EASTER SEALS MIDWEST

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Back at it

This weekend I'm in Lancaster, California to work the annual SKUSA Streets of Lancaster street race. This will be my first karting event since the race in New Castle, Indiana back in July when I had to jump as high as I could to avoid being hit by an errant kart. I injured my left leg (micro fractures of my femur and tibia) and with that said I do have a bit of timidness heading into this event. And to be honest who wouldn't? Any time an event of that magnitude happens its going to create so files in the brain that says, "do you really want to be doing this?" but the worst thing that I can do is allow that to influence my judgment and ability and, in a way, this is a lesson to be learned about overcoming challenges on the autism spectrum. 

This timidness I have now is akin to a span of time that happened when I was racing karts in the middle 90's. In my rookie season I was exceptional and had few incidents on track. I had a wheel bump here and a spin there but I never had solid contact with anyone or anything. Then, when our home track of the SLKA was flooded, we raced at the old Gateway road course. This track was nothing short of a speed ring with just one corner requiring a lift of the throttle. Even at the age of 13 I knew the draft was important and one unnecessary lift of the throttle and the pack would leave and there'd be no hope to be competitive. This was different from our bullring road course that we were accustomed to. 

It was the first heat and I drew a back of the field starting spot. I had great speed though so I wasn't concerned so long as I didn't lose the draft (for my non-racing readers, which is most of you, the draft is he term used to describe the hole punched through the air by a vehicle in front making the vehicle behind go faster because it isn't having to go through the same amount of air as the vehicles in front. The lead vehicle also gets a boost as a vehicle behind reduces drag) so the first lap was vital and a good start paramount. 

There it was! The green flag and through the two right hand corners that made turns one and the field was very much aligned as if the race hadn't started. It was shaping up to be a nip tuck race and we weren't even half a lap in on this 10 lap heat race. Understanding the air as I did I was able to pick off several spots on the back straight and as we entered the final corner a kart in the top three got out of shape. He sort of starting spinning to the left, then the right, then back to the left and while keeping my eye on this I didn't lift because losing the draft would be catastrophic. 

This final corner was somewhat off camber which means the track slopes away from the way the turn goes, and finally at the center point of the corner this kart that had been trying to spin for several seconds spun. It looked as if he'd slide out of the way but then it snapped back the other way. I was nearing but I stayed in the throttle and I was sure I'd have him cleared but I don't know if I slid into him or if he stayed in the throttle and crossed my path because I didn't see the contact but contact there was. 

It was brutal; violent as my kart was snapped around and I was almost ejected from the kart. The contact was made right at the center of the kart on the lefthand side and when I came to a stop I was partially in my seat. "That wasn't so bad" I thought aloud. That was truth until I tried to breathe and there was no breath. The wind had been knocked out and then I felt pain everywhere. The medics were conveniently parked in that corner and in the end I had a trip to the hospital to spend the rest of the day. 

After that crash I became timid behind the wheel. Where there was a gap for a pass I'd hesitate. When I came under attack from a kart behind I'd cede the position without any battle for the spot. I was afraid and when a racer is afraid they begin to get in more and more incidents because of the hesitation factor and the fact that drivers around the afraid driver aren't expecting such erratic hesitations. This hesitation would lead to a worse incident two years later. 

When I wasn't in a pack I still had great speed, but get other vehicles around me and I'd be overly conservative fearing another crash. I kept saying it was luck that I was crashing so often but it was because I was too passive in my driving. This passiveness would prove to be awful on a start when I was starting 6th. 

The green flag flew and the field stormed towards turn one. I had a run on the kart in fro t so I popped out of line to make a pass only to realize that this would put me in the position of being three wide entering a corner. I wanted no part of that so I lifted abruptly. The driver I tried to pass also feared three wide so he lifted and at the rate of speed we both lifted the row of karts behind us had nowhere to go except to try and make a pass so instead of a manageable Bree wide we were down in the awful predicament of being four wide! I was second from the right and the kart that was to my right made contact with me on entry and we locked wheels and came to a stop. This was a lot better than my crash at Gateway, or so I thought. 

There was a straggler on the start and he was probably five or seconds behind the entire field when the race started. This driver ignored the yellow flags that were flying and he center punched the rear of my kart. I was flung up and my body hyperextended and my head actually hit the rear bumper and I eventually came to rest partially in the kart. I had the wherewithal to reposition myself in the seat and I drove my kart off the track and all was well until I stated to breathe and again the familiar pains I had feared ever since my crash at Gateway two years prior were present. Another trip to the hospital ensued where I had multiple rib injuries and a cracked sternum. 

It was a long offseason but I finally understood my problem. If I continued to race scared this would keep happening. That's what I can't have happen this weekend. I can't allow fear to dominate my actions and this is where the tie in to living life with Asperger's, or at least the part of life in socializing comes in. 

It's been in my social mistakes that fear manifests itself. And rightfully so, right? If something goes amiss or awry you'll fear a repeat but by overly fearing something you can be just as liable to make a mistake as being completely fearless. There certainly should be a middle ground as it's that little bit of fear that is going to prevent a person, such as when I raced, from putting myself in a position that is a guaranteed crash. Yet, at the same time, one has to be able to move on from mistakes and not fear it. One must be able to heal up and try again. I'm talking about two different things here, of course, racing and socializing on the autism spectrum but the concept is the same. The physical pains of those crashes is minuscule compared to the internal pain I've had at some of my social miscues and those miscues dictated many future errors on my part. I don't know where the balance lies but this weekend I'm going to try and find it on the physical side and will try and enjoy every second of manning the flags at the finish line and will let the flags fly with the same gusto I have at every event I've ever worked. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Lies in the Unseen


Breathe in… No, really, breathe. This isn’t a new exercise to relax or a way to meditate but has a point. You just breathed air, right? Can you see the air you just breathed? Outside of the process of your body getting oxygen and now you having to consciously make the effort to breathe for the next few minutes or so (sorry for that) but truly you have no visible evidence that anything happened (unless you read this above the Arctic circle or should happen to find this in winter) and yet it did. So too what goes on in the unseen side of the autism spectrum.

A person that knows me better than most saw me two days ago and as mentioned in a post two days ago I haven’t been doing but they saw me and didn’t get the person they were accustomed to seeing. I can’t fake a smile and this person tried to cheer me up. I was rather lethargic in the whole social exchange and if I hadn’t explained what went on later they probably would’ve thought I was disinterested in any interaction with them and that the last thing in the world I wanted was any interaction. That was the seen, but much like the air you can’t see there’s a side behind the veil that goes on that most will never understand.

Did I want to smile? More than anything. Did I want to have an intelligent conversation with some witty banter? You bet! But when things are troubling me, or when my stress threshold reaches a point I can’t tolerate my ability to show the world who I really am and what I think decreases and goes into that real of being invisible. It’s still there! My goodness is it ever as I had the urge to smile, and had the urge to talk, but processing times increase in this state and in the end nothing is said and the only thing seen from the other side is a person with a blank expression.

As confusing as it is for the person talking to me it’s pure torture to experience it. In this concept I’ve used air has it pretty good because it’s got one job and it gets it done. To be visible and to be unable to respond despite wanting more than anything to do so is torture.

That torture is now a positive because it inspired this post and this concept of only being able to see half of a picture (reference to the link I used on Facebook for this post should you have found my blog by another method) or having air get the job done yet remaining unseen is a way to envision the part of the autism spectrum you can’t see. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that there’s just a gapless void. In what you can’t see lies the soul and heart, the person that, at least in my case, wants to say, “help” or, “here’s why I can’t communicate…” but in the end nothing is said. Emotions lie within this void and sometimes they do traverse into the seeable realm, but if I’m blank, if I’m silent, more than likely as confusing as it is for you it’s worse for me because I want to talk, I want to smile, but I’ll just have to hope that I will be able to remember this blog post and send it to them because unless you live this, unless you’ve experienced having the best jokes, the best comebacks, the best banter, the best points, the best compliments, and the best stuff to use in a conversation and have been fully unable and chained from being able to respond I doubt the person that’s only seeing half the picture is going to have half a notion of what is going on.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Where I've Been: Reopening the Faucet


Where has my blog been? Or rather, where has new content been? I’ve gone through the longest bout of being unable to write since I first discovered writing as an outlet. There were several triggers to this, one being the worst experience I’ve ever had to endure in my life (which I won’t be talking about) which with all that combined it closed the faucet and my ability to express anything, written or aloud, was closed off.

It’s been horrible, downright dreadful to be honest as I’ve been exceptionally trapped with no outlet and my usual method in writing was turned off. I didn’t realize just how important the faucet of writing has been for me. It’s what has kept the balance and has allowed emotions to be processed and then, over time, purged. This jam up I’ve had has made all areas of my life suffer and that’s the importance of the outlet.

Each person on the autism spectrum may find his or her own method, or faucet so to speak, on being able to let things flow out. Some will find it easier than others and I sort of lucked into the medium of written words. Whatever that faucet is, though, never until now have I realized how important it is that the faucet remains open.

I don’t have many ways to handle things and if I am unable to I shut down. There isn’t a middle ground on this, as with most things regarding the autism spectrum, and this goes with the faucet concept as well; it’s either all on or all off and when it’s off the ability to do simple things becomes hindered.

During this near month of inability to communicate things I became apathetic in many aspects of my life and I withdrew from many other things than just being able to write. When a major episode happens and the faucet gets closed think of it as a meteor hitting far out into the ocean that creates major waves that will be felt thousands of miles away.

I should explain this more, I should come up with more words to describe the importance of finding that outlet, and ways to cultivate it, but just like that fateful night in 2005 when I discovered to write the words aren’t flowing like I’m accustomed to. It’ll take time to get back to where I was, but today is a start and that’s the key. Things don’t come easy, things require work, and sometimes once you’ve found something you’ll lose it but one most forge onward and learn how to do it again no matter how difficult it may be.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Stuck in a Moment


                Ever been stuck in a moment? I’m dealing with that right now as this being stuck in a moment issue often goes with emotions and that’s what I’m dealing with. The issue at hand, which should’ve been a good one, was the moment I finished my travel book last week.

                Yes, it should be a good moment, but when I wrote the final paragraph, which is tremendously beautiful (sorry, I’m not sharing it… I can’t ruin the ending) I might add, I broke down in tears. I did as it was the culmination of 18 months of work and more inner perspective than I had ever done. Perhaps it’s only natural to have a feeling of emptiness after devoting so much time, resources, and emotion to a project. However, with the completion came a sense that it was all over and that none of the events or work ever happened.

                I know this sounds odd, but a problem I deal with is the problem with now. Well, there isn’t a problem with now but the problem is when things aren’t in the current. If something is now or ongoing then it exists, but when it passes it’s as if it doesn’t exist which makes the emotions that I’m dealing with all the more confusing because I’m stuck in that moment and yet it’s as if the emotions preceding the event didn’t happen. Confused? That’s very much the contradictory emotional realm Asperger’s creates which has made writing highly difficult as of late because there’s such a variance of emotions that is difficult to make sense of.

Friday, August 19, 2016

One Seed

I ran this post last year when I was in Nebraska and became inspired to write this. Earlier this week I was at a school to present and I was early and the staff took me to the classroom I'd be presenting at. This was somewhat uncomfortable because I hadn't been in the presence of a teacher teaching since I was in school. I felt as if I were intruding, but watching this teacher made me think of the following post.

Truly, I may have been inspired last year to write this but watching this teacher teach was a true gift. I hear stories all the time, some good, a lot of bad, but seeing a teacher give everything and more and work the room and engage the kids inspired me as a presenter. The thing, however, is I felt sad because this teacher, I'm sure, is going to inspire his students and is going to plant seeds that may take a long time to fully grow, but I know a difference is going to be made and being a teacher has to be one of the more selfless professions to take up because a person can be the best, can create new thoughts and inspire careers and may never see the harvest to be. This post is once again dedicated to every teacher that has changed a life, made a student think, and has gone above and beyond knowing full well that they'll never see the end result...

 
 So yesterday I was golfing at the Gordon Country Club and I was looking out to the west on the 7th tee on a blustery day watching the high, groomed grass dancing in the wind. I looked to the north and the land just wasn't as tended to and was just unkempt land. What a difference a little (or a lot) of work made and that got me thinking.


 I've talked so much about the potential a person on the autism spectrum can have. However, it probably isn't just going to happen and it needs to work very much like the land out here. If it weren't for the decades, maybe even a century's worth of work of the land out here in Western Nebraska there's a good chance, well, a 100% chance that the land would not be hospitable for much of anything. It's taken irrigation, proper ranching, and a constant eye to make sure the land and livestock are right.


 So why am I going on a talk about ranching and land? Potential. Someone, at some point in time, saw potential out here and now this community has a sustainable agriculture economy and if the agriculture goes away this town very well may go away. How does this relate to anything? It all goes back to potential.


 The school year is starting and once more teachers are going to have students with Aspergers. Some teachers have a difficult time handling these students thinking that they are obstinate or defiant while others will just let them be them without much guidance. And then there are those that are going to see the potential.


 It's fitting I'm writing this blog post in the midst of an agriculture community because I've been ending my presentation for years saying, "we live in a society where everyone wants everything to be perfect right now. When it comes to autism we can't look at it that way and rather we need to look at it like planting seeds; you've got to give it time to grow." That being so teachers have a great chance to plant the seeds to instill that potential that could be hidden underneath.


 I'm sure I'll play many more rounds of golf and I'm going to drive by many fields and there will be multiple things I see. Not being a farmer or rancher I won't really know what I'm seeing because some fields will be filled with cattle and grasslands perfect for food, then others will be crops that I can't name, and then there will be some fields that are seemingly empty. What's there? What's going on? From my vantage point it's empty, worthless land, but to the right farmer or rancher they may see the hidden potential in the land. That's the difference between knowing and not knowing and I can only hope that in this upcoming school year more and more teachers master the art of seeing potential because what may seem like an empty field may someday turn into the most beautiful of creations that all started with the planting of just one seed.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Getting Back

After more travel delays than I'd like to remember I made it home after almost 48 hours of travels. Iceland provided a backdrop unlike any other and the final five chapters of The Aspie Traveler are without a doubt the best writing I've ever had. There is a bad thing to writing such deep stuff and that is the ebb and flows of being a writer.

Writing isn't something that can be forced; it comes and goes and after a "writing explosion" there usually comes a time where writing becomes difficult and now is one of those difficult times. I'll try and come up with something super for tomorrow, but I'm not promising anything as I'm still in awe of completing a book and I can't wait until you can read it!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Facebook Push

I'm got it in my head that I'm now within reach of 10,000 Facebook page likes. I'm near 8,500 so if you are blog reader but haven't followed me on facebook yet I'll invite you to at https://www.facebook.com/AutismAmbassador/