It’s been a tiring day and I am feeling every one of my fifty years. My students are a happy, chaotic bunch. I learn new things about them every day. Today was phase two of our poster making day. The theme was ‘all about us’. Having established that the word post and the word poster are not as intrinsically linked as they had supposed, we ditched early attempts at envelope making. We went gung-ho into a world of frantic colouring, with rather more reluctant sentence construction, but slowly a picture came together of each of the individuals I teach. The posters are up on the walls and I think they were genuinely proud to see their bright colourful efforts on display. .
With twenty nine in one class and twenty one in the other, I admit I don’t know them as well as I ought. With a ten year gap between the youngest and the oldest, I am often trapped, dazzled in the headlights of the differing needs and demands of fifty children. I don’t do hugs so luckily I have an assistant who deals with that for the very youngest. I remember to smile more than frown and I can see they enjoy the time we spend in class.
My mantra of working together and helping each other featured in a few pieces so I guess they have listened to more than I give them credit for. We love our teacher said one poster. My name wasn’t spelt correctly but they did a great job getting my baldness on to the page. I love my students too. However most days I leave school feeling quite overwhelmed because love divided by fifty doesn’t leave much of a remainder.
We chose a spot on the river bank, under a tree, to try and escape the heat. He wanted to talk and I was happy to listen. He told me that he feels he doesn’t fit in or truly belong anywhere. I wanted to reach out and hug him but instead I asked him if he knew what he wanted from life. The uncertainty and long silences convinced me he had never thought about that. My friend has so much ahead of him and so many choices to make.
After a month apart, being with him for a day, reminded me how lonely my life can be. His easy presence sharpened all the absences I feel. Funny that he is lonely too, this man who brought his life crashing into my quiet world. He seems unaware of the brilliant power in his smile and the joy it brings to those around him. I always knew that behind his smile was something darker. Not sadness, but a shadowy awareness that his life is not going to be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.
I hope one day he realises this is a gift of sorts. It can be a chance to build a life slightly apart from the world and have a detached perspective that, although skewed, can be truly unique. Perhaps he, like me, will discover that his life is a solitary state and some lives are never truly shared. We simply choose people who make our solitary existence more bearable.
I think he has chosen me.
I have consistently chosen solitude in my life. I guess the Asperger Path is not like the Yellow Brick Road and I am not Dorothy. I like people but I always keep a certain wary distance. I feel so claustrophobic when I do get drawn in because those circles of friends can bind you tightly and before you know it you aren’t free until the second Saturday in June.
My diary has an echoing sparseness that is a source of joy. There is a real sense of calm and well being in knowing that I don’t have much to do and plenty of time not to do it in. People are always asking me about my plans and sometimes I feel like putting ‘I Don’t Know Yet’ on a t shirt. I’m almost never busy and so I like to decide things at the last minute. It’s not going with the flow, it is more about deciding if I want to be in the flow in the first place. I don’t like to rush and I don’t juggle my social engagements. My life is not empty, it is just very well spaced and uncluttered, and it is lived at a sedate pace.
People have asked me what travelling alone is like. For me, I wonder the opposite. How can you travel with someone? How far will you get before your paths diverge? Do you have to compromise a hundred times a day? It never occurred to me that I could share this. I was travelling alone long before I ever left. I have journeyed a mile or two with some great people who have touched my heart and soul. I will always leave people behind because my life, my amazing and wonderful life, needs wide, open emotional panoramas. Going solo is the only way for me to live because it is only when I spend time with other people that I feel lonely.
Funny how when I get sick I miss home more. Not that I have a home to miss. Cravings for comfort foods kick in and they seem hard to find here. Maybe the British cuisine can serve a blander dish with more ease than the Cambodians. Or maybe home is more than a place, it is a set of associations, responses and experiences that I pack in my case and unconsciously haul across continents.
I want mashed potatoes and, rather bizarrely, custard. I’m not even sure when I would have last eaten either of those. They were hardly staple foods in my low carbohydrate kitchen. In Cambodia, It will be easier to get some bananas and brown rice and I suspect all will be well. In fact, probably quite a lot better than I would have fared with custard. I’m not really sick, I just feel a bit under the weather but the heat and the solitude magnify things and I’m feeling sorry for myself.
What I really want is a friendly, familiar face to share a cup of tea with. Someone to remind thats everything’s going to be all right. Sometimes writing this blog is my daily cuppa. I share my joys and woes, my insights and my banalities with you. So I’ll say thank you to the potential millions of people that might see this and to the one or two who are actualy reading this.
I feel better already. Fancy a cup of tea?