Tag Archives: communication

Diana and the Muesli

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. 

Hyper Diversity

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. 

Small

I lead a very small life. I get up and go about my business and to most I am an unknown. I am a nameless stranger on the streets of a city whose language I cannot read or speak. 
Yet, everyday I feel welcomed. When shopping, the generosity of a smile, when I struggle to communicate, calms me down. The old ladies of the market laugh at me but I can see the kindly twinkle in their eyes as I stumble through buying my vegetables. The toddlers, standing on the footplate of their parents’ scooter even shout hello as they go past. So I may be unknown but I’m not unnoticed. As a foreigner, a barang, I stand out. I am tall, even by British standards, so here in Cambodia I feel as if I’ve come down a bean stalk. I sail around the town on a big old fashioned bike, having eschewed the ubiquitous motorbike, gathering smiles. 
In my small life, these seemingly meaningless interactions are anything but. Each one contributes to a sense of happiness. Here in Cambodia people are shy but they are not wary. Having come from Europe where the single adult male is shunned as potential stranger danger it is lovely to receive happy waves and carefree waves and hear parents encouraging their children to say hello. 
I will never change the world and I have no aspiration to do so. Nor will many of the people I see every day. However, a cheery hello or an open smile can change someone’s day. I know this because the good people of Battambang share their small city and their kind, friendly nature with me, making my small life a happier one. 

The Kindness of Strangers

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. 

The Hare and the Tortoise 

I met a man the other day who blew away the cobwebs that had gathered in forgotten corners of my mind.  Through his conversation he gently reminded me of lost passions and interests that have lain, unvoiced, in the hinterland of my consciousness. He was travelling at light speed through South East Asia. However  this cosmic hare paused for breath before zipping past me, the earth-bound sluggish tortoise. 

We talked of things from home mostly. A trip back to the familiar which was less memory lane than a base touch with my own culture. The politics of the left and the left out was discussed over one too many beers and the world unable to righted was dispaired over. We shifted our focus to love and relationships and discovered much in common. We both believed in the openness and flexibility of love. Seemingly polar opposites, the more we discussed the broader out common ground became.  

When he left I knew that I would never see him again. I wish he were a tortoise because I could have travelled and talked with him forever. How easy life would be but I don’t fall in love with tortoises. I fall in love with hares and so I wake up with spiders rebuilding their homes in forgotten corners. 

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. 

Solution

Situations have been a little overwhelming lately and I needed to do something to resolve them.  Life in Cambodia can see chaotic to an outsider and I guess I can be chaotic too. Chaos squared does not bode well. Chaos can cause me anxiety so I don’t want things getting  exponential. When I get anxious, I feel make rash decisions because my emotions, those unreliable things that should not cloud sensible decisions, run riot. They bounce around like pinballs at the arcade and the bells and flashing lights overload my senses. All too often I end up annoyed and frustrated because I feel my actions have been useless and yet instrumental in my own failure. 

A friend of mine was listening to me berate myself over a beer. She knows me well so waited patiently for me to exhaust my train of thought. When I stopped for breath she intervened. She placed a calming, cooling, rather compassionate logic over my thoughts.  First she explained that actually in situation x what else would one do but y. She elabotated that, because x was so pressing, obviously y was a short term solution to alleviate the situation until z could be implemented. 

I wish everyone could be more algebraic with their care and love. On the Asperger Path, it is rare to meet someone can translate the world in a way that makes life suddenly seems so beautifully ordered.

 Maybe love is just a very difficult simultaneous equation. Perhaps each of my friends could be approached as a quadratic equation.  If my friend can both salve and solve me with algebra, it’s time for me to start applying some maths and solving a few of life’s problem. 

All Too Familiar

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. 

Lines

My life is lived in a virtual world of distant communication with friends and strangers. This sentence will be read by a few people I know and most likely quite a few more that I do not. My presence on the internet is great in terms of time. However I am aware that I am a minnow in a vast ocean. My words might as well be stuffed into bottles and cast on the open sea.  I blog and write poetry and pretend that views and likes and comments don’t matter. This is art and I don’t need an audience but when a bottle washes up on my beach I open it with genuine interest. 

As well as writing I have my Facebook world. A happy legion of friends who would have been long abandoned by my itinerant lifestyle but are netted and subjected to my poetry, pictures and prose. This audience, captive and silent, may follow or me not. The different levels of Facebook friendship form a hierarchy that I am not savvy enough to comprehend or intrigued enough to engage with. The social niceties of these subtly nuanced distinctions are lost on me. On the Asperger Path you are either a friend or not a friend. 

Then there’s gay life. A dazzling array of apps that promise beefy masculine men that will change your life and bring you, dazed but beautiful out into the neon lit world over the rainbow. This Friend of Dorothy surrendered long ago and knows how dessicated those encounters can be. I am too fat, too out there or too gay for half of the gay community. I am also not enough of something else for a sizeable minority. Worst of all I am blanked, blocked or ignored in ways that make the harsh memories of early gay life seem like a rosy pink kindergarten. 

So here is my message in a bottle. I am virtually lost. I’m on the line and I’m on line. I’m out there, somewhere. Will you come and find me?