Let it Go

I just saw this shared in an Asperger’s group on facebook, and I admit I got a little teary.  When I watched Frozen, I did think a few lines of “Let it Go” reflected the Aspie experience (though I prefer “Reindeers are Better than People”).  This treasure of a young lady took it one step further.  I would just love to give her a hug!

Chimes for Autism

Chimes for Autism

 

Woodstock Chimes has a special wind chime to raise money for autism research and treatment.  This video is wonderful.  It tells the story of Tyler, an autistic kiddo who LOVES wind chimes.  I really appreciated how positive the autism expert and Tyler’s parents are about autism. 

Also, you can hear sound clips of all of the company’s chimes on their website, which I found to be really fun! 

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.

An Aspie Anthem

I enjoy Toad the Wet Sprocket‘s music.  (They get bonus points for inadvertently sparking the formation of my all-time favorite band.)  After a very long hiatus this classic 90’s rock band reunited and released an awesome new album called New Constellation.  I had the opportunity to be one of their Kickstarter backers and download the tracks in early July, so this album was on heavy rotation when I realized I have Aspergers.

Have you ever had one of those moments where a song pops into your head and you don’t know why, but when you look up the lyrics or listen to the song you realize it perfectly fits your mood or the situation you were thinking about?  I had one of those moments with this song. It works so well as an Aspie anthem – sensory issues, defenses, feeling alone, wanting to “reach across the breach,” language issues, needing others even though we seem to disappear sometimes.

You can pick up the album/track on iTunes, Amazon, etc. . . and it turns out you can listen to the full track over on myspace, which is apparently still a thing.

“Is There Anyone Out There”

A swarm of senses, a shatterstorm
Tangled threads to weave a world
We build defenses and call them homes
Each alive, alert, alone

Is there anyone out, is there anyone out there, hey, hey
Is there anyone out, is there anyone out there calling for you
‘Cause I don’t know how to reach across the breach so deep between us
Is there anyone out, is there anyone out there
Who feels the way I do

Uncertain language, imperfect words
How can we expect to speak the truth
I need you closer
I need you still
No matter how I seem to disappear from you

Is there anyone out, is there anyone out there, hey, hey
Is there anyone out, is there anyone out there

The world I’ve seen it seems no-one could ever know
The same as every other one of seven billion souls

Is there anyone, is there anyone out there
Is there anyone out, is there anyone out there, I’m calling for you
‘Cause I don’t know how to reach across the breach so deep between us
Is there anyone out, is there anyone out there
Who feels the way I do

Emotional Overload

Last night would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t been able to view it through the lens of having Aspergers.

         

I was having a good Sunday.  I had no problems running sound during the morning service, ordered a new lens to use during portrait sessions, started a sewing project after a month away from the machine, and began watching a favorite TV series over again in a very Edwardian fashion (if you haven’t read 600 Hours of Edward – go do it).  Then to top it all off, after I shared the link to my Inland post with the band through facebook, Charlie from Jars of Clay liked the post.  I always appreciate when they appreciate my appreciation, you know? 😉   It was time for dinner and I was excited to tell my family about the latest interaction with my favorite band.

But then my phone rang.

Fortunately I didn’t answer.  I don’t know if I would have responded well if I had.  The caller left a message and leveled a false accusation against me.

I’m not sure how to accurately describe the emotions I felt.  My heart raced and I felt like I was shaking (I don’t know if I was physically shaking, but it at least felt that way emotionally).  I felt like my temperature dropped. A lot of times I ask my autistic client, “How do/did you feel?”  And he almost always responds, “Upset,” instead of giving me a more specific word like “Sad” or “Mad” or “Scared.”  Last night I felt “upset.”

I was dumbfounded by the accusation and by the fact that the person actually called me.  I went downstairs and told my family.  Through my new lens of self-awareness I noticed a lot of things.  I noticed I was talking too loudly.  I noticed my family was going to be done eating by the time I finally took more than a single bite, because I was too upset and too busy venting to eat.  I noticed that I kept forcing myself to take big deep breaths, same as I prompt my client.  I noticed (and even commented aloud) that I felt like rocking.

I noticed that my mom kept reassuring me that I had acted above reproach in the situation the call seemed to be referring to, and I kept trying to explain that I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was still upset.  I wasn’t upset because I thought I had done something wrong.  I was upset because I KNEW I hadn’t, and I was being thought of and talked of as if I had done something wrong.  And that’s NOT FAIR.  I have always had issues with “fairness.”  I was upset because I thought I wasn’t going to have to deal with any more drama from that specific part of my past, yet it kept coming up.  I was upset because I was under attack and there were just too many emotions (my own and the accuser’s) to process.

I managed to shove down my dinner through deep breaths and exhaled nonverbal sounds of frustration.  I had to eat so I could leave for Bible study.  I got out to my car and my mind was still churning over the situation, and I was spiraling downward.  I stopped my car before even leaving the driveway and switched the CD to Jars of Clay’s Self-Titled album.  It is my go-to record when I am desperately upset; it is the most effective medication available to soothe my soul.  I turned up the volume and sang along to reduce my ability to ruminate.  It’s a 20-minute drive, and during the last 5 I found it impossible to turn off my thoughts of what I wanted to say about what just happened.  Right before I turned into my pastor’s driveway I started crying – those unwanted tears of emotional overload that cause me so much frustration that I cry even more.  I hate those.  I took a few deep breaths and dried my eyes, then walked in.

I was still visibly shaken; my pastor’s wife immediately asked me what was wrong.  Before group began I was able to briefly discuss the situation with my pastor and his wife, who are two of my most trusted counselors.  My pastor advised me to ignore it; I nodded and said, “Yeah, I’m just feeling all. . . ” and waved my hands on either side of my head, unable to articulate what it was I was feeling.  Then instead of taking my normal seat on the floor I sat in the rocking chair.

And rocked for two hours straight.

I’m feeling much better today.

Unwell

I was driving home the other night and this song came on my iPod.  I chuckled as I remembered how often my roommate and I would quote the line, “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.”  I mused that it could be a theme song for me.  I re-started the song and really listened to the lyrics as I sang along. . . and I started to sob.

All day staring at the ceiling
Making friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices telling me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for something

Hold on
Feeling like I’m headed for a breakdown
And I don’t know why
But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me
I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be . . . me

I’m talking to myself in public
Dodging glances on the train
And I know, I know they’ve all been talking about me
I can hear them whisper
And it makes me think there must be something wrong with me
Out of all the hours thinking
Somehow I’ve lost my mind

But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me
I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be

Ive been talking in my sleep
Pretty soon they’ll come to get me
Yeah, they’re taking me away

But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
I know right now you can’t tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
A different side of me
I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be

Yeah, how I used to be
How I used to be
Well, I’m just a little unwell
How I used to be
How I used to be
I’m just a little unwell

© EMI Music Publishing

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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