accomplish here and all my attention must belong to my travels, pulled away from the busy distractions littered around me.

I look down and concentrate on my feet, moving over the floor. The shining floor, wood polished to a sheen never intended by nature, whorled and swirled in patterns from trees meant to live in peaceful forests, now ripped into planks and screwed down into this tortured existence.

Across and move and don't look at the faces inherent in the knots of the floor or the movement of the shining wood as it too reflects light from that damned chandelier. My feet are small and shuffling, trying not to pick up too high in case I trip, not wanting to find myself down there with the wood, echoing the agonies of being formed and fixed into an unnatural use.

Beads of perspiration stand out on my forehead as I find myself by the window, at last able to reach out and touch the glass. The cold, welcoming glass with the view to an outside world so much more complex and frightening than this one room. But while I am in this room, I long to be out there, away from the concentrated, aggression-fuelled sensory experience of this place.

I let my hand drop. I see my hand drop in the mirrors either side, I feel it drop in the mirrors behind and beyond, the ones I cannot see but know are there. I see it drop in real-life, coming to rest at my side, afraid to move it or the whole room will start to swim and be mixed, pulled, drawn in around me by the very fact of my existence there.

My breathing sharpens and I see the colours of the curtains, the cushion on the day-bed nearby, the edge of a tasselled, embroidered rug slipping out from under a small table covered with intricately-carved chess pieces. I catch my breath and try to be calm as I become aware of the chandelier shaking in an unseen wind. But it does not shake, it is me who is moving, my body swaying backwards as the room becomes too much, the colours too rich, the place too far into my mind.

Backing away, I feel behind me as I go, desperate to find the door and, finally, after all my efforts I stumble, slide sideways and fall to the floor. There, where I have been so many times before, looking up at the lights from the chandelier as they sparkle viciously above me, casting the definite glare of accusation and reproach: I have failed again.

Mumbling, I shuffle over the smooth wood, my hands slipping on its surface until I reach the door. I am too low to turn the handle and have to stand, have to somehow be up on my feet again when the room is closing in around me, the colours blending, the lights spinning, the mirrors glittering with false and true images of me and my life. I have to breathe in all of this and still have enough fresh air left to help me see clearly, to turn the handle and open the door.

Gasping, dragging in laboured breaths still full of colour and light and the sound of my hammering heart, I collapse on the other side of the door, slamming it behind me to shut out the glare of the awful room. I am safe again, for now, though it will be a while before I feel this safety. I am outside of it all in the pale, grey, nondescript hallway where it is soothing and peaceful. I am free again.

And there you are, beside me all this time. I meant to show you the room, I meant to explain it to you so you would understand. I'm sorry, perhaps another time. I forgot you were there, I couldn't see you next to me. Forgive me, I'm sure if we try again sometime then it will work.

Someday I will be able to go through it and know where you are, understand you are still there when the lights dance and the mirrors swirl. Someday I'll see you there and still know who you are when it all begins. Until then, let's close the door and be somewhere shaded and calm, with quiet words and soft lights. Come now, another day.

Amanda
  


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