In medieval times, people managed by decree and threat. The King made a proclamation, and said, “Fear this, and tremblingly obey!” You ignored the King and his nobles at your peril, as most anything could be a capital offense. Stealing a loaf of bread, or murdering your neighbor – either could send you to the gallows. In a world like that, the bible’s threats and dogma seemed right in line with the way of the world.
Today, things are different. Managers manage by motivation. Instead of saying, “Do this or we will have you executed,” they think of ways to make people want to do things. Bosses talk endlessly about self-motivation and actualization. The goal today is to make people want to work for The Man. Parents have even jumped on the bandwagon. Today’s kids must want to cooperate. Threats and spankings are out the window.
It seems to work. People stay at work sixty hours a week at times, with no threat of transportation or execution. Some would say we have lifted behavior or at least motivation to a higher plane. Others would say its just brainwashing but that’s a subject for another post.
The fact remains, threat and dogma are passé when it comes to management in most of the Enlightened Western World. But through it all, the Bible has remained the same. Do as I say, or feel the wrath of a vengeful God.
I didn’t give that dichotomy much thought until speaking with Boston University psychology professor Catherine Caldwell-Harris. At a talk last winter, she said, “Why do you think Aspergians tend to reject the Bible and religion more often?”
“More often than what,” I asked? She directed me to Asperger sites Wrong Planet and Aspies For Freedom, where the prevailing sentiment when spirituality is discussed is indeed the rejection of Western religion. I got that impression from a quick perusal of the forums, but she knows it for sure, based on statistical analysis.
She’s done some follow on studies where people are interviewed in more depth; in fact she has one here that you can check out and participate in:
The studies so far suggest that high functioning people on the spectrum – those who participate in studies like hers and online in forums – are significantly more likely to reject religion than nypicals. I meet quite a few people myself, and my observation tends to confirm Catherine’s. But what does that mean? I’ve thought about that question quite a bit.
I’m not a follower of any traditional American church. Yet I consider myself a spiritual person. Furthermore, I think I have a good and solid moral sense, and a reasonable grasp of right and wrong and how to behave. I know from experience that many adult Americans would describe themselves the same way, be they Aspergian or nypical.
Do I reject traditional American religion? Upon reflection, I guess I do. I reject the “Do what we say or you’ll suffer damnation!” I don’t need a priest’s threats to stop me from looting the neighbor’s house and ravaging his females. The idea that I’d go to a church to hear those kind of threats just isn’t very appealing, no matter how subtle they may be. When you add a priest with his hand in your pocket and all the diddling scandals certain churches have, the picture is even worse.
The reason I do not go looting and pillaging is that I believe it’s morally wrong to do so. Since I already believe that, threats will do nothing more than annoy me. And that’s not all. The bible is full of passages that say, in essence, “Believe this or else!” Why? I’m okay about believing many things, but I want a more solid foundation than, “Because I say so.” I had a problem with my father saying that forty years ago, and I have problems when preachers say it today.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized rejection of organized religion is very different from rejection of spirituality or the concept of a God. I began to wonder . . . do Aspergians like me tend to reject religions like Catholicism because we are exceedingly logical people, and the Church’s threats and dogma are anything but?
We reject lots of things in life because they aren’t logical. Why not the bible? Why indeed. Maybe we Aspergians are just on the cutting edge here, because of our predisposition toward logicality.
I wonder if the time has come to update the language of the bible to reflect modern times and customs. Perhaps if we toned down the threats, more people would embrace it. Maybe if we added a little more logic, it would find wider acceptance. We’ve done that with every management tome, and most parenting tomes. What is the bible if not the pre-eminent “how to behave” manual for society. When all the lesser works have been revised should we not revise this one too?
Or maybe I’m just nuts, and it’s perfectly good the way it is to 99% of the world. What do you think?
I will say this. I’ve visited a number of churches, in small towns and inner cities. This is what I have seen: The rougher and meaner the environment, the more the successful and popular preachers focus on practical life matters. Threat and dogma are virtually ignored in favor of logical sensible living advice. Are they onto something, those inner city Baptists?
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
For anyone near Madison, Wisconsin, Lawrence, Massachusetts, or Grand Rapids, Michigan . . .
This Wednesday, I'll be speaking to the Special Education group, Department of Public Instruction for the Wisconsin Public Schools.
Then, on Thursday Sept 24, Join me at Northern Essex Community College from 12:30 to 2. I’ll be in the Louise Haffner Fournier Education Center, 78 Amesbury Street, Lawrence, MA Room LA-101 (White Fund Room) This talk is free and the public is invited.
Finally, on Sept 28, I'll be the keynote speaker for the Michigan Primary Care doctor's association's annual conference. That's in Grand Rapids, MI. Find them online at: http://www.mpca.net/
I hope to see some of you this week. I've got quite a few events scheduled this fall and winter. Check the whole schedule at http://johnelderrobison.blogspot.com/
Are you putting together an event now? Sally Itterly at The Lavin Agency can arrange for me to participate. firstname.lastname@example.org
See you soon . . .
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I awakened to a crisp, cool Vermont morning. The fires from the previous night’s bacchanalian debauchery had burnt themselves out, but the smoky smell lingered in the air. It was a pleasant odor for anyone whose house or car had escaped destruction, and I was pleased to be part of that group.
Walking outside, I saw that the Stowe Inn had come through the night without a scratch, as had my car. The bridge to town was open, and the police had gone. There was nothing to be seen in the road but some shattered glass and a few trampled party favors. I started the Beast and stepped back as the exhaust popped and rumbled as the engine warmed up. A few minutes later, I was off.
I arrived at the show field early, but the scene was already mobbed. Hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands swarmed through the gates of the Show Field on Weeks Hill Road in Stowe. I parked my car among others of its kind, and set out to wander the field.
Within minutes, three Guardsmen showed up, parked near me, and emplaced a fifty-caliber machine gun to survey the field. I ducked and passed as they shot off a test round or two. Everyone was well behaved after they arrived. I was lucky to pass when I did, because I heard they began collecting tolls from passerby but I didn’t pay a cent.
Their actions reminded me of some City Parking Lot Attendants who worked a lot down the street from me when I worked at Pink Floyd's sound company in Long Island City. After watching them all one summer, I was surprised to arrive at work one day to find them gone, and the lot chained up. It turned out they had not been City Employees at all. Instead, they were Enterprising Lowlifes with Bolt Cutters who had seen an opportunity and seized it. I wondered if the same thing might be occurring today, but I declined to mount a challenge.
Most of the cars were privately owned, but there were some Corporate Entries. Representatives from Jaguar were there, hawking a new sedan for $599 a month. With new car sales in the tank, what else can they do? Maybe next year it will be $399.
Right next to Jaguar I found the Breitling tent, which contained some fine watches, many of which cost considerably more than the Jaguar. Of course, they are made in Switzerland where labor costs are high . . . And some were Certified Chronometers, a point that cannot be made with any Jaguar.
I don’t want to sound like I’m speaking ill of Jaguar; I have one myself. Yet I can’t help but wonder how long they’ll be with us, at least at this show. If production moves to Delhi or Mumbai will they still be admitted here? I suppose the old British models will be allowed, and the problem of the Indian-built latecomers will fall to the next generation. By that time, we may be a province of India, rendering the whole thing moot.
There were some noteworthy entries. Some deviant with a welder had shoehorned a blown Hemi into a yellow MINI Cooper. The idea seems shocking at first, but upon reflection, you realize that’s exactly what every MINI dreams of turning into, when it grows up.
I saw a genuine Elva, yellow with a red stripe, parked near a fine red TVR. Out behind the cars, revelers sat, drank, and told stories, and I stumbled and bobbed my way through their midst.
At one point, I encountered a six-hundred-horsepower supercharged Aston Martin, an authentic Morris Moke, and two Norton Commando motorcycles. This year, a 1959 Land Rover won the concours. I don’t know if the judges were drunk, bribed, or what, but there was some heavy competition out there today.
I remembered Michael Jordan’s words from another event last week. There’s no I in Team, he said, but there is one in WIN.
I left as the bikers were fighting over tent poles for the Motorbike Joust. I did not get to see how it turned out, but I’m sure the details will be in tomorrow’s Police Log. We had a dinner reservation for 6:30, and I had to hurry if I expected to download my 800 pictures in order to upload the thirty or so you can see tonight.
That is the Curse and the Blessing of digital photography. The advent of Large Memory Cards makes it possible for any Chimp to render Award Winning Images, simply by taking thousands of shots. Editing was easier when there was film, and it cost forty cents an image.
We dined at the Olde English Pub, where I had Bangers and Mash followed by a Spotted Dick washed down with tea. All in all, a respectable British feed. Alex had a problem with the concept of Spotted Dick, but I introduced him to Patrick O’Brien’s excellent writing, including his cook book which includes the Dick, and he calmed.
He became agitated again, when we returned to the hotel. Alex and Dave descended to the basement, where they got into a game of foosball after an unsatisfactory altercation on the ping-pong table. He (Dave or Alex; take your pick) expected to win, but things did not go as planned. In addition, the cigarette machine in the corner was empty. There is nothing worse than an empty cigarette machine. A working machine can be used. A broken machine can be robbed. But an empty one . . . you are just out of luck. Things began to escalate, so I slipped out the door before they grabbed pool cues in order to write you this report.
Darkness has fallen. I can hear the shouts, and the light of torches is flickering through the drawn shades.
Until next time,
Posted by John Elder Robison at 9:34 PM
Friday, September 18, 2009
It’s that time of year again. I climbed into the Big Red Bentley and headed north. I moved out onto I-91 and muscled my way past pugnacious thugs in Escalades and granola-powered Prius drivers. My speed climbed as I approached the border. I tried to hold it back, but there's only so much one can do.
The car had a nasty shake at 85, but it smoothed out nicely over 110. Most cars struggle to attain those speeds but this brute takes them in stride. At the century mark the engine is just above fast idle, at 1,900 rpm. You’ve got six inches of travel remaining in the gas pedal, and 2,500 rpm to go on the tach. There’s a certain magic to five hundred horsepower.
These big Bentleys are the British equivalent of the old Hemi Cuda, only much more refined. At three tons, they are also considerably heavier. The weight comes in handy when the road gets rough, and you have the mass to hammer the highs spots back where they belong.
I ate up the road all the way to White River, where I took a left onto 89 North. My Beast coasted down as the exit approached, rolling past the Exit 30MPH sign at a smooth 75. I hit the bend and slewed my way around, exiting onto 89 with a subtle trail of smoke. A tip of the throttle and I was back to speed for the final run in to Stowe.
I reached my hotel only to find it was Under New Management, a euphemism for, "I'm sorry sir, your room reservation has vanished." Grabbing the hapless clerk by the throat, he regurgitated the key to 124, the room I have occupied for years, which to his great good fortune was as yet unoccupied. I wandered down the hall, where a wedding dinner was in progress, and I shared some fine wine and cheese while watching the curiously dressed wedding-partiers. So fortified, I cruised down the hill into Stowe.
By the time I arrived the block party was in full swing. I made sure my car was well hidden out behind the hotel before walking over the covered bridge to town. A Beatles tribute band was playing, and an intoxicated female dragged me into a dance as I passed. I tried to extricate myself as two drunken revelers snapped pictures. I was saved by the arrival of a freak in a Chicken Costume, singing at the top of hug lungs while swinging a heavy golf club to clear a path to the bar.
I met up with my friend Dave and we headed to the Blue Moon Grille, where we were seated and fed immediately, thanks to the economic collapse. In better days they’d have taken a reservation for next weekend, if they fed specimens like us at all. I ate grilled scallops as Dave texted his kid, who was lost somewhere on the highways of rural Vermont.
I remember being lost like that myself, years ago. In my case, it was a result of eating mushrooms. I don’t know what Dave’s kid’s excuse was. Thirty some years ago I found myself in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and when I rode through the border crossing, I was rounded up and detained by bad tempered Customs Agents for almost eight hours. By the time I got loose, the mushrooms had worn off and my money was gone. All in all, that was one bad trip.
Our reverie was interrupted by flashing lights and sirens. We saw Police outside the restaurant, and we slouched low in our seats. We didn’t think we’d done anything arrestable in Stowe but you never know . . . Sometimes the Natives get greedy, and invent laws to extract revenue from sweet innocents like us. My mind went back to the Shamokins of rural Pennsylvania, who rolled boulders into the highway so they could stop motorists and rob them. At times like that I regret leaving my preacher outfit home.
Fortunately, the cops were merely clearing the riffraff from around the stage. No one was after us. When we emerged from the Blue Moon, we refrained from song, and our refined and upright appearance made us seem the farthest thing from rabble. We passed unmolested. As the shouting subsided to the snick of handcuffs we slipped back up the hill. My Bentley and Dave’s Land Rover were safe, surrounded by British cars of all the important colors: red, white, black and most of all, green.
We retreated to our respective rooms to prepare for morning. Stay tuned for News From the Show Field, including reports on the Motorbike Jousting, Land Rover Polo and the Demolition Derby. This is, after all, the largest British Lifestyle event in the East. At least that’s what the organizers say.
More news tomorrow. Until then, sweet dreams from Northern Vermont, where the nights are cold and the cars are fast.
Posted by John Elder Robison at 10:08 PM
Friday, September 11, 2009
The person who wrote this week's two guest posts is Deborah McCarthy, a 49-year-old Aspergian female from Medford, Oregon. Feel free to check her out on Facebook (address at the bottom) and continue a dialogue directly with her. This is her letter; her coming out, as it were . . .
First I want to say that I am blown away by the outpouring of love and support!! Flat out blown away!!! Thank you SO much. The thought that I can really just be myself, warts and all, and still be accepted, is just so mind-blowing that I’m actually at a loss for words. I haven’t been able to find ONE person that gets me, to find 50+?!! Shocking. :D
I have to clear up a few misunderstandings though. I am NOT a clinical psychologist. This was never meant to be a dissertation on the statistics of Asperger’s. This started out because a friend asked me about it and I wanted to be able to tell him what I feel I exhibit, based on my research. I had jotted down one word notes from the various books I’ve read so far and the web sites I’ve gone to. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word WE. But I assumed that this friend was intelligent enough to figure out that, of course, I was speaking in general, as he’d know I hadn’t met every single person in the world, yet. This was meant as an email to a friend about what I’ve gathered about Asperger’s so far, that I feel explains my particular constellation of characteristics. That’s all.
When John suggested putting it up on his blog, I was genuinely surprised. I thought hey if it can help anyone I’m all for it. It only took me 30 minutes or so to write it and I didn’t go back and change anything. It’s just stream of consciousness first thought early morning writing. My favorite kind. It’s personal, not clinical. My intent was to clarify things for me so that I could explain them to my friend. I used the word WE more as here’s what me and my Asperger’s tribe struggle with on a daily basis. This is what makes us seem so “different”. Although personally I think everyone is unique, when they’re being themselves and not role-playing. We’re all a mass of contradictions. Still, for the purposes of communication, I generalize. We all do it all the time. Imagine if everyone brought out their calculators and started running numbers every time they made a statement. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and hope that the listener gets where you’re coming from, your intent.
The IQ thing. Holy Moly do people get mad when you claim your intelligence. Men do it all the time. Why can’t women? Besides, I only mentioned that to explain how it was as a child. Hey, I lived through the 70s in the rock world. I’m lucky I have any brain cells left at all. My IQ is probably much much lower nowadays. But does it really matter? Those tests are meaningless to me. If you read the context in which I disclosed that number, it was in reference to how I was perceived as a child in grade school. One of the reasons I was considered a “freak”. I never said oh glory be bow down to my infinite wisdom because clearly I am way more intelligent than you could ever be. I don’t think that and I never said that. But I’m also tired of feeling I have to play dumb in order to be accepted. I’m done with that game. My intelligence may be different from yours, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. And vice versa. Of course. That’s a given in my view.
The fat thing. Well I knew this would raise the wrath. If you read it again you’ll see I was referring to sensitivities, specifically smell. It was never meant to put down people that struggle with their weight. I never said fat people have no reason to live. Hey I’m short. There used to be a song called “Short People Have No Reason To Live”. It was very popular for awhile. I didn’t get all ruffled by that. I thought it was funny.
Yes white carbs can make you fat. Not everyone that calls themselves a vegan, eats a lot of vegetables. But most who have been vegan for a long time, figure out that eating nothing but white flour doesn’t make you feel very good. I’m vegan out of my love for animals and my hatred of injustice. Watch “Peaceable Kingdom” and you’ll get where I’m coming from. It’s by Tribe of Heart. Look in their eyes and you’ll understand. But please know that regardless of my aversion to fat, I would never, repeat NEVER, ever reject you based on your body type. That’s crazy talk. I never said that. In reality, my 3 closest friends are all struggling with their weight. Two of them eat meat. They know exactly how I feel. Which is probably why they have no trouble telling me when I have horrendous garlic breath. :D :D
OK, now that that’s out of the way. I have to tell you how hard it has been not to write everyone who is suffering. My arms reach out to hold you. I am here for you anytime. I so understand the isolation and pain that you’re going through. You are NOT ALONE. If I can be of service in any way, please feel free to friend me on FaceBook. Be warned however, I am brutally honest there. It is MY page and I refuse to edit MY communications. I can’t write and edit at the same time. The creative flow is a flow and the stop start of trying to edit while in the flow just stops the flow. Also, my photo albums are the beginnings of the storyboard of my life. I don’t have pictures of every period of my life so it’s sketchy at best but I have found it extremely useful in confirming my diagnosis. I can SEE it. Then there’s the language. I like “colorful” language. To me it’s lyrical, yes lyrical, and funny. If this will offend you, you may want to stay away. My life story, and the way I tell it, is not for the faint of heart. But I’m sure many of you will be able to relate to the journey I’ve been on so far.
My life is an open book. No apologies. (Well scratch that I apologize all the time). :D And my arms are wide open to receive anyone who wants a friend. I am not open however, to a bunch of petty criticism over technicalities. I’m not here to prove anything to anyone. I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else. Finding this missing piece of the puzzle that is my story has been very rewarding so far. The thought that I may not be as alone as I thought I was, fills me with genuine hope. Please don’t shit on that. Thanks.
Much much love,
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The last two blog posts – a Female View Of Asperger’s – generated quite a lot of talk. Some of you agreed with what she had to say, while others were rather harsh in your criticism, especially with respect to her ideas on fat people and generalization.
One person wrote to ask how I could allow such a post on my blog. I’m not known as an opponent of fat people, though I am criticized for generalization. I allowed the post – if allow is the word – because I thought it provided an interesting point of view and insight into a female Aspergian mind. I still believe that.
In the preface to the second post, the author said, “I forgot to tell everyone that I've been fired from every job I've ever had pretty much. And not once for lack of ability, according to the bosses that fired me.” I wonder if the tone of the letter is part of the reason she’s had trouble with employment.
Reading into her story, I can imagine the scenario. Fat people have a certain smell that’s picked up by her heightened senses. She experiences that it a way that really bothers her even though most of us would not notice. She lacks the inhibition to keep from commenting on it, and when she does, “fat people smell gross,” and she gets fired. It’s easy to see how something like that could set her up for repeated failure.
That’s a good example of something that seems trivial but is really disabling. My own life experience shows that we can learn to keep our mouths shut, but if our senses are overwhelmed by a smell, we can’t always change that. So how do we coexist? I’m sure there’s an answer but it’s not obvious right now.
It’s true that I would not be so direct in my own comments, but I have met many Aspergians who are even more direct than her. And it’s worth considering what the consequences of such directness may be. Lost jobs is certainly one possibility. It’s also worth considering whether we can change that, and how. I believe we can.
When I read her story, I was reminded in many ways of myself as a teenager, or of my son as a teenager. Is it possible she’s in that same place today? At I pondered that idea, I realized the thing that shaped my own thinking and behavior was the gradual process of learning to interact successfully. That’s been one of the major things that has changed me from a person who was disabled by Asperger’s to someone who’s just eccentric.
What happens if a person does not get those successful interactions; if they don’t get the necessary human-to-human practice that’s needed to develop? Do they stay in stasis? As we get older, it becomes harder in some ways to reach out to other people, and if that happens, I think the risk of real lifelong disability increases. What can we do about that?
A few people suggested that her story is written is an abrasive style. What is that, if not words that are not softened by human experience? The only way I learned to be considerate was for people to tell me I’d hurt their feelings. If I did not want to do that, I had to moderate what I wrote to achieve that goal. It’s not something we are born with; it happens after long practice.
Aging comes naturally but wisdom is really hard-won. I think her story leaves me with a lot to think about. I ask myself, “How would I help a person with those ideas fit into the world a little better?” There are a lot of tough questions and issues in there.
I think the essay I posted represents the author’s first steps on a long road, one that many of us share.
It’s certainly been an interesting discussion.
Yesterday's post sure generated a lot of discussion. This next part should keep that going. I’ll preface her story with two comments she sent me yesterday . . . .
Please know that of course I am GENERALIZING. It would be a tedious article indeed if I had to get out my calculator and jot down statistics all the time. We generalize in common parlance all the time. It's just more efficient time-wise. Most people get that when you talk to them. Also, like everyone else who is just being themselves and not role-playing, I am a mass of contradictions. Every moment is alive with its own reality. I change my mind about things all the time. The article was written from my own observations of not only myself but the reaction I seem to bring out in others. AND, material I have read on Asperger's, which is all quite recent. So I hope the statisticians among you can take a break, have a cup of coffee, put their feet up and just go with the flow. I did when I wrote it.
Also . . . I forgot to tell everyone that I've been fired from every job I've ever had pretty much. And not once for lack of ability, according to the bosses that fired me. ??
Now, on to her story . . .
Suicidal -- More people on the spectrum commit suicide than any other group. But I've read it's a group of intelligent people with high IQs too so who knows if it's the Asperger's or the intelligence. Maybe we know it's OK to check out if we want. We're too smart to be manipulated by superstitious beliefs. It is definitely a reaction to the constant rejection from the world. Especially family members. I have tried to kill myself so many times I lost count. Once I swallowed a whole bottle of 10mg Valium that belonged to my roommate at the time. I can't even take one of those pills without moon-walking for a week. How I survived without even puking them all up, I'll never know. I slept though. :D For like 16 hours. But dammit, I woke up! I couldn't believe it. No vomit, nothing. So I crawled to the bathroom and slit my left wrist. Apparently I didn't do it hard enough and in the correct direction.( Note to self.) Just then the phone rang and someone I didn't even know nursed me through it. ?? I have some serious protection around me let me tell ya. I could write a book on that subject alone, FULL of stories involving unseen rescuers. Once I blew the pilot light out in the oven. Bob happened to come over and saved me. I was already falling asleep on the sofa. Miracles. Each and every time has been a miraculous save. Hey anybody wanna be MY friend? :D :D :D
Social Faux-Pas -- I'm a big old puppy. I'll come bounding up to you with a big smile on my face full of enthusiasm and friendly intent. I don't know that you think I'm trying too hard. Trying for what? I don't understand that one at all. It is true genuine enthusiasm (my favorite word en - Theos -asm meaning having God within), the real deal, not any manipulation to win your favor. Why? I know I'm gonna say something that's gonna piss you off any second now so why would I fake anything? It's not in my bag of tricks. I may use words differently, pronounce them differently and even go into different accents at different times. To me it's play. I have a kind of lilting musical sort of way of speaking. To me it's obvious I'm playing with you. Why would I want to make fun of your southern accent? I think it's a whole lotta fun to talk Southern. ;) I will probably interrupt you to tell you I have gone through the same thing. Maybe I'll use too many words and so the time away from your original thought is too long and so I look like the prick who's always bringing the attention back to themselves. That wasn't my intent believe me.
Self-absorbed -- I think Aspies use the word I more than anyone else. :D It's not out of vanity. At least not for me. It's just who else am I gonna talk about? I am the only one I know this well. I'm trying to connect with YOU so I... I don't even know how to deal with this one. You try being alone 99.999% of your life and tell me who you talk about. Besides, when a sentence begins with a she or a he, mean-spirited gossip usually follows. I don't like that. It's not fair. (Unless of course it's someone in the public eye who has done something horrible and expresses no remorse for it.)
Routines -- We hate our little routines to be disrupted. I have my little things I do every morning and I will not allow anything or anyone to get in the way of them. It's probably why I hate to travel. I like it once I'm situated in the hotel, IF the bedding is soft and the towels don't scratch and there isn't noise from the AC, etc. But I get very very anxious and worry endlessly about what's happening at home. Are the kids OK? What about the guys in the backyard? Did I leave the coffee maker on? Is the door locked? Are you sure? It sucks because I do love to go to foreign countries and meet new people. There they just think I'm a crazy American. I can hide behind that quite well.
Organizing -- I used to joke that if I woke up blind tomorrow I could find a file from 7 year's ago in the cabinet. I create manuals on every subject I'm interested in. Each a book in its own right. I constantly update them and reorganize them. :D Gee ain't I fun? I LOVE it. A Staples or Office Depot is like a candy store to me. I can go CRAZY in those places!! No lie. I have spent hundreds of dollars at one time on just pens and notebooks and file folders, etc. You can have clothing stores. Give me the office supply store and I'm a happy camper. Ah the smell of it! ;)
Prefers Objects to People -- My objects aren't just objects to me. Each of them has a story. I treat them with great respect. Every single object has a home and I'll know if it's been moved a quarter of an inch from its spot. It makes me very nervous when a new person comes into my home and picks everything up one by one and sets it down in a different spot. I can lose my temper over this. Sorry but it feels like my babies are being molested. Hey I'm just bein' honest here. This isn't a museum or a shop. It's my Home, OUR home. Leave my stuff alone! :D :D I don't go to your house and pick up everything.
Prefers Solitude -- Is it any wonder? I like silence. I rarely listen to music. If I turn it on, I have to dance. Background music is bewildering to me. How can you not get sucked into the lyrics and the rhythm and start to move? I cannot listen to music without dancing or at least singing and moving around in my chair. It's very distracting. People are mean in my view so being around them is like listening to nails on a chalkboard. I want to be around people sometimes but it ALWAYS hurts. I'm misunderstood a lot, punished a lot, for crimes I did not commit I might add. I don't get what they really mean. It's rarely what they're saying. I Know they're gonna dogg me behind my back because I'm so "weird". It's funny how those in the rock world seem to do that the most viciously when many of the most amazing singers and musicians are all considered "weird" themselves. ?? And actors that sympathetically portray "different" people on screen, can be the most un-accepting of "different" people in real life. That's been my experience anyway. And I've supported some major players in my day.
Expression -- Aspergians often have that hunted animal expression on their faces. Well it feels like people are coming out of the wood work to make you miserable for no good reason so... I AM a hunted animal. Often there's a serious intense expression that doesn't fit what's going on. If I had a dime for how many times I've been told I'm so "intense" when I've just been sitting there minding my own business reading a magazine or something. Huh? I know I squint when I want to suck info in. Is that what they mean? I'm sure it can make me look mean but I'm just squinting. Men with Asperger's have this cold stone boy expression. I tend to be over-animated. Just a couple of months ago a guy at Farmer's Market told me that I was the most animated person he'd ever seen. I apologized. :D :D Oh Lordy Lordy Lordy...
Trying on Personalities -- When I was younger I could not leave a movie theater without becoming the main character to a certain degree. I'd absorb them and they'd be so far inside of me that I WAS them for a day or so. The remnants will stay with me for decades. When I talk Southern I think of a certain character depending on what I'm saying and how it might relate to that movie I saw so long ago. I coulda been somebody, I coulda been a contender. I pepper my speech with stuff like this ALL the time. For me it is amusing. For others who have no idea what I'm referring to, it's just odd. :D :D Whatever. (Notice the quick transition from referring to Southern and going into Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront? Another Aspie trait.)
Temper Tantrums -- OK here's the one thing I should be terribly embarrassed about. But I think I'm lacking that embarrassment gene. I can be humiliated. But that's usually because of how someone else is treating me. If I'm really angry I can have a meltdown that puts a 2 year old to shame. I don't care where I'm at, who's watching, or what I say. I once had a tantrum because the arrogant eye doctor was making my vertigo worse with his tests. So I ran out, sat down on the concrete in the middle of the parking lot, and screamed and cried and blurted out hateful things about this poor old doctor who was only trying to help. Bob was mortified. The more he tried to control me, the more I raged. I was 47 at the time. Not good. But I have no problem going back in there. I did call to apologize of course. But I didn't know that I was an Aspie so I couldn't explain it to them. All I could do was say I'm sorry. Poor ole Bob. He's a saint let me tell ya. WHO would put up with that nonsense? But honestly, I can't help it. It's like holding back a tornado. It's just not possible. It's just NOT possible. :( See? I stay home to protect the world from my wrath. Thank God for the internet huh?
The Stare -- I'll admit it. I stare at people. Shamelessly. I'm trying to absorb info about them. My eyes actually feel like sponges. I can feel energy coming in through them. Once I worked with Gary Oldman and I could not stop staring at him. Now he's a celebrity so he's probably used to it. He probably thought I fancied him. Nope. He did remind me of my first love but that wasn't it. I felt sadness from him. I felt his isolation. Anyway, as the night progressed, he started following me around and staring at me when I'd be talking to someone else. I don't know if he was playing games trying to make me know what it felt like but it didn't bother me in the slightest. I am always on a fact-finding mission. I can't even take a walk without a destination to reach. (transition back to staring) People can misread this horribly. Usually men see it as an invitation. Then when I reject their advances they get pissed because they think I led them on. ?? Huh? I didn't lick my lips and look at your package. I just stared at you. Get over it. Be flattered that you're interesting. People can also think I'm being hostile and trying to intimidate them. No. Why would I want to intimidate anyone? I know how to get what I want. I ASK for it. :)
Personal Disclosure -- TMI. I figure there's nobody here but us chickens so why put on airs? Ironically I'm always accused of thinking I'm better than everyone else because I look smug. HUH? I air my dirty laundry more than anyone I have ever come across. The world is my confessional. I used to say "Show your ugly", way before Ugly Betty came out. How is this being smug? It's the opposite of smug. I refuse to allow anyone to make me afraid or ashamed of anything in my life. It's too much trouble. Withholds, lies, marketing, manipulating... you can have it. I am an open book. End of story. People have used things about me against me but it doesn't work. When you have no secrets, no one has any power over you. You are free!
Focus -- I can focus for so long I forget to eat some days. Once I'm on the net researching new data, forget it. My stomach growls and I may or may not interrupt my research to shut it up. I'm not sure I ate yesterday, I'm trying to remember. Amy's boxed frozen vegan meals are a life saver here. Not good, not healthy, but better than nothing I guess. And cruelty-free so... it'll do.
Overwhelm -- Here's another one of those characteristics that I wish I didn't have. Crowds send me into hysteria. I kid you not. I can get hysterical from a minor crowd. How I ever lived in NYC for 17 years I'll never know. I simply cannot handle lots of people coming at me. It's like darts, or trying to cross an 8 lane highway. I just freak out. I am in and out of the grocery store in 10 minutes or less. I run the whole time. I know exactly what I want and get the same things every time. I have to go first thing 7am when they open. I'm usually waiting there at the locked door. Suffice it to say I order out a lot. Delivery is a life-saver. Unfortunately Ashland doesn't have a wide variety of restaurants that deliver. I order a lot of cheeseless veggie pizzas.
Inability to Get Over It -- I remember when my father died when I was 12, I could not stop crying. The funny thing is that at his funeral I was happy. Inappropriate facial expressions is another category. Now no one loved my father more than I did. I was definitely Daddy's Little Girl. He saved me from that child-molesting raging ogre after all. But at his funeral I could not stop smiling. Inside I was so happy for him. He was Home with my beloved Jeshua. The turn out was Presidential in scope. Firemen have HUGE funerals for their brothers. I remember thinking Wow Dad was loved so much!! But I could never get over the loss. His own mother actually put me down behind my back, but within earshot, saying that I should just get over it. That was his mother talking. You'd think she would be the one having a hard time with it. Then she called me a white witch and died. :D :D And they call ME crazy. Right. So back to the subject... I remember every single slight. Every betrayal, every lie, all of it. I never forget a cruelty. I do forgive pretty easily though. I really am a very friendly person. So long as I can be me without punishment from you. But I do hold onto hurts like nobody I know.
Alien -- Asperger's is fondly referred to as Wrong Planet Syndrome. :D I have always felt that it was a mistake my being born here. I have always felt that I was on the wrong planet. That this is a photo negative of what's right. Here what's right is wrong and what's wrong is right. It's all reversed, a mirror image of Home. People have called me names my whole life. Space Cadet, Martian, Alien, etc. I have a friend who truly believes I am from another world. I've thought that maybe I'm from the future. As crazy as that sounds it is possible. Cords for instance were always a source of exasperation to me. Even as a kid, before I knew about Tesla and his free, cordless, energy. Why in hell would we have cords tethering us to the wall when we're trying to vacuum or something? I simply detest cords. I see no purpose for them. They're stupid and unnecessary and they only get in the way. Besides bunnies chew them and die. I'm not OK with cords. Now, I have seen UFOs several times throughout my life. It would seem that this should be of no surprise to anyone. Of course there's intelligent life (ALL of life is intelligent by the way) on other planets. Of course. The first time I was asleep in my bed under the window. My sister was asleep in her bed against the opposite wall. I was awakened by what I don't know. But I immediately looked out the window and saw 3 lights, bluish white glowing discs, playing around making formations in the sky. Then 2 of them sped off and one hovered still. Then all 3 formed a diagonal line and then sped off. You could write it off as a dream except that it was on the front page of the newspaper the next day. The Coast Guard (this was Florida) was chasing 3 unidentified flying objects. :D This did not bode well for my reputation in school because I had been talking about them before we discussed current events. We didn't get the newspaper at my house during the week, only on Sundays, so it was obvious I knew about them from another source. I felt they were my friends and they came to check up on me, make sure I was OK. :) I remember not long after this, I was playing alone in my room, as usual, talking to my "invisible friend", as usual, when all of a sudden I got up and walked into the kitchen where my mother was opening up a can of whathaveyou for our nutritious meal, and I simply announced, "I am part of the last generation of its kind, I've come to walk with Christ." I still remember her face. Mouth gaping, can opener in hand, stretchy black and red shorts. She says I was a "strange" child. :D This leads me to my conclusion..
I, and others, don't feel that Asperger's is a disorder. I feel it is a neurological difference. You can SEE the difference on a brain scan. We are literally hard-wired differently than a neuro-typical person. (How many times have I said I'm just not wired that way!!) I believe we are a leap in evolution. Leaps like this occur in nature all the time. I believe a more childlike and pure sort of human is on the horizon. One that is less caveman-like and more angelic-like. More ethereal, less dense. I feel it is a requirement for the organism that is Earth to survive. If humanity kept on the path they're on, we will not have a planet to live on. It will take a certain sensitivity and honesty in order to bring her back to a state of health. I know this comes across as very arrogant. But recognize I didn't say better I said different. Might was probably needed up to a certain point. Although I believe that point was passed long ago. Now another constellation of characteristics is required for the survival of the whole. So the next time you see somebody that might be a little "different", you might want to feel gratitude for them rather than annoyance. We are the wave of the future. "... and a little child shall lead them." "... the meek shall inherit the Earth." "... the lion will lay down with the lamb." (Although isn't the real quote something else? I'll have to look that up.) ;)
Thoreau states, "I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home."
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I’d like to share a moving story of what it’s like to have Asperger’s from the female point of view. I’ve always known Asperger’s manifests itself differently in girls than in guys. Yesterday I received this beautifully written essay, and I just had to share it with you. The writer wants to remain anonymous but she’s an Aspergian female, about my age, living out West. Her story is 5,500 words so I’ve broken this into three parts. Here is installment #1 . . .
Everybody says Asperger's' main symptom is a lack of empathy but I don't think that's true. Women exhibit differently from men. I'm sure conditioning has a lot to do with it but also women are predisposed from birth to be more empathic I think. I know I cry at the news very often. So I wanted to look at this and other characteristics to get clear on just what I can claim as mine and what just doesn't belong.
Empathy -- I'm extremely empathic when it comes to the underdog, animals, children, the poor, the starving, etc. I have no sympathy whatsoever for the obese. Maybe that's from being bullied by my huge family members I don't know. Probably contributed. But for me it symbolizes greed and selfishness at the expense of another. After all, you don't get fat from veggies, you get fat from the flesh and mother's milk of another. Taking what doesn't belong to you. Taking more than your share. Taking more than giving. I have issues regarding fat. I admit it. Try not to hate me for it. I'm just being honest. Which brings me to the next subject.
Honesty -- Aspies are incapable of telling lies. We don't play the game socially. We don't give insincere compliments. If you're getting a compliment from an Aspie, you can count on the fact that it is truly the way they feel. Which makes it very difficult in society because society functions almost solely on lies. Maybe I'm too arrogant to ever allow anyone to make me feel like I have to pretend in order to be good enough for them. I am who I am and if you don't like it, you can go pound sand. :D I also find it extremely tedious to have to decipher every communication from someone to ferret out the truth. It's just too much trouble. I'd rather hang with animals. They're not so tedious.
Speaking Style -- Aspergians tend to download data onto you rather than have a 2 way conversation. That's why I like to write. I hate being interrupted yet I interrupt others constantly. I get excited and I want to share. People have accused me of always trying to turn the conversation back on myself. But that's not how it is at all. I'm trying to connect. Trying to show that I get you, I know what you are talking about. Me too, me too! is what I'm really saying. It's a hand extended in fellowship. But since it doesn't come across that way to NTs (neuro-typicals) that hand extended in friendship is always rejected, usually slapped. After awhile you just stop extending it. The speech is also quite pedantic. Well you can see that's true. They call us "The Little Professors". It can come across as precocious, especially from a child. And since obsession with one subject is usually what you want to talk about, you come across preachy and pedantic. We all know what my obsession is. Animals. :D I can't tell you how many times people, bosses even, have made fun of me calling me Mr Howell (from Gilligan's Island) or something. I always felt so perplexed at why they would turn on me like that out of the blue. If you don't value the info I'm so generously sharing, that's fine, but to ridicule me over it just comes across like bullying to me. Which leads me to the next point...
Teasing -- We don't get it. It's so obviously laced with an ugly intent. You can feel the undercurrent pulling you down. Why are you making fun of me? I don't understand. I thought you liked me. I like you. How can you not like someone who likes you? See? It's very painful. Now I have a great sense of humor. And if there's really love behind pointing an eccentricity out, I'll laugh right along side you. But 99.9% of the time, teasing is a power play designed to put you down and the teaser up. It always feels like a betrayal. My family teased me mercilessly. I laughed but I felt the knife in my back.
Obsessions -- I go very intensely into one or two topics at a time. Then when I'm satisfied, I'll move on to another one. These obsessions last years, decades. And while I'm focused on it, that's all I want to do, think , breathe, talk about. Others do not appreciate this quality. Who wants to listen to some bore drone on and on and on about the same thing every single time you talk to them? The phone stops ringing. Loneliness ensues. After awhile, you learn to prefer solitude. I hate gossip anyway. Hate it. And most people want to talk about stupid stuff like clothes and make-up and boys. (big yawn!) Why is everyone so obsessed with their images and their penises? This is something that makes no sense to me at all whatsoever. It's infantile, which brings me to...
Age -- Aspies are age-inappropriate. We are childlike and innocent and naive, even when having experienced many harsh experiences. It's a childlike innocence that pervades our entire being. What ends up happening is that people either treat you like dirt and make fun of you, or if they're trying to be "nice", they'll talk down to you as though you were mentally challenged. I've felt like I was going to be pat on the top of my head like a puppy dog before. I may be childLIKE but that doesn't mean I'm childISH. In fact, usually Aspies have...
Very High IQs -- Mine is 165. Einstein was an Aspie and I think his IQ was 172. I'm not sure. When I was in 1st Grade at a very progressive private Catholic school run by nuns right off the boat from Ireland, I had the highest IQ in the whole school which went through the 8th grade. The nuns wrote off my eccentricities as the sign of a genius. This did not make me any friends. It appears that the biggest crime in America, for a woman anyway, is to be intelligent. I was supposed to talk about clothes and make-up and boys. ?? Instead I wanted to talk about death and truth and Alice Cooper. :D My favorite nun, Sister Regina, actually put a poster of Alice and his snake up in the music room, sandwiched in between Mozart and Beethoven. God I loved her. She was my saving grace. Once, in choir, I got what I call the whooshes down my spine so intensely that my head kept whipping back. I broke from the group to ask her what it was. She got on her knees to meet me head on and looked deeply in my eyes and said just one word, "Grace." I'll never forget her.
Clumsiness -- Well I have bruises and scars over my entire body. :D I always thought it was from being a dancer. The joke is that dancers can dance with utmost elegance yet can't cross a room without bumping into something. I still think it's not my fault. Hallways are way too narrow. Shower stalls are ridiculous. I'm 5'2 and 100 lbs and I can't wash my hair without bruising my elbows. Stupid.
Language -- We are little professors with great vocabularies, perfect grammar, and incredible diction. But we use words in different combinations than others might. Our play on words is often not understood by anyone but ourselves. We may pronounce words differently than others and insist our way is the correct way. For me the first word that comes to mind is vegan. People say Vee gun. There's no double e, no ea. Where did they get veegan? I say vay gun. I'm vegan, vaygun. That's the right way and that's that. We rarely succumb to outside pressure if it doesn't make any sense to us. Also there's a Tourette's kind of way we blurt out what we really think and feel. I don't apologize for that. I'm not here to serve your ego. I'm here to serve Truth (up swell in dramatic music here). I wish more people were forthcoming and told the truth. I get very confused over what I see as a discrepancy over what I'm hearing you say and what my brain is telling me you mean. It's very time-consuming trying to figure all that out. We also have a tendency to curse. :D This I feel is pretty clear and needs no explanation. ;)
Eye Contact -- They say we can't make eye contact. I feel I do but have been accused of not before so... ?? I know when I'm downloading data, as in talking AT you in conversation, I look at the floor or a distant inanimate object. It's just because I can't receive data from your facial expressions AND download at the same time. I can make eye contact, it's sustaining it that's the problem. I think it makes us come across as conceited and arrogant and uncaring. Which couldn't be further from the truth. In reality, we are trying so hard to give you ALL that we have on that particular subject. It's a form of generosity. So the punishing rejection after such a generous outpouring hurts. It's bewildering. But I just gave you everything I've got. I tried to be accurate and thorough, ya know? It really hurts to be misunderstood all the time.
Sensitivities -- We are sensitive to noise, light, textures and smells. Meat-eaters smell like musky sweaty testicles to me. Sorry but it's true. It is tough in an elevator. Perfumes? Fuggetabout it! I can literally vomit from perfume. Obese people smell like cabbage to me. Rotten cabbage. It's too yeasty or something. Repulsive. Sorry. I love you guys that are in that boat I do. Try not to hate me for being so blunt. I really can't help it. If it makes you feel any better I have terrible garlic breath and absolutely no breasts so... :) Light? Cannot handle the sun at all. I wear a hat and sunglasses just to go to the mailbox. All the lines on my face are from squinting in the bright Florida sun as a child. I had wrinkles in 1st grade! Seriously. Sounds? I can hear electricity in the walls. I have to unplug everything in the house sometimes just to get to sleep. I can even hear a motor-like hum in my head at night. I've read that that is the pineal gland revving up to release serotonin or something. People think I'm insane but others experience this too so... Textures? Cannot stand, STAND, seams!! Why in God's name do idiots use fishing line to sew clothing? That and these 2 inch seams are asinine. Period. So I wear my clothes inside out. I live in cotton flannel jamas inside out. I even go to the store like this. I don't care. I'm not trying to impress anyone. It doesn't matter how expensive the clothes are. Let's face it, they're all made in the same sweat shops so high prices are for fools to pay. These are the biggest issues that affect my day to day sense of well-being the most. That and the fact that I cannot, to save my life, get a good night's sleep.
Insomnia -- The brain simply never stops. I can be laying in bed breathing like I'm asleep yet fully aware of everything going on around me. I know when the fridge cycles on or off, when a car goes by, when a dog barks even once. I know where Sparkie is by the pitter patter of his little cutie feet. I am always aware.
Alcohol -- That's been my saving grace actually. Other Aspies feel the same. It allows me to let go of any social anxiety and interact with people in a fun way. Not so serious, not so intense. I also never get bombed because I always feel sober no matter how much I drink. So the extra alcohol only serves to make me sick as a dog. I envy those who can let go and dissolve into the stupor and make right fools of themselves. Oh I can make a fool of myself. I do it all the time. I'm just sober when I do it. No matter how many margaritas I've had. My body might feel it as in an unsteady gait but my head? Right there, fully aware, completely sober. It sucks. I could use a break from my brain. We do use alcohol to self medicate too though so it can be a problem. I drink close to a bottle of chardonnay a day and I have a liver disease from the bad blood I got in the hospital in '92. I really am playing Russian Roulette with that. Not very smart but life is so painful that, maybe I want to pass sooner rather than later.
I’ll be very interested in your thoughts. The author of this story will be reading, too, and I will pass any of her responses on through the comments . . . . Stay tuned for part 2 . . .