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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Positional Warfare and The Confidence in Others

It's been a while since I talked about the "positional warfare" so let me begin my stating what that is. There's a phrase out there that says, "people on the autism spectrum may appear uncomfortable in their own skin." I refer to this as the "positional warfare" and what that means is that, quite simple, I don't know how I should be in the space I'm in. It's like an itch that can't be scratched and no matter how I stand, and no matter how I have my arms and any other part of myself, nothing seems right.

Now looking at my title of this blog how does this positional battle and other people come into play? This happened rather frequently when I was younger and in school, but when I saw other kids move about in the classroom with confidence, or had complete control of their bodies playing soccer or basketball, I always became even more conscious of the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

No idea, what does that mean? I mean this as literal as possible; there wasn't a second that I wasn't thinking about where I was in the space I am in. To watch others move effortlessly and without thought always made me more aware that I couldn't do that. I always tried to "try harder" when I saw other people move and anytime any person tries to think or try harder nothing good comes from it.

I remember always thinking, "how can they do that?" because every one of my motions is thought of, and analyzed, then debated, then acted upon while others always seemed to move with an air of confidence that couldn't be contained. Perhaps they didn't have confidence at all, but that is irrelevant because I perceived it which always made me feel rather small.

I have talked about others and I don't want you to take this as if this is any sort of complaint about those who moved with confidence. It's not. But my perception of how others moved about is the key thing here. I know, back then, I would have given anything to be able to just move, walk, stand, or sit with that same confidence. It became absolutely tiresome trying to always appear as if I were comfortable when I was not. And at that age I had no way of expressing this at all, and the fact that I wasn't diagnosed yet didn't help either but even still, had I been diagnosed, I don't know if I could have explained this.

This is a topic that, unless you've felt it, I'm not sure you can appreciate just how big of a deal this is. Imagine always have a self-conscious part of you that can't be satisfied because you don't know what is right or wrong in terms of walking, standing, and posture and the harder you try to fit in the more awkward the whole situation becomes. This is the essence of the positional warfare and for myself, when I was around confidence, or rather perceived confidence, it just got worse and I had no idea why and no idea why I was different.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Case of the Missing Clicker

I’m now in Albuquerque to work a race but there is only one thing on my mind. It isn’t about the flags, the speed, or even where I am as right now, this very moment, the only thing I am thinking about is the little black hand held clicker that I have currently lost.

                This is more than just the device I move my PowerPoint slides with as it is also my flash drive. I have most of my files on my computer but there were a few that I didn’t have backed up so that too is weighing on my mind.

                Where could it be? This is what I keep asking myself. I used it last at a high school in southwest Missouri so perhaps I left it there. Maybe it fell out of my computer bag at the office yesterday. That is a possibility, but I’m leaning towards the high school and if that is the case did someone find it or was it discarded?

                The timing of this ordeal is odd because just a few presentations ago I was asked, “Aaron, what is it like when you are trying to do something, find something, or something just isn’t right?” I’m at that point now and right now all thoughts are on that device. Clearly the associative memory system is in play right now as that device is more than that to me. I’ve been coast-to-coast with that and it was my first one of those, those, I’m now actually sure the right name for them besides “the black PowerPoint clicky thingy” but right now it’s missing is the only thing on my mind.

                In a way, I feel consumed by this because, for one, I don’t normally misplace things; and most certainly not something as important as this. I keep replaying the end of my presentation in my mind and I’m sure I had it in my hand; “Okay, get the flash drive, put it in the device with the unknown name, and get it back in my bag ASAP because you don’t want to lose it.” That’s on my mind every time; if you’re at one of my presentations take note on how methodical I am at making sure this is one of the first things I do. Yet, since I do this how do I not have possession of this thing?

                So back to the question the parent asked; imagine no matter what you do or what you think there is always this bright red alarm light in the back of your mind flashing. No matter how hard you try to brush it aside, there it is, flashing with the alert that something is wrong, amiss, and out of line.


                Only the future knows what will become of this. I’m off to a race track today and am unable to call to see if I did, in fact, leave it there. Maybe it’s in the lost and found? Then again maybe I took it out of my bag at the office yesterday and there it is, sitting innocently on my desk oblivious of the panic I feel over it. Well, it is an inanimate object so it wouldn’t feel anything as is, but as void as it is of emotions I have a deep sadness as if I’m missing a friend. Hopefully I get a text or e-mail today that says this friend of mine that has been with me for almost 200 presentations is found alive and well.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Home... For a Moment

Wow! What a journey this month has been! After two more presentations I made it home last night and it felt so utterly bizarre. I woke up this morning and had no idea where I was. When I began with my job this would occur when I was in hotels but now, well, I get this feeling when I am at home.

But yes, what a journey it has been. This month has been busier than last year's April when I did a nationwide tour and what I've been amazed at is the fact that I've maintained my energy levels. I will admit I did take a 30 second nap in a chair at the Willard High School yesterday before my presentations (I never can take a nap or nod off so that was a first) but in terms of actually presenting that has been no slippage in terms of quality or energy.

I'm actually at the office today but later this evening I'll be on a plane headed to New Mexico to work a race. For me, the time spent at the track, despite how physically engrossing it is, is my time to relax.

And with that my writing ability, today, has come to an end. I've heard so many stories and have come up with several concepts the past week in presentations but when I am this busy writing is something that isn't easy for myself to do. Hopefully tomorrow words come easier and I can have a more relevant post, but today it just isn't happening.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Going On

My apologies for the lack of a blog yesterday but I had  a morning presentation in Springfield then a drive to Joplin then a evening presentation and I just didn't have the time. The issue just wasn't time, but also energy. I have been in the midst of my busiest schedule ever with doing 13 presentations in the past 14 days and after today it will be 15 in 15!

I have impressed myself in this stretch, however. I didn't know if I would be able to find the power within me to keep my energy levels up to be able to give a presentation that is worth anything, but I have. One thing I haven't mentioned in a while is the internal energy it takes to present. It's much more than just speaking as for me now it is using every ounce of my mind and soul to deliver the words. It's hard to explain but I've gotten to the point that I present without thought which achieving that mentally takes a lot of energy.

A big factor in keeping my energy levels up has been the amazing response down here in southwest Missouri. Last night I heard two of the most powerful things I have ever been told. The timing was perfect because I, before that presentation, was battling exhaustion. To know I'm having a major impact though, that makes what I'm feeling know irrelevant. The only thing that matters is pushing on. The only thing that matters is delivering the message of hope. And with that I'm on my way to the first of two presentations today.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"What?" and the meaning of tone

The title of this blog is important. Sadly, because the medium of writing doesn't allow me to use tone, I'm going to have to explain in rather great detail why such a title is so important. I've mentioned this several times in recent presentations and a couple nights ago I came up with the ultimate description as to the answer of "what?" First, I have to explain what the big deal with what is.

It seems I am not alone in my usage of what because when I mention this parents smile and nod. So okay, let's say you enter a room where a person with Asperger's is doing some activity be it reading, writing, watching television, or playing any of an infinite amount of possible games and you say their name, in my case, "Aaron." What type of response are you expecting. So often I would respond with a "what?" but what you can't get in text is the tone.

The way I said "what" was never in the tone of, say, the way a game show host would start a sentence like, "What president..." nor did I use it like a parent would ask, "What would you like for dinner?" The way I delivered "what" was in a tone that implied an irritation or anger. It is in this description that parents often agree with me and here's the thing; there may be some irritation and there may be a hint of anger but it isn't directed at you?

Okay, so what is this frustration directed at? First, I have to state my disclaimer which I haven't in a while and that is, "if you've met one person with autism then you've only met one person with autism." so this means that what I'm about to say could apply 100% or it could be 100% opposite to the next person you meet. Anyway, at least for myself, my delivery of what in an tone that hinted anger was never meant to imply that I was angry at whomever had just spoken to me. Here's the thing; focusing and concentrating for me is a fine art. When I am focused on something it is hard to unfocus and that being the case when a person comes in and says my name I am having to redirect my attention which requires more mental energy than you can probably appreciate.

When I change my focus it requires energy and it's in this redirection that causes my tone to sound as if I am angry. A couple nights ago while presenting in Clinton, Missouri I came up with a way to describe it; if you are about to pick up something very heavy you may let out a verbal grunt as you exert all your might to move or pick up whatever object it is. So too does this apply, for me, when I am changing my attention.

I fully understand why parents and teachers get upset with us and our tone but quite often you can't go by our tone because it might not be directed outwards but rather inwards. There will be times when you say our name and the tone of our response may be that of anger because it is, but for me, most of the time, it isn't directed outward but is my body adjusting to the change. This is easy to remember; change is difficult and changing focus requires mental force just like picking up an object requires physical force.

This is something about the autism spectrum that I don't think has been touched on all that much. I hope this little post on the matter will open the eyes of anyone and everyone on the matter because I'm sure there have been countless times a person has responded with what appeared to be a hostile tone when no hostility was intended so please just keep this in mind and be on the look out for this because I know I'm not the only one who has irked his parents by stating, what I thought, was just an innocent, "What?"

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the Air

Okay, I'm between presentations after driving all over southwest Missouri today but I thought I would let you know that I'm going to be on Siruis/XM Radio Channel 81 tomorrow at 7:30 US Central time. This will be my first radio interview in a while so I'm excited and a bit nervous. Be sure to tune in!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Tale of The Man Who Liked My Shirt

In my brief time in Saint Louis yesterday I had to run to a bank to make my second house payment. For some odd reason my mortgage went from one bank to another but on my way home from the office I decided to see if I could make the payment by stopping at a branch instead of mailing it in. While this may seem like a common sense thing it wasn't for me because I had never done this and I had never gone into one of this bank's branches.

So I walked in nervous as could be. Heck, the entire drive to the branch was one filled with nerves as I kept thinking to myself, "What do I say?" and I recited, "Can I make this payment here? Or do I need to mail it?" aloud many times. What would be a non-event for most people can be a challenge on par with climbing a mountain as new things are just tough.

I got the to teller and I stumbled on my words, but I put the payment coupon and my check out and that was enough and the teller processed it and I got a receipt. Here's the thing about this post, the actual topic starts now.

With the receipt in hand I turned around and headed out the door. I beat a person that was coming in by about half-a-second so as I exited I held the door open and the man said, with quite some force, "Hello."

Hello... I don't know if there is a scarier single word than that. It is the portal that opens up the realm of conversations. Hello isn't that bad when said from a friend or family member, but to a complete stranger the word "eerie" isn't eerie enough to describe the absolute eerieness of a hello.

I froze for a moment as I processed the meaning of hello. Truly, I had to think about it because a random hello from a complete stranger isn't normal. Or is it? I'm pretty sure it isn't so I had no idea what to do. Truly, picture me holding the door frozen and lost because that's what I was.

A few seconds passed and he started heading back towards the door and I started walking out and he said, "Hey!" Okay, if there is something that's worse than hello it's a hello followed by a hey because there is ALWAYS something that follows a hey. I mean, does anything just say "hey!" without saying something else?

I tried to ignore the hey but it was no use. He then said, "Wow! I really love your shirt" and as he completed that sentence he took his index finger and poked me in the shoulder and walked around me and into the bank. I remained frozen.

I've had issues with being touch on the shoulder before and I stood there, in front of the bank, frozen, angry, confused, and in shock. What just happened? Strangers don't say hello, they then don't say hey, and they most certainly DO NOT POKE A PERSON ON THE SHOULDER BECAUSE THEY LIKE A SHIRT!!! Was I yelling? Sorry, but I guess this offsets the self-control I exhibited yesterday when this happened.

Okay, I'll be honest, my purple shirt is kind of awesome. It's my favorite shirt, but I know there is a social rule out there that says, "a person that likes another person's shirt is not allowed, in any way, to poke the person wearing the shirt." What, there isn't a rule like that? There should be!

I eventually wandered to my car and I got in and I just sat there in a daze. One thing I forgot to mention is that my body went into a severe defensive state. After the poke my muscles clinched up and a huge shot of adrenaline rushed through my system. I'm sure the man had no intentions of creating such an episode as the only thing he knew was that my shirt came from awesometown, but the end result was a huge shock to my body and a lingering sense of frustration and tiredness.

In this post I have shown a side of humor, but the event, as it happened, was anything but. I'm glad I can throw that spin on it as I write it now, but it is difficult, unless you've experienced, to understand what each segment of this encounter, in terms of anxiety, caused. Most people can handle a hello from a stranger, I struggle with it. Most people won't panic when "hey" is said but I go into complete panic mode. And most people won't have their bodies defenses get triggered by a person who just wanted to feel what the fabric of their shirt feels like... okay, maybe this is something that spectrum and non-spectrum people share, but the lasting effects I felt took an hour to clear up.

I'll finish this post by saying this; dear world. I know some of you out there are fans of shirts, and that's fine, but if you see a stranger (or me for that matter) and the shirt that person is amazing I plead with you that poking is not an acceptable way to say you like a shirt.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Changed World

I... I don't know what to say or how to say it. And, I don't know if I want to say anything or if it is right for me to say anything at all.

Yesterday I flew home. I left Tucson and got to Dallas right around noon. During my one-hour layover I was having some fun chatting with four of my friends in this great Facebook chat. It was truly a good time ribbing Ryan about how great of a driver Jimmie Johnson is. I enjoy this way too much but eventually I had to board the plane and 80 minutes later I landed in Saint Louis.

As soon as the plane touchdowned I turned my phone back on waiting to see what further hijinks had gone on in that chat and what was a good light-hearted chat was filled with, "What's going on in Boston?" I certainly had no idea because I was cut-off from the world while in the air but these words I were reading made no sense.

I quickly went to news media websites and I still couldn't comprehend what I was reading. The emotions slowly crept in and I've been in a state of being lost ever since.

This has been my reaction to events my entire life. And as I said, I don't know if it's right for me to write about such a topic as the events of yesterday, but at the same time, for many people on the spectrum, this is the first event like this in their lives. When events were on the news when I was young I fully understood what was going on. Did I let anyone know? Not really. Did I express my fears? Most of the time the answer was no, but the sense of fear was great.

The sense of fear can grow and grow. Random, senseless events can't be understood but when a mind needs to understand everything there is a great sense of confusion and fear. Even now I'm experiencing this which is why I just don't what to say or how to say it.

I don't know what to do, or what to say, but if you're a parent please just be aware that events like the senseless act yesterday can have a major impact. I wouldn't know what to say, or how to say it, but please be aware that even though, and this applied to myself, I may have acted like I didn't care I was actually deeply sad and terrified of what might happen next.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Feeling of Normal on the 5th Green

Yesterday morning I had a presentation to a great audience. It's been nice this week presenting between races here in Arizona. After the presentation I had an afternoon free so I called this golf course that runs along I-10 to see if they could get me on. I had driven by this course three times in the past 13 months and each time I had severe golf envy. It was my lucky day as they would be able to get me on. The catch? I'd be playing with three random strangers.

I love when I get to travel across Missouri because so often I'll play in towns where the courses aren't busy and there's little to no chance of a social situation playing out. This round, however, was going to be a golf outing with no chance of avoiding a socializing with people I have never met before.

Nervous? Just a couple hours prior I stood in front of 40 people I had never met, never seen, and spoke for an hour about my life and personal examples of living life with Asperger's Syndrome. That was easy. Playing golf with strangers? I was petrified!

I got to the course, rented some clubs, and proceeded to my golf cart. I was looking all around wondering who I would be paired up with. If you've followed my blog for a while you will know that I have not had the best of luck with other golfers as I've had no less than four posts talking about the rudeness of people I have come across on the golf course. I was hoping, no, praying that I wouldn't be paired up with golfers like those because that would make for the longest 18 holes known to man.

I was seated in the golf cart, on the passanger side as that's where my clubs were, and I waited. Eventually a person came around and looked at me and said, "You must be the random person that's playing with us." I didn't know how to take that as if this was a joke or if he was a little peeved that a random person had been matched up with him and his group.

If it was mean there was no indication afterwards as we headed to the first tee. He asked me if I had played the course before and when I said no then he asked me if I was from Tucson and I said no again so then he asked me where I was from, I said "Saint Louis" and he laughed. Here was the thing; the three people I was playing with had a business associate who was supposed to be playing with them but he didn't get out of Saint Louis, where he is from, so what were the odds? They were supposed to be playing with a person from Saint Louis, and they got one, just not the one they were expecting.

That conversation, I believe, broke that ice. We approached the 1st tee and my breath was taken away by the beauty of this course. These views were nothing like what I saw from the interstate and this was nothing short of golf awesomeness.

On the tee box of hole 1 the person I was riding with introduced me to the other two people and off we went. I was reserved for a bit, and the three of them didn't push me to talk or ask too many questions, but by playing the sport of golf, and being unlike the rude golfers I have encountered in the past, I felt confident with my words.

On the fourth hole I was asked what my day job was and I explained and told them I travel all across Missouri which then I was asked, "Ever been to Nevada, Missouri?" Again, talk about a small world! I've presented there twice and I believe I'm there next week or the week after. Two of the golfers I was playing with went to high school there.

On the 5th hole I now felt like part of the group; as if I belonged. It was an odd feeling, one of which can't be explained in the manner it deserves unless one has felt it. I didn't feel like an outsider, or a person from out of state, or a person with Asperger's; what I felt like was a person who was enjoying a round of golf with three other people and trying to make sense of the sport of golf. Is this what normal is?

The round progressed and with each hole I knew it was one step closer to the end. This sense of fitting in with people I don't know is rare for me; it's even rarer that those people around me understand my humor and my dry comments are laughed at.

As things always do, the round came to an end. This is where Asperger's showed itself. As soon as the round was over I started to receded back within myself. When the golf carts were dropped off I stood, awkwardly I might add, and eventually said something along the lines of, "thanks, it's been fun." and they acknowledged it and then the guy I rode with said, "Want to come in and grab a beer?"

My reaction to that question was a simple no as I don't drink. It wasn't until I was about two miles from the course in my car that I realized that question was more than just a question on a drink as the drink was probably irrelevant as the question has more to do with the interaction with the person than it does the fact of consuming liquids. As great as I felt on the course I now felt a sense of remorse at my obliviousness to the social aspect of that question.

Another thing that I need to mention is the fact that, in the midst of the nerves and all, I don't know any of the other golfers' names. They told me them, I heard them, but with all my nerves and processing names aren't something that take a high priority. They should, but they don't.

At the end of the day, for those golfers, I'm going to be an after thought; a random golfer that filled out their round. Maybe they learned something about the autism spectrum, perhaps not, but for people not on the autism spectrum the art of socializing comes much more easy than it does to myself. For myself, though, being able to socialize and to feel comfortable is a rare thing. That round of golf was more than a round. Sure, the course was one of the best I've ever played but my round quickly became more than hitting a small ball around trees, sand traps, and trying to hit into a small hole in the ground. Yes, it was much more; it was 18 holes of feeling free. Those golfers may not know it, and will probably never find out, but my round of golf, even though I shot poorly, was my best round of golf ever.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

One year later and the one year without barks or meows

Today marks the four year mark of saying goodbye to a best friend. I was going to write something then I remembered that everything I wanted to say I wrote back in a post in 2010. That being so I decided to republish that post and run it today. The post below originally ran April 11, 2010. Also, this is timely because I am thinking about getting a pet. I'm not close on going through with it, but the door has been opened to the possibility of getting one.

I can't believe today marks the day of one year. One year ago I had to have the last of the three pets I had put to sleep. I had a chapter about Amsterdam (the cat, not the city) in Finding Kansas and when my 2nd book comes out you will, again, be brought to tears with the story of Siam (again, the cat, not the former name of Thailand). This entry though is about what it has been like living without an animal.

When I was five we got Missy the Maltese, and then when I was nine we got Siam and Amsterdam. I remember events before my pets, but I don't remember a time in the house that there wasn't a dog or cat somewhere near by me.

For me, I need animals. There's a connection there that I don't share with other people. Eye contact comes easily and I seem to have an understanding about animals and they in turn are attracted to me. Last Friday I saw Greg's black lab, Annie, for the first time in five months and the barking and jumping she did to greet me was nothing short of crazy. I love it though and am put to ease by the sense of love that animals show.

There's nothing now at home. I shouldn't say nothing as there's a golden retriever, but she doesn't have much time left. Also, big dogs don't do as much for me as they aren't the type of animals that show the same sort of affection that smaller dogs and cats do.

People stress me out. People are inconsistent and have mood swings and it's generally tough to determine where I stand with other people. With animals though there is consistency. By an animals posture or eye movement one can know if they are happy or tense. People have hidden agendas, animals don't. People, including myself, stress about what happens tomorrow, an animal experiences heaven by simply being in the presence of those that they love (and being fed by those that love them!).

It's been rough this past year without a cat sitting on me while I watch the world go by, or a dog to greet me as I come home. Siam had a personality of a dog and would bark his meows. Truly, one could have a conversation with him. I know I had many.

In January I watched two dogs and from the moment they came into the house they were attracted to me. In was almost an inconvenience having two dogs on my ALL the time. This daschund was quite feisty with me. Cookie was her name and she, being longer than she was tall, couldn't jump up on my chair. She let me knew her displeasure of being on the floor with her ear piercing bark, so I picked her up and she was in paradise. She had me trained!

Cookie, and Cocoa, were on me all the time and on the first night they jumped up on my bed and slept at the foot of the bed limiting my space. I had a back ache the next morning, but it was worth it. It had been 9 months without that and I was happy.

The happiness was all too short lived as they went back home one week later. My connection to other beings on this Earth was severed and I was alone again.

The name of this blog is "Life on the other side of the wall" and the meaning behind it is that, when it comes to people, I feel s if there's a wall between us that prevents me from feeling a connection. I'm confident thought that cats and dogs live on the side of the wall I'm on because there is a connection. I freely, without thought, use the mysterious phrase of "I love you" with them.

It's not fair. It's not fair that dogs and cats can have this much power of me. It makes sense though as they are consistent and, well, they're just so soft and squeezable. I miss Siam more than I can put into words. I no longer am everything to an animal, and there are no animals that mean everything to me. They are all a memory now, and a foggy one at that. I don't remember animals much like I don't remember people. There's one thing I can remember though, the feeling of love, but that's all that it is now, a memory.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dreaming of Normal

I didn't want to wake up this morning; I truly didn't. And why would I? The dreams I had last night were to the point of seeming real and most of all, in the dreams, normality was a reality. First, let me state that I am beginning to believe there is no such thing as normal but at the same time normal is something we chase and when a dream shows me everything I'm not then, well, it's rough.

The way to describe my emotions this morning is bitter. It's hard enough to go through each day witnessing everyone else's normal let alone having dreams that sheds light on what it would be like to be normal.

Forgotten at this moment is everything I am. I am in that awful trap of, "when a person sees what they aren't they forget who they are." That's where I am. The only thoughts I am having are wondering what my life would have been without Asperger's and how normal people make normality look so easy.

I know I do amazing things. I don't think many normal people could do what I do presenting to the audiences I do or stay sane with my travel schedule but at this second I don't really care about that. To use my blog title as a metaphor, I'm like a person on one side of a 500 foot wall that all his life I've heard stories about what it is like on the other side. The fields are greener, the sun is brighter, the air is crisper, and the villages are friendlier. However, no matter how hard I try, there is no doorway, no ladder, and the wall stretches in both directions as far as the eye can see.

To me, often times, that is what normal is like. It can be explained, it can be talked about, but what truly is on the other side of the wall? Then a dream comes along which has almost a simulation of what it is like. Of course, this is my mind's assumption of what it would be like, but if you were on one side of the wall and heard all those wonderful things, and for a fleeting moment in a dream you saw the other side I am sure you would feel like I do right now.

This is something that I've heard from parents. This isn't a common theme, but it is something that I've heard more than a couple times in that children (or adults) are afraid to go to sleep not because of nightmares but because of the normalcy experienced within dreams.

When something is thought of and wondered for long periods of time it becomes more than what it is. This is the formula as to why "when a person sees what they aren't they forget who they are." The world on the other side of the wall becomes such a grand place that I am sure my envisionment of normal is far beyond what it actually is like.

If history repeats itself I'll spend the day wondering about what normal is like but over the course of the day I will slowly return to my normal (ha!) self. That's the cycle I live with. There are these times I wonder and care about more than anything else in life on what normal is, but most of the time I'm not there. It just takes one reminder, or a dream, to remind me that I am on one side of the wall. Think of it this way; I never described what's to my back when I'm facing the wall. There's a whole world on my side as well and it isn't that bad. It's just when I wonder what is on the other side that my whole world becomes defined by a wall.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Soar

My time out west has now shifted from Phoenix to Tucson, but yesterday evening's presentation. The turnout was strong despite winds, puring rain, and even hail (in Phoenix? who knew!) and it was a huge, huge, HUGE honor that one family drove three hours to hear me speak.

Today I drove to Tucson and I don't know what it is but there's something about driving across this part of the country that just makes me feel as if I am soaring. I just get this amazing sense of freedom from it. Well, I get that feeling anytime I'm driving, but it's special out here.

I have an off day tomorrow and then a presentation on Thursday to a group that will be an honor to present to then come Friday it's round 1 of the SKUSA Pro Tour.

Other than this I don't have much to say today.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eras Frozen in Time

My weekend was eventful. On Saturday I was up on South Mountain for round 1 of the USAC Generation Next series. It was amazing to be back at a race track. It was a hectic day, but a much needed one.

Yesterday I then got a rental car and departed the USAC crew and went up to my hotel as they're headed out west to California and I'm remaining here for a presentation tonight. The hotel I'm staying at, though, is the same one I stayed at last year when I was doing my nationwide tour.

Being back here has brought back so many memories. So much in fact that when I went to go get dinner at JoJo's Pizza I was looking for the van I had last year and not the Focus I have now.

To be honest, it's been a rough time this first week in April as I think back to last year. That tour, up to this point in time in my life, is the most fantastic thing I've ever done. With my memory it all seems right now and yet at the same time it feels like it happened a lifetime ago. It's this that, I think, makes what were good events become things that become an event that creates sadness.

Unless you have experienced that which I described in the previous paragraph I don't know if you can truly appreciate the meaning of that. Before I was diagnosed, and before I was self-aware, I remember counselor after counselor saying, "But Aaron, how can something that was happy make you sad?" I've tried my best to describe this different concept of time I think some people like myself on the autism spectrum can have, but if everything feels as if it were in the past five minutes then how can one move on? The emotions of what was then remain because time doesn't move on. This is how one year later I was looking for a silver van. This is how I still mourn the moment the trip was over.

As I think about it, looking out of my hotel window towards a very windy and dusty Phoenix, it seems anything which has a positive emotional response eventually leads to one of these eras that become frozen in time. Could this be because, normally, I am emotionally neutral. Don't get me wrong, what I mean by that is not the lack of emotions but rather that I'm usually neutral by, well, say if you gave me a scale 0-10 on happiness I will normally be a 4-6 regardless of what I am doing in terms of enjoyment. However, every once in a while, there will be an event that tips the scale and I experience joy in it's purest of forms. These moments then become frozen and it's always like it just ended and then, also, my mind feels as if joy like that will never happen again.

I might have another era frozen in time this year as I have a presentation here in Phoenix tonight, then I'm off to Tucson tomorrow and have a closed presentation and come the weekend it's round 1 of the SKUSA Pro Tour then I fly home and have a marathon of presentations in southwest Missouri. So yeah, this year is going to be special too.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Back At It

It's been TOO LONG! My last race was all the way back in the middle of November but for me, today, the off season is over!

I have looked forward to this day since the final checkered flag flew in 2012. I'm beginning to realize that my position as flagman for these racing series is much more than a side job I have, and it's much more than a major Kansas of mine, as it is the place I refuel.

One thing I am not good in my life at is balance. I've actually realized this the past couple months in that I am not good at having any sort of balance in that I am always focused on one goal. When I'm in presentation mode it is the only thing that matters. Sure, I may be home, but my mind is always thinking on what to say, how to say it, and what the next thing I need to write is.

This is going to sound odd, but the time I feel the most relaxed is in the midst of a chaotic scene that is a race track. This is my balance in life.

I'm just about to head out, but moving forward this is something I think I need to look at for my life. Not in terms of flagging as I'll be doing this for a long time, but when I'm at home, or when that nasty season known as the off-season is there, I need to have more things that releases the stress of life.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Finding Kansas: 1 Year Later

My apologies for the lack of a blog yesterday; I was speaking at the Autism Rally in Jefferson City and the hotel I was at had atrocious wi-fi so I was unable to write. As for today I have a plane to catch later this afternoon headed to Phoenix for the first USAC .25 race of the year. While both of those would be worthy things to write about I want to talk about what yesterday marked.

April 3rd will always be a special day for me for the rest of my life as that is the day last year that my book Finding Kansas was released. I still can't believe that I was published and I still can't believe I can still find my book in bookstores.

I think the unique thing about my book, if you don't know my story, is that I am an author by accident. When I started the journey of writing I didn't intend on being an author and I certainly never intended on being a public speaker as the only thing I wanted to do was to tell my dad who I was and why I was because back then I couldn't speak it.

I think of my blog from Tuesday and how I stated that I "didn't want to be a burden." This too was one of my motivations for writing because I knew that those around me were frustrated and I too was frustrated in their frustration. I thought that, if I write, perhaps "the world wouldn't hate me as much" as I worded it in my book because if I could put forth the reasons I do and feel the way I do then maybe there will be an understanding.

As I wrote my book I wrote to two people. One, obviously, was my dad but secondly was to the girlfriend I had for three years before my diagnosis at the age of 20. I did mention that I am an author by accident and I never thought anyone would read my words, but I thought that if I could reach just one person how would I describe myself and so I sort of wrote to her which is why the book is dedicated to her.

So often I try, in my mind, to go back in time to that chilly and dark February night in 2005 when I sat down and started my journey as a writer. Never could I have envisioned any of this. Even as I wrote my 2nd book which isn't published yet (it's at the publisher awaiting the day it gets the green light) I never envisioned being published as I finished that book in the summer of 2009. Why is this all relevant? I go back to the blog from Tuesday and there are so many people with Asperger's that have all these emotions without the ability to express them. The frustration factor grows and grows and all in all in isn't the best of situations. I know this because I was there. I was at that point where I thought, "What's the purpose of tomorrow? Why try if I know I'm going to fail? Why do people act the way they do? I just don't understand!"

My book may have been an accident but the impact it is having most certainly isn't. When there is understanding there is room for growth. The whole purpose of my book was so to do just that; to create a level of understanding so the "world wouldn't hate me as much." That phrase may sound a bit extreme, but that's how I felt. All I wanted was someone, anyone to be able to put themself in my shoes and understand how I see the world and how I feel. One of the first things, not the first, but one of the initial things I read about Asperger's on the Internet when I got diagnosed, and I still hear 'experts' say this from time to time is that, "people with Asperger's have no emotions." This confused me because I knew I had a whole array as deep as the cosmos of emotions; however, I couldn't express them. This was another motivation to keep writing was to disprove that and now that's another reason why I am so thankful my book is out there so that there just may be another level of understanding.

I know most people that read my blog have read my book, but if you haven't it is available pretty much anywhere online where books are sold and it's also in many bookstores. If you want to buy it on Amazon you can by this http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Kansas-Decoding-Aspergers-Syndrome/dp/0399537333/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365094331&sr=8-1&keywords=finding+kansas

My journey is continuing on and I think back to that first evening, my audience may be bigger than I ever imagined but the mission is the same; I want to be able to give the world an insight into why I do the things I do and maybe, through that, a higher level of understanding can be created and the lives of us with Asperger's, and anyone on the autism spectrum for that matter, can be better.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Awareness Day

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and last night I was wondering what that meant. What does awareness accomplish without understanding. Also, last night, I felt alone in a crowd and alone in the world. This is something that I used to feel a lot more of, but is something I don't hear mentioned that often and on this day I wanted to cover it.

After my diagnosis I became highly depressed. I didn't know who I was or what I was supposed to do with my life. When people tried to help I shut them down. I always thought, "How can you understand who I am?" and I didn't want to disappoint them when they tried to help.

One of the reasons I felt so alone is this; if a person, or the world for that matter, doesn't understand then how can one do anything correctly? At the same time I never wanted to be a burden. And when one doesn't want to be a burden and refuses all help things often get worse. That's where I was.

I thought about all this last night and that I always had so much to say and no words to say it. All I wanted was some level of understanding but I believed it would be impossible for anyone to have that understanding.

This was a cycle; I wanted to speak up, but since no one would understand what would be the point? I wanted someone to help but since no one could understand how could they? This cycle feeds upon itself and the level of isolation grew and grew. I eventually thought that if I don't try and if I don't interact with anyone in the world then all parties would be happier. I was wrong.

On this World Autism Awareness there will be many stories, many blogs, and much awareness but I hope, what isn't lost in all this, are the people out there that were in my shoes. I lived the story of this blog for almost six years. It was a long process to finally believe I had a purpose in life and that understanding was a possibility. There are others who aren't there yet. It is for them I want to this blog to be heard today. With understanding the world, I hope, will become a more tolerant place. With understanding, I hope, a person will feel more comfortable with who they are. With understanding, I hope and pray, the world will be a place that those on the autism spectrum can live, work, play, and live their lives with all the hopes and dreams that everyone else has. I don't know if a single day can inch us closer to such a world, but I hope it does because I know what it is like on the other side. It's a darkness unlike anything else and that is why I truly hope and pray that we raise the level of understanding in our world.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Autism Awareness Month 2013

Welcome to April 1st which means we are once again in autism awareness month.When I started with TouchPoint three years ago this month seemed special. In 2011 I did an autism awareness tour of Missouri and last year I did my nationwide tour. As April has rolled around again I've been thinking on what this month means.

So, what do I mean by wondering what this month means? Well, first off, is it a good thing? I've read a couple stories in the past few weeks on how this attention towards the autism spectrum makes some feel uncomfortable. On the other hand this month there will be rallies, news stories, and more Facebook mentions of the autism spectrum than any other month. So through social media and the television media there will be more mentions of autism and this is good, right?

When I think about autism awareness I used to think about it for those already initiated with the autism spectrum. Today, however, I now think about it in terms of those that don't know a thing about it. This is the segment of society we need to reach the most. These are the people who won't know any better and will tell parents, "you're spoiling you're kid!" or, "you need to tell your kid to stop that!" with regards to any given behavior. That being so, what does this month do?

The thing I worry about is this; if we put all our eggs in one basket and the autism message is drilled over and over within a short time span, will the uninitiated take notice? Again, please don't get me wrong, it is great having this month, but if we don't focus on the other 11 months will autism sort of be like a season? A season being how baseball isn't really in the public eye in December.

For those on, or have family members on the autism spectrum there is no off season and that is sort of my point here. Baseball, after the World Series, sort of goes away until spring training and even then it isn't that relevant. So, with all this attention to autism for these 30 days does autism fall into the trap of being "in season?"

I most certainly hope that we don't fall into the trap of being in season. I will once again state that I think this month is a good idea so please don't get me wrong on that front, but I also think we need to look at the other 11 months and to have a steady stream of awareness rather than one bulk message. That's why I am so thankful for my position as Autism Ambassador because my message doesn't end come May 1st.

With rates of autism on the rise autism awareness can't be confined to 30 days of the year. The message has to always be out there be it April or December. People, be it officers, teachers, store managers, and everyone else needs to know about the signs, the challenges, the hope, and anything and everything else that will make the interactions between autism and the rest of the world all the better. This is a challenge because, "if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism" but it's a challenge we must take on. This is a challenge we must win.