The Joy of Jars

A lot of posts I write will inevitably be focusing on the things about Asperger’s that make life difficult; after all, the diagnostic criteria are based on deficits (for a positive spin, read Discovery criteria for aspie by Attwood and Gray).  So here I wanted to share something that brought me great joy.

At the beginning of my “Emotional Overload” post I told you that I had sent my favorite band a link to the blog post I wrote about naming this blog after one of their songs.  And I shared that I got a little notification that Charlie from the band “liked” my post; I appreciated so much that he actually took the time to read it.

This past Friday Dad and I drove 5 hours to Columbus, OH to see Jars of Clay yet again.  Normally we don’t go that far just for a Jars concert, but I had never been to one of their Christmas shows and I got a deep desire to go. . . and my dad never says “No” to a concert.  Music is an aspie-fixation we share, and we’ve built a lot of wonderful memories traveling to shows together over the years.

We gave ourselves a large time buffer for the trip and made great time, so we arrived about 2 hours before the Meet and Greet was scheduled.  The venue served food in the front, and as we were about to sit down at a booth Charlie saw us (before we saw him, this time) and came over to say hi.  I thought to get a picture.

Charlie and me

Charlie is awesome.

He was supposed to be heading back for the sound check, but he talked with us for a few minutes about the tour, answered Dad’s question about shooting a music video in the Philippines, and listened to Dad’s story about one of my first concert experiences.  Then he turns to me and says, “Oh, and I really liked your blog, by the way.”   *invisible internal happy-dance*

While Dad and I ate our early dinner we listened to the band run through “Loneliness and Alcohol” for their sound check, and I was feeling so extremely happy after that interaction that eating was almost upsetting my stomach.

We had a nice time exchanging a few words with the rest of the band at the Meet and Greet, and Jude kindly rounded up the guys for a group photo.  They also graciously signed a set-list I grabbed from the stage after the show.

Matt, Charlie, Stephen, me, Dad, Dan.  And cookies.

Matt, Charlie, Stephen, me, Dad, Dan. And cookies.

Dad and I were able to stand right up front against the stage – it isn’t the best for sound balance, but it’s just so much fun!  This is what it looked like:

Years ago I had recognized that my love for the band was bordering on obsessive (creating a website, being highly active in the wonderful Jarchives community, etc)  and I consciously toned it down; I didn’t know at the time that it was an Aspie “special interest”/fixation, but I knew that things like stalking are socially unacceptable. 😉   But any of you who are on the spectrum will know how important special interests can be, and so you will probably understand why I had such a wonderful, joyful day.  Dad and I used to get excited when we could tell they recognized us from the many concerts we had attended; thinking of Charlie coming over to chat with us and bringing up the topic of my blog post truly warms my heart.  If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to check out their music.  You can even download some for free on NoiseTrade.com.

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Inland

When it comes to interpreting art, I’m usually pretty black-and-white.  I am a firm believer in Truth, that there is absolute truth out there.  I hated having to interpret poems and stories in English class – I’d think, “I don’t know what the author meant by that.  I haven’t asked them.”  I’d get annoyed if a songwriter, when asked what a song was about, would say something like, “It can mean different things to different people.”  I understand what they’re saying, but it still vexes me.  Normally I want to know what a song is truly about, the true meaning behind the words, from the person who wrote it.  So it always surprises me when I come across a piece of art and can experience it meaning something personal to me, something different from what it meant to the artist.

Matt Odmark



Jars of Clay is my favorite band.  Fixation-level favorite.  Their music resonates with me, even when I don’t always “get” the lyrics – I still resonate with the “feel” of the songs.  I was listening to a few tracks from their latest record before the full album was released, and it was around that time that I realized I am an Aspie.  So while thoughts about my self-diagnosis were swirling through my head, this song was also swirling around in there.  And because I like finding patterns and connections, I recognized my journey in some of the lyrics.  I hope you’ll listen to the song before reading on:


They don’t believe in oceans, you, you were a sailor

Who burned your ship and walked on, far away you walked on

“It is a song about walking toward mystery and not being afraid to take risks,” Jars of Clay’s Dan Haseltine tells Rolling Stone. “The idea came from Homer’s Odyssey. In the story, Odysseus, a man who lived his life on the sea, is provoked, to take his oar and walk inland until he finds someone who doesn’t know what an oar is.”

This reminds me of what it feels like trying to enter the neurotypical world.  It’s a land where I have my oar and describe the sea (a very real object and a very real place I’ve experienced and know well) but they can’t comprehend what I’m talking about.  They may even think I’m making it up.

Yes, it's Gandalf.

Yes, it’s Gandalf.  He’s walking.  Not all who wander are lost…

 

There are no streets to walk on, no maps you can rely on

Faith and guts to guide you, wander ‘til you find you


Growing up undiagnosed, I didn’t have any maps or guides to help me navigate. Fortunately awareness and resources are increasing, but it still involves a lot of that “wander ’til you find you” stuff.


You keep turning inland where no man is an island

It’s where you’re supposed to be

I’m encouraged to make the effort to connect with others, instead of trying to be an island.  Even though it takes a lot of energy, in relationship and community is where I’m supposed to be.

My kitten Gandalf looks through an Inland vinyl. See, it all connects.

 


Afraid of your conviction, they said the land would change you

Steady your confession, your course make no corrections

When you are a stranger, hold your tongue and wager

That love will set you free, until it sets you free


It’s hard to feel like a stranger, but people will love us.  And the land will change us.  Hopefully we can change it for the better, as well.

 

Follow your desire, leave it all, you’re leaving all

Just burn it in the fire

Of everything you once knew

And everyone that knew you

Remove the shoes you came on

Feel the earth you’re made from

Pack up all your questions

Just keep heading inland and come on home to me


I can dwell too much on the past, especially the hard parts.  I dwell on how others treated me, times I was misunderstood, times I misunderstood and hurt others, etc.  And while it’s important to consider the past and how it shapes us, at times we need to “leave it all behind” in a sense.  I also dwell on unanswered questions – it can be good to pack them up and keep moving forward.

One of my favorite shots of the band, from 2005.

One of my favorite shots of the band, from 2005.

 


I will always be here by your side

I will always stand next to you

Where your darkness hits the light

In the place where you stand against the tide

I will always stand next to you

I will always stand next to you

I will always be here by your side

I’m thankful for the people in my life who love and support me unconditionally, even when they don’t understand me.  I have been blessed.

And of course I’m thankful for the guys of Jars of Clay.

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