You have to love Diana Ross. Well, I guess you don’t have to but I do. She was with me at breakfast this morning and asked if I knew where I was going to. Hell no as Oprah Winfrey replied in the film version of The Color Purple. Luckily, not being black or southern, I did not receive a beating for my strident response. Diana just went on, almost as if she hadn’t heard, to ask if I liked the things that life is showing me. This time my answer was a life affirmating smile that wasn’t covered by hand but shared with the morning muesli.
I am starting to believe that life is a gift. Like all the other gifts and talents I possess, it benefits from a bit of practice and honing. I am just past fifty and feeling fabulous. I have created a life that, right now, plays a rather gentle hand. My skill sets and strengths have been carefully balanced with my, let’s call them, eccentricities, and life is being lived in a contented manner. I have a home far from home and I have found friends far from friends. There have been a few hairy moments over the years but my diploma from the school of hard knocks looks dusty in the bright sunshine of easy street.
Diana might be worried about my lack of destination but this life is easing on down the road. On my slow journey away from Oz I seem to have found myself a rather comfortable window seat. My name is not Dorothy and I will not surrender. I am somewhere, over my rainbow, living my spectrum disordered life one day at time.
Do I like the things that life is showing me? Hell, yes Diana! Hell yes.
When I was young I never really knew what I wanted to be. I was a good all rounder academically so I was not encouraged to make any decisions. People told me I should keep my options open and not specialise to early. I never committed to anything and, as I have made my way through life, I never really have.
So here I am. At fifty I am still drifting through life and wondering what and where is next. I fell into teaching more than twenty years ago. It was more about escaping the drudgery of life at the town hall than finding a vocation. I now appear to happily richochet between the two, though teaching is my preferred choice.
My current incarnation, a teacher of English in Cambodia, is going rather well. I am enjoying the challenges and there are plenty of them. My current path has taken down some very new and different teaching avenues and might almost tempt me to stay a while. I have already been here six months and it’s starting to feel like home but then there are so many other countries and they are so close.
I am a restless soul. I roll and I drift and I don’t gather moss because I can’t keep still. Some researchers say that ADHD and Aspergers are closely linked. I don’t know if it’s true but certainly I can switch my focus from one thing to another fairly easily. It’s what I do best. After all I am a good all rounder. It seems a bit daft to settle down to something at this point. So I will continue along my rather chaotic Asperger Path, passport in hand, and no doubt find some activities that will divert my attention. The only deficit I can see is the judgmental way society labels and classifies its dazzling differences and distinct diversities.
Everything is relative. Am I rich or am I poor? Maybe I am both and it depends on how you view my position.
So if everything is relative does truth become less absolute and honesty then a much more subjective concept. Perhaps the problem lies within relativity itself. If you look at something in relation to something else you are, fundamentally, making a comparison. You are trying to fit something into a bigger framework where things can be judged as being within or outside of parameters. You can calculate a standard deviation from the norm and label and classify.
I don’t so much mind my wealth being measured. My emotions however are something else. I view myself as a happy fellow. I live my rather unremarkable life with pockets of joy which I find, for me, in quite the most expected of places. A random chat with a stranger or a piece of music can lift my mood. The brilliance of the dawn or dramatic descent of the sun can captivate me and leave me feeling awestruck at the grandeur of the natural world.
So I must admit that I don’t really like relativity. I have found my happiness and I hope that you find yours. My happiness isn’t greater or better it’s just different. I hope only that my happiness is not at the expense of yours. This is my truth and this is my honesty. Is it relative or absolute? Maybe it’s both and it depends on how you view my position.
A streetcar named desire stopped in my town the other day. A stranger disembarked and before he got back on he got and the bell clanged to signal his departure he declared that I looked comfortable in my own skin. Such a lovely compliment, thrown as he sped away to elsewhere.
We had spent such a short time together but looking back, the conversation was deep and the humour dry and sparkling like a good champagne. Certainly I had felt easy in the to and fro of the friendly conversational joust in which neither of us were tilted from our seats. We were well matched.
I’ve never depended on the kindness of strangers but when you’re travelling alone a stranger’s takes can light up dark unknown skies. I thrive on meeting new people. The relationships are superficial even if the conversations are deep and the torturously subtle complexities and conventions of long term relationships are hazards that need not be traversed.
As I travel alone on the Asperger Path, I realise that my life has acquired an openness and sense of freedom that it had often lacked. I have neither the time nor the ability to set up bizarre rules and restrictions. My life, so often run around a set of self constructed, constrictive mantras, is now open to the four winds and whoever they blow my way.
I have made some unusual choices and I’m sure the odd eyebrow is raised in my honour. However I took the road less travelled so I grateful when the streetcar drops off a stranger and he walks a block or two with me. I don’t depend on their kindness but it is most welcome.
It’s been a while since I put thumb to phone to tap out a metronomic message to put in my bottle. Life has taken me and carried me down a dizzyingly bizarre route. However far I have travelled I’m still here. My backwater life has had a few up and downs but the journey has been an internal one.
The twists and turns, at times almost Machiavellian, havr surprised me but they have failed to knife me and I have walked away, unscathed and unscarred. I have a new and, for me, more interesting job. I got called professor the other day and when I checked irony was not lurking in the corner. I am falling in love with my teaching. Adults and small groups seem deliciously simple after the dramas and joys of teaching my large grade 1 classes. However easy the management might be however, the content is challenging and my skills are being sharpened. My mind is tingling in ways I thought were long lost. It’s a privilege to be teaching teachers and seeing colleagues introduced to new concepts and ideas.
So, backwater Battambang will be home for a while longer. There’s a contentment in lingering yet still knowing that, a year from now, I’ll be elsewhere. The Asperger Path is moving slowly and the restless motion of my thumb taps a reminder to live each moment and let each moment pass.
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.
The first time the power went out I learnt a lot of things. Most surprisingly that no electricity means no running water in my second floor room. So this time, when the power went off again, I approached the situation with a Zen like calm that should please the predominantly Buddhist subjects of The Kingdom of Wonder.
The first clue was that my iPad mini could not connect to the wifi and I lost my calming classics that YouTube had been providing. Then I realised my ceiling fan was not rotating and that the room was getting hot. Bearing in mind that the temperature was a humid 31 degrees with a feels like factor of 36 I’m surprised that wasn’t noticed first. However I realised it was time to get up and get out of my sundrenched room and look for a shady spot.
So I washed in the dark windowless bathroon using the big water container and my handy jug. I brushed my teeth in mineral water and threw on some clothes. I assumed that the power might be on in the centre of Cambodia’s second city. I was wrong. However my favourite café has a breezy terrace and can still offer everything on the breakfast buffet menu.
Some days I would have been in melt down by now. Thankfully it is Sunday so I have no external pressures like work to tip me off balance. The insistent little voice in the back of my head is being kept under control but I keep thinking over and over and over that if they have gas to make an omelette then surely they could get a coffee on the go. I guess even on my good days I still have Aspergers. There’s no outage for me.