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.