I often think of Danny Kaye when I'm having one of those days - and I'm often having one of those days. You know, how he would sing, piling one idea on top of another on top of another until, in a paroxysm of chaotic feeling, he'd somehow bring it all together at the end in a last, gasping effort. Does this sound at all familiar?
I feel like the piles and piles of ideas are always there in the aspie world: you get used to one idea only to be confronted with another. And the first idea has to match up with the second one and together they make something new, which I guess makes number three. Then they have to be kept handy while you consider idea number four, which goes with idea number seven, leaving you wondering what happened to five and six.
Somewhere along the line, on days like this, you just know that you'll be expected to hop forward to eleven, realising as soon as you manage the jump that everyone else already moved forward to fifteen. By the end of all this hopping and jumping, you're left with the feeling that however hard you try you will never find all the numbers or know how to put them together in the right order.
Sorting things in the right order, mainly ideas but also the events of the day, the week, the hour, is a major problem for many aspies. You tend to think that things are as they are, that there is a way to go about your life, be it in large or small steps, which leads you naturally from one point to another. It's being successful at this that seems to be really tricky.
A good example would be when my step-sister asked me to go out with her and her friends. I hadn't been out for ages and never enjoyed it when I did go. I knew if you went out that you got your hair done, put on the make up, wore a nice outfit and, most important of all, enjoyed yourself, being with other people.
I duly went and had my hair done - a perm, glob help me. I didn't know you had to give them time to rest. (Why do they need to rest? Are they tired?) Apparently, without this resting, it doesn't look right in the end. Mine certainly didn't, I left the hairdresser looking like a middle-aged aunty.
Then I did the dreaded make up, which never really goes as intended. I could never work out why I had to cover up my peaches and cream complexion (as it was then) with make up that made me look like I had a tummy bug.
After that, the outfit. I had very fixed ideas about what that should look like, most of which turned out to be wrong.
The whole day, I was a buzz of activity, building and building to the point when I left the house, feeling sick and wishing there was another way to have a good time that didn't involve going out with other people and pretending to enjoy myself (this was before I discovered my beloved internet).
I remember meeting my step-sister at the door of the club and her face did what it always did when I dressed up. I aspired each time to avoid that look crossing her face and never yet managed it. Now, I confess, I dress to make the look happen as I appreciate the funny side of her sensibilities suffering. In those days, I took her to be the guru of all that was good in the normal world, and wanted to get it right, just once.
My hair was wrong, my clothes were wrong and I'd only done half the make up because I didn't want to look ill. The music was loud, everyone wanted to get drunk and it was dark and claustrophobic. I hated every minute and pretended, the whole time, that it was great.
I'm thinking, on this ill-fated night out, that I was probably operating on numbers one to three, then patching my way up to seven, stopping at nine for a quick rest and finding myself in the middle of a group of people who had started the night at fifteen and were cruising comfortably at twenty by the time I left the house.
It didn't matter how much I flurried and flustered, or whether I followed rules written or unwritten. I got it wrong in the end and knew I had, being left with the feeling that I was adrift in a sea of confusion.
How frustrating this is! I don't want to be the same as everyone else and never did want to be but sometimes, just occasionally, it would be nice to do what other people do without looking like I'm a spy from Planet Herfel-Pferfel. I would like, if it is my choice, to fit in, unnoticed. More than that, I would like to know what everyone else knows, even if it's only for a few hours.
I guess I'm describing a Cinderella effect here? The wish to leave the house and be what I dream of, without any effort and then go home and be myself again. Unlike Cinderella, this last bit is very important to me. I have no interest in living life at the castle, a permanent fixture in this world of normality, where I'll always wear the right clothes but then have the responsibilities other people have.
A temporary knowing of the numbers is what I would like. A fleeting glimpse of what others know without being told, just so that I can see life from the other side occasionally, without dashing about, trying to work things out and only getting some of the way before mishaps set in.
Somewhere, somehow, the numbers and the right order aren't as important as we feel they are at the time. We need to remember that aspies don't work well when being pushed onto a straight path, from one to ten and on from there. It's in our nature to hop from one to another and work out what we might have missed as we go along.
Sometimes, the best solutions come when we can cope with being ricocheted from one point to another. By knowing how to deal with constant, disordered motion, we also learn how to work in our own way and resolve problems without needing a handbook.
This is the real secret to aspie frustration: forget trying to do things the right way. Someone else made up the rules for this kind of world and just because they thought it was a good idea to go through the numbers in the right order, doesn't mean everyone has to do the same.
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