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.
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.
I don’t make friends easily. What I find hard to understand is why I would want to. What is a friend is not someone to love and trust. Friendships are as complex as a well written book and not a throwaway thought you find in a celebrity magazine or an online blog.
Maybe it’s semantics, but for me the word friend is something special. In my mind, it conjures up people who I can laugh and relax with. Someone I can talk to about anything. A person that has and brings meaning to my life. Other people think I should have more friends. Personality surveys score me low on friendliness and gregariousness. I will not apologise because I am not unfriendly nor am I unkind. I just don’t make myself available to all and sundry.
Most of the people I know are distant or are kept distant. I think of them as acquaintances. People to share a coffee or an anecdote in my daily life. My work colleagues are great people and I would do a lot for them. However they are not the people I love or confide in. They are like magazines in a waiting room. They can be picked up and put down and they are not something I have chosen.
I love my friends. I love the small group of people that I share my secret inner world with. Some of my friends are like me and have equally small friend networks but others have vast swathes of friends. What they all have in common is spending time with me one to one and doing quiet things. My few friendships are all unique but each relationship is built on a firm foundation of love, trust and honesty. I know my friends like my my favourite novels. They are there to be read and reread, to be held in my heart with favourite scenes that live in the memory.
We are all different. I will keep my favourite books in my heart always. Not a library, but just few carefully selected titles that have changed my world.
Good intentions are kind thoughts and we need to accept, in ourselves and in others, that we can’t act on every kind thought. We choose causes that resonate and help those who, for whatever reason, impact on our consciousness. One person chooses donkeys in Devon and another HIV in Africa. If everyone had good intentions and acted on just a few of them how lovely this planet might be.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. People who have thought good thoughts and planned good deeds, yet because they didn’t apply themselves, nothing got done. This is too harsh. The road to hell should be paved with evil actions. Crimes deliberately planned and executed by people that were quite content for others to suffer.
So much for the conscious and the deliberate, but what can we do about the inadvertent. I try to be good, and I strive to be better, yet I often fail. I am honest and forthright, but this can cause pain and hurt to those around me. However inadvertently it is done, the ache is the same. My good intentions can be the cause of harm and upset.
Perhaps the road to hell is a private personal creation. I agonise over the unintended hurt and sometimes I am more hurt by the impact of my actions than my victim. People with Aspergers, often considered cold and unemotional, can have deep and intense empathy, though they may struggle to communicate it. I will not allow the Asperger Path to become my road to hell. If I deliberately plan and execute deeds with the intention to harm that makes me a bad person. However, I need to realise and understand that sometimes people get hurt and that hurt is part of life. So, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Please, don’t let me be misunderstood.
Her blue jacket is beautifully graphic and I lose myself for a moment. The lines of white and grey intersect, forming squares within endless squares to consider and reconsider. Her face, though equally lined, is softer, less mathematical. It’s human. Life has been witnessed, lived and ultimately survived with a quiet dignity.
Having dismounted from an ancient bike, which is possibly older her, she passes through the early morning coffee drinkers. Each is addressed with a low, gentle voice and an open smile. Few refuse this woman, for her poise and grace starkly highlight that life can be far from fair.
Finally, she comes to me. Her smile becomes a soft chuckle and there is an impish, mischievous glint in her eyes. Unlike her back, her spirit is unbowed. She offers me her lottery tickets, fanned out for my perusal. We both know I don’t really understand what she is selling and that I don’t speak the language. However, she chooses to include me in her day and as she looks directly into my eyes I see the kindness of one who has known what it means to be left out.
She remounts her bicycle and cycles away but she has left me behind, knowing that happiness isn’t found in a winning ticket.
I need some new friends. However this is not an online advertisement, because I am going out and looking in person. No application is necessary.
For many years I have sought solitude whilst avoiding loneliness. Gaps have been filled with social media and dating apps. I have chased the not yet known, but I ended up in cycle of meaningless encounters and superficial conversations. People who couldn’t care if I lived or died became my reason for being.
Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and time spent with them is fruitful. However, I have just moved to a new city and have decided to take no short cuts.
So, here I am, lunching alone, having met no one for a coffee earlier. I haven’t met anyone online or had a virtual chat with real stranger.
It feels rather odd, but in the long term this will be good. It’s time find common ground with people I can rely on. It’s time to then put those people centre stage and work at building a life that is more meaningful. It will take a while, but how much time have I already wasted on those fruitless applications that got me nowhere.
Once upon a time there was a man who was happy. He was a humble man who didn’t do much, but as he went through life he sang and smiled at the people he passed by. He had his place in the world and he never stopped to think.
One day he was accosted by an angry woman. “When you smile,” she said, “you only see your own happiness from inside . Why don’t you think about other people.” The happy man stopped and he thought. It was true. All his life he had been so happy and he had never wondered about anyone else. He just sang and smiled at people even if they were feeling sad. He looked around and he saw all the sadness in the world and his smile disappeared. He felt terrible inside because he had never noticed the pain of life around him. Now he had seen it, he could feel it, and he was sad too.
A few days later he was stopped in the street again. “Where is your smile?” the stranger asked. “I see you everyday as you go about your business and your smile makes my heart sing.” The once happy and now sad man recounted the tale of the woman he had met a few days earlier. “That woman was a witch.” the stranger exclaimed. “You give so many people a little happiness with your smile. You are not a bad person just because you have so much joy in your heart that you cannot hide it on your face.”
The once happy now sad man stopped to think again. He knew there was happiness inside him and he decided to let it out. “If other people are unhappy,” he thought, “maybe my smile and my songs will make them happier. Being unhappy too doesn’t seem to help.”
So the once happy, then sad but now happy again man lived on in his own happy world. He walked along with a smile and song, not doing much except giving out happiness to anyone who wanted it. The world was a happier place because he was in it.
On my travels, I turn to no one. When I see wonders, I see them alone. My experiences are shared at arms length for there is, by my side, nothing but empty space.
This is how I have shaped my life. I enjoy the sparsity of my emotional landscape. Friends and lovers, colleagues and thinkers, writers and artists all bring much to my life but none are my partner, my confidante or my other half. Some are more transient than others, but none are as impermanent in themselves as myself.
I am whole in my self constructed solitude and, when I steer clear of holes, this square peg travels quite comfortably. Life is lived, large and sprawling, for I am a nomad passing by and experiencing all that my senses can withstand. My social circle, by comparison, is kept small and tidy. The Asperger Path is my route and I navigate a way through this world with heart and mind as my map and compass.
So, when I see the world and I want to share it with someone, I choose the most intimate strangers I know. I choose you, dear readers. For you are sparse and far flung. If I want you, I can send fire off my missive into the void. Even if my message is never read, it is sent.
For me, that act of sharing is enough.
If I could stop the whirring cogs, the obsessive thoughts, the endless and increasingly bizarre what if scenarios, my mind could do something more constructive. I exhaust myself in worry until, sometimes, my mind collapses into the unhappy coma of depressed vegetation.
Once my mind was sharp. It’s razor was used to analyse and theorise and synthesise. The creation of possibility and the power of solution were my drivers, and I felt as focused as a train, speeding down the track at a hundred miles an hour.
Once was just yesterday and now is this long wakeful night. The shadows of insomnia are dark, and they cloak any positivity, preferring the drama of blackness. My mind is my greatest ally, yet also my fiercest enemy. I need to keep it looking outward and focused on creation. As soon as it turns to worry, the cycles start and the chains of my inner thoughts can be hard to break.
Sometimes I do this. I write. I start with my interior and use it as a springboard to come tumbling forward into a more positive place. Somehow once writing is written and the sense of completion, of an accomplishment, registers, the panacea seems to reset the mind and still the perpetual motion of my thought patterns. I feel cleansed.
So now, with this drafted, I will return to sleep. A more refreshed eye will take what came out of the blackness and edit, change and mould my stream of consciousness reality into this. What you are reading is not what was written. The Asperger Path is based in reality but it isn’t always real. My mind is #myfilter.
But you seem so normal. I smile because I’ve heard that one before. I know myself and I know what can be found inside and what can not. Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I fear that I am not a real boy.
The superficial is my home. It’s where I excel. I have a veneer to hides my flaws beneath. So in the first few hours, I can seem charming. I am both interested and interesting. It’s when things go deeper that they go wrong.
People have so many expectations. Friendships and relationships are supposed travel some mysterious path that I have rarely managed to navigate. I fail. There is something that I am not providing. I think it might be me.
I feel an emptiness inside because I give all I have and it isn’t enough. My honesty and happiness are not what was being sought and when I see the pain caused, I take it and inflict it on myself. The hurt feeds the sense of emptiness within and fear hardens the shell.
Am I just a veneer with no substance, or perhaps my depths are now so deeply hidden that they have been lost? Please, tell me I am not Pinocchio. I want to be a real boy.