For most people, going out to do random things isn’t really something they think twice about. If a person gets the urge to try a new restaurant, they go, no hassle. That’s not how things work for me, unfortunately. Before I moved to Columbus, I reviewed the bus route to the grocery store basically every day for a month, and I STILL wasn’t prepared to actually go without another week’s preparation when the time came. Even in Memphis – a city I lived in for approximately two decades – I hesitated before going somewhere I’d never been before, especially alone. Which is why today is sort of a Big Deal for me.
I woke up this morning and got the urge to go to the Book Loft. I have no idea why; I’ve got more than enough books left to read from my book splurge a few weeks ago. but for some reason, a little voice said, “Go forth! Wander round and gather more books!” To which I replied, “Um. It’s scary out there.” I mentioned this dilemma on Twitter and was told to just go, because the store is amazing. And so, I decided to shower, dress, and go. And I’m so glad I did.
The Book Loft may be my new favorite place outside of my room. It’s cramped – or cozy, if you like – and every little nook is filled with books. No really. Every. Little. Nook. At first, there were too many people in the first few rooms and I started to feel overwhelmed pretty quickly. The deeper I wandered, though, the more thinned the crowd was and the more comfortable I felt. Eventually, I actually started to like the other people being around. It helped that each room had a different type of music playing, and I focused more on listening and browsing than on people getting too close to me. I do so much better with a focal point.
Two and a half hours later, I bought my collection o’ young adult books and made my way next door to Cup O’ Joe. I don’t usually go to coffee shops alone, but I figured, hell, I was out and thirsty. May as well! I got a salty caramel joe freeze, and it was an interesting experience. Usually, I look for the mocha frap equivalent at coffee shops but again, may as well push my limits. And again, I’m glad that I did. Salt and caramel together is something of a shock at first, but I enjoyed it a lot. I sat on my own and flipped through my books, then decided to search for a place to eat.
My phone told me there was a Chipotle nearby, and so I decided to walk. I like walking, I really do. I just don’t like walking when it’s 900 degrees. Luckily, it wasn’t too terribly hot today, and I only sweated minimally (for me, which is basically a drenching for everyone else, damn genes). I got myself a burrito and decided to head home to eat there. I don’t like eating in public because I’ve got the brain crazies. A short wait later and I was home to be cozy with my (disappointing) burrito and my new books. All in all a pretty eventful day!
I live in my head a lot, but for good reason. Reality rarely, if ever, lives up to my expectations. Not to say that I’m high maintenance; I just have a lot of set ideas about how things ought to be, and that’s not usually how they are. It isn’t anyone’s fault, really. My brain just behaves in such a way that I need that kind of order and guidelines to navigate the world, but in making these guidelines, I’ve kind of screwed myself over, I suppose. My basis for reality? Fiction.
Fiction has always felt more comfortable to me than reality. Reality is filled with a lot of noise and scary things and overstimulation, but fiction was something I could control to some extent. When things in fiction become unpredictable, I could just close my book or turn off the tv. Sadly, no one’s invented a non-permanent off button for real life. And so, at a young age, my perception of reality began to be shaped by everything I was reading or watching. This rarely ends well.
Because my understanding of friendships came from The Babysitter’s Club, when things went wrong with friends in real life, I would be stuck trying to figure out why things weren’t the way they were in the books. In books, best friends do everything together, they hardly ever fight and when they do, they make up with pizza and a slumber party, their families are always just as close as the friends are, yadda yadda. This never happened for me in real life, except once, and it didn’t last nearly as long as I’d have liked.
So cut to present day me, sitting around in Ohio. Yet again, fiction is my demise, and reality doesn’t live up to expectations. A conversation with Mari sparked this thought, which prompted me to write this. She and I have uncannily similar brains and we’re both feeling a bit dejected at the moment, and I started trying to think of why that is. I came to the conclusion that it’s because I expected, upon moving here, that I would have a really awesome time, meet new friends, actually get to hang out with old friends, etc. That hasn’t happened. I haven’t had a fun night out since well before I left Memphis.
I have ideas in my head, and those ideas don’t usually come to fruition. Not everyone is as comfortable going to the lengths I would go through to spend time together. Not everyone has an all or nothing attitude about that kind of thing. Not everyone wants to share every little aspect of their life. It’s frustrating, yes, and at times I really feel like I’m less than within a lot of my relationships. But I have to remind myself that fiction is not reality, and disappointment is just a way of life. On the bright side, when good things happen they feel a hell of a lot better than they would if I were pleased with life constantly. And now, to wait for something good.
When I mention to people that I’m not the most stable of persons, I get one of two reactions. The first is more common: they don’t believe me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “Really? But you seem so normal!” I could…at least buy a value meal from McDonald’s. When I told one of my former best friends (that sounds so harsh, doesn’t it? but I can’t think of another phrase) that I suspected I have assburgers, she insisted that it was impossible because she’d worked with a child with it and I didn’t act like him. Another friend told me it was impossible because I’m not weird.
And then there are the people who know better. These people, when I say there are (numerous) things wrong with me, generally just look at me, nod, and ask what the plans for the day are. I’m not sure which reaction is more of an insult, really. In any case. I realize that people think I’m normal because they don’t really get to see me at my strangest; the moments when I’m completely unguarded and at the peak of my insanity, I’m usually alone. And pantsless. So, because I enjoy giving some insight into my brain, I’ve decided to compile a list of things that I do that normal people probably don’t. Why? Because I’m not normal.
- I count stirs when making Kool-Aid/tea/lemonade/etc. The first round of stirring requires 50 stirring. If more sugar is needed, I add it, then stir 40 times. If that’s still not enough, I add more sugar and stir 30 times. I’ve never needed to add sugar beyond this point but I’ll assume that I would stir the next round 20 times and so on.
- I tap my fingertips together. I used to tap my middle and ring fingers on my right hand against my palm repeatedly, but apparently I’ve switched to tapping my middle fingertip against my thumb tip. Maybe I think it’s more sophisticated. Or maybe it’s slightly less noticeable.
- If I accidentally touch a texture that I dislike, I’ll wipe it off on my shirt. Because clearly, sensations can be erased thusly. The feeling of carpet, for example, is one that I really, really cannot stand, as well as denim.
- If there’s a character count, yo I’ll solve it I’m monitoring it. Text messages, this post, instant messages…The character/word count has to be an even number. If it isn’t, I’ll add a word or a space to get to an even number.
- I check things far too much. I check locks, I check for my keys, I check my article queue at work as though it will miraculously change, I check my phone charge…
- This one has been sort of conquered – Previously, I couldn’t sleep with a closet door open. Once when I was younger, I had a nightmare about monsters coming out of the closet to carry me off and bury me alive. However, since clearing out the closet, I’ve been sleeping with the door open with relatively low monster-related anxiety. (I wish I hadn’t said that, though, because now I keep giving the closet the side-eye.)
I’ve joined an rpg. This wasn’t exactly a light decision, and I spent many hours reading, rereading, and obsessing over how exactly this game works. Eventually, I just sucked it up and sent in my application, expecting to not hear back from the moderator for a while so that I would be afforded extra worry time. She got back to me within the hour. I then proceeded to have a mini-freakout about meeting new people and having to interact with them in a roleplaying setting.
A lot of people with anxiety/Asperger’s are more comfortable with online interactions. I guess because you don’t have to adhere to the billion and one social norms that exist when meeting face to face. If you want to sit around pantsless, munching on cheetos and listening to Korean pop music as loudly as you want while chatting with people online, no one’s going to really know or care. It’s just easier.
At the same time, it still makes me nervous. I wish I could turn it off, but I can’t. I find myself shutting down sometimes if I’m involved in larger groups and I don’t feel that I’m really a welcome party. And sometimes I feel weird just knowing that people online like me, since I automatically assume that if we were friends in person, they would run the hell away. (As an aside, I hate saying “in real life.” The internet is real life; it’s just lacking face time. My close friends online don’t suddenly stop being friends when the computer shuts off. Unfortunately.)
I entered an out-of-character chat with them last night and was thankful that I had work to do to keep me from flipping out too much. But then my friend that coaxed me into joining left the chat and I had to fend for myself. I panicked for about five minutes. Then someone brought up shoes and all was right with the world.
I think I’ll like this game, and the players. Hoorah.
There are plenty of characters that are kind of off. But sometimes, that kind-of-offness reads as an underlying condition. And sometimes, that underlying condition is Asperger’s.
It’s kind of fun analyzing characters that aren’t of my own creation in that way. I’ve been a writer for a long, long time, and character development is one of my favorite things about it. Seeing how much thought other writers put into a character is equally thrilling.
I’ve already mentioned my cable-free lifestyle before, and since I’ve finished The Prisoner, sadly, I’ve moved on along to Dexter. I’ve heard all over the place that I need to watch this show. In fact, I put it off repeatedly just because hearing about how amazing it is was just irritating.
Brief interjection: This episode just used my favorite Creedence Clearwater Revival song. I am now officially a Dexter fan.
Back to the point – I put it off until now, because I couldn’t think of anything else to watch. After the first episode, I kind of got the feeling that Dexter may have Asperger’s. Granted, he’s obviously also a sociopath, but aside from that. It’s kind of creepy to listen to a serial killer talking about pretending in order to feel normal and not understanding most normal human interactions and immediately thinking, “Oh hey, that’s me!”
Since I can never not research things to death, I took to Google and found quite a few discussions about Dexter’s Aspie status. Seems most folk agree that he’s got some traits. I’m inclined to agree, but I think I need to watch more of the show. You know, for research.