Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hopeless Holidays

As far as holidays are concerned, they can more or less kiss my ass. This, of course is just a temporary fleeting thing. I hope.

Listen, I'm all about rituals, predictability and repetition. The thing is, even as consistent as a calendar date can be, the holidays themselves are never this way.

Let me start off by saying I have recently come to the realization that a shitty dysfunctional family is better than no family at all. I have operated under the assumption that everyone's family was just so much more put together than my own for far too long. I have many friends (people I know actually ) with no family. No parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grannys or gramps. This has started to, however unwillingly, snuggle me under a blanket full of guilt- terribly uncomfortably I might add-every time I think of uttering the tiniest bit of complacency about the barren branches of my family tree.

I am 36 years old and since 35 is the new 25, I feel its not too late to turn over this new leaf.

But time changes people. In the same way I finally made my dive into deliverance, I unexpectedly encountered some twists in my family members allegiance.

It all started Christmas Eve with an exchange of gifts that well, didn't include me. I'm old enough to understand that its not all about the gifts, but honestly I would have been happy walking out with a toothbrush at that point. Leaving empty handed made me feel a particular kind of sadness-not the no gift part-but feeling like nobody really thought about me. To add insult to injury a few things I purchased for an unnamed member ended up crumbled up in a ball behind the lazy boy- directly next to my rekindled hope for family and holidays.

So after Christmas Eve was a wash, I decided to shrug it off and start new bright and early-5am to be exact-until my son decided he had other plans and woke up sick. On Christmas. Such a disappointment.
Turns out that a few of us came down with food poisoning from a pie that may or may not have been past its expiration.

At any rate, I spent the whole day in my pajamas sulking. My plans were derailed and that sent me into a kind of downward spiral common in Aspies. Not only had I already been let down the day before and made the attempt to boost my own spirits purely on a new days expectations, it was happening all over again.

I sat in bed thinking of all the ways everything around me sucked, scrolling through social media news feeds with my jaw clenched bearing witness to the rest of the world's happiness while simultaneously reminding myself to stay grateful and present. So much for that.

Good news is I got over it. With some extra sleep and cookies things started to return to almost normal over on my end of the spectrum.

I am not looking forward to the next holiday, however, and will be making an attempt at a real life disappearing act-at least until after the ball drops. Because once the media driven madness comes down to a dull roar, I can return to my musings and my life as a cynical spectator. Until next time. Stay weird.

Monday, December 21, 2015

When heavy feels like lucky

I got the message sitting frozen on the bleachers at my daughters soccer practice. The little girl who was hit by a car around the block earlier this week died today, my daughter text. My heart shattered, even though I didn't personally know her. She went to school with my son. That was close enough. Too close almost.

In the five years we have lived here, six children have died from either terminal illness or tragic accident. That's the thing about living in a small town. Tragedy is condensed. There's only a few degrees of separation between everyone. News travels fast here. Sometimes its for the worst, others the better.

It's times like this that really get me thinking. I feel guilty about any kind of complaining. It makes me take a longer harder look at my own blessings, stare them straight in the face(always a challenge) for a reality check about the things I should be grateful to have.

Society doesn't make it easy. We are inundated with tv ads and social media telling us who we should be. Telling us what should make us happy. I'll admit, I've been guilty of it. Resentful of the girl with the job she loves, the gorgeous home, loving attentive husband and well behaved kids. Hell yeah I'd want that.

That's also what society wants me to think.

It's human nature to want the next best thing, it's what keeps us moving and prevents stagnation.

The truth is, in times like this, more than ever, my eyes are wide open. As bad as things may seem, someone always has it worse.

It's like when I was little. Every night before I went to sleep my sister and I used to tell each other one thing we had to be happy about or look forward to. These were the thoughts we fell asleep to.

I think back to those days and say maybe we weren't that far off. But I wonder at the same time, if as a society we spend too much time fantasizing and worrying about the future we lose sense of the present. We miss those moments, and we cant get them back.

A family within a few miles of me is mourning the death of a child. Every time they drive by that telephone pole in town they will think of their daughter. The last place they saw her. I'll jog past that same pole everyday and think God damnit I'm lucky. I'll still feel a heavy sadness, but I still get to go home to my kids. Honestly, I cant think of anything else that's more important.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

I get that sinking feeling:Aspergers and emotion.

Some people are under the impression that individuals on the spectrum lack emotion, that they have no sense of connection with other humans. I can only speak for myself, hopefully someone else, but the degree to which I feel is most times, completely overwhelming.

I'd like to share a story which I believe may serve as an example to help others to get an idea of exactly what I mean.

A few years ago, before my diagnosis, I was sitting at my daughter's middle school soccer game when I had a realization. That afternoon a gentleman stood next to me in a 3 piece suit and a trench coat. I knew this man to be the father of one of the girls on the team. I also knew that only a few weeks earlier this seemingly put together man had lost his 4 year old son to a long drawn out battle with leukemia. The news hit the family in such a way that it had fallen apart.

That afternoon I happened to have my son with me who was 6 or 7 at the time. My son is like me in a lot of ways. He can be painfully shy and socially awkward at times. I try to encourage him as best I know how to talk and play with other kids. I noticed that day, rather than joining in with the boys he sort of just stood by and watched from a distance. I sat and watched him and felt helpless.

It was also then that I noticed the dad in the trench coat next to me had turned around and was also watching the boys play. Instantly, my heart sank. I could feel the weight of his sadness like a ton of bricks. He didn't need to cry or look at me or even say anything for me to know this feeling was for certain. It somehow got absorbed without my acknowledgment. I could feel how he missed his boy, flt guilt for having my own and not being able to help him, and sadness for both of them struggling separately at that same moment. There was nothing I could do about it. Even as I write this, I am immediately taken back to that day. My lips are numb and my heart races and I feel so heavy.

I left the game early. I felt guilty but I knew the longer I stayed the worse I would feel and the longer it would take to recuperate.

This type of experience happens all too often. I used to take trips to animal shelters every week when I worked with the disabled. It was supposed to be a feel good experience , but I became so attached to the animals and felt helpless when I couldn't take them home I had to stop. This isn't the average sympathy I'm talking about. Magnify that times 100 , mix it with intrusive overwhelming thoughts, inability to concentrate , loss of sleep and severe depression and then you have what it feels like inside my brain when I sense hurt, sadness or pain in others. It reached the point where my kids would know which days I went by my demeanor when I walked in the door from work.

It's also not uncommon for me to gravitate towards the sad, broken people in a crowded room without knowing who's who. It's a feeling I've had my entire life. I feel sad for the lady on the bus with no shoes. It stays with ,me all day. While I work, while I eat, when I try to sleep. It has forced me both into and out of situations without having the words for an explanation. Probably why I feel so connected to animals, elderly and disabled. Probably why I picked a career in social work. Maybe that was my way of attempting to help. It has the ability to make me appear cold and callous and even selfish , when in reality I can feel the weight of every drop of emotion within an unidentified radius. Sometimes I have no idea how to deal with it. Feelings can be so overwhelming I can't do anything else but distance myself.

There is good news though. I do feel extreme happiness too, but it's a trade off. 

The point is, having Aspergers doesn't make me heartless. In fact, it forces me to guard my heart with even greater precision than the average. So if my face looks blank in a seemingly inappropriate manner, I assure you it's not that I am lacking emotion. It's more like my way of doing anything and everything to keep myself from exploding.
Until next time.
Stay weird.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Open letter to my dad about my Aspergers

An open letter to my dad AKA I'm still trying to forgive myself for that

There are so many things I'm good at. I probably don't know it yet. Like how long it took me to write this letter. Exemplary procrastinator. First in our family to graduate college. You used to say how proud you were of me. It was the only thing I believed. It made everything else seem okay. Like the time I tried to sneak in and found you standing at the door at 5am. Confused anger with worry or maybe it was the other way. I didn't pick the mechanic. Better now I didn't. Hasn't seen his kid since she hit double digits. I quit teaching in college and picked a career I can't find a job in. My days are spent writing when they should be spent job hunting. When I think of the future you have laid out for me, more lump in my throat than butterfly belly, I'm so sorry. Our conversations were at best, encouraging. Lately I feel you have given up on me. The way the silence sits and I cant even tell if I'm listening to you paying more attention to the television or disappointment. Your voice... distant. Like the wait for a lost dog to find its way home. You used to reassure me that my time would come. Now you look at me like the flier torn from the telephone pole. There's no hope. All the birthdays I asked what you wanted and still showed up with nothing. My false intentions. You didn't deserve them. It makes me embarrassed. I'm sorry I'm not like your friend's kids. It's easier for you to avoid conversations because you cant find anything positive. Sometimes surviving is a daunting task. You have to be able to understand that Dad. I know things were different. You worked so hard for a living. Here I'm am standing wet cement admiring my surroundings. You wonder why I never listen. I'm listening, trying to figure out what this all means. So much more struggle than success story. Who I am. Who I've been. Dear Dad, I'm sorry I'm everything you never imagined. All this time learning valiant. There are so many things I'm good at. I probably don't know it yet. I'm still trying to forgive myself for that.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Othello's Desdemona Dilemma

Sometimes I feel like my entire life can be summed up as one great unrelenting attempt at finding one person who understands and loves me unconditionally. Sure, there are people who love me, and I'm sure there are people who understand me. But I have yet to meet someone who can do both.

When it comes right down to it, everything I do/have done has been rooted in this deep seeded need. From friendships, to my education, to my career in the helping profession, to having having children, to my writing, they all boil down to the same desire.

This has been my whole life whether I have realized it or not. Now that I am getting older, I can't help but start to lose hope. Not the kind of hope people think they've lost when really they just need a lift or little encouragement. No. This is the kind that creeps in and I have to do everything to distract my thoughts from being completely buried in defeat. Where nothing around me seems to matter when it comes right down to it. None of it really makes me happy. None of it makes sense. The fear of never finding this person overcomes me.

I begin to look at people like neanderthals. Their idea of happiness is so ancient, how could they carry on pretending to be happy. Don't they realize that all this is temporary? It doesn't matter what school your kid gets into or how good your credit score is. None of this matters when you are dead. Nobody gets it. The point of existing with a purpose.

I'm afraid nobody will ever understand me.

I try to carry on like everything is okay. I turn the car radio up so my kids don't hear me sniffle and I pray whoever is in the passenger seat doesn't look over to see the ice glass tears welled up in my eyes.

I'm so lonely but the truth is most people only exacerbate that feeling. Making me think the kind of person I need is nonexistent. I tell myself not to bother betting on finding another half. Nobody wants to deal with stuff like that. Someone that demands you to hurry up and wait simultaneously. They want easy.

The people who love me know me well. But even they have exceptions when it comes to being understanding. Some come in like saviors but only when its convenient. After a while they leave.
Others are bound by blood, love with more tolerance and underlying resentment. Where their passive aggressive words of encouragement graze my skin just strong enough to make me bleed. Yet never deep enough to leave the kind of visible scars that would give outsiders a small inkling to whats really going on.

I'm so good at faking it. So far from perfect and I bend. You cant expect someone to constantly carry all that weight with grace. I don't want anyone to feel sorry. I just want to find somebody to take my hand and tell me things will be okay and mean it, because everything that lies quietly inside me waiting for release, they can see it.

One day my daughter asked why I stared out the window like a poet.

I wonder how even the weight of my gaze can be so prophetic.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Free Writing Workshop for Individuals on the Spectrum

It has been my understanding through personal experience that part of being on the spectrum means there are limited outlets for self expression. I would like to attempt to change that for 10 willing participants. I will start out by saying that writing, for most of my life has saved me. I would like others in similar situations to be able to experiment and see if writing could be of any help to them, in the way it has been for me. Whether it be a tool used to make sense of the world for themselves, or to communicate their understandings of the world to those around them, I believe writing can be incredibly beneficial.

For those who don't know, I am a published poet and writer, with a BA in Language and Literature as well as an MA in Psychotherapy. I am also on the spectrum.

I have decided to start an online workshop for others on the spectrum. I would like to keep it limited to those with formal diagnosis to start, and possibly open it up to others down the line.

Goal-The goal of the workshop will be to begin the process of getting words onto the page as a method of self expression. No experience writing is necessary. ( although it is suggested you have an idea of what genre you would like to work on and a sample piece for submission with registration.)

 Who- The workshop is open to any individuals ages 16 and over with a formal diagnosis of Aspergers/being on the spectrum.

What- The skills that will be covered in the workshop will be
            Free Writing

How long- The workshop will take place over the course of 6 weeks to start mid December.
There will be one 30 minute individual meeting for each participant that will be set up based upon both our schedules and availability.
There will be one 60  minute group meeting PER WEEK I will set up on google hangouts. (you don't need to be on camera if you are camera shy, we can just use your voice)

How much- Free. All I ask of the participants selected is that they do the best work they can and make effort to keep the meetings as it is important for the growth experience to have consistency.

Quick recap

-Space will be limited to 10 individuals
-To submit  interest in participation, please send the answers to all the questions and the following information to emilyklein77@gmail.com no later than Friday, December 4th

*Best method of contact(telephone if you are comfortable)
*What your experience is with writing
*What genre you would like to work on , ie, poetry, fiction, blog
*What do you hope to gain from this workshop (a few sentences)
*A short one page sample of your writing.

Once you are selected you will receive instructions on what to do next.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Spectrum Soccer Mom

Spectrum Soccer Mom

I don't always want to talk about difficulties. I don't believe its beneficial to constantly focus on negatives. But I also believe that we live in a society that attributes powerlessness and weakness to vulnerability, and I would like to dismiss that myth.

One of the biggest challenges I face as an adult on the spectrum lies within the realm of my parenting duties. Not so much the act of parenting itself so to speak, but more so living up to my children's expectations in regards to what society says a parent is supposed to look like.

I have tried, with what I believe to be an enormous amount of effort to instill certain beliefs in my children, one of which is that everybody is different, including parents.

I think they understand to a degree, but I do believe there remains a frame outside their general understanding they have yet to reach.

The reason I say this is because in as much as I believe they truly love me as I am, I also believe
sometimes my differences frighten them. I'm not talking about the kind of fear that comes with aliens or monsters. I'm talking about the kind of fear that comes in feeling alone and uncertain. I don't think they know how to say it, but I can see it in their eyes sometimes. It is a feeling that I am all too familiar with. The times when they should be able to believe, beyond the shadow of doubt, that they can lean on me, are not always as simple as they should be.

Parents, as a general rule it seems in storybooks, television and mainstream society are deemed fearless. Unafraid with an infinite amount of bravery. And even during the times when they don't have these traits, they still pretend to.

But what if a parent was afraid? What if in addition, they were completely incapable of hiding their fear? What happens then? Well, let me tell you.

My 14 year old is an athlete. She is exceptionally talented, witty, intelligent, and wise beyond her years. She is my compass in most social situations when I feel uncertain. I am eternally grateful to have been blessed with such an amazing kid. She has been playing with the same soccer team for about 6 years now. It is a top level that participates in many out of state events that require travel and frequent overnight hotel stays. It is probably one of her favorite things about the team. She has a fancy for all things,well, fancy. I'll add in here that this type of fancy also happens to be my least favorite part of the whole experience.

I have severe anxiety when it comes to changes in routine, leaving home, not sleeping in my bed, hotels, and bugs. I have up until this point forced myself to submit to these trips. Taking down myself and everyone around me in the process between the pressure and the punishment for not being able to handle it. I have tried to make adjustments, Carpooling, sharing rooms, sending her up with teammates, canceling last minute, and even just trekked it alone with her, putting myself in a very compromised state physically and emotionally.

The reality is this. The amount of anxiety in traveling for me is overwhelming. If I cannot go and come home the same day I cannot go. It is as simple as that. I have accepted that this is a part of who I am. Not that I have succumb to the fears and refuse to overcome them, this is different. This is the way my brain is wired, and rather than attempt to change something biologically certain in my DNA, I have decided to work towards a more attainable goal of working around it.

This weekend we are set to play in Jersey. Initially I booked a room and and invited a friend to come along for moral support. Then I checked the reviews which had multiple reports of um, bugs. Reservations canceled. I researched other hotels but found nothing. I made the decision that we will go and come home both days. She gets to play and I feel safe. Its all about compromise right?

Well sitting across from my daughter at the dinner table as I broke the news proved to say otherwise. If I said she was pissed, it would be an understatement.

Part of me was angry. How could she not be more considerate of my feelings? Hadn't I raised her better than that?

Of course I had, but this was one of those things I spoke of earlier, the things that lie outside of her understanding.

She gets that I am afraid of certain things. She understands. But beyond that lies the extent of my fears and anxiety, the emotional and physical repercussions over having to withstand these anxieties under extreme pressure in the situations that I am expected to perform. She doesn't know what goes on inside my head. Her comprehension is only as big as her own life experience. And besides, kids shouldn't have to understand certain things right?. Its our job as parents to shelter and protect them.
But everything about our life as a family says different.

My children have been exposed to some harsh realities kids twice their age are unaware of yet. I am conflicted over the way it has affected/will affect them. I like to think they are attune to the world and better prepared for the cold than most. But also, maybe they are missing blissful ignorance that comes with childhood. I don't really know. Sitting across from her when I broke the news which I felt was completely rational, it was evident we were not in agreement. She was angry, but underneath that anger I could see disappointment. Disappointment in my ability to measure up.

“Why couldn't I just deal with it”, was what she seemed to say.

Even further beyond her disappointment I could see that she resented me for making her feel like she was alone. My fears , my differences, and my overall inability to be like the other parents alienates her. I tried to remind her of the times we went away and I was a panicked mess. It just didn't seem to resonate on a level of understanding I needed it to.

I have lost over a weeks sleep feeling anxious, scared, sad and guilty. I don't want my children to ever have to carry my weight, but at the same time I want them to be understanding human beings aware that in every person that exists, there are differences. And they should, in the best way they know how, honor and respect these differences. I don't think people should ever compromise their health or well being, be it physical or mental for the sake of fitting in, looking normal or to keep someone happy, especially a part of ones family. I would never want my children to do that, and I cannot teach them to honor themselves and be honest about their feelings if I myself, am not.

Part of me is happy she still sometimes thinks like a selfish kid, and that I haven't forced her to grow up too fast. As she does get older though, my hope is that my vulnerability and honesty will enable her to understand better and be more likely to deal with the world easier because of her direct exposure to all things uncertain. Parents are afraid too. We are human just like them. The only difference lies in our direct experience with the world and what we have learned firsthand to be true.

So what happens when a kid finds out their parent is afraid? The kid learns what it means to be honest and doing so, sees that it doesn't make them any less of a person. The power lies inside that truth.

I don't think anyone has this parenting thing down perfect. I do consider myself lucky to have been blessed with great kids. They may not get it all the time, but they get it. And that's more than I can say for most grown adults today. I like to think I had a hand in that. Until next time ,stay weird.

Wanna know more? check out these links to my other pages. =)


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Monday, November 9, 2015

The time confused aliens and aspergers.

I know I look weird to outsiders. I get it. I've accepted it. Thing is, my goal is to be able to help others accept and understand it what its like to be me too.

I went on a date the other day. A guy I met on a dating website. A guy born and raised in another country. I was hesitant but I thought maybe, by some strange chance, we would have that whole being misunderstood thing in common.

Not so much.

It was scary. blind dates or internet dates usually are. You never know what your gonna get. Like once I met this guy who was super cute in pics, but I realized upon meeting face to face the wonders of the cropping feature in editing apps . (picture sloth from the Goonies from chin to eyebrows. ) He wasn't very happy when I told him I wasn't interested. Most aren't. And as soon as you make them aware, suddenly all your most hedonistic character traits come to surface.

So between the frequency of these occurrences and then the kind of dollar store trash bag types I meet and fall in love with in a week (look good on the outside then fail to carry out their purpose by the time you realize they are full of shit and its too late). I hardly have luck. If I was left to my own devices, I would quit socializing all together and sit in my room and read write and come out on pizza night. But this causes a problem.

I notice the pattern of isolation often puts me in a bad position with my writing.
Meaning if I'm not out in the world I lack material.

So because my livelihood and sanity depend on my writing, I make meager attempts at socializing.

Back to what I was saying. This guy and I decide to meet at a local Starbucks . Seemed kosher.
Anyway my first impression was that I had misrepresented myself. He walked in looked around and walked out. I didn't know what to do or say so I stared over at the barista hoping he would send me some kind of telepathic signal on what to do next .


So I did the only thing I thought I should. I sat and waited. He came back and explained in his heavy accent and broken English that he was confused, and at that point, so was I.


I have no problem with people learning English. I think it's admirable, as English is by far the most difficult language to master. What I'm saying is that I have enough of an issue communicating with English speakers and adding another barrier to say the least, concerned me .And since our communication was only in text up until that point, I wasn't expecting this.

Besides some very defined cultural differences, I wondered how a person from another country would be able to understand me .
For example,I don't stim in public. But in the comfort of my own home my neuro cape comes off.
I don't wear pants. Or underwear most times. I frequently have conversations with myself filled with high pitched laughter or nervous repeat affirmations. Sometimes I repeat other people's phrases in the middle of conversation. A lot of times I'm in my own world and prefer to stay there regardless of who is around me.

The fact that I had to find three different ways to explain why I didn't want to hold this strange mans hand, let alone kiss him after a half hour of knowing him , really made me think.

Would he ever understand me? How much of myself would i have to censor and for how long?

Even more frightening I thought to myself if  this is what neuro typical people think when they meet me and is this why they leave? Does Aspergers make me look like an alien?

I don't know. I may never know.

I do know people come and go more often than not in my life . It's not easy to get used to. I don't think I want to. But it's part of my reality. 

I contemplated just never speaking to the guy again but that turns out to be rude. I texted and thanked him for a nice time and kindly explained that I didn't think it would work.
I never heard from him again. Thankfully .

To be clear it wasn't just the language barrier that concerned me. I have become adept at feeling people's energies over the years (since all other aspects pose difficulties) and there was
a kind of forced expectation. The way he insisted on holding my hand when I kept my palm face open to deny the gesture, and how he leaned in to hug and kiss anyway  when I verbally declined.

There was hygiene. All I smelled was armpits . A surefire hit to set my sensory issues into satellite mode.

He was a simple man who drank plain coffee, went to work,had salad and brown rice for dinner and wasn't a fan of sweets .He had been taught women have a place.

I don't have a place. My place is where I am and where I want to be. Nobody will tell me different. Well, they could try but slim chance I'm even listening.

I'm too complicated for all that nonsense. (In a good way.)

And also, he wasn't all that cute .

More than anything I want to be understood. I want to feel like somebody gets me and I'm not so alone. (p.s. my phone just autocorrected “alone” to “lame” to add insult to injury).

Once I brought a date to a poetry show I was appearing in . That night I read a piece I had written after I received my diagnosis . He was very supportive saying how well I did that night. I remember distinctly how he asked if all of the things I said in the poems were true. I knew right away which poem he was asking about. I talked around it. I was embarrassed that he was worried I was different. I was was worried I was different and I don't want to worry about being different.

So from now on, no more dating foreigners for me. This whole exchange of feelings thing is hard enough without having to add any more confusion into the mix. And sweaty armpits. Nobody likes sweaty armpits.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll get better at all this and fly away to some distant country to find my forever snuggle buddy(who knows when to give me space). But for now, I'll wrestle with attempting to understand the members of my own country. Until next time. Stay weird.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

" How to Dance in Ohio" HBO takes a glimpse into living with Autism.

So recently I caught wind of an HBO special/documentary that was due to air on Autism. Anytime I hear of a documentary that deals with the raw realities of human behavior in any form, my attention is immediately captivated.

I attribute most of this to the fact that my entire life has been spent studying people in a die hard attempt at understanding them. All the while, without realizing it was never due to a lack of effort on my part, but rather a short circuit in my wiring from birth.

With that said, being able to witness how Autism/Aspergers looks in real life from an entertainment perspective, was both heartbreaking and endearing.

The documentary is shot in Columbus, Ohio, and follows three young women with varying degrees of Autism as they prepare for a spring formal set to be thrown by the moderator of a support group they all belong to.

I'm not going to go into a synopsis or play by play. I'll tell you that if you are interested in getting a glimpse of what the realities of being on the Autism Spectrum look like, you should watch it.

The reason for my writing this is to shed light on a few points that were touched on during the documentary that struck me as relevant and of importance as a female diagnosed on the spectrum.

First and foremost, the documentary discussed the difference in challenges as an adult and as a child on the spectrum. I think that many people who lack a solid understanding of the varying degrees of the Autism Spectrum have a tendency to dismiss the diagnosis in adults, while placing more emphasis on the treatment in children. As an individual who was diagnosed well into adulthood, I can attest to the fact that more often than not, certain behaviors can and are overlooked in children and later on as adults become less socially acceptable and begin to cause more problems.

A good example of this is shown when one of the young ladies is reprimanded by her boss at work for being rude to her coworkers. The young lady sits in the chair across from her boss in tears, completely unaware of her behavior and exhibits true remorse over it. In her mind she was expressing her feelings and didn't understand that in the process, she was hurting someone else's.

I think that females especially have a tough time with this. It has been studied that females on the spectrum are better at adapting to social norms in childhood and early adulthood which ends up masking the symptoms and delaying diagnosis. Years of bottling up feelings of confusion, misunderstanding and isolation in turn leads to depression and anxiety in adulthood, which are often comorbitities of those diagnosed on the spectrum. Many times, individuals will be diagnosed with anxiety and depression early on, with professionals never really getting to heart of the matter, which is the Autism. This was true for me personally. I was treated with antidepressants since I was teen, medicated with dozens of different medications until the day I told my psychiatrist I was strong enough to see myself through these difficulties without the aid of prescription drugs. Only then was I able to identify where the real issue had been all along.

When I was growing up I was called shy, slow to warm up, defiant, sneaky. At summer camp one year I received an award for making the best facial expressions, which, looking back, were most likely rooted in confusion. What I am trying to say here is that in females, certain characteristics are more acceptable and tend to go unnoticed. That is, until adulthood hits.

What was once shy and slow to warm up turns into rude, antisocial and standoffish. Character traits deemed highly unacceptable in adulthood. Things necessary to coexist in the adult world in the the workplace, relationships, and parenting that haven't been cultivated come to the surface. I think its important to note that just because a person is grown, does not make their diagnosis any less difficult. I agree with the psychologist in the documentary when he states that if anything, the diagnosis of Spectrum disorders presents more challenges and becomes more difficult with age.

Another aspect of the documentary I felt was relevant was the emphasis the psychologist placed on empowering these individuals. Being on the spectrum I have spent an overwhelming amount of time second guessing my behavior in social settings and later punishing myself for screwing it up. I think when you spend most of your time trying to make sense of circles when you only see in squares, you get used to feeling defeat. I have, on more occasions than I can count, tried to talk myself out of a challenging situation because I felt so afraid I would fail. Never having a solid grasp on what was expected of me as a human and being able to carry that out with success drove me into a hole.

I have said in prior posts that I feel unsure of whether receiving a diagnosis as a child would have changed anything about my life now. I can honestly say I am conflicted. While I may have bypassed a great deal of pain and hurt, I believe that I am here today despite my difficulties and I have overcome so much, and I am proud of who I have become.

I do believe that those who are diagnosed as children and grow into adulthood learning to navigate through life according to their specific needs are absolutely at an advantage. In the documentary there was a scene that struck me where one of the young ladies is sitting at the kitchen table with both her parents and what appeared to be a caseworker. They sat and encouraged her to advocate for herself in regards to her feelings and her needs, while equally supporting her and allowing her to feel safe and protected offering their advice in whatever decision she made. She mentioned not feeling secure in the idea of living on her own and that when the time came, she preferred a roommate. Listening to the way she was expressing herself and how she had that support system to encourage her, to me, was bittersweet. I cant lie, I found myself wishing I had the same when I was growing up.

One of my biggest hurdles is my struggle to feel safe. I think that if I had the kind of support I needed emotionally where I felt encouraged to express my needs and feel understood that would have provided an enormous help to me. Lets face it, a person cannot feel safe unless their needs are being met consistently and they feel understood. Communication is an essential component to the human condition.

The last point I want to touch on briefly is something the psychologist stated about the way he encouraged interaction between the teens despite the inherent difficulty they would encounter. He mentioned how in reality , even to neurotypicals , the world of socialization and relationships can be frightening. And how he felt almost guilty inviting them to take part , as if it were his job to protect them , but also encourage them to grow.
Navigating through the world of social norms can feel at times, impossible to any individual, not just those on the spectrum. It comes with pain, and hurt and sadness, but also tons of happiness. The reality is, in my opinion, if individuals on the spectrum aren't exposed to situations to promote growth, understanding and acceptance, they face stagnation. I'm not saying this is true in all cases. There are varying degrees and everyone has their abilities. I'm saying even if we are pushed just a little bit outside our realm of existence, who is to say that no good can come from it. I am a firm believer in self expression, honesty, thinking outside the box and challenging myself as a human in order to experience growth.

I'll always have Aspergers, but my difficulties day to day don't have to be riddled with shame and confusion. I think if more people were exposed to what its really like to live on the spectrum, those of us who live it as a reality may feel more inclined to share these parts of ourselves that have for decades been largely misunderstood. Kudos to HBO for shedding a little light on the world myself and fellow Aspies live in.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Safe sex. Is wearing a hat becoming "old hat"?

Here's what I'm learning about dating lately. Condoms are out of style. Which basically means I'm never getting laid.

I doubt very much that any of these prophylactic boycotters have ever spent an extended amount of time alone with a colicky newborn or sitting in the Planned Parent waiting room with their stomach in their throat and fire in their genitals.

I'm all about the business being real as it can be, but at the comfortable age of 36 I have for sure had enough scares , as well as some rather permanent reminders of the repercussions of unprotected sex.(I'll give you a hint, they mess up my house and eat all my food) I'll admit it, I learned my lesson late, but not too late. I thank my lucky stars I'm disease free. At this point I owe it to the man up stairs. He looked out for me when I wasn't looking out for myself.

I am speaking to people lately, most of them younger, and I am rather astounded. They hate condoms. You say the word and you get a face scrunch. I would think that they would be more educated, informed, and paranoid than they seem to be. Why so laissez faire?

I mean lets face it. Divorce is on the table as a quick get out option , so nobody really takes commitment serious anymore. What does that mean for our genitals? I'll tell you what it means. Nobody's safe out there. Penis and vaginas alike are seeing an incredible rise in the amount of random encounters they find themselves in without the right kind of equipment to protect themselves.

I went on a quasi date, which is like a real date in that you leave the house looking like a million bucks, or a crisp fifty if your a hermit like myself. (Not that we can't reach that whole million dollar status, it's just that were fabulous with all the bells and whistles on the inside so we see no reason to go overboard) Anyway as I was saying. So I met up with this guy, more than a decade younger, and I believe for all intents and purposes that makes me a cougar, correct? So hes all calvin klein underwear model looking fine. Now, I must interject here and go back to the idea of a quasi date. So he's very young. Too young to date. I do believe age is relative, but when were talking about making a lifetime commitment my standards are such that the other person has at least lived enough years to have an idea of what exactly that entails. So this quasi date is lets get together, know eachother until were comfortable enough to sleep together and go from there.

I know what you are thinking.

I'm not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I have needs. I have standards also .Something important to understand is that just because you have one doesn't mean you should ignore the other. Meaning, I am picky in the kind of person I choose to share any extended amount of time with but that doesn't mean my vagina should turn into a mausoleum. It also means don't sleep with any tom,dick, or harry to get your jollys off. So with that said, I have decided as of late to just find someone for the purpose of getting my physical needs met until I can find the person that meet my standards as a competent life partner.

So here I am with Calvin, that's what we will call him because he was that hot. We are sitting by the water, discussing a lovely scenic view when all of the sudden he goes in for the kill. This wasn't just an average kind of kiss, this was a “here I come to savagely breath life into every fantasy you have had thus far.”Get it?

So before I know it my leggings are at my knees (his doing, as ladies know very well leggings are liars and we would never take them off to reveal everything they pretend we are not) Long story short hes making a leap from the passenger seat with his lower extremities at liftoff.

So here's the good thing about my brain and its wiring. I have the uncanny ability to be completely rational in moments where people loose their heads. Even in instances when its the literal heat of the moment and my loins are ablaze, my mind is able to press the brakes.

I attribute this to the fact that I question everything. I see things in black and white. Gray scares me actually. So when it comes to sex, I rarely ever throw caution to the wind because there's 13 million thoughts racing through my brain about the calculated risk I am taking. Imagine this, that only a minute amount of these thoughts ever escape my lips.

I used to feel bad about interrupting with my completely inappropriate comments at all the wrong moments. Now I count them as a blessing.

Needless to say, my quasi date ended with one or more parties in a state of dissatisfaction.

 Listen, there were times I have used poor judgment, or failed to act on things I was thinking out of sheer and utter confusion.But i owe myself more than that. I wish I could better understand people's intentions in regards to intimate relationships, especially in regards to the physical and emotional factors involved in sex.

I once asked someone I was interested in to come along with me and get tested. I felt at least this way if it went as far as sex we could rest easy. He agreed, but disappeared from my life before that could happen. I like to think I may have saved myself from a significant amount of trouble and heartache down the line. I believe things fall into place that way.

It's like that simple 5 degrees of we move in a different direction every day that makes the biggest changes later. Tony Robbins taught me that.

I may have had it wrong for a while, but at least I am on the right track now. Safety is totally in style, I mean consider the opposite, you could be dead., and we all know you can't feel that heat if you're buried 6 feet deep. So Be Protected. You'll have to excuse me now, Calvin is on his way over as we speak. With Condoms. Stay Safe and until next time...Stay Weird.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No, the Target cashier doesn't need to hear the gory details of your PMS

How much is too much? Don't ask me because I'm still trying to figure that out. I've always operated under “honesty is the best policy”. Perhaps, if someone told me I could still be honest without telling my entire life story to perfect strangers, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this today.

So much for warnings.

Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely been dishonest. Its just difficult. Most of the instances were when I felt forced, unsure, or backed into a corner and otherwise pressured to tell someone what they wanted to hear in order to be left alone. I don't commend my dishonesty, but I do understand why at the time it was necessary.

Nonetheless, if you are like me, brutal honesty has caused more of a issue with your relationships than lying ever has. Things like social norms, unsaid rules, nuances, couth and all things deemed appropriate....I have no space for them. Mostly I don't know when is the best time to shut the hell up.

In grad school I remember discussing a term called “disclosure”. In therapeutic terms that means revealing certain things about yourself as a practitioner to a patient in order to gain a mutual understanding and form a line of trust. Like, “Hey, I know what you are going through having lost your dad, my favorite uncle who raised me passed when I was 12”,or something to that effect. Not too much but just enough, my professor said.

I distinctly remember causing a mini uproar in the classroom when I raised my hand to tell him I felt there shouldn't be limits set on disclosure. I felt it should be at the practioner's discretion. Well, we spent an hour going back and forth while his face engulfed in flames and my classmates looked on with their mouth spread wide open. Had he possessed the power to throw me out of the program, I believe at that moment ,he may have done just that. Lucky for me there's such a thing as freedom of speech and straight A's.

I don't know any way to redeem myself for my thought processes, or if it's even necessary, but for all intents and purposes, it is a good idea to learn when saying too much is just too much.

Lately I find following a general rule of thumb to be somewhat helpful. During interactions, if it is my turn to exchange conversation, before I go ahead and spew, I stop for a second and ask myself the question, “did the person ask for this specific information, and also, could I save any of it for a later conversation perhaps?” It sounds simple enough.

The way my brain works, it is difficult for me to decipher peoples intentions in conversation, so it has become a habit to just spill any and all relevant information and then some, on said topic of conversation so I can be sure I covered everything. Basically I feel better having told you a detailed account of every time I have had the flu including the amount of times I puked, sneezed, coughed up green shit , and didn't shower or brush my teeth for a week.

I want you to know I understand and this is the way I know how.

Unfortunately this isn't always effective. In cases with friends and family I can get away with more. They are accustomed to the fine tuned wiring system inside my cranium. With strangers , such as prospective dates, future employers on job interviews, parent teacher meetings, or on line at Target, I have implemented what I like to call “neuromode” (Neurotypical is a term used to describe those who are not on the Spectrum) I have studied peoples behavior since I was a small child. I can and do adapt into a more socially acceptable version of myself when the occasion calls for it. Like a chamelion. I would probably make an incredible actor actually. Anyway, if I'm buying maxi pads at Target,(tampons frighten me) and the cashier asks how I'm doing, he/she is not looking for me to explain the details of my cramps, bloating, and fatigue due to the obvious incidence of it being that time of the month. Its okay to say “I'm fine thank you” and keep it moving even, if at that moment you are feeling like a raging bulldozer. Go home and eat a snickers. Problem solved. (tampon info too much?)

Something I have always admired about people is when they posses the ability to be very frank in speaking. Those types of people are soothing. We can totally hold hands and sail across the same wavelength. (just kidding I hate holding hands).

In my observations I have noticed that very few people actually posses this ability. People have this knack for dancing around the truth. Why??? I don't now if I will ever understand that. It's like walking around the snack table at a party with your stomach howling like a wildebeast. (they howl right?) Like “hey I'm just carousing”. I wanna scream “cut it out!!! grab that fistful of chips and stuff your face damnit!!!” What the hell ??? I could go on and on about things I have noticed and picked up about people. But then I would be revealing my secret super powers, and I need to keep those for myself. It's how I survive. You gotta go do your own legwork.

Regardless, say it how I meant it is both a blessing and a curse. Like all superheros and their powers, I am learning when and where to use them so I can reach my full potential. So if you see me gazing off to the side during a conversation, that's just my way of calibrating and contemplating the best way to exercise my abilities to address the situation. No worries, I may not speak body language, but I'm fluent in sincerity . Until next time. Stay Weird.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I can hear my wallet crying.

I'll admit it. I have a spending problem. Although spending isn't necessarily a problem unless you are like me, and don't have much to spend. Somehow that doesn't stop me.

Over the past 18 years, I have accrued a significant amount of debt. I remember how it all started. It was my first semester at St. Johns University. I walked around campus with my hands surgically attached to my backpack straps, holding on for dear life. New situations have a way of making me feel completely out of control.

It was the second week of classes. I was just starting to get my footing. Navigating from building to building silently rehearsing directions to my classes from memory. That day, a man dressed for a wedding greeted me at the door to my sociology class. He extended his hand, and politely, I declined, turning my body sideways to avoid confrontation. He persisted.

Never in my life had I encountered a credit card salesman. Seemingly altruistic out for you best interest , they reach to snatch your existence straight through the doe eye windows of your soul. I'm not exaggerating. It was weird, the idea of someone begging me to borrow their money. Shit, I had a hard time getting 20 bucks from my dad for gas that day.

Credit card sharks are like trained fighters. They study their opponents and learn their weaknesses just enough to catch them in most vulnerable moments followed by the sweet taste of victory. Fucking splendid.

So I signed by the x , waited while my palms sweat for a few minutes, and boom. Like magic I was ushered into the world of plastic debt.

I consider myself lucky to have a supportive father. One who has all the years taken the brunt of my financial impulsivity. I don't know that he completely understands its not on purpose, and the components of OCD, depression and impulse spending and how they fuel eachother, but neither did I until recently. As I learn more about Aspergers, I start to understand things about my past. Things that I have punished myself for repeatedly without understanding why it was happening and the real way to get it under control.

Truth is, I have never been good with money for as long as I can remember. Spend it as I get it was my motto. Even as an adult, I find myself in the same situation, only now, I understand better why I do it.

My inclination towards spending has more to do with the impulsivity that comes along with Aspergers. Let me just say right here though, I am in no way shape or form making excuses for my behaviors. I am simply stating that I am day by day obtaining a better understanding of what's really going on in my brain, and with that info, hoping to take steps in which to improve.

I have Aspergers. I am not Aspergers. I am Emily. As a decent , moral educated human being, I am seeking to better myself every day. The first step in doing so, is acknowledging your downfalls. Shit happens. I forgive myself. You gotta forgive yourself. Its how we move forward.

This is how I look at it. I was born with a predisposition to be more vulnerable to certain aspects in my surroundings. Kind of like a fair skin person is more likely to burn in the sun, and they need to take precautions to find the best methods of protection for their skin. I have to protect myself from situations that would encourage unnecessary spending. For me, staying busy is key. The times I find myself in holes are when I have too much free time. I become easily anxious, depressed, feel lost and need something to hang on to, kinda like my backpack straps that day at St Johns University.

More than anything, I want to be financially independent. I want to own a home. My whole life I have felt like everything around me was borrowed, even time. I just want to know what it feels like to have something that's just mine. I yearn for a sense of permanence and accomplishment. I use this as my driving force to stay focused. This is my backpack straps.

I'm 36. I still have time to make this happen. Not all at once, but bit by bit. For now, keeping myself focused and busy is the best way I know how to do this. In time, I will get better at mastering myself and I imagine I continue taking the necessary steps towards my dreams of accomplishment. Stay Weird.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Paychecks, fake smiles and what it all means to me.

If there were a way to go to school and get paid for it, that's what I would choose to do for the rest of my life. I love studying, I love schedules, I love repetition, I love routines , I love learning. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find such a position where I can tap into all of these and be financially compensated.

I've never had any difficulty being a student, but being an employee for some reason has never worked well for me. Maybe its because I find it next to impossible to comply to social norms (you with me? I'll save you a seat). Maybe its my rigid routines, or my difficulty with transitions, extreme anxiety in new situations and other random stimuli. Who knows.

What I do know, is that I went to college for 10 years for the security of obtaining a career in the field of my choice,which would then enable me to support my family. At least that's the way I was told it would be.

EHHHH.....not so much.

I am ,however, proud to say that I have achieved one of my life goals, to obtain a Masters degree. Despite an array of obstacles, I found my way to final destination.

When all was said and done, my excitement quickly faded. Transitioning into the real world was nothing like I had imagined. There are no guidance counselors or academic advisors that could type things into their computer and shift your world around to make you more comfortable. There is no buffer. No safety net. No graceful landing. It feels like a swift kick in the ass after being caught skinny dipping, and the moments following when you attempt to vanish into a rowdy, unfriendly crowd with your clothes and other belongings in your hands...stark naked.

It has been four years and I still have yet to find a position in my field...scratch that... any field. I made the decision to lower my expectations in terms of starting salary, just so I could get a foot in the door. I'm learning things don't always turn out the way we plan.

It's no secret that part of having Aspergers means that I suck at anything social. I probably don't interview well. I wear a fake smile,(that shit hurts), practice looking normal and pretend that I know the rules to the everyday exchange of conversation. Its exhausting.

Let me tell you a quick story.

Not too long ago, a director friend offered to film me performing one of my poems in a natural setting to be put on his YouTube channel. I was nervous because I have always felt weird about listening to my voice on a recording or watching myself in an impromptu home video. I found though, once the filming was done, I felt an overall sense of satisfaction at having completed the project, which was, at times, was clearly quite daunting. But I also noticed with that satisfaction I became flooded with a deep sense of sadness.

My friend allowed me to watch snippets of the video before he completed the edits. It wasn't the planned acting parts that struck me, but those moments on the sidelines where I saw myself , being myself. For lack of a better metaphor, it felt a little like watching the gorillas at the Bronx zoo. There they are, in their space, completely unadultered for the whole world to see. (for the record I think gorillas are awesome so in this instance I don't completely mind being compared to one)

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that I noticed for the first time how others would see me, and how they could possibly see me as different.(I try to use the word “different” lightly. I like to think what separates us makes us unique and gives us an edge.)To be frank, there was something maddeningly raw and honest about watching myself in those moments. Like hey, this is the Emily everybody else sees.

Suddenly I could hear every negative and derogatory comment ever hurled in my direction about my awkward demeanor, and I realized what they meant. I had a good long cry in a hot shower(something I find incredibly therapeutic), along with a firm pep talk from my daughter (she's good for those)and I let that shit go.

Still, when I go on these job interviews, I can't help but wonder that these parts of me shine through and make it difficult for people consider me as an adept professional. Even more so, I worry that if I do get the kind of job I am qualified for, will it be something that overwhelms me completely. Maybe not getting a job right now is a sign.

I try to take things day by day. At least I have time to focus on my writing. But I have dreams. Dreams that require me to move from this page and present my strengths and assets to the real world.

I know where I want to be, and I don't want my differences to be a barrier on my journey, but rather a source of strength. I think having a diagnosis and learning acceptance is a step away from the confusion and defeat I have felt for so many years. I'm starting to understand that what other perceive as downfalls in my personality are actually of invaluable worth. (Some say obsessive, but I'm quite literally the most loyal person I know) Besides, I've made it this far, and that's got  to count for something. Lets see where else this journey takes me. Stay weird.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

On how not to sink.

 I'm starting to notice something.  I obsess over things. Like my writing, for example. I'm starting to notice the way my brain only facilitates one mindset at a time.

They say some geniuses like Einstein, Hans Christian Anderson and Charles Lindberg, possessed the same trait which is what made made them such experts in their craft. They had the innate ability to zero in on one area focus more intently than the average person.

I have been writing since I was small. I took notes on back and forth conversation in my favorite television shows to help me navigate through my everyday life (i had no idea that's what i was doing at the time mind you). My parents took me for a hoarder when I refused to throw the notes away. Looking back now, I can understand why I had such an attachment to writing. It was the most effective form of communication for me. Unfortunately, I didn't have the skill set to explain this to my parents back then, and they didn't know any better.

I started writing poetry as a teenager. Broken hearts, fits of rage, storms of confusion, you name it I wrote it. It wasn't until a few years ago I really started taking my writing seriously. Things started out great. I started taking a few workshops, landed a bunch of performances, got paid, wrote a book. All good things. Until my writing became an obsession.

As I am learning about certain facets of Aspergers I am starting to feel the weight of my chest decrease with  tiny sighs of relief. So many years of feeling depressed, misunderstood, and alienated day by day start to make sense. Many people with Aspergers also suffer from depression, anxiety and OCD.(obsessive compulsive disorder) Lucky for me, I got the package deal. The thing about all three of these, is that they all have the ability to activate each other in one form or another. It's like the ultimate trifecta.

 My obsessive thoughts have dragged me down into my darkest days. Days when I literally felt like hurting myself was the only way to escape the crushing feeling. I never wanted to die. It was never a matter of taking my own life. No, this was more a way to feel grounded again. Like the only way back down from this crazy place was to physically bring myself back down again. This might not even make sense to some people, but it's the only way I know how to explain it right now.

Writing kept me far away from that place for years. I do think in many ways it is an excellent form of expression and release. The only problem I ran into, was that once I started taking it seriously, I stopped paying attention to everything else around me. I let it run my life. I ate, slept, breathed poetry. I stopped whatever little socialization I had taken part in, stopped actively reading, stop listening, stop noticing, stopped everything, for the sake of becoming the best writer. In theory it sounds like a practice makes perfect model. Not so much. Too much of anything is never a good thing applies here. But try telling my brain that.

The reason I took a break from poetry is because it became my obsession. If I wasn't producing quality work every day I had convinced myself I was a failure,and you say something enough times you start to believe it. I made myself sick over it. So much so I lost the spark that initially lit the flame in my desire to write. The love and wonder disappeared and it started to become toil and struggle. I needed to fix this.

I am lucky to have a trusted friend and mentor who has been an astute guide in my writing career. He listens to understand. Something not many people do anymore. He understood my quandary from a professional perspective as well as a personal perspective. We both agreed (okay it took a lot of convincing for me) it was time to hit the brakes. If I intended on growing as a writer, this pitstop was a necessary addition on my path to success.

Did I believe that in my heart? I'm not sure. I had to do a lot of self talk, still do. Telling myself things like “You are still a writer even though you aren't practicing today” “This isn't forever” “Everybody needs a break”.

It has been about 3 weeks. I have a little over a month to go. I have written one poem. I don't know if I should have, but I did. I have taken to writing notes for later so I don't feel so much pressure from loosing ideas I wish to address in my writing. Besides, I'm not completely bereft of poetry. I'm working on editing my second book , writing this blog which sometimes includes poems, and reading poetry at every chance I get.

It's not the way it was, and my brain is so akin to predictability and astute regime, and this whole freelance through my days can be a struggle I am not at all comfortable with. I won't lie and say it's easy. It sucks and I mess up. *Sidenote- Exercise and writing are my most important practices to maintain stability. Unfortunately, I had to alter my exercise routines due to an injury, which has only added  to my anxiety.So that's two huge changes I have had to make in my routine around the same time. Ask any Aspie.This will be the reaction..... Covers ears. Shuts eyes. Shakes head. Walks away. Nope.
 Imagine this- 4 wheel drive terrain and I am front wheel drive-just for the sake of a visual.

 But I am surviving.

I am learning not to put so much pressure on myself, especially if it means the end result could mean losing my greatest love. I'm not ready to risk that. Obsessing can put a person in some really shitty situations, (which I will discuss in a later post) and it is important to me that my writing not be including in that list.

I will never be perfect at this. But I do like to think I have started a new beginning. Recognizing parts of me and learning to love them as is, work around the things I can, and understanding that my differences don't make me a bad person or any less of a person, just slightly more complicated. Anyway who doesn't love a challenge??? Stay Weird.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

On Parenting from under my blankets.

 There is no one correct way to parent. It's like anything that requires you to be on your toes, except there are only so many times you can falter without causing a quake.

The kind of human being that I am requires me to spend a great deal of time alone. More so than the average person. Being a single parent isn't exactly conducive to this. I'll admit, there's more times than I care to own up to where I have marooned myself to my bed and governed the family from my blanket throne. It is my natural inclination to isolate, both as a person with Aspergers and also as a writer. Some may think that makes a shitty parent.

My son is 8. He exhibits classic ADHD symptoms according to all textbook cases. Some may argue that he's just being a normal little boy. I'm not opposed to either stance, but knowing what I know in my profession (LMSW by degree) I cannot deny the former. Either way, my son is Hurricane Gloria and I am mercury rising.

He is completely unpredictable, and I thrive on predictability. So how do I manage?
On my better days, days when I have enough upstairs space to move stuff around, I find ways to teach him how to do things for himself. Kids like predictability too, even when they carry category four destruction properties, they feel safer knowing which direction they are headed. What better way to help them feel secure than to teach them to care for themselves. Novel idea? Let's take a look.

Remember the day Sally forgot her three ring binder on the kitchen table, the one with all her homework in it? Remember how she called you from school crying about the trouble she could get into? (nevermind she hadn't bothered to address the issue with the teacher and negotiate a possible extension, and why would she, she has you )Remember how you were in the middle of an important meeting or project and you dropped everything to save her?

My guess is you already know what I'm going to say. I don't think bailing Sally out makes you a a bad parent, but I don't think it's making Sally any better of a human being. In fact, I think it hurts Sally in the long run. Here's why.

Like anything a person becomes accustomed to, there is always the risk of dependency. When most people think of dependency they think of things that are bad for our health, like drugs or alcohol or other addictive habits. If you think of your kids being dependent on you as a parent as something completely separate, think again.

Recently, I witnessed a middle aged man who clearly was suffering from difficulty ambulating around, perhaps a hip or leg injury. I watched this man struggle to bend over and tie his 13 year old's shoe. (I'm guessing because he looked like he was starting to grow a stache) . (Fast forward 20 years. This is the guy at the office who eats your lunch out of the fridge and when you ask why he tells you because he was hungry and forgot his. What a dick.) If you think your decisions as a parent aren't going to affect the people your child encounters in the future, you are wrong.

It took everything inside me to hold back from shouting “Tie your own damn shoe!!!”
Listen, if my 13 year old isn't tying their shoelaces, they are going to be hitting pavement until they get tired of the scrapes.

I call these kind of parents “helicopter parents” On top 24/7. I admire their tenacity. And believe me, I've caught myself comparing my skills to theirs and questioning my overall ability at being a mom. But the truth is, in a lot of ways I was one of these kids. I've lived 36 years of my life unsure if I could count on myself. I love my parents for taking such good care of me and loving me. I will never blame them for any of my life decisions or circumstance.

But I do wish I learned earlier how to care for myself more in certain situations. To cultivate a sense of pride in my achievements and accomplishments I had conquered on my own, instead of criticizing myself for not living up to someone else's standards, including other parents.  Having an Aspergers diagnosis, I am learning to better understand myself and my own behaviors in all different situations, and one that I feel is of utmost importance is being a parent.

Looking back on the past 17 years that I have raised my kids on my own, and been successful despite my own personal circumstance, I feel pretty certain that we as humans, are resilient, and my kids will survive despite my alternative processing.

It's like this. My brain is wired different. I do things that other people see as unconventional. I don't host playdates. I'm not on the PTA. I wont volunteer as coach. So what.

I let my kids know what's expected of them in order to survive in this world, by a universal standard and by teaching them to set their own expectations of themselves according to the part they want to play in the grand scheme of things. There's no one way to be a parent, but there's also no one way to be a human.

I told Dr Mike yesterday my son makes me want to hide sometimes. He told me its my job to be present. We both agreed it's hard to watch your child make a mistake and pick them up over and over when you can just finish the math problem they don't understand yourself. But it's all part of the process. My kids will tie their own shoes, do their own homework and fight their own battles. They will learn what it means to be able to count on yourself, hopefully sooner than I did. 

I'll always be close by. Learning presence. Even if it is sometimes from my blanket throne, I'll rest easy knowing I've taught them the important lesson of surviving on their own.

I'm no expert on the human condition, but I do know there's a lot to be learned through quiet observation; something I like to think I inadvertently have become more proficient at than the average person. Stay weird.  

A little Sunday morning Poetry

Tell them

Tell them
how excited you get to meet new people
you plan out your entire life together
before the first phone call.

Tell them
about your practice smile
the way it aches the muscles
on either side of your mouth.

Tell them
 how you mean well.

Tell them
how much everyone likes you in the beginning.

Tell them
how despite this you've gotten used
to everyone leaving.

Tell them
how easy to talk to
is the same thing
as easy to ignore.

Tell them
you've returned so many times
your laid back
gets sore.

Tell them
how each time you remember
to be yourself a little more.

Tell them
how much it hurts to always feel lonely
even worse 
to pretend you meant for it to be that way.

Tell them
how hard you push yourself
to supersede the criticisms
of everyone else.

Tell them
you still have faith
your person is out there waiting.
It's the one way you know
how to keep on living.

Tell them
 they don't have to be sorry.
Tell them
 you don't need saving.

-Emily A. Klein