On my way to my daily walk on the western prom, I ran into a new friend walking back to her apartment. I smiled at her, and chatted briefly before continuing on my way. During my walk, I ran into a woman who usually sits on a bench at the western prom with her dog. I have had many short but enjoyable conversations with her over the last several months. Usually, I talk about the weather for a few minutes and then go on. I don't like to linger talking to someone unless I am sure that is what they want, and I couldn't tell with her. Recently, though, I have been getting vibes that she is okay with me staying longer and sitting with her, so that is what I have been doing. Today, I sat and talked to her for half an hour. Far longer than any other time. We talked about such soul-searching topics as how to fill the void inside you. She says everyone has a void inside of them, but they choose to fill it in different ways. Some with drugs and alcohol. She said that asking "What can I do to fill this?" and acknowledging it exists is the first step. She thinks I will find a way to fill it some day because I am asking the right questions. I like her. She is blunt and intelligent. I find it hard to figure out the boundaries of any social interaction I'm in, so I was still nervous afterwards, but I think I am doing okay.
I went downtown, where I was supposed to meet the rabbi of my synagogue at 4pm to discuss disability awareness. I didn't get downtown until 3:40, which was later than usual. I saw a guy I often talk to sitting in the middle of the square when I got there. We exchanged some quips, and he asked me some questions about Netflix. He told me was 78, which amazes me. He doesn't look a day over 60 to me. He walks all around town, and is still very active. He often gets lunch at Maine Med, near where I walk, then goes downtown to the library or market, so we see each other a lot by chance. We have very little in common other than we both spent a lot of time in Baltimore, but we enjoy each other's company, for a few minutes at a time. I enjoy him and the energy he has around him. We talked for ten minutes and then I said I needed to go get ready for my meeting.
What is it I want out of the world? Out of human interactions? I want a smile on the other person's face. I want to make them laugh. I want to feel that they are enjoying our interaction. I want that positive, fun, genuine energy I get from the people I admire. I want that feeling that I am "plugged in" to something other than myself. Being in interaction with certain people, with really anyone who's being genuine, feels like being plugged into a safe port. With the right person, it doesn't even matter what you're talking about. Just that that energy....you feel eminating from them.... that it keeps flowing into you. Sometimes I am not sure how to make it keep flowing and I think I might get too hyper and talk too much, or try too hard to make them laugh. I put so much effort into it I am not sure I can really *feel* the feelings from them that I want to feel. But I simply don't know how to interact with others without thinking or trying to plan it out ,and that often kills the very feeling I am looking for. It's a work in progress.
What do I want out of the world? I want to matter to someone, and I want to be able to tolerate my body. Simple things, with not so simple solutions.
Finding a way to realize, to understand, to have the perspective necessary to see what effect my efforts are having on others - to feel the effect of my love for other people on them, and to feel their feelings in return - that is my goal, but it's not one I've made much progress on, in my opinion.
Interactions often feel one sided to me, and I honestly cannot tell if this is because the other person is not putting much into it , or because I am not able to pick up what they are giving out.
My day continued with my meeting with the rabbi. I appreciated his ideas and committment to the causes we were talking about. I did feel engaged in the conversation. The empty void feeling went away for the hour we were talking. I talked to D at the market afterwards. Just a little chatter to help center myself. I went to sit down and rest, and then saw a guy I had met a few weeks ago at the market come in. He is usually open for conversation, and I can't resist more, so .We talked about John Krakow books, and I made a bunch of jokes that got laughs, which made me feel good. I felt nervous, because my brain was speeding way up trying to think of something to say and figure out if he wanted me to talk to him or not, but I over-rode it because being in connection felt so good. His smile and laugh are centering. I think to myself "What am I doing? I have no idea what to say," but I over-ride it because I get the feeling that it is welcome, even if my brain has other ideas.
We have been to many of the same places, both like country music, and both have an interest in psychology and disabilities. It is the third time I have met him, just randomly.
This is where perspective comes in. I don't work, and with very few exceptions never have. My heart cries out for the feeling of being part of a bigger mission. Ideally, a valuable part of something larger. I can talk to half a dozen people in one day and still not feel part of something. I wonder if I am mis-intepreting how good or bad my life really is. It is a very painful feeling to feel so adrift. I have analyzed myself for years, and this is not the first time i have come up with this conclusion. But one day, I hope that I will find the perspective that allows me to see myself in another way. To see myself as part of something bigger, even if it's in a far more informal way than many people have. To see myself as making a difference in the world around me. To find a way to understand the influence I have on others. I am so good at acting out the part in my head, that I feel that I should be. But I can't seem to understand cause and effect in a social sense. I do this, I say this, I feel this, and the other person does, feels, or says X in response. The messages are too subtle. I don't know. I don't know why I still feel so adrift when I am awash in social interaction. I do not know how to find a way to find social interaction that feels safe, comfortable, meaningful. Talking 60s music at the hot dog stand gives me these things, and I treasure those moments probably far more than I should. Nothing else does.
One day, I will find the answer. Or live my way into it. I just hope it is someday soon, before I lose all hope. According to my western prom bench buddy, at least I am asking the right question. So I have that going for me.
If you like this, please be sure to visit my other website, Accepting Asperger's. A lot of my older writing is stored here, including an editorial I once wrote for the Baltimore Sun. Click here to see it: Accepting Asperger's.
What's it really like to be a 20 something with Asperger's? On this blog, I hope to explore that question. But this blog is not just limited to an audience of people in their 20s - this is for anyone who ever wanted to know anything about autism. I plan to delve into the nature and experience of autism, and examine it from as many angles as possible. I would like to start a conversation between people with Asperger's or autism, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who just wants to know more. Let's explore what autism means, together.
My goal is to start a discussion on and build a community of people affected by autism - parents and adults with ASD - so feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section of any post. If you're too shy for that, however, or want to speak to me personally, you may feel free to email me at KGoldfie@gmail.com.
Asperger's Book for Sale
Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
Common Scents is the story of the last three years of my life. It gives a gripping view of what it is like to experience the world as someone on the autistic spectrum, and some would say, is an entertaining travel story as well. Because of chemical sensitivities, I engaged on a three year journey for a place I could call home.
Comments from readers:
"The Asperger's element is remarkable. I feel that I understand my son better, so much better. I laughed at this part.... because I've stared at my son in the same way for the same thing." - mother of an Asperger's kid
"Your writing style is SO engaging and interesting. It brings me right into the subject and I always experience a little emotional punch towards the end. In other words, this is the third time I've teared-up reading your work. Kate, you've highlighted ALL the problems with how social skills are usually taught." - mother of ASD kid
"I stayed up entirely too late reading the first 14 pages. I can relate to so much of what you write. I really think you are expressing the true experience with MCS and autism in words that convey the experience." person with chemical sensitivity (MCS)
"Absolutely interesting, insightful and witty. You've blended together your three themes beautifully (Asperger's, MCS and travelling). It seems seamless."