The steps are slippery. Wet season has drenched the mossy brick and the heat has not yet steam dried the path. The man’s caution is palpable as he slowly descends from the summit.
He has seen many things and his eyes are grateful for each step taken and each wonder tasted. Don’t mistake his caution for fear, he is a man who merely wishes not to slip on the path.
His smile is generous to those who pass him by. The younger fitter men who bounce through life with a confidence his body has never allowed, cause his emotions to mix. Every now and then a conversation stops him in his tracks and he pauses for a while.
Like his smile, his advice and opinions are freely given. He knows joy and is keen to share that knowledge. For some he is a gift, for others an irrelevance and for a few, an irritation. As a transmitter he has learnt his messages are received differently and after a while he will move on.
Knowing his limits, he chooses to test them gently and ensure the path moves forward with positivity and love. Every now then he slips but caution ensures the falls are few. The Asperger path isn’t easy but the beauty he has found along it has made the journey a life worth living.
When I look inside myself I am constantly disappointed. I want to be a better person, so why do I fail? Surely at 51, I should be who I want to be.
I suppose I should contextualise this. I am not a bad person. I teach in secondary school and I am considered to be a fair teacher. I am not popular or cool, but I think most of my pupils view me as a kindly soul.
Outside of work I am not an axe murderer. I have a few good friends. I don’t steal, and I am as honest a man as you are ever likely to meet.
It is this honesty that is my downfall. Because it is combined with an analytical capability to finely dissect the events of the day, each day’s weaknesses are laid bare. My Aspergerian compassion is applied with its usual “could do better” assessment, so I judge myself, over and over again, as lacking.
Though I claim not to aspire to sainthood, I indulge in this mental flagellation over my inability to epitomise perfection. I have hurt myself over the years and at times, withdrawing to lick the wounds I try to keep hidden, have hurt those who tried to comfort me.
I don’t know if I can change. However this is my start. My biggest weakness is not that I don’t accept others, it is that I do not truly accept myself. If I say that out loud, perhaps it will scare me less. If I acknowledge it perhaps you will scare me less when you notice. If I am not scared perhaps I will allow you to help me.
I will never be perfect. I may never be a better person than I am now. Accepting that, however, might just make me a happier one.
Living in Phnom Penh has made a capitalist of this small town boy. Happier of late on my funny little path because I have realised that life in the big, bad city can be managed. I have put in a few kerb stones and carved out routes to make a personal village within the metropolis.
Limitations, like safety barriers, protect me from the harsher realities of the twenty-first century. What you might see as a padded cell I simply regard as well upholstered space. Cambodia can be chaotic and Phnom Penh is a city of violent change, where the extremities of life are laid bare. Wealth drives roughshod over the bones of the poor. I am both outsider and part of the status quo. I sip my iced coffee and observe the dirtiness of the everyday being transacted from my bespoke, gilded cage.
I am already supposed to be elsewhere and yet here I remain. Sane within the craziness and standing still in the constant traffic the Asperger Path is on a detour. The rolling stone is mossed. I have a home, a job and a somebody else to soften the urban loneliness of this brutal capitalisation.
It was the sort of café one ends up in. A place that no one would choose, where time is wasted before something better happens. They were sitting at a table, four Europeans, with unloved luggage left carelessly on the forlorn terrace.
Smoking heavily, they must have been travellers on their way to the next awesome experience. Shorts that mismatched t shirts hinted at uniformly alternative new age leanings Long gaps in their millennial conversation were adequately plugged by the WiFi that comes free with the mediocre coffee.
It was fifteen minutes before I noticed her. A girl of no more than five years, who must have spent more moments than just these unwanted. She came from nowhere and talked to the group but no one seemed able to look up from the internet to respond. One or more of these slightly grubby people must have been her parent. A small blonde girl with blue eyes was bored in Asia and no one seemed concerned. So conspicuous and yet unacknowledged by those who have a duty of care.
Cigarettes were finished and butts were squashed underfoot. Backpacks were swung into position and the four travellers were ready to depart. The girl’s hand was taken wordlessly as if she were just excess baggage and off they set, towards the next adventure.
What untold want do you have, little voyager, whose parents have set sail to seek and find? What memories of childhood will you create? How must it feel to be incarcerated on the backpack trail of someone else’s escape?
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.
Most of the time I just am. I forget the people surrounding me and I just feel and experience the sensuality of existence. My secret life is lived in full view and I am oblivious to the reactions of those around me.
Being born with a disability, I suspect I’m noticed often. My disability is not crippling or painful. It’s not even terribly noticeable. A funny walk and a limp wrist is how it manifests. It’s so easy to parody and some people are acutely cruel in their observation and mimicry.
Some people think I walk this way because I am gay. I am gay. I also have cerebral palsy. I walk this way because this is who I am.
However I only notice the reactions of others when they intrude into my world. Most of the time I live in my world. I have my few friends and my many pleasures. Not alone or cut off but perhaps at a slight remove from what others deem to be reality. In my spectrum disordered world, I am cocooned in my the beautiful landscapes of my mind. Aspergers is another gift the universe bestowed upon me.
We are all different. We are all unique. We all have intersecting facets that make us who we are. We are born different and now is the time has come to acknowledge our differences, to love our diversity, and to see the beauty of the other.
I am beautiful. You are beautiful too. I’m sorry I don’t notice you more often.
When you first meet him, his happiness shines through the cracks and scars of a careworn face. He works hard and lives well in this life he has built. Things were very different once and beneath his scratched surface there is still a shadow of darkness.
He had been dead for years. Unhappy with himself he fulfilled his own prophecy and became a loser. Once lost in hazes of his own destruction, he got high and then higher until one day he realised that he was lower than he ever thought possible. Rage, sadness and loathing had been numbed in toxic gutters until he choked in his own filth.
Now he is born again. This man found redemption in himself. He fell in love but didn’t change for someone else. He looked within and saw the bitter reality of what he had become, but also he saw his the glimmering vestige of his own hope. In loving another, he realised he could be better. And so, step by painful step, he changed into a man that he wanted to be, kind, content, sober. Once transformed he fought for, and won the heart he desired
Just now and then you see through the cracks. The profound sadness and dark anger will never completely disappear. Life can change and heal but it leaves livid scars. Scarred he may be, but he is longer scared for he carries the marks of a survivor, a fighter, a winner.
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.
There was much talk of great things. Impressive plans were made and yet, somehow, they were not implemented. Awesome ideas were placed on a shelf and never got dusted off.
Those grand designs, so perfect and precise, did not become part of my life. The life I lead is messy. It is busy and crowded, full of a million small things but that is how my life is lived. The devil may be in the detail but so am I. Work is done, clothes are washed, groceries are purchased and life slips by in insignificant moments.
These moments, so small and yet so purposeful are where love is found. I look after myself, not through grand schemes of how life might be , but in the daily routines where I already am. So it is in these moments that happiness must be built. Enjoy the commute, smile at the market, smell the fresh warm smell of clean bedsheets, because every chore can be act of love and a reminder of your worth. If you can see love and happiness in the doing of small things, what more do you need.
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.