Bookshelf reorganizing and self-reflection

There is a war going on right now in my head between my inner idealist archivist (save everything!) and my inner cynical librarian (weed this collection down to a more manageable level!  We’ve got limited shelf-space and need to optimize it!!).  Real archivists know they can’t save everything either, of course, and so focus on what is most rare, etc.  In the real world of libraries, there’s a balance struck between archives and libraries, and each has their own ongoing mission to accomplish.  Stock regulation is never easy but it’s always necessary.  I’ve seen libraries toss some things and keep others that leave me scratching my head, but I’ve never been in charge of such decisions and probably never will be.  As I re-organize one of my bookshelves…a kind of “temporary shelving area”, I scrutinize the books there.  I check the date on some and smack myself for keeping a book that old on the shelf.  Some books I berate myself with the self-reproach of “what were you even thinking?!”, still others I turn up my nose and say “ugh, OUT!” and feel anxious to get them either to Half-Price Books or a recycling bin as soon as the Christmas holiday is over.  These heavy, thick art books simply must go.  Ditto my “Big Red Books”, i.e. Library of Congress Subject Headings.  My set are way out of date, and as it’s been several years since I engaged in any cataloging, they need to go.  I seldom perused them even when I did.  It was mainly out of idle curiosity, the structure of knowledge formulated by LCSH.  It was fun to flip through them at first, sort of like how I used to spend hours in my childhood amusing myself with a World Book encyclopedia set, or in my 20s and 30s with an unabridged Webster’s dictionary.  But I seldom have time to even look at them anymore, much less study them.  All of this information has been long ago digitized, of course; I don’t even know if the Library of Congress issues print editions of the Big Red books; I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re no longer in print at all.  I am moving some books that were atop drawers, tables, floorspace, etc, to the actual temp shelf, while setting aside others to be sold off after the holidays.  It’s an imperfect process and one that will have to incorporate the main shelf downstairs, of course.  It’s anxiety inducing in the extreme for me, but it has to be done.  I should be treating myself to a few relaxing episodes of Japanese anime but find myself too anxious to settle down and turn on the TV and PS3 and put in the relevant disc.  Perhaps I will in a bit; I can certainly stay up given the holiday tomorrow.  But I just wanted to write this post as a kind of postscript to my previous, longer posting.  I did get a lot done, but there’s still lots more to go.  All in the name of keeping domestic peace and alleviating my mom’s disgust with my living space(s).  Once I started moving/cleaning things, my own disgust response was aroused and I took to the task under my own power and motivation.

There’s also lingering tension and frustration in the house because although our new TV is up and installed, has a great looking picture…Netflix tests out postitive, the attached Samsung Blu-Ray player mom attached works fine, and the picture quality is awesome (I tested out one of my Anime Blu-Ray movies)….the cable box from Comcast doesn’t work and the soonest they can send out a “tech” is Friday after the holiday.  So no watching Houston Rockets game in High Def on the big big screen until then.  The whole house is in a period of flux and transition, lots of anxious “hurry up and wait” scenarios owing to the holidays, etc.  Lots of positive, fun changes, but also much underlying anxiety that is hard to manage but must be managed somehow.  My bank of tokens is exhausted so I’m definitely not in the best frame of mind as I write this.  I’m jaundiced, full of self-loathing and wanting to berate myself.  I do at least have myself to myself, but I’m still anxious and unsettled.

Another minor point of upset I’ve been dealing with.  I read in Temple Grandin’s latest book The Autistic Brain that we autistics seem to have a natural affinity for music…that in some cases nonverbal autistics have even been taught to speak through first learning to sing and being sung to.  That was cool to hear about, really.  It filled me also with a twinge of pride, an “ah-ha” moment as to why I’m really good at picking out music by ear, etc.  And yesterday I even gave some thought to picking up guitar again, maybe really doing it this year.  All crushed by the reality of having to move and put away all 3 of my guitars (Electric guitar [a Fender Strat knockoff], my steel string acoustic, & my Electric bass, and 2 accompanying amps) away behind my refurbished bed, all under a blanket to ward off dust.  It was just a reality of the housecleaning scenario I had to accept for now but it was still heartbreaking inside, especially after such a revelation in Temple’s book that YES, there’s a physiological reason in my Aspergian brain why I’ve always had a pretty good ear for music.  An untrained ear, to be sure…I can’t just name a note’s position on the scale just by hearing it.  But once I have a scale to work with I can hunt and find and reproduce the sound in short order.

I also have to accept that I need to start once again attending Weight Watchers, and closely scrutinizing my calorie intake and upping my activity levels.  My overweight condition has reached levels that make even me uncomfortable.  Although I consume craft beer in only moderate amounts and never to intoxication, it all adds up.  And frankly the novelty of it has really worn off and I’m getting bored of it at long last.  It was a regular ritual of mine to consume it on weekends in very restricted amounts with a meal, while listening to Celtic music and just relaxing.  It was a very peaceful ritual that sustained me through all of 2013, and much of 2012.  But I’ve found I’ve finally gotten bored of it, and my waistline will not allow it to continue very much longer in any case.  I need to replace it with walking again for exercise and calorie burning.  I can retain the music or podcast part of the ritual whilst walking, to relive the inevitable boredom of walking.  If I budget for it in a Weight Watchers plan, I can even allow myself a pint or two here and there, so long as I actually do the math and offset it with lighter meals elsewhere or increased activity levels beyond the norm.

I was successful in slimming down rather nicely when I first returned from North Texas upon losing my job there.  I made it down to a size 36.  I’ve been a 36 before on past occasions as well, but it’s a size I find VERY difficult to maintain for long.  38 is quite enough of a challenge to manage.  It’s stressful to keep gaining weight and expanding at the waist as I am now….but I recall that it was equally stressful trying to stay at 36 and having to be so very hyper-vigilant with everything I consumed, keeping careful track of everything and resenting the hell out of co-workers who would bring sweets and other temptations to work, etc.  Luckily, I don’t have nearly as much of a sweet tooth as my poor mother does.  My weakness is more meat & fat related, and a love of dining out, etc, and trying lots of different things all the time.  I don’t have a choice, though.  Even I am disgusted to see myself inching back up into the size 42 range again.  I just can’t “go there”, I have to turn back.  I hate it, and it’s going to be hard, hard work, but I’ve got to do it.  I wish I didn’t have to think about what I ate, didn’t have to worry, stress, etc., but it’s just not reality. 

I don’t know if I have realistic dating prospects or not; maybe my marriage was just a lucky fluke with a crazy girl.  But I know those prospects will only diminish further if my waistline continues to expand.  Charm & wit can only overcome so much, and I’ve already got my inherent Aspergian awkwardness to overcome already.  I’m undecided if I ever really do want another marriage and possibly children.  I’m not 100% opposed, but it does terrify me a little to contemplate it.  But I am certain I would like another girlfriend, a love interest who loves me back, etc.  But for the immediate future, getting back into at least marginally better shape need to be my focus this year.  It’s gonna suck but it has to be done.  I’ve gotta do it for me and nobody else.  Trying to do something “for” another person with respect to changing oneself drastically mainly generates unhealthy resentment, in my experience.  You gotta “own” that stuff.

Anyway, I remain grateful to this blogspace we maintain as an outlet.  I needed this, and I hope someone reading it finds it useful too.

Housecleaning & emotional trauma

I’m posting this here because I didn’t want to come across as too whiny on Facebook.  I also have had a physically exhausting and emotionally traumatic day for reasons only Aspies can truly appreciate.  I’ve known this was coming but didn’t expect it to take such an emotional toll upon me.  It didn’t help that my mom took a brusque tone with me and was fairly harsh towards me early on in the day (to her credit, she did soften her tone later in the day); The day started off on the wrong foot when mom interrupted my after-breakfast social time on Facebook.  She did back off and give me some space/time, and not long after I felt “caught up” with Facebook affairs and let mom know I was ready to get started.  Our main task of the day was moving the new mattress and box spring from the guest bedroom to my bedroom, and vice versa.  We did accomplish this, but before we could, it was necessary for me to do some serious cleaning in my closet and in the corner of my bedroom, where I’d let several books of manga, box sets of Anime DVDs, etc, begin to pile up over the course of the year.  I also threw away several figurine boxes that were empty; I don’t know why I kept them, but I did.  They needed to go and I got rid of them.  But what upset me was mom berating me for having two CD cases still in the bottom of my closet taking up so much room.  I did manage to consolidate them into one case, and yes, most of the music I listen to anymore is of a digital nature.  The discs I still own are largely of sentimental value; but I still own a fair number of discs and I’m not ready to part with all of them just quite yet.  I also shuffled around the contents of my overall Anime collection.  Luckily I do have a new piece of furniture that is basically a small, stout chest of sorts that is half of half a hexagon, roughly a flattened, squarish “U” shape.  It has a large storage space (with shelf) below and three doors to access said cabinet space, and above it has a thin pull out drawer with a bit more storage space (but not much).  This is where I’ve managed to shift most of my already-watched-but-want-to-keep Anime titles.  I’ve moved the unwatched stuff to my “functional” shelving, i.e. onto the shelving on my TV stand into the family computer/TV room upstairs that is mostly my domain after hours.  I did manage to find some Anime titles that I was, in fact, willing to part ways with, especially older shows that I only had partial volumes for, or shows that were just plain mediocre, that I’d never watch again and don’t think my friends would particularly enjoy borrowing.  I put them together with some selected CDs and books I was willing to part with as well.  I learned a little while ago that I will also have to accommodate the DVDs downstairs that were on the old TV stand, also mainly of the “already watched but still wanna keep” variety.  Most of these are also Anime but not exclusively.  My parents’ big present to themselves this Christmas is a new flat screen TV, our biggest yet, set up in our old living room.  They got a brand new cabinet for it as well, so the stuff that was on the old TV stand will need to go somewhere else, which includes my old PSX, but also my first Blu-Ray player.  It’s a Magnivox and admittedly it has been a glitchy unit.  I have an identical one upstairs that works perfectly fine.  I use it for those rare occasions when I get a Blu-Ray disc that won’t play in my PS3 (does happen sometimes) or, it becomes a player of last resort for DVDs that are too scratched/flawed either for the PS3 to play or a PC.  I once watched a Bollywood movie that was in such a state, and it ONLY worked on the Magnivox Blu-Ray player, where it played flawlessly.  Mom wants to just toss the glitchy Mangnivox downstairs into recycling or the trash.  I know that makes sense but I still hate the idea of getting rid of it while keeping the old DVD/VHS player we still have hooked up to the flat screen in the den.  But I know that’s irrational.  It’s a flawed unit, and I guess I’m pissed off that I bought such a piece of crap to begin with.  We should get rid of it; In fairness, once we do, I probably should move my working Magnivox down to the TV in the den and ditch the old DVD/VHS player once and for all.  Last time we tried to watch a DVD on it, the picture was all screwed up, with diagonal lines running across it.  We switched to the glitchy Mangivox, which, well, glitched a little.  I fiddled with it and got it to play right but man how annoying.  I still wanna hang on to my PSX, but that’s irrational too…mainly it’s because I still have some PS1 discs and saved data on it that I can’t play on any other platform.  My PSX was my replacement for alcohol for a number of years when I had to quit cold turkey on account of court ordered probation.  My attachment is, again, sentimental more than practical.

The hardest part of cleaning, reorganizing, and paring down is, of course, my beloved book collection.  My parents have mercilessly needled me for how big I’ve let it grow over the years, the money expended upon my personal library versus how much of it I’ve ever actually read and a crude cost-benefit-analysis type of scrutiny over the wisdom of the content of my collection, which always pisses me off.  It’s no happy task to have to do, I always hate it, and it always makes me sad & depressed, because it’s like attending multiple funerals, the death of my youthful idealism, the death of past hopes and aspirations never realized, past intellectual passions deferred, delayed, forgotten because the mundane drudgery of mere existence kept getting in the way. 

I think I can safely shed a lot of big, thick, beautiful art books, most of which I acquired used to begin with.  I think also it’s time I shed most of the rest of my professional librarian’s working books; Things like my outdated 4 volume LCSH set of “Big Red Books”, or my outdated AACR2 and books related to AACR2.  I may retain the DDC’s and the LCSH subdivisions book but the aforementioned really have overstayed their welcome in my collection.  I really don’t see myself returning to the Cataloging side of Library operations ever again, at least not in a full-time capacity.  Shedding these books means facing up to that reality and acknowledging it.

I also have several boxes of dusty old books in German in the attic that probably just need to go.  They were part of a long ago dream of becoming a full-time academic, something like a Professor of German Lit, say, or a Cinema Studies professor.  Needless to say that’s never gonna happen.  Not at my age, not with my Asperger’s, not with the depressing state of the collapsing academic job market.  They’re just taking up space and not serving a useful purpose.  I know that–but it’s still painful.  I still need a little time and space to grieve over these dead aspirations.  I need to examine the main bookshelf downstairs as well and pare it down, too, to make space for contemporary books that I do actually want to keep but that are sitting on chests of drawers, chairs, etc, instead of on a proper bookshelf.

At the end of day 1 of this housecleaning project, I do feel better than I did when I first started.  I do feel a sense of accomplishment at having gotten so much done in a day.  I do look forward to a better nights’ sleep going forward on a brand new mattress.  I do like its improved back support, for starters, and hope it will noticeably improve the quality of my sleep.  I filed things away in my important but attic bound permanent file cabinet.  I also removed outdated material from said cabinet and shredded them accordingly.  I cleared out my very full letterbox filing thing on my chest of drawers, filing away what needed to be filed away, shredding what did not.

One of the many maddening things about Asperger’s is the inability for me to quickly prioritize things and put them in their proper place.  I’m often befuddled and indecisive.  I recognize something is important at the moment, but don’t know how to rank it with all the other seemingly important things before me, and so I just shove them all into the same container to deal with or to have at the ready.  It’s a continuation of a practice I developed in college of putting things into dorm desk drawers that “looked interesting” but that I didn’t have time for at the moment but resolved to “look at later”, but mostly never did.  The end result being an almost comical culling of a very paper-laden desk drawer full of outdated fliers for things that caught my eye but I ended up forgetting, or stupid mementos I really had no business keeping but did anyway.  I went through a version of that today and it was really hard parting with some things.  So many memories come flooding back and it just paralyzes you for a minute.

The things I did today needed to get done, and I’m proud of the hard work I put in on it; but it remains true that it was in no small way an emotionally traumatic, upsetting day where I had to mostly internalize my anger, anxiety, and other swirling emotions and only now can I sit down and finally begin to process them, if only a little.

You know what really drains my tokens?

I don’t know who came up with token theory, but it’s a brilliant analogy for how we find many environments and situations draining and why they cause meltdowns.  Every aspie (and possibly every non-aspie, but we don’t care about them right now) has a certain number of tokens at maximum.  When we do things we’re uncomfortable with, we spend tokens to deal with it.  When we run out of tokens, we can no longer cope, and we have a meltdown or have to get away from the situation any way we can.  It can mean closing our eyes, shutting our ears, singing loudly to ourselves, or all of those things and more.  Spending time doing things we are comfortable with (or obsessed with) allows us to regain tokens.  We can even get to a point where we have hit our capacity and desire to do something draining for a little while.

Throughout my childhood and youth so far, I’ve developed a talent for social interactions.  I use humor to put people at ease and appear to be the life of any party I go to, which is hardly any.  I found, though, that when I would be alone again, I would find myself feeling very emotionally drained, and I didn’t understand why until I looked at it in light being an aspie with a set number of tokens.  Social interaction can be fun, but it drains me very quickly.  The same goes for any situation where I’m uncomfortable.  Hunger, sleepiness, having to go to the bathroom, being confined, and frustration drain me quickly and impair my brain functions.  I get agitated easily and lose my ability to do things like type and not bump into things.  If I don’t have a chance to rest and regain my tokens, I become a very different person who isn’t easy to get along with.

Fortunately, I recover fairly quickly.  A few hours on my computer playing games is generally enough to bring me back from the brink of a meltdown to full tokens again.  I’m lucky enough to know what recharges me.  Not all aspies understand how they tick enough to know what to do when they feel overwhelmed, and even I am not always aware of when my tokens are being drained until they are very very low.  It’s a hard balance to maintain, but it’s a war we aspies fight every day of our lives.

Observations from a recent family trip.

I think I’m pretty good about not being to literal, but then some situations crop up like this weekend when we were loading up the car to get ready to come home from vacation. On the ground were a plastic garbage bag of dirty clothes, and a piece of luggage, which, of course, I know can also be referred to as “bag”. Dad told me to “put the bag in the car”, and without thinking I reached for the garbage bag. I noticed his disapproving glare and dropped it and picked up the luggage instead. Dad just shook his head like I’m an idiot and why would I think the one and not the other. Because if you wanted me to pick up the luggage you should say “luggage”, or use a distinguishing adjective “the brown bag” so I know more precisely which object you’re referring to. Little things like this remind me that I’m still an Aspie, regardless how many “coping strategies”, etc, I devise through the years. My brain just processes this stuff differently.
It also dawned on me this vacation trip that I really suck at composing a mental image based on someone describing something to me briefly. I get confused and panic.

It lead me to realize this processing problem was at the heart of many traumatic experiences I’ve had with my dad trying to teach me how to drive, etc. He would describe the steps he wanted me to perform, but I couldn’t visualize what he wanted, it didn’t make sense to me, so I would just freak out and shut down, demand he take the wheel and just do it himself, etc.

We had a milder event this trip where basically my dad wanted me to execute a three point turn so that we would be driving forwards out of a family friend’s driveway rather than backing out, as the angle is a bit treacherous and dad wanted us to go forward rather than in reverse.

But instead of saying “do a 3-point turn so we can drive out of here instead of back out”, he starts describing step by step the 3 point turn maneuver that he wants me to perform and I can’t put it together in my head what he wants and just blurt out that I don’t understand what the hell he wants me to do. After a moment of reflection, to pause and take stock and think, I realize that a 3 point turn would be the best way to do this and just up and do that. I complete the maneuver, ease us down the driveway and onto the street without any scraping or contact of the car body with the road, and we continue on our journey back to Sikeston, MO from Farmington, MO without further incident or comment on my outburst. It was only on later reflection that I realized this has everything to do with the way my Aspie brain processes stuff (or doesn’t, in the case of easily translating a word description into a visual image). If Dad had either said “do a 3 point turn” or actually pantomimed with his hands the direction he wanted me to move the car with his hands, I would have “got it” much sooner. Weird.

Another thing; My new car (a current model Honda Civic) has a rearview camera with a superimposed set of graphics on the image, basically showing boxes receding into the distance a ways, to help me gauge not only straightness of travel but also distance.  It has been absolutely fabulous for me.  I do sometimes still physically look backwards like I was taught in driver’s ed ages ago, but I prefer to take it a little slower while looking in the camera.  I always had a bugger of a time understanding how to steer in reverse and would frequently panic and have a mini-meltdown if I did it wrong.  It was just too complicated for me to visualize and make the connections in my brain as to how the car would respond going backwards while turning the wheel this way or that.  With the camera now, I can actually SEE it, and it calms me greatly.  I don’t have to think about it in my head, I can see it with my own eyes via the video screen;  It seems I have nearly 180 degrees the opposite problem of a “visual” autistic person like Temple Grandin.  There were many instances in the past, with my dad teaching me to drive a new vehicle (tractor, my first stick shift car, etc) that involved going in reverse and steering that pushed me to the point of meltdown.  Thankfully Mom’s car also has a rearview camera, too.  This was the car (Mom’s) we used on our trip.