Sunday, May 31, 2015

Positional Warfare

This post originally ran in June in 2010:

Positional Warfare

There are times that I may be at war. The enemy may not be visible, but its influence can easily be seen. It's influence may start out small, but if left unchecked I will succumb to it and be, as I have read many times as a symptom of the autism spectrum, "uncomfortable in my own skin".

I talked about this one month ago when I was at the USAC race in Terre Haute, but I have been thinking about it even more so. As I gave a presentation last week and I was fluid and animated as I gave my presentation I felt as if all my moves with without thought. It felt natural to move my hands in certain ways depending on what I was saying. When the presentation was over though the war began and I struggled.

It is amazing, absolutely amazing the difference between knowing what I am doing, and being uncomfortable in my own skin. When I know what I am doing, or rather if I have direction, I am free. My posture is not thought about and my arms are free. By free I mean I am not thinking about how I should be standing. You see, while in the positional warfare, I don't know what to do with myself.

Not knowing what one should be doing sounds like a vague comment, I know, but if you have felt this, if you know what it is like to have full thought on every part of one's body, then you might understand.

What causes the positional warfare? Usually a lack of direction will instantly set it off. If I am unsure of what I should be doing then I will fall into the sad abyss of this annoying trait. I love having Asperger Syndrome for the positive traits, but if I could drop just one then it might be this one.

When I say lack of direction I am referring to any time that has me unsure of what task I should be doing. When I worked at a video game store and I had no task and the manage assigned nothing and there was nothing to be done I was lost. However, if a customer came in, I knew what to do and the positional battle vanished.

If you see me in this battle I may appear anxious or tense. I will appear this way because I am. Do you know that feeling when you just have to stretch, or have an itch that needs to be scratched? That's what it feels like across my entire body, but nothing I do ease it. I can try and place my arms on my side, or cross my arms, or hold my arms, or fold my hands, or pace, or any of a thousand different tactics, but if I am in the positional warfare there is little thatI can do.

I have never experienced this positional warfare when I am alone. If I am alone I have control. I will always know what to do and what's next when I am alone. I can't let anyone down, and I can't misinterpret social cues or what may be expected of me. Because of this I must fight the urge to stay alone.

What are some ways to prevent a positional warfare? It would be easy on my part if I could just speak up and ask what is expected of me or what I should be doing. Once my mind starts to wonder what I should be doing the amount of processing that goes on in my brain is overwhelming and it starts to slow my system down. Also, because of this, I have always been told I have a "lack of initiative". It's not that I have a lack, but it's simply that I get drowned out trying to comprehend what I should be doing now.

The jobs I have had have been the places where most positional warfares occur. I know my coworkers at the video game store saw this and asked me why I looked so uncomfortable. I didn't give much of an answer, but for my manager then he could have simply given me a task and if I have direction I know what to do.

Anxiety is the "man behind the current" pulling the strings in this positional warfare. I want to do the right things, but it seems that any time I am left to decide what I should be doing I usually choose the wrong thing. This leads to an uncomfortable conversation and the vicious cycles continues onward.

What I hope I got across in this entry is that direction is critical. If I know what the task is then I can concentrate on that. If I am left in an open ended situation I will be thinking about what I should be doing, and then I will start to think about how I should be standing. "Is this posture okay? Folded arms? Crossed arms? Folded hands?"

I see people in public and in conversations look fully free. They don't look like they struggle with there outwardly appearance, and I must say I envy that. If I am in those situations it may lead to a war of position that I don't know how to win, but I still try. While I don't know how to vanquish this enemy I will not quit.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Dance of the Fingers

This originally ran June 23, 2010:

At times I will get an uncontrollable urge. The feeling is such that the only way to release the urge is to give into the urge. My body will be in a frenzy up until I give in. No, this urge isn't something evil or involves drinking something, but rather it's a dance, a dance with my fingers.

I have been dancing with the fingers since I was about six years old. I don't know how I got started and the origin isn't important. 21 years of practice and I've gotten rather good at the dance.

As much as I need the dance I am often embarrassed by it. When I do it in public, or around someone else, I often will look around and make sure no one saw me. Often times I can overcome the urge, but sometimes I can't. Rob, who you read about in the "International Event" entry, saw this and the look of confusion on his face was about as priceless as the look of "uh oh, I've been spotted" on my face.

What is this dance? I came up with the "Dance of the fingers" just now as I couldn't come up with anything better. It isn't a new hit dance show on ABC though, but rather is my nifty name for finger flapping.

My dance involves me taking both of my hands and bringing them up to my chin and cheeks. Once this is done, in a rapid fashion, I move all my fingers, except my thumbs which are interlocked inside both hands, up and down.

For me, the dance is a release. What usually precipitates this is when I get excited or happy about something. Sometimes this will occur with what will appear to be zero outside assistance. I could be sitting, alone, with no electronics on just as alone as could be, but if I start thinking about something and get just a bit anxious or excited about something the dance will commence.

The dance may last anywhere from half-a -second to 10 seconds and usually the dance will end with one sudden body jerk or maybe just a single shoulder jerk. It is as close to involuntary as any other movement could be.

To fight it off is to require every ounce of will power in my body. I'm not kidding when I say every ounce! I don't want to be 'caught in the act' because I know it's not something that looks normal. I also don't want to explain it to people because unless you know this feeling my words won't mean anything to you.

I may be able to quell the urge most the time, but there will be times when this dance will be spotted. If done so I can only hope that the other person has viewed this blog because spoken words fail me in situations like that and I quite simply don't want to explain it. So, as one popular pop song says, and I will anytime I get excited or anxious about something, "Just Dance".

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Speeding and Tornadoes

This originally ran in May 2010:

There came a time in my life that I had a huge dilemma. Perhaps you would call this an ethical dilemma without common sense. Whatever it was, I can tell you I was a very confused five year old.

When I was five I was a stickler on rules. If my dad floated a stop sign I would let him know. If he changed lanes without using a turn signal I would let him know (I still do!). As minor as those were I was very concrete on speed limits. I was almost obsessed with speed limits, why they were in use, and why the limit on I-465 in Indianapolis was 55 and the speed in our neighborhood was 15.

As I learned about the safety aspect I began to believe 55 meant 55 no matter what. Then I had a thought that would plague me for months, "What would happen if a tornado waschasing us?"

With that question I combined my greatest fear with my greatest belief in rules. Severe weather used to terrorize me and if there was a "watch" of any sort, be it thunderstorm or tornado, I was sure to do everything I could not to leave the house so I could have quick access to the basement.

But there are times when I would be out and there would be a watch. What would happen if the watch turned into the warning and a tornado developed behind us? Our safety is important, but the speed limit is 55. What if the tornado was a fast mover? Let's say it was doing 70, 55 would not be enough to out run it.

Provisions to rules are difficult to teach. Being a five year old deathly afraid of breaking any rules I thought that a person had to always follow the speed limit. If the tornado got you then so be it, but at least the rules weren't being broken.

As the weeks went on I kept asking my dad about this scenario because I wanted to believe one could speed if their life was in danger. I wanted to believe, but if this rule, or rather law, could be broken then what about all the others? If one rule can be bent then I had to know what all the provisions were.

This was not an easy process, but I had to know. Slowly I came to the conclusion that it was okay to speed if one were to out run a tornado, but it was not okay to speed if there was just hail or a severe thunderstorm. Through my provisions I became confident that I had solved this conundrum. Doing this allowed me to understand that in all of life there are provisions to rules and this was a milestones as, if I had not worked this out, I might have always been 100% concrete in that the rule is the rule and that is final.

In my police presentations I use this example: There was a teenager with autism lost in a large park. The police located the person and asked him what his name was. The person froze and did not comply with or answer any commands or questions. The officers knew this was the right person and had to bring the parents to the person because they were getting no help or compliance on anything they asked of him. When the parents go there they asked, "Why didn't you help the officers? They were trying to help you. The teenager responded, quite flatly, "Why are you mad? You told me that I should 'not talk to strangers' and these people were strangers."

Concrete thinking is common for those on the spectrum and each person has a different degree of this. Some people can be flexible, others can not (I am not flexible when playing games. We either play by the rules or we don't play at all. House rules or you need to go to someone else's house!). I am so thankful my dad continued the discussion about speeding that when being chased by a tornado is okay.

Through the years I always came up with other possible situations, such as if we were driving down the road, and my dad had a health crisis, would I be able to drive him to the hospital? If there were a fire in my house could I break a window to get out? If other people are talking, if I feel very ill, can I say something and interrupt them?

I came up with nothing short of 15,000 possible reason to break the rules, but with each situation I worked through I developed a better sense of, well, common sense. I had to work through these to get to this point and had my "what if" situations had fallen on deaf ears I may be super concrete in all rules. I'm glad I'm not because my goal now is to talk to as many groups of people as possible about the autism spectrum and these groups are typically strangers to me and I was also told that I shouldn't "talk to strangers".

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Post from the Past: The Usher vs. Aaron

As I go on my second Aspie Traveler Adventure I will be running posts from the past that are worth reading again:

Last Friday I went to my very first NHL game and for the most part it was great. The sounds of the game in person is something that one can't appreciate at home. The sounds of the blades on the ice are so sharp and crisp, the sound of the bodies slamming against the boards is enough that you can feel the pain, and the sound of the pucks hitting the sticks is nothing short of awesome. However great that experience was was I had a moment of my own in the 1st intermission that over shadowed the night.

What happened between the 1st and 2nd periods is a classic example of something that would, for most people, be minor and a non-event. For me though the anxiety is still with me like it just happened.

Yes, I can see how this event wouldn't be remembered by most people. I'm not like most people though. What happened was this: Between periods I was craving nachos and a soda. I waited for the lines to thin out somewhat and went with 6 minutes to go in the intermission. The price for nachos and a soda came out to $13.25! For what it is worth though there were free refills on the soda. With soda and nachos in my hands I proceeded back to my seat. This is where the usher enters our story

As I walked from the concourse through the small tunnel like chute to the inner arena I had my eyes locked on my seats. Walking amid a group of people that are coming and going is always a stressful experience for me so I have to keep my eye on the final destination. If I look at my immediate surroundings I may make eye contact or look at someone in a wrong way (don't ask what a wrong way is as I'm not sure what it is, which is why I try to avoid it). That being said I keep my eye on the finish line.

I passed the usher and was just about to go down the stairs towards my seat when all the sensory alarms went off in my body. It wasn't much as it was just a tap on the shoulder, but the sensation of touch on my shoulders is considerably higher than anywhere else on my body. To put lightly, unless I know the person and it is expected, any touch on my shoulders is something I would avoid at any cost. A tap on the shoulder is like being tapped everywhere on my body all at once and that is a lot of information to process.

I was set on my destination and this tap threw me off. So much so that I nearly took a tumble down the stairs. I was startled, and processing what just happened and thankfully I was stopped by the railing that goes down the middle. What was the meaning of the tap on the shoulder? She needed to see my ticket.

My senses were violated because she needed to check my ticket even though she had checked it before the game. Okay, so maybe she didn't have a good memory, but I'm still a little irked of the end result that happened. Sadly, the bout wasn't over.

She needed to see my ticket, but my ticket was in my pocket and I had both hands holding the drink and the nachos. I was in a startled state, and I realize now I didn't vocalize anything after being startled. Truly I didn't say a word as I was processing so much information that the actual world took a back seat to the anxiety of my body.

I was unable to say "my hands are full" and I started a small dance to try and illustrate this. I looked at my left hand, then my right, then my left, then down towards my left pocket, and then she said, "I'm sorry sir, I can't hold your drink". I was now lost. I had no idea what to do. What I wanted to do was teleport back to home and go to bed and never leave my bed. Being flooded with so many issues is a short amount of time that I couldn't foresee was just awful.

I started to have this odd jerky motion and I was filled with nothing but rage. Pure rage. The rage had no direction and wasn't towards anyone as I was just confused and scared. I didn't know what to do nor could I fully comprehend what was expected of me.

Finally, someone walking by asked me if I would like them to hold my drink, so I handed it to them and showed the usher my ticket. With drink in hand I made my way towards the stairs with the goal of sitting in my seat and slowly venting this anxiety and anger out of my system.

It happened again. A tap on the shoulders and again I nearly took a spill. "Sir" she said, "You can't go down the stairs and you must remain behind the blue line until play stops. Just as I began my trek towards my seat the 2nd period began. I heard her words but nothing made sense. Being tapped on the shoulder once is bad, but a 2nd time, after a tense two minutes was too much.

I just stared at her in befuddlement. She repeated her line and I slowly comprehended that if she had not put me through two minutes of torture, I would not have been in violation of crossing the line while the puck was in play. I was angry and confused.

While standing behind the magical no cross blue line I began to twitch. My rage was at my personal limit. The sensation of the tap to the shoulder would not go away and I could not comprehend why the usher was doing her job.

As my luck would have it, several minutes went by without a stoppage in play and I stood there shaking. All I wanted was nachos, a drink, and to return to my seat in peace. Something simple that most people could do without an event. My event I endured was worse than any fight that happens on the ice (I don't understand why they fight in hockey by the way. Hockey is a great sport, but the fighting just is so out of place).

With a stoppage, finally, I returned to my seat and slowly got my bearings. It's an event like this that I fear each and every day. If you aren't on the spectrum I don't know how you will understand this story. Perhaps if I tell you that I am teary eyed right now talking about this because it strikes fear in my heart. Pure fear. I don't know when an event like this will happen nor will the person that creates it know what happened. I can't blame the usher (I want to, trust me) for doing her job. How can one expect that a tap on the shoulder could have such an impact on a person?

Trying to operate in a world that can't foresee such impacts is difficult. I don't have a big "Don't touch me here" sign. I don't have a sign that says, "Don't interrupt while walking".

It's hard. It's a challenge. Life is nothing short of a fight and most times people don't know they started one. I don't fight with them though, it's a fight with my own mind and senses. It's because of this I hesitate each time when leaving the house.

The world is a dangerous place and is filled with many events that will prove to be hazardous. The problem is this; what is hazardous to me is a non-event for most people. People will put me in these positions and not even know it. The usher couldn't have known out much pain this would've caused me, and I don't think she ever knew. I kept it internal except for the shaking.

This event evoked a sense of fear I haven't felt in a while. This "usher vs. Aaron" event was something far more dramatic than two goons on the ice trying to punch the other guy's face in. My fight, that I think about each day, is about the battle of overcoming the fear of every day life. When will the next battle be? How bad will it be? Will I endure it? These questions I ponder each day, and this bout with the usher has me second guessing myself.

I'm here in the office though, I got out of bed this morning and life continues on. I'm fearful, but I won the fight. I fear the next one and wonder if I will overcome it, but how will I know if I will or won't overcome it unless I try? For this I play on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Almost there

Today would be my normal post about the Indy 500 and how much it means to me but right now all my attention is on the great adventure that lies in wait for me which begins tomorrow. My blog will be going somewhat dark as I will be running some of my favorite posts from early on in my blog. Other than that I've got nothing to write about today because the biggest challenge I've ever willingly put myself in commences tomorrow.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Assisting, Five Years Later

Last night I assisted in my sixth Hoosier 100. It's amazing what six years can do. 

My first one in 2010 I was timid. No, seriously! I was the assistant started but I made no movement toward the flagstand and I stood on the infield like a lost puppy. I was eyeing the flagstand but I didn't know if it was appropriate to go to it without permission. It wasn't until the starter signaled me to come over that I was able to do it. 

With each subsequent year it became a tad bit easier but I still never felt 100% as if I belonged. Why was this? While the Hoosier 100 is a USAC event it wasn't the typical routine. I know what we do and how we do it in the .25 series but for the series I don't typically do I'm not confident in what and how to do it. 

In terms of flags I am confident, but it's in the pre-event things I'm unsure of. Where are the official shirts? Or the radios? To most it's probably an easy thing to go in, be assertive, and ask for what is needed but this is where I struggle. It isn't easy to speak up and ask for what I need even though it's what I need. 

This year though was slightly different as while I had the same title of assistant Tom, the primary starter, would be a bit late so I was responsible for practice. Not having a radio would not work; I had to be assertive in getting the stuff I needed to get the job done. 

It may have taken six times but last night I was able to, finally, walk in with confidence as if I belonged. And all this didn't have to do with others treating me as if I didn't, it just takes some repetition before I feel as if I belong. 

Practice went great and Tom showed up and I assisted him and I had as great of a time as I did five years ago. I was just as giddy as the 27 USAC silver crown cars took the green and shook the ground as I was five years ago and at the end I was about as dirty as possible and as akwYs the dirt never felt so good. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

5 years

I can't believe it's been five years since I started with USAC! It may have been a while but this day seems like yesterday as I prepare to go back the event where it all began

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

People, In a Different Light

I've noticed in life that any time there is a major event, like that covered in "A Crash in Huntsvillle", that things seem different for a while. They do, at least for myself, and what I mean by that is how I ended that blog that time is short and things and people need to be cherished. With that said I am more aware of the actions of those around me and yesterday I saw both sides of people.

Yesterday morning I was headed to the police academy to give a training on autism and it was early, I was tired, so I needed my daily dose of caffeine and I stopped at a gas station. This is a normal event typically not worth writing about, however I did have a bit of a limp as my left ankle is about twice the size of my right ankle from my minor incident in Huntsville. This limp was noticed by the clerk and when he rang me out he said, "you've got a limp?" and I mentioned that my ankle was slightly sprained to which he asked what pain medication I was using, had I been icing it, and if I had to be on it. Usually this would make me uncomfortable because it is needless chatter and I wouldn't know how to respond, but I was actually touched that a random person, a person that I may never see again, took the time to give his advice on how to minimize the pain and make it better more quickly.

I left the station with a gigantic smile. If you've followed my blog from the beginning you'll know that these encounters used to be the stuff that made me stressed above all else, but with this newfound sense of "cherishing the moment" it was touching. This feeling was quickly shattered as I got into my car and a car leaving the station tried an overzealous move to get out in front of cars that had the right of way and both cars honked their horns and one of them had a prolonged period of honking (writer's note: I never thought I'd write the phrase, "prolonged period of honking." I laughed out loud writing that!) and then they faked a U-turn with giving some rather no so nice gestures to the car that had crossed in front of them.

Seeing such juvenile behavior saddened me. I didn't let it shake me as I continued onto the academy and gave a stellar presentation (their words, not mine) and afterwards the same officers come to our city location to learn even more about autism and it was on this drive that I would see another experience that would sadden me.

When I got four stop lights from our city office I was stopped and the turn arrow came on and in the oncoming lanes the lead car did not go. The car behind blasted their horn for a few seconds more than was needed and the lead car reciprocated that behavior with some more much unneeded hand signals. I said aloud to no one that could hear, "What is wrong with people?"

Maybe when we've experienced one, or more, experience like the crash life takes on a new meaning. We, or at least I, realize that time is short and in a blink of an eye things can change. That being said how can we allow such instant anger over miniscule things? Are they times to get angry? Absolutely! But in the grand scheme of things is a few seconds at a red light worth getting that worked up over? Is it worth also returning the anger?

A post like this has probably been written an infinite amount of times in, "life is short, be happy, treat others with respect" and all that other good stuff and in a few weeks I'll probably myself move on from having these things impact me. That's what life is; if we stayed in that place of shock, and realizing time is actually short life itself would probably become overwhelming. That being said, though, is it that difficult to be like that gas station clerk? Is it difficult to, instead of emitting so much anger to others show just a little bit of concern? I know I'm probably the last person in the world to be speaking on this matter having tried to isolate myself from others for so long, but to that guy at the gas station I have to say you made my day and gave me hope that not everyone I come across in a day is going to be an angry driver who is more than ready to show their displeasure.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Crash in Huntsville

Racing is dangerous; always has been and always will be. It's also a spectacle of color, sound, and competition and is something I've been drawn to since the age of two and currently I am the chief starter for two different series and this past weekend I was working the USAC .25 Generation Next series race in Huntsville, Alabama. This was our fourth national event of the year and is my sixth season as being the starter and nothing could have prepared me for what happened on Saturday.

One of the things I love about the USAC .25 series is the safety. I've seen some of the wildest flips and the cars are tipped back over and the driver remains in the race. The rules and construction of the cars have made the safety for the drivers extremely high. However, things can still happen and as the field came to green for the first heat race on Saturday there was some minor contact and two cars headed towards the tire wall, which is rather normal, but as they got to the wall one car shot skywards.

I didn't believe what I was seeing. I don't want to say flips are expected, but they happen and 99.9% of the time are benign and the car remains in the race. In this instance though time slowed down and the car kept going up and it almost went over the eight foot high fence and then I saw my friend and coworker for six years and all time froze.

The next tenths of a second were an eternity as I could see Kyle running. "Run!" my brain screamed but he was only able to take two steps before gravity did its thing and the front of the car caught Kyle on the head and both he and the car disappeared from my view and then there was silence. There may have been noise, but seeing this was shock inducing. I think I displayed the red flag and the silence was broken when I screamed, "MEDIC!" as they were stationed right behind me.

The worst case scenarios began to creep through my mind. I couldn't see Kyle at all because the wall blocked my view and when the first person got to him the motions for the medics brought about a sense that the worst case was going to be realized.

More and more people got to him and the frantic pointing of the people continued to show the seriousness of this incident. I stayed in the stand because I didn't want to know. I thought back to my incident in Nashville three years ago and people reacted the same way so I was hoping that this was the same, but then again I was just thrown about in a stand and Kyle literally had a car land on him.

About five minutes went by and there was still a big huddle of people around Kyle and as they were righting the car I slowly walked over and as I got to the wall and peered over my heart finally started beating properly again because I could see that he was awake, in obvious amounts of pain, but was responding to those around. At that moment the shock disappeared and I went back into flagger mode and we started clearing out people that just didn't need to see what was going on.

The ambulance came and it wasn't until they left that the sense of shock came back. I've been flagging for 20 years and have seen a lot of things but never something like this. We are about as safety conscious as it comes and you can prepare for everything but still the unexpected can and will occur. For the drivers in the incident they were fine, as once again the safety of these cars were shown, but concern still remained for my friend.

We got back to racing but it just didn't seem real. My attention was on the track under green but between heats I still played back trying to figure out how a car went that high. I never did figure it out and about six races later on a start there was an incident that found it's way to the wall right at the flagstand which knocked me out of it and onto the ground. The first thing I said was, "you've got to be kidding me!" as it was obviously not a good day to be an official. I took a break as my shoulder was throbbing, and my shin was all different shades of colors it's typically not, but for some reason or another that incident put me back into a calm, cool, and collected mode as if Kyle's incident never occurred.

Kyle returned to the track just five hours later and I didn't see him right away but those that saw him described him as a "mummy" with a head bandage and other bandages from scrapes. Also, his foot was in a boot from a rather nasty break of some bones. I'd see him once the day's races were halted due to a flash downpour (a fitting way to end the day the way it went) and he was in obvious amounts of pain.

Back at the hotel I did all that I could to make sure he was comfortable as I was rooming with him and despite all the scrapes and trauma he was in rather good spirits keeping his sharp wit and still making me laugh. His nickname is "muscles" and it was obvious why because not many people would take a hit like that and walk out of the hospital just four hours later.

It wasn't until the next morning that I once again felt that shock of when it happened, but it wasn't just a sense of that, but in life in general. I started by saying racing is dangerous, but to be honest life is dangerous as shown by my possible tornado experience 10 days ago. It doesn't matter if one is at a race track because one is passionate about the sport, or crossing a street in a city, or simply walking down a supermarket aisle. Life is dangerous, things happen, we can prepare for everything and still the unexplained fluke can occur. This is where, at least myself, thinks about the fact that with all this being so it is of the utmost importance to cherish everything now because in the blink of an eye things can change, things can fall, and the unexpected can occur. Thankfully, Kyle is going to be okay and it may be a few weeks, or a month, before he's back to prime shape, but for a moment, I'm sure, all that saw that experienced the same moment of shock I did. So to Kyle, whom I sure will read this, get well soon!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Aspie Traveler Round Two

It's coming! I didn't think I'd be doing this again, ever, much less than three months after my Amsterdam trip, but the way events have played out I am.

The question is, "why do it?" This question has a couple answers. The first is because I need it. I learned an immense amount about myself and my strength and at this point in time I need to test myself again. I'm struggling with life's complex questions of, "Who am I? What's my purpose? Am I acceptable as who I am?"

Those questions may seem elementary and ones that I shouldn't ask, but I do on a daily basis. The events of the past three months have put all of this to the test and I've been hurting. I haven't gone into that, and I don't intend to, but doubt has crept back into my daily existence. That being said I had a week where I had no presentations and I found an amazing rate on airfare to a place I haven't been so another week long adventure is upcoming.

First, this isn't about running away from a problem. It may seem like it, and maybe you're convinced it is, but I have utilized several of the things I learned in Amsterdam to fit into my presentation. As I left Amsterdam I feared I'd never get to do a thing like that again, but if I did, and it turned out to be more than once, I had this thought of having trips that progressed in difficulty because I have to admit that Amsterdam was rather easy as everyone spoke English. In terms of the challenge factor it wasn't there so, what will happen if there was a little challenge? That was my goal but where the second series of The Aspie Traveler will take place I am going to a degree of difficulty of 10.

As with my first series I will be running everything postdated meaning I will be writing my stuff live but it won't run until I'm back in the states. I will say I leave the Tuesday after the Indy 500 and will be gone for eight days and will get back just in time to head to a race which that within itself will be a story because integrating back so quickly is going to be interesting.

But I ask, how am I going to handle this? Where I will be going was, in my mind, the sixth or seventh location but now I am going straight to what I think is going to be a most difficult challenge. But I want that! I want the challenge. I want to prove to myself I can do it, that I can navigate, that I can (somehow) manage the food.

I could go on and on but the next three weeks are going to be fantastic. Right now I'm in Alabama working a USAC .25 race, I'll get back to Saint Louis late Sunday or Monday and then I've got three presentations over Tuesday and Wednesday plus I've got to pack for three separate events (Indy 500, Aspie Traveler, USAC .25 race in PA) and also get my car worked on plus get currency to the location that I am going. It's a bit overwhelming, actually, to think about all the stuff that I need to do and at the same time thrilled for. I mean, it's only nine days until the 99th running of the Indy 500 and two days later I am undertaking the greatest challenge of my life! It's going to be fantastic and I can't wait to take you along for the ride!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Back to IMS

Today I'll head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to flag the EVGP which is a race for electric go karts. It should certainly be interesting but the truly interesting thing is how this plays in to what happened a decade ago. 

Ten years ago right now I was in the hospital with a serious infection. Here's the thing though; just a week prior I had a major life event get canceled. I had been scheduled to be an intern for ABC for the month of May at IMS but the process of interns got changed and I had been dropped. Now here's the thing; had I been in Indy interning I highly doubt I would've sought out medical attention because missing a gig like this wouldn't be something I would've done. 

This is the thing in life. Sometimes doors are shut and while at that time it may be the most dream crushing of things, in the long run it puts us where we need to be. 


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Worst Night: 10 Years Later

There I was, a decade ago, staring up at the ceiling a bit unsure of my surroundings. I wasn't quite sure where I was but I felt this sharp pain in my arm. Before I looked at my arm, though, I looked at the window and it was a window I was unfamiliar with. In fact, now I knew I didn't know where I was. I heard a familiar television show in the background and I didn't need my glasses to know that Lost was on but for some reason I didn't care (this was the only show of the series I missed.) What was going on?

I turned to my left and finally looked at my arm and I had an IV. Things were slowly coming back to me and I remembers waking up with a large mass on my neck, a dangerously high fever, and I had been admitted into the hospital. To make matters worse my dad had to go out of town on business so at that moment, as I looked back at the window and the darkness descending upon Saint Louis, I too was at my darkest point of my life.

My time in the hospital would be four days and three of those days I spent alone. At this point in time I had been diagnosed with Aspergers now for 18 months and my negative self-talk reached a crescendo during these nights. It also didn't help that one night during a shift change my pain medicine was overlooked and I was shouting words I'm not proud of, but I was reaching a point that I didn't care. Why should I care? What was the point of survival? What was the point of enduring this because I knew there was and would never be any hope for me.

Isn't it amazing how things can change? On those nights in the hospital I wouldn't have cared had I died. That may sound harsh and to the point, but that's where I was. There was no awareness no understanding, and I'm not just talking about the world's view of the autism spectrum but also within myself. Lost on me was the human potential that was lying dormant. All I knew was that, at that point in time, I was going through hell and only a few people knew about it.

This plays into the event I blogged about on Friday about the storm. When I saw the flying tree I sort of had the same emotions but in reverse. I did care if this would be it for my life and I thought about all the things I've left to do and how I can achieve them. A decade ago I just focused on the things I was sure I'd never do, but now I know I can do them. A decade ago I thought of the relationship I ended, but now I think that the future is infinite in possibilities. A decade ago I thought of no one but myself and the despair I felt, but now I think of those that were in my position and all my thoughts go to how I can use words to better he world for understanding.

It's amazing what just the littlest seedling of hope can give to a person and as the years when on this seedling got watered and taken care of by many people, but ten years later I am certainly not the same person that I mentioned at the start of this. I remember those days well and I can't believe it's been a decade. I can still reach back to my neck expecting to feel a rather unsettlingly large hole where the MRSA infection had been cut out only to find that my skin is fully there. The physical scar remains, but so too does the mental scare. I may not be the same person and I may be filled with hope, but there is still that fear of being alone like that. I doubt that will happen, but it's still there and this fear is what fuels me. If I lost it then my motivation may go with it. One does not have to be bedridden with a 104 fever to feel alone, isolated, and misunderstood. If anything the proverbial fuse I speak of that had to burst to allow me to present burst on those nights and in tomorrow's post I let you know what events led to me being in the hospital and where I could've been instead.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Silenced Into a Storm

It happened again yesterday for only the second time; I had to cancel a presentation due to illness. I had two presentations planned in the Springfield vicinity and I drove down yesterday morning and during my first presentation my voice started to falter and it was obvious the second presentation, had I given it, would have been rather quiet. This sucked! I know being a writer I should use a more eloquent term than that, but I was angry that my body had let me down a second time within a month. However, this set into motion one of the scariest drives I’ve ever had in my life.

As I neared Marshfield I called my sister and within minutes of talking to her it began to rain. This was odd because there was nothing on the radar when I left Springfield. What became odder was the intensity of the rain and it was raining so hard the noise made it impossible for me to continue my conversation so I hung up and drove on.

About a minute after hanging up the rain, somehow, came down harder. The term, “blinding rain” did not give this storm justice. I slowed, but stayed in the fast lane as the right shoulder had many cars stopped on it and I could just make out a semi truck’s tail lights about four feet in front of me and to my right. I tried to shake it from my mind, but the level of danger in this situation was great and my brain started debating.

Stop, Aaron, you need to stop!

I thought about stopping but two things stopped me from stopping. The first was that the slow lane had many cars in it and I couldn’t safely merge due to being blinded. Secondly, I have always feared stopping on the Interstates. Ask my dad, when I was really young and we had to stop I remember screaming. Maybe it’s because it’s against the rules, or routine, but also, had I stopped, I risked being smoked by a car or semi that was at speed and there wasn’t enough room on the left shoulder as the cable barrier was very close.

Keep going then, Aaron, but do so safely.

Thanks, brain, I knew that, but I ventured onward for another mile or so and time was now being felt as if everything were in slow motion. Perhaps it was because I was now doing about 10mph, but there was this sense of fear that at any point in time there’d be a road blocking crash, or people that had foolishly stopped in the flow of traffic. As I had these thoughts the road curved to the right and that’s when I saw it.

Go! Go! Go! This isn’t safe, go, go, full speed go!

I thought I was about to die. The rain which had been pouring straight down was now going horizontal. The pressure had changed and the trees on the side of the road were stretched to the max and that’s what I noticed that put me into this panic; there was a tree tumbling about 16 feet above me end over end. I can’t say if this were a tornado, but from the change in winds, to the rains, to the debris that I saw overhead I wasn’t going to wait around to find out and with the change in direction of the rains I now had some visibility so my foot went to the floor.

I had to put in a lot of countersteer to keep my car going straight as the winds wanted to push my car into the cables. My speed was racing and so was my heart as I was sure this was it. A rush to judgement? Perhaps, but after a close call with a tornado whilst parked under an overpass in 1999 I told myself I’d never put myself in this situation again. My eyes were focused on the road but my brain was thinking about what my last conversation I’d have was, and all the things I wish I had said but had been unable. These thoughts continued on and then I rounded a corner…


It’s clear… Wait, clear, that fast?


It was that fast. Around a corner and sunny! I called my dad to tell him and a few minutes into the conversation I looked into my mirror and that was no sign that there had even been a storm. My dad kept an eye on the radar and that storm had just popped up essentially in place and 15 minutes later it was gone. Unless you were at that spot at that time there’s no way for you to know how bad it got so quickly, and there were no watches or warnings with it so I can’t say it was a tornado or if it were just straight line winds. And really, it doesn’t matter because the result to myself was the same. I was scared, out of breath, and I shook the entire way home. I questioned everything; am I doing what I need to be doing in life? Am I doing it enough? What is happiness? I thought of the past three months and all the life changing events, and when I got home I was out of it and had nothing left.


Breathe, just breathe.


Last night wasn’t a long one, I was asleep by 8:30 but the time I was awake was filled with the fastest thoughts I’ve had in a long while. It’s one thing to know you’re driving into a storm if there’s watches or warnings, but it’s another thing all together to drive into a pop-up storm that carried that much pop and that’s what shook me; this notion that all is well and it can turn into something so bad so quickly. I do my best to keep my life in a stasis of sorts because change is bad. I try not to think about the change that could happen and to be reminded of it in the grandest of ways, well, yesterday’s storm I drove through, while only existing for 15 minutes, will live with me a long, long time if not forever.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How I Learned Chain of Command

This blog is a follow up to a blog post I wrote almost five years ago! Having a great memory is awesome for being able to follow up posts from so long ago, but in that post I talked about not understanding the process of chain of command. I'm slightly better at that now and I learned this at a race in 2008.

In 2008 I worked my first true national race and I was rather nervous. I had been used to flagging and race directing local or regional events and something of this scope was new. Also, I was just the flagger so the decision making responsibility did not weigh on my shoulders. I still had a bit of wanting that control and on the final day there was an incident that stopped the race on lap 3.

Usually the rule is if the race is stopped on lap one it is a complete restart. After lap one it'll be a single file restart with the line up being how they were running before the race was stopped. I was lingering around the race director and parents, crew members, and drivers were wanting an answer on how the race would be restarted and the race director was just being screamed at by all parties and eventually he made the choice to complete restart. But this was wrong, wasn't it? One complete lap had been completed, in fact a couple were therefore how could we go back to the beginning? After all who were screaming at him left I asked, "Complete restart, how does that work?" and the response I got was a bunch of words that are fit for my blog.

What had happened? I was right, right? The way I understood the rule we were making a mistake, but when I questioned the person whose decision goes I became just another one of those people who were complaining about everything. I was right, but it wasn't my call to make. Later on the race director apologized for snapping at me, but I understood how he got so riled up because I was there to back him up and not to question his decision.

That was a defining moment in my life. That may sound like I'm trivializing many other events in my life, but after that day I realized that there are times that being right is irrelevant. At races now when a decision is made I will put in my opinion if I know I am right, but I won't push it because once the director has made a decision that's the way it is. I'd also say this was one of the hardest lessons I've ever learned because I used to be under the code of, "right is right regardless of anything else" meaning that I would argue with any person at any time if I knew I was right and they were wrong. Thankfully, I learned that one can be right and wrong at the same time and I still will push my belief on a call, but if I am denied I don't take offense to it, I don't go off on a tantrum, and I will carry out the call that was made because in the end I am the messenger with the flags, not the one who makes the calls.