I recently upgraded my laptop. The new-to-me one is bigger, has the 16:9 display ratio I need if I’m going to create presentations that will play on modern media, and it’s so much faster than my old XP model. The XP one stood me in good stead for over five years, but it just couldn’t keep up with all the bells and whistles that come standard-issue with the evolving tech out there.
So, off to Windows 7 I went… only to be continually nagged about upgrading to Windows 10. I may do it before they start charging for it. Or I may just keep on with the Win7 for as long as it lasts, and then just upgrade my computer, period, getting a touch screen to “leverage” all the new “capabilities” of Win10.’
But I digress. As I’ve been transitioning over to my new machine, I’ve been copying files and folders, combining collections from multiple external hard drives into a common structure. I didn’t have the room on my old laptop to store all my downloads, but now I do. So, piece by piece, file by file, folder by folder, I’ve been consolidating.
And it feels great. It’s also giving me a good refresher on what absolutely consumed my interests over the years.
To say that I’m one of those women who “Gets pleasure from being engaged in her chosen work and/or special interests”, would be an understatement. I have always – always – been fixated on specific interests. When I was a little girl, I was given a pocket knife for my seventh birthday and I spent hours whittling, opening and closing it, examining how it was put together, and carrying it around in my pocket. The day that I received it, my Mom threw a birthday party for me — I told her I did not want one (oh, the horror), but she had it anyway, inviting all those little girls over to my house. I couldn’t deal with all the noise in the house, all the movement, all the activity, so I took my pocket knife, left the house, and disappeared around the street corner, where I found a fallen branch I could whittle. It was such a relief to be away from everyone, alone with my pocket knife.
My dad always had a pocket knife on his person, and I also carried a pocket knife with me from the time I was seven, until about 15 years ago, in fact. I always had it in my left pocket, and my left jeans pockets always had lighter patches on the outside, where the ends of the pocket knife rubbed the jeans fabric. I stopped carrying it on my after the 9-11 attacks, since everything that could be seen as a weapon seemed to label you a threat. Once, back in the 90’s, I pulled it out at work, because something needed to be cut and there was no scissors around. You’d have thought I’d pulled out a semi-automatic rifle. Cue the comments about “women with knives”. It felt kind of bad-ass to intimidate my male co-workers, but it unsettled me, so I stopped taking my pocket knife to work. I still kept it on me when I wasn’t at work, though. Until 9-11, that is.
Another one of my fascinations when I was a kid, was Native American tribes of the East Coast and the Great Plains. Not all tribes, mind you, but the Delaware (Leni Lenape) of the Atlantic States, and the Iroquois Confederacy (the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca, and then later the Tuscarora tribes). I was intensely drawn to learning about them, which was a little tough, since I lived in a rural area with a limited public library, and there was no internet at that time. I kept checking out the same book out of the library about American Indian tribes. It was a great book, with great illustrations — simple line drawings, not the cartoonish pictures I saw everywhere else.
I also had a few books of my own – one from my Dad, that he’d had as a kid, and one that I got as a gift – The Golden Book of Indian Crafts and Lore. I tried making some of the things they showed, but it struck me as being almost disrespectful of those cultures, showing how you can make implements which were/are sacred to those peoples, out of stuff you find around your house. It felt cheap and easy, and I always had a love-hate relationship with that book. To me, the Native American way of life was something to respect and revere – not rip off and tell kids they can recreate with construction paper and glue.
I was absolutely consumed by Native American subjects all through my childhood. I felt a kinship with the way of life I read about. I didn’t understand it all, but I related to what I read, and I always wished I could live differently than I did — particularly off in the woods, free to roam and hunt and explore without others intruding on me, trying to turn me into a girl.
I was also interested in tribes of the Great Plains — the Lakota, Crow, Cheyenne, in particular. Blackfoot, too. My Mom read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and although I was too young to really understand it, looking at the pictures really struck a nerve with me.
For all my intense focus on Native American tribes, my interests were narrow, and I never really ranged farther afield, intellectually speaking. I was placed in a gifted program when I was in second (or third?) grade, and I was given an assignment to research and write a paper about a tribe of my choice and then present it to my group. I chose the Seminoles of Florida. I found some books at the library, and I looked at some encyclopedia articles, but I got overwhelmed by the new information, I couldn’t continue with the project. Weeks later, when the paper/presentation was nearly due, my teacher asked me how it was coming along, and I realized I’d completely put it out of my mind. Of course, I managed to compose myself and tell her it was on track, and I’d have it ready soon. But when I went back to trying to get my books and notes together, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t manage it. It was too much for me, and I just dropped it. The teacher wasn’t happy when I told her I didn’t do the paper. She gave me some more time, but I was still unable to complete the work.
Eventually I was taken out of the gifted program. Rather than doing work, I was being disruptive and starting to rebel against the teacher, who struck me as too stupid to teach gifted children.
Another one of my intense interests was Tolkein books — The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was consumed by them, and I had my own little imaginary world, where I was a Ranger, like Aragorn, and I had all sorts of adventures. I even made myself a full-size sword from a 2×4 and some other materials from my Dad’s carpentry workshop. Of course, I couldn’t take my sword out of my bedroom, because first of all, my parents were opposed to any sort of violence, and making weapons in the basement (even if they were for play) was strictly verboten. On top of that, I attracted too much attention when I went outside — a 14-year-old girl walking around with a full-size wooden sword was not the sort of thing you saw everyday in those rural parts, and the neighbors were pretty brutal with their judgements. So, it was easier to stay in my room and wear my sword in peace. It gave me a strong sense of completion, and I felt much more at ease when wearing it.
I created my own mythological place — not exactly Middle Earth, but similar to it. I drew maps of that place, and in the privacy of my own company, I acted out scenes from that world, interacting successfully with imaginary friends and foes, and getting some relief from my failed interactions with real-life people. At least, I think I was in the privacy of my own company. I talked to myself constantly, as a kid, and our house was not big, so I’m sure everyone could hear me. I never knew when others were around, so who knows who all overheard me?
But my most enduring obsession was King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. I was so drawn to that world, structured according to a code of conduct, a set of ethics that you had to abide by, lest you be ejected from the company of your peers. I read everything I could get, and I even got in trouble in second grade for not paying attention in class, because I was busy reading my King Arthur book under my desk. My deskmate turned me in , and I never forgave her for that. She said she did it for my own good, and I’m sure she did — she was not vindictive. But to me, she had broken a trust. I was not of that world. I was of the Arthurian world. And nothing could convince me otherwise.
My fascination with Arthurian “romances” has endured, and I’m drawn to it, to this day. A good knight’s tale still gets my blood pumping, although the whole SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) medieval re-enactment scene doesn’t appeal to me. I hung out with folks in the SCA, once upon a time, but it wasn’t my thing. Their portrayal of that way of life didn’t synch with my own interpretations.
I was better off sticking to my books, where everyone behaved the way I was accustomed.
Looking through my files and directories on my various hard drives, now, I can see continued evidence that I’ve got a ton of focused interests that have crowded everything else out over the short- and long-term. I’ve got a ton of neurological research papers — hundreds, really — including a fairly extensive collection on Asperger’s and autism. This is my third “go-round” in approaching my “spectrumy” issues, and while my attempts to explore and deal with my issues in the past (in 1997 and 2007) didn’t last more than a year or so in both cases, now I see that I was actually collecting some pretty good info.
And I can use that info now to better understand myself — and help myself. Because I’m certainly not getting help from anyone else.
The good news is, I’m probably the best-qualified person to actually assess and deal with some of my issues. I think this is true of highly intelligent Aspie women in general. I’m super-smart; I’m painstakingly precise; when in doubt, I err on the conservative side; I’m exhaustively detailed in my examinations and my analysis; and I have no interest in “making myself more autistic” for the sake of attention. If anything, I downplay it, cover it up, work around it, rather than calling attention to it and expecting the rest of the world to accommodate me. I have no vested interest in getting attention or even having people around me know where I’m at on the spectrum and what I’m dealing with. It’s easier if they never know.
But it’s not easier for me. It just mucks everything up, and it shorts me out, which is never good.
So, I can use what I’ve gleaned over the past years, to finally make some headway on the issues I face on a daily basis. No pity party here. Just basic facts. Life is painful and confusing, and half the time, I have no idea what I’m really doing or if it’s going to work out. But I have to at least try. And that’s something I can work with.
Oh, good Lord — have I ever gone on. Well, that’s me.
What more can you expect?