Passionate Pragmatism, “Gifted,” but an “Underachiever,” and Related Descriptives

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The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone. – Proverbs 16:33 (NRSV)

“Life’s a box of chocolates, you never know which one you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump

I actually used to have a tapestry like this- only it was of cats playing poker- when I lived in Downtown Columbus.  It covered up some old plaster imperfections in the wall.  From the looks of me lately I could use something like this to cover up more than plaster imperfections.

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Holy shit, I’m looking old.

Even though I look every flipping second of my age and then some, I went to school with some people who look a hell of a lot worse than I do.  Some of them look better than me too, but that makes sense. By and large, the golden people tend to stay that way.

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I was never, ever, ever, one of the golden people.

I know, comparison isn’t very fair and isn’t really very comforting, especially when I realize that if I let the hair color go and didn’t bother to do makeup I’d likely be mistaken for deranged or even dead.  I didn’t come from a particularly affluent part of the world, either, and many of my cohorts are even poorer than I am.  Poverty does not do much for one’s appearance or outlook.  As the saying goes, money may not buy happiness- but it can buy you the misery you like the best.

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 I guess if it is rumored to be shitty it must be funny.

Speaking of all things shitty, I remember all too well there’s a holiday weekend coming up which means I will have lazy asses goldbricking at my expense even more than normal.  “Skippy” as I like to call him -because even when he does show up at work he comes in late, wanders off for hours at a time, and has the balls to leave early to go to Every. Single. One. of his 17 year old son’s baseball games (and he’s not the coach) has got to be the laziest man on earth. Anyway, Skippy has managed to take his level of apathy and work avoidance even higher by taking off Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend- probably to watch even more freaking baseball.

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I can think of so many more things I’d rather do.

Granted, he doesn’t do anything when he is at work, so why do I care?  I’m already doing his job as it is. I guess I’m just pissed because he’s getting paid for not doing shit. I am getting a bit of entertainment as he is trying to train his buddy (who has the IQ of paint) to be as adept at shirking work as he is.

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Yes, I am burned out. Crispy. Fried. Smoked.

I am so tired of how stupid people can be.  It might be because of the stupidity I encounter at work, and yesterday was especially choice given that I was horribly sick most of the day.  Of course I couldn’t just leave because we are (as always) short staffed and one of the guys (as usual) had a child care issue. So screw me sideways again.  It’s good I am not a frequent puker, and that I didn’t have the screaming shits.

I’ve been called many things in my life, and a good many of them derogatory.  I always thought “gifted but an underachiever,” was a funny one, as the only ones who ever used that descriptive were math teachers who couldn’t understand why I was doing good to get a “B” or “C” in math when I pretty much slept through everything else and got straight “A”s.

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Math was the only subject I actually studied for, and I still sucked at it. I love it when people just assume that if you’re good at one thing then you’re slacking if you suck at something else.

If they thought I sucked at math, they should have watched me attempt team sports.

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I suck at sports like no one has ever sucked before. Except swimming, but that’s just for personal exercise.

Femininity, Autism and Faith- Hitting on a Few Nerves

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While intelligence has its own rewards-

Unfortunately, most men are not attracted by intellect.

I should know that I should be more involved in my women’s Bible study group’s study choices before I decide to get into the study.   I probably would not have suggested our current study-even though it involves areas where I really need work, because it is hitting on some sore nerves.  This go-round it’s a book called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldridge.

The study starts off with asking those touchy-feely questions about feeling desirable as a woman, and by going on with definitions of femininity.  I’ve pretty much assumed that I was haphazardly plopped into a female body and pretty much had to make do with being hopelessly uncoordinated and proportioned like a mutant troll.

I never really gave the whole idea of femininity much rational thought (much less to relate being feminine to spirituality)  other than to know, a.) I am a woman, b.) I am physically attracted to men, and c.) It’s hard to be successful at fishing when you really don’t have bait.

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I’ve said before that I consciously choose to be involved in a women’s group precisely because I am generally not comfortable in friendships with other women.  It is a challenge for me to muster up the courage to dredge up and analyze and discuss anything to do with feelings- especially with women.  I get along better with men as long as the conversation stays on things concrete and/or technical, and with them it usually does.

When I have conversation with men, I am not subjected to someone going on and on about horrible fictional TV dramas, or being told how to do my makeup or hair, or having to care about what the Kardashians are doing.  Of course, the guys never really look at me as a woman either, until they are dateless and desperate and are scouting about for a twisted Ann Landers to give them some advice.  Asking me for relationship advice is about as ill-advised as taking driver’s ed from Ted Kennedy, but hey, you asked me.

It’s confusing and awkward enough to be wired the way I am- with the disconnect I have between having emotions and being able to express them- but even more so to be female with that disconnect.  Everyone expects women to be all emotional and touchy-feely, which I most assuredly am not.  I am definitely female, and a straight one, but not an emotional one.  From what I can see being wired to think more like a man than to emote like a woman is an odd conundrum, but then, I’ve never been “normal,” and really don’t know apart from observation what “normal” is like.

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This is an interesting test.  Mine came out as INTP…surprise?  Not!

There are “thinking-dominant” women-people for whom thought is more natural than feeling- out there (even some who are not autistic) but most women tend to be “feeling-dominant,” where feeling is a more natural process than thinking.    According to the Myers-Briggs assessment, I am most definitely thinking-dominant.  I get (intellectually at least) that some people are feeling-dominant, but I don’t get that. It doesn’t make sense. For me “heart” doesn’t even enter the scene until “mind” has had a chance to process things first- and not always then.  I miss a lot of subtle nuances of expression because I just plain don’t see them unless someone points them out.

There are feeling-dominant men too.  Jerry is one, which might be the only reason why I put up with him.  He has that reptilian gut instinct about things and people that I absolutely don’t have.  I can only go with what I observe and with what makes rational sense.

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So this study into “being made in the feminine image of God” is proving to be more than a bit uncomfortable.  I’ve always felt sort of inadequate and inferior as a woman because I am neither physically attractive nor emotionally attuned.  Then there’s always that nagging, ongoing tension of thinking it necessary to validate my existence at all times, even though I know that’s if nothing else, bad theology.

I am not a believer in happily ever after, or fairy tales, or even that any man would ever look at me as more than a designated driver and/or Fetcher of Beer.  So I don’t know what good it might do me to pick open old wounds, but I guess I’ll find out.

A Friendly User’s Guide, Can You Read a Map? and Life Lesson# 384

 

 

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You’re doing it wrong…

I can’t really portray myself as the “typical poster child” for people with autism.  Even after 10 years of knowing that my strange wiring has a name (whether you call it Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism or just plain Being Screwy,) I have a hard time wrapping my head around those descriptives.  I don’t want to be labeled, and I don’t want to use a label as an excuse.  I hate to admit weakness or vulnerability.  My standards are higher than that- but reality is what it is all the same.  I have to find ways to cope with the anxiety, the emotional disconnects, and the physical ineptitude that comes with the package.  Some days are better than others, but it does get a bit easier with age and time- and by being around those who tolerate my eccentricities.

Most people who know me aren’t really aware that I’m HFA, or have Asperger’s Syndrome, or whatever you want to call it.  I’m fine with that, because I have spent decades of my life trying to navigate and function in the “normal” world.  Most of the time I can play the “normal” role pretty well, and I’ve learned to either avoid the things that make me look awkward or find ways to deal with them.  I also blend into the scenery very well, and if I don’t want to be noticed, I’m not going to be.

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Many people associate autism spectrum disorders with the cognitively challenged or with “idiot savants.”  While one may be both cognitively challenged and autistic, one can be autistic and not cognitively challenged at all.  (Think Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison here, both brilliant innovators and thinkers who were most likely somewhere on the spectrum.)  People with high functioning autism can (and often) do things that the “normals” do-get educated, hold gainful employment, have and raise children, and integrate into the rest of society.   We might appear to be eccentric or odd or awkward, (and we might even fall down a lot,) but we can and do function.  My road map for getting around in this world looks a lot different than yours, but I can make it to the same destinations.  Sometimes I can get there faster, but other times I have to take the scenic route.  I have to navigate with the map I’ve been given, because it’s the only map I have.

Common knowledge paints a  bleak picture of autism- the non-verbal child rocking back and forth, unaware of the world around him or her, rather than the tech geek who might not be a huge fan of socializing but who can design and program and get lost in virtual worlds.  Sometimes society sees autism as the image of the “Rainman” character, or as the guy who can play Mozart from memory but can’t control his bowels.  The key here is that autism is a spectrum. Some people with autism have incredibly high IQs and extreme cognitive ability.  Others are more in the “normal” intelligence range, and some are profoundly mentally challenged.  No two people on the spectrum are alike.

All I can say to parents of an autistic child is that there is good life to be had past that diagnosis, and a lot of that good life is what you create it to be.  It’s not the end of the world, especially when you refuse to accept excuses and when you think outside the label.  In some ways I think my parents’ ignorance of autism worked in my favor, because I was not indulged, mollycoddled or otherwise given a pass on acquiring necessary life skills.  I was actually held to a higher standard in most things when compared with my “normal” sisters because I was a voracious reader, had a broad vocabulary, and was capable of academic achievement in many areas.

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My parents didn’t know anything about autism, but they knew there were things wrong with me: I could read- anything and everything- before my second birthday, without any coaching or lessons.  They didn’t know about hyperlexia- and why should they, when hyperlexia affects 1 in about 50,000 children, and 75% of those are male. They were dealing with one in 200,000.  Hyperlexia is a condition exclusive to HFA children, which is another fact they had no way of knowing back in the early 1970s.

I was born in fragile health and had a litany of respiratory and other health problems in early childhood.  I was also born as the third child in as many years.  Too-close birth spacing, and poor health in infancy and early childhood are associated with an increased likelihood of autism spectrum disorders.  It probably didn’t help matters much that my oldest sister (who wasn’t quite three years old at the time) tried to suffocate me with a pillow the day I came home from the hospital.  (There are more than one reasons that my son is an only child.)

My parents knew my gross motor skills were abysmal, and even sent me to physical therapy for quite some time.  I have very poor balance, as well as severe myopia, and even with vision correction I still have a difficult time with visual-spatial tasks that involve gross motor skills.  I was eight years old before I could balance well enough to ride a bicycle.

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My parents knew I was deathly afraid of almost everything- a change in routine, strange people, flying insects, you name it, except for dogs.  Why I was so comfortable with dogs I’ll never know, but I’m still more comfortable with dogs than with people.

I was prone to panic attacks, and I was taunted and beaten daily by other children (especially my oldest sister) and pretty much was a basket case spaz most of the time- when I wasn’t buried in a book.  I had my obsessions with different and often unusual subjects- dogs, murder mysteries, rock and heavy metal music, classical music, all things automotive, and 20th century history.

Though there were bright spots, for the most part, between the anxiety and (later) depression, my childhood was scary as hell.

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Even though the tendency to live as a perpetual deer in the headlights becomes less and less marked as I age, anxiety and fear still dominate and define my emotional life.  That may sound bleak, but I am not a person who is dominated by emotions.   I am governed much more by what I think than by what I feel, which is probably the only reason why I can get out of bed in the morning and step out the door and function without completely freaking out.  I do have emotions, but they have to be filtered through and processed through my mind before I can deal with them.  Out of necessity this makes me a delayed reactor.  I can get through a loved one’s death and funeral and all that and not appear to be fazed by it- but a week or a month or even 20 years later the emotions pour out- some trigger or event or visual sets off the process and I find myself mourning a long ago passing or reliving a long ago trauma.  That sucks, but I don’t wear my emotions out for the world to see.  I have a hard enough time figuring them out for myself.

I don’t like being physically touched, especially without warning or by strangers.   I am not in any way a “hugger.”  I will hug when it is socially necessary, but I’m not going to be the one starting it, and the person I’m hugging better be an immediate family member or a very close friend.  My discomfort with physical contact might go back to my sisters and their friends’ constantly tormenting me because they knew if they did poke, prod, grab or otherwise contact my person that they would elicit a response.  I had a most overpowering and piercing scream that was loud, but not quite loud enough to overpower Mom turning the TV up all the way.

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Having live, stinging insects thrown in my hair didn’t help alleviate my disdain of human contact either.  I’m not sure if my distaste for physical touch came first or if that distaste was created by the indignities of getting punched, slapped, stepped on and/or the challenge of removing live wasps from my hair without getting stung.   I had very long, very thick hair as a child, which made removing foreign objects from it challenging at best.  That’s part of the reason why my hair is cut short today.  It’s easier to color and it survives my early morning swimming much better too.  It’s worth the temporary distress every month or so to keep my hair short.  Even now, a routine hair cut or Dr. exam is not my idea of a good time, although I know both are harmless, temporary and necessary.

I have a difficult time with eye contact also.  In a way it’s good that I stopped wearing contacts a few years ago and I had to go back to glasses.  I never liked the coke bottle thick glasses I had to wear as a kid, but the glasses available today with the plastics aren’t nearly as funky looking.  Glasses give me a little something to hide behind.  I am awkward at best with eye contact because it does not come naturally for me.  Neither does body language.  I have to consciously think about those things and what  non-verbal messages I’m sending when I’m carrying on a conversation out in public.  I don’t always get it right.  I don’t get it right a lot of the time, even at my age.  “Normal” people get non-verbal communication instinctively, but it’s a mystery to me.  Non-verbals are one reason why I prefer to communicate in writing.  I am much more comfortable staying in the dimension of verbal language.

The Written Word

 

I love Cliff’s Notes.  Yes, I read the books too, but sometimes highlights are great as a refresher.  If I were to write a sort of user’s guide to dealing with me and not being too perplexed while doing so, the Cliff’s Notes version would go sort of like this:

If I’m not looking you in the eye, it’s probably because I forgot I needed to.

I trip and fall easily, so if you notice me hanging onto the rail, or avoiding activities that require balance and coordination, remember, my gross motor skills are rather poor.

Don’t touch me without fair warning- including lint picking and tag stuffing.  I would like to be enlightened that I have a tag sticking out, or dog hair on my sleeve, but please let me fix it or remove it.

Don’t be alarmed when I fall off the planet from time to time.  I don’t need to be connected to the rest of the world 24/7, and I do disengage from time to time to help preserve my sanity.

Don’t take offense when I take things literally.  I appreciate sarcasm as an art form, and I have a wicked twisted sense of humor, but please don’t intentionally make yourself hard to read. 

Remember that I’m very poor with non-verbal language, both sending and translating.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Don’t be surprised when I go down a different tangent.  My wiring is different, and sometimes I can associate completely bizarre and different things (that make perfect sense to me) but that don’t make sense to other people.

Please give me some respite from screaming kids, demanding people, and from constantly being “on stage.” I can cope with the “normals,” and I navigate better than I probably should in the “normal” world, but I am still a traveler, not a native.

My primary emotion is “fear.”  Thirty years ago it used to be “terror,” so this is improving, but still…thank God for Prozac.

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There’s a pill for that…maybe?