The circus is coming to town. Life cannot be planned because things happen that are unexpected, uninvited or even unwelcome. Those of us who try to control our lives end up running around like crazy clowns. So success is never about controlling what we have, it is about managing the unexpected.
Thus life needs flexibility. So what happens to those of us who are rigid and don’t have the social malleability that most of society is born with. We change. We learn. We study the patterns and we analyse the results. It’s learnt behaviour and it’s not intuitive, but it is what we do.
We are the cognitively different, the spectrum reordered, the walkers of the Asperger Path. We bring a new perspective and a different view to life. At our best, we are breathtaking and we must learn to fit in the world and take our proper place. Being born different is my gift from the universe and I intend to make my difference make a difference.
You can be a tightrope walking trapeze artist in the circus of life or a straitjacket wearing lunatic locked in the control asylum.
Me? I’m running away to join the circus.
Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. Something or someone happens and you, for some reason, decide it’s an avenue you want to pursue.
Life is quite a journey. Birth is followed by education, work, love, rest and death. This mortal coil spins faster as we age, and most of us are far too merry to get off. The Asperger Path has been a happy, but somewhat more disorderly, route through life’s conventions.
Actually, I took a detour long ago, and discovered life could be neither straight or narrow. I broadened my mind, loosened my inhibitions, and allowed myself to be open to opportunity’s knock. I have lived in kinky meanders and loved with spacious permissiveness.
It’s time to leap and faith is my parachute and . If I land safely, I will let you know.
Ooooh. Fallin’ free, fallin’ free, fallin’ free, fallin’ free
Donna Summer is on repeat in the juke box of my mind. It’s time for some free falling because I feel love, conventional, old fashioned, ‘you and me’ love.
We all see the world differently. Perspectives can change with time and place. However difference can unite us or divide us. It is up to us to decide on that.
I am a gay. That makes me somehow different. In my life, that difference has been the source of intense hatred from some and touchingly profound love from others. Being outside, my brothers and sisters showed me what solidarity can look like. Being outside, sometimes I really needed them. My family never cast me out and indeed, love and acceptance has been more of a motif than hate.
Hate is strong though. The power of seemingly isolated incidents can butterfly effect into a tsunami that crushes self esteem and inhibits self expression. I remember so many of the acts of hate, so vividly. Why then can’t I recall the individual kindnesses with the same focus too.
I am going to change my perspective. Acts of love need to be marked and gratitude needs to be both registered within and expressed without. I am surrounded by love, not hate, and the bubble I float in should not be popped by the occasional small prick.
From today I will see the world differently.
I travel alone. Perhaps we all do. The universe surrounds us but we are here locked inside our sensory, sense making brain. We see, hear,smell, taste and touch the world. However what I am sensing is totally unique and bears no relation to the sensations my neighbour creates.
I travel alone. I am not frightened of my own company. I amuse myself and confuse myself and can even look myself in the eye. An able contortionist, I can pat myself on the back though the need doesn’t arrive too often. I am my own best friend and yet I am not hermetically sealed.
I travel alone. I have left you behind, I haven’t yet met you or maybe our paths will never cross. I have stopped wanting to be an us and I have allowed myself to be me. I will not be lost in the world of compromise where everybody goes somewhere that nobody truly wanted to see.
I travel alone because I am not the centre of my universe. I travel like the stars, a pattern in my path that I have not designed and a rhythm in my life that makes me part of something greater than myself.
I travel alone and yet I am not alone. I both am and am not. I travel alone and in doing so create hundreds and thousands of micro relationships. Each is real and unique and has the potential to generate energy and change. My energy is diffused and suffused into the world and I receive power from all around me. I am a fraction of so many wholes and I am a million beautiful fragments of the people who have touched my life.
I travel alone with the universe
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.
No matter how many times you tell people that you see the world differently, every time they notice it they express some concern. Or maybe expressing concern is one of those concepts I just don’t grasp.
People are often surprised by the things I say or do. My usual response is to assume that as I take full responsibility for my own life, their surprise is an issue for them. John Donne once concluded that no man is an island, but that does not mean that every man is traffic junction.
Sometimes people think they hear the toll of the bell. It might just be the wind chimes of my imagination or the tapping of my thumb on the information superhighway.
I am a little disconnected but I am concerned for my fellow man. However, my communication can sometimes be a little sparse or scrambled. We are all different, special and unique. No man is an island but allow me a moat.
The man sat in his room and wondered. It was Saturday night and he knew the great cabaret of life was being played out on stages as he sat there looking at the walls and contemplating the ifs and buts of his next decision. He doesn’t realise that he is on his tawdry stage just like the rest of us. His one man show may not have pizazz and his monologue, should he ever choose to speak, might be môntone, but he is stripped bare and dazzled in the footlights of existence.
Some people take three hours to get out of the house. The minutiae of each step weighed and analysed with mentally generated flow diagrams to plot the possibilities of an action. If that is not a conceptual piece of performance art worthy of staging then life is not a cabaret, old chum. Life doesn’t pass us by, but it comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes.
Like each of us, he only lives once, so he needs to be certain. He finally makes a decision, certain that his choice is valid. Semi skimmed not full fat milk. Now, shoes or trainers…
I am a brother. It is something that does not take up much time, yet my brother is often in my thoughts. As children, our age shaped the roles we were given and seems to have shaped the men we have become.
He is older than me, and when I was young, he seemed so grown up. I looked to him for guidance and advice. Our home situation was somewhat less than conventional, so an unfair burden was placed on him that I never carried. He was expected to take care of me whereas I was just expected to be younger. He shouldered responsibility at an early age while I skipped through life, almost oblivious to the world around me.
My brother is fifty five years old now, and he has taken care of his wife and their sons. His family has grown up in a safe and loving environment that did not mirror our childhood existence. A stable home, where promises were kept and boundaries were maintained, has produced two happy confident young men. They have a home which is solid, built on love, respect and hard work.
I don't have a home and I have never really settled. I roam about the world, restlessly seeking things I'll probably never find. I would like to know how it feels to share my home and my life with someone. I am fifty and have never lived with a partner. I can only imagine the joys and woes of parenthood and have resigned myself to my solitary life. I have shirked life's responsibilities and I am still skipping. I never have everything I need and yet, thanks to the kindness of people around me, my scrapes are survived. I am still that boy who never has a clean tissue and always has untied laces.
On one level I have always wanted to be like my brother, but I am not. I am the younger son, and I was only ever expected to need looking after. He grew up to be a caretaker and I, perhaps not yet grown up, still take care when it is offered
A year ago, with the ink still drying on my autism diagnosis, I waved goodbye to the ugly face of blatant, corporate discrimination. Someone had decided I didn't fit and my professional life became a living hell. I was good at my job and wanted to continue there. I was assured that obtaining this diagnosis would ease the situation and protect me. It did not. After fighting and losing the battle to keep my job, I gave up. I gave up the round hole life I had been living.
I am no stranger to starting again. I have had to do it before. I was once a teacher, possibly a good one. However, I battled homophobia every day in the classrooms and the corridors of London. After a few incidents outside of school too, I decided I couldn't take any more. I lost that fight but preserved my sanity. Years before that, I lost my job in a local authority up north. My boss decided I didn't fit in. She made it clear that she could find no fault with my work. It was me that was a problem. I was a square peg.
I may lose jobs but I am not a loser. Life can be unkind because I am a gay man with cerebral palsy and Asperger's Syndrome. However hidden beneath the labels and the isms, I am just another human being. I may not fit in but that is because I no longer choose to. I am a lover of life and a seeker of happiness. I am a pacifist but will go bare knuckle to fight my corner.
That life I love is now the Asperger Path. Since I set off a year ago I have seen and done things I never thought I'd do. I am travelling very slowly and stopping to look at life along the way. I am exploring whatever I choose. Writing is one way I explore the world. It has become very important to me and I make time to write every day. My thoughts and my poetry will never change the universe, but they are changing my perception of the world and my place in it. It's my way of squaring the circle.
In Britain I was expected to be so much more than just a teacher. A social worker, counsellor, parent, friend, mentor, big brother and psychologist. A multitasking miracle worker who would whizz into a room and create a positive learning environment from whatever I found. With Pavlovian conditioning, I could change tack with every tolling bell, ploughing through a long day where breaks and lunch evaporated and needs were met, anticipated and dealt with. The gifted were stretched, the less motivated were encouraged and the hungry were fed. Sometimes even clean clothing was appropriated. I made a difference. London’s schools were challenging and dynamic, and not for the fainthearted.
Cambodia is no place for the fainthearted either. Grinding poverty, years of internal corruption, and searing heat bring their own challenges. However, like many foreigners work in elite, private settings with students who are relatively wealthy. The library has precious few books and the school feels under resourced but the parents all have big four wheel drive cars.
I set a task and my class of students do it. I have never taught students like this before. They are respectful and engaged, no matter what. Are we doing something creative and engaging right now. Not particularly. In fact, we are doing peer and self assessment of paragraph writing with a final draft to be produced by the end of the lesson. Deathly dull if you ask me, and I am theoretically a writer.
In addition to having no real classroom management issues, I am not expected to analyse or deep dive data. I do not produce reports or graphs highlighting student underachievement nor am I expected to contact parents and build home school relationships.
I come to class. I teach. I assess. I grade papers. I give feedback. However, this generation will be pivotal in the the changes that are need to happen in this country so I might be just a teacher but, like all teachers, I can still make a difference.