This chaos is my life. This wonderful, amazing life I am leading is just a sequence of disasters held together by a touch of bravado and good deal of hoping that everything will be all right. I have never had dreams or ambitions. There isn’t a someone I forgot to be. I am here and now and I’ve got my wits about me.
So I career, without a career plan, across jobs, countries and friends. My life is like bunting. Piece after piece, each little moment of beauty is separate and yet strung together hanging in the breeze for all to see.
Many of my colleagues in the spectrum disordered world have strong deep passions and life long obsessions. My obsession, if I have one, is with the new. I can’t bear to bored or stuck in a routine though ironically I create them. I hem myself in, experience a moment or two of safe, comfortable acceptance before I feel it. That irritating itch as if I am allergic to my own contentment.
I don’t have dreams. My life is lived in stark reality. I’m on my own and I have created the Asperger Path and this, this chaos, this is my life.
I have always been broad minded. I think far outside of boxes. I am quirky and out there. Eccentricity was something I excelled at long before I understood what fitting in could mean. I don’t think that’s what they have in mind. So perhaps I need to buy some baggy elephant print trousers and experience an authentic Asia. I could get myself some dreads even though I’m white and convert to Buddhism before returning home to take my job in corporate finance. I’m not sure that life is any better or worse than mine. Being broad minded in this context means having an understanding that life is lived differently by different people in different places. It’s tolerance and understanding mixed together with a willingness to immerse yourself in the new and the strange and learn about yourself from what you do. This widens the resources you can pull on in life.
I have always travelled. Wide eyes would stare on the double decker bus to Old Town and my ears like radio telescopes would absorb the chit chat, gossip and banter of daily public life. I watched the couples who bicker and the parents who nurture. I listened to advice given as criticism and saw love exercised as control. The private lives we lead are so very public. Now I watch travellers and they fascinate me. A diverse group of people each on a different journey. Some travel through time. Others move through space. The lucky ones journey within and travel to the landscapes of the soul and learn the truth of the human heart.
To a large extent I remain an observer. Broad minded in my views but I am not broad minded. I walk the Asperger Path. I judge and classify. I put people in boxes and label them. I am like an entomologist with drawers of specimens. I am on the bus but sometimes I don’t get off. I don’t get down into the real dirty underbelly of life. However my life is broader every day. The people that I meet are a source of fascination and delight.
There are many places I will see before I die. Like you I am traveller and like you I am unique. My list of things to do and see isn’t yours or theirs but mine. So hello and farewell my fellow traveller. We meet, we pass, we share and we move on in time, space and emotion.
“I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” I am in that place with Louis Armstrong today. A few weeks ago a film company announced on Facebook that they wished to screen a film in Battambang and were looking for places and audiences. I contacted them to suggest the school where I work.
Today I saw the fruits of that company’s labours. I sat in a room with a hundred or so students, none of them mine. We soared over pristine rainforest in the Cardamom Mountains before skimming the surface of the Tonlé Sap and the mighty Mekong. We surveyed the northern plains and the highlands of The East. I saw all of the natural beauty of the Cambodian countryside.
More marvellous than the landscape, and the focus of this documentary, were the many and diverse creatures that form the fauna of The Kingdom of Wonder. The call of gibbons in the wild forest near Angkor Wat echoed through my soul. The sight of a majestic elephant stopping to scratch its belly as it stepped over a fallen tree caused laughter in a room that was mostly quiet and captivated. The beautiful Giant Ibis, the national bird, now sadly endangered, was seen roosting in the trees.
My eyes and mind were opened wider today. It’s a wonderful world and I hope that those students will appreciate the beautiful fragility of the country they call home.
I’m still in Battambang and I’ve got the small town blues. I’m living in a backwater and it doesn’t matter if I have a paddle or not. This hot, dry season means the creek is a murky brown and my boat is going nowhere.
It’s time to stand still which is an odd thing for a traveller to do. I’m going to take a moment. I will count my blessings and realistically that should take a while. My life is charmed and The Asperger Path is rich in experience and diversity. I am strong and healthy. I am surrounded by good people who I should lean on more often. I have carefree days of writing and relaxation and I live life at a slow pace. There’s time to smell the flowers and time to savour my beloved flat white. My young students are interesting and kind and my teaching is going well. Life could be more interesting but it could also be more stressful.
A new day is dawning and the only blue I should be worrying about is the sky above. The air hangs and that’s not the blues, that’s just the heat. I am still, in Battambang.
They sit together barely communicating with one another but restless thumbs scroll on screens. I suppose being familiar can be the quietest of contempt. She, fat and forty, exhales a thick cigarette fog over her companions who seem immune or perhaps resigned. She stubs out one and moves to light another. A barely discernible nod from her right indicates this vice is shared with him, a decade older but equally overfed.
How many evenings have they silently coexisted. Three plump islands in life’s slipstream, tightly knit and yet removed from one another by the sound of silence. Two smokers and the third, passively sitting in the smoky, silent spaces left by her elders.
It’s her I feel for. This odd third wheel who, unspeaking and unspoken to, lives on mute. She is not yet ten. Her smoky childhood, a paradise lost, has been sacrificed for forbidden fruit.
This is no modern tragedy. This is just a familiar, familial scene updated for the electronic age.
I have been seduced. I have been lulled into a real sense of security. The Asperger Path has become a park and I am playing on the swings of good fortune.
Funny how life conspires sometimes to throw handfuls of happiness at you. This life I am not building, this uncharted course that I am taking has moved into a safe haven and it’s time to drop anchor for a while. There are still no plans and few ties and I could be ready to sail next week. For now though, I’m living in the moment and from moment to moment. Those cherished moments are blossoming into memories and experiences that are cushioning the sharp corners of life.
So I will work, rest and play in the park for a while but I know where the gate is and one day I’ll be gone. For now though, Battambang, work your lazy magic and swing me gently in the evening breeze.
At fifteen I was recruited into a life of crime. I was still at school and ten cigarettes is what they offered me. I demanded a pack of twenty and could see that this was a market where I could prosper. And so it began, my career in crime. Once a month an assignment was chosen and when I delivered the goods, a meeting would be set up to hand over my loot.
It was all preparation for the big job in June. These errands were tests to make sure that on the big day there would be no disappointments. I stuck to my end of the bargain and the cigarettes came rolling in.
As June came ever nearer the pressure and the stress was more palpable. On the day it was still going to be a bit hit and miss but I was better prepared than if I hadn’t been recruited. The day itself was hot and sticky but I went in, sat down and waited to start.
I was able to answer the Shakespeare questions. The twentieth century short story ‘compare and contrast’ was almost identical to the first essay I had submitted to English teacher. We had always known the poetry would be rockier but I came out of my O Level English Lit exam that afternoon ready for a smoke and feeling confident.
Now I am the English teacher. However, I do not resort to bribery with my students. My teacher’s methods were unorthodox but I have been lucky. I’ve never had a student like me.
My life is pretty good but…
There’s this woman who drags me down. She doesn’t do anything much and our limited interactions have been few but negative. I guess I feel that she has a very poor opinion of me and I rather wish that she didn’t.
The truth is I don’t know what her opinion of me is. On this planet I am but one of several billion souls and, whilst we have met, I may have had quite a minor impact. Right now she may be doing something life changing while I sit here and navel gaze. I am the god of obsessing about small things and I am cursed with wanting everyone to like me.
They don’t. I have Aspergers and as such tend to fall into the “love ’em or hate ’em” category. This woman seems to deliberately not get me. Most people I meet find it hard to believe that I have social and communication difficulties. They bring out my charm and wit so gently and make feel quite normal.
However there are a minority, a sizeable minority of people with whom I cannot get along. These people seem to take a very direct type of umbrage to all I do and say. My rubbing is all wrong way and they lay the blame at my door. Do I celebrate the majority? Sadly no, I obsess about those who make my life difficult. I often seek opportunities to let them see in a different light. Those opportunities all too regularly backfire. I need to stop worrying about other people so much. I can’t be anyone other than who I am. I am a well liked man making my way in the world. No buts.
My life is pretty good.
I don’t know about you. In fact I don’t know you. Hello. I hope you are well. Me? I’m fine thanks. I woke up this morning with a sense of carpe diem and I am running with it.
My normal morning is an early, lazy start. I catch up with the world via my phone and play games and lounge while the sun rises. The more I lounge, the less I want to get up. The Asperger Path can be a road to nowhere. Sometimes it is only when nature’s call becomes all consuming that I rouse my carcass and get myself upright.
Not today. I’m writing this having already achieved great things. I was up and out at the market by seven. I’ve had a morning coffee and I’ve been to the “western shop” as well. My ride home was a little precarious with a kilo or two too much in my basket but I am home safe and feeling rather proud of myself.
I’m a bit tired. It’s not even 9am. I think it’s time for a spot of lounging. Bye.
Life can be an emotional marketplace. People displaying their wares and constantly attracting people, but also and equally not attracting others. When I look at relationships I see hooks and eyes, Velcro or even a zip. People are busy meshing together in different ways to form bonds, friendships, marriages and a whole myriad of complex, interdependent relationships.
Some of those hooks are universal while others are more esoteric. There are people who are loved by almost everybody. They can somehow see what is on offer and move towards a mutual bonding solution. We are all different and unique. Within this melee I stand like a cactus. I am part of life and yet I am passed by. Many people fear and avoid my thorny spiked exterior.
The Asperger Path is not lonely. There are people I attract too. When I see beautiful, kind souls I flower. I offer up my self for those who see my differences and are not scared by them. These rare creatures who allow me to be who I am are what I seek. Together we build gentle spaces where I can be safe in a love that holds, but not too tightly. I do not attract many but I know a strong, true heart when I see one.
The market is no place for a cactus. I hurt people as they brush past living their lives furiously. My hooks are spikes and so I have chosen wider, open spaces to make my home. My emotional landscape isn’t barren or empty. It’s beautiful, like the desert after rain.