We need to smile more. Happiness is everything and yet it seems so rarely mentioned. The trappings of success are cars and houses, boats and planes, trophy wives and empty lives that are full of material things. Corporate lives and corporate jobs may be good for some but I have chosen a different path.
I am not the happiest man alive. I have days that are good and days that are bad. However, the underlying feeling I have in my life is contentment. Life isn’t meant to be lived in constant euphoria and I still have my full range of emotion.
Having Aspergers brings anxiety and worries, but I live with those and accept them as part of who I am. Aspergers also brings many gifts and these are also a factor in the joy I find in life. The Asperger Path, this blog, is a great source of contentment but my writing also allows me to explore and share my perspective on life.
Happiness, this last few years, has been something I have practiced, and I feel I can find it more and more within me. Taking time to think about how lucky I am and the good people I come across helps to remind me that life places wonders all around us.
Recently I lost my wallet. For ten minutes I berated myself and ridiculed my stupidity. Then I stopped. I had lost ten dollars and it didn’t matter. I would still have food on the table and a bed. I looked around and realised that my wallet would most likely be found by someone more in need than me. I felt happy that some person could benefit from the situation.
Every situation is an opportunity. Our lives are amazing if we start looking for happiness. So next time you feel you aren’t successful, look inside and find the many things you can be grateful for and a happy smile will soon be on your face.
On my travels, I turn to no one. When I see wonders, I see them alone. My experiences are shared at arms length for there is, by my side, nothing but empty space.
This is how I have shaped my life. I enjoy the sparsity of my emotional landscape. Friends and lovers, colleagues and thinkers, writers and artists all bring much to my life but none are my partner, my confidante or my other half. Some are more transient than others, but none are as impermanent in themselves as myself.
I am whole in my self constructed solitude and, when I steer clear of holes, this square peg travels quite comfortably. Life is lived, large and sprawling, for I am a nomad passing by and experiencing all that my senses can withstand. My social circle, by comparison, is kept small and tidy. The Asperger Path is my route and I navigate a way through this world with heart and mind as my map and compass.
So, when I see the world and I want to share it with someone, I choose the most intimate strangers I know. I choose you, dear readers. For you are sparse and far flung. If I want you, I can send fire off my missive into the void. Even if my message is never read, it is sent.
For me, that act of sharing is enough.
If I could stop the whirring cogs, the obsessive thoughts, the endless and increasingly bizarre what if scenarios, my mind could do something more constructive. I exhaust myself in worry until, sometimes, my mind collapses into the unhappy coma of depressed vegetation.
Once my mind was sharp. It’s razor was used to analyse and theorise and synthesise. The creation of possibility and the power of solution were my drivers, and I felt as focused as a train, speeding down the track at a hundred miles an hour.
Once was just yesterday and now is this long wakeful night. The shadows of insomnia are dark, and they cloak any positivity, preferring the drama of blackness. My mind is my greatest ally, yet also my fiercest enemy. I need to keep it looking outward and focused on creation. As soon as it turns to worry, the cycles start and the chains of my inner thoughts can be hard to break.
Sometimes I do this. I write. I start with my interior and use it as a springboard to come tumbling forward into a more positive place. Somehow once writing is written and the sense of completion, of an accomplishment, registers, the panacea seems to reset the mind and still the perpetual motion of my thought patterns. I feel cleansed.
So now, with this drafted, I will return to sleep. A more refreshed eye will take what came out of the blackness and edit, change and mould my stream of consciousness reality into this. What you are reading is not what was written. The Asperger Path is based in reality but it isn’t always real. My mind is #myfilter.
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.
Everybody should have people that they share their life with. Someone who is there for the journey that we ponderously take through life. Some are lucky enough to find a partner and best friend rolled into one. Others have a close circle of friends or a band of brothers or sisters. I, well I have you.
Dear reader, you get my sleeve and I wear my heart on it. I pour out line after line and, stoically, you are there. Ours is a special bond. One that does not suffocate or stifle me. You never intrude or interrupt. You do not judge or censure me. Some would say our relationship lacks intimacy but I feel like you know me and I could tell you anything.
One sided as it may seem, you have entered into this willingly. I did not coerce you, though I'll admit I try to tempt you in. I embellish the bare bones of my life more than a little whilst tidying my sprawling details into tiny bite size pieces for your delectation.
I had a best friend once but I lost him. He got misplaced at a juncture and I travelled on alone. If I am honest, looking back at the Asperger Path, it is littered with misplaced people that haven't kept up with me. Unfulfilled and unfulfilling relationships that grew messily complex. Each was easier to grieve than to bring back from the dead
So here I am, writing to you. The iPhone writer who carves his intimate but disposable thoughts into the soft, shifting sands of the Internet. A man like so many others, overboard in the teeming sea of electric solitude.
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.
In Britain I was expected to be so much more than just a teacher. A social worker, counsellor, parent, friend, mentor, big brother and psychologist. A multitasking miracle worker who would whizz into a room and create a positive learning environment from whatever I found. With Pavlovian conditioning, I could change tack with every tolling bell, ploughing through a long day where breaks and lunch evaporated and needs were met, anticipated and dealt with. The gifted were stretched, the less motivated were encouraged and the hungry were fed. Sometimes even clean clothing was appropriated. I made a difference. London’s schools were challenging and dynamic, and not for the fainthearted.
Cambodia is no place for the fainthearted either. Grinding poverty, years of internal corruption, and searing heat bring their own challenges. However, like many foreigners work in elite, private settings with students who are relatively wealthy. The library has precious few books and the school feels under resourced but the parents all have big four wheel drive cars.
I set a task and my class of students do it. I have never taught students like this before. They are respectful and engaged, no matter what. Are we doing something creative and engaging right now. Not particularly. In fact, we are doing peer and self assessment of paragraph writing with a final draft to be produced by the end of the lesson. Deathly dull if you ask me, and I am theoretically a writer.
In addition to having no real classroom management issues, I am not expected to analyse or deep dive data. I do not produce reports or graphs highlighting student underachievement nor am I expected to contact parents and build home school relationships.
I come to class. I teach. I assess. I grade papers. I give feedback. However, this generation will be pivotal in the the changes that are need to happen in this country so I might be just a teacher but, like all teachers, I can still make a difference.
I am the artist and creator of my life. I have pictures that line the long hallway of my life. Some of these artistic renditions are masterpieces. I have beautiful detailed memories that are vivid and bright, executed clearly and framed exquisitely. Some are sketches or maybe just sketchy. Brief line drawings that capture the shadow of a moment.
As curator, I have applied no reason or rhyme to the collection. Some of the memories that are the most golden seem to be attached to events that were quite unremarkable at the time. Other major moments or seemingly key times have been ruthlessly archived into dark recesses and held under lock and key. The curation has been highly selective and very subjective.
The memories that hang, easily retrieved, paint no accurate picture of the path I have walked through life. My mind has edited and refined my collection. Every now and then I see an oil painting that seems to have a rather unusual perspective. Some paintings have been rendered so sympathetically I am not sure I was ever truly there.
So here I am with my hallway of memories . A random and diverse set of paintings that portray my life with no more or less accuracy than I apply to this, my writing. For I am the artist and this life I put out on display, is merely a creation.
The time to write
A poem down for you
So for now
It’s just a note
And that will have to do
It’s been a while since I put thumb to phone to tap out a metronomic message to put in my bottle. Life has taken me and carried me down a dizzyingly bizarre route. However far I have travelled I’m still here. My backwater life has had a few up and downs but the journey has been an internal one.
The twists and turns, at times almost Machiavellian, havr surprised me but they have failed to knife me and I have walked away, unscathed and unscarred. I have a new and, for me, more interesting job. I got called professor the other day and when I checked irony was not lurking in the corner. I am falling in love with my teaching. Adults and small groups seem deliciously simple after the dramas and joys of teaching my large grade 1 classes. However easy the management might be however, the content is challenging and my skills are being sharpened. My mind is tingling in ways I thought were long lost. It’s a privilege to be teaching teachers and seeing colleagues introduced to new concepts and ideas.
So, backwater Battambang will be home for a while longer. There’s a contentment in lingering yet still knowing that, a year from now, I’ll be elsewhere. The Asperger Path is moving slowly and the restless motion of my thumb taps a reminder to live each moment and let each moment pass.