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Being Atypical

I met a new friend today who blogs as Anonymously Autistic. She writes honestly and openly about the challenges of adapting to the world of conventional interaction. I have had my own struggles in this regard. After listening to Amythest Schaber’s testimony of a life spent learning to love herself, the following experiences came to mind. I don’t know if they will resonate with those that are autistic, but I offer them in that hope.

When I went through the darkest part of my life, I went through six jobs in eight years. Job six was a bail-out from my scientific peers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It required me to move away from my sons, which was difficult for me.

The interview was not attended by one of the program principals, who was away on travel. He actually drove down Interstate Five to my house (rather than flying) to converse with me. He said something unusual at the time – he said that I have “presence,” comparing me to the great singers that he had worked with as a member of the San Francisco choir. It was the first time anyone had been that direct with me.

The team I had joined worked with a community of information security specialists in the federal government. When the director brought her team out for a program review, we gathered at a winery so that they could meet me (I had not completed my security clearance, and so was not part of the review). When we had been introduced, we collected around the table and my friend, noticing the reactions of the team, suggested “One of the characteristics of autistic people is that they have trouble with personal boundaries.”

Both characterizations surprised the hell out of me. I have since recalled the young lady in college that, after our introduction, held on to my hand and laughed, “You are incredibly dense.” When I protested, she clarified, “No, not stupid, just – DENSE.” In fact, I didn’t encounter somebody that could roil my waters until after I was forty.

Amythest talks about dancing with her hands, and I think that I know what she is talking about. When I was in junior high school, at the dances I would enter into a trance-like state, dancing with an energy that the other students found hilarious if not disturbing. I have since learned to manage that focus. The way that I characterize it, to those that ask me how I dance as well as I do, is that my Higher Self is looking down on me. I actually don’t know what the heck I am doing, and could not possibly reproduce it later. But afterwards people go out of their way to tell me that I am a great dancer.

The point that I am working towards is that when I became aware of how much spiritual energy I was managing (that “density” mentioned by the coed), I spent a couple of years trying to organize it. I began to have burning pains in my sides (often reported by those with shingles) and burning at the base of my skull. When I focused on those side-effects, I realized that I was trying to channel spiritual energy through physical constructs that were simply incapable of handling the load. It was like trying to run 30 Amps of current through a wire rated for 20 Amps. In that instant, I simply shifted the flow out of my brain, and began to work directly with the spiritual structures that generated it.

Amethyst talks about the enormous depth of the love that she feels. My experience causes me to wonder if she isn’t an angel trying to squeeze herself into a representation that people can relate to. Part of that includes forcing her to engage them in the normal way. If she’s in any way like me, however, that’s just not going to work. There’s too much energy in her soul, and it overwhelms her physical apparatus. She needs to find things like ecosystems and cultural moires to channel it into.

3 thoughts on “Being Atypical

  1. Interesting, Brian. Many people who are either very smart or very empathetic or however that difference manifests itself, have some challenges communicating and interacting with the rest of the world. I chat with a couple people who have autism because I am on the other extreme end of the spectrum, so we have a lot to teach each other, and a terrible problem trying to communicate. Love, no surprise there, really does transcend these issues and make such things possible.

    • The other extreme end is more like hyperlexic, hypervigiliant, hyper empathetic and overly intuitive. Where autistic people often have difficulty picking up on nuances and unspoken conversation in social interactions, there are others who can’t shut them off.

      I relate very well to people with downs syndrome because they tend to communicate emotionally. Those with autism are often highly intelligent, but they have a much harder time connecting emotionally.

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