Aspie group dynamics; or High Functioners sometimes need each-other time.

A segment of a social network

A segment of a social network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One uncomfortable topic that sometimes confronts us when we form a local Aspie community stems from the fact that all Aspies are still unique individuals, and that despite some broad commonalities, sometimes our ASD manifests very differently from person to person.  Some Aspies are nevertheless very high in IQ and have managed to one degree or other to at least function effectively in NT society through various coping mechanisms.  Some of us even hold full time jobs, etc.  While others in our big groups are very impaired indeed and it is a struggle to understand sarcasm or other aspects of humor.  Some Aspies are more self-reflective than others.  Some are more intellectually engaged than others.  Some expend the mental effort to try and understand the thought processes and probable reactions of others in a rational, intellectual way (because it doesn’t come to us intuitively very easily or at all), while others either can’t or don’t want to.  While it’s important to have support groups made up of Aspies of all levels, so that we can share experiences, hopefully impart wisdom, solidarity, and help each other grow and develop, the painful truth is that the more high functioning among us sometimes need a break from the larger group of Aspies.  We need either “me” time or preferably also some “small group time” with those fellow Aspies we deem to be on the same High Functioning level as ourselves.  We need some active social time apart from “big group” time to let our hair down and just be ourselves, to form more profound friendships and just talk about whatever we share by way of common interest and not just on the daily challenges of being an Aspie, as tends to dominate the discussion in “Big Group” settings.  Some of our fellow High Functioners have castigated us who are more of the “partial separatist” mindset as being “bigoted” towards our Lower ability fellow Aspies, etc. but I think this charge is unfair.  We put in our time and do attempt to render service to our less fortunate fellow Aspies.  But I don’t think we’re under obligation to devote ALL of our social time to ALL the Aspies in our local area to the explicit exclusion of NOONE EVER.  I think sometimes a self-selected small cadre of high functioning Aspies is a natural outgrowth of Aspie “big group” social dynamics.  I think committed, specialized elites emerge in most large human social gatherings, actually, and that we Aspies are no exception either.  Nor should we feel guilty about it or be made to feel guilty about it by others, so long as we put in the requisite “service time” to the larger community.  I realize I probably sometimes give off a “creeper” vibe to some NTs, rightly or wrongly at times.  But real talk, there are some of my fellow Aspies in Big Group settings that creep ME the fuck out as well, and I sometimes need a break from those certain individuals.  I need to be among those who are as adept at getting and using sarcasm and other forms of humor as I am.  I don’t want always to have to explain my jokes and suck the humor right out of them in the process.  I like being among similar-level Aspies because we all seem to “get” each others quirky humor better than some other lower-functioning Aspies or NTs.  There’s a shared understanding there, like we’re all “dialed in” to a special frequency that only we can hear and make sense of, while NTs and more disabled Aspies are unable to tap into that same frequency.  It has been a bone of contention at various times over the history of our local “Big Group”, and some in “Big Group” are completely unaware of the existence of our private sub-groups that are “invite only” and we would prefer to keep them that way, fine thanks.  Some Aspies would probably want to lambaste us for being cliquish and exclusive and “no better than NTs”, but such accusations are superficial and ignorant, and insist that we High Functioning Aspies ignore or repress our own social needs for the good of the lowest common denominator whole.  We are simply unwilling to do that.  We’re not abandoning the larger body, but we do crave and need our “me” and “we” time respectively.

 

I’d be curious to hear of similar experiences with group dynamics in other locations.  Is it Big Group all the time every time, or do you subdivide sometimes into smaller enclaves to better meet your specific social needs?  I do recommend having a “Big Group” setting at least once a month, but I also think it’s okay to creatively go beyond that in a “Do-it-yourself” kind of free association way.

 

And gawd I know I that somebody is gonna think I come off sounding like an @sshole above, no matter how much I try to explain myself and offer empathy for Aspies not on my same level.  I don’t think I am, but I also accept I have limited control over other people’s perceptions of me.

 

 

 

Grateful for roads not taken

Just looking through the images of JROTC people and other militaria, I do want to quickly note that as positive as the experience of NJROTC was for me in High School, I am very glad I never actually joined up with the actual US military, either as an enlisted man or as an officer.  I’m glad I was not on active or even reserve status of any kind the morning of 9-11.  I did not feel motivated to sign up the way so many young men did.  I was “too old for this sh*t”, in my own words, and also felt dubious about our national wars of apparent revenge then ramping up.  I had been ambivalent about the first Gulf War back in college and was decidedly opposed to the Afghanistan operation and later Iraq War.  My ex-wife agreed with my anti-war views, though for decidedly different reasons.  I feel badly for all the young men who got swept up into that national hysteria and war, willingly or otherwise.  My own disillusionment with the actual military dates from my High School years, where I began to separate propaganda claims from reality, starting with a good Associated Press History of the Vietnam War.  While I was still in college ROTC at the time of the first Gulf War, I was in no rush to join the conflict.  Moreover, the war would be over and done by the time I found out I was physically disqualified for commission through the NROTC program anyway, and thus my entire raison d’etre for remaining in the TAMU Corps of Cadets vanished and I exited gracefully to go enjoy civilian student life.  I’d been very ambivalent about that first Gulf War.  I wasn’t knee-jerk anti-war (though perhaps I should’ve been), but I wasn’t rah rah pro war either.  My thinking was still evolving.  I did briefly consider other government service options like working for the FBI or maybe doing a CIA internship, but thought better of those options and just wanted to devote myself to Academia and purely academic pursuits.  I did once take the Foreign Service Exam but did not make it past the first round.  I could see my views on economics were not in line with the “Washington Consensus”, from whose POV the test had been constructed.  Diplomatic service was alas not in my future.

As dissatisfied and frustrated as I sometimes feel about the actual course my life has taken, it does sometimes help to reflect how much worse it could’ve gone if I’d gone down a few different roads instead of thinking better and avoiding them.  I’m eternally grateful for some of those paths not taken.

Sleepless night with my memories.

Navy JROTC Insignia

Navy JROTC Insignia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some reason I’m having trouble falling asleep again, so I thought I’d indulge one of my Aspie obsessions through writing.  I’m visited by the memory of my first girlfriend in High School tonight for some reason.  It only lasted for a couple of weeks in High School.  SB had previously been in a relationship with one of the seniors that year.  For some reason it didn’t work out and for whatever reason she turned her attention to me.  She was pretty forward and invited me to her house one evening in the next subdivision over.  Nothing scandalous, her siblings and parents were home, and mostly we just sat on the couch together watching TV.  Eventually she started kissing me and making out with me, much to my pleasant surprise.  Nothing beyond what some call “heavy petting”, I was pretty timid with her all in all.  When I did leave (I believe this was a school night) we did embrace and kiss a little longer on her driveway.  I was fairly giddy over the next two weeks, but she quickly saw just what a huge dork I was and I think probably was thinking of ways to dump me or get me to dump her.  When we went on a JROTC trip to Austin for a unit competition, she spent a lot of time being super flirty to one of the college NROTC guys who were our guides.  When I got jealous and confronted her on it on the ride home, she broke things off with me, saying I was “smothering” her.  Plus other people had been seemingly conspiring against our relationship.  I got warned by a couple of guys to “watch out” and “be careful” around this girl.  Anyway, our relationship effectively over, it made for a long, awkward charter bus ride back to Houston from Austin.  I guess in hindsight it would’ve been smarter to have that confrontation when we got home.  I could’ve maybe “gotten to 2nd base” on that ride home if I hadn’t pissed her off.  She was seemingly ready for a little snuggling, cuddling, etc.  But my jealousy had been stoked and I was having none of it.  In turn, she was having no more of me.

She did pay a social cost for hurting me and breaking my young naive heart.  Others shunned her; turns out I had defenders who thought I was a really nice guy and they gave her the cold shoulder for hurting someone like me.  Even her sister sided with me and somewhat apologized for her big sister’s actions.  I did almost become romantically attached to the sister a bit later on,but that’s a story for another day.  Had I not been so timid on a very different JROTC bus ride later, maybe I would have had the sister as my next girlfriend but alas.  I planned to instead to flirt with the sister when I gave her a ride home, but that got interrupted by a hapless Korean kid (whom she despised) who missed his ride and needed a ride home (he lived in the same neighborhood as the sister).  Since I was by then a cadet with some responsibility and rank, I reluctantly gave a ride to this kid but it completely killed the mood between me and SB’s sister.  She was furious and disappointed that we did not have time to just ourselves and was still too angry after I dropped the kid off and it was finally just us.  I bid SB’s sister good night and that was that.

 

SB and I did still go to Military Ball together, but we both had a miserable time, since it was just for show and she was beyond tired of my dorkiness.  In later years, I did run into SB in college off and on, as we ended up going to the same university about 2 hours away from Houston.  My sophomore year of college, when I was still in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, I suddenly needed a date for a Corps function, and SB agreed to be my date.  The year before she’d been my Bonfire date, again just for show.  The Corps function was an Honor Society Banquet.  My buddies were impressed by my date, but I waved them off, noting she was my Ex from High School and that we were “just friends” now.  SB and I did have a pleasant evening together, and even chatted amicably afterwards at her place for awhile.  No kisses, or flirting, just a pleasant talk then a formal good bye.

 

We kind of went our separate ways for a number of years.  Ironically, I really have no significant college relationships to report from either my undergrad years or my first time in grad school.  Not for lack of trying but nothing ever really panned out for me.  SB and I did cross paths one last time just after my graduation from TAMU; I remember because I’d just finished up a second round of Country & Western Dancing for my PE credits and somehow I wound up going out C&W dancing in Houston with SB and her sister who had just finished up at the University of Houston by this point.  The sister was polite but distant, and was already in a serious relationship by then.  SB and I wound up being dance partners.  I had really enjoyed my recent class and had in particular had a really good dance partner who was this cute redhead with glasses and a Czech family name, though she was 100% Texan.  Our bodies were very well matched in terms of height and weight and we made for near perfect partners on the dance floor, and genuinely enjoyed pairing up for class.  Once again my timidity sabotaged me, as I didn’t think to take things beyond the dance floor when it might’ve actually worked.

 

Anyway, SB and I were out C&W dancing that night in Houston.  We had an okay time, all in all, but all the while I was dancing, SB went on and on about how she’d won some dancing competition once at TAMU and how good her partner had been, and also made little remarks correcting and criticizing my own techniques as we danced.  Instead of just letting loose and enjoying the evening dancing with me, she had to spend it THIS way.  I felt pretty well humiliated by the end of the night.  SB was really good at this, had been ever since high school, namely making me feel small & stupid.  She spends the evening thoughtlessly belittling me.  But then has the audacity to invite me up to her apartment after I walked her to her door.  I suppose if I had no pride or self esteem I would’ve accepted, but after her outrageous verbal conduct on the dance floor, there was no way I was in any mood for kissing, flirting or whatever else she may have had in mind with that casual invitation.  I politely refused the invitation, made up some excuse, then bowed out and bid her good night.

 

Maybe I could’ve “scored” or “gotten lucky” that night, but the cost, frankly, would’ve been too high.  I wanted no further attachments to this person who seemed to delight in cutting me down.  If SB had just kept her thoughts on my dancing skills to herself and just been pleasant and decent with me, she might’ve actually wooed me.  But as it turned out, she left me feeling cold.  Then that invitation out of the blue–holy mixed signals, Batman.  I never really associated with SB again after that, but the memories still haunt me sometimes.  Still a very strange first relationship with the opposite sex.  She was cute, but her personality kind of ugly.  She was also very modest in bust size, and I kind of prefer substance in that department.  Otherwise her body shape was reasonably good, and I did sometimes fantasize about her, but the reality of her was like a cold shower…just not very pleasant.  The flirtation with the sister back in High School was tainted by the fact that I was starting to become more interested in another girl, and by the fact that I couldn’t tell if my affections for SB’s sister were genuine or just fueled by a desire to piss off SB and get a little “payback” by dating her sister.  The sister had a cuter face but even more of a deficit than her sis in the bustline department, at least back then.  I think the sister also correctly assessed my dorkiness and lost interest in me fairly quickly.

 

Apart from obvious general Aspie awkwardness, until I met my wife, I never did quite find the proper balance…I was always either too timid or in fear of being too aggressive.  Moreover, dating involves a lot of small talk and getting to know one another, never strengths of mine.  I can look back in my memory to various “blown” relationship opportunities that, had my brain been NT wired instead of ASD wired, I could have more deftly capitalized upon.  As it was, I was clumsy, timid, and my timing usually sucked goat balls.  Yet for some reason when it came to my (ex-)wife, everything suddenly clicked and came into sync just right.  I gently slipped past her emotional defenses and won her heart.  It was tough for her, but I was always gentle and loving and supportive.  The early stages of my relationship with my (ex-)wife remain some of my fondest memories and I will treasure them always.  It’s sad things didn’t work out in the long run, but we gave it a good effort and had fun along the way.  I was deliriously in love and that love was finally reciprocated by another.  I hope to have that in my life again someday, but for now the afterglow of that memory sustains me.

 

I think what worked for me with my wife back then was that I threw caution to the wind and just decided to “go for it”, come what may.  I stopped over-thinking it and just acted.  I don’t know why that’s so hard for me to do, but it is.  It was scary, sure, but I’m so glad I did.  It was also the only relationship where I took the lead rather than the woman, at least initially.  SB had invited me to her house, after all.  Few and far between, but a lot of my relationships, such as they were, were initiated by more aggressive women taking an interest in me rather than the other way around.  With my ex-wife, I pursued what I wanted but had been too timid to push for in past relationships.  I was still respectful, and when she wanted to take it slow I was fine with that.  I guess too with my wife I was acting with much more confidence, which in turn was reassuring for her.  Maybe it was being in my thirties and at least marginally more mature on some level, who knows?  My ex-wife can tell you in other ways I’m still pretty childish and sophomoric.  My emotional maturity is uneven and complicated, even at 43.  I still feel as if I’m “only pretending” to be an adult.

 

I know this topic is a well beaten path for me and may be tedious for some readers, but of course I’m ultimately writing as therapy for me.  You dear reader are merely along for the ride.  If you find it tl;dr then maybe you should ask yourself why are you reading an Aspie blog anyway? (and what did you expect, if you know anything about us Aspies *wink*);  Anyway, it helps me to ruminate on these memories, and recall what worked and what didn’t and try to tease out why.  I feel a bit calmer and more at ease, or at least sufficiently distracted to try and chase more “ZZZs”, as it were.

 

On taking a break from social media

     As wonderful as social media can be to connect us to other people with shared interests, other adult ASD people, etc, it can get to feel overwhelming at times and there are legitimate times where one needs to take a step back and away from social media such as Facebook for a time.  My participation in social media like Facebook ebbs and flows.  Often as a result of “oversharing” (a common Aspie trait), I tend to get really self conscious and pull away.  I feel in the pit of my stomach a ball of anxiety and just feel like I’m going to die from acute embarrassment.  I want to hide under a rock and not make contact with anyone. In fact I’m kind of feeling that way now.  In spite of that, I did force myself to attend Houston Oasis this morning to get out and be among real people.  I mostly sat by myself and interacted very little with the other people in the congregation.  I mainly wanted to hear the main talk of the day, which was about a former Mormon who left the church and is now with Oasis.  I also went out to lunch afterward, though I only met one new person and mostly stuck to Oasiens I knew already.  I really just wanted to listen to other people talk than to say very much myself.  It was good to get out.  Now I’m back home, and after I finish this essay I’m going to read the rest of the afternoon then maybe take a nap if the urge strikes.  I have some reading I’d like to get caught up on at any rate.  I do futz around a little on Twitter, but I use it far less often when it’s not NBA regular season time.  I use Twitter mainly as a passive reading medium, only seldom as a communication tool with others, the sole exception being to talk Anime with other interested Anime fans whom I’ve met and corresponded with on Twitter.  I also futz around on Google+, but not very often.  I don’t check my old-school email address all that often, maybe every few days.  I’m much more on top of my Gmail, which I check almost daily.  I have a Tumblr but don’t use it very much, except via my iPhone or iPad.

I had a strangely intense dream this morning about having to change my bedroom around and it was rather upsetting but I was trying to make the best of it.  It felt like the dream went on for hours and hours when in fact in real-world time it was only one hour.  I guess because the shorter sleep period dreams are easier to remember is why they seem so vivid while overnight dreams not always so much, unless one was dreaming right before the alarm goes off for work, etc.  The dream must’ve been purely metaphorical because I was upset about losing pieces of furniture than in reality I haven’t owned for several years, owing to my divorce.  I was also not pleased with the windows and the bed was too short/cramped but evidently could be extended and I was in the midst of puzzling out how when I woke up.

One of the pervasive conditions of having adult Aspergers is that feeling of merely pretending to be a grown adult but feeling like you’re faking it and that one day you’re gonna get exposed for being a fraud of an adult.

I thought about an old girlfriend, who I’ll call YC, and how much I loved her and had a strangely intense biological urge to have kids with her.  We never did, of course, and our relationship was pretty rocky and complicated by the fact she was dating someone else through a large portion of our relationship.  But the thought occurred to me that if our relationship had been more “normal”, i.e. if there had been no third party to complicate matters…if we had had just a normal, straightforward dating relationship, I do remember in those days how strongly I wanted to marry and have kids with YC.  Had we done so, it dawned on me the other day that if that had happened over the span of time of our actual on again, off again relationship, then YC and I would today be the parents of a new teenager (13).  That’s a sobering and terrifying thought.  I barely feel able to manage my own life, much less capable of providing for the welfare of a child under the same roof.  I guess people do the best they can and hope for the best.  And nobody is ever truly “ready”.  I will probably wind up childless and I’m frankly okay with that.  My ex-wife and I considered children but I’m glad we did not go that route.  My girlfriend LS, after my ex-wife, was really nice and I might’ve considered marriage and children with her, but my ambition was still strong to make headway in academic librarianship, and I couldn’t do that if I allowed myself to develop deep emotional attachments that tied me to Houston.  Had I had 20×20 foreknowledge of how things would play out with that next library gig, I might’ve been content to stay with my corporate employer at the time and settle down with LS.  But I didn’t so I didn’t.  I’m grateful for those 6 months with LS, for I was truly happy, and the memories shall stick with me forever, just like the good times with YC and yes, even my ex-wife as well.

Anyway, sometimes this blog space is an oasis of sorts for me away from other internet spaces.  Just me and this text editor and my thoughts.  A space for more long-form contemplation than allowed by Facebook or Twitter.  Anyway, with that thought I’ll draw this disjointed mess of a post to a close.  Best wishes everyone.  Take care of yourselves out there.

An Aspie podcast worth listening to (really!)

While there are a few amateur efforts out there in spaces like Speaker and Blog Talk Radio, I don’t consider either of those to be “mainstream” in terms of podcasting.  If you’re not in iTunes or I can’t find you in my Podcacher software (“Downcast”), then that’s not a “real” podcast in my estimation.

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At long last I found an Asperger-related podcast actually worth listening to.

It’s called simply the AspieCast and it’s really good.  Host Steve is about my age and looking back at his life, like me, and trying to come to terms with his Asperger’s diagnosis and how it has impacted his life through the years, both positively and negatively.  I found myself really relating to a lot of Steve’s personal stories and I look forward to hearing more.  Unfortunately for us Aspies, burnout is a very real thing, and many prominent public Aspies and Autistics whom I follow have needed to take a “break” from blogging, vlogging, etc.  Steve posts his podcast about once a month and I wish him all the best, but I also understand if he too needs to take a break from his show every now and then.  Readers of this blog know we certainly only update when the mood strikes us or we’ve got something especially pressing on our minds or if we’ve gained a flash of insight about life with an ASD that we feel the need to share, etc.

Anyway, Steve’s AspieCast was precisely the show I was dying to find in my immediate post diagnosis period, but it hadn’t been invented yet.  We did kick around the idea of doing our own podcast, but in the end doing this blog proved to be more practical for us.  Anyway, if you are newly diagnosed, I urge you to go download and listen to all of the current epsiodes of the AspieCast.  You won’t regret it.