Aspergers is ridiculous




Sometimes I think Aspergers is all about realising that difference is not a negative, it is just about being an individual. We are all individuals, every one of us, aspie or not, nice or not, funny or not, fierce or not. Every person is an individual, it is just that human beings have this tendency to cluster together.

Each family has its own routines and rituals, a way of doing things which is considered right. Sometimes the family is aware they are different from other families; more often it never occurs to them, as this is the way things have always been done.

Each society is like this too, a big family with a way of doing things. A set of behaviours that makes the society feel it is a whole entity, that each person within it belongs. From more obvious behaviours such as not slapping complete strangers to more subtle ones like knowing when to give up a seat on a bus.

If society as a whole states, outright or by implication, how we should behave, then so do our own families. This is what we do so this is what you do. This is how we do it. This is how we think therefore this is how you should think because this is the way to think.

But what if you can't think that way? Not because you are being rebellious or difficult or having a bad day, just because it doesn't work like that for you?

We come to the arguments then, the family traditions and societal norms pitted against the aspie need for security and understanding.

It is Aunt Elsie's birthday and we always go to her house, along with every other member of the family, and celebrate with her. It is what we do, it is the right thing to do, it is what you will do.

Except that today is a bad day and you don't want to go to Aunt Elsie's birthday. You don't want to be in a little room with all the other members of your family. You don't want to be in a little room with anyone! You just want to stay at home and be safe.

Now you're being ridiculous. What isn't safe about good old Aunt Elsie? What isn't safe about your own family? What isn't safe about something you have done every year for your whole life? Why is it any different today than the other days? Why are you being so utterly awkward now, when you are expected to be nice and kind and visit an old lady on her birthday?

Try it a different way. Translate it into something unrelated and see if it is still ridiculous.

Every year, on one particular day, your whole family gets together to paint blue fish. They have always done it, it's a family tradition and no one ever misses. You have always done it too.

You are used to turning up with your paint and brush and getting down on the floor with everyone else, to paint blue fish. Before you arrive, someone will have set out the paper and left spaces for you all to sit in while you paint. There is even spare paint in the corner, in case you run out. You wouldn't want to miss out any of your fish!

This year, it suddenly occurs to you that the last thing you want to do is go and paint blue fish. What is the point? Everyone else is going, let them paint the fish! You want to stay at home and read about yellow toads. Yellow toads are just as vital as blue fish - more so, perhaps, because anyone can paint a blue fish but not everyone knows about yellow toads.

You have a big argument about it. Why don't you want to paint blue fish? What's wrong with blue fish? They've always been good enough for you before! Why did you decide, today of all days, that it had to be yellow toads instead? Don't you know how difficult you are, wanting to read about yellow toads? No one needs to know about those! You should be painting blue fish!

The blue fish by themselves seem pretty much irrelevant to life, don't you think? They only become important because of the significance given to them. If they hadn't been bigged up all these years, do you think the whole family would get together to paint them? Do you think it would have continued? Or do you think only those people who really liked blue fish would paint them? And then they'd really enjoy it too, because they would be doing something special.

Those blue fish are only special if you like painting them, they are only significant if they actually mean something to you and you aren't painting them just because you have been trained to see them as important. If you take away this training, this insistence on doing what others do, then yellow toads rise up to the same level of importance as blue fish.

It is all about respecting differences and understanding that a lot of what we do, or are expected to do, is driven by what other people think of as important. I am not suggesting we neglect our elderly aunts or dismiss our responsibilities too lightly. But do we really have to do what is expected of us? Is it absolutely necessary for us to behave a certain way, just because?

Aspergers is ridiculous because denying the importance placed by others leaves us open to ridicule. We become an object of derision and contempt simply because we choose not to do what we are expected to do. We are ridiculous because we have different priorities and needs from people in our social group. And it is only by looking outside of this sphere of expectation that we gain some perspective on what is really important in our lives.

In my opinion, yellow toads win out any day over blue fish. Or pink hornets win over green bluebirds, if that's what applies to you. Being true to yourself is what really matters and making sure that if you have to do something difficult, it should be worthwhile and not just because.

Amanda




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I'm not shouting, it's just the voice I am using.




I was trying not to annoy RT Teen yesterday. Trying and failing. We needed to talk and it involved RT listening and (evil mother that I am) answering questions. Yes, I wanted the ultimate exchange - a conversation that produced answers.

I started by gently introducing the topic. In other words, I tried to sneak up on RT in the hopes that we would have sorted it all out before he noticed I was asking him questions. Except that he noticed before I'd finished my first sentence and interrupted me.

'Let me finish-' I said, still not able to finish as he interrupted me again to say,

'I was letting you finish!'

'But I didn't get to say anything!' I replied, immediately sidetracked from the Golden 5 Minute Chat.

'Yes, you did!' he accused and then repeated what I had said.

By this time his voice was raised and he sounded exasperated. I managed to stop him but then spoiled it all by asking him to calm down.

'I am calm!' he bellowed.

'You don't sound calm!' I said, waving my arms about by now. 'You're shouting at me!'

'I am not shouting!' he shouted. 'I'm just talking this way!'

'Your tone of voice is shouty!' I cried, wishing I hadn't even started. 'And you sound really angry with me.'

'I'm not shouting!' he said, shoutily. 'This is just the voice I'm using, it doesn't mean I'm angry with you!' he finished, angrily.

At a loss, I said, 'But if you sound angry and you're talking to me then I'm bound to think you're angry with me!'

He looked at me like he was arguing quantum mechanics with a walnut and made that noise beloved of many teenagers, aspie or not, the cross between a snarl and yogic breathing.

'Just tell me what you wanted to know!' he growled, carefully keeping his voice low so that I wouldn't accuse him of shouting again.

Eventually, after much not-shouting, not-angry, not-in-any-way-loud conversation, I came away with my answers and some minor revelations.

In future, I won't be so quick to assume I've got on people's nerves when they behave angrily towards me. I'll just use RT Teen's example and pretend that when I am being ranted at, it has nothing to do with me.

Perhaps, for the next angry person I encounter, I can pat them on the arm and say,

'It's okay, I know you don't mean to sound as if I've annoyed you. It's just the voice that you're using.'

Then everything will be fine, right?

And I am now free to shout at anyone I like, then announce this is the voice I am using. Just because I am shouting, it doesn't mean I am angry with you! So stop taking it personally!! And no! I didn't interrupt you!

Yes, I'm sure this new approach will work wonders. It will also cut down on lots of unnecessary conversations. In fact, I can really see the attraction.

I must go now and practice my stage voice - and the wounded look I will need when people accuse me of shouting at them. And perhaps the teenage yogic snarl I will use if it all goes wrong.

Oh right, yes, I already have that one.

Amanda




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Life is quicker than the heart can tell




I've been thinking that pressure and troubles cause a kind of inertia, a feeling that I need to hide away until they pass. I have wanted to hide away but now, after another difficult day, I think that's all it was - a want. In reality, the situations I've had to experience over the last weeks and months have caused not inertia, not this immovable and unchanging state, but more of a blurred, overactive way of living which moves so fast that it pretends to not move at all.

The heart is tricked like the eye into thinking this blurred illusion is not properly seen, that it is a static fiction which doesn't move and cannot be altered until I am ready to stand up and face it. Instead what both the heart and the eye are looking at is a cruel trick of life where there is so very much going on at once, the senses are unable to take it in.

Time after time, issue after issue, problem after problem and all superseded by an overarching unwillingness for life to go smoothly, pushing me to the point of caving in and just saying Enough.

No matter whether I am hiding or whether life is a perpetually unmanageable blur of feeling, when a limit is reached then it is either turn away or break. I blame, I blame myself, I look for solutions within and then, confused, start casting about for them in the outside world.

I am both stopped in place by events and catapulted onwards by feelings. As if life wasn't complex at the best of times, when it becomes more so and this complexity is so full and ripe it is barely able to stay on the tree, then what can I do? How can I solve a multitude of problems when only one seems too big and ready for fruition?

The answer is in where I began: that blur of motion, so quick as to be unseen, is not the part I am meant to fix. It is unfixable in its present state. After all, how can any person fix something that is moving too quickly for the eye to process? You cannot find a solution for a problem which is moving too fast to hold onto.

What must be solved is my reaction to it, my need to feel that if I can do this then that will be resolved. I must let go of my feelings of control - they are illusory at best and in this climate of change and headlong, imminent undoing, any sense of control is foolhardy.

I must accept that I am in a place of flux, that I am also in flux, that the change which moves everything else so quickly cannot pass by without also moving me. I must realise, finally, that the reason I cannot fix anything is because it is not there to be fixed, it is just there because life is like that sometimes.

There is no hiding, there is no safe place in the physical world. I can only hold myself close and wait for the heady sense of motion to settle, and in settling for it to be revealed what it was that was spinning so fast it could not be seen.

It is only once this motion is over that I will be able to see clearly and know what I am dealing with. Until then, any attempt to change or resolve will end in partial victory at best and defected failure most of the time.

I need the patience to trust myself and to give up control. If I wait, it will slow, solidify, the colours will separate as the movement scales back. That will be the moment when it is time for me to stand and go forward, to have a better look. Then, and not before, is when I can see what must be done.

Until then I will live in the blur and know that waiting is a skill in itself. When we give up control and wait for understanding, we are learning to trust ourselves in the knowledge that not everything can be understood at the time we choose. Everything has a time and we are no exception.

Amanda




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