Because. It works for me.

Friday, 31 March 2019

Another Friday night.

I’ve been having some conversations, if you wish to call sharing words in e-mail messages, or direct messages, across the internet, conversations. I call them that, because sharing words in this way is about the only way I can share them.

In person, I don’t talk. In person, I almost can’t talk. Because there is far more to process in person than there is when dealing with black and white text on a computer monitor. Most people don’t even think about that, about the body language, the facial expressions, the movement of eyes, the positions of arms, and hands, the brief pauses and silences, and an endless list of other things.

These are all things I have to process. I have to think about them. I have to try to understand them, and the parts of the conversation that are not being spoken with words. For most people, this is something they do naturally. It’s called social behavior.

For me, and for those of us who are Autistic, the unspoken parts of conversations, the body language, and all the rest, don’t happen. We don’t notice them. Until we learn, through endless mistakes, and endless frustration, that these things exist, and are used by everyone.

That’s when we start a life long study of what those things mean.

As I said, I’ve been having some conversations with friends I have who talk with me through these black and white text exchanges. I speak about an absurd number of topics, I know that. And I use oceans of words, I know that. I do so because I’ve found that’s the best method, and provides the best chance, that what I am speaking of, the ideas I’m trying to express, maybe, might, but probably won’t, be understood by those I’m speaking with.

One topic, today, has been my removal of women from the list of names Twitter recommends I follow, and why I remove them from that list. I have not fully answered, or responded, to the person I’m speaking with on this topic. But I felt I should make some things known.

I don’t hate women. At all. I can talk with them. I can share pictures of flowers with them. I can try to express my thoughts with them.

I can’t do that with men. As best I can figure out, through the decades of effort I’ve made to understand the unspoken language of other people, having such conversations is not what men want, and not what interests them. With the net result being I can’t talk with them. They possess a hidden language I literally can’t understand.

I’ve done some simple math tonight to illustrate the extent to which this is how things work for me. I’ve taken the list of those I follow on Twitter, and broke it into “obviously not a guy” and “a guy, or not not a guy.” This is really simple for me, as the list contains only 45 names (and I’ll discuss why in a bit). 37 names are in the “obviously not a guy” category. That’s 82% of the names on the list. 8 of every 10 names.

When I explain to you that I can’t talk with guys, this is what I mean. I can’t talk with guys. The numbers make that brutally obvious.

And, that’s where things suddenly become exponentially more complex.

#MeToo. #BelieveSurvivors. The patriarchy. Feminism. And a literal ocean of other words. As my friend informed me tonight, there is a great deal of emotional upheaval happening right now in US society.

But, here’s the thing with that emotional upheaval. I’m Autistic.

With respect to women finding their voices, and speaking out, I can honestly say I’m all for it. The stories need to be told. The truth needs to be placed front and center, and removed from being hidden in a closet somewhere, and not spoken of.

I have been told, by she whom I have spoken with today, that I’m not one of the problem guys. That I’m one of the good guys, and shouldn’t react as if this is about me. I understand that, honestly, I do. I know that. She’s one of many who have told me as much. I don’t argue that at all.

But, I’m Autistic. The ability to filter things, to read them and say, “they don’t apply to me.” The ability to blithely ignore them, and let them pass under the bridge on their way out to sea, is not something I have. Again. I’m Autistic. I have very close to 60 years of life spent pushing myself to observe everything. Every detail. Every body movement. Every change in tone of voice. Every eye motion. Every twitch. Every wince. Every brief shake of a hand. Every detail of everything someone does. Including every word they speak, and how they speak it.

It’s how I survive. It’s how I function in the world. It’s how I keep from getting injured by an overwhelming number of mistakes, where I didn’t understand what someone was saying, or doing.

I explain to people, “I see everything.” I usually leave out the words, “Because I have no other choice.” Remember how I mentioned, earlier, that I don’t speak well in person, face to face? Now you know why. Because my brain cells are going insane trying to keep up with all the information I’m having to process, so I don’t get something wrong.

But, with text, all there is are words. I can handle that. I can process that. I can respond to it.

Again. I’m Autistic. I don’t process emotional states well. If you ask me how I am on any given day, I can’t really answer you, because I honestly don’t really know. I know I have emotions. And I know they show up at the most inopportune times, and I don’t seem to be able to prevent that. But I have no idea what I’m feeling. Like what I’m feeling right now, this moment, as I write these words. I don’t really know. I can’t put it into words. I think I’m not angry, or frustrated. But other than that, I can’t really say for sure. It’s Friday night, so I’m likely feeling something. For a while, I thought I felt lonely on Friday nights. But I don’t think that anymore. Perhaps it’s more a feeling of I don’t fit into the social system, so I find it hard to treat Friday nights like most people treat them.

Whatever the heck that means.

Now, I get to explain the small number of people I follow. And this is for those who haven’t figured it out from the ocean of words I’ve already written. I can’t filter anything. I don’t know what I’m feeling, but I know I have emotions, and they do things, and I can’t really stop them, because I don’t understand them at all.

There is a limit to how much I can process. If I breach that limit, I overload. And I can’t process anything. And if I don’t resolve the overload, I end up non-functional. So, I’ve learned. I have no choice but to severely limit how much I have to process. That means, even in the land of black and white text, I have to limit how much I have to process. Because, I become unable to process any of it at all, if I don’t limit the amount.

So, I have an itty-bitty list of names I follow on Twitter. And for now, I’ve shut down Facebook all together. To limit how much I have to process. It’s survival for me. It’s how I can remain functional.

I wish I could follow oodles of people. And yes, like 82% of them would be women. Smart, intelligent, conversational, creative women. But, there’s a limit to how much I can cope with, to how much information I can process, to how many topics I can be exposed to, and maintain the ability to convince myself I’m not the problem.

So, I limit things. To survive.

Perhaps, in the days ahead, I’ll try to explain this in more detail. And to explain the problems that come with this lack of ability to filter, and highly developed ability to see everything, and almost complete inability to process my own emotions. Perhaps.

For now, just know that I’m OK. And that I’ve done the things I’ve done because I can’t find any other way to remain functional in this world.

Mark.

“Write What Scares You, Part 2”

I recentely shared these words with a friend. Because. I knew my friend was especially disturbed by the events of the last few days, in particular the psychological assault on journalist Kurt Eichenwald (read about it here– unless, of course, your one of the millions who sees the link is to Newsweek, and believes everything Newsweek publishes is a flat out lie).

Humans. *head desk*


Just me. Checking on you once more.

Twitter. Ah. Twitter. The land of “I can scream louder, longer than you.” In many ways, all twitter is is a 140 character limited version of the early BBS and Chat Room systems. And those were cutthroat. There were reasons people had anonymous names. Not just to attack others with, but to survive the attacks of others.

Sometimes, people tell me the ‘net is a bad thing. That it drew out the worst in people. But, see? They’ve got that backwards. They get lots backwards. Think about it. What the ‘net does, what Twitter, and other sites do, is allow the darkness that lives inside a hell of a lot of people to have a voice. That’s not a bad thing, so much as a true and honest thing. On the ‘net, we see people as they really are. Not as they appear at work, or in person.

At work, you have people like those I used to work with. “You’ll never see me angry. I don’t get angry at work.” Ah, really? “This is not a place where you care about others. Keep you nose clean, and do your job.” Ah, really? “You can’t afford to care too much.” All things that have been said to me by people I’ve worked with. I could list thousands more.

So, yes. A Newsweek journalist got attacked on Twitter. And has received a zillion death threats. And, while I agree that’s not a good thing, I also declare it shows the truth of the country we live in. Right there. In black and white. For everyone to see.

The US is home to some of the most hate-filled, violent, petty, heartless, backwards people on the planet.

I am, as you may know by now, a baptized Southern Baptist. My father was a Southern Baptist pastor. My brother is an ordained Southern Baptist minister.

I walked away from a church in 2011. A church filled with normal people. Who all believed, to a person, the universe was only 6000 years old. Who all believed homosexuals were agents of Satan, to the point they agreed with the pastor when he declared he saw a man in a skirt, and wanted to throw up. Who all agreed there was not really anything like depression, and all you had to do was get right with God, and he’d fix your messed up thinking.

I kid you not, my friend. These people are real. And they are everywhere. I first became aware of their presence in 1975, when a fellow student in high school biology class made certain I knew he understood he had to memorize that biology crap, to get a passing grade, even though he knew from the Bible that none of it was true.

It is this kind of person, this “I know the truth, and am willing to fight for what I believe” kind of person that is revealed on the ‘Net. On Twitter.

You’ll notice I killed off my Twitter account months ago. I did that for a lot of reasons. We’re talking about some of them in this note.

Do you have any idea how many devoted Christians actually believe Islam is the religion of Satan? I could ramble on that for days. I’ll stick to one detail. The spreading of religion. See. The Christians hold nothing back when it comes to being Evangelical. “It’s in the Bible! Preach the word of God! The story of Jesus! Save the world!”

The humor? Same damn thing’s in the Islamic faith. Exact same thing. Same “spread our religion, spread our faith” directives.

And when it’s Christians doing the spreading, it’s the work of God. And when it’s Muslims doing the spreading, it’s Muslims trying to take over the world, and erase their religion, and their freedom to believe as they want.

*head desk*

And they can’t even begin to wrap their head around that reality. Trying to explain that to them is like trying to explain quantum mechanics to a concrete slab. Can’t be done. In some ways it’s worse. ‘Cause they’ll chastise you, and tell you how they’ll pray for you, and chase you from their presence, ’cause you’re testing their faith. The list goes on and on.

It’s awful that we have victims, like you shared yesterday. But. I’d rather have the victims, so we can all see the truth of the world we live in, than be blind to the truth, and wonder what the heck happened when everything comes apart.


Humans.

*Head Desk*

I Never Told Anyone

Today, at psychotherapy, I finally said something I’ve never said. And it’s something I need to get into the open. So, I’m going to put it here. My doctor said this is one of those things that older far beyond my years, and certainly was beyond my years when I said it the first time.

I can’t remember if I was in 6th or 7th grade. Yeah. That long ago. Dad had just finished a big project at his work, and I got to see the finished document he’d written. It was a stack of paper, notebook sized, a good inch and a half thick, maybe two. He was proud of it, and I knew to write something that size took a lot of time and effort.

But I heard my thoughts back then. It was years before I finished burying them. Back then, I’d just started burying things. And that day, I heard my terrified thoughts. The work he’d shared didn’t terrify me. Neither did his pride in having completed that work. No. What terrified me was what I saw in him, and the people he worked with.

They were all practically dead. In lives that didn’t change. On career paths. However you wish to define it. Every aspect of their lives matched a plan each of them had made years, perhaps decades, earlier. Many of them were in their 30s. As I watched them, I knew they would never really change. Never really do anything other than what they were already doing.

They’d stopped growing. Stopped changing. Stopped learning. Stopped exploring. They’d grown up, and there was no room in their lives for such childish pursuits. They had responsibilities.

If someone was a Marine, he’d stay a Marine. If Navy, they’d stay Navy. If civilian contractor, or civil servant, they’d always be that. If someone was an administrative assistant, they’d always be assisting someone.

It was the first time I understood how life in our social system worked. That’s what terrified me. And I heard my mind, screaming, “I’m not going to be dead at 30! I’m not going to be like them!”

Of course, I can say this all I want. I can share it. I can talk about it. But sharing it is useless, because, as I’ve said before, no one will understand. Oh, there will be some that understand. There always are, always have been, always will be. But many people will never understand what I saw that day, or how I felt about it.

My doctor and I talked about many things today, centered around that thought.

I told him if you ever want to see the true nature of someone, murder their smart phone. Break it, and watch what happens to them. Watch as they go crazy. “Do you know, there are guys out there, if their phone shuts off, and they can’t turn it on, I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw that sucker through the drywall.” Yeah. I said that.

“Same with their computers. Or their video games. Or NetFlix. Or the Internet.”

I reminded him of the study I’d talked about a couple of weeks ago. The one about 67% of men in the study electing to endure a painful electric shock to get out of sitting still, in a room, by themselves, for 15 minutes, with no electronic devices. Yeah. That’s right. Put a guy in a room with nothing but a chair, and a button that administers an electric shock to himself, and tell him he can leave after 15 minutes, or he can shock the shit out of himself, and he’ll shock the shit out of himself.

And that’s when the lightbulb turned on over my head, and I said, “Holy crap!”

My doctor knows exactly what I mean when I say, “Holy crap!” I’d just had an epiphany. I’d just realized something. Or, as I like to express it, another piece of the puzzle of life finally fit into the puzzle.

“They’re escaping, aren’t they.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I was reciting a fact. “They’re escaping from their lives. That’s why they go crazy when their phones die. Why they spend hours glued to NetFlix, watching streaming media. Why they bury themselves in video games. They’re escaping the misery they live in. And when they can’t escape, and have to sit silently for a while, they can’t. They’ll shock themselves to escape. So they don’t have to deal with who they are. What their lives have become. The truth that they’re all walking dead.”

My doctor and I spent a lot of time talking about that today. About how people try to escape.

I know. I hear the voices screaming, “It takes one to know one!” and “Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!” Yeah. Most people will never understand, I know. I’m flawed. I’m guilty. I’m not perfect.

On my drive home, I listened to my music, playing through the car stereo. I turn it to 24 on the power meter when I’m in the car alone. I can feel the door panels shake in time with the music. I can see the rear view mirror vibrate as the sound waves move it around just a touch. I can feel the music through every cubic inch of me.

It’s my escape. From the misery. My own personal misery. Of dealing with a world I don’t understand, and never made.

But, what happens when that music goes away. In May, 2012, it did. I got dunked in some rapids leading to a waterfall. The camera I owned at the time drowned. It never worked again. The MP3 music player I owned also drowned, and never played another note from any music. It never turned on again. My cell phone took days (at least 3) to dry out. I was without any of those devices for days.

This happened on day two of a five-day camping trip. We had no TV. No Internet. No electricity. And pretty much no cell phone service. It would have wrecked many of the people I know, and have known in life.

I did OK. I was happy to get a new player, a few days after we got home. I was happy when my phone started working, also a day or two after we got home. I was happy when we replaced my dead camera in July of 2012.

I survived without them. And I can survive without them now.

I know people who would shrivel up like grapes turning into raisins if they had to endure such an ordeal. I know people who can’t live without being on their cell phone, on Facebook, or Twitter, or being able to watch another movie on their phone, to kill the time.

Time they can’t face on their own.

Because, if they had to face it, they’d have to face their lives. They’d have to face themselves. They’d have to deal with who they are.

And I see people like them every day. People who will do anything to escape themselves.

“I don’t want to be dead at 30! I won’t be like them!”

I never told anyone.

Until today.

Here’s a link to the study I mentioned.

Study: People Would Rather Suffer Electric Shock Than Sit Silently

I’m Not Broken

Overwhelmed.
That’s a good word.
Very descriptive
Of how I feel
So very often.

Like now.

I keep telling myself
I’m not broken.
I’m not defective.
I’m not a failure.

I’m just different.

I keep reminding myself
There are others like me
Out there.
In the world.
That I’m really
Not alone.

And sometimes,
Despite everything.
Everything I’ve learned.
Everything I’ve experienced.
Everything I’ve been through.
I still feel
Broken.
Wrong.
Defective.

So, here I am.
Sitting at my desk.
Staring at the display.
Reading posts on facebook.
Reading tweets on twitter.
And oceans of flash fiction
Challenge entries.

I’ve tried explaining this
To my lady.
At least a billion times.
I’m not sure she understands.
But at least she knows.
What every day is like
For me.

Have you ever sat at a table,
In a restaurant,
With a group of people
You work with?
One of those lunch out things.
Someone’s leaving.
Someone’s getting older.
Someone’s getting married.
Yeah.
A lunch like one of those.

I bet you didn’t sit there
Praying to God above
You had any clue at all
About what was going on.
Wishing you could understand
How people could so easily
Talk to each other.
Moving from one conversation
To another.

I bet you didn’t sit there
Trying to figure out
How the person next to you
Knew when to smile.
Knew when to laugh.
Knew when to shut up
And be quiet.

I bet you didn’t sit there
Feeling like a failure.
Because every time you look around
Everyone but you
Is talking,
And having fun.
Telling stories.
Telling jokes.

And you don’t have a clue
How they know to do
The things they do.

It’s like I missed something
When I was growing up.
Like I never learned
A certain set of skills.
And now,
I’m stuck.
And never will.
No matter how hard,
Or how long
I try.

I was too stupid
To learn.
And now,
I’ll always feel that way
When I’m in a group.

I bet you don’t feel that way,
Do you.

I’ve left people behind
Many times before.
Because I couldn’t bridge the gap
Between myself and them.
Because I couldn’t understand
All the things they took for granted.
All the things they knew
Every body knows.

All the things they tell me
I’m supposed to know,
That I don’t even know
Are there.

I find myself feeling
Even now,
That I should burn
More bridges down.
Un-follow everyone on Twitter.
Un-friend every friend on Facebook.
To keep them safe from me.
So I won’t hurt them
When I do something,
When I say something,
I don’t know
I shouldn’t.

I find myself terrified,
Once more,
At the thought
Of being told,
“You can’t be that way.”
“You can’t do that.”
“You can’t say that.”
“What’s wrong with you.”
Once more.
Like I’ve been told
So many times before.

And always when I ask
That one word question,
“Why?”
I get the same answers,
“Because.”
“How can you not know?”
“Everyone knows why.”
“Quit playing games.”
“Grow up.”

No one understands
That I don’t know.
I really don’t.

And have you noticed
No one ever can explain?
No one ever answers
That single question,
“Why?”

I used to think
I was broken.
Defective in some way.
Because I never could fit in.
But I’ve learned otherwise.
I’ve learned the truth of me.
And others like me.
Living in a world
We never made.

In my case
It’s all caused
By my Autism Spectrum Disorder.
And I find it downright funny
That it’s been named
A disorder.

Kind of like saying
That a V8 car engine
Is an anomaly.

It’s not a disorder to me.
It’s just the way things are.
The way that I was born.
I’m just wired
A little differently.
That’s all.

There’s nothing wrong with me.
I’m just different.
As I’m supposed to be.

And I’ve learned.
When I get that feeling
That I should block out
Everyone.
To keep them safe from me.
I’m just feeling tired.
And overwhelmed.
By the time and effort
That it takes me
Just to keep up with
People around me.

And all I really need
Is to give myself some time
To step through all the things
That have me overwhelmed.
And process them.
And when that’s done
I know.

I don’t have to leave.
I don’t have to run.
I don’t have to burn
Any bridges down.

I just have to let the people
That I know,
The people that know me,
Know that sometimes
I just have to take a break
To catch up to everything.

That I’m not like them.
That it’s hard for  me
To keep up with
More than a few people
At one time.

And keeping up
Just overwhelms me
From time to time.

And once I take that break
Then I’ll be OK.

Until the next time
I get overwhelmed.

It’s a cycle
That will never end.
I know.

But that doesn’t mean
That it won’t change with time.
As I learn to let the people
Around me know.

I’m not broken.
And I’m not going away.
That I really can
Be the way I am.
And they’ll just have to accept
That every now and then
I get overwhelmed.
And just have to stop,
And take a break.

I’m not broken.
I’m just different.
OK.

Now,
About that break.

Watching Facebook And Twitter

Sometimes, I sit at my computer.
And I watch.
I watch the activity of people
On Facebook.
And on Twitter.

And I try.
I really do.
I try to understand
What the heck is going on.
What they are all doing.

And I fail.
Fall on my sword.
Because the truth is
I just don’t know.
And I can’t figure it out.

I’ve tried for all my life.
As long as I can remember.
To figure out
How people communicate.
How they talk.

And all I’ve learned
Is that they have
A hidden language
I can’t observe.

There are times I’ve told my doc
About the people that have asked,
“Mark.
I can do everything you did
On that computer.
Too fix the problem.
I wrote down each step.
I can duplicate
Exactly what you did.
But there’s one question
I just can’t answer
From my notes,
And from watching you.
How did you know
What to do?”

And then I’ve told my doc
That I can’t answer them.
They either know.
Or they don’t.

And lately,
I’ve expanded on that
Just a bit.
Because with respect
To social ways,
And social activities.
I’ve found
It’s just the same.

Everyone always explains to me
That I can’t be that way.
That I can’t do
The things I do.
Say the things I say.

But no one anywhere
Has ever been able
To explain why.

It’s like everyone assumes
I know.
And they can’t understand
Or accept
That I don’t.

So I sit here tonight.
At my computer.
Watching message traffic
On Facebook and Twitter.
Trying to trace out
Conversations.
To at least gain a clue
To what’s going on.

And feeling very frustrated,
Like I always do.

Because I just can’t tell.
I just can’t tell.

It’s at times like this
I feel so much like
I could simply vanish.
Drop right out of existence.
And no one would notice.
No one would notice
At all.

I know that it’s not true.
There are at least a few
That would miss me
If I did.

I know also
That I would never have the chance
To observe,
And perhaps someday learn.
What the heck is going on.
If I disappeared.

So I won’t.

But, damn.
Sometimes it’s really hard
To keep trying to figure out
A world that makes no sense
To me.
That I can’t understand.

The only consolation that I have
Is that I know
That all the people
I can’t understand.
Can’t figure me out either.

To them.
I’m a mystery.

And I have learned something
In my life
About how people work.
They give up,
And they abandon,
Things they cannot
Understand.

They always end up gone.

And I end up alone.
Watching all the messages I can
On Facebook.
And on Twitter.