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Monday, January 31, 2011

A Hole In My Weekend

After the events of the past two weeks I was hoping for a drama free weekend that involved no thinking and no emotions. I thought that watching the two races that were on television would help out, but watching the 24 Hours of Daytona just made things worse. There wasn't anything wrong with the race itself, in fact it was a great race, but what happened actually was a small tradition that I have had since 2005.

I love traditions and I love when things happen on a yearly basis. Why is this? There are many reasons, but one of them is that it helps emotions make more sense. I wish I could describe it better, and perhaps if you read my blog post,  "associative memory system", it will make more sense.

So what was missing? This may sound somewhat odd, perhaps unique, but what was missing was the lack of playing the PC racing game "Grand Prix Legends" with the same Ryan that led to my black flag post.

A week or so before the 2005 24 Hours of Daytona I convinced Ryan to install Grand Prix Legends on his computer. He only had a controller at the time, not a steering wheel, but once he discovered the Dutch track of Zandvoort he was hooked. Our number of tracks increased as the community made more and by 2009 we had over 400 tracks.

While the game's official servers went down many years ago, we still were able to race each other and there was no other day of the year that we drove more than on the day of the 24 Hours of Daytona. In 2006 and 2008 we drove over six hours on each of those days.

Times change though and this year Ryan didn't have GPL installed on his computer and the game of iRacing has taken over what GPL used to be. I knew this day would come and I myself haven't played GPL since May. I did a couple laps by myself on Saturday, but something was missing. It just wasn't the same by myself. In fact, the laps I did just made me more sad.

So what was that made me sad? That question has so many answers that it's tough to pinpoint just one answer. Perhaps it was a symbolic event that proves time marches on and that any given thing can't last forever. Perhaps it was the simple fact that a yearly tradition didn't happen. Or maybe, by the event not taking place I was, in a way, losing the memories of what used to be much like when my mom threw out my soda can.

In any event the weekend is over and I know that I will slowly forget about the lack of GPL on the same day as the 24 Hours of Daytona. Also, I am going to have a fun time tracking the massive winter storm that is headed towards Saint Louis.

Lastly, I thought I would add that I am still doing strange things as a result of my mind being elsewhere. I talked about running into things and knocking over drinks, but this morning as I got to the office I went to the gas station next door to get an energy drink. I wanted a Red Bull, and when I got into my office and took the drink out of the bag I noticed that I got the sugar free variety. Yuck!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Trial Leads to Error

Once again the trial I was a juror on gets more air time today, but instead of going on and on about how angry I am I will use this experience to point out what happens when the mind is only thinking about one topic.

I used to have these issues all the time when I was in school and if there was a negative situation with a classmate, or a test that had me worried, I would experience the same sort of fogginess I am experiencing now.

What is this fogginess? For one I feel run down. Each night this week I have been asleep by 9 and have slept until 7. That's 10 hours and I can usually go our or five days with 6 or less before I feel exhausted. I may have gotten those ten for the past three nights but there is no feeling of replenishment. I feel drowsy and absent from my surroundings.

Also, I have been spacially challenged the past couple days. Yesterday I nearly spilled a 2 litre bottle of soda, I did spill a glass of milk, and getting out of a car I slammed my right knee into the corner of the door (this hurt and a lot and still hurts).

I am here but my mind is elsewhere. I haven't had this feeling in quite some time and have forgotten just how powerful this is. It is a great example of how one event can have a lasting effect though. I wish there was a quick "think of something else" button I could press to get me off this one-way street thinking mentality. It doesn't work that way and eventually, hopefully, my mind will go back to not being angry and bitter over the results on Tuesday. Until then I will probably continue to struggle and any glass that has liquid in it is in danger of being knocked over. Any door frame I pass while walking is a hazard as I may walk with full force into it because I am simply not here and am deep in thought.

It is in these times of deep thought, or reflection, that I am prone to making the biggest errors be it socially or physically. Decision making seems to be lessened because the mental resources are being used elsewhere. Think of the mind as a computer and during these times, like the one I am in now, the computer is putting all the computing power into one thing. Now, if you wanted to use a web browser it is going to run sluggish because the power just isn't there to run it smoothly.

I used to think these events of thought would last forever which compounded the issue. I know this state will not last forever, but I am waiting for the fog to lift. The effects of this trial have led to many errors and I don't want to clean up any glasses of milk, or bang my knee into a door, or walk seemingly willingly into a door frame (only if you could see this when it happens). Perhaps watching the first race of the year on television, the 24 Hours of Daytona, will get my mind off the trial.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is It Sweeps?

I was having a difficult time coming up with the title to this entry and I began to think just how stellar, in terms of story content, the past two weeks have been. If you don't understand the title I am making reference to the times when television ratings are measured more closely (I don't know how to better describe it) so the writers have more outrageous stories and intense plot lines. Sounds like my past two weeks.

What I think was lost on me, and this blog, was the importance of my trip to the Southeast part of the state. My presentations were some of the best I have given and I can't believe I am still getting better. My presenting Alias is still learning and I think the impact I had was huge. However, with the events of Friday, I quickly forgot what I had done. Living life with, "Whatever is now is forever" makes one quickly forget what they have done because right now is the only thing that matters.

After Friday I had the jury duty experience and right this second it is the now. Still I am shaken and sickened by the way it turned out. I hope that this won't last and I am hoping that a visit to a doctor to talk about autism and TouchPoint will turn the tide and let me be free of this needless stress about a trial that is over.

I am hoping that the "Sweeps" part of my life is over. I mean, as much as I enjoy being able to write stories that are really interesting I think I don't the level that has been reached this past week. I may have, but I don't think I wrote just how scary the drive home from Cape was last week. Then, of course, there was the flat tire incident. Again, I enjoy bringing my life, thoughts, and challenges alive on this blog, but I don't need everything to be something you'd see on primetime television.

In an hour I will be off towards a doctors office and hopefully this will be the signal that life is going back to normal. No more flats, no more people yelling and threatening me, and no more courtrooms!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Trial by Trial

Do many people look forward to having teeth pulled? Do many people await a time they get cut-off in traffic? Do many people look forward to having a irreparable flat tire in front of an air pump? The answers on all these is probably no, so then why have I looked forward to jury duty with a passion since the first time I had it? And in fact, my first time turned out to be a sad experience.

A lot of people called me crazy, but when I got my jury summons in the mail last month I was actually thrilled. "To be part of the justice system is an honor" I would say. Two days ago I mentioned that I had an "important task" on that day and this was that task. As excited as I was, the events melted into one of the most aggravating experiences of my life.

Monday morning I arrived at the courthouse and, well, I arrived at the wrong courthouse. This was the first of many run ins with the sheriffs that are the security of the courthouses. I was simply told to go across the street (I should have remembered from my first jury duty, but it was cold and I wasn't thinking straight) so I did.

The first of many metal detector beeps occurred and I got the wand. I couldn't figure why I set it off, but every time I went through one I did and got the wand. Sometimes the officers were nice, other times a whole menu or orders were barked and I wanted to shut down just from input overload.

I entered the juror assembly room, or as I began to call it, the "hurry up and wait room". This room is on two floors and has many seats for all the jurors assembled. I found a seat in a row that had no one else in it, but quickly the room filled. I was amazed at how fast people started talking to each other as if they had known each other for years and was amazed at how people could do this. I had some reading material I had to read so I used this time constructively, but nonetheless I was speechless as to how strangers can communicate with ease.

After a couple of hours I got the need for some type of drink or food so I went upstairs to the juror's lounge. Inside I noticed a coffee machine that served hot chocolate. Not only hot chocolate, but only 50 cent hot chocolate! I was thrilled, so I got out my wallet and noticed I had no ones but had plenty of $2's. I looked around the room that had a dozen or so tables and tried to pick a person out to talk to. I wasn't comfortable with anyone so I started to think if I had time to walk to my car, which was parked at ScottTrade Center some five blocks away. I though this to be a bad idea so I then dug around my coat pocket as a last resort and there it was, two quarters!

The coffee machine poured my hot chocolate and let me tell you I do not lie when I say hot. Scalding hot would be more like it. What made it worse was that it was in a thin paper cup and there were no other aides to hold it. I quickly sat the cup on the floor and once again had a problem. This cup needed to sit, but all the tables had at least one person at it. Some tables had people talking, again like they were best friends, to some that had one person lost within the depths of a book. I didn't want to drink my hot chocolate by sitting on the floor, but I also didn't want to intrude on somebody's already claimed table. In the end the floor won as I could not ask if a seat was take and risk the wrath of whomever was already seated there. Odd thing is I watched person after person randomly sit down next to a person and nothing was said, but I still could not do it.

Hour after hour passed and my number was not called. Lunch was eventually given and I made my way to Maurizio's. I found this place in my first round of jury duty and since I did it the first time I had to go back. Not only was it routine, they also have the best pizza in America.

I got back to the "hurry up and wait room" and that's exactly what I did. My time started at 7:40 in that room and it wasn't until almost 3 in the afternoon that I got called.

I didn't care where we were going or why as I was just so thrilled to get out of that depressing room. Not only was I glad to get out, but I was the 13th person picked which meant I had a good chance to get on a jury so long as one person was disqualified and I wasn't disqualified myself.

Once we got to the courtroom the voir dire process began and I sat silently thinking about that evening's sunglasses experiment. I said nothing during all the questions, but when one of the lawyers asked me directly what I do and if I had been in a car accident I explained my work at TouchPoint and then said, "Yes, I have been in a car accident as, well, I hit a horse." This led to a round of laughter from the other jurors, and I think the judge as well, and then I was asked if I were injured and I mentioned the glass cuts. The final question was something along the lines of if the horse survived which with I responded with an elongated, "not so much." There was much laughter, but I felt the leer of a few animal lovers that saw me as public enemy #1.

Once this process was complete were left the courtroom for about half an hour and then we were called back. Would I be on a jury? This was something I wanted since the first time I heard about jury duty in 1st grade. A number was called, then another, and then another. I tried to remember the seating arrangement during the voir dire and I thought someone was picked that was after me so I got somewhat depressed, but not for long as my number was picked and I felt as if I had won the jury lottery.

Time was running short so we were dismissed for the evening and I rushed to the post office to send a few things that needed sent and made it to the bowling alley. Later, as I went to bed, I was so excited that the next day I would be part of the American justice system.

You may be wondering what the case was about and the only thing I am going to say was that it was a civil case and not a criminal case. Beyond that I don't think it is right for me to comment as it is irrelevant in my opinion.

Once the morning began we heard the opening arguments and it was something right out of a television show, or maybe a John Grisham novel. While other jurors looked bored I was intent on the mannerisms that the lawyers presented their information and watched to see how the judge reacted to any bit of information. I was having a blast.

Witnesses were called and questions were asked. Objections were given and mini-conferences with the judge were held with the two lawyers. At one point in time there were thee mini-conferences outside the hearing of the jury in a row and I thought to myself, "cue the circus music".

After lunch there was, what I believed to be, the smoking gun of the case presented to us. This element was major and could not be discounted. Aftet this the closing arguments began and they it was up to us 12 jurors to come to a verdict.

It was 4PM and in a civil case only 9 of the 12 jurors must come to an agreement to reach a verdict. A foreman was chosen and it was game on.

The talk went fast and people stated what they believed to be right about the case. I thought this would be a quick home run of a verdict and we'd be done because I was sure that what I believed everyone else did too. This was most certainly not the case and I was in shock, or rather utter disbelief.

There was a quick poll and 8 of the 12 believed it should go one way. Three others had my belief, but the debate was brutal. If you watch news shows where one side talks over the other side you should have a good concept of what the conversation was like. It was loud and without structure. I kept trying to get my word in but could not find a path to get in.

Slowly I began to get very angry with myself. Why couldn't I state what was right? My logic could not be disputed as I was right. The belief I had of this case was concrete and it became a passion, but my lips could not say anything. This was all the elements I struggle with being on the autism spectrum all at once. With many people talking I could not follow or distinguish what was said, eye contact was minimal, and I had so much to say without the ability to say it. I quickly began to hate myself.

Time was ticking and some jurors began to think about themselves over the case. The 8 became 9 and then became ten. The foreman then said that we should go around the room, one at a time, to state what we believed. I was about the fifth in line and when I spoke people listened. I went on for almost a minute stating what I believed and why I believed it. I felt I was very convincing as heads nodded in agreement, but by the time everyone had their word in my words were forgotten. I began to speak, but no one would listen. Time was on people's minds and they did not want to come back the next day. People agreed for the sake of agreeing and when it came time to offer the verdict I did not sign my name on it because it was wrong. As the paper got the required 9, and then 10 votes I felt as if I had failed.

After the verdict was reached we re-entered the courtroom and I looked straight at the railing in front of me. These moments was like a sports team rubbing in the loss. You see, when I believe something to be right I want to fight for it. When I believe something to be right I am unrelenting in my belief. I will not be swayed and even when the numbers are against me I will stay in the minority because being wrong to appease a group is, well, wrong. Perhaps this is why I had trouble with my peer groups in school, but what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong and I will not yield my belief. The bad part is sometimes we are unable to put up the words with the rapidness that others can and our words may be quiet compared to other people who speak loudly. My one minute was filled with vigor, but my one minute was just one minute lost in the hour of debate. As the verdict was read I had lost the game and I wanted to cry.

To make matters worse one side wanted a polling of the jury which meant each juror had to stand as their number was called and state whether or not they had signed onto the verdict. As my number was called I said, "No!" with an attitude I have never had before.

Once this was done we left the juror's box and went into the juror's room to get our things and leave. Here three different people came up to me and said something along the lines of, "I fully agreed with what you said, but man, tomorrow, we just had to finish it today." This was no consolation and actually made me more angry. If one believes something is right one should adhere to that belief. Caving in because of a group makes no sense to me for then how does one have his or her own thoughts?

As you can tell from the length of this writing I still feel horrible over it. Perhaps you would say that I should be proud of myself for standing firm in my belief and not giving into peer pressure, but I don't see it that way. I see it as I was unable to sway people to my belief. Maybe if I were louder, maybe if I said more the results would have been different. I don't know, but what I do know is I didn't sleep much last night and am just  bitter and angry today. The feelings are not going away and are just as strong now as when the verdict was reached.

Some may say I am overreacting, others may say that in the grand scheme of life this event was a non-event, but to me, because I had an opinion of what was right, this was a major event. I wonder how long I will replay the deliberation and have thoughts along the lines of, "If I only had said this perhaps right would have won out!"?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunglasses Experiment At Bowling

It may not have been a month like my original Sunglasses Experiment but I was just as excited to do this three hour run through as I was back in July. I must admit I was a bit nervous as I did not know how anyone would react to a person wearing sunglasses indoors, much less at a bowling alley.

My routine was well off normal today and I got to the alley much later than normal (I am usually 50 minutes early, today I was 15). This made me nervous as I like my routine and I was very concerned that this difference in schedule would somehow change the way my mental state was. It did not however as I was so focused on what the evening would be like. The only thing that was missed out on because of being late at being early was that my weekly crossword puzzle was left empty.

As soon as practice began I got out the sunglasses and put them on. I had to remind myself to breathe because I was so sure that someone would yell at me or think I was odd. I've never seen someone bowl with sunglasses on so this was big step. A person could think I was making some sort of fashion statement (I wasn't) or that I was trying to rebel (I most certainly was not).

I couldn't believe it as these reflective sunglasses only got one comment. There is a bowler on the team I am on who is a retired news anchor and he asked what these sunglasses were about. I happily told him why and what I was doing and I think he found it interesting, but I have to say bowling with him is such an honor because this man knows almost everything there is to know about anything.

Once practice ended I thought back to just one week ago and the issues that came from getting near the approach. Would I have the same fears? I knew one thing and that was eye contact would be negated, but in what fashion?

In the first frame of the first game I got up to bowl and rolled a strike. At this point in time I was sure I would get some odd looks from other bowlers, but I was invisible. I found this odd because I am sure people will notice little things like I notice because, "If I do it you do too, right?" but, like myself, so many people are in their own little world within the universe of the bowling alley.

The sunglasses were off to a great start as the first four frames all were strikes. When there were times when I would be ready to bowl at the same time other bowlers were even more aware of me than when I didn't wear the sunglasses. Why was this? I have to go back to an experience I had at Steak n Shake when, while I was wearing the sunglasses, a person kept talking to me as I had no way of showing him that I wasn't looking at him. Once again, tonight, I learned that I use the lack of eye contact as a way to protect myself of the intrusion of others. Granted, eye contact itself is difficult as the amount of input that enters the brain is too much, but also avoiding eye contact is a way to avoid conversations.

In fact, when I say the other bowlers were more aware of me, I had a next to impossible time getting someone else to bowl if they got to the approach ahead of me. It was almost a reversal of roles as I now was in the position of power being hidden behind my glasses, or at least that's how it felt. I may change my mind once I have had more time to thing about it, but right now I believe that, since others could not see my eyes, I was more normal to them. I mean, if I am always looking past a person, or away from them then they will know something is not normal. It may never cross their minds as to what, but just something. Tonight the only thing they saw in my eyes were themselves (because they are reflective sunglasses. Sorry, couldn't resist that play in words).

I suffered a nasty 5th frame as I threw a great ball only to be rewarded with leaving the nine pin. The next frame saw me throw a horrible ball that only knocked down three pins. From this point on I was trying to find the shot that I had to begin with and would not find it until the 10th frame of the final game. For the three game my score came out to be just over 600 (first game was a 241).

While I may have not had a career best night in terms of scoring, I did enjoy bowling more so than I have in a long time. The world is a darker place with my sunglasses on (literally, not figuratively) and with that the amount of input is lowered. Loud teams didn't bother me as much nor did the sound of the constant barrage of bowling pins. After loving bowling from an early age I grew to accept the chaos that is a bowling alley, but it is something I have to deal with to fight the urge to just go home and find a quiet room.

I think another reason why I enjoyed bowling so much was I didn't have to worry about offending a person on my team should they be talking to me. Most of the time, instead of making eye contact, I would concentrate on another person bowling. This worked great so long as it was a person on our team, but there are times when no one is up and this defense proves to be futile, but with the sunglasses I could look in their direction without looking at them.

Was the one night usage a success? I would say yes and I plan on wearing my sunglasses next week as well. I want to learn more on if my thought that people notice me more is true. I mean, if most communication is non-verbal and the eyes are the way it is done most then maybe having the sunglasses on is a unique way to work the system. But then again, I have no way to show a person I am not interested, or am uncomfortable.

I also am interested to see how long it takes someone else to ask me what I am trying to prove by wearing sunglasses. If that happens I will gladly tell them, but until then I am content to minimize my exposure to the world and I will enjoy this while it lasts.

Thanks, Dreams, and Tonight

First I would like to thank those that commented on my "Ill fated trip..." and gave such warm words. I still can't believe the people I came across.

Last night I forced myself to go to bed really early (8:20PM) because I have an important thing to do today. Maybe it was because of this bed time, or maybe my mind is still reeling from all the people I met on Friday, but I had one of the longest nights of dreams I have ever had.

Before I did some talking I thought everyone had dreams like I do. I typically remember all my dreams and can point out very small details once I am awake. The bad part is my dreams are often scary and realistic and it is odd when I can point out that I am dreaming if the dream takes an illogical or unrealistic turn.

A lot of my concepts I use were actually formed while dreaming so I look forward to sleeping each night, but the scary dreams I have, due to just how clear my dreams are, can leave me shaken for more than that second when one arises from sleep.

A reminder that I am still planning on doing my one night sunglasses experiment this evening at bowling and I will write about that and it may go up tonight, or may be tomorrow's blog post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An ill Fated Trip to the Office

On my way to the office today I heard felt a strange sensation in my car and the vehicle veered hard right. I had a great save from wrecking and continued on, but then a car pulled up beside me and honked at me and made a gesture to say a tire was flat.

I pulled into a gas station and headed towards the air pump. I wasn't thinking anything was majorly wrong and I expected to get gas and continue on my way. Little did I know what was in store for me.

As I got close to the air pump my car started veering right again and I could feel that the tire was no longer rotating. I slowed to a stop and got out right in front of the pump. Awaiting my eyes was a smoky heap that was my tire. Some would say its life was in a better place, I would say I was deeply annoyed.

Confused, I called my dad and he informed me to call AAA. I did so and was asked if I had a spare tire. I said, "I'm not sure but am leaning towards no". I was then told a service truck would be there within 10 to 65 minutes.

I wasn't bothered at all up to this point as I figured that my car would be towed and that would be it. Sadly, I was parked in a hotbed of activity.

No later than when I hung up the phone a van pulled up and parked behind me. The driver then motioned with his hands and I put my hands up as if to say, "yes, I know, but don't you see my blinkers on?" The man stormed out of the van and came up to my window. He asked, "What the _____ ______ _____ are you doing? Move your..." This was just prelude to may day.

Even though I told angry van man that I had a flat he didn't believe me. "Where?" he asked. I wanted to say, "You have a one in four chance at guessing right." but instead walked out of my car and showed him my right rear tire which was so flat that it was no longer fully on the rim. Without offering any help at all he turned around and left.

I got back in my car and was instantly flooded with fear. The language that man used was highly offensive and scary. Obviously I didn't want to stay parked there, but I wasn't going to risk further damage to my car.

About 10 minutes later a white car pulled up and once again a driver was oblivious to my hazard lights. She flew her hands about and her passenger got out. Once again I was met with some not so nice wordage, and again I showed the person the flat and their response? "Dude, that sucks. Can you move your car now? Seriously."

I know it was cold, and I know people are sick of the snow, but did I park at the corner of angry and bitter? After two of these experiences I was ready to be towed. In fact I was thinking about just walking home and then thought better of it as it was about four miles and the sign right in front of my car had the prices charged for illegally parked vehicles. Nonetheless I wanted to be anywhere but in my car at that gas station.

Just as another person was about to get out and ask why my car was in front of the free air machine a AAA vehicle pulled up. I was confused as this was not a tow truck. First thing the driver asked was, "Got a spare?" I said that I didn't and he got mad that he was dispatched to the location and asked if I wanted a tow truck. I replied, "That's what I asked for in the first place."

The driver left and came back and said, "Your tow truck will be here between 20 and 80 minutes." Great, another hour of this. I was on the verge of tears and I just didn't care anymore. I went into the gas station and bought an energy drink hoping that it would give me a slimmer of hope. I also wanted the Jalapeno flavored sunflower seeds I enjoy, but my luck on the day held and they were sold out. I tried pumpkin seeds instead and found out they are all but impossible to get out of the shells.

No sooner than I got in my car another person neared my car. At this point in time I had had enough and was no longer looking at my mirrors or those around me. I tried to close my world to just me and the impossible to eat pumpkin seeds. This person though wanted to get my attention and he tapped on the window. I looked and thought that I should just ignore him, but I rolled down the window and he said, "Dude! Now that's a flat." I wanted to respond, "Really, I hadn't noticed." but again I held back. The man continued on, "Let me guess, you don't have a spare? Sucks to be you" and off he went.

Again, I ask, how did so many people need air and why were so many people in just an angry mood. I was coming off of such a wonderful experience in the Southeast part of the state and have never had more confidence in myself and presenting, but now I was being mocked and cursed at. I simply wanted to disappear.

If all that wasn't enough a pickup with a trailer came around the back side of the building. The driver, I could tell, was eyeing me and my car. I did not acknowledge him at all and stayed in my own little world. After several minutes the driver of the pickup honked his horn at me. I finally looked up and made a motion to say my car was dead. This made him more mad and the horn was blasted. I began to shake.

Fury, anger, sadness and any other negative emotion was being felt at this point in time. I was trapped and isolated and knew of no better way to handle the situation. I was now rocking back and forth and truly was upset.

I began to think of ways to describe what was going on as the driver honked his horn and I smiled, briefly, as I thought of my "Alias" concept. I have been yelled at by drivers and parents at race tracks and have had no emotions from it because I am simply an official. In this instance though I was myself and my mind was racing on what bad things people could do to me. These fears became more intense after the passenger of the pickup approached my car.

The man came to my window and I stayed focused on my drink and seeds. After he tapped on the window I had to acknowledge him but the times of me showing people my flat were over. I was not leaving my cocoon.

"What's wrong?" the man asked and at first I thought I had finally landed a sympathetic ear. I explained and then he said, "I'm going to have to have you move your car now." I then explained that the wheel wasn't rolling and this just made him mad, "Do I have to call the police? I'm sure they will ticket you or arrest you. Anyway, if we come back and you are still parked here we will make sure you never have a parking issue again!" If that wasn't bad enough he called me two horrible names as he turned around and went back to the pickup. I know his line was a threat, but to what degree I am unsure.

With each of these people I wanted to simply say I am on the autism spectrum, but in each case I was just a sponge to their slurs and comments. I wonder if they knew the truth if their behaviors would be any different? In any event behavior like this, in my opinion, has no place. It is behavior like this that I fear and mention in my book several times. I was over that, but now once again those fears of other people are renewed.

Mercifully the tow truck arrived 2 hours and 20 minutes after the ordeal began. Seeing it pull up was one of the greatest reliefs I have ever felt. Time flew and before I knew it I was at the car repair place. They said they'd get to it when they could, but they probably would get it done that day so I decided to walk home.

I had no ride to my house and it was only about a mile, but I sort of forgot the fact that it was single digit wind chill with 8 inches of snow on the ground. Thankfully I wore my boots and was making good time all things considered.

Continuing my odd day the next event is something that I can't believe. I was walking along and I made a step and thought I saw something move on the ground. I looked down and I was standing on a mouse's tail. I naturally jumped, almost fell, and the mouse ran away and speeds that were near supersonic. By the time I got home I was hyperventalating, was at a point of not caring, and was chilled to the bone, but at least I was home.

Later the culprit of the flat tire was found out to be a nail. I may have complained about my luck, but I was just three minutes from getting on the interstate and it's one thing to blow out a rear tire and 20, it's a whole different universe doing 55-70mph. While that may be the case I sense a fear of other people once again. Maybe I was parked it an alternate reality at the corner of bitterness and anger, but people as a whole let me down today. I try to keep this blog positive, but right now I am sad and rather scared. Maybe I am overreacting, but then again this ordeal was traumatic for me. I hope this doesn't linger too long and wish I could just concentrate on the impact I had Wednesday night. But I keep hearing it; the honking, the yelling and the, "Dude! Now that's some flat... Sucks to be you!"

Q and A Friday: Homework

I had a question given to me by a person who attended one of my presentations this week and they asked, "How did you deal with homework?"

When I was in school nothing made me more fearful of the evening than homework. When I was first made aware of homework in kindergarten I was confused. Granted, there was no homework in kindergarten, but it made no sense that I would have to bring work home. Schoolwork was made for school, not home.

When I made it to the first grade and homework went from myth to reality I began to panic about it. School was hard enough for me because of just the amount of effort I had to put in to deal with all the input throughout the day, but now I was in a position to taking that environment home with me in a way. I was not thrilled.

I never understood the concept behind homework and I would do everything I could to get the work done before I got home. I would bring a paper outside during recess (one windy day I got some good exercise running after my paper!) to complete it, or the lunchroom, and many times I would be working on a morning paper in the afternoon in the middle of another class. Yes, I wasn't really listening to what the teacher was saying, but I had to get the homework done at school.

As the grade levels increased I had a couple teachers that simply refused to let students complete their work at school. I had to come up with tactics a spy would be proud of and my trips to the bathroom increased as well as having my head down on my desk as I did the work on my lap.

So why was there this high level of anxiety? I was so scared of homework because, in my mind, I thought I could never get it done. Now I could handle one paper, but if I had two or more assignments I had to do at home I was instantly overwhelmed to the point of crying and shaking because I thought there was no way I was ever going to get it done.

What made all this worse for me was that I missed a lot of school and would get all the day's assignments at once. This was truly crippling and I would struggle to get started because what is the point in starting if I believe I am never going to finish it?

I also saw home as a place to reset the stress level I had and when I would get behind there was no place I could hide. I was in school mode the entire time and this process would just feed upon itself which made me miss more school because the stress headaches were too much.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Hopefully No So Long Road Home

I was in Cape overnight at the entire time during this trip I was aware of the fact that snow was on the way. It started out as a 2-4 snowfall, then yesterday it got bumped up to 3-6 inches, then last night 5-8, and now as I check the forecast 9-12 inches for Saint Louis!

Last night's presentation was perhaps one of the most meaningful I have ever done and the response was something that shook me. I hope to write more on this, but right now I am just concerned about getting home. I am going to try and make the trip as road crews have had all night to clear I-55, but if it is dangerous in any way I will stop and wait. It could be an interesting day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Return of Sleep Issues

For about the past four nights now I have had serious issues getting to sleep. It was a very long night last night as I tried and tried to go to sleep.

The thing that annoys me the most is that my body is so tired and yet my brain keeps churning away in overdrive. Typically, melatonin will have me in a state that will allow me to go to sleep within about an hour, but three hours after taking it at 9 last night still felt as if I had never taken it.

So why the issues now? I thought that two nights ago I simply was so excited to be back on the road and giving presentations again, but I usually sleep like a dead log at hotels (some sleep like a log, I can do one better!) but last night I had the same issues.

I am hoping this doesn't last too much longer as I have found I can sustain up to 4-5 days of this before I start to truly get affected. Right now it is just more of an annoyance than anything. And I truly be annoying because I do want to go to sleep but my mind starts thinking about things and there is no off switch. What am I thinking about? There's so much stuff and a lot of it isn't connected. I thought about past memories, future blog posts, my presentations, where I may need to get gas today, the 2011 race season, the chance of snow, as well as more memories.

Sleep or no sleep I have two presentations today. First one is to a private place here in Sikeston, and this evening I will be in Cape Girardeau where I think there maybe about 70 people tonight. It should be a great day, and hopefully I will be able to celebrate it by going to sleep in under three hours tonight.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Approach of Fear

I have been bowling since 1998 but there is one part of the sport of bowling I still haven't perfected. No, I am not referring to my lack of skill at picking up the spare when I leave the 10 pin (I truly HATE that pin) but rather I am talking about the art form that is getting up to bowl.

It would be so easy if one could just get up an bowl, but there are so many small social rules that must be followed. If a teammate gets a strike or spare then a high-five, or fist pump, is in order. When it is my turn I have to get up and approach the approach, but since I go first on the team I follow the last bowler of the other team. This means I have to stay clear if that person missed because if they missed they will be mad and if I get in the way then they could get mad.

Once the last bowler of the other team is avoided I can near the ball return. This can be awkward as if the other person is reaching for their ball too then I don't know how to react to this. Then, it is the trickiest part of the night. Once again I am not referring to anything like a split, but rather trying to get up to be the next person to bowl.

Each time I get up to bowl I think that I am trying to cross a busy intersection because timing is critical. There is a two lane courtesy which means that one can't bowl if someone is in the process of bowling two lanes either side. That's easily understandable, but what if two people want to bowl at the same time? I fear those times.

I have always had a fast pace when I bowl because I think other bowlers realize this and they always tell me to g ahead. When they do though I don't know if I should say thank you or just nod. Usually I show my thanks by bowling as fast as possible.

In all those examples I have given I am so worried that I am going to irritate someone else. There are so many minor ways to irritate a person in a bowling alley and I so just frightened to the core of doing so. There was a time last night that I thought I had walked up on a person and my mind became locked in place on worrying about the potential anger the other person could have. When this happens I usually forget how to bowl and my scores begin to drop.

This example of what a bowling alley is like is valuable to learn because it shows a couple things. One is that I may know the script and I may know the process of the order of bowling, but I still can get distracted and error in the timing, as anyone could. However, because I am so focused on it, it can happen more often. On top of that, because I usually can't judge the amount of anger in another person, I will become fixated on the potential ramifications from making a mistake that it will become the only thing I think about.

I just had a thought. A bowling alley is one of the more busy places in terms of sensory as there are numerous televisions showing whatever sporting event is going on, there are conversations, sometimes very loud conversations, and of course there's the non-stop crashing sounds of pins being knocked every which way. Of course all this wears on me throughout the night and that may add to the anxiety I have at the fear of making another person mad. So, my thought is this; I don't make eye contact with any other bowlers except the people on my team. This could lead to me always thinking a person is mad because I get zero information from them. How could I know if they are angry if I don't even look at them at all? So, next Monday it is time for a one day sunglasses experiment. Will I not be fearful of the angry bowler? Will I bowl better or worse? We'll find out next week!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Week Ahead (and why I am nervous about it)

This is the type of week I live for. This is the type of week I used to dream about before I got my job at TouchPoint. I may be excited for this week, but I am also nervous about it.

What is this week? Tomorrow I will be driving to Charleston, Missouri for a presentation and then I have a few presentations the next day. If you have followed my blog long enough you know that I fully enjoy traveling. It's been a while since I had a trip by myself and there is a sense of nervousness that is going through my body.

I am not concerned about being nervous; in fact I am excited that I get to describe it because this sense of nerves is something that I have felt in many different situations throughout my life.

Last year I got to the point of being able to pack and do all the other small things that come along with traveling without thought. Since there has been such a time gap between the two I am unable to operate at the autopilot level. I am going to to have to think about each step. Do I need oil? Tire pressure? Did I remember my computer? Books? GPS, even though it will probably get me lost? What time do I have to be where? Gas?

Those questions are just a small example, but I got to the point that I didn't think about them. Traveling was second nature. Now that I am thinking about them I am somewhat worrying about them. As I said, this isn't isolated to just traveling.

Anytime I have a time-gap between an activity I get these same sense of nerves. Not that school was ever easy, but the hardest time certainly was the transition from summer break to the school season. Of course I wasn't worried about gas and GPS back then, but the small steps, or rather routine of school had to be thought of constantly until mastered.

Perhaps the point of this post is to say that eventually if an activity is done enough it may become 2nd nature. I know that every year at bowling I fear the first week after having 20 weeks off because I am nervous about all the small things. After a couple weeks though those go away. So yes, what I am trying to say is that even if a person has something mastered there can be a small lapse backwards if the activity isn't done in a certain amount of time. I feel I operate best in an autopilot mode of sorts and if I am not in that level of thought I over think and over analyze things and it's just not an easy experience.

I may be concerned about all the small things now, but I've got a busy year and am sure that within a few trips across the state of Missouri I will be right back to the level I was at last year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Return of the Sunglasses?

Recently it has become harder and harder to enter places of retail and other public places. It's been a slow trek to this point, and I think back to the time period after July of last year when I did my Sunglasses Experiment and the ease I felt.

It's been a while since I wore my sunglasses outside of a race track and I can't really tell you as to why that is. It's not that I forget as they are on the stand I keep my car keys on. Yet, I still walk past them. Am I trying to be brave? Maybe it's that somewhere in my mind I have it that it is only for experimental purposes?

An officer asked a question on Wednesday about the fact that it must get real tiresome dealing with all the sensory input non-stop on top of the issues with eye contact and all the other challenges that come along with the autism spectrum. I was amazed at how perfectly he stated the challenges because one challenge would easily be a non-issue for me, but it's the combination of everything that just wears me down.

The officer's question really helped me see that I can wear the sunglasses not as an experiment but rather a way to lessen the amount of input that comes my way. I know I came to that conclusion last July, but maybe I just wanted to prove how tough I was. In any event the sunglasses are coming out of their case and while I may not wear them all the time like I did last July during the experiment I will have them for those times that I just need a little aid in getting through the day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More on "Whatever is Now..."

All day yesterday after my blog post I kept thinking of ways to better describe what I started describing yesterday morning. I feel this is a very important thing to understand because this can dictate my emotions and behaviors.

Yesterday I said that, "whatever is now is forever". With that type of mind set I think you can see why change is difficult because you are quite literally changing the perception of forever.

Where I think this concept affects me the most is starting new things. Come to think of it, it just isn't starting new things but also restarting things I have done. I think about my interest in the racing game iRacing. When I am fixated on that game it will be the only game I play or think about. However, if I take a break from it, any little break at all and another game strikes my interest, I will have no interest in iRacing. Then, whatever game is the new interest will remain until the cycle repeats itself and I go back to iRacing.

Maybe everyone shares this trait in a way, but for me it is truly an all or nothing system. This is one of the reasons why I have so many games that I have bought that I have not started. If there isn't that spark to start something I will struggle with starting. To start something new, in my mind, is to erase something that already is.

This is just a modern day struggle I have with transition and change. In school I hated the top of the hour as one subject went to another (except the spelling hour; I hated spelling). With each change came, well, change and change is bad. With each change though came a change of my focus and when I focus on something I have a pinpoint focus and it becomes everything. Granted I was able to make the adjustment, but I hear from more and more parents that those minor changes in the day often end in a serious behavior. What can be done about this? I don't have that answer, but I hope the concept of understanding that people on the spectrum may have the mindset that whatever is now is forever will help you see why those minor changes can have such a major impact.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Type of Day I Needed

It's been a while since I stood in front of an audience to give any sort of presentation and maybe that's why I've been feeling a bit off, but today has changed that.

This morning I gave my police presentation to officers from the City of Saint Louis at 8AM. That isn't all on my plate today as in 20 or so minutes I will be giving my normal presentation to parents going through TouchPoint's parent training program. And if that weren't enough the officers from the morning are going to TouchPoint's city location and I will be there to answer any questions.

Yes, I needed a day like today. The holiday season, from what I hear, is a quiet spot in terms of presentations and I once again realized that my belief that, "whatever is will be forever" holds true. What that means is that whatever is now will be thought of as if now will be forever. Since I had grown used to not giving presentations that meant I would never present again. Extreme thinking, I know, but that is the all or nothing system I live with.

All that is changed though as I get to put my first colored county on my 2011 map. Next week I am off to the Southeast part of the state for some more presentations and some more map coloring fun.

I wish I could talk more about the whole, "whatever is now is forever" bit but I must run to my next presentation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Pendulum

Quite often in the Q and A segment of my presentations I will be asked a question along the lines of, "Are you happy? Did you mind not having a group of friends in school?" To answer this I usually say something along the lines of, "Most times I am fully happy. I mean, how can one have a group of friends at the same time? That's so much work! So yes, most times I could care less." Right now, today, is one of those times I am not.

It's weird how this comes and goes and I think a comparison to a slow swinging pendulum is a a great example. There is a sweet spot in the swing that makes me feel down.

Right now I am filled with wonder as to what it is like on the other side of the wall. Normally, I simply go about my day knowing there is a wall there but I don't dwell on it and am fully happy on my side. When the pendulum is in its sweet spot though I wonder what it is like and I yearn to cross over.

I've been thinking about this and before you think that this post is a massive shot and a clear sign I am not happy I want to point out that I feel everyone, at some point in time, wishes they were something else. I could be mistaken, but this wanting to be more, this wanting to be something that they are not, is the definition of being human.

The odd thing about these times I feel like this is that even if an offer comes up to socialize I will most likely turn it down. I could have gone to a surprise birthday party Saturday night, right in the height of my sadness of feeling alone, but I didn't go. Just because I want that social interaction doesn't mean I will do it.

Already, just from writing this, I can feel the pendulum leaving that zone that I feel sad. While there are those times I look over at the other side of the wall and think that it is better I often will be reminded about my side of the wall. The gifts I have surely are influenced by the autism spectrum. Would I trade by logic and writing ability for a social life? If I were selfish maybe, but I'm not and all in all I don't need the massive social network people have (in real life). I don't need a weekend out at clubs and such. There will be times I think I would be the happiest person in the world if that was my life, but just as a pendulum swings I change my position and realize that life isn't that bad.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Side Splitting Visual Humor

I have laughed before, and I have laughed until I have cried, but in all my experiences with laughter I may never have had an episode of such intense laughter as I did in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

I don't find many things all that funny. What other people call comedy I call words. However, when something does find that sweet spot of humor I end up laughing in what could only be called a fit of laughter. Then, instead of the moment passing, my mind maintains that point of maximum humor for what seems to be longer than other people. This always got strange looks when I was in school.

So, at 3:30AM Sunday morning I was in the midst of an NHL 11 game on the Xbox. There were three other people on the team and we had been playing for many hours. During an intensely close game a random fact popped into my head. I am a resource of useless knowledge and when a random fact like this one pops into my mind I have to ask the question. The question at hand was, "Why is Taco Bell called Taco Bell?" What came next was nothing short of pure hysteria.

At first there was silence. Maybe it was because the other team had the puck in our zone, or maybe no one knew the answer. Then, right before I was going to give the answer, Rob, the friend from Vancouver, gave the humorous answer, "Maybe it's because when you want a taco you ring the bell." I lost it.

When I say I lost it I was at the point where breathing is difficult. I have no idea how I didn't wake anyone up in the house, much less the neighborhood because I was laughing harder than should be allowed by law. I don't know if anyone else found the line as funny as I did, but when he said the line I visually saw people lined up wanting tacos ringing a bell.

In the midst of my laughing storm Rob made it worse by saying, "And you ring twice if you want extra salsa!" If I hadn't already totally lost it I was now a lost cause. As I said, it was a close game, and my eyes had so many tears in it I could not see. Oxygen was quickly being used up and breathing wasn't easy as well. My virtual, if he could think for himself, had to be thinking as to why he was constantly skating into the boards miles away from the play.

Thankfully the play on the game was stopped due to some reason or another and we were able to pause the game. The laughter still was as strong as it could be and I kept seeing people ringing bells. Why was this funny? I'm not sure, but trust me when I tell you that writing this right now is tempting me to go back into that rage of laughter.

As I said, this type of laughter is something I have experienced before, and when it happens there is no simple off switch. Very rarely will a traditional stand-up act make me laugh, but I have been known to lose it to sarcasm, irony, or most of all visual concepts because I can truly see it as if it were real. Once that happens it's all over except from the pains in the stomach from laughing to hard.

After about five minutes I regained my composure just enough, and in a voice that I think stressed just how worn out I was from laughing I said, "It's Taco Bell because the guy who started it was named Glen Bell... but if you want a taco you ring the bell!" and I lost it again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Cause Worth Fighting For

Over the past few days I have seen on the news and several websites the story involving vaccines and autism may have been fixed. While this is a very hot topic it is one I won't comment on, directly, because I am not a doctor and my opinion on the science in such a matter is irrelevant. What is relevant is my fear of the future for the autism spectrum.

Let's say that the study was fixed. With that being so are you going to be able to hear anything from a university, or a group study, and believe it?

The autism spectrum is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to describe. It truly is! If a person is new to the world of autism and they go to Google they will be greeted with 16,800,000 pages. Now, if they look at recent news they may see this ongoing debate and how it may have been fixed.

What is going to be lost in this debate is the fact that autism exists. What I mean by that is just that. If you are reading this then you obviously aren't oblivious to the fact that autism is in this world, but for the media it is just a hotbed of a story and a story too good to pass up. There's lying, two sides, and a special cause. The media doesn't even need to try and sensationalize the story and that is the problem. Once again a story involving autism is out there and there is nothing positive about it.

I am actually quite angry at the moment over this. Maybe I am overly sensitive, but I just feel a situation like this sets everyone back. I am happy to be who I am and believe that the autism spectrum is worth fighting for. I have been saying on here for a long time that understanding is the foundation for hope, but if the world only hears these type of stories then the world will never know who we really are!

Eventually, I hope, the need to comment on such issues won't be needed. I know we are much further in this world than we were five years ago with regards to autism awareness. I am thankful I don't get the blank stare and the, "What did you say?" when I say I have Asperger Syndrome. The momentum is there and the collective knowledge is growing, but if there are enough negative stories then that is all the world will know of us. What is the saying, something along the line of a person will tell a bad experience 10 times but a good experience once. That's where I feel we may head. Again, maybe I am over reacting, but maybe that is a good thing because it's just more fuel for my passion and I know I will never stop fighting for this thing known as autism and I hope you feel the same way!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another Tale From The Checkout Line

It's been a while since something worth writing about has happened at the grocery store where I get my daily dose of carrots. This has been great though as my experiences I have written about made me feel uneasy for the rest of that day. Today my luck ran out.

The past several times I have been in the worker in charge of the automated checkout area has been saying more and more. On Monday the person said, "Thanks!" then Tuesday, "Thank you for shopping at..." And yesterday it was, "Thanks, have a happy new year and a good day". The odd thing is it was a different person each time, but since I believe trends continue I was really fearful of what the dialogue would be today.

Why would I be afraid? The reason is that I don't know how to respond. I use the automatic checkout machine to avoid any personal conversation and now personal conversation is slowly creeping into my automated aisle.

This morning my routine was thrown off right away as they were out of the 1 pound bad so I had to spend an extra dollar and get the 2 pound bag (it is resealable so I have carrots tomorrow). This was in my mind, but quickly left my mind as I neared the area where the self checkout machines were.

I was on auto pilot as I started scanning my two items because I was so fearful of what the worker would say. I was hoping that the person would be on break, or picking up items somewhere, or heck anywhere but the stand that is central command of the self checkout aisle. My hopes were dashed and I started fearing what would happen at the end of my purchase.

The bags of carrots would not scan and I kept trying and eventually it went. The energy drink instantly scanned so I tried to put in my cash, but it wouldn't go. I kept trying to force it into the cash slot, but then, after many seconds, realized that I had not tapped the "cash" payment option on the screen.

My mind was totally shot due to the impending fear of what the worker might say. As I said, I have no idea how to respond and at the same time I know eventually if I say nothing enough a person may yell at me. In my mind I can't win as I know I need to say something if they talk, but that takes time to process and the script is always changing, but if I say nothing I may make them mad and they may yell.

This no-win situation kept going through my mind and the machine finally took my cash. I waited and took my receipt and items and tried to use my art of evasion to get out unnoticed. Getting out unseen was not possible and the worker did talk to me, "Sir, your cash?"

I didn't hear her because I was so hyper-focused on the door, but she said it again and I finally heard her words. I quickly thought back and realized I had skipped a step in the process. I was so anxious over the last step that I forgot to pick up my change from my purchase. I walked back to the machine and picked up my $14.74 that was sitting in the tray and I left.

This is another great example of what social anxiety can do to a person on the spectrum. We start fearing and planning out the final event, or the event that requires interaction, and we will make odd mistakes in the middle. I have never left money just sitting out in the open, but I made one flub after another this morning all because I was fearful of a, "thanks" or a, "happy new year".

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Change of Face

In my writings for my books, and my blog I have dealt with the fact that remembering people in my memories is not the easiest of things. The question is then, how do I deal with it when people change their appearance? The answer occurred to me on Christmas Eve.

My sister, nephew and I were at the Indianapolis International Airport waiting for my mom. Her flight was delayed, but once she got there and my sister said, "there she is" I kept looking for her. My sister saw her and was standing up, but I looked around as confused as could be.

She was there all right, but I didn't know her. Even though she was standing in front of me I was as cold as could be. It had been a year since I saw her and yet I was as cold as the weather outside (trust me, it was very cold). What happened? Why didn't I know her even though she was in front of me? The answer was she changed her hair.

I do know I don't remember people in my memories, but if someone is in front of me I will recognize them if they look like they did the last time I saw them. My mom's hair was much longer than I had ever seen it so I did not see her. Now, you ask, what does hair have to do with it? Once again I will break out a MS Paint diagram to explain:

This diagram is to prove two things. #1 is that I have minimal artistic abilities (this is up from when I said that I have no artistic ability) and the second, and most certainly more important, is where I see people. I learned this during my Sunglasses Experiment, but never equated it to remembering a person.

In this diagram I have illustrated where I am looking when in the presence of a person. The red box around the eyes is where I will look only if need be, or accident, and the blue boxes are the areas I am normally looking. Also, wherever I am looking, I am usually pinpointed in to minimize the amount of input I am seeing so if I am looking at the mouth I am ONLY seeing the mouth. If I am off to the sides then that is all that I am seeing. Because of this the change of hair and where I look it made it that I did not recognize my mom.

As we walked out of the airport I turned to her and said, "I don't know you." because that is how I felt. Over the course of the week this changed, but at that moment I was very confused.

I had this thought in my head about changes in appearance, but it wasn't until I returned home that I understood. You see, if being confused about one parent wasn't enough, my dad decided to grow a beard and as I walked into the house I was greeted with a person I didn't know yet again.

There are two sides to this as I know Emily would change her hair and I would not notice. This system of where I look varies by person and her changes in hair weren't that drastic. Minute changes may not register, but if a change is drastic, and sudden, then I may get to the point that I don't recognize a person at all. Like most everything else on the spectrum there isn't much middle ground. It is all or nothing.

I want to do more thought on this and will probably write a chapter for my 4th book along these lines. I wish I would have known this during my Sunglasses Experiment to see if that made a difference. In any event I feel this is a very important trait that families should understand because if a person does change their appearance and the person on the spectrum doesn't recognize the new appearance, well, as I said to my mom, "I don't know you."

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Art of Evasion

One of the most difficult things about being on the spectrum is the inability to state that something is difficult, or unpleasant. So many times I could have avoided an unpleasant experience if I simply stated that something is difficult for me. Because I have such a hard time stating how I feel I often will come up with ways around an experience without saying anything. I call this the art of evasion.

Yesterday was the first Monday of the month. For some this by itself may be a depressing day, but for me it is the day I need to get creative. You see, at 11AM, the tornado sirens are tested. The sirens themselves are something I try to avoid because the tone of it gets stuck in my head. What does that mean? This isn't like have a song stuck in the head, but rather I can hear the tone of the siren to the perfect pitch and the tone just keeps roaring on. If you don't know what one of these sirens sounds like click on the video below (you may want your audio turned down!)



This story doesn't end with the tone of the sirens as there is a second side to this story. Here at TouchPoint when the monthly test of the sirens is done so too is our tornado drill. This means that everyone in the building has to go the bottom floor and stand in the central hallway. This, for me, is extremely awkward and I fear this time of month.

My fear isn't because I want to avoid anyone in the hall, but rather when 30-45 people get together in a small space and most are talking, well, it isn't an environment I try to get in very often. It is overload in a way because there are so many people and so much talking that, for me, it becomes hard to hear just one person and the conversations rush over me much like a tsunami.

So with all that being so I came up with this creative way to cheat the system in a way. I was so excited when I thought of this because I felt it was a fail proof plan. Sadly though, I can't tell you how many times I have come up with a "fail proof" plan that just seems to make matters worse. Yesterday was no different.

At 10:55 I left the TouchPoint building and made my routine trip to Taco Bell two doors down. This was my fail proof plan as I would be in the order line at Taco Bell when the sirens were tested. This is the essence of my art of evasion as I am out of where I want to avoid without stating it to anybody. To perfect this art form and protect myself I will use these silent strategies. I see it as a win-win because I am not stating what is difficult for me and am evading whatever it is that is difficult. Perhaps not the best of ways, but since communicating my needs is next to impossible this is what I have to do.

So I made my way to Taco Bell where I was shocked to see the order line empty. I did breath a sigh of relief when precious seconds ticked away as no one was manning the cash register, but then someone did and they took my order.

My order came up rather fast and I was in shock; it was 10:59! I had a drink I had brought from home in my office so I didn't buy a drink at Taco Bell which meant I wasn't eating there. I was now torn as I wanted to eat, but the sirens were due to go off at any second. If anything, Taco Bell let me down by their superior service.

Fail proof plans are great when they go off as planned, but I have found that never happens and when they do fail finding plan B is difficult. I truly didn't know what to do. I walked outside and started walking towards TouchPoint right as the sirens began ringing out. This was a dire mistake as the sirens are much louder outside than inside and the tone instantly got stuck in my mind. So much so that for the rest of the day I could still hear the sirens and last night I struggled to get to bed because the noise was so loud in my mind.

I walked, slowly, towards the office in a haze. My fail proof plan had quickly turned into a plan that could not succeed. I was stuck between a siren and a hallway. Outside the sirens were blaring, inside I was sure that the hallway would be full of people.

I decided to walk as slow as possible and I made it to the front doors as the sirens went off. I walked inside, but our test was still going on so into the hallway I went. I tried not to look at anyone because I figured everyone else would know about my master plan to avoid the hallway. This goes to my, "I think therefore you should know" concept (don't know the concept? Read it in my new page entitled, "The Glossary of..." by clicking on the page on the upper right) and as soon as the all clear was given I went as fast as I could without looking odd to my office.

To anyone else my entrance into the building may have seemed like mere chance that I was getting lunch as the sirens went off, but it was a well thought out plan that didn't go according to the plan. This is just one example of all the many things I have to do to manage the world around me.

When I attended school I feared the fire alarms due to the loudness of the alarms. The harshness of the tone is something I still fear, but just like the tornado sirens the klaxon of the fire alarm during a fire drill would get stuck in my head and it would reverberate for hours. I can remember in first grade, after the first fire drill of the year, that I was brought to tears because the noise would not end in my mind. Because of this I developed a fear of Thursdays because that was fire drill day. However, if there was a chance of rain I did not fear it because I quickly learned fire drills were for sunny days, but if it was a clear day I would do everything I could to NOT be in school that day.

In first grade, and the years after, I had no idea why the fire alarm was such a bad experience for me and I often thought I was weak because no one else had the response I did. That, coupled with my inability to say what hurts, led to some great acting performance of illnesses to get out of school. This, perhaps, was my first experience with the art of evasion.

I have learned my lessons on the first Mondays of the month. I now know that no one is at Taco Bell before 11 so instead of leaving at 10:55 I need to leave at 10:58. It will be cutting it close, but I feel if I get out the door at this time I will have a fail proof plan. I mean, how could it fail? Ah, the never-ending game of the art of evasion!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, Same New Mission

Welcome to a new year! As I mentioned in my most recent post 2010 was a fantastic year for me. I mean, take a final look at the amount of counties I gave a presentation in. I do say final look because the map of 2010 is being retired.

If you look down the right sidebar I already have a new map and it is empty. As great as 2010 was it is no more and I have always had the belief that what I did yesterday doesn't matter (this is in terms of writing and such) and the only thing that matters is the now and what comes after the now. In other words I feel as if my impact is only as good as my most recent post or most recent presentation.

With that being so today is like starting all over. My mission is the same but it is new. I could easily become complacent on what I have done, but then this is of no benefit to anyone. As I drove home from Indianapolis yesterday I spent the drive thinking of new ways to describe things, and I began to look forward to the challenge of this year. Can I beat my numbers of 2010? Can I keep my blog fresh and new without duplicating stories?

For the first time in my life I was not depressed on New Year's Eve. For one thing I was in a hotel in Fort Wayne, Indiana as tired as could be after a long day in the stands at an indoor race (and the drama of an unexpected trip to urgent care. It wasn't for me but I know where I get my ability to fall in the most unexpected of places). As tired as I was from the race I actually was looking forward to the new year. In years prior I saw the changing of the year as a reminder of who I wasn't. Also, I have always hated the changing of the year because, well, change is bad, right? I mean, it will never be 2010 again... ever!

Okay, before I start making myself depressed let me get to the point of the story; on New Year's Eve I didn't feel that same crushing blow like I did in years prior. I felt assured that my mission needs to keep going. I have to constantly find ways to better my presentation and blog. Even though I have 240+ blog entries I have only been doing this for nine months. I am still growing and as the clock ticked towards midnight I was excited, for the first time in my life, at the prospects of the new year. So bring on 2011! Last year was great, but it was just setting the bar. My goals are still the same and I still want a presentation in as many counties in Missouri as possible. I still want to increase the amount of followers of this blog (I still get just as excited as I did the first time I gained a follower) and I still want to have an impact.

So, just as I did on my first post in 2010, I want to welcome you to my blog and say that I still hope you get as much enjoyment reading this as I have had writing it. Thank you and bring on 2011!

(I also have made a new stand alone page to my blog entitled "The Glossary of Life On The Other Side of the Wall" [see it here]. If you have any suggestions to it let me know.)