Monday, December 1, 2014

Andrew and Myself: Two Sides of the Same Coin

I thought about doing this post for a while but finally feel I have enough information to do so. I still have the bigger more interesting one that highlights one of my most awesome abilities to do, so stay tuned for that. This one is about a man named Andrew who I went to high school with. I didn't realize it for a while, but we have more in common than me or my friends ever thought.

If you drive around my hometown of Andover, MA you will sometimes see a heavy set gentleman walking around with headphones on. People who don't know anything about him would call him the village idiot, and they would be wrong. One thing is for sure, he's not a typical guy in the sense that you think. People are gifted in other areas besides those you might consider desirable. Andrew is one of these people. back in high school he was in SPED classes, and I guess I could have been in them but that may have been unnecessary. I know how to use most of the information I learned in school, how it applies to real life. Andrew, on the other hand, not so much. He could remember theorems and all sorts of high level stuff but simple life applications was where he would struggle. Street smarts are what he lacks. He generally walks around town with a camera and sees all the people he knows, but always asks, "what's your name?" just for a quick ice breaker. After you tell them who you are the flood gates open up and he suddenly knows more about your life than you do. Dates and facts and birthdays are what Andrew is great at. If I'm not mistaken, I think he works part time at a law firm where he does heaven knows what, but it is likely either simple work or very factual, highly detailed information. He has the mind of a super computer and it was rumored back in high school that he memorized the phone book, which if you've interacted with him you wouldn't bet against that fact.

I see Andrew around two or three times a week and sometimes give him rides where we talk about whatever. He is always polite but lacks a filter, not in a bad way, just says whats on his mind, but sometimes the situation calls for said information to be more discreet. I bet with his memory he would be good as a gossip columnist. With my own brain I feel I could do the same. Of course he tells people all the time, in person and online, "tell your dad/mom happy birthday for me" ALWAYS on the correct day. Being not shy at all, which is a wonder in itself, he knows thousands of people and he has them all stored in that brain of his, to a T. People like when you can remember their name. But do they like it more when you know everything else about them? The reason for this post is that I had my 10 year high school reunion over the weekend, and guess who was wondering around with his Fuji Film disposable cameras all night?

Andrew's MO was spot on, always is, just as I described before. He's always laughing and squealing without a care in the world. I did tell a couple of my friends who were in attendance that Andrew and I had a lot more in common than they think we do. I told them we were to sides of the same coin to which they just laughed it off like they didn't hear or couldn't believe it to be even remotely true. It was like I was saying I was a big shot dating a super model, and they weren't buying it. Oh, well, I tried. But how varied could his brain and mine be? What particular levels on the autism spectrum do we each rest upon, and why? Although I haven't flat out asked him if he was autistic, the evidence is pretty overwhelming. This is the one time its OK to assume. He's not overly trusting to the point where you could rob him, but Andrew is fearless around most people, especially friends, which as I already stated he has a lot of. He walks up to girls all the time and asks his usual questions which most know him and are polite enough to answer. Some of these girls are very attractive and I know many men, myself included, who would just cower in fear or stare if they walked into a bar. I give him props on that facet of his personality.

What I take away from interacting and trying to figure things out about Andrew is this: Everyone has their own unique gifts and challenges, and they use them how they please. Something may be very easy for you and others a nightmare. I have yet to see Andrew in a scary situation where he loses it or does something and someone yells at him, but I wonder what he does when such things arise. People don't always understand or play along and that's why I think I like where I am, and won't move anywhere else, and I think Andrew is in the same boat; although I don't know who cares for him and if he even has a say in the matter. While I may not be skilled at recalling a random phone number at a moments notice, there is one thing I can do really well, which is remember faces, but more on that later.


                                                 Me                                          Andrew


Questions or comments? Let me know.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NEW POST DECEMBER 1, 2014

Sorry for the lack of posts folks. I'll be back with another one tomorrow night. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tempering Your Brain: Making Changes for the Better

The reason I'm doing this post mainly because I asked a question to Winnie Dunn, PhD at the AANE annual conference yesterday in Boston. They way I used the term or thought she was using it was not the same, and she liked the brief story I told and what my own definition meant to me. People were surprised by my insight I guess, and I talked to a couple of them about it afterwards. I thought people knew of this method in one form or another, which is why I didn't post about it before. This is my own original idea. Although her answer helped me clarify what I was thinking, I like to think I enlightened Winnie and everyone else in attendance on a new way of thinking about an ongoing problem that people on the autism spectrum struggle with. Sorry, sometimes you have to be arrogant to avoid confusion. 

When I was a child I had problems that seem so distant to me now. I wonder who I was and what I was thinking back then, and why these things happened. I've talked about anxiety already but that is something I will always have in one form or another. This isn't like that. I'd like to discuss different problems and how I might have solved them, mostly without even knowing it. 

When I was very young, probably around three or four, I used to have tantrums. If my mom did something different than my normal routine or I couldn't have something I really wanted than I would start screaming. Sounds pretty typical, right? Well I would yell so hard that I would pass out. I'm sure it was quite the scene. The first time my mom thought I was dead or something, but our neighbor, and my godmother Dee knew what was going on. I'm sure this happened more than once. I don't know when it stopped, but it did, so we didn't have to worry about it anymore. I do wonder, even now, about when the last time I cried for no reason was. When was the last time someone told me 'no' and I felt unable to think of any way I could do anything other than cry? What did that even look like? Did I begin to conjure up some tears but stopped myself or did someone else say something to comfort me? Whatever the case, I didn't cry after that unless it really meant something. With age comes learning how to deal with your emotions properly, for everyone. Raw emotion is one thing, but trying to change the way you deal with things you cannot control is another matter entirely.

During my middle school years I would come home every day and then go upstairs to take a nap. I'd wake up after a couple hours and then do m school work (or not do my school work at all) and then have dinner with the family and watch TV and go to bed. Actually I would try to go to bed. Falling asleep was sometimes difficult due to the nap I had taken earlier in the day. I didn't know then what a problem this could be or even that it was one at all. Near the end of college I was commuting so rather than drive half an hour back home during my couple hour class break I would instead go (or simply stay there) to the library on south campus. The building went up about five levels and I liked to go up to the third or fourth floors to what I called the stacks. Thousands of books were arranged like any other library but there were also ancient cheap pleather couches that you could lay down on if you wanted to. I would use my bag as a pillow and close my eyes and think without falling asleep. I couldn't fall asleep because I had to be at class on time and didn't have a phone I could set an alarm on yet. I would stay and think about anything and everything. I'd work through problems I was having or think about things I wanted to do. It took me a little while to realize it, but I was refreshed upon leaving the stacks, and I didn't have the problem of falling asleep later that night. I use this method even today and it is a huge part of me being able to regulate and replenish how much mental energy I have during the day. It should be noted that mental energy and physical energy are two different things. I have strong muscles at most times because I work out, but if my brain has turned to mush after a long day then I won't be able to hold a conversation with anyone. The whole process of knowing how to deal with my mental energy opened a world of new possibilities for me in terms of what I could accomplish, if I so chose. But what does this have to do with tempering my brain, and what does that term I made up even mean?

Temper:Verb. improve the hardness and elasticity of (steel or other metal) by reheating and then cooling it and that is according to what Google gave me when I did a search just now. The way I'm using it is basically the same, just replace 'steel or other metal' with 'mind'. Your mind does not have to stay the way you think it is. You can make changes. I'm not saying it is easy, but you can do so if you try hard enough. I like to use the comparison (and I like using them in general) so that people can relate someone they know to be true to what I'm trying to get them to learn. I mentioned earlier that I work out. The first few times you do a workout it is going to be hard. After that your body gets used to it and adapts to the unique stresses being put on it. Still more time passes and you realize you can do much more than when you started. This is what you have to try to do with your brain. If you get mentally tired or even stressed during the first couple exposures to what you are trying to get better at, let's say be more comfortable around large groups of people, than that is expected. What you can't do, and what I used to and a lot of other people on the autism spectrum do is give up when it gets to be too much. I am not talking about just backing off or taking a break for the day, I mean that they avoid the situation at all costs. How do they expect to change? Change (given that this is what they seek) can only come about by continually throwing yourself into the fire, so to speak, and tempering your mind. It is not easy to do but once you get over the initial hump and see some results does the whole thing snowball and you find yourself being able to do things you never thought possible. Going back to the parallel of working out to further this, you need to change it up once again.

If you continue to work out doing the same routine over and over again your body hits what is known as the plateau effect, where gains will not occur anymore. What you need to do is vary the workout and hit different groups of muscles or the same ones, just with different moves. Exercising new muscles or the same ones in a different manner will elicit change again. This relates back to the brain by moving onto a different mental block or problem, let's say for example learning to drive a car. All the stressors are different. There are still people, but they are in cars with horns and moving much faster than if they were a group on foot. What you would do in this case is to learn to drive in an empty parking lot first, like I did, and then take it out to the open road. Usually this is done with a driving instructor to guide you. Oncer you are comfortable on the back roads and around your own town the highway should be your final goal. Things happen fast and you cannot afford to make mistakes. I can understand why people on the spectrum don't like driving. I tempered my brain to deal with it and, from dealing with other things using the same process (which I wasn't aware I was doing until I spent time on that pleather couch thinking about it) learned to do it very well. Nothing on the road scares me. Even when my brain is toast from a day of dealing with people driving is something I don't even have to worry about. I like to think it is a basic survival instinct for me, something that I can do even on mental autopilot. I have been driving for over ten years (got my license at 18, which is later than most), feel I am in complete control and experience very little stress when I'm on the road. It took a while, though, but once you get the ball rolling and refuse to give up you will see the results, if you want them. And you have to want to change, if you don't you will only be setting yourself up to fail. You have to want it. You might not be ready for one thing, but once you get better at something else it may help you to finally break through the initial stumbling block. 

I can definitely say that sticking with things mentally has given me an edge over most people like myself. I feel as though I owe it to those who need help to give it to them, and why shouldn't I? Seeing people suffer inside their own minds is not easy for me to do. If I can help them I typically do, but some people are so resistant to change that it is out of the question. If you need advice how to get started then let me know. I think I can aid you in anything except how to pluck up the courage talk to women you don't know but are interested in more than just having a conversation with. If I take the training wheels off I'll be sure to help you with that once I have learned enough to really know what I'm talking about; just don't hold your breath on that particular subject with me.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Over Exaggeration and Yes or No Questions

As long as I can remember my dad has been one for embellishment. I think that is a signature of good story telling but it dilutes truth to a degree I don't like, especially when it is about me. Not that a father should be proud of his son, but stretching truth is something I don't like someone doing for me when I'm in the room. I can recall me either making or doing something for a party one time and then dad telling people about it afterwards as it being "the hit of the party!" This may seem trivial but I didn't like him saying that at all. It was like I assumed he fact checkers would come out of the woodwork en masse and do a thorough examination of what really transpired. Needless to say that has never happened but I still don't feel any less weird about the truth being built upon. The only real time that fact checking could have occurred was when I played college baseball. The hardest I ever threw that was verified was 88 MPH, which is fast, but dad was telling people I got it up to 90 MPH. I was 22 at the time and I stepped right into this one and told people it was only 88 MPH. For me this was a sense of pride and I didn't want to claim to throw harder than I did. I couldn't keep a straight face even to this day and tell people I threw that hard, it wouldn't feel right to do so either. I think I envision myself at a gathering spitting a whole bunch of BS and then some people who were actually present for the event in question calling me on it, out in the open. What am I supposed to do then, curse them out and call them liars or leave? If I do the first it could lead to a big argument which I never enjoy or leave and have everyone talk about me behind my back. I'd rather not have to deal with any of that crap and just give them the facts from the get go. Believe it or not, I think ahead about a lot of things, plan for scenarios so I don't panic and try to cover all my bases beforehand. Nothing is worse than a tainted legend, which is why all the steroids users in baseball will never be hall of famers. That actual leads me to the next portion of our program.

If all those steroid users had answered yes to the question "have you ever used steroids" or something along those lines right away their predicament would not have really changed. When you stop and think about it its like the guy at a party who lied and no one ever thought anyone would find out. There were obviously people on the inside who knew what was going on and it didn't take as long as they figured for them to either talk or find the truth. Nearly all of those suspected denied it first to try and save their own asses. It only prolonged their dwindling reputations and then the whole thing caved in. It was sad to watch some of my past heroes go down but everyone knew they were guilty. I know there were a lot of factors as to why they lied and this wasn't a case of tell us the truth and we will go easy on you, but rather this is everything I worked my entire life for and I want to hold onto it for a little bit longer before it goes away forever. Knowing the crap is going to hit the fan is a bad feeling, but trying to control when that happens is an even worse feeling. You have to try an manipulate so many things and people that its not even worth it.

I like to think of the time(s) back in sixth grade when I didn't do my Math Olympiad for Ms. Macnamee. Whenever she would come by for it I would open up and pretend to search in all my folders under my desk until she took a hint and walked away. I must have fumbled around under there for what seemed like hours, it was a constant happening. Eventually I had to make them up anyways, which wasn't fun. I was getting graded so to pass I had to do them at some point, there was no doubt in my mind. I just didn't want to do them (math has never been my strong subject) at that time. A lot of things in life are either pay me now or pay me later, there are no exceptions. If I had simply spoken to the teacher about not doing it I would have only succeeded in being made to do them sooner. I did create a lot of mental strain trying to lie about it, stuff no one ever needs.
If I had simply been asked the question "did you do your homework" there was no way I could try to hide it.

Yes or no questions are easy but people like to complicate them as best they can. In my mind something either happens or it doesn't. It doesn't sort of happen. When you get a problem that talks about flipping a coin 100 times and 'how many times will it be heads or tails' it is pretty simple. They never say 'how many times will it land on its side?' because that is not an option, but rather a gray area that does not pertain to the question at hand. The statement "I sort of got into Harvard" does not make sense because you are either going to Harvard or you are not, end of story. Using a more extreme example (and I know this could be a bit of an exaggeration but I'm taking a lesson from dad here) to prove my point, if you asked someone who recently climbed Mount Everest if everyone made it back safely you would expect them to say 'yes' or 'no'. You wouldn't expect them to say "well Pete didn't make it, but I'm sure he's fine up there" because we all know the truth; Pete is a Popsicle. I realize that this can be sort of cruel question because Pete is a person and that allows him to also be someones son, husband, father and best friend but that doesn't change the fact that he is now dead.

Why do we like to complicate things? Tell stories that capture the imagination but are outright lies? I'd rather people say to others 'he's just being modest' than 'he's full of it'. People are going to either find out you are full of it or never believe a word you say if you don't tell them the truth, and those are two great options. I only give credit where credit is due and I expect others do the same. If I tell someone that they have to check out a restaurant I'd rather they not be so excited that they have to do it right away and are disappointed, but have them wait and really have a good time without too much expectation. I like to be pleasantly surprised and make others feel the same way. If I tell you to do something or recommend a place to eat you should always take my advice, especially on food because nothing pissed me off more than a bad meal (and I can take forever to order and this is why I frequent places or do research beforehand). People have different tastes, but I know that if it was well worth my valuable time then I am willing to put my reputation on the line so that they can enjoy it, too.

This is a bit to think about before an upcoming post which deals with a yes or no question I have had about myself for years. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Movin' on Over (Quite Literally)

So as some of you have realized I haven't been up to date the last few weeks. I even posted a new post stating that I was going to be blogging again, which was two weeks ago. Simply put, massive changes have been occurring in my life of late. The biggest is that I moved. Let me rephrase that. Technically I moved, technically I didn't. Let me explain.

The idea was in my mom's head around ten years ago, at least what she made me aware of it. I recall her saying when I was applying for college "You know, if you go to school down south to Florida I will follow you". Well I didn't get accepted to Rollins College in Florida for baseball so it wasn't in the cards for her quite then. Every winter I would listen to her complain with the exact phrase "Why do we live here?" Mom was never one for the cold and especially the snow. Fast forward quite a few years to present time. She had gotten back with her off again on again (that is a rocky story all it own) boyfriend Curt. For quite a while she was all talk, but this year she decided to pull the trigger. She let myself first then Kara and Jeff, my siblings know that she was moving down to South Carolina. In truth there was nothing keeping her here so it wasn't a surprise to me at all. Kara and especially Jeff were a little dumbfounded I think, more so the latter. Jeff hated Curt because of the stuff her put my mom through mentally this last decade. I hated him for a while for the same thing but in the end they reconciled and decided to move together.

The first step was getting their respective houses on the market. I had a fun job cleaning the entire place for the first showing. Curt's house was on the market for two days my moms one weekend before they had multiple offers and sold. I'd say the real estate market it back, folks (actually my dad is a real estate developer so I knew what was possible). This came as a shock to everyone. His closing was very quick and no, these were not short sales either. My mom took a bit longer while FHA did there thing for what seemed like forever. What was holding it up was that the house, which had full amenities on the other side, was going to be condo'ed into two units had to have everything to a T. When there are two parties involved everything has to be set straight from the start as there is no tie breaker should a dispute come up. So mom was a stress ball for a couple months and then when summer was ending and Curt had already been living with us a few weeks by that point. FHA would say they were close but then not respond for a week and then come up with a new complaint about what needed to be done. I'm certain the new owners wanted to be in before school started and that is just what happened. Mid August we got a notice that we had 14 days (my lucky number) until closing. Things moved really fast after that.

I was moving in with my brother next door as I mentioned earlier (if I didn't you know now) to the condo that would become the same address followed by "A". I remember my last night in my old room which was neutral, I guess, just mixed feelings for me. I woke up did my usual routine and later that day moved most of my stuff over to the other side. I had to get at least the bed and other big stuff out and Curt had a buddy helping him load their truck headed to SC. They moved my stuff over no problem and I had a new home, just like that.

The first couple nights the bedroom didn't feel like mine. I wasn't startled when I awoke to use the bathroom late night or those mornings. You get used to something and then its gone. Growing up we lived in lots of houses (my dad is a real estate developer) and it always felt the same. We always stayed in the same town, until my parents divorced and I went to live with her a town over, but I have always considered myself a lifelong resident of Andover, MA because that is where I grew up and went to everything through high school even while living with mom a town over. After about a week the room finally felt like it was mine and I belonged there.

Getting my cat to believe it was another thing. Crosby and his rival pretty much rule the neighborhood. The first night I moved his food bowl out on the porch onto the patio table mom gave us and he came up to eat after I gave his treat bag a few hearty shakes. I then opened the door and tried to lure him in with treats (would have been easier but the cat nip was packed still) but he just leaned over the edge of  the table with an inquisitive look in his eye. This went on four a few minutes. I wasn't going to pick him up and force him in, rather let him make the choice. He did eventually cross the threshold, treats helped to coax him, and once we was in I released the screen door that gave a metallic crash sound he did not like. He jumped and looked around startled and then I said "We live here now" to him. I moved his food bowl to the carpeted  ledge going towards the basement and he began to eat. After that he explored the space with wide eyes and a low posture with his back bent like a surfer about to catch a wave. He explored the entire space like that then mowed to be let back out. The next time he came in it took about half the time and by the fourth or fifth time he was fine. He stills hangs out on the front steps and on the lawn but the neighbors like him so its fine. Even today, three weeks later, he is still a little wide eyed when walking around but I put some cat nip with his padded bed in my room (it was raining so he didn't want to go out anyways) and after eating his food and devouring the nip he lay in his bed grooming himself and then took a nap. I knew then that he was fine. As for me, let me backtrack to after my mom and Curt left but before I gave the keys to the attorney doing the sale.

With all the houses I've lived in starting with Salem St I have done the same routine when all the furniture is out. I walk in the door and go to each room and spend about a minute or so, sometimes more depending on how much time I was each over my time there, and recall all the memories in each. I visit every single room including bathrooms and the basement. I then visit my own room last and look out the window a la Sling Blade and reflect and tell myself that things are changing and I don't live here anymore. It all acts as a way of closing the door before I open a new one. I then walk downstairs and exit the house, never to return as a person who lives there. I've been to a couple houses after the fact but they don't feel like mine anymore. Even with this one the bulkhead access is for both I the doors are set up in a hallway for both but with walls my brother built and sets of keys that open the respective doors to each electrical panel. I had to go down there recently but it felt different than it used to. The memories I had there will always remain with me, and that will always be something I will cherish.

Before we did move, actually about six months ago when they were doing the plumbing for the basement and switching it over to two units, the workers had to pour new cement over the trench they dug. I took the opportunity to leave a mark, which you can see in the photo I included. I don't think the new owners know what it means and I honestly wouldn't mind if they asked me. All I know is that it is there. As for when I made it, I told myself that I had to, which I guess is reason enough for me.





Questions or comments? Let me know

New Post Tonight, around 9 PM today 9/13/2014!!!!

I promise this new one is almost ready to go and it chronicles big changes in my life over the last few months. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Posts

I have recently moved, my mom also moved to South Carolina and I have been busy. I will post again soon.