Tag Archives: identity

Nobody

Once upon a time there was a man who thought he was nobody. Because he thought he was nobody, he lived nowhere and knew no one. One day, he tried to escape from his own shadow but discovered he could only do that by burrowing into the darkest recesses of his mind. Undeterred, he wrapped himself in darkness and disappeared.

Years passed and nobody noticed. He noticed that sadness had become more and more a part of him. He was sadness and sadness was him and they were together in the darkness.

One day, he saw a glimmer of light and, having been so long in the dark, it looked like a star. As his eyes adjusted, he realised it was a hole in the darkness. It was there everyday, and each day he looked at it a little longer and came a little closer.

Finally he looked through the hole, no wider than a pin, and he saw a world out there. The vivid colours jostled for his focus as his mind was pitched over the rainbow. As he watched memories came back of how life was before he was nobody in the darkness. The confusion he felt was like a storm in his soul. Emotions crowded in on him, each vying for his attention. After so long in his shroud of sadness he had forgotten the pain of jealousy and the hurt of betrayal.

He thought he was going to be sick. His senses were overloaded and he was about to pull away when he felt a thump. It was the beating of his heart, strong and steady and it seemed to say that everything was going to be alright. Sadness tried to hold him but the beat was constant.

He knew what had to come next. He pushed at the pin hole until he could get his finger in it. Then slowly a whole hand and then two. One massive rip and he fell into the light, dazed and full of wonder.

Hello, a face above his said in a light, quizzical tone. Who are you?

I don’t know said a voice he had forgotten he owned. I was nobody but now I’m not so sure. And slowly, from the turmoil and chaos raging within him, a smile was born and sadness let him go.

Twice Nightly

I reach deep inside myself and find there is nothing. I fear my lurking superficiality, for it might reveal all I lack to the world. My mind is shingle grey like the beaches I once called home. I shroud myself in the dull hues of strand, sea and sky that wash into each other until I am almost drowning in monotony.

Other days when I reach inside myself it's like a jungle. My mind has been overgrown with mysterious half formed shapes, but everything is covered in moss and trailing creepers. The good and the bad grow side by side. The indiscriminate fecundity is almost nauseating and I choke on the sweet aroma of life feeding on death. I disgust myself.

I dream of being an artist, so, arid or rotten, I strip myself bare and swing dizzyingly on the trapeze of my emotion. Below me no one watches with bated breath. I take my life, so private in its living, and thrust it into the public lap to be virtually ignored. I am just an imitator. Life is a cabaret and this artiste shows twice nightly.

Worn like Chanel

My life has changed. I was once afraid of someone. They cast a shadow over me, and I could see no escape. I tried to run but no matter where I went, they were just behind me. I was haunted. My self esteem was battered and I sought validation from anyone and everyone. I was desperately seeking a seal of approval in the hope that it might chase the shadow away.

One day I stopped running. I sat down and waited. I faced my fears, and I braced myself for whatever might happen. The truth he gave me was not anywhere near as bad as I was expecting. This man I had tried to evade was strong but he wasn't unreasonable. His demands were fairly simple and I agreed to them.

Now I am my own man. I am in my skin and so happy to be there. I am riddled with faults, yet I am beautiful. I will never be perfect, but I try everyday to be a better person, and, sometimes, I succeed.

The man I had been running away from was myself. So many years I hid who I was, not just from the world, but from me. I was scared of what people would think of this. However, this is who I am. Every piece of grit and glitter, every obstacle I have overcome has made me unique. You can thrust labels on me and goodness knows I like a label. Spastic, Camp, or Aspergers are all worn like Chanel for I am as strong as an ox, as cool as cucumber, and as crazy as a coconut. I no longer worry about what anyone thinks because I have found the key to my happiness is just being me.

The Caretaker

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

Don’t Sweat It

Life is full of simple pleasures. I rediscovered one recently and I am loving the manifold delights it's bringing me.

I have always been a walker. From a very young age I would happily pound the paths of Wiltshire with my parents and explore the rolling hills and forests that surrounded the town I grew up in.
A few years ago, having moved from London to Suffolk, I decided to build walking into my healthy mind, healthy body mantra and I fell in love with Suffolk in general and the River Deben in particular. Bleak and beautiful, serene and scary, this tidal river with its constant ebb and flow was both the heart and border of Woodbridge.
Then a year ago I deserted my homeland and I ran away. Sydney was a revelation. Stunning National Parks fringe the city and the bus and train network opened up a plethora of opportunities. As I travelled Australia I realised that every town boasted great opportunities to get out and get my stride on.
Then in 2017 I landed in Cambodia and it all came to a halt. Searing heat and the traffic chaos of Phnom Penh meant there was precious little opportunity for a relaxing, life-affirming stroll. I knew I wouldn't last in the capital and in February I took a job in Battambang.

There are frangipani trees everywhere,here, and there's a magnificent muddy river that bisects the city. On both sides of the river there are shaded paths but the heat meant I never took advantage of the amenities.
Last week a look in the mirror horrified me and I decided to make a change. Now, when I wake at five, instead of bemoaning my fate and lolling like a beached whale till 8, I jump up and I am out the door. I drink a litre of fluids, brush my teeth and I'm gone. Early sunrises, other exercisers and a multitude of birds bring a smile to my face as walk up and down the banks of the River Sangker in the relative cool of the Khmer dawn.
I feel better. I look better. I get more done every day. Life has become a happier place to dwell. All of this I get from going for a walk. I try to do my 10,000 steps because on the Asperger Path we like a target but if I don't, I don't sweat it. I've already done my sweating for the day.

Squaring the Circle

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.

Blooming

Once I was blissfully unaware. I was an misfit, an oddball, an eccentric of a peculiarly English type but I thought nothing of it. 

My few attempts to fit in were always just opportunities to stand out. I was a follower of fashion for example. However my “fashion-forward” sensibilities were heady when combined with my complete unawareness of the ripples I can create around me.  Never thinking to look back, I sailed through the calm waters of life with the cut of my jib set jaunty. 

Then they interfered. I was labelled. The very essence of who I was became the focus of others. Professionals were involved and meetings took place. People were concerned or perhaps even worried. I was placed on the Asperger Path and my life juddered to a halt. 

Half the world away and here I am. The path is mine. I have owned myself and stuck two fingers up at those who told me what I could and couldn’t do. I live in a country where I don’t speak the language and my height, colour, build and beard separate me from the crowd. No one has really heard of Asperger here, let alone his blooming syndrome. We are all blissfully unaware. 

A Really Nice Shirt

It seemed a little cooler today so I thought I’d wear a really nice shirt. I have always been a bit particular clothes wise.  It’s a tad thicker than my normal shirts but the temperature is only 32 degrees (that’s 90 in Fahrenheit). What a silly mistake. 

So I get to work and I can feel my back. Can you feel a glisten. I can. The beading crescendos until I can sense the tsunami between my shoulder blades. As I cool, I continue  to be a one man sprinkler system with no fire to extinguish. The overall effect, I was hoping for a post modern, post colonial elegance, has been washed away and I look like a sweaty foreigner who isn’t coping with the heat. 

My students are kind. They won’t notice. Actually they can’t not notice, but they won’t comment. Soon I will be safely in the air conditioned temple of my classroom.  As I explain the rather formulaic approach we are taking to paragraph construction I will become both drier and less self conscious. 

So who do I dress for if no one really cares. I dress for me. I shave and shower and trim my beard because I am not just a teacher or a foreigner. I am in the poet autist, and although I walk a solitary Asperger Path it’s important to remember who I am. I have always been a bit particular and a good shirt is worth a little discomfort. 

Made For Walking 

So many years I wore boots. Big heavy boots that trampled a path through any terrain. I never stopped to think because I was always moving on. 

I know that I have inadvertently trampled on some dreams. I know that my rough shod feet have caused more upset than they should. So many years I was unaware of the people around me. So what changed?

I did. Or more accurately I am. Changing that is. I realised one day that I had not been as kind as I could have been and that made pause for thought. I know that I have never been an intrinsically bad person. I am not a murderer, rapist or abuser. However it is not enough for me not to be a bad person. My aspirations are higher because I know I can be better than that. So I am changing. 

Change is a long process. It is difficult and I will need to keep saying sorry every time I get it wrong. I will need to be develop my under exercised humility until it balances my pride and arrogance and become closer to the man I know I can be. 

This then, is not an apology. Apologies are not generic, blanket statements that can issued impersonally. They should be a heartfelt message from one human soul to another. This is more a manifesto. I will throw away my boots and walk barefoot through this life. I will still move on but from now on my soul will be naked and exposed and each step will be taken gingerly. I think my journey will be all the better for it. 

A year

It’s been a year. How am I?

A year ago I lost my job in circumstances that were less than savoury. I discovered that discrimination is alive and kicking in twenty first century Britain. When it rears its ugly head its price is cold hard cash. Hush money was paid and I went. My head may have appeared to be held high but inside my tail was firmly between my legs. 

So my first steps along the Asperger Path were walking away. Away from people who saw my weaknesses and seemed blind to what I could offer. Away from people who tried to get inside my head and happily trampled my self esteem and my dignity under dirty, corporate feet. 

I went far and now my scars are no longer livid. A year has passed and my life has changed. I have taken my diagnosis, put it in with the rest of my baggage, and I have travelled. This rigid creature of habit who couldn’t cope without routines has slept on sofas, hitchhiked, stayed with strangers, made new  friends and travelled half way around the world. I’ve seen the sun rise over mountains, deserts and oceans. With each sunrise came another day of my new life. 

Here in Cambodia, I met an extraordinary man. With the gentle honesty  that sometimes only a stranger can exercise, he pointed out my strengths and dismissed my protestations. He was passing through, geographically speaking, but he will be around for a long time. He gently told me that my fine mind is balanced by a fine heart. In doing so he reminded me of someone I used to think I was. 

So here I am. That goodhearted man, blue eyed and smiling, is older but he is not lost. I’m not walking away anymore. The Asperger Path is mine. I don’t deny it; I own it. I will go where it takes me and I am confident it will take me where I want to go. 

It’s been a year.  How am I? I am fine.