Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Kansas Cliff

In my life I'm finding balance a hard thing to find. The highs are getting stronger and the lows are becoming harder to cope with. Maybe this is due to the fact that I'm so aware of my strengths and weaknesses and have analyzed them and written about them a thousand times. Whatever the case, the borders of Kansas at becoming less of a line in the sand and more like a steep cliff that goes down 1,000 feet.

Take last weekend for example; as mentioned yesterday I flagged the SKUSA race in New Castle, Indiana and it was, perhaps, my finest performance yet. The confidence instilled within me when I do this is great. I can write about the confidence and try to explain but words would fail at just how amazing the transformation is. And yet, when driving home Sunday night, I stopped to get food and the positional warfare (that is what I call "being uncomfortable in one's own skin" in that no posture or positioning feels right) waged on and I couldn't make eye contact with a single person.

Then yesterday whilst driving to the office I stopped to get a breakfast bar at a gas station and the same positional warfare began and the lack of eye contact turned to a complete avoidance of even looking within the space the people were in ran rampant. And yet, four hours after that I gave my presentation in parent training and had no issues speaking with confidence and feeling fully comfortable in the space I was in.

Before my diagnosis I knew there were these two sides but now it seems more pronounced. Perhaps it isn't and perhaps it's just that whatever emotion a person feels in the present is going feel like the strongest ever, or at least it is like that for myself, so it's just stronger. Then again, maybe the proverbial other states in my Kansas metaphor are drifting apart. Could it be as I become more confident in my Kansas there is an equal lowering of my ability to cope with things outside of it? I'd say 100% yes to this EXCEPT how would my Aspie Traveler series fit into this?

Well, how would it? I think I can explain it in that, for one, traveling is a Kansas and when 6,000 miles away in a foreign land any social encounter will probably be the one and only ever experienced with a person, let alone if one even happens, due to the language barrier whereas at home there is no barrier and more is expected.

I realize everyone has their comfort zone and everyone has a strength and weakness and venturing out of their comfort zone is uncomfortable. I understand this, but the gap for us on the autism spectrum can be greater and it is amplified because we may get a taste of what normal is from time to time and it's within that which makes the times when we may become socially paralyzed harder because we've felt the opposite. It boggles my mind that I can present to thousands of people and yet simple chit chat can be overwhelming. On the flip side, I can command a race track and communicate within the team and direct attention to problems and do a dozen things at once flawlessly but when the final checkered flies I lose my confident posture, my firm voice, and any feeling that I didn't any thing of note.

This post isn't to sound depressing, or to over state the issue at hand, but rather explain it because it can happen and unless you've experienced it this issue may be hard to grasp. Society has a habit of thinking that if a person can do one thing exceptionally well they can do everything well. I may be a great presenter, I may be a great official at the race track and do a decent job at ensuring the race is as safe as can be, but underneath it all Asperger's persists. I don't let it define me like I did shortly after my diagnosis, but it's there driving a wedge between Kansas and every other state. Yes, it makes the time I'm in Kansas a most enjoyable experience and I think I enjoy things more than "normal" people and have more passion in what I do than others could ever possibly reach, but it also makes the less enjoyable things more difficult and it makes things I'm not passionate about almost impossible.

Here's the thing; I wish I could do the things normal people do so easily.  Maybe right now I've got normal envy. I understand I've done things most people will probably never do, and I've done some rather spectacular things so maybe it's hard to empathize with this, but in the game of life when it comes to the social aspect I feel as if I'm just an invisible person on the sidelines watching everyone else play the game with a flawless ease and each time I attempt to play the game I get chewed up and spat out right back to the sidelines where I sit, I watch, and I wonder how everyone outside of Kansas can operate so naturally when, for myself, it's all or nothing, ease or impossible, and oh what I would do to close up the Kansas cliff.

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