Aspergers is ridiculous




Sometimes I think Aspergers is all about realising that difference is not a negative, it is just about being an individual. We are all individuals, every one of us, aspie or not, nice or not, funny or not, fierce or not. Every person is an individual, it is just that human beings have this tendency to cluster together.

Each family has its own routines and rituals, a way of doing things which is considered right. Sometimes the family is aware they are different from other families; more often it never occurs to them, as this is the way things have always been done.

Each society is like this too, a big family with a way of doing things. A set of behaviours that makes the society feel it is a whole entity, that each person within it belongs. From more obvious behaviours such as not slapping complete strangers to more subtle ones like knowing when to give up a seat on a bus.

If society as a whole states, outright or by implication, how we should behave, then so do our own families. This is what we do so this is what you do. This is how we do it. This is how we think therefore this is how you should think because this is the way to think.

But what if you can't think that way? Not because you are being rebellious or difficult or having a bad day, just because it doesn't work like that for you?

We come to the arguments then, the family traditions and societal norms pitted against the aspie need for security and understanding.

It is Aunt Elsie's birthday and we always go to her house, along with every other member of the family, and celebrate with her. It is what we do, it is the right thing to do, it is what you will do.

Except that today is a bad day and you don't want to go to Aunt Elsie's birthday. You don't want to be in a little room with all the other members of your family. You don't want to be in a little room with anyone! You just want to stay at home and be safe.

Now you're being ridiculous. What isn't safe about good old Aunt Elsie? What isn't safe about your own family? What isn't safe about something you have done every year for your whole life? Why is it any different today than the other days? Why are you being so utterly awkward now, when you are expected to be nice and kind and visit an old lady on her birthday?

Try it a different way. Translate it into something unrelated and see if it is still ridiculous.

Every year, on one particular day, your whole family gets together to paint blue fish. They have always done it, it's a family tradition and no one ever misses. You have always done it too.

You are used to turning up with your paint and brush and getting down on the floor with everyone else, to paint blue fish. Before you arrive, someone will have set out the paper and left spaces for you all to sit in while you paint. There is even spare paint in the corner, in case you run out. You wouldn't want to miss out any of your fish!

This year, it suddenly occurs to you that the last thing you want to do is go and paint blue fish. What is the point? Everyone else is going, let them paint the fish! You want to stay at home and read about yellow toads. Yellow toads are just as vital as blue fish - more so, perhaps, because anyone can paint a blue fish but not everyone knows about yellow toads.

You have a big argument about it. Why don't you want to paint blue fish? What's wrong with blue fish? They've always been good enough for you before! Why did you decide, today of all days, that it had to be yellow toads instead? Don't you know how difficult you are, wanting to read about yellow toads? No one needs to know about those! You should be painting blue fish!

The blue fish by themselves seem pretty much irrelevant to life, don't you think? They only become important because of the significance given to them. If they hadn't been bigged up all these years, do you think the whole family would get together to paint them? Do you think it would have continued? Or do you think only those people who really liked blue fish would paint them? And then they'd really enjoy it too, because they would be doing something special.

Those blue fish are only special if you like painting them, they are only significant if they actually mean something to you and you aren't painting them just because you have been trained to see them as important. If you take away this training, this insistence on doing what others do, then yellow toads rise up to the same level of importance as blue fish.

It is all about respecting differences and understanding that a lot of what we do, or are expected to do, is driven by what other people think of as important. I am not suggesting we neglect our elderly aunts or dismiss our responsibilities too lightly. But do we really have to do what is expected of us? Is it absolutely necessary for us to behave a certain way, just because?

Aspergers is ridiculous because denying the importance placed by others leaves us open to ridicule. We become an object of derision and contempt simply because we choose not to do what we are expected to do. We are ridiculous because we have different priorities and needs from people in our social group. And it is only by looking outside of this sphere of expectation that we gain some perspective on what is really important in our lives.

In my opinion, yellow toads win out any day over blue fish. Or pink hornets win over green bluebirds, if that's what applies to you. Being true to yourself is what really matters and making sure that if you have to do something difficult, it should be worthwhile and not just because.

Amanda




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I'm not shouting, it's just the voice I am using.




I was trying not to annoy RT Teen yesterday. Trying and failing. We needed to talk and it involved RT listening and (evil mother that I am) answering questions. Yes, I wanted the ultimate exchange - a conversation that produced answers.

I started by gently introducing the topic. In other words, I tried to sneak up on RT in the hopes that we would have sorted it all out before he noticed I was asking him questions. Except that he noticed before I'd finished my first sentence and interrupted me.

'Let me finish-' I said, still not able to finish as he interrupted me again to say,

'I was letting you finish!'

'But I didn't get to say anything!' I replied, immediately sidetracked from the Golden 5 Minute Chat.

'Yes, you did!' he accused and then repeated what I had said.

By this time his voice was raised and he sounded exasperated. I managed to stop him but then spoiled it all by asking him to calm down.

'I am calm!' he bellowed.

'You don't sound calm!' I said, waving my arms about by now. 'You're shouting at me!'

'I am not shouting!' he shouted. 'I'm just talking this way!'

'Your tone of voice is shouty!' I cried, wishing I hadn't even started. 'And you sound really angry with me.'

'I'm not shouting!' he said, shoutily. 'This is just the voice I'm using, it doesn't mean I'm angry with you!' he finished, angrily.

At a loss, I said, 'But if you sound angry and you're talking to me then I'm bound to think you're angry with me!'

He looked at me like he was arguing quantum mechanics with a walnut and made that noise beloved of many teenagers, aspie or not, the cross between a snarl and yogic breathing.

'Just tell me what you wanted to know!' he growled, carefully keeping his voice low so that I wouldn't accuse him of shouting again.

Eventually, after much not-shouting, not-angry, not-in-any-way-loud conversation, I came away with my answers and some minor revelations.

In future, I won't be so quick to assume I've got on people's nerves when they behave angrily towards me. I'll just use RT Teen's example and pretend that when I am being ranted at, it has nothing to do with me.

Perhaps, for the next angry person I encounter, I can pat them on the arm and say,

'It's okay, I know you don't mean to sound as if I've annoyed you. It's just the voice that you're using.'

Then everything will be fine, right?

And I am now free to shout at anyone I like, then announce this is the voice I am using. Just because I am shouting, it doesn't mean I am angry with you! So stop taking it personally!! And no! I didn't interrupt you!

Yes, I'm sure this new approach will work wonders. It will also cut down on lots of unnecessary conversations. In fact, I can really see the attraction.

I must go now and practice my stage voice - and the wounded look I will need when people accuse me of shouting at them. And perhaps the teenage yogic snarl I will use if it all goes wrong.

Oh right, yes, I already have that one.

Amanda




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Life is quicker than the heart can tell




I've been thinking that pressure and troubles cause a kind of inertia, a feeling that I need to hide away until they pass. I have wanted to hide away but now, after another difficult day, I think that's all it was - a want. In reality, the situations I've had to experience over the last weeks and months have caused not inertia, not this immovable and unchanging state, but more of a blurred, overactive way of living which moves so fast that it pretends to not move at all.

The heart is tricked like the eye into thinking this blurred illusion is not properly seen, that it is a static fiction which doesn't move and cannot be altered until I am ready to stand up and face it. Instead what both the heart and the eye are looking at is a cruel trick of life where there is so very much going on at once, the senses are unable to take it in.

Time after time, issue after issue, problem after problem and all superseded by an overarching unwillingness for life to go smoothly, pushing me to the point of caving in and just saying Enough.

No matter whether I am hiding or whether life is a perpetually unmanageable blur of feeling, when a limit is reached then it is either turn away or break. I blame, I blame myself, I look for solutions within and then, confused, start casting about for them in the outside world.

I am both stopped in place by events and catapulted onwards by feelings. As if life wasn't complex at the best of times, when it becomes more so and this complexity is so full and ripe it is barely able to stay on the tree, then what can I do? How can I solve a multitude of problems when only one seems too big and ready for fruition?

The answer is in where I began: that blur of motion, so quick as to be unseen, is not the part I am meant to fix. It is unfixable in its present state. After all, how can any person fix something that is moving too quickly for the eye to process? You cannot find a solution for a problem which is moving too fast to hold onto.

What must be solved is my reaction to it, my need to feel that if I can do this then that will be resolved. I must let go of my feelings of control - they are illusory at best and in this climate of change and headlong, imminent undoing, any sense of control is foolhardy.

I must accept that I am in a place of flux, that I am also in flux, that the change which moves everything else so quickly cannot pass by without also moving me. I must realise, finally, that the reason I cannot fix anything is because it is not there to be fixed, it is just there because life is like that sometimes.

There is no hiding, there is no safe place in the physical world. I can only hold myself close and wait for the heady sense of motion to settle, and in settling for it to be revealed what it was that was spinning so fast it could not be seen.

It is only once this motion is over that I will be able to see clearly and know what I am dealing with. Until then, any attempt to change or resolve will end in partial victory at best and defected failure most of the time.

I need the patience to trust myself and to give up control. If I wait, it will slow, solidify, the colours will separate as the movement scales back. That will be the moment when it is time for me to stand and go forward, to have a better look. Then, and not before, is when I can see what must be done.

Until then I will live in the blur and know that waiting is a skill in itself. When we give up control and wait for understanding, we are learning to trust ourselves in the knowledge that not everything can be understood at the time we choose. Everything has a time and we are no exception.

Amanda




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This is my quiet place




It's a quiet place where I don't have to sit, hunched, arms over my head, eyes closed, everything frightened of being disturbed. It's total silence and no door to be opened or window to be peered through. It's alone.

And then it seems that my thoughts have voices of their own and come, unbidden, crowding round me, just as much as real people would. They are real, they are what went before and what might have been, populated by all the true or ungenerous souls I have known in my life. And many I didn't know for long enough.

Somehow, this lasts longer than I thought, my struggle to hear their voices matched only by my difficulty in staying still and allowing this one-sided conversation to take place. This is my quiet place until I have absolute privacy and then it becomes the arena where all that troubles me is worked out, thrashed into submission so I can understand it and defeat it.

I am still sitting here, exhausted now, trying to rest between times when I can think clearly and the many hours and days when it seems the queue of people, past and present, will never end with their incessant clamour for my attention.

This is my quiet place and I need to reclaim it but first I need to hear the words I usually push aside while I'm trying to go from day to day.

Eventually the door will reappear, the windows will let in the outside world and I will need to stand up and leave.

If my quiet place is full and noisy, if life has to be understood by stepping in here and working it all out, then where do I go for real quiet and actual solitude? Where do I recharge? What do I do when it all becomes too much?

This is my quiet place and for now there is no door, no window, no floor or walls, only me and the sanctity of a place where no other person, regardless of how loud their voice might be, can reach in and touch me.

When I leave, I will be counting the seconds until I can come back.

Amanda




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Why do we have to be understood?




I know a lot of this blog is written so that non-aspies can understand the aspie in their life, without always having to wonder what their best beloved is thinking or feeling or doing. Okay, that being said, what is so wrong with being incomprehensible? Why do we feel the need to be understood? Why do we care?

Frankly, I think it's time to set down our tools and take a break from making the world understand us. Who cares? Why should we need to open ourselves up so that other people can go away happy, understanding us more and seeing our reasons for being as we are?

Why should it matter that I don't want to go out today? Why should you care that I don't want to go to work? Why do I have to explain what I meant when I said what I said? Why do I have to explain that I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, when I have explained before?

Why do we have to be comprehended? What is so wrong with being mysteries? And who does it really benefit if we make ourselves understood?

I suppose it comes down to belonging and wanting people to understand. Wanting them not to point the finger or raise an eyebrow. Wanting them to take us in, just as we are, even when we don't make any sense. At the same time as being on the outskirts, we want to feel that we could be right in the centre, if we liked.

We want to be able to walk unaccosted through society and sometimes feel as other people feel. We want it to all be usual and ordinary when we speak, to be unnoticed when we act. We want to know what to do in the first place, without having to ask.

We don't want the drama of an unexplained word or deed. We don't want the aggravation of yet more tears. We in no way want to work out why our actions resulted in a wholly unusual situation.

We just want it all to be fiiiiine.

And so we explain and help people understand. We set in place a route for others to follow, so they don't get left behind. We hope that when words fail us, we won't be left standing alone, shoulders hunched and face contorted as we face Life right in the eye.

Today, though, I want to be a mystery. I don't want to explain and muster patience for the foibles of the uninitiated. I want to be just as I am, no instructions, no downloadable manual, no walkthrough, no hints and cheats or spoiler alerts.

And if anyone is confused, they can go find some other route to follow or find their own way of keeping up.

Amanda




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Do aspies laugh?




Well, the short answer would be, only when we find something funny.

'Do aspies laugh' was one of the search terms used to find my blog recently. I imagine the person searching was confused by their aspie's stony-faced reaction to something mega-hilarious and obviously irresistible. Or perhaps the aspie said the hilarious something was funny, but then didn't laugh?

It must be confusing to people, in a world of comedy, when a person doesn't laugh. Laughing at funnies is a great big part of people-pleasing, even if the only people nearby are the ones in the cinema audience.

Showing you share the joke also shows you understand the joke and understanding and sharing the joke means you also share and understand your fellow humans. To not laugh at something everyone else seems to find funny sets you apart and tickles some instinct in others, that you are not the same and might be untrustworthy.

I've had the joke explained to me before now, in great detail. It's as if the absence of it being funny makes people try all the harder to explain why you are in error. Here, it is funny because of this, do you see? Or, this was the funny part, do you see it now? And then they wait for you to laugh.

At this point, even if it was amazingly funny, most aspies wouldn't laugh because by then we have an audience - a really keen audience, watching us closely, waiting for what passes as an emotional reaction. There's nothing like an avid void, waiting to be filled with emotion, to put an aspie off their game.

Okay, so you don't have to laugh when you find something funny. I suppose you have to do more than make a weak-willed smile though. And definitely more than stand for a moment, study the situation and then go back to what you were doing without a glimmer of amusement.

Yes, aspies do laugh, at things that are funny. And very often at things that are not. And myself and RT Teen are the kind of aspies who laugh before the joke is told, or before it has started to happen, because we see it coming and fill in the rest. We find it equally incomprehensible that people wonder what we're laughing at - it's funny, isn't it? Didn't you see it coming?

Aspies do not laugh to make other people feel better about finding something funny. They do not laugh because everyone else is laughing (are more inclined to find the laughter of others distracting). Aspies do not laugh to show they are part of the great human condition. They laugh only if they find something funny enough to warrant laughter. Or at inappropriate moments in public places. Or at an internal joke no one else can see or hear.

If your aspie is not laughing when you expect, do consider the possibility you aren't hitting the right mark and try again. Sooner or later you will both find the same thing funny. Until then, don't worry about it. There's more to life and love than laughing at the expected and much more to humour than a face cracked wide in a smile.

Amanda




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An aspie at work: everything will be fine once you get there


The aspie stands at the door, ready to go but mournful in the extreme. The clothes are in place (finally), the hair is brushed through, the face as clean as it's going to be without getting the cloth and washing it yourself. And still, there they are, just like they must have been at five years old when they didn't want to go to school.

'I don't want to go to work,' they say, like a sad robot on repeat. The shoulders slump and they wait, dejected, for you to throw them out into the cruel world.

'I know you don't,' is all you can say because, after what seems like hours of negotiation, you have reached the point of your aspie leaving for work and you don't want to jeopardise this success by showing any weakness.

And even so, after all these years of practice, you let slip the worst comment you could.

'It'll be fine once you get there,' you say, in a cheery voice, opening the door.

The aspie turns, aghast, every eye-widening muscle on overdrive, mouth open in complete disbelief. Your heart sinks. While your face registers mild regret at the slip, your inner voice is swearing like a pit clog.

'It will not!' the aspie manages at last, almost spitting in indignation (though not spitting, as that is vile and your aspie hates people who spit. Metaphorically spitting, then).

'I didn't mean it like that,' you sigh, trying really hard not to roll your eyes.

It doesn't matter how you meant it, it's what you actually say that matters. If you wanted to say anything worse, you may as well have said, 'Perhaps giant lizards will run in and eat you today and then you won't have to go to work,' but stating that it won't be so bad once the aspie arrives is tantamount to sending in the lizards yourself.

The aspie knows that it will not be fine when they get there. It will be just as bad as they expected. Even if Bob doesn't chew gum or wipe his hands on his trousers, even if Giselle stays in the bathroom to fix her contact lenses, even if the boss does not insist on making that coughing sound when there is no need to cough and nothing wrong with them - even if these (relatively) small things do not happen, the place will still be standing, the work area will be waiting, the overhead lights will still be lights, the phone will still ring, the work will need to be done, the clock will flaunt itself on the wall, doing nothing, the walls will stand and enclose, the doors only open for other people to leave and all of this will be structured by someone else into a span of hours which do not involve your aspie's inner self in any way. And you say it will be fine?!

You know, as you gently manhandle your aspie out of the door, that work is not dangerous and that aspies should not sit at home all day doing just what they like. There's a whole world out there and it has to be discovered. These small irritations which figure so large in the aspie conversation are nothing really and you know, you really feel you do know, that it will be fine once they get there.

You start the car, knowing the refusal will happen again once it's time to drop them off but understanding that having the aspie in the car means you are almost guaranteed they are on their way to work.

Your aspie knows it too. They sit, head down, hands in their lap so they can see the fingers and watch over them. The world rushes past as you drive and the aspie sees only this small part of it, their space where it is safe, just for a little while, until they need to get out.

Dropping them at the kerb you leave them with a happy smile, knowing they will be fine. Resigned, they walk the rest of the way to work and let the door fall shut behind them.

Amanda




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What's so hard about Aspergers?




This isn't a question people ask you very often. What you are asked instead is:

'What's so hard about going to the party?'
'What's so hard about going to school?'
'What's so hard about going to work?'
'What's so hard about talking to your cousin?'
'What's so hard about talking to me?'
and, the favourite,
'What's so hard about remembering one little thing?'

What's so hard? If asked, do you give a long, detailed, enlightening answer and know you have improved communication between you and your loved one? Or do you wave your arms in the air and cry, 'Everything!'? Or somewhere in the middle with, 'How many times do I have to tell you?'

I think it depends how often you have explained yourself or even how well the other person has seemed to understand, before today, when it seems they never understood at all.

Why is it so hard for other people to remember what we tell them? And know that what we say about school also applies to work, that talking to your cousin is just as hard as talking to your best beloved? That it doesn't matter what the challenge is, today it is hard even if yesterday we could do it.

The times I have explained myself, those conversations where I put the words together in the right way and they came out when they should and it all made beautiful, perfect sense: those times when you think, I have brought it to life, how I feel and think and someone else knows and they care about me.

Then the inevitable moment when you trip and that look passes over their face, the one that speaks of exasperation and the inexpressible impatience that you tripped, again, over the very thing they warned you about and which you have avoided successfully the last twenty times.

Perhaps they don't ask you why you tripped or say anything at all about your mistake, but often they do. It comes out quickly and naturally.

'I did warn you about the trip.'
'Didn't you see it coming?'
'Don't you remember tripping the last time?'
'I thought you had managed not to trip?'
'I thought you had learned to lift your feet?'
'Why do you always have to trip?!'

I trip because I'm looking at some other place within or another challenge without. I trip because my feet are a long way from the rest of me, like real-life is a long way from my own wonderful, chaotic, creative internal lands. I trip because life is like that.

I tripped because you forgot I was an aspie and let go of me, just when I needed you most.

I tripped and I saw your face and the face of every other person whose expression changed when I messed up in the same way, over the same thing and then felt upset all over again.

What's so hard about Aspergers? It's possibly that every challenge feels different, even when we know it is the same. And because it is different, we are unsure how to deal with it.

Even so, the hardest thing about Aspergers is other people. For all the trips and falls in the world, they are made worse by the person close to you shaking their head and wondering at your ability to be yourself, again and again.

Yes, I did see it coming and then I looked at the heavens and forgot the earth. And I tripped but I did not fall.

Amanda




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