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Saturday, May 28, 2016

100 500's

Tomorrow is a momentous occasion for sports in America as America’s race, The Indianapolis 500, The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, will run its 100th edition. One hundred times fans have flocked from around the world to see cars racing at the fastest speeds of the era, one hundred times fans of all ages have made the pilgrimage to the intersection of 16th and Georgetown, and it’ll be the one hundredth time one driver will obtain racing immortality while the rest of the field, regardless of a 2nd or 33rd place finish, will say, “maybe next year.”

Indy, however, is more than just a race for many and for myself this event will mark my 20th straight. Each year the event means more to me, and I know I say that every year, but as Sunday dawns and the traditional drive to the track begins along with what could be a record in the range of 350,000-400,000 other spectators, and the traditional walk to the track commence, and the prerace ceremonies begin I will find myself fighting back emotions. This year is extra special because I got to play a very small role for five hours on the fourth day of practice helping out with the flags, but that is the essence of Indy.

For one person on Sunday it will be their 90th Indy 500! For others it will be their first and for anyone that goes through the gates on race day for the first time, regardless of age, it’s obvious that this isn’t just another event, but rather a stage that one can dream. For the young fans that are getting their first taste of the Indy 500, and the traditions that go along with it, they may dream about being a driver someday in the race, and maybe even being one of the chosen few that comes off of turn four on the final lap seeing the twin checkereds in the air knowing that immortality is about to be achieved and all the sacrifice and hard work is about to pay off and the celebration will include the sweetest swig of milk one could ever experience.

For another fan Sunday will be a remembrance of races past, and of family members that are no longer here. Indy is based on traditions and many families have many different traditions. For those experiencing it the first time someone, most likely, is bringing them to it and I know I will never forget my first Indy experiences in 1987 as I waved a tiny little checkered flag as the cars zipped past imagining that I had the power to communicate with the drivers with my little souvenir flag. It was my dad that introduced me to the hallowed grounds of IMS and in 1989 I saw my first 500. Slowly, and the tradition of the annual pilgrimage began in 1997, the rituals were set and each year we attend. I’m lucky as I still have my dad to attend with me, but for others their first trip through the turnstiles may have been in the 40’s, or 50’s, and the one that introduced them to the heritage and spectacle that is the Indianapolis 500 is no longer with them, but come Sunday, in a way, they will most certainly be with them in spirit.

You see, and for those that don’t know this phrase often seems trite and a stretch, but the Indy 500 is more than a race. Is the race the main draw? Yes. Is it the reason why people attend? Yes, but it’s the history that comes with it and the history that those in the stand associate with the event that makes it transcend the “just another sporting event” tag.

Sunday will see the 100th running and when the first 500 was ran in 1911 I doubt the organizers could envision what it has become today as fans from around the world will descend upon the grounds each with his or her little traditions. Friends that see each other just once a year may meat up at the pagoda, or a family may have a spot they go to before the race to remember the one that introduced them to the race, and for others, well, for others by the end of the day they may have partied so hard they may not actually remember the day, but whomever they are I’d say a majority are there for reasons that transcend the race itself. Again, this is to take nothing away from the race as the winner on Sunday will put their name down in the history books on what is shaping up to be a stacked field, but it’s because of the race that the traditions have been set. It’s because of the race that those friends will meet up, or a son or daughter will shed a tear during the playing Taps, or Back Home Again in Indiana, and it’s because of the race that chills will be sent down the spines of all those in attendance as the electricity in the air comes to a crescendo on the saying of, “Lady, and gentleman, start your engines!” It’s because of this race dreams can be had, dreams can be realized, and I’ll experience my 20th straight story, but I’m just one amongst hundreds of thousands. You can watch the race on television but until you experience the traditions, the tears, the pageantry, and the site of 33 cars starting three wide and coming by in excess of 220 miles per hour the true spectacle can’t be experienced. Indy is more, and in 20 more years my story will be much different than it is now, but with each race the passage of time is marked and it brings to view to cherish each lap, each moment, because there’s no telling when the race can’t be celebrated with the person that introduced you to, what I consider to be, the greatest place on Earth. Yes, Indy is more and perhaps not everyone will share in my perspective of the event the way I do, but if you do I can guarantee you’ve got a tear in your eye just like I do right now writing this and this, exactly, is why Indy has a soul and why a record crowd will gather tomorrow to witness the tradition, the emotion, and then get lost in the thrill of watching the world’s greatest motor race.

Here’s to another 100 runnings of the Indy 500 and to all the stories that have been told, will be experienced for the first time, and to those that will experience their first 500 on the 101st running!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Trouble With Understanding Asperger's

My motto for the past six years has been “understanding is the foundation for hope.” Is this true? Absolutely, but as I’ve thought about last week’s post on the contradictory nature of Asperger’s and I thought yesterday’s post of Let it… NO! I’ve been beginning to realize the real value in concepts to describe the mechanics of Asperger’s.

If one were to look at the pure medical side and the explanation one would not be given the true form of understanding that will lead to, well, understanding. It’s one thing to say that, “people with Asperger’s have difficulty in social interactions.” If left alone to that statement the true challenges that a person with Asperger’s may live with aren’t stated. It’s in the left out contradictions that need to be stated because a person on the spectrum may have challenges but want to socialize yet knowing that they will be uncomfortable in doing so. Was that a confusing sentence? Try living with it! And that right there is the focal point on the need for understanding.

As I continue looking at the medical website it said that those on the autism spectrum may have excellent auditory abilities. Okay, yes, this may be true in some but there’s no ability to understand what this means without further stating that, for some, there is no ability to turn it off. Also, while the ability to hear an airplane many seconds before anyone else hears it in the air may exist also too is the potential processing delay in hearing words when spoken to. Can you see the potential disconnect here on why a person not affiliated with the autism spectrum would be confused? On one hand here’s a person that has an amazing sense of hearing yet at the same time it may seem as if they aren’t able to understand the words when spoken to because of processing delay. Of course, if processing delay isn’t understood the ability to adapt, empathize, and allow the individual time to process won’t be there.

Understanding, as important as it is, is very difficult in being in a two way street. Just how I try and describe the mechanics on why I do and why I feel the things I do I have zero ability to understand where others come from. Before I started writing I couldn’t express things because I thought everyone thought exactly the same way I did and it was inconceivable that others would have different thought processes or different ways in doing things. This, right here, furthers the need for my words, and the words of other speakers and writers in this field, to get out there to as many people as possible.

I feel we are on the right track, but it isn’t going to be as easy as I first made it out to be. When I started out on this wonderful journey as an Autism Ambassador for Easter Seals Midwest six years ago I thought understanding would just come naturally, but just how I can’t fathom how others aren’t the same as myself those not on the spectrum will have the same difficulty in attempting to understand a person on the autism spectrum. For someone that understand idioms and slang it is probably incomprehensible that a person could misconstrue the phrase, “it’s time to hit the road” but for the person on the autism spectrum they may be sorely confused as to why one would want to break their hand hitting the road. Same goes for sensory issues, and this is probably the most difficult to understand because, to a person that doesn’t have it, how could they possible conceive that sound, even low level sounds, could create pain? Discomfort, maybe, but pain? “Come on, get serious!” is a response many parents have probably heard when trying to describe it, but it’s there and it’s a challenge and so too is the path to understanding.

We can do this. I was a bit of a dreamer when I began and I may have even become lackadaisical in my writings because to me understanding is easy, but of course this is because I live it. When explaining things now I need to word it and come up with concepts that put in a visible image in a person’s brain to understand it. Concepts are how I began and I need to go back to creating these because understanding is the foundation for hope and we can have awareness all day and all night long. In fact, we do, with things like medical websites, but with just saying that there may be trouble with social interactions, or one might have a heightened sense of awareness, or one may perseverate on a topic and possibly excel, well, with all that we may either sound like a description of a leading character on a television show, a super hero, or just an average everyday person when lost in this all is the true struggles, the true inner battles of wanting something and yet knowing that we’d be uncomfortable, and through this all the art of understanding won’t be painted.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Let It... NO!

Let it… No? Those aren’t the words to a familiar song, but as the familiar song goes the purpose is to let it go but that’s a concept foreign to me and I was having an issue a couple nights ago and my dad told me to just, “let it go” but it was then I realized that, quite simply, I couldn’t.

This is a story I hear frequently; an event that stays days, weeks, or even years after the fact and for me the stories I hear are just a reminder of my inability to let things go. A good example, and this didn’t happen to me, was there was a student that hit a student with Asperger’s in school and the student with Asperger’s complained to the teacher. This was investigated at the story was true, but the timeline of the incident was that the event occurred years previous to when the student said it. The student informed each teacher throughout the years and yes, it was fact but the ability to let it go and move on was not.

Why is this? Why is there this inability to move on form something? First, the concept of time is different for myself and others on the spectrum, in that everything is now. Events of grade school are just as fresh in my mind now as they were then. Secondly is anxiety. In the previous paragraph the student that talked about being hit, to him, was always at risk because if it happened once it will certainly happen again because it feels as if it just did.

In my life this has been one of the most constant echoing themes which has brought me down the most and it doesn’t take much. In a conversation one single word can get me caught up on it and the ability to move past it isn’t there. It festers and then it grows in size and eventually it becomes so big it begins feeding off its own size and what to most would be an irrelevant event has become this gigantic monstrosity that has essentially paralyzed my ability to focus.

Going back last week to my post regarding the contradictions of Asperger’s is important because I know I should just be able to move on, but I can’t. My body tells me otherwise and maybe this is all rooted in fear. Of course, dwelling on something in the past doesn’t help a thing and I know this and yet when I get hung up on something be it something I did, or something someone else said, I can’t simply let it go. It stays, lingers, and much like the hideous aroma of rotten milk it dampens spirits.

This is something that you’ll either understand or you won’t. If you live with it you’re thinking, “Yes, someone gets it!” and if you haven’t lived with this then you’re probably perplexed and this is understandable because I can’t see living with the ability to let things go. I talk about the fact that “understanding is the foundation for hope” but the art of understanding is becoming more complex and I hope to, in tomorrow’s post, expand upon why I feel the dimensions of understanding are more complex than I used to realize.

Monday, May 23, 2016

What The Best Day Was Really Like

So last Friday I wrote a humble blog on the road it took to get to Indy and all the factors and people that helped along the way. The thing is, though, that I got many messages saying, “Aaron, come on, tell us what it was really like as the story is such an inspiration.” So here goes, what the day really was like and what it meant.

I did a national speaking tour in 2012 and on the way to New York City my friend and codriver on the journey, Rob, stopped at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and did the grounds tour. On that tour the tour bus will stop at the famous yard of bricks and everyone gets out and it’s a high quality photo op. On this trip I didn’t look down at the yard of bricks but rather up at the stand and I told Rob, “Someday. Rob, someday I’m going to be in that stand!” Everyone has dream, and that dream was lofty, but when a dream comes true, well, that’s exactly what happened on Thursday.

The previous two days I had been working the Purdue/USAC EVGP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and as mentioned in Friday’s blog, I was asked if I had ever been in the stand while the track was hot. The answer was no and I was told there may be a chance the following day and I should await a text message. The message never came and going to sleep last Wednesday was not easy because I had been told I may be allowed to stand in what I consider to be the most sacred of flagging offices in all the world.

I awoke early and checked my phone… Nothing. “He’s extremely busy” I told myself and I waited, but still no message came. Practice started at noon at it was now 11 so I decided to go to Noble Roman’s on 10th St which is near the track to position myself to either make the long drive back to Saint Louis or make the short and glorious drive to the corners of 16th and Georgetown and as much as I love the breadsticks there each passing minute raised and frayed my nerves.

What to do? I didn’t want to pester this track official as that’s the last thing I wanted, but still he said he’d get back to me so for once in my life I went out on a limb and I sent a text indicating I didn’t want to pester but I was just so excited. As busy as he was he got back with me within 30 seconds and I was out the door of that Noble Roman’s and started the most fantastic drive to the track. I was on the road I essentially grew up on and I thought back to 25 years ago growing up and never could I have imagined that the dream I had of being in the flag stand during the month of May was about to come true!

I reported to the credential office and it was all taken care of and I was given a silver badge and then a lady came in and shouted my name and if I was in the room. I was, I said, “hello” and the next 15 minutes was a blur as we walked through some offices, got on a golf cart, and made our way into the infield with the sound of Indycars doing 225mph on the track as the soundtrack to this adventure.

She handed me over to the track official as he finished an interview and then it was another blur as I was introduced to various people, so many that I don’t fully recall, but I got a quick tour of the impressive race control room and then it was time! It was a walk I had envisioned when I first waived a flag at the track in the infield for practice when my dad took me in 1988. It was a walk I envisioned the first time I assisted Frankie in 1995 at the SLKA, and when I picked up SKUSA and USAC it was a walk that, albeit seemed like a mirage and an unobtainable accomplishment, the unobtainable was now being experienced as we walked from the pagoda down the tunnel and towards that most sacred of places; the flagstand of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On the walk the conversation was very much relaxed all things considered. We talked about dreams, autism, and how excited I was. It was also an honor, and I mean that in the truest of words, that this man would take so much time out of his day to make this happen for me.

Out of the tunnel and now we were approaching the stand. He asked me if I wanted to go first and I said, “After you” as I was now soaking it in. This was it! The moment I waited for my entire life and the 21 years of having flags in hand at tracks around the country was now about to equate into an experience few have ever had. First though, I had to negotiate the tricky ladder which if you have a fear of heights you’d hate this ladder and if you don’t have a fear of heights you’ll develop one quickly.

I made my way up and as I did a yellow for a track inspection was called which allowed everyone in the stand to get introduced to me and a couple group photos were taken. Was I nervous in all this? Ha! The photo with the Sunoco checkered was about the trickiest photo I’ve ever taken. I know how to hold a flag for a photo, well, I typically do but I just couldn’t find the corner to display it right. Andrew, the other starter for the day, assisted me and I felt so bad that I couldn’t grip a corner of a flag rightly, but the excitement pulsing through my body made that task rather difficult. Oh, and clipping on the wired radio to my belt… That too was something that had to have those in the stand thinking, “Who is this and why is he here?”

The track was about to back to green and Andrew handed me the green and immediately the nerves went away. When time was right I gave a fierce wave so all in the pits could see even though they have radio communications and as the cars that went on track came around I gave a classy green. I didn’t go all out because that would be out of place for practice, but there was still style to it even though yeah, I wanted to give it my all as if it were the final restart for the Indy 500, but I can contain myself. The style was still good enough to catch the attention of race control which made mention of it after they identified that there was a guest in the stand.

After that I was all business and I barely moved during green flag conditions as I watched each car that went by eyeing for any possible debris. During yellow periods I’d converse and the flag stand observer in the tower, middle in the group photo, actually remembered me from 1996! That also eased the nerves but again, each time the track was under green conditions I stood there in my spot at attention as if I belonged because… I did.

Time flew by. Race control radioed, “three hours remain” and the next thing I know, “one hour remains.” No! What’s happening?! Time flew and I have been asked if I got to “soak it in” which I didn’t because it was so natural being up there. In all the videos that are out there I look as if I’ve been in that stand my whole life which in my imagination I have been, but as 6:00 came and the call for checkered came along with it the three cars on track came off of four and I gave another classy display of the flag and as they passed I froze with the flag and the wind made it look even better as the checkered danced in the wind. Freezing is, if starters have a signature move, is mine but I froze for another reason because that moment in time I wanted to live in forever. It’s been a rough two months for me and I never needed something more than this chance to live out a dream and as several seconds passed I turned towards the other two and started rolling up the checkered. The dream day, the day I waited for my entire life and was sure I’d never get to experience, was now over which is almost as bad as never thinking you’d get to do it in the first place.

The walk back to my car was… It was odd. On one hand I walked with confidence as I had been a very small part of the month of May at Indy. I called my dad to tell him just how awesome it was but then I got a call from the track official that made this all happen. I quickly switched over and he wanted to see me before I left and thankfully I was parked right by his office.

He came out of the office and I was beaming ear to ear with a smile and when he asked me, “How was it?” the answer was obvious and I said, “Thank you for the best day of my life!” There was no exaggeration or embellishment in that and I’ve never been more thankful to another person than I was right then and there. How often does one get to live out a dream? I did and I can try and describe what it is like in having Indycars zoom past at 225+mph, or the way a pack of cars and the air can shake the stand, or what it is like seeing yourself on the gigantic video screens, or what it is like in working so hard for so long and having it pay off, but no matter what as great of a writer as I am I’d never give it justice. Only one person will ever truly know the words or the lack thereof because it was in my smile, a smile decades in the making.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Taking the Stand at Indy and The True Story Behind It

               There I was, checkered flag in hand as 6:00 came and three cars doing in excess of 220mph were headed my direction off of turn four as I stood high atop the famous yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The cars approached, I did some fancy stuff with the checkered, and the cars went passed and that was it, the greatest day of my life was over. It’s odd to start a story at the end but for this story to have the merit it deserves we must start at the end because to the outside observer the end product would be the only thing seen because here I was, a starter for practice for the largest race in the world much less the 100th running of it. This, really, is the stuff dreams are made of and I could easily make this blog about myself in the hard work I’ve done, or the years of dedication, or my style, part that would be a shame on the true meaning of this story because to understand this story we have to look at it going from the end to the beginning.

                The day prior I had been working an event put on by Purdue and USAC in a parking lot in the infield that features electric karts. I noticed a track official whom I had met previously in 2012 when I filmed a video blog in the flagstand the day prior to that year’s Indy 500 and then the next year that event led me to be an honorary starter for a day of practice. He saw me and asked me how I was doing and how my books were going and my presentations. It was a great feeling to be remembered and he then asked, “Have you ever been in the stand while the track was hot?” In 21 years of flagging I’ve never once been atop a stand when Indycars were on the track so I nervously said, “no” in hopes that maybe, just maybe this conversation would head towards where I could only dream. Again though, that day was made possible by the event which encouraged me to do a video blog in the first place because it wasn’t simply a random, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I did a video blog from the flagstand at IMS?” Nope, it wasn’t that so we’ll have to continue going backwards to get to the answer.

                Prior to the video blog from 2008 to the present I’ve been the chief starter for SKUSA and that led me to become a starter for USAC which has me traveling all over the country working races. The start with SKUSA was amazing because the owner and CEO saw me at a regional race and turned to the promoter and asked, “What the heck is that?” pointing in my direction as I was doing my normal thing with flags. I then was surprised at the awards ceremony when he called me out and said I was the new starter for the SKUSA Supernats which is the world’s largest karting event and it was from doing that which allowed me to get involved with USAC. Now I mentioned my usual flagging thing which for that we have to go back even further to 1995.

                I was 12 and I started racing gokarts at the Saint Louis Karting Association. The club had a flagman and his age was reaching 80 and his ability to discern colors was fading and when the color of the flags means everything it became a hazard so I volunteered to hand him the right flags when I wasn’t racing. I was amazed he and the club allowed a 12 year old such a responsibility but it happened and with his retirement at the end of my first season I became the club’s chief starter at the age of 13, but why was I so eager to help Frankie, the club flagman? For that we get to the beginning of this story.

                It was 1990 and I lived in Indianapolis just about two miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I was enthralled with all things motorsports, specifically though the chief starters and especially Duane Sweeney whom was the chief started of the Indy 500. While many childhood heroes of the time had the last name of Unser, Foyt, Andretti, or Mears mine was Sweeney. My dad was a pastor of a church and a member of the church worked at USAC, which at the time was the sanctioning body of the race, and he asked her if she could get me an autographed picture. Duane did one better by giving me a picture AND HIS CHECKERED FLAG he was going to use in 1990. Needless to say, as a seven year old, I was hooked and my love of flags grew and grew and grew some more.

                What’s the relevancy in all this? Why did I start with what could be a crowning moment in my life and stating that, if that were the only part of the story, then the story would be lost? While it may have been myself and myself alone with flags in hand it wasn’t myself alone that got me there and this is the soul of this story. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 20 and back in 2003 the information on the internet did not paint a pretty picture for my future. The only thing that kept me going in life were the 11 club races I’d flag a year. I stayed that way for several years but then I got that regional series that Tom, the SKUSA CEO, would see me at and things started turning around.

                My story, along with other success stories of those on the autism spectrum are filled with these events and if you just look at the finished product you are missing the true value of the story. It wasn’t that I simply flagged some in practice today but it’s all the people that helped out along the way. Much like how next week the winner of the 100th Indy 500 didn’t get to victory lane and didn’t get to drink the sweetest tasting milk in all the world all by himself. It took a team and a lifelong commitment from friends and family. So too, in a way, is the stories of those that are on the autism spectrum and have excelled.

                It takes a team to succeed and as I climbed down from the flag stand it hit me like a sucker punch to the gut on just how rare of an achievement it was to do what I had just done. Few will ever have the view I had and as I shook the hands of all that were with me on that day I envisioned shaking every person’s hand that gave me a chance, or gave me support along the way. Every story I have in my development would not be possible if not for the event that preceded it. Some of these were major events from family members, or those that got me involved with Easter Seals Midwest, and others were seemingly minor. I thought about all the teachers I had that did amazing things, and the few friends I had that were a support, and without them this experience wouldn’t have happened. I then thought about the teachers of today, and parents of today, in that seemingly irrelevant events may have such wonderful ramifications down the road, but most of all I thought about Duane.                

                When I got into my car my emotions finally hit and I’m not afraid to admit I cried. I fought back tears the first time I displayed the green at Indy, but many drivers will admit that they teared up too their first time to Indy as a driver. But yes, I thought about Duane and I made a statement to the observer in the flagstand with me that worked with Duane for many years and I said, “You know, I’d give about anything to be able to tell Duane what that flag he gave me meant because without that flag what you see today and my story simply wouldn’t exist.”

                History will remember the winner of the 100th and yesterday will simply be a small footnote at the end of this year’s race. Some will remember the driver that was the fastest, most won’t. Some will remember the perfect weather, but for this writer it will be a day that lives forever but I didn’t get there alone. It took a team and for every educator, parent, or simply a member of society it’s amazing what even the smallest of gestures can bring and that’s why yesterday wasn’t about me, but rather every person that fought for me, cried for me, gave me a chance, and spoke for me when I couldn’t that allowed me to stand atop the yard of bricks and experience racing at the grandest stage and have an experience I will never forget. To all that were a part of this story I will never find the words that will give justice to how much it all meant, but most of all I wish I could simply tell Duane the simplest yet most sincere, “thank you.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Places we Visit

                It’s easy for routines and rituals to get set in stone quickly and one of the ones that I’ve developed the past three years or so is stopping at this bagel place near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’m working my second Purdue/USAC EvGP this year and last year, each early morning, I’d stop by for a bagel. It was neat as there were always various other race staff inside preparing for their day on the big track as Indy 500 practice is going on while the Ev race is in a parking lot on the north side of the track. Anyway, I’d sit alone but it was fun to imagine that maybe someday I’d be sitting with these other people; whether they were mechanics or even the doctors I’d see in there. I was always silent and invisible but being in that place was always relaxing and part of my routine. That was, until this morning.

                I haven’t been in Indy for eight months and as I got off I-465 onto Crawfordsville Road and neared the bagel place the sign had been taken down and the section of the building was now hollow and the place I had stopped at each morning for every event I work at IMS was gone. To most this would be a minor inconvenience but to myself, well, it was emotional. Gone was the routine, gone were hearing the old timers talk shop, and gone was the knowledge that the place would remain the same. Change is difficult and when there’s a change like this it does evoke an emotional response.

                Improvising quickly had to be done to decide what to do for breakfast but my day had already been ruined. Sure, I was invisible in that place and I would go there six times a year, but it was a part of the routine as were the people. Isn’t this unique, especially compared to yesterday’s blog? I mean, here I am afraid of interaction and yet a physical place of business can have an emotional response. When I hear misguided experts say, “People with Asperger’s have no emotions” I just shake my head and want to scream, “Ha! If you only knew!” because I had a highly emotional response to a place.

                Why a place? Why would this create such a reaction? First off it’s a reminder of change and it creates fear. Think about your life and the places you’ve been and maybe there’s been a time that you returned to a town wanting to revisit a great diner, or store, only to find that it no longer exists. Now add on top of that fact that the place had an emotional response. I’m sure everyone, autism spectrum or not, has had that place that meant something to them that is no longer there. Now, add the autism spectrum in that it isn’t that we have no emotions it’s just that they aren’t experienced or shared in the traditional sense and that’s when issues arise. Traditional sense? Yes. This means that the place to most might have been a bagel shop but whilst in there I felt a connection to those in there. It was warm, welcoming, and the average age was high but I always had thoughts that when I’m that age I too would be in there talking about races of old and the good ole days and, well, with the closure of the store it’s more than a closure but rather a deletion of those thoughts and images.

                My memory words differently and is spurred on by various things but places is one of them and if a place gets deleted it’s much like deleting the memory. Having this system is overwhelming at times, to be honest, as so many places mean so much but at the same time when something gets deleted it’s difficult to deal with because I then fear the next event that will be experienced like this.

                The day dragged on as the weather didn’t play nice and not a single lap was turned today and once the event was called for the day I drove towards Noble Romans on 10th St and this drive was one full of angst. Would this place also be closed? I grew up just a mile from that place and their breadsticks are divine, but would it still be there? After experiencing one loss today I was fearing another, but thankfully the lights were on and it was business as normal.

                Once inside I began to think heavily on this topic and how on one hand it is what keeps memories intact and on the other it’s downright overwhelming. Intact? I’ve called this the “associative memory system” and having as good of a memory as I do it makes it where there needs to be aids to assist in keeping it all in line or it’s as if everything, every single memory I have, happened all at once. My memories would be almost indistinguishable from each other if not for this associative system. However, it’s overwhelming because anything and everything can be related to something else and when change occurs it is very much like deleting the files that went along with it. This is why change is bad, even if the change is for the better. It’s hard to adjust, it’s hard to move on, and it’s extremely difficult to be in constant fear of losing a part of one’s self due to things like this.

                I now wonder about those people I’d see in there each time I was in. Did they migrate somewhere else? Do they still have the same conversations? It’s an odd feeling to feel a connection to a place, but I do and I know I am in fear of the next time I go somewhere that means a lot to me only to find that it, and the memories experienced there, no longer exist.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Contradictory Nature of Asperger's

Racing season is here! However, as excited as I am, today’s blog is going to use the most traditional of all things in motorsport, the checkered flag, as a concept to describe Asperger’s. The thing about the checkered flag is that it’s so contradictory. In the top corner is one color and if you go just far enough you’ll reach another, but then keep going and you’ll be back to where you started and so on and so forth. What does this mean? My experience in having Asperger’s is one of stark contrasts and it gets tiring. Here’s what I mean…
I want to be part of the social world but the social word tires me.
I want to be part of a team but I often can't see the concept of teamwork.
I have extremely good sense, especially when it comes to hearing, but I often wish I could turn it off.
I want to be alone but being alone is extremely isolating.
I need to be perfect in things that I do but there is no satisfaction at achieving perfection.
I can give some incredibly witty remarks but often miss out on when someone is being witty.
I want to make sense of the world but often the more I know about things the scarier the world is.
Being in my Kansas is awesome but I often wonder what life is like out there.
I yearn to be normal but normal seems so boring.
I can do some things great and many things not so great.
Hard things come easy and what is easy to most comes at a high degree of difficult to myself.
I want to care about others but allowing myself to feel is overwhelming.
I want to tell others what they mean to me but expressions of any kind are paralyzing.

Do you get the idea by now? It's a constant struggle to be wanting both sides of the coin; to want something but to know if I had it the results would be just as difficult as living without it. This is why I stand by the title of this post in that living with Asperger's, at least for me, is living a life full of contradictions.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Curtain Concept

                There’s a hard thing for those not on the spectrum to understand and actually it’s hard for myself to understand it as well. This topic came up at a presentation yesterday when a person asked a question about the ease of certain things and the difficulties of others. To answer this I used The Aspie Traveler series as an example as I can go to an island few have heard of in the Indian Ocean without fear and yet calling a coworker, or perhaps going into a 7-11 here in my hometown is fear provoking. What does all of this mean? Most of you will see me on stage but what you can’t see is what’s going on behind the curtain.

                First, things aren’t easy. Have they gotten better from where I was a decade ago? Yes, but I’ve also gotten rather apt at putting up a big curtain so as to not allow others to know of the difficulties I go through. Maybe I should be more open about it. Maybe I should be more forthcoming in what would help me, but then again speaking about what I need and my struggles hasn’t been my strong suit. What does hiding such things do? Quite simply it makes things worse and the struggles grow and grow.

                Here’s the thing; it’s difficult living with such a duality in that some things come all too naturally and are easy. Public speaking is an example and on the flip side simple socializing is extremely difficult. Can you see why this would be frustrating to the point of being downright exhausting? And, not only is it difficult in my knowledge of it but to have those around me be confused as to why certain things are easier than it is for others which then creates the mentality that all things come easy.

                I stay silent in this struggle because it’s impossible to proceed. I have my Kansas, and I have my stage, but behind the scenes a war is raged internally. The things that are difficult for me, and some of these things are so simple it’s almost laughable considering the things with such a high degree of difficulty I do with ease, but anyway the things that are difficult bring me down and create such a self-loathing aura when these things pop up and if you add the fact that I have a hard if not impossible time accepting that I do something good then it’s easy to focus on the what isn’t instead of the what is.

                Maybe this concept of the events that go on behind the curtain applies to everyone because, in actuality, does anyone show their complete hand? Does anyone let in on what is actually going on, or how one truly feels? Maybe not, but it’s got to be confusing for parents and teachers of those that are on the autism spectrum when some things come so easily and yet there is the mystifying mystery of why seemingly simple tasks create friction or behaviors. It’s got to be a mystery as to why a person can excel and do the most amazing of things and yet struggles with things their peers take for granted. It may be a mystery to others but the emotions of frustration and sadness that goes on hidden behind the scenes is mammoth. I know this, I’ve lived this, and I wish I could just let go and accept what I can do and not focus on what is difficult.