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.
Travellers on a journey we have happily coincided. This Emerald City is where we three live and teach. We were talking about Aspergers in the classroom, but my colleagues were unaware that I am the Tin Man. Thinking my knowledge was purely professional, the questions came flooding out. Questions reveal so much more than answers.
Do you think he knows he is different? Is he aware how others see him? Why can’t he adapt? Why does he look so sad?
Each question was given to me to answer. Such difficult heartbreaking questions to hear because each was so personal and yet I couldn’t say it. Why couldn’t I tell them? I guess because I fear their observation. I choose to remain a colleague.
I know I am different, but I forget until it slaps me in the face. I am unaware of how others see me. In fact most of the time I assume that they don’t see me. When they do, it usually another slap. I do adapt. I live in the world and I pass for almost normal in almost all situations. The sadness you see is when the world treats me badly. Sometimes it comes crowding into my carefully constructed spaces. It judges and points fingers in my face.
Those questions flooded me. The third person was not a barrier thick enough to deflect them. They told me how “other” I might be labelled. Until I’m brave enough to say I am like him, people will see us as not them. Aspergers might make me feel like a tin man, but sometimes I am just a cowardly lion.
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.
“To thine own self be true” would seem to be good advice, but there’s a problem. People lie and I think we probably lie more to ourselves than anyone else. We are flawed. To err is human, but to forgive is even more so.
For me honesty is king. A close friend once referred to my frightening candour. I have lived and died by the idea that honesty is the most prized of the virtues and without it most of the others fall flat.
However, with my own self, I am more lenient. I dismiss my pre-diabetic state when I have an iced coffee and tell myself that, because my sugar intake is not extreme it must be fine. I persuade myself that I am physically fit for my age despite not doing any exercise. Most damaging of all, I convince myself that my problems will resolve themselves next week, or when I move, or on that all important day hidden safely in the vagaries of the future.
Everything is not going to be all right. My life will continue to be a chaotic path of mishaps and misunderstandings. The Asperger Path is strewn with debris and those rose tinted spectacles would need to worn by the blind to think that there aren’t more hurdles ahead.
So it’s time for some honesty. I mess things up. I do it again and again. I have become the master of the new start. I leave lives behind and start afresh. So to those I have met along the way I give a happy wave. I hope you enjoyed the steps we took together. If I hurt you inadvertently, please take this as my apology. To those who are still with me, I share my love and give my thanks for a thousand kindnesses. Finally, to those I have yet to meet, as I can no longer offer honesty or perfection, please feel free to sample my beautifully flawed humanity for that is my true self.
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.
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.
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.
The foreigner sits in that street café every morning. As he sits, the owner looks up and soon the food arrives. First, pickles in their oval dish and the hot chilli sauce. Then the steaming broth from the pot that sits on the fire. Last to arrive, the main attraction, smoky marinated pork atop sticky rice with tomatoes and boiled egg, both sliced, both green.
He doesn’t speak much. Every dish brought forward brings a mumbled “Arkhun” but this is a breakfast of few words. Around him, morning life come and goes and ponders the characters who share his table and cook his food.
She, the breakfast lady takes the star role. Always chopping and washing she is stationed behind her table, while her sons orbit around her acting as waiters, delivery boys and general help. The diners come and go but few are as regular as the foreigner, who arrives just before seven.
He sits with his phone for company and after half an hour or so plunges into his disorganised bag. Usually he finds a crumpled dollar or more rarely 4000 riels and then stands and, with a smile, pays the breakfast lady. He knows how to order. He knows how to say that was tasty but all he ever says is “Arkhun”.
He wants to say next week I won’t be here. He wants to say how much his quiet times have meant as he sat by the river. He will leave with a smile and a final “Arkhun” and life will carry on.
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.