Steps and stones

He stepped into my private life and had a look around. I hadn’t invited him in and yet there he was. This sort of intrusion must be something I wordlessly offer, for this is not the first time I have been invaded.

I like good conversation. I like to dip my toe in muddy waters and ruminate about the endless possibilities and probabilities that life throws at us. The paths taken, and those forsaken, make good fodder for the random chats I so often have along the Asperger Path.

My public life is lived quite publicly. I am out there, on air and on line broadcasting to my meagre audience. My voice, loud as it may be, is lost in the curiously furious mumbling of the wide webbed world. The chaotic cacophony ensures a bizarrely public privacy. My wood would not be seen for the trees are forming a barrier of popularity I will never hurdle. Judgment is something different. When he judged me, asking why this pattern he has identified repeats, I retreated. His opinion, given as concrete fact, was dropped heavily on my toes and I naturally stepped back. My answer was stony but solid enough to build a wall. Be careful, dear reader for whilst my life is set out before you in the market place I choose what I hawk. What I write is public, but my feelings remain on my side of the counter. Stay if you want or leave, but spare my dipped toes the weight of a crushing opinion.

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A challenge.

I try so hard. I fail. I try and fail and try again. Between me and who I want to be is a lack of loving kindness. I exercise it and yet my anger remains. So here is my apology.

Yesterday I fell. Not metaphorically but literally. Getting out of a boat that just beached itself proved too much. Getting in, I had explained I have mobility problems and was kindly helped from the jetty into the boat. On arrival I was left to my own devices. No ladder to aid me and my wonky imperfect body, and despite asking for help my language skills were not enough to secure it. The fall was spectacular and the pain intense.

After falling I had to get back on the boat. Islands can be tricky like that. For this, a ladder was found and after some delays I headed back with no smile on my face and no thank you uttered.

Once on dry land I was told politely that everything was my fault. I should have understood that at my age and with my disability I shouldn’t have got on the boat. My anger flared and I was left hurt and hurting to make my way back to the hotel.

Loving kindness and gratitude are so easy to demonstrate when all is going right. What I need to learn is how to maintain it when things go wrong.

I am safe. My injuries are superficial. I am not on an island. For these things I should have be grateful yesterday. My anger achieved nothing except causing hurt and pain to myself and others.

I try and fail and try again, no matter how painful the lesson.

Backpack Trail

It was the sort of café one ends up in. A place that no one would choose, where time is wasted before something better happens. They were sitting at a table, four Europeans, with unloved luggage left carelessly on the forlorn terrace.

Smoking heavily, they must have been travellers on their way to the next awesome experience. Shorts that mismatched t shirts hinted at uniformly alternative new age leanings Long gaps in their millennial conversation were adequately plugged by the WiFi that comes free with the mediocre coffee.

It was fifteen minutes before I noticed her. A girl of no more than five years, who must have spent more moments than just these unwanted. She came from nowhere and talked to the group but no one seemed able to look up from the internet to respond. One or more of these slightly grubby people must have been her parent. A small blonde girl with blue eyes was bored in Asia and no one seemed concerned. So conspicuous and yet unacknowledged by those who have a duty of care.

Cigarettes were finished and butts were squashed underfoot. Backpacks were swung into position and the four travellers were ready to depart. The girl’s hand was taken wordlessly as if she were just excess baggage and off they set, towards the next adventure.

What untold want do you have, little voyager, whose parents have set sail to seek and find? What memories of childhood will you create? How must it feel to be incarcerated on the backpack trail of someone else’s escape?

The Way

The way I do things not my fault. Or is it? I should know by now, surely, that when they ask me what I think, they don’t mean it.

So I have given my view bluntly and with the full force of my honesty. Tomorrow I must revisit the scene of the criminal faux pas, because another day another dollar is my mantra. My manager may or may not hate me. My colleagues might not think I’m weird. However, previous experience tells me that, after three months, the Asperger is beginning to crack through the thin normality I have endeavoured to veneer on myself.

It doesn’t matter if I fit or not, really. I feel like a misfit and I can create an awkwardness from thin air. Once it’s there I wrap myself in it like a safety blanket of bee stings. Being stung I retreat and my cycle pedals furiously into its inevitable descent.

Soon, I will pack my bags. The runner who can’t face the unsure and yet dives headfirst into the unknown will lurch into another incarnation. A new me, contrite and certain that I can hold back, will set forth with an all too temporary trepidation.

If only I could say nothing, how different my life would be. How few opportunities I would have needed. How few avenues I would have ventured down. How few mes I would have needed to create.

My life is my fault. My faults are my life. I should know by now, surely, that the Asperger Path is just the way I do things.

Market

Sometimes I feel like I’m almost invisible. The world is transacting around me and I am there, in my bubble, untouched by the commerce of life.

Get your friendships here. How about a lovely bit of bonding. Who fancies a nice little chat. They buy and sell their time, love and care like market traders but I never quite feel that the offer is aimed at me.

Here in Cambodia, I am used to not understanding. My life is lived in one language, while daily life is transacted all around me in another. The protocols and customs are based in a culture that I understand only superficially. I know that I miss messages and mix messages. Yet, my life has always felt as if I am somehow apart from culture rather than a part of it. The lonely otherness of the traveller is second nature on the Asperger Path.

I enjoy the market place. The overload to the senses is a shock but life, even observed from a bubble, is marvellous in its mess. So I will buy my bits and pieces and play my role. I’ll take a small smile and a bunch of happy being me, please.

Losing

I lose myself sometimes. Within that loss I find another me. Forgetting all my traits, I just exist. The bubble is takes me high and then, pop, the euphoria dissipates and I am my real self again.

But oh, those moments lost in music. The rhythm takes me gently before I take the rhythm and we counterpoint on the floor. The music mutates in my head and my body expresses itself without thought.

I feel a smile on my face and it spreads like the sweat on the back of my shirt. Delirious, I care about neither, I just want to consume the music and expel the joy that is swelling inside me. I am alone among a thousand people. Unaware, I dance for and by myself.

An hour can pass or sometimes two before the magic is lost. A different beat brings a sudden reawakening of my self consciousness and I am left, old and sweating. The man who lost himself suddenly finds himself surrounded and the jarring lights of reality are an unwelcome illumination of the scene.

Reality is where I live and I am mired in it, but isn’t he also real. That man who syncopates the floor with his feet and draws heaven to the earth with his arms is not a fantasy. He is just ecstatically lost, lost in the music, lost in his mind and found in the moment.

Great and Small

Live everyday as if it’s your last.

How irresponsible would that be. I am not going to die tomorrow so I’ll make sure I’ve got food, a roof over my head and clean underwear. It’s good not to over plan and we all need to roll with punches, but I hope there are thousands of days between this day and my last.

Live everyday as if it’s important.

Meh. There are the occasional sofa days and duvet days. Don’t let rainy days and Mondays bring you down because they happen with alarming frequency. The ups and downs of being human are not circadian but life repeats and life revisits. Live your life as if you are important. Allow yourself the down times so that when you soar you are truly astounding.

You only live once.

Hell yes. We are born and we die. In between we lead may lives and are many people. I am a friend, lover, teacher, writer, traveller and survivor. My current incarnation is the result of many creations and much destruction. I am an architect and I will continue to strive to be as well constructed as I can be. If today is my last day, I spent it well. It was just an ordinary day, full of living the great and the small.

The Yellow Brick Road

Travellers on a journey we have happily coincided. This Emerald City is where we three live and teach. We were talking about Aspergers in the classroom, but my colleagues were unaware that I am the Tin Man. Thinking my knowledge was purely professional, the questions came flooding out. Questions reveal so much more than answers.

Do you think he knows he is different? Is he aware how others see him? Why can’t he adapt? Why does he look so sad?

Each question was given to me to answer. Such difficult heartbreaking questions to hear because each was so personal and yet I couldn’t say it. Why couldn’t I tell them? I guess because I fear their observation. I choose to remain a colleague.

I know I am different, but I forget until it slaps me in the face. I am unaware of how others see me. In fact most of the time I assume that they don’t see me. When they do, it usually another slap. I do adapt. I live in the world and I pass for almost normal in almost all situations. The sadness you see is when the world treats me badly. Sometimes it comes crowding into my carefully constructed spaces. It judges and points fingers in my face.

Those questions flooded me. The third person was not a barrier thick enough to deflect them. They told me how “other” I might be labelled. Until I’m brave enough to say I am like him, people will see us as not them. Aspergers might make me feel like a tin man, but sometimes I am just a cowardly lion.

Metaphor

I don’t like getting my feet wet. I don’t like how it feels. Today it’s raining but it’s still hot so I am torn between the cool comfort of my sandals and the tough impermeability of my walking boots.

The smallest choices are often the most pondered. In my life, I create routines and regularity to help me avoid that endless vacillation that can consume time and mental energy. I sweat the small stuff like plastic micro beads polluting my psychic eco-system. I need to make a decision but right now I’m blogging about it.

Those big decisions that people have, they seem to cause me less trepidation. Moving to Cambodia was done on a whim with no prayer. I just upped my life and landed with my full 30kg allowance and recreated a life. Things have worked out just fine so I must assume I am a resourceful little sausage. I have a job, a roof over my head and there’s healthy food on my table.

So, I can just jump sometimes. I guess it’s fine to get my feet wet, but only when it’s metaphorical. Maybe I should just wear the sandals and see how it feels.

Marks

I no longer mark time. Time is very different here. The punctuations I took for granted have gone. Now time doesn’t comma or full stop.

You see things differently at a distance. The detail is lost but the panorama allows each piece a place, and the whole is quite unlike the parts.

Once there were four seasons. Nature kept my clock ticking. Larks and robins, buds and falling leaves, late sunsets and dark mornings, each a reminder and each setting me in a context. Here it’s hot. Sometimes it’s wet. It’s light for breakfast and dark for dinner. A year can pass unnoticed.

The seasons come with much more. Emotionally I used to shift. I was carefree in June, melancholy in November and oh so hopeful in March. Activities would change. Life would move to the garden, the balcony or the beach for the brief halcyon summer before beating a retreat to log fires and drawn curtains. My friends are far from me so birthdays are Facebook updates and Christmas isn’t coming. Now that I am no longer on it, I can see I was immersed in a cultural calendar.

My days run on like badly constructed sentences, weeks are just ill defined paragraphs and without the seasons there are no chapters. I am in a stream of consciousness and living in the now because the passing of my time is no longer marked.