Living in the Emerald City, where life is fast, can leave the best of us feeling a little bruised and battered. The cut and thrust of life is a double edged sword of dangerous excitement. The Asperger Path, like the Yellow Brick Road, has its pitfalls so I need to be more careful with my forays.
The first thing I need to remember is my emotional armour. I am strong and capable, but if I don’t head out prepared and protected, it is inevitable that I will get hurt. A little veneer, preferably wipe clean, can keep the city at a slight remove. I’m not talking about walling myself in, but maybe I could erect a fence to chat over before I invite my neighbour in.
I also need to manage my expectations. Life isn’t actually any better here than it was in nowhere. It’s just different. It’s still allowed to live a quiet life. The hot spots are not compulsory and it’s fine to leave when I find my senses are battered rather than stimulated. Sometimes those bright lights are blinding to hide the emptiness.
Most importantly I need to remember that good people will find me. They always have and they always will. I may be a small fish in this ocean of a city but not everyone is swimming with sharks.
If this is the return to Oz, I must be patient. I have my heart and brains and even though I’m not lionhearted I have the courage I need to manage the big city life. This friend of Dorothy is in no place like home, but a little time and a few friends can make all the difference.
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.
I have talked so much about changing, I don’t think I actually noticed it happening. Yet, last night, I left a bar early, and sober, and with the same man that I had arrived with. There was a time when that didn’t happen.
For some years now, I have argued that there has been precious little temptation in my path, and that has been what’s kept me on the ‘straight’ and narrow. I can’t claim that here, for I now reside in dirty Phnom Penh with its edgy nightlife and minimal regulation. In the big bright lights and small dark bars, alcoholic ex pats mingle with drug dealing locals to produce a nightlife where everything is available, and everyone has a price.
I don’t know if I am growing up or growing old. In fictional 70s San Francisco, Armistead Maupin’s character, Mona had a law that stated “you can have a hot job, a hot apartment and a hot lover but you can’t have all three at the same time.” I don’t know if mine would qualify as “hot” but I like what I have. I hope Mona’s more content these days too.
At fifty, I am coming into my own. Because I am happy in my skin, my glass is far more than half full. So, if you think you need to change, change. Life should be an amazing place in which to live. If yours isn’t currently, then find the source of your discontentment and resolve it. We live long lives even if we only live then once. Don’t live it in misery, for happiness can be found everywhere, even in dirty Phnom Penh.
I walk differently. I like to think I have swagger but perhaps I just have swing. Equally loose hipped and loose lipped, I make my way through life and I’m never found short of a retort for those who think there’s only one way to win the human race.
As we walk through life, we face many challenges. Some are ones we set for ourselves, but most are imposed on us from without. The walk may seem like a hurdle race but sometimes we need to stop and look more closely at what is in our path.
The path can seem full of barriers. In fact, it can feel like fate decided to add a few hoops to jump through in between each hurdle. However hurdles do not have to leapt over and I am not a performing seal. If a barrier has been placed there by someone else, you could just walk around it or even knock over and leave it on the ground.
I pick. I choose. I say “No,” to problems and “Bring it on!” to others. My favourite battles are the ones I set myself. The internal challenges to be a better person, a better teacher, or a better writer. The external gets less of my energy, less of my drive and far less of my emotion. Some problems are just side stepped.
I just don’t have time for prejudice or energy for isms, so I choose to ignore them. I have redesigned my life. A little thought and a new outlook and the uphill hurdle marathon can easily become an effortless down-hill slalom. Don’t be afraid to loosen your hips and put a little swing in your step.
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.
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.
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.
And there he was stuck in the mud. He thought about asking someone to help him and found himself analysing his friendships. If he asked x what might y say. Each friend he thought of it seemed to much to ask. So he asked no one and stayed stuck in his doubts.
Are you ok a strange voice called. Yes I am fine thank you. You look stuck. Do I, I suppose I am a little stuck but it’s ok. Let me help you. And the strange voice came over and unstuck him. Lost for words, he stumbled through an apology, but the strange voice assured him that it was really nothing. He was pondering this new situation when the strange voice interrupted. I am you. How can you be me he asked. The strange voice sighed and then explained gently. Inside each of us lives our self worth. I am yours. You never hear me because you’re not sure I exist. Today I really shouted. Oh he said. Thank you. What happens next? Well maybe we talk to x and y. They would have helped you. But I can help myself now he said. Yes said the strange voice but sometimes it’s good to talk to someone other than yourself.
So the man who was no longer stuck took a step.
I washed up here on a tide. A star crazed traveller who got marooned in happiness. My rolling stone stopped to gather a little moss but now I am rested and my ocean soul is in flood.
The silvered moon is pulling me away. Taunting me to be anywhere but still, she disturbs my restful surface. Light is shined into my depths and pinpoint my moorings which are not too firmly fixed.
So I follow the capricious moon, waxing and waning through life. Not for me the trappings of comfort and peace, for I am touched with wanderlust. Each man is made different and I was born under a beautiful lonely spell. But do not cry for me. I am the happy lunatic who dances where the wind blows. Love me while I am here, for I will be gone. I love you now but now is not tomorrow. The tide is turning and my path is written in shifting patterns of stardust. But when the night is cold and clear and the moon invades your window, look up, for I will be the dancing man in the moon.
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…