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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where's My Blog

It's been a while since I posted anything and you might be wondering as to why that is. The reason why is that my video series is going so great that I don't want to do anything to distract away from that. That means that, each time I write a blog I share it on Facebook and if I do that the blog post will be the top post and this could make the video series not as shareable as it has been. That being so I'm going to wait until after the series is over to resume normal blog operations. Also, in this time, I'm working on season two of my series so this is time well spent.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015

One Seed


Obviously I suck at vacation as I promised myself NO WRITING until August 17th but when I've got material, conviction in what I'm writing, and the time, well, how can I pass up the opportunity to share?

 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.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Memories on 20

So I'm the worlds worst vacation taker it would seem...

Yesterday I made the drive to Gordon, NE and left my place in Saint Louis around 4:15AM. It was a rather bizarre feeling. Less than 24 hours before I had left my friend's house for the airport in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts.

There's something special, for me, about leaving when it is dark; it's as of I'm on an adventure that few people know about. The usual busy roads of Saint Louis were empty and as I got on I-70 west of town the only sign of life were the rest areas filled with semi-trucks.

The sun was up when I got to Columbia but the cloud cover was dense. Still though traffic was light and I was enjoying this feeling of freedom on the open road.

The miles went by and I crossed into Iowa then made it entered Nebraska at Omaha. This was the first time I felt something wrong. Wrong? This wasn't the first time in my life I was headed to Gordon because my grandma lived here and for many summers this was my family's vacation destination, but we always came in through Blair, NE, but now is was on roads to the south of what I was used to. Used to? It had been over 15 years since I came out here but it felt wrong because it wasn't what I had done first.

Lost within the beauty of corn as far as the eye could see in every direction was this frustration that I was doing my trip wrong. It wasn't until I got to O'Neill that it felt right. I merged onto US 20 and a gigantic burden had been lifted from my shoulders.

The scenery was much greener than I had ever seen it. It's been a rainy summer and the Sand Hills actually were many vibrant shades of green. Down the road I made it to Valentine and I looked desperately for the place my family attempted to eat at in 1991, only to sit for an hour and instead of getting hamburgers the only thing served was water (I don't believe they even got the sodas served) so we left before the food was served. That was the first time in my life that had happened but as I drove through, the building as I remembered it was not there.

The hills continued to roll and I did notice that the train tracks which had run parallel to US 20 were gone; not decaying or wasting away but gone with little trace they had been.  This as well saddened me as it was an obvious sign that time moves on, but as I got to the small village of Cody (population 154) the town was exactly how I remembered it with the run down rodeo arena on the east side of town with a school bus acting as the PA booth. Then, when I got to Merriman, the emblem of three heads of wheat were still painted on the grain elevator. To most this would be a non-point, or even something noteworthy, but to me it put a smile on my face and all seemed right with the world.

I now had just 30 miles left and the hills were hillier than I remembered them. Maybe it's because I had never driven into town from this direction, but as I was about six miles out there was a bigger hill than the rest and I knew this was Six Mile Hill and as I passed over the crest I could see it! Gordon was ahead and the grain elevators were the same as was the radio tower south of town. It may have been near a couple decades but as I passed the airport it all seemed as if my childhood was intact. The bowling alley, Main Street, it all seemed the same. The Theater is boarded up, but it's still there, other buildings and businesses have come and gone, and the cars may be newer than the last time I was here, but time hasn't changed this place too much. It's as I remember it and that was the grandest of all memories I had on my drive to Gordon.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Vacation

I lead a most dynamic life; I really do. I've gotten used to the travel, the miles, the airports, the presentations, the race tracks and all the while there is no rest for the brain of a writer; even more so when one is writing about their life. In all hours, including my dreams, Asperger's is in the forefront of my thought. As I walk through my day I'm analyzing, "would this make for a decent blog?" and I'm piecing together the words I want to use to describe whatever it is that I'm trying to get you, the reader, to understand. 

So yes, my life is dynamic and fluid and it's become commonplace to flag a race on the west coast, fly home, present at the police academy, present somewhere out of Saint Louis, then drive to Indy and ride with the USAC crew to another race the following weekend all the while analyzing and thinking. It is taxing and the toll that dedication to what I do has never been apparent to me until recently. 

This has been the most turbulent year of my life since 2005 and yet it's been one of the best. I ended a one-and-a-half year relationship, thought I was in another relationship but was wrong, had a brown recluse bite, been knocked over and out several times while working races, had to cancel my first presentation of my career due to illness, drove through a tornado, and have traveled to Europe and Asia. I've essentially been running nonstop since the breakup trying not to feel; attempting to suppress emotions, but how can I considering explaining emotions is what I do. 

I've written more in the first seven months of the year than any other whole year of my life. I'm not complaining about this as this is actually rather awesome considering the scarcity of what I consider major blog posts from 2014. Emotions are what fuel me, remind me of where I came from, but without the ability to harness them they become overwhelming. Thoughts that I'm not good enough nor will I ever be creep in. Good enough compared to what? I don't know, I don't have that answer, but they're there. Because of this I realized that I am in dire need of a rest... A vacation. 

I've tried to take vacations in the past but in each one I booked presentations or ended up writing more than I typically do. That being so I'm going to attempt to have a true vacation where I don't analyze, I don't journal, and I don't think of the words I'm going to use on my blog. I'm going to try not and worry about the fate of my second book and every other thing in my life I have no control over. I thought about where I could go and I thought a out going overseas again but that would just turn into another Aspie Traveler series which is extremely exhausting with the required brain power used to write let alone the grind of international travel. Then I thought about using some of my frequent flyer miles to travel to a coast, but where would I go and what would I do? Then last week my dad suggested I go see my mom who lives in Gordon, Nebraska. Actually, it wasn't so much as a suggestion but an adamant, "you need to" and for the first time I agreed I needed a break. 

So today I'm hitting the road and the intent is to rest and recharge. My goal is to not worry about creating the best blog in the world, or to critique my last presentation. I hope I can simply enjoy being in, what I consider to be, the frontier in a quiet town 99.999% of people have never heard of. I pride myself on my ability to endure strenuous hours and a travel schedule most people can't even follow but there comes a point in time when a break is needed and I'm at that point. 

Will I follow what I have set out for? I don't know and actually I'd be willing to wager that I won't. For over five years now my sole mission in life is to raise awareness and understanding of the autism spectrum. I'm near 670 presentations given and 55,000 people spoken to. I have a burning fire though and I see a day with a shallow blog as a day wasted, but if I'm too mentally exhausted to create any work worth any merit then wouldn't that mean many wasted days? 

It's going to be a foreign experience and I might have to tell my mom to yell at me if I break out the laptop or iPad should I start to write. If things go well my next blog post will be on August 17th but should I cheat on my vacation it'll be sooner. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What They Have

This post is building on yesterday's blog which talked about how media can influence one's concept of what friendship is. What makes writing such an enjoyable and fulfilling thing for me is that I'm learning along with you. I write in a stream of consciousness way which means, often times, I don't know what point I'm going to make until I actually make it when I get there whilst writing. What this means is that I often will think about the concept after I make it and yesterday's blog has been on my mind ever since I finished it.

So yes, yesterday it was about how media can influence the concept of friendship and what it should look like, but how does this play out in person? Growing up watching television (a lot) there were little to no story lines or characters I could relate to. Of course, how could one depict being alone in a crowd, or even amongst those who may consider me a friend? How can it be depicted to feel isolated even while being in a classroom of 25? Pre-diagnosis, I was highly confused as to what was going on because if life were a game I certainly didn't know the rules and most certainly had no idea what the score was of this proverbial game.

During my school years I wasn't an outcast by any means. However, I wasn't part of any group. It's hard to explain because I've heard of others that had a much worse time than me and there were no bully situations I had nor was I constantly mocked, yet at the same time I was simply there. Perhaps that's many people's story, autism spectrum or not, in that I was just trying to fit in, but the difference was that the way I went about it was all wrong. Why did no one share my interests in the finer things like average speeds of the previous weekend's races or the cold front that was going to meet a warm and humid air mass which had the potential to create a dangerous day of storms? Why did no one else share my desire to converse about things that mattered and why was the teacher the only one who seemed to have any interest in what I was saying? It was about fourth grade that I became aware and became envious of what they had.

Who are they, exactly? They are everyone. They are all around and regardless of their story I see them as having it all; friends, conversation, and the soul of yesterday's and today's topic and the ability to connect. I felt a great disconnect and with each passing year the disconnect grew and grew.

In sixth grade I had had enough of this disconnect and getting me to go to school was a gargantuan task for my parents. What was my motivation to go? Sure, I might learn a thing or two but I would also be exposed to another long, drawn out day of watching everyone else converse with ease. I worked my magic and went to home schooling. This did work out and I was able to work at my own pace but underneath it all it was a way to escape the daily feeling of disconnect. I will state I didn't realize that at the time and had someone brought it up to me I would have adamantly denied it.

A person can run from their problems for so long before they catch up. Being homeschooled I minimized the chances of seeing what they had but at the same time it eliminated any chance that I'd ever have what they had. The "theys" of the world, or call it normal if you'd like, make it look so easy (from my vantage point) and being isolated even more so, while at first a much desired thing for myself, eventually turned into a misery all it's own. I went back to school and it worked great for, well, several days and then I quickly became burnt out again because I was so frustrated with myself. Once again I wasn't an outcast of any sort, but I once again had no ability for that all important connection. Did I think anything was wrong with me? No. Actually, I thought the issue was with everyone else. It wasn't until a night of bowling in 1999 that I first realized the true nature of what I had been missing out on.

I started league bowling in 1998 and each Monday night my dad and I would go bowling. Those Monday nights were my favorite bowling memories outside the night I bowled my 300 in 2005, but there were always a brother, a sister, and two of their friends there. They were there each Monday and the ease at which they interacted was puzzling because it was something I had never been a part of. Did I have "friends"? I did, but it was all centered around an activity, specifically a game, but this quartet often would take 20 minutes off from bowling to converse and simply be. Seeing this planted the seeds that maybe it wasn't everyone else, but it was myself that was bad or wrong, or maybe I just wasn't likable.

My diagnosis was a pivotal point in understanding the dynamics of all that I had gone through. All along it wasn't that I was stupid, bad, or unlikable it was that I wasn't on the same social wavelength as those around me. It took a while to come to this understanding, but I realized what they have is something different and lost within the concept of friendship depicted by media is what I have. See, that's the difference between understanding and no understanding. I can still look around as I am right now in the D terminal at La Guardia airport from where I'm writing this and see the ease with which others walk, talk, mingle, and simply be in the space they are in, and yet at the same time what they have is not what I have but what I have is not what they have. Whew, that was a confusing sentence, but the all too often trap those with Aspergers can fall into is forgetting who they are and if a person's image of happiness is defined by the way friendships are depicted in works of fiction then reality is going to be a challenge. Can we have friends? MOST CERTAINLY! However, if I try to be 100% normal I will be disappointed 100% of the time because no one is normal. While from my side of the wall, everyone is normal and perfect and everyone else has zero social anxieties. I realize that isn't true. When people tell me public speaking scares them to death, I give a stare of, "are you kidding? It's easy!" but that's what I have that they don't. We are all different, and if we all look at what they have we will never be good enough, will never be content, and the motivation to go out into the world will be nil. I know, I've been there many times and I still struggle to not fall into the trap, but I think that's natural because this is simply being human, autism spectrum or not.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Media and Friendship


Over the course of five years of blogging I've written about the concept of friendships and relationships on many occasions. I've been left with more questions than answers as I'm often an observer and much less a participant. In that, though, I've wondered why that is; why is there this feeling of inadequacy? What constitutes a friend, or more? What are the rules? How is it rated? I've been confused and then I had a revelation.

I go back to my chapter Film Theory in Finding Kansas coupled with my Cement Theory from my yet to be published second book. Real quick, Film Theory states that whatever happens first always has to happen and Cement Theory covers that a mind on the autism spectrum is much easier to work with whilst younger meaning that the whatever happens first is much harder to delete the longer it goes on. That being said I'd like to introduce to you the media.

Ah, the media. Well, more like the realm of entertainment. If you watch any sitcom there will almost more than likely be a circle of friends. It'd make for bad television to have a show with a single star and no supporting cast, but besides that every show I've watched has had a cast with tight bonds. This goes from the cartoons I grew up with to the modern shows such as How I Met Your Mother or, to simply use the word I'm trying to sum up, the shoe Friends. Friendship abounds in almost all forms of scripted television and as a witness to this it has left me with a clear vision of what friendship is. However, does life work like that?

Then on the opposite of this media spectrum (not referring to autism spectrum for once while using the word spectrum) are movies where the primary character is a curmudgeon and is all in all miserable. I think back to the movie As Good As It Gets in that a writer with OCD leads a miserable life of solitude until a sequence of events changes it. However, until the story plays out it is clearly shown that being alone equals a life of misery. So here's the thing; if the friendship portrayed is impossible (or at least impossible for me to achieve if it is even possible) and every movie or television show that has depicted a person alone has equated to a life of misery then what is my fate going to be?

This is the hazards of the (at times) wonderful world of media. Movies can be an art form and can touch on topics and show a version of the world that few understand. At the same time it can create an image of how life should be and what friendship is like. It can paint this unobtainable picture of what life is when by all my estimation it can not; however it is difficult to shake off the hopes that I've witnessed many characters have and that is a circle of friends that go out and do things, get into a bit of trouble, and have everything solved in 30 or 60 minutes. (or perhaps four months on a season ending cliffhanger.) On top oh all that it can be murky even knowing if one is a friend because it isn't what or how it was first depicted on television.

Life can be confusing. It will be more confusing to a person on the autism spectrum because there are so many conflicting images of what life should be like and they come in at a bombarding fashion. There is nothing minute to the seamless ease that characters on television have when it comes to making friends. As I watch people that I know navigate the social world with the precision that I can only shake my head in disbelief in I wonder if my destiny is to turn into a curmudgeon and become bitter at the world because the world was not the way the media shows showed me how it was. Is it that way for anyone else? Here's the thing; I'm not anyone else. I'm me and to be alone in a crowd and to watch others on screen and in person so easily navigate the social world I worry a life of solitude is the only outcome. Perhaps though there will be a plot twist, with something wacky, maybe a chance meeting when I least expect it, and that destiny will be averted. Will it happen? I don't know, but if you believe almost every movie that's been written it's a guarantee. To finish though, how long can I hold out hope when the media's image of life has been proven wrong, for me, time and time again?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Log Jam

I know I promised a bunch of blog posts this week but my brain has been on overdrive. It's actually been rather tough to deal with. I do have a bunch of ideas, really great ones to be exact, but there's a log jam in trying to figure out what to write in what order.