Going Full Aspie

I've failed miserably at being normal this week. It's as if the controls I've had in place broke just a little last week, then this week, as soon as I tried to use them, they fell apart in my hands. With no time to make more and no chance to calm down, I started jogging along and haven't stopped since.

Super-busy with my tuition, I've dashed about meeting new students and almost-new ones. Usually I come across as eccentric but okay: you know, eccentric in a good way (I hope) but still able to show children how to do their school work. Then this week the eccentric side took over and I've been running to keep ahead of it without realising it was already in front and waiting round the corner.

The control to stop me over-talking has gone - I think I heard a clunk as it hit the floor and rolled away. Wow, conversation anybody? No, me neither, you can just listen to me have enough conversation for both of us!

Desperately trying to make the best of over-talking, I filtered quickly so that the torrent of words was at least relevant. So the Maths lesson became Fast Maths because, with over-talking, you rarely have anything like slow.

Fast English too and Fast Parent-Speak after the lessons. What a mess!

Then as if that wasn't bad enough, I keep going the wrong way, getting lost, forgetting instructions, times, appointments, you name it. And how does that look?

No, running a business as an aspie is always a balancing game, always a gamble. Most often the gamble is seeing if you can keep it going, withstand the pressure and succeed in what you need to do. But this week the gamble has been going trying to do all of the above while in Full Aspie.

Door steps have waited to trip me so I fall into people's homes, my hair has been exciting, my file, books and papers have been like things possessed, escaping as soon as I stop looking at them. And don't even mention loose rugs.

That little detail in your ceiling is now my secret nemesis and I must not look at it through the whole lesson. Your child's drawing of an antelope is all I can look at. The child's father's teeth are all I can look at. My hand, my own hand in the middle of a lesson, like wow, look at my hand.

Anything and everything that can happen to distract me from behaving in a real-life, sensible way has happened.

The bonus is that I have a feeling my students have got through more work this week. Perhaps they've been somewhat rushed and with explanations decorated grandly by flailing hands, funny faces and hastily drawn diagrams. But they have worked, and looked exhausted, by the time we were finished

It still happened, you see. Full Aspie and the business carried on together; new students were inducted into the Hall of the Rainbow Spectrum and unsuspecting parents endured my Warner Brothers approach to social interaction.

Some of it was fun - young children react very well to Warner Brothers anything. And, oddly, my older students looked pleasantly surprised then amused, as if what they expected had not happened and instead they got an inappropriate version of Mary Poppins.

Now, this end of the week, I am exhausted but feeling calm again. Perhaps we all need to go Full Aspie sometimes, just to stay mostly sane. Or, more likely, working 6 days a week doesn't leave me enough time of my own to be myself so it leached out into the work time.

Whatever caused it, I made it through. I can now dance on a loose rug without falling, pick everything up I just dropped in record time, charm angry children (yes, of course I could do that already), ask strangers for directions (thanks to over-talking - yay!), turn round in very tight places and scream loudly while driving up unexpected alleyways that weren't meant for cars.

Really, I should have filmed it all and kept it for when life is dull. Maybe I should even throw off the shackles and go Full Aspie every week?

No, though, no, I shouldn't. There should be only so much edge of the seat excitement because if I carried on like this I would become a one-woman variety act and I do need to make a living.

That said, I've decided not to fix the whole of my broken control unit. I thought it might be better to leave some of it in pieces and have a little extra freedom in my working world. Then, when I need to be myself, I can let it happen without breaking anything and without having to run on the spot when I'm meant to be going somewhere.

And I can continue to charm angry children and their antelopes.


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Don't be so eager to please

Apparently girly aspies are far too eager to please. From nursery through to marriage, we're the ones who hide our difficulties behind a veil of smiles and trying-too-hards. We're the girls who slot in where everyone else would like us to be and this eagerness to make ourselves good and true and kind and perfect is what is supposed to mask our Aspergers.

Well, let's ignore for a moment the absolutely abhorrent message buried in a shallow grave in this whole scenario - that to be a girl is to be a creature made to please everyone else, no matter who this mass of everyone else might be - and move onto the masking.

So, you have Aspergers and you are a small child of 4. As a girl aspie you have a super-power: you have the ability to run into your school years without anyone knowing you are on the spectrum. From the age when children still have trouble holding a pencil or tying their shoelaces, us girls are able to not only mask our needs well enough to fool a whole world, we are also doing it on purpose.

Yes, as a girl aspie we are meant to be so eager to please that we can mask our true nature under a bouquet of smiles and curtsies. Any 4 year old can do that!

Do you feel some sarcasm leaking out? Do you feel some anger too? Hold onto it, you might need it later.

Fast-forward from this 4 year old maelstrom of mood-management to the little girl who has just turned 10 and understands the world a lot more. She can look at Susy and Chloe and know they know things she'll never know. And then she'll get distracted by the repetition of 'know' and go to tell Chloe and Susy in great detail why this is fascinating and remember too late about not doing that kind of thing.

Our 10 year old is a lot more aware of pleasing people. She now watches for the teacher's face changing, or her classmates noticing her doing something out of the ordinary. She watches all the time. And she watches quietly, even when she's being loud.

You might see her running about, shouting, playing, being part of a group but a person who looks more closely will see how this little girl's eyes travel from side to side as she runs: she is checking that all is well, that she does the right thing. And if she gets carried away and does the wrong thing, she will try to realise in time and cover it up before anyone has noticed.

By this age, life is more complicated because those other 10 years olds are also more aware and they sussed in nursery that our 10 year old was different. Good different or bad different? Her true friends don't care that she's different but with other people there is a tangible ping to her, as if at any moment she might do something incredible and terrifying.

You go forward, she goes forward and we find ourselves looking at the 16 year old girl. She is now well-versed in fitting in. How good she is! How practiced at walking into a room and not doing anything that might single her out as apart from the group. And yet her every step is tempered by the knowledge of many other steps where it didn't go as planned and she was suddenly the centre of attention.

This 16 year old might be outgoing but she's more likely to be quiet. Yes, I'm generalising. But again, just like the girl running in the playground, outgoing or quiet your aspie girl grows up watching the world to see what it might do and what she should do in return.

She chooses her words carefully, when she remembers, and has a tendency to sound stilted and formal. Or she forgets to choose them and sounds like herself and doesn't realise this is okay.

She is charming, odd, good at unusual things, bad at what everyone can do or just very bad at doing anything with an audience. She can tell you facts you never even knew there was a question for and completely forget to bring her lunch to school. She looks at you to see what you are going to say, sometimes forgetting to listen to you say it. She is adept at avoiding the angry teachers and at making friends with the stern, scary ones everyone else hates.

(For what it's worth, stern, scary teachers actually appreciate children who know fab facts and can tell when students are trying to be ordinary).

In essence, she is herself, right there on the spectrum with all kinds of amazingness which goes unnoticed by most and can be filed under quirky. Yes, she is quirky, but you know what?

That 16 year old is still in nursery. She has spent all these school years learning about other people and the way the world works as well as learning about her school work. Or at least she tried. Want to know why she couldn't do her lessons? Want to know why she went through a phase of meltdowns so big she had to be sent home? Do you? Well, maybe you should have found out at the time instead of sending her home or having a meeting without her parents present.

She went home to her sanctuary and all was like the blessed fall of cool water after a long, summer's night. She tilted her face on the way through the door and saw the light shine just so on the front windows of her house and she was safe again. She left behind all the pressures and went home to where she can breathe out and go to her room.

And this girl grew and knew what she should do and say and still wanted to go home. She still wanted to have meltdowns too, and sometimes she would. Not always a people pleaser, but always watching, waiting, seeing what they do and what they want so she won't be in danger today.

The assumption is that girls are expected to be eager to please, that it is in their make-up or their upbringing to please others. But perhaps it's just the way they react to danger?

Girls are often expected to be quiet more than boys and if you have an aspie girl who is working her frilly socks off to be the same as other girls, she'll learn that people want her to be compliant. Also, girls figure out that compliance can mean being left to get on with your life, which is peaceful.

Let me smile at you and nod and agree to whatever it was you wanted just so you turn around, right now, and leave without asking me for anything more. I might not do the thing you wanted, I might forget, or say I forget; I might frustrate you and anger you and make it worse for myself, but in the end you will accept I was trying and leave me alone more often. People who try to please are left alone and then they have a pocket of time to be themselves so I'll try to please and when you are not looking, drift off into that place where you cannot ever go and wouldn't be allowed if you were able.

Don't look at me that way I hate, don't raise your voice, don't disapprove of me because disapproving feels like danger and I need to be safe. Don't expect me to be like the others, yet I can't ask you this last thing. I try to seem like the others, just so you won't look at me, and shout at me and disapprove of me, so I have to accept that you want me to be like them and do my best to seem that way.

It is logical and, despite the pictures of butterflies and aliens, and alien-butterflies and my endless knowledge of the two - despite this I am logical and I know if I smile and say yes, then life is quieter and I can carry on being safe.

Later, when I'm not 4 or 10 or 16, it might occur to me this wasn't the best plan, that perhaps it wasn't as logical as I thought to fit in just so. By then, maybe I'll have the courage to be myself all the way through from the middle to the outside? Will I still be eager to please?

My dear world, of course I will, so long as it suits me.


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Forgive me if I seem to stare...

Forgive me if I seem to stare but what you don't understand is that Other People, this tribe so different from how I feel, are endlessly fascinating to me. You may think you are ordinary, even a little dull, but to me you are better than an afternoon at the museum.

Other People are like education but with ice cream, learning the fun stuff like what they do when they argue (in public! joy!), or how they raise their kids or what they think is a good idea for tea. I like to see the way their face changes when something annoys or amuses them, I like to watch them as they think to themselves and don't know anyone sees.

Yes, it is creepy, I am creepy, but then so is the whole world. At least I am honest when I say I watch you and, take this as a compliment, I learn how you behave so I can behave also.

This is a good thing. To learn to pass along the street and not worry the people going by, to behave as those around me behave so that, in life, I can be friends with them and move through the world with the minimum of friction and the maximum chance of having fun.

It is good to watch, and yet I know it worries people. They feel uncomfortable, predated almost. I remind some part of them of dark places and cold nights with eyes unseen waiting for dinner. I remind myself of that too, at times.

Take it in good part, Other People. I watch you because I am fascinated. You are so amazing! I want to see what makes you tick. I want to see what you do when you are being yourself. I don't want you to see me though.

Let me not rattle your nerves with my unwavering stare. Instead, pass by as if I wasn't there and go on your way, unaware of me moving to let you by or turning a little as you brush on and into Canned Goods.

I leave with a lift in my step and a little more knowledge and you leave in innocence and only here for the shopping. This is as it should be.

And if we should ever meet in what is laughably known as real life, I will pretend not to stare and we might be friends. Don't worry, I'm quite safe and so are you.

Now, do that thing again when you laugh. Yes, that one, right there.


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