What is the yellow bird?

It sounds like the start of a haiku, though then we'd have to:

What is yellow bird? or Is the yellow bird?

which might be quite nice and lead to wheeling high above the cat

then safe and free at last.

So, yes, I went off track there. I only picked the yellow bird title because I saw a little canary the other day, desperately trying to get into Asda (they know no better), hopping away from the anxious security guard and worried assistant who were trying to pluck up the courage to catch it. I'd been in the middle of a conversation with IT Girl and as soon as I saw the bird, off I went to see what was happening.

This is a verifiable distraction: a canary trying to go shopping in Asda is a sight most people would find distracting. But what if you don't need the yellow bird?

What if all you need is a random key word in your sentence or someone else's to set you off in a new direction? Off you go, logically changing route (logical to you anyway), leaving the other person wondering if they missed something.

Or a key word that isn't even spoken. I'm so guilty of this, I think it and then I follow it. No one is ever going to see the logic because they don't know what I was thinking or why I switched from planning supper to expressing my thoughts on trail-blazing jazz musicians of the 20th century.

And pity them if they ask because it makes no sense to other people and they just come away thinking a random thought is more important to me than my conversation with them.

This is the crux of why the easily distracted can make it hard for other people: shooting off in a new direction is bound to make the other person think you lost interest in them, because you did lose interest in them. Nothing personal, it was just this other thing, this sudden, golden-shined thing, it got in the way and you had to go after it before you forgot. And if you are easily distracted you forget a lot, so when a golden thought comes along, you follow it.

Leaving your best beloved like a spare part and not feeling golden at all.

It's hard to explain to people that one stray thought or word, tiny event or glimpse, sound, smell, light in the sky, shadow by the door, shape of your hand in the window, sudden remembrance of sweetness...there is no end to these distractions.

I love them though, and I'd be so bored without them. Imagine having a brain that followed straight lines all the time. Obviously I would never be late, but I doubt I would be pulling over in the car to write the poem that just started in my head. There are always compensations and if you are lucky you learn to appreciate them and the part they play in making you who you are.

By the way, it's no good telling people you are highly distractible. Mostly they will say they are too (liars! I love you, but no!!) and laugh about being forgetful. Honestly, no, forgetful is like, well, oh, Uncle Jonas had his birthday today, better send him a message. Forgetful is not looping round the earth and back when you only wanted to go to the shop.

I would rather take the long way and be who I am than take the normal route, buy my milk and come straight home again. I have had many, many surreal conversations and experiences simply because I got distracted and surreal can be good.

Surreal life is full of colour and re-shaped, hidden meanings, of tangled connections that don't make obvious, instant sense. Knowing life is like this makes it easier because for all of us, spectrum or not, life very rarely follows straight lines, it is mostly surrealism disguised as impressionism.

And just like art, we don't all have to see it the same way.


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 How to talk to your Aspie

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Tell me how I feel

Sometimes I rely on other people to tell me what the world means, and how I can make a best-fit try at life. I have a habit of looking for opinions too much, just because things don't make much sense to me; it seems logical to ask the advice of people who do see sense in the whole crazy world around us. But I can go too far.

I was asking my eldest son for advice, asking him what other people might do, what they might think, what I might do, and so on. I expect the friends and family of aspies can guess how this conversation went, it definitely belonged in the 'but why?' category. We might not say it exactly that way but we might as well be asking:

But why did they say that?
But why did it turn out that way?
But why does it mean that instead of this?

Frankly, it doesn't matter how many special interests and perfect understandings you have, there is always so much of life that ends up as but why.

I was but-whying my son (yet again), this time about the feelings and motivations of other people and trying to figure out my own motivations too. I wanted to look at how I was behaving to see if it was the right way (I know, I know), to hold myself up and compare me to what the terrifying majority might do in the same situation.

Finally, after a lot of questions and working it all out, I asked him one more question without giving it much thought.

I said,

'But what do I feel about it?'

Up to then he had answered every question. This time he turned on his heel and looked at me, his head tilted, his mouth curved in bemusement. We were walking along a rain-sodden path at the time, dog happily bounding ahead, only each other for company. He stopped in the path after turning and replied,

'You can't ask me how you feel. Only you know how you feel.'

Starting to walk again, he partly turned and added,

'You can't expect other people to tell you what you feel.'

I stood for a moment longer, rain pelting off the trees either side of us, the shining wet dog dashing round me and on again, watching my son as he walked ahead along the path.

I was momentarily at a loss. Having expected this one more explanation I was faced with the reality that I had just asked someone else how I was feeling about something, and it had been a genuine question. I did want to know how I was feeling about it, I honestly had no idea.

I knew I didn't feel good, or happy. I felt confused, but that's not the answer I was looking for. Without thinking, I had asked my son to explain to me the mess of emotions scooting around in my own head because I had no clue how to separate them and categorise them myself. As he had known the answers to my other questions, this one must have followed naturally, even though I can see why there was no answer.

Just like a child I was viewing my son as an adult with all the answers - after all, adults know everything, don't they? I thought if I asked, he would tell me. That childlike side of me wanted not only to know the answer but to have the comfort of being given the answer.

And it is comforting to know what we need, to have puzzles explained, to finally understand the answer to a problem we have been worrying over. To then realise some questions can only be answered by our confused selves is the opposite of comforting.

I walked on, catching him up, processing the fact that I was on my own with this feelings thing - and along with that, also processing the fact that there might not be a proper, logical answer to how I was feeling.

Feelings come from a part of us that laughs without warning and cries before knowing why. They don't have to make sense, just as life doesn't have to make sense either. All we can do is walk on, rain or no rain, and take it as it comes. Any understanding we gain on the way is a bonus.


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The Aspie Guide to Dealing With Christmas

How can you make people see how stressed you are by Christmas? Does it seem impossible? Can you not break through their glittered hides? Are they too caught up in the sociable season to even listen as you speak?

If you are stressed out by Christmas, or even the thought of Christmas, here is the simple route to making sure everyone knows how you feel.

Explaining this to people

They listen, their heads nod, most likely their eyes glaze over but then hope swells in your heart as their spoken words seem to reflect what you just said to them. They understand!
...and then they behave exactly as before and expect you to also behave yourself (not as you have before) and be a full participant in Christmas. Damn! When will you learn to communicate better? (cough)

Using pictures and diagrams to explain this to people

This feels like it should work. I mean, if they can't understand the spoken word then surely that means they are visual learners and will appreciate your carefully crafted/lovingly printed pictorial guides?
No, they don't, they're really too busy to look at your artwork just now because Christmas. They'll look later, when not Christmas. Well done, though, aren't you clever for being artistic?
(And if you can get them to look properly they often misunderstand drawings anyway and think this is some new phase of awfulness from you whereby you will be making a comic strip of your life that has to be kept on the fridge).


This also includes fleeing rooms, waving arms, hiding under bedclothes and prostrate on the floor of the living room, wailing like Timmy Two-Year-Old.
Sobbing should work, I have used tears very successfully in many different situations (works very well for call centres, they have no idea what to do with you and usually cave).
But when it comes to Christmas, your loved ones are used to seeing you cry so it doesn't have the same effect.
Also, Christmas, they are busy, you know? Can you not just clean yourself up and try to get into the Christmas spirit? Or at least go to the shop for more sprouts? What do you mean you don't like sprouts? You've had them every other year and never complained. What do you mean you always complain?

...leading us neatly to...


You can insert the fleeing room, etc, from Sobbing here, as shouting works well with dramatic show-and-tell.
Yes, I do get it, you want to shout. Shouting would help so much right now. Get it all out there, right off your chest, bellow to the ceiling, the sky, the mezzanine level in the bedding area - shout, shout, shout to the many gods of your suffering and hope that, by some miracle, your loved ones will perceive your shouting as evidence of pain and actually do something to help.

Shouting and Sobbing

To be honest, at Christmas these two seem to pair up anyway without any forward planning. It can be messy though, shouting at the same time as sobbing creates volumes of spittle. If you are prone to spittle do try to use it to best advantage by being near your audience as then they won't be as distracted by wrapping sprouts and sellotaping sausages, or whatever it is they are doing that stops them listening in the first place.
Try not to do it in the home of elderly relatives though as it can be:
a. Dangerous
b. Liable to become a Christmas legend, and
c. Elderly relatives, like small children, are much more likely to join in and have a good shout and sob with you because people don't listen to them either.

Explaining to other, kinder people who then try to explain it to your people

This might actually work, though it depends on how persuasive and understanding your other, kinder people are and how much respected they are by your nearest and dearest. At the very least it cuts out on the spittle and these kinder people are not as emotionally invested so can put your point across in a clear, logical way that doesn't involve you having to dramatise.
Also, if all else fails, you could go and have Christmas with the kinder people as they might agree to leave you to yourself and push dinner under the door.

Ignoring everyone

This works best if you can do it from the comfort of your home, preferably a bedroom with TV/Internet and food arriving without the need for human contact. Pets can be there too (they also enjoy quiet places and regular food parcels) and you can sit in your pyjamas and drip gravy down your front without having to be polite to anybody.
What tends to happen instead is that you end up in the midst of the Christmas celebrations and still Ignoring Everyone. There is a point in the festivities when your closed face and shielded heart is all you have left to give. You can do no more talking, conversing, chattering, answering questions, asking questions, being interested, not saying what you think, being kind to damn fools, not noticing when other people are rude and generally being some weird version of yourself that everyone thinks is actually you (I despair!).
Or you ignore everyone except Uncle Simon because he is Better Than TV. He eats with his mouth open, quietly steals from other plates, hides food in his lap (where does it go??), drinks from his glass and the little bottle he brought with him (which he goes to the kitchen to re-fill), burps like a 10 year old boy, laughs at the wrong places, and hasn't noticed you watching him - and at some tome after 3pm will start singing. (You can insert other relative/friend for Uncle Simon, if the gathering is big enough there will always be someone worth stalking watching).


You will be castigated mercilessly for ignoring everyone. Rise above it. You did not birth, fully-formed from the carpet on Christmas Eve, you did your best to make things clear before Christmas. Your loved ones should know what you like and don't like by now, you might even have warned them this would happen.
If you are listened to at all over Christmas, even by sympathetic people, be prepared for sly scolding mixed up with the softer words. Lovely people who want only the best for you will still feel entitled to explain why you might have tried a little harder to make Christmas easier for everyone, including yourself. Do not listen. If they had listened, if anyone had listened, you would have been in your bedroom with the cat/chinchilla/dog/Barry-from-next-door-who-was-on-the-run-from-his-own-Christmas.

And the best Christmas

is the one that is best for you. Much as you love the people in your life, some things are too big a stretch. Doing Christmas for others can be difficult at best and end up with the sort of behaviour that does more harm than good. Do make it clear how you feel, do say why you feel this way if you can, do tell them it is not because you don't care - do what you can. And then step back and have the Christmas you would like, as far as it is possible.

and next year

seek out like minds or a quiet space and do whatever you like. For the real spirit of Christmas is peace and light and only you know how to bring those into your life.


 A Guide to Your Aspie

 How to talk to your Aspie

My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!