Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Asperger's and Possible Placebo Effects

Not exactly sure where I'm going with this one, or how I'm going to end up there for that matter, but let's find out. When I was 16 I found out I had Asperger's. I didn't do much of anything about it. It was more of like when you get an answer from a calculator; You don't see how it arrived at that number, but that is the answer, plain and simple. It wasn't really until late in college that I looked into what it all meant. I think still to myself what would have been different if I not only knew what I was feeling was 'normal' for me, but why and how could I cope with it. 

So would things have been different for me from 16-22 (and now) if I had at least some idea what I felt was typical for someone like me? I can never know for sure. I think I would have found out how to cope sooner, but would I have used AS as an excuse in the mean time? Well I don't use it as an excuse now for most things, and I like to keep it private unless the person I speaking to is in the know (besides people reading this blog). The one thing I do use it as an excuse for it my inability to read female body language and that is partly why I'm still single. The other part is that I don't have time for that right now.  I think things happen when they are supposed to for a reason, but even I get tired of waiting. 

I think the amount I struggled in the past has made me grateful for how far I've come, mentally that is. Coming up with my own conclusions in the mean time was tough to do, but no one told me how to arrive at them. I was able to think freely and organically. Now I will say that some of my conclusions were wrong and some didn't even get out of the gate, but they were mine and I accepted them at the time. I still accept the good ones now and throw out those that no longer apply. They say knowledge is power. If you come up with your own ideas and people believe in them as knowledge, then does that give you more power? Not if you are humble, which I am. I have mom to thank for that. 

I'd be further ahead of the game if I looked into my own unique set of AS related traits sooner, but I didn't. That is a choice I made that I don't know how to feel about. There are good and bad things that would have been apparent had I examined myself sooner. I only know what happened with the path I took to get to where I am. I like the line that Anton Chigurh gives Carson in No Country for Old Men. "If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?" He says this to Carson after he realizes he has trapped him into his death. So what I'm getting at is if I knew how I was supposed to feel about certain things or that it was normal to feel in a certain way, would I still be who I am today? I think I would be, just I would have arrived at certain points sooner than I did. 

As it stands, no one told me how to think. I got here by myself. People may have given me a nudge in the right direction now and again, and I took their advice as an option, but my own thoughts told me which way to go in the end. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Asperger's And The Eye Glasses Analogy

I'm doing this post based on a need to fill a void. I'm not sure if anyone has quite put what I'm about to say this way before, but if they have, I will amend this post and give them credit where it is due. This is not going to be some dry, clinical study post, as a lot of the articles written about us are. This is going to be straight from the horse's mouth, something everyone loves. I was going to do this post later today, but being up at 4 am an unable to fall back asleep seems like a prime opportunity to me.

 If there is one thing I am really good at, it is relating difficult to grasp concepts to something that most people can understand. Difficult may be the wrong word, but then again you need to be on the autism spectrum to understand why what I am about to explain is a perfect example. How to relate this just sort of came to me when I had my glasses off recently.

A main issue that many people on the spectrum have is reading the expression on someones face. The same goes for body language. A lot the non-verbal cues that neurotypicals (NT's for short) easily pick up are missed by those on the spectrum. Telling people this is one thing, having them believe it is another. A relatively small amount of people I know are aware I'm even on the spectrum (getting them to believe it is also a challenge) and most people I wish to keep this fact a secret from. To my friends not in the know I am just like anyone else. So when I can't read a situation, read between the lines or easily decipher the combination of what they just said to me and the look on their face when they did so, they lose patience with me or even worse; they think I'm stupid. Well let's try an experiment and see how well you all do.

Anyone can do this, given the right equipment. I'm not saying it's easy to do or even an exact science, but there is no way to change your brain to see the world as my friends and I do. If you wear eye glasses for distance then please take them off or get a lesser power for this. If you don't, please put some on, but they need to be just the right amount. This may be tricky based on your prescription, I understand, but at least the concept is there. My own glasses are at a -3.75 so if I'm not wearing them I can see everything, but the key details are not clear and I should not drive without them. You should use that last sentence a gauge what prescription you should use for this experiment. Go to either a crowded area or pull up one of those programs, via the internet, that doctors use to test people's ability to read faces. I recommend the crowd or a place with a bunch of people. A closed off space such as a mall or park would be good, we don't want anyone getting hit by a car.

Now, once you are safely there ( we don't want any accidents getting to that point) put the glasses on and walk around. While you will still be able to see everyone clear enough while either sitting or walking around, their crisp details will be gone. You've now lost the ability to pick up on subtlety in the face. Spoken words are still clear to you, but any little hints in expression are gone.

Get up, if you were sitting, and walk around. Maybe the girl looking at you as she walked by was interested, maybe she was not, as she looked at you but didn't give a clear smile, only a slight upturn of her lip that you missed (for the record even I can surmise what a clear smile directed my way means). You see a man with a dog and you ask if you can pet it. He gives you an unclear verbal response that could mean yes or no, but you can't make out his face when he said it, so you're not sure whether you should or not. Maybe the dog is fine or maybe it bites when frightened in a public setting unfamiliar to it, who really knows for sure? You decide that you like the current look of your hand, so refrain from putting it forward. Going a bit further you see someone seated on a bench and you ask them what time it is. You didn't see that they were either deep in thought or busy doing something they thought was important and they either say "Can't you see I'm busy" or ignore you all together, with the latter being the most frustrating because you ask again and then receive the rude response they could have given the first time you asked. You then see a one of your friends but they don't want to be bothered either because they are going through a tough time. Your surprise when you talk to them anyway and they remain distant with you and you can't figure out why is apparent. Sometimes even friends want to be left alone, but you didn't see the signal they sent with their eyes or the lacking smile on their lips as you approached them. The conversation ends quickly as your friend excuses themselves and you wonder what you did wrong.  You think "He'd have said hello to me if the roles were reversed or the next time we met he would have asked why I ignored him. So what did I do wrong?" Meanwhile your friend thinks to him self "Jeez, can't the guy take a hint?" as he walks away. Now would be a good time to take the glasses off.

So hopefully you get the idea now. The reason I made the man with the dog's response unclear is that picking up subtleties in language is just as hard, if not harder to do than reading the face that is saying it. Couple the two together and you can easily see why people on the spectrum have such problems fitting in socially. As for myself I rely a lot on tone of voice a lot. This has helped me begin to decipher what the face hides. You can think of it as a math problem (even though I hate math). Facial expression + tone of voice = What is meant by the speaker. In the autistic brain, think of the first two parts of the problem as Egyptian hieroglyphs that you may never fully understand.

 I've come a long way, but still have much more to grasp. I'm 29 and could have used the ability to read the combination of faces and what the words really meant much sooner in life, most notably during my school days. I'm getting better, but I still get my signals crossed or missed all together, all the time. I guess my next post will have to be on context and how language is used in different situations and why it is a stumbling block for us.

If you have any questions let me know. I will try to add more to this post or clarify parts if need be.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Concept of "Now"

When I was younger, around 10 years old, I came up with a way to sort of review my progress in general. I don't know exactly how it started, but I began saying the word "Now' to myself, sometimes out loud, once every few months. I never had a standard time set to when I said it, just whenever the mood struck or I remembered to do so. Once I did, though I would recall where I was mentally and physically over the last few months and what changes had come about since then. Being someone on the autism spectrum change is not something I embrace readily, I just seem to deal with it. Over the months it would inevitably happen, so I'd take a few moments to reflect on what had transpired.

Life can turn on a dime, so sometimes I'd b going over some interesting changes that happened. Maybe we had moved, maybe I had moved onto a different school. I realize now it would have been wise to write down what was going on, not just making the mental notes that were lost with the passage of time. As I got older I lost touch with the concept but I think I have picked it up again, although once a year has become the new standard, or if I reached some sort of personal milestone or event.

The last time I said "Now" it was when I moved out of my mom's house to the condo next door with my brother and she moved down to South Carolina. It was a big adjustment. I pay rent now and more bills along with my own that were taken care of when living with mom. I have about the same freedoms and drawbacks, but Jeff can be a real hard ass, so I guess some were traded for others.

"Now" remains something I like about the way I think. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut or like things are moving too fast, take a moment and reflect about what is going on; you're never too busy for that. You might be surprised by how far you've come. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My California Adventure (with plenty of hilarity sprinkled in)

I was in California, for the first time, the last week of February. It was quite the adventure. I had a couple of things happen that were brought on by Asperger's which I'll gladly talk about. My dad rented a house because his wife, Janet, lived in California for a number of years before coming back to the east coast and eventually marrying him. She has friends out there that have come over and she wanted an extended vacation to avoid the rest of winter, so they rented a house for a month.

The flight itself wasn't bad at all, but after that the shit hit the fan for the rest of the evening. We got in a around 9 PM local time and then we had to wait on the runway for forty five minutes. After the six hour and a half hour flight fresh air was at a premium and the lavs were overflowing. People wanted off that bird, fast. We finally pulled up to the gate and dashed to freedom. The torture that is the bag carousel was next. I did most of the heavy lifting and then brought the bags to dad. We had to wait on the curb for the "C" shuttle to take us to that lot, where our car company would pick us up. Although under the roof it was raining and traffic at the airport was brutal.

We waited nearly an hour and then shuffled onto the shuttle, which was now full. Our party was stuck at the door and Boo, my dads dog who is a lap size Cockapoo, was at Janet's feet. Actually, before that she was on the pile of bags but kept sliding off. The floor proved more dangerous as our proximity to the door almost found her pancaked a couple times. The driver told us where to get off, but the very large parking lot was confusing and we screwed that up mightily. With the rain that had fallen before things were a little muddy. Dad called the car company and they told us where they were going to pick us up. Dad and Janet then debated where that was and got into a shouting match about where to go and kept calling the company to clarify where the cell phone lot we were looking for was. They were getting really pissed and I was trying not to laugh in their faces, like I always do in these types of situations and everyone on the spectrum knows what I am talking about.

So after walking this way and that (and dragging out bags through the mud) we finally met the guy, and he admitted finding the lot is hard for most people. Maybe they should change their pick up policy. So we get the the rental place and are filling out the paper work and Janet is just on mental tilt at this point and I tell her that her Sperry's have some mud on them. She walks up the the pedestal where they guy is processing out information and starts wiping her shoe off on it! I was shocked and it was something I have never seen her do, really out there for her to behave like that. It was right after this point that the rental dude then dropped a bombshell: No dogs allowed in the van. We simultaneously gave him a 'you've got to be shitting me' look and then told him that Boo does not shed and is hypoallergenic, which is true. After explaining that to him in detail we walked back out to our car and wound up with a pretty sweet Dodge Caravan. The drive was around fifty miles to Thousand Oaks. That driver flew by, even though it was late, around 11:30 and I was hungry. I bit the bullet on not being able to go to a drive-through, which I got over. We arrived at the house at around 1 am and basically just collapsed on our beds, saving unpacking and gawking at the house until later that morning.

I woke up at 7 am, hungry. After all my stomach was on east coast time, so it was really 10 am for me. I took the van as I had discussed with Dad earlier that morning. My first two minutes driving were absolute paranoia. The odd thing was that the roads were nearly empty until I got to the highway. I had not felt like this in a while, let alone behind the wheel of a car. It passed as soon as it came and I was fine. It should be noted that when I picked up my own rental car a day later I didn't have any such episode. I pulled into a Carl's Jr. and went degenerate on some sub par breakfast food. Returning home I got a good look at the place. It was nicely furnished, had a lemon tree in the back yard and I was surprised dad and Janet had found such a good place to rent. The house is usually for people who have been relocated with a company and need a place to stay for a few months until they find a permanent place to live.

Later that day we needed groceries so we went shopping and that was fun. We had dinner that night at Janet's friends house and they caught up while I listened on. There were two groups: the male and female. I shifted between each room and heard all sorts of stories and got the vibe everyone was putting out. There was no one there my age so I felt right at home (and no, I'm not joking as I tend to gravitate towards adults even from a young age). These people were late forties to sixty and it was interesting to hear what they had to say about work and their kids. My brain started to get tired and we left an hour or so later.

The next day we went and got my car, which turned out to be a Ford Focus, a newer model, not the little death trap looking wedge they used to be when they first came out. I felt very comfortable in it. I hit up a couple of consignment shops, no luck there, and went back to the house. Later that day I drove a few exits down to Agora Hills to the Bikram studio there. The teacher was late and a woman waiting with me outside said "I hope Lady Gaga isn't in there doing a private lesson again". The grammy's were not too long before and Gaga had been there doing just that, and I think it was so she could remain away from the spotlight that is the international headquarters in LA. The class was fine for me that day, although the teacher whined about me taking sips of water. I get really bad dry mouth in the winter and if I don't keep things flowing I cough, which is annoying in itself. I kept my mouth shut to her scolding. After I had showered it was off to one of the places I was eager to visit for the first time: In-N-Out Burger.

I walked in and acted like I had been there before, although I was giddy inside. The place was packed. I had always heard of the secret menu and knew instantly why it was necessary; the menu is about 10 items total, including drinks. As I looked around while waiting in line the joint was really jumping and once it was my turn I ordered a double double, fries and a strawberry shake. I kept it simple and left the secret menu out. I got a nice table outside and, after taking the obligatory picture to post for my friends, dug in. It was like heaven. All the ingredients worked perfectly to complement one another. I finished quickly and noticed I still had plenty of shake left, so I went inside and ordered a single (no cheese this time) to complete the feast. I drove home content and Janet asked me about it and hung on my every word as if someone had paid her to do so. Tired and full, I slept like a baby that night.

The next morning, Dad and I took a ride to Ventura and played at the poker room there. I dropped $250 and he left even after a few hours, but we had fun though. We went to a seafood joint on the water and walked around a little before finding it. The place had a 1980s vibe to me somehow, I don't know why, just some places seem to have different decade feelings for me and this was no different. The food was OK, not like we have here in New England and we stopped at a fruit stand on the way back.

The next evening, now Thursday I went fishing with a guy named Mark who we'd met the first night at Janet's friends house. He fishes as a work break most days and we planned to go out on the man made lake near their house. Before that happened we were visiting one of Janet's friends for a lakeside lunch. I got a chicken club sandwich, sans tomato and it was the best I had ever had. Janet wanted to do an impromptu photo shoot next to the water and we took turns playing camera man. As we walked back under the curtain that provided shade for the restaurant Janet slipped on the mud and bashed her head on the metal pipe holding the curtain down. There was an audible bonk and the tears came. I laughed, shocker there, but not too much as she had really done a number on the top of her head. That pipe was thick metal, and it had to be to hold the curtain down when it was windy. She had an ice pack the rest of the meal but she took it better than I thought. There was a window of an hour and a half until fishing so I just decided to go on the boat early and take a nap.

Mark arrived and we talked about the strategy we were going to use before casting off. We sort of slowly trolled around the lake and I eventually felt comfortable enough to give him feedback on the speed at which we did so. I like to take my time, but you see more of the lake if you go a little faster, so we found a happy medium and then slowed it down again when a spot either looked good or he knew they were typically biting. He hooked the first one and gave me the rod. I was sort of shocked when he did this but, as he stated later on, he gets to fish daily and I didn't, so letting me fight them was something he was happy to do. I found out that hooking them was the much easier part, the fight was tough when using 8 lb test line. I caught three nice ones, a couple broke the line and we got a decent amount of strikes that we couldn't capitalize on. it was a good night and Mark got video of me reeling in a nice one. Talking to Mark he elaborated on his job I had heard about earlier in the week. He was the producer for infomercials and people in his friend network had been given roles in a few of them. In fact Michelle, who's house it was that we went to the first night, was in a little ad called the Tiddy Bear. Once she told me this I instantly knew what she was talking about and laughed my ass off. We all watched it and dad and Janet were in stitches. It was actually ranked the #2 worst infomercial of all time, which in my late night TV and YouTube binges I had seen before. Michelle had a speaking line in it and we wiped tears from our eyes. After it got dark around 7 pm we went back to the dock and I gave him a hearty 'thank you' accompanied by a firm handshake. I went to In-N-Out Burger once again and then returned home to tell Dad and Janet about the fun I'd had.

Friday was a busy day for me. I had planned a journey for myself to LA all week and was going to hit some places I had wanted to go to for a long time. I wanted to see where the Bikram studio, which was actually international headquarters, was so I went there first. I left around 10 am and traffic was lighter than normal. I found the studio easily enough and then headed to Barney's Beanery. This place had an awesome vibe. Pictures were arranged in a collage all over everything and there were license plates and sports on the TV's. The menu, which was like a newspaper if I remember correctly, was extensive and breakfast was anytime. I had seen the place on the Travel Channel (as I did a lot of my other food destinations) and it lived up to the hype. I ended up ordering a Sam Adams and a combo half sandwich & bowl of chili (which I have never ordered anywhere) and it was great. I lingered and really enjoyed the chili while wondering what the walls would say if they could talk. Even the bathrooms were cool. After I finished my second water I left and drove around West LA. Not that it was a shock to me, but Janet was right about that part of town being very gay, rainbows were everywhere. I guess it stood out here less than it used to, but after gay marriage was legalized it became old hat, just like in Massachusetts. It's not that I don't care about it or what it stands for, its just that I'm so used to seeing people being able to express themselves so openly. I still can't see why some states that are so against it. I like to let people be who they are, and I actually got in an argument with some guy on this blog about the issue back in 2012 over a post titled The Chick-Fil-A Argument: The New Civil War? Reading over it again there were some typos, but I was in a car with some friends going to my friends so I guess I get a pass. This guy was big into the Bible being against homosexuality. Read it to find out how it went. Anyway, back to my Friday.

Driving around I hit the 90210 area code and cruised up and down the streets of a nice neighborhood. What did I see exactly? I'll tell you a little later. The traffic by that time was horrible and I went to the Staples Center and turned back. I saw parts of Hollywood sort of by default as I was going that way anyhow. My next food joint was Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. This ended up being around 9 pm, so there was 6 hours of driving around in between there and Barney's. I got the chicken and waffles, which should be no surprise, and devoured it much to the surprise of my waiter who laughed when I told him I wanted two waffles. He was impressed at my speed and how spotless the plate was. I hadn't eaten in a while, I was hungry. So I drove back and, after a very long day I felt that feeling upstairs, the one like you have an invisible helmet on that blocks your reception of the outside world.

I knew that Dad and Janet were having friends over for dinner that night and my aunt and uncle had just arrived as well earlier that day. So there were about ten people there and I texted Janet well before I arrived home that I need about an hour before I could be myself, mentally, again. Janet is not one to check her phone when entertaining, which is polite, but not something I was happy about. Looking once again at the text I'd sent I saw that it hadn't been read yet, so she was in the dark. I walked in and went straight to my room beside the crowd to my right that was saying "Kyle" and different versions of "Hello". I waved them off, because I had to and laid myself down. I head Janet saying my name repeatedly to come out and dad saying to "come out and have a beer with uncle Colin" but I did not respond. Dad came into my room a couple minutes later and I half angrily said to him "Dad, get out, give me like an hour or so and I'll be fine. Just turn that light back off, close the door and I'll come out when I'm ready and I'll explain later". I wasn't really meaning to be angry at all, although he might have construed it that way. I was direct, that would be more accurate, and he gave in and left which was nice because I didn't want to either explain or end up going on a rant. When I'm mentally tired I can't think critically or answer a lot of basic questions without having to think about the answers through a dense layer of fog. My responses are not articulate in any way and its like talking to a wall. Mom knows this, Dad still hasn't grasped it or seen me in this mental state enough to know when to leave me alone. One of the few things I can still do in this zombie state is drive a car, perhaps because that is second nature to me by now and is more of a survival skill. If a cop were to pull me over in this foggy state (which would be an ultimate nightmare for me) I don't know how it would end. They would probably think I was doped up or something when I was unable to answer their questions.

I emerged a little over an hour later and I was back to my old self. I recalled my journey to the crowd and told them what I saw while driving through Beverly Hills. I said "that in the course of ten minutes and five streets I saw seven Bentley's, two super-cars (insane sports cars) fifty nice homes and eighty Mexican's doing lawns"; the last part being a little edgy but resulting in an eruption of laughter from those gathered around. That joke let me know I was really back and the rest of the night went smoothly. I never had to explain why I needed the time alone, either.

The next morning I went to take class at Bikram Yoga International Headquarters, which I mentioned earlier, in West LA. I had heard a couple weeks before, when I was telling friends from my home studio about my upcoming vacation that I planned to go there. Neil told me that if I were to go to the 10 am Saturday class I would see Bikram Choudhury, whom it is named after. He always teaches the class at that time if he is in studio. I arrived early, with traffic as unpredictable I gave myself plenty of time to spare, and ended up waiting in my car four almost an hour. I pulled into the parking garage at 9:20 am and the sign said that those visiting the studio have 2 1/2 hours free with validation. I parked on level 1 (which I forgot later on) and saw a couple who I asked where to go. Turns out they were just about to ask me the same thing as they were also out of town, from Baltimore. So we found the elevator together and rode up. I told them that Bikram teaches the 10am if in LA and the woman got really excited at the prospect of taking his class. I led the way through the main door and we paid and checked in. She asked if Bikram was here and the woman working the desk replied in the affirmative, turning the lady into a a girly giggly mess as if she was about to see the Beatles live or something of that magnitude.
And for the record, I'm not blind to Bikram Yoga and its founder being in the headlines for the wrong reasons, but fact remains that my shoulder I had surgery on has never felt better and my body overall feels great, not to mention I've had friends from my home studio who have used it to heal after lots of other injuries and one who even avoided having to get spinal surgery (and that last one is kind of a huge deal) so save your criticisms for another time.

Upon walking into the room, which is easily the hottest I have ever been in, I picked my spot near the front, which I always do. You think that given my shy personality I'd be in the back, but not when I do yoga. Besides, you get a better view of your postures and have less distractions when there is no one in front of you blocking your view of the mirror. A guy came in and he had some sort of gun he was pointing at different areas of the room. Though I'd never seen one I knew immediately he was taking heat readings with it. A typical class environment is 105 F and 40% humidity. We found out later in class that it was 120 F in there and if the heaters weren't shut off it would be 135 F (the latter is clearly what I initially felt when I entered and it felt cooler after 20 minutes or so after class began). I must say Bikram was tough. He kept going after the husband of the giddy lady I had walked in with because the guy wasn't just slightly off on his postures, he was off the reservation. I've seen plenty of beginners before in my five years in the hot room but this dude took the cake. The good thing about Bikram talking about postures a little during class was that we got little breaks I was not accustomed to. My left foot, which I broke in high school, didn't hurt as much so I could stay on my feel longer without needing to lay down. I did go down once and Bikram said "Hey, Mr. Blue! Are you all right?" I gave him the thumbs up and nodded and he said "OK" in return. The class did go twenty minutes over its usual time, I think, and it must have been 110 minutes of torture for the guy he kept having to yell at. Upon exiting the room I never felt better after a class in my life. I chugged a Gatorade, showered and changed in the locker room. I came out in a towel and Bikram was there telling a really skinny guy that he needed to gain some weight. Upon seeing me, he told me I was too fat and to give the first guy some of my weight. So the founder of Bikram Yoga called me fat, but I'll take it. I proved him correct an hour later.

I got back on the elevator and couldn't seem to recall where I had parked. I thought it was on level two so I went there first. Turned out I was wrong so I got back on and went to level three (better to go all the way down then to go up first, rather than go up and have to backtrack even more, I hate wasted movement and even prefer to do a loop rather than go the same way twice). When I reached three I looked about and pushed the remote on the car to locate it as I had done before. The floors aren't massive, but just enough where there are two sides and the signal won't reach. Now I had seen plenty of them before, but the nine or so Bentley's in an array of colors/styles that I saw was still a thing of beauty. I knew Bikram had a car collection but was unsure where he kept it and it turns out this was only part of it. I told our studio leader Teri when I got back and she casually assured me that they were all his. I eventually found my car one level one. I had a couple pieces of chewing gum left and, as I sometimes do to friends, leave it in the handle of their car door still wrapped. I'm not sure what they thought when they saw it, and I'll probably never know.

My last real food stop that I wanted to visit was Pink's Hot Dogs which was an eight mile drive from where I currently was. I found it easily and paid the meter, which take credit cards, and hopped in line. The line at Pink's can be long, but I only waited twenty minutes. I ended up ordering the Brando dog, which was a nine inch hot dog with mustard, onions, chili and shredded cheddar cheese. I added on an order of fries and a cream soda. This meal, like my earlier burger experience, was perfect. I'd never had a chili dog until that moment, and what a way to do it a true original since 1939. I drove a little more through Hollywood and then back to the house. One more night, we ended up going to dinner, and then back on the big metal bird to the frozen snow covered tundra that is Massachusetts.

I had a good time in California. It was a nice vacation that I needed on so many levels. I crossed a lot of places or my food bucket list, that's for sure. The enjoyed the views, weather and added some new friends. What more could I ask for? Another week, maybe.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How Having Asperger's is Like Being a Vampire

We hide in plain sight. We walk among you with a secret that we hold very close. You may catch a glimpse of what we are truly capable of but it feels like it couldn't be possible; so you let it go. You may ask us about it later but we will be coy, or at least try to be about it. We only tell people we trust because we don't like being put in a box you think we should be in. Like other people we have things we are good at and things we struggle with. Despite what you may think we have our groups, just like everyone else, who are in on the whole thing. We stick together and we can pick one another out of a crowd easily. You could say it takes on to know one, but we don't call each other out in public. One thing is for sure, once you find out our secret you never see us in the same light again.

I hide who I am from most people and it is necessary to do so. It's not that they don't deserve to know. I'm sure they would like to know why I do some of the things I do. I would rather have them think I am just a weird guy. But the fact remains that people can be stupid. They don't know what having Asperger's means. I don't want them treating me like I'm  feeble minded or someone they can take advantage of easily. I don't want them to feel sorry for me either. My own father thought that I would never be able to drive a car on my own; he must have watch Rainman one too many times. Turns out that I am a better driver than him and everyone else in the family. I feel very at home behind the wheel of a car, no no matter what what situation I find myself in. I am an aggressive driver and if people are sitting at a stop sign waving one another to go I wave to them on my way through the zone (after stopping of course). My style of driving is the exact opposite of my personality you could say. I didn't tell anyone at the DMV about AS, or have mentioned it to those racist cops who used to pull me over for no reason. If I ended up making a mistake they would assume I was mentally unfit to drive and take my license away. Just like everyone else, the less they know the better.

I hide in plain sight because I have to and you would, too. I'm sure it will come out eventually but I want to have all my ducks in a row when it does so the people who try to take things away don't have a cause to do so, or other people will have my back and things will be just as they were before anyone knew.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Me vs. Business Me: I Have an Alter Ego

My business, which is jewelry, is not for people who are mentally weak. I am a one man show and wear all the hats all the time. If I'm not on point then I lose money. This takes into account that I either overpaid or sold too cheap, either way it is money that is no longer available to me. People learn by watching as well as doing and I did more of the former, initially. I watched how the people moved about and what they were after. I saw they how interacted with others in the trade and how they put themselves in the best position possible. When I felt I was ready to swim into deeper water, not too deep yet as I am barely over my head and can still sink down and push off the bottom quite easily, I applied what I had learned. Let me tell you how I transformed into a scared kid to a juvenile great white shark.

There isn't much emotion in negotiating, which is great for me; the less the better. You have to be personable but also focused enough to get what you need and walk away when you don't. I used to be uncomfortable when settling on a price, but that has since passed. I've brokered diamonds for thousands of dollars and the higher price I get for the customer the bigger my commission. I realize there are some things you can haggle on and some you can't. On the buying end of things business me doesn't care if you need this money to pay your rent, but will meet you somewhere in the middle if its a great deal for me anyway. I have a much better poker face than when I started. Telling a sob story to someone who rarely ever cries won't get you very far. In the end it all comes down to money and I have started to choose more wisely how it is spent.

I always think, before spending for business, "Is there anything I else that I could do with this money that will make me more than this deal" and also "what other opportunities are in the near future that I may need this cash for?" A bigger question I used to fail to ask was "Is this worth it?" The latter came about after I spent money on small ticket items that I was only going to make $10 on anyway. And before you say think well if you pay $10 and get $10 back than that is totally worth it. It is if you can sell the item right away, not in three years. I could have done a lot with all those $10 mistakes, that are still sitting either in a box or in a display case I have to pay rent on. I've since learned to spend $10-20 on things I can sell for $60-100, sometimes much more, and quickly.

I like to buy things that have multiple uses. If I buy silver/gold even platinum scrap I know that I can make something out of it if it doesn't sell. This gives me a huge edge on the so called 'scrappers' who only buy precious metals for bullion value. They don't know that some items worth only a few dollars are worth one hundred times more if they are made by a certain designer, and there are more of these, both people and the pieces they unknowingly scrap than you think. How did I get this edge? Hours upon hours of study, both at the jewelers bench and utilizing the computer. I have a lot of alone time, and I like to use it accordingly.

Business me isn't that much different than normal me. Except for the fact that He can walk away easily from a sour deal, negotiate like a pro, know when I need to give a little or when to stand strong and know all the procedures and tricks to make the most money possible. But the thing is, business me is an illusion, he only exists in the minds of the people I do business with. After the transaction is over I revert back to my old self and no one else is the wiser. If people knew who they were really dealing with I wouldn't be able to make another dime, but then again maybe that isn't true anymore. Evolve or die, or in this case, go broke. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Battling the Man Cold (But it might as well be the damn plague)

I get sick once every four years or so. The episode usually comes to pass every presidential election or leap year, though not at those specific times. Usually it goes that everyone around me gets sick. I've dodged more bullets in this department then you would believe, some nasty stuff, too. When it hits, it hurts me big time because I am not used to it. For something to effect me it has to be damn near plague level, and if you ever see me sick, run; better yet put one of those suits they wear in a clean room environment. I could tough it out, but I'd rather relax and let it run its course. I use the word relax loosely. It's more of a 'sit there and suffer' cycle. I don't like medicines at all. I take a little vitamin C but that is more of a mental boost than anything. I drink lots more water, tea (which I always drink) and enough OJ to kill a small horse. I am patient, I just don't like being one. Slowly I feel myself go from bad to worse and then come out of it the same way. The thing that troubles me the most is afterward. I get sick so infrequently that I forget what it is like to feel normal afterwards. I always ask, "is this what I felt like before? I mean really, is this what normal is supposed to feel like?" That state of confusion doesn't last too long but its as awkward as an elevator ride. If I wake up and still feel normal/better than I am all set. I think I do this in case I think I am better but not quite, sort of like having a set back. I know I am not going to get sicker, I just need to make sure I am well and strong enough to go back to regular living.

As you have already assumed I am sick at the moment, and feel as though I'm over the hump and getting better, but I am not sure. This could be just a period where I've plateaued and don't move up or down in terms of level of symptoms shown or felt. This physical limbo is what kills me mentally. I like to have control over all the things that I can ( I'm not messing with anyone else's free will) especially my own body, and when you don't know it is a horrible feeling. I feel helpless. I enjoy my naps but taking so many is annoying and I don't really get to decide when I'm taking them when I'm sick. I know what they feeling is when I need one, though, and I always oblige to what my body is telling me physically (luckily I've learned to block out a lot of the mental stuff as I've matured, but more on that in other posts).

The reason I'm up typing this, at around 1 am while I'm sick, is that I over-napped and can't sleep, but I want to. I guess I'll blow my nose a couple more times and try again.