The Upsides of #Alexithymia

tree by lake with moon and stars overhead

Something occurred to me, the other day. Namely, that alexithymia has been a huge advantage for me.

Not because it’s confused me about my feelings, but because it’s forced me — literally forced me — to rely on logic to navigate through life.

Okay, so that might not sound like such a great thing, considering how illogical the rest of the world is about stuff. Not being “in touch with my feelings” — heck, not even realizing I’m having certain feelings — sets me apart and puts me in the minority. It makes it harder to figure out whether people are really my friends or not. It makes it harder to figure out if I want people to be my friends. And it makes it difficult to tell what other people think of me, as well as figure out what I actually think of myself.

But that difficulty has been so pronounced, it’s required me to use my powers of observation and deduction to make sense of situations. To notice small details that others don’t see, to parse bits of info that most people overlook. To really invest a lot of myself in figuring out how things (and people) work, so I can be effective in interacting with them. I’m definitely one of the best “people persons” I know — people complement me all the time on my empathy and ability to interact with others. That, my friends, is because people have been one of my all-consuming interests, and I study them and their behaviors more closely than the most devoted American fantasy football player studies the weekly stats.

I’m good. I’m really that good. But it didn’t happen overnight. And it sure as heck didn’t happen by accident. I’ve worked at it. Nobody can take that from me. I’m the hardest-working person a lot of my friends. Well, yeah. Because I have to. Not much choice there.

I know it’s not a realistic option (because no choices are ever truly this binary), but if given the choice between built-in emotional “intelligence” about myself, or pure logic, I’d go with logic every time.

Given the right information about how my system works (including emotional things), with logic I can figure plenty of stuff out on my own. And logic serves me just as well as emotion. If I know — from observation — that such-and-such a sensation in my body means I’m nervous, I can take steps to offset the nervousness or channel the energy in a more productive direction. If I can deduce that such-and-such a feeling in my gut indicates a certain mental/emotional state, I can adapt and adjust and work with what’s there. If I know logically that being tired and hungry makes me feel terrible, emotionally, I can track my meals and sleeping pattern and recognize when my outbursts are related to exhaustion and/or low blood sugar.

Emotional self-knowledge only takes you so far, from what I can see. A whole lot of people around me who have no issues with alexithymia are (to put it coarsely) emotional wrecks. Their emotional states run their lives, and even though they’re “in touch with their feelings”, that doesn’t keep their feelings from taking over their lives. They’re even less happy than I am.

Of course, I’ve had to fail a lot of times before I figured out a lot of this. The rest of the world doesn’t instruct explicitly, but expects everybody to just know stuff. But all that failure has trained me to not take failing so damn’ personally, and to just get on with living my life, learning about it, and adjusting to the ongoing flow of information.

Information, it’s all information. And logic helps me parse through it deliberately, intentionally, self-sufficiently. Just how I like it 🙂

And I seriously doubt that I’d take the trouble to develop my logic, if I had insights into emotions and whatnot.

So, even with the difficulties, alexithymia has really come in handy. And to be honest, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Some days, I’d like it to be a little less extreme. But I always have logic to fall back on.

And with that dangling participle, I’m off to live the rest of my life.


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We’re all autistic, we’re all family… what’s the problem?!

three figures with one close up

Ugh. My familial disillusionment strikes again. I had hoped so much to be able to connect with my parents, this holiday season. I won’t be traveling to them, so I’ve been hoping we could interact with each other in a mutually satisfying way. I’ve been cherishing the idea that the distance will relieve me of some of the existential angst that used to push me to suicidal ideation this time of year… every . single . year . until I was nearly 50.

Yeah, I know I’m being unrealistic. Everybody’s bothered by family stuff, almost without exception. I know very few people who don’t have issues with their parents, who don’t carry some sort of painful “baggage” about their relationship, who aren’t haunted by unaccountable ghosts that seem to embed themselves in our sinews and make themselves known like so much arthritis when the weather turns cold. And when you’re autistic, family stuff gets even more… interesting. I’m no exception.

So, I’m all spun up about sh*t. And what, pray tell, is it about?

This morning, my father finally responded about a piece of writing I’d sent to him a few weeks ago, to see what he thought of it. He’s seen my writing before, and he hasn’t always had favorable reactions. He’s misunderstood a lot of what I’ve written and said over the years, and he’s lectured me on all sorts of non-issues that he got all worked up about.

I chalk it up to his own Aspergers… that clinical tone he takes, the critical eye he turns to things… he seems to think he’s doing me a favor by telling me where I’ve gone wrong. He doesn’t actually discuss my overall ideas. He looks at specifics, homes in on the things that he thinks are flawed, and then he tells me in detail what those things are… usually from his own dogmatic point of view.

Yeah… thank you, Aspergers. That whole big-picture thing isn’t a strength of his. My mom isn’t much help, either. She also homes in on a narrow slice of something I’ve written, she takes it out of context, and then she gets upset. She’s much more emotional than he is, and she’s been so beaten down by the rampant sexism in her world, that she has a hard time articulating exactly what’s bothering her.

And then I have two of them all twisted up about my work, when all I really wanted to do was share it with them so we could discuss some of the ideas I’ve been thinking really hard about. It’s generally a really tough situation for everyone, and I hate it every time it happens.

Part of their issue is that I don’t have a college degree. Both of my parents have Masters degrees, and my father used to teach at the college level. I’ve got a number of PhD-level academics/researchers in my family — some of them considerably younger than I — and the whole formal education thing is very big in my family. I still get little insinuating lectures from my parents about how inexplicable it is, that I never got my degree. I attended university for four years. I accumulated the debt. I did my time. But no degree. That just rankles them to no end… probably in no small part because of their Aspergers.

What they can’t seem to get their heads around is that my “issues” were severe and cumulative in college… to the point where I had a serious drinking problem, I was in trouble with the law, I’d “acquired” a stalker, and I literally couldn’t complete my coursework in a timely manner, so completing the whole gauntlet just wasn’t possible. They’ve always felt it was my fault. I just didn’t do a good job of… anything. I’ve embarrassed them. And what right do I have to write anything that sounds like I know what I’m talking about, when I’m clearly such a loser?

So, when I’m presumptuous enough as to write something for others’ consumption (they don’t know about this blog), they get all up in arms. Because they think the things I write about require years and years of study at accredited universities, to qualify to speak about them. If I haven’t done the coursework, I can’t use my voice. I’m not qualified. I’m not vetted. I’m just some upstart making noise. And I’m making noise in ways that might embarrass them, if other people find out. I’m making noise that embarrasses them simply by right of me making that noise. It has no order for them. It has no sense. Because I haven’t ticked all the boxes that tell the world I’m allowed to say the things I say.

And for this very reason, I am incredibly grateful that I’m not traveling to see them for Christmas. We were going to try to travel down, but… nah. It’s winter. Officially. There’s snow on the ground and too much traffic on the roads. Better to stick close to home, and just settle in with my books.

My comfort.

 

On my terms.

In my own way.

That’s not “wrong” at all.

Not by a long shot.

#WomenInSTEM – #POC in High Tech – July, 2018 is the time to find a new job in Massachusetts

red glass and metal skyscraperIf you’re like me (not a white, heterosexual male, but still working in high tech in Massachusetts), you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a subtle form of discrimination that’s systemically ensured that a lot of us can’t get paid the same as white men with the same amount of experience and qualifications.

That discrimination is the standard-issue question, “So, what are you earning in your current position?”

It might not seem so horrible, but if you consider that a lot of minority folks start out at lower rates of earning, then over all the years of moving on, if we’ve been compensated at roughly the same rate we were before, we’ll inevitably end up making less than our majority counterparts — some of us significantly less. I know that Salary.com shows I’m making 15-20% less than my market value, and that burns. But up till now, I haven’t been able to do anything about it, because employers have always copped out by using my prior earnings as a reference point.

But that’s about to change — well, in another 7 months.

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH PAY EQUITY goes into effect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 1, 2018.

This law is supposed to even the playing field, in terms of compensation. The part(s) of it I like the most are:

   (c)  It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to:
     (1)  require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing or disclosing information about either the employee’s own wages, or about any other employee’s wages.  Nothing in this subsection shall obligate an employer to disclose an employee’s wages to another employee or a third party;
     (2)   seek the wage or salary history of a prospective employee from the prospective employee or a current or former employer or to require that a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria; provided, however, that:  (i) if a prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed such information, a prospective employer may confirm prior wages or salary or permit a prospective employee to confirm prior wages or salary; and (ii) a prospective employer may seek or confirm a prospective employee’s wage or salary history after an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated and made to the prospective employee;

That means, I can ask what potential employers are paying others who do my same job. And they aren’t allowed to ask me what I was making before.

So, that means I’ll be free to change jobs next year, without worrying that I’ll be blocked in by my past. It’s been a rigged game against me and others like me for far too long, and now that’s changing.

Who knows how much it will fix, but in any case, at least that’s one less thing I need to contend with. Being a 50-something high tech veteran is challenging enough in this youth-loving world. I can use all the help I can get. Plus, it will be nice to get paid the market rate.

For once.

#Autistic joy – it’s a thing. And we should have more of it.

agora theatre wall
Agora Theatre Wall – isn’t it lovely?

This morning, during my morning exercise bike ride, I read a piece by John Elder Robison about My Life With Asperger’s

Sex, Lies, and Autism Research – getting value for our money

How to get tangible benefit from the millions we spend on autism science

The US government is the world’s biggest funder of autism research.  For the past decade I have had the honor of advising various agencies and committees on how that money should be spent.  Sometimes I’ve been pleased at our government’s choices.  Other times I’ve been disappointed.  Every now and then I turn to reflect:  What have we gotten for our investment?

Autistic people and parents agree on this:  The hundreds of millions we’ve spent on autism research every year has provided precious little benefit to families and individuals living with autism today.  Over the past decade the expenditures have run into the billions, yet our quality of life has hardly changed at all.

You can read the full piece here. It’s worth it.

And of course it got me thinking… along similar lines to yesterday’s post, wherein I pondered the irregularity of autistic joy.

Returns on investment. Getting our money’s worth. Having something to show for our investments… What a world it would be, if all the money spent were going to opening up chances for good to flourish, rather than some “war on autism” dedicated to <begin sarcasm> hunting down and eradicating the dread disorder that “steals” perfectly healthy and happy children from their families and tearing apart everything their parents hope for and hold dear </end sarcasm>.

Now that we’re all triggered, let’s take a deep breath and step back from that hijacking of the collective consciousness by ve$ted intere$t$ and pause to actually recognize and laud the truth of Autistic joy.

If there’s one thing that seems to set Autistic people apart from non-autistics, it seems to be the capacity for joy. Honestly, looking at the neurotypical world, all I see is pain. Frustration. Anguish. Predators and prey. And the best that most non-autistics I know can hope for is just a temporary relief from their pain. Drinking. Drugs. Facebook. Yes, they have their friends and family, their careers and reputations. But even those joys seem so fraught with danger and conflict, there doesn’t seem to be much purity there at all. And the times that my non-autistic friends and associates are happiest, are when they’re numbing their pain with a stiff drink or distracting themselves from their pain and fear with some form of entertainment.

Truly, it’s such a dreary world they inhabit. Where’s the joy? Where’s the ecstasy? They don’t seem to have much capacity for it, and they treat my (and other Autistics’) capacity for unbridled joy like it’s a disorder. A condition that needs to be fixed.

How does that work, exactly? I just don’t get it. I would imagine it’s a little like being a really tall person during the 1700s, when people were considerably smaller than they are today.

The thing is, I don’t think non-autistic people are completely devoid of the ability to feel and experience ecstatic joy. I think they have as much capacity as we Autistics. They’re just not allowed to experience it by their milieu. They’re smacked down. Held back. Shamed and blamed and pressured into being certain ways because that’s “normal”. Huh. How ’bout that.

Meanwhile, it just holds them back. It cripples them, not only in their own lives, but also in how they relate to us.

It’s a little like the inexplicable conditioning of women to not really move that much in their lives. I’m noticing this more and more, these days, as I continue to move and be fairly limber and spry and strong, compared to my female peers. I take stairs two at a time. I lift 40-pound water bottles on a semi-regular basis. I rake my own lawn. I shovel refuse into my wheelbarrow and push it to the dump pile down the road. Even though I have issues with chronic pain and scoliosis, I get up and move around with pretty decent mobility.

Meanwhile, my female peers — friends and family — move a lot more slowly than I. Their joints are giving out on them, and they just don’t move as well or as freely as I do. In some cases, I realize it’s because they’ve been focused on being “good girls” for their entire lives, and good girls don’t jump up and run across the room. Good girls don’t take stairs two at a time. Good girls don’t stretch their backs and necks to get them to crack. They might go to yoga. Or take a pilates class. But they don’t really move freely in the course of their everyday lives.

And after decades of being demure, it’s taken a toll. They can’t just hop up and run across the room. They can’t dart out of danger, if something is flying towards them. And they run out of energy pretty quick, pumping themselves up with carbs and sugar and caffeine.

I’m not talking about disabled people who are dealing with physical limitations. I’m talking about healthy, non-disabled people who have actively limited themselves with their choices and behaviors. Because good girls don’t move quickly. Good girls aren’t physical. Good girls don’t take stairs two at a time. That’s not normal. And it’s certainly not free.

I have no idea why some people can’t deal with freedom. Or joy. Or ecstasy. But that’s not really my problem. My job is to make the most of my own freedom, my own joy, my own ecstasy. And to protect and shelter it in the face of all the people who covet it but refuse to allow themselves to experience it.

Autistic joy is a thing. Today, for me, it’s about getting back to my routine, which allows me to do so much more than I could if I had to re-design the schedule for my day, each morning.  I have a lot to get done, and my routine allows me to focus on the new and exciting things that interest me, even while I can consistently complete the basics that form the foundation of my life.

With my routine, I can get myself out of bed, wash my face, brush my teeth, and get myself downstairs with relative ease. With my routine, I can get my daily exercise, catch up on my online reading, have my breakfast, and get some writing done before I start my day-job work. With my routine — which other people might consider mind-numbingly consistent — my mind is freed up to do more interesting (and far more complex) things than figure out how to fix my breakfast. With my routine, I can get a whole lot of things done, that most people wouldn’t think are even remotely possible. And there’s a lot of joy to be had in the doing. Having four(+) projects going at the same time, and seeing them all coming to fruition in their own times and their own ways, is a rare treat that isn’t even on the radar of most people I know.

Autistic Routine — as much as it’s pathologized by the diagnostic establishment — is the very thing that makes it possible for me to function at higher-than-average levels.

And it’s something that brings me joy, which should be more than enough reason to depathologize it.

So, yeah. Rather than getting hung up on all the downsides of Autism (and don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of challenges that can make your life really miserable), maybe we need to focus more on the joy that seems to come part-and-parcel with  Autism.

Autistic Joy is a thing. Let’s have more of that!

Through the river locks of #autistic joy

Quebec river locks
I’m coming ’round to my desired routines again, getting back to some narrow interests that have drawn me in and held my keen interest for years at a time. I’m finding myself able to think again, after a months-long hiatus of all-consuming DO-DO-DO–GO-GO-GO. I’ve been so busy “upping my output” that I’d lost touch with the simple act of taking in.

I had all but forgotten about some of those vital interests — the books I’d bought to read (devour, really) and ingest and think on, long and deeply, got stashed in my office and I haven’t spent much time there at all for months… the papers I’d downloaded to take in and consider also ended up in piles in my office… the theories and philosophies that have lit up my life so brightly for so many years, faded into the background of my day-to-day rush to Get Things Done…

Yeah, I got busy. And necessarily so. All of it was important. All of it held my interest and taught me useful things.

But as with any all-consuming effort that flames up in a series of inner fireworks, there’s a price to be paid, and that price was the steady flame of joy from what’s held my interest in a steady, rapt embrace.

I think perhaps this is a distinctly autistic feature of mine. I tend to be so completely consumed by what I’m doing at the time, I lose sight of everything else. And then my best-laid plans to do such-and-such a thing in such-and-such a timeframe… well, that all flies out the window like a caged bird that’s realized the keeper left its door unhooked. At the same time, my “interim” interests (intellectual sprints in the midst of my conceptual marathon) tend not to last long. Maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months. And I can lose interest in them rapidly, so that the full roster of Productive Activities I’ve earmarked for doing… well, that just gets lost along the way, too.

So, I end up with a lot of things started, and not a lot finished in the intended timeframe. Ultimately, I do finish things. But it’s years after the original plan. One of my books took nearly 20 years to complete. While others took me maybe 6 months, tops. Other works have been under construction for a couple of years, and they still don’t feel like they’re ready to be done.

I guess I do need to let my imagination “off the lead” and let it run around wildly for a few weeks/months at a time. It re-invigorates me, when I’ve reached a point of overwhelmed ennui, and nothing I’ve been working on makes any logical sense anymore — not because it has no sense, but because I’ve pushed myself to the point of not being able to reason, to think, or to draw anything useful out of what I’m pondering.

It’s cyclical. It needs to be. And yes, it doesn’t conform to the usual timeframes of the neurotypical world. How do those people live that way, anyway? I don’t get it. It seems both forced and dessicated, as though there’s no room for anything human at all. Just a mechanization of our creative impulses.

I can say this (and complain bitterly about it), because I make my living as a Program Manager at one of the planet’s largest high-tech companies. I see (and have to live) this forced, artificial, mechanized way of doing things every moment of my professional life, and I don’t like it. I’d love to toss a wooden shoe in the whole works and grind the teeth off the gears. Stop the whole machine from working that way. But alas, ’tis not in the best interests of my ongoing employment to do that. I like to eat. I like having a roof over my head. I like being able to afford to live my life. So, I keep those gears turning.

It’s a master-class in Everything Not To Do, If You Want To Keep Your Spirit Alive.

Well, so it goes. Railing against the imperfections of the world is all very well and good, but it’s much more productive to counteract it.

And I guess that’s what I do, when I move at my own speed and meander through my personal projects. Like a boat moving between two bodies of water that are at different levels, I need to progress gradually through the “locks”, letting the waters flow in/out and lift (or lower) my proverbial vessel, as I move from one level to the next.

Maybe, just maybe, that gradual way is my own way reclaiming my own autistic identity and reinforcing my own “organic” process (much as I hate that expression). The daily grind really does show me how I do NOT want to conduct my own affairs. And while it does grind me down, and there’s a big part of me that wishes I could make a living doing what I love to do, rather than doing what others will pay me to do, because they’re under the impression that it “needs” to be done… I’m not holding my breath. I’m an inventor and a builder, not a marketer, and I’m not going to waste my time trying to force myself to work in a mode that doesn’t suit me.

So, the day job remains in place. Until I can make a living otherwise.

Well, the day awaits. I have a bunch of things I need to do, and I’ve got a social afternoon ahead of me. I’m looking forward to it. Hangin’ with another Autist. It’s always a pleasure and a relief.

Till Monday rolls around, and it’s back to the same old…

In the meantime, though, I’m good, just going along at my own pace, piecing things together as I go, and keeping my spirit alive and lively.

With joy.

All that joy.

Into the weekend

man walking on pathI’m working from home today. My first conference call is in 10 minutes, so I just “dash off” a quick post to get myself in the mood for the day.

I got a lot done, yesterday, actually. Finished three really daunting tasks, some of which have major political implications and may spark some in-fighting (which I hate). I just took care of it. Because it had to get done, and I was on deadline.

I’ll let the captains of industry duke it out. I did my part, sending out the emails and notifying people of stuff. And I’ll do some more today.

The weekend is looking promising. It’s not going to be easy, but it will go. Some good things. Some sad things. And errands. Always the errands.

An old friend of mine lost his wife to illness a few weeks ago, so there’s a memorial service tomorrow night, which I’m attending.

I took care of the biggest chores last weekend, so I won’t need to work on them this weekend. I will have time to write and read and relax and make some progress on some of my side projects.

I’ve found some good podcasts, and I can listen to them.

And rest. Nap. Catch up on my sleep. I’m a little behind.

But it’ll go. It will all go — who knows if it’ll happen according to plan, but it’ll go.

Dropping back – then stepping forward

road with yellow stripes and trees with snow along the sides
It’s been a while since I blogged here. There’s a good chance people have forgotten about me, or they figure I’ve moved on to other things.

Actually, I have been doing other things for the past few weeks. Good things. Challenging things. Draining things. Restoring things. I’ve been writing a lot, researching a lot, thinking a lot, which means I have to cut down on the amount of input from the outside world. That means less blogging, less getting on Twitter, because there is so-so much that is distracting (and distressing), and I can’t afford to be pulled in all those different directions.

I think something may be “up” with my parents. I haven’t heard from them in a number of weeks. My mother’s cards come on a regular basis, but my dad has stopped calling me every Saturday. That’s a change. I need to check in with them. He hasn’t been in good health, for the past year or so, and despite surgery that looked wildly successful, he’s still got additional issues — including diabetes, which will do a number on your brain function, if you don’t control your sugar.

I kind of dread it, actually. But I should call. I’ll find some time. I’ll make the time. It’s the right thing to do.

I’m not sure why, but the last couple of weeks have been pretty intense. Well, there was the big event a couple weeks ago, that had me leaving the state and “peopleing” with strangers and finding my way around an unfamiliar college campus (while I was nervous that my car would get ticketed or towed because I parked in the wrong spot without knowing it).

There was the doctor visit with my partner, who’s extremely anxious around doctors, and the new meds prescribed to her, which I needed to research (I found what I needed to avert some likely serious side effects).

And then there’s been the whole work thing, with the Big Project I’m on being generally doomed, from the top down, as managers battle for territory, and the underlings get the brunt of their poor thought process. If we were left to our own devices and didn’t get dragged into their territorial disputes, we’d have the whole thing sorted, by now.

horse racing jockeysBut no. They have to jockey for position. Racing for the front and pushing each other against the rail. It’s tiresome. I feel like a horse that’s been ridden hard and put up wet.

We all do. And I wonder how long it will take, till we just throw the “riders” who are whipping us to go faster.

Maybe never. People need their jobs. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the whole thing. It’s futile. It’s pointless. And I’m traveling down to HQ in a couple of weeks to continue the pointlessness. I hate business travel. It throws me off. It steals precious time and energy away from me, and it puts me in the middle of throngs of strangers who will trample me, if given a choice. Heck, they do it by default.

Well… what-ever.  I’ll just make the best of it.

Actually, I’m doing better than making the best of it. I’ve given up caring. I don’t give a damn, one way or the other, how things turn out. Oh, sure, I want the thing to work perfectly, but it’s literally impossible for that to happen, so I’m encasing myself in a protective shell of divine indifference and just getting on with my life, regardless of what happens around me.

Seriously, I’m beyond caring. I’ll do my part. I’ll pitch in and participate. I’ll fulfill my duties and my role to the fullest extent possible. But I’m not attached to the outcome, one way or the other. I didn’t ask for this project to happen. I got shoved into it by default, basically forced to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, and I’m expected to make it all work to everyone else’s specifications, even though I advised against it from the start, “raised red flags”, documented the risks, and so forth. I did my part. Nobody listened. At least, nobody at the top.

Maybe this works out. Maybe it doesn’t. What. ever.

I frankly have no personal interest in the whole thing. I’m not invested in the outcome. I’m oblivious to whether or not things are to others’ liking. All I care about is if I’ve done my best under the circumstances. I’m just “doing my thing” to the best of my ability, playing my part as is required, and letting go of any outcomes. It’s out of my hands.

So the project is doomed? So what? Who cares? Certainly not I.

And it’s wonderful.

So, yeah, I’ve dropped back a bit from life… Pulled back into my own little autistic experience… To work on some projects I’ve got going, and finally make some progress. I’m quite pleased with one of them. It has real potential. And there are several others that look promising, as well. Sweet. And these are all things I can do, myself, while I go through the motions of my everyday day-job, making a living, collecting a paycheck, getting what I can out of the situation.

silk purseHere, have a silk purse.

I have extra, from all the proverbial “sow’s ears” I have lying around.

Moving right along

person in maze - 360 rana foroohar uncertainty
360 – Rana Foroohar – Uncertainty

I’m chugging along in my life. Finding my way through things. As usual.

Making the most of it — regardless. All of life presents itself to me, and I get to decide what I do with it.

There’s plenty of stinking muck under this lotus.

And there’s plenty of heaven above my metaphorical (and literal) head.

The richest soil comes from compost. All the ingredients that support life, coming from some sort of death. The process of composting is never pretty, never dainty, never as sweet-smelling as we’d like it to be.

Some time back, I spent some (very little) time downwind from a the decaying remains of a beached whale. The stench was overpowering, and it carried to the nearby seaside town. Tourists were walking around with their hands over their faces, but they/we all had to make the best of it. Because it wasn’t easy to get to that town, and we’d all made the investment of time and energy, and By God, we weren’t going to be chased off by the cycle of life.

We made the best of it, finding areas upwind of the rotting carcass, keeping ourselves otherwise occupied, trying to not pay it any attention. It wasn’t easy, but it worked.

And in the end, nature ran its course. The whale was eventually consumed by scavengers and the elements. Was it pleasant? No. Was it convenient? Not at all. But it was part of the whole. And that rancid death made plenty of other life possible. Just like the Mara River in Kenya kills thousands of wildebeasts each year… and then gives life to everything else.

It’s all part of it. The bad with the good. My job is to navigate the whole.

And so I shall.

What if I just let that sh*t go…?

danger falling rocks sign

“If you want to hear God laugh,
announce your plans.”
– Said someone somewhere, sometime.

I’ve been a pretty reliable source of entertainment for God, for years, now. And while I’m sure He’s gotten plenty of good laughs from me (you’re welcome, God), I’m kind of tired of being laughed at.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m autistic, so I’m used to being laughed at. And if anybody has a right to do it, that would be God. (I’ll overlook the fact that I don’t actually believe in God – I’m taking artistic liberties here.) But now, after all those years of striving and hoping and planning and wishing and working… I realize that God laughing at me really shouldn’t bother me at all.

Truth be told, the point of all my undertakings hasn’t been in the neurotypical mold. It hasn’t been in anybody’s mold. And that’s the point. I’ve frustrated my family and colleagues and bosses and recruiters for years, with my laissez-faire approach to career and undertakings, my lackadaisical, shifting focus from one fascination to another, not to mention my (shrug) “whatever…” attitudes toward advancement and achievement and worldly success.

The world’s idea of success is fine for everyone else. But I’m just so tired of it. What a time-sink it is. What a heart-breaking waste of time it is for me. All the shiny baubles and trappings and evidence of world domination that brighten the day of the Masters of the Universe… they just leave me cold. All the goals, the intentions, the schemes… yeah, I’ve had them a-plenty. But what I’ve gotten out of my life has been so much more than all the plans and hopes and wishes that urged me along.

I got a life. I got experience. I’ve failed fantastically at many things, and I’ve done so-so at others. Sometimes, I’ve nailed it. Just “hit it” exactly right, and I managed to ride a wave of success and achievement for a number of years, till I moved on to the next thing. And in the end, I think my failures have served me better than any of my successes.

That fact means more to me, every single day.

It’s not the end result of my plans and activities that’s meant the most to me, or that’s stood me in the greatest stead. It’s been the process… the experience… the peripheral collateral of joy that’s come along with the endeavors. The ultimate goals of specific intentions was really just the context, the impetus for moving me along. Ambition is the delivery agent of experience. And unlike some who revere the final result of a completed project/plan/scheme, for me it’s actually all the other stuff in-between that matters. Experience — good, bad, or neutral — is what’s made my life what it is — something cool and awesome. And far more valuable than any flush bank account.

So, I’m letting certain sh*t go. As in, the “end game” ideas that have progressively dragged me down and made me increasingly uncomfortable and frustrated. I’m shifting my ambition away from specific “targets”, and towards the quality of my experiences. I’m tired of being pushed and pulled by internal drives and external impetus toward specific outcomes… and then never getting to enjoy myself along the way, because the specifics haven’t materialized exactly as I’ve dreamed them up… or as others expect them to.

I’m also letting go of looking back in frustration, looking back in criticism, viewing my past as a series of failures. Failures at what? Some idea I had in my head about “how things should be”? Or worse, some idea that some marketer out there concocted to sell me? Those rocks and blocks are like so many useless, pointless obstructions teetering on a cliff above me (as I wait for them to break loose). It’s time to cut them loose myself, and just live my life, driving around the blockages with a gunning motor and a squeal of brakes… doing what I do for the love of it, rather than for money or quantitative measures. Quality, not quantity, is what I seek.

And interestingly, when I’ve put the emphasis on quality… on my own experience… somehow money and other quantitative measures have showed up.

I’ve still got a lot of dreams, still have a lot of hopes and plans… but the important thing now is really the process I go through as I make my way along those paths. The “final” destination I’m shooting for is just the carrot enticing me along… keeping me motivated… keeping me interested. But it’s not The Reason I do things, anymore.

Something much more intriguing is filling my life, these days — What Happens In Between.

And I’m finding, when I let go of specific outcomes, they actually show up — not always exactly as I envisioned them, but present, nonetheless.

Until they give way to What Else Is Yet To Come.

Finding my “sea legs”

ship in a storm with lightning flashing around it

I have to say, the past few days have been some of the best I can remember having in a really long time. Plans didn’t work out. Schedules changed. Expectations weren’t met. I didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d intended. But somehow I’ve been staying chilled out and even-keeled.

My work situation stinks. It just irritates me so much. So, I’ve been putting my resume out there, in hopes of finding something new and different. It’s slow going, because the automated systems in place “see” my educational history, and they block me before I can even reach a live person.

Whatever. Where I am now isn’t where I want to be for the long term, but I’ll make the best of it, while I have to. I’m finding ways I can meet the basic requirements each day, but still keep my sanity intact. And that’s fine. I just can’t get too wrapped up in expecting more of it than is reasonable.

My home life is going better than it has in a long time. I’ve let go of a lot of my old persnickety obsessions (and yes, they are obsessions) with perfection… not fretting if Everything Isn’t At Peak Expression… letting a lot of things slide and going out of my way to not take stuff personally. I’m treating dynamics that used to drive me batshit as opportunities to learn and grow and strengthen my character.

Healthwise, I’m doing okay. I’ve got intermittent pain, vertigo, and a whole raft of sensory issues. But you know what? It’s all old news. I’ve been through the wringer over this sh*t so many times, over the past 40-some years, I can’t even worry about it, anymore. It should come as no surprise to me. In fact, if anything, it should (and often does) bore me. Lately, the internal dialogue about my intermittent disabilities plays out like this:

I’m in pain! No shit, Sherlock.

I’m hypersensitive! Well, duh! You’re friggin’ autistic.

I’m uncomfortable! This comes as a surprise to you? Exactly where have you been for the past 52 years, that this is noteworthy?

I really am losing patience with myself, over all my wailing and gnashing of teeth. Seriously, it solves nothing. Might make me feel a bit better (temporarily), but it doesn’t change anything. And it seems I’m subject to an odd supposition that anything could be perfect… ever.

Silly. What am I thinking?

In a way, I feel like I’ve been kidnapped by pirates and taken away on a stolen ship, crossing stormy seas both night and day. And all my life, I’ve been wishing I’d never been kidnapped… longing for dry land that stays stable… just wanting to get to the proverbial shore and get off the ship.

To no avail. After way too much bitching and moaning, I’m finally finding my sea legs, getting the hang of sailing the ocean blue (and black and gray, when the storms hit), and realizing that I actually like it on board this privateering vessel — and accepting that I fit better here, after all the years aboard, than I fit anywhere else. Even if I did get to “dry land” tomorrow, even if I did set foot on shore and not have the ground heaving under me, I’m no longer sure what I’d do with myself.

Because it’s not home.

Home is here. Out at sea. In my storms… and in the company of other misfits and cast-offs and very-very-different folks who “get” me, even when the “normal” world doesn’t.

It’s all very well and good to dream about the luxuries of a staid and settled and conforming life, but here on the high seas, in the midst of 10-foot waves… this is home.