Neurotypical For A Day

Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s most or all of us on the autism spectrum, but do you ever wonder what it’s like to be neurotypical? If you could choose to experience life as a neurotypical for one day (with the guarantee you could revert to your previous state in 24 hours’ time), would you take that opportunity?

By extension, would you continue to exist as neurotypical if you found it easier/more palatable to do so? Or would you choose to revert to your previous autism-afflicted state despite the difficulties that come with that?

While I’m still on the fence if I would accept a cure should one become available (note: I don’t think one will now nor ever), it would be interesting just to see what it’s like to be “normal” as it were. To be able to flow with the way the world is designed. To be the one catered to instead of ostracized.

I can’t be the only one who wonders.

My Strange Attachment (Pun Fully Intended)

I do have attachments to some of my personal belongings. I know, weird. I’m not what I’d call materialistic but some stuff is kind of sentimental to me, but none of those things have the bond I have with this guy.

Everyone, meet my longtime friend Kirby:

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Yes, my strange attachment is to my vacuum cleaner – a 1995 model year Kirby G4. My great-grandmother bought him new back in the day. I remember like yesterday the in-home demonstration the gentleman did using our old vacuum cleaner and then this beast showing how much off-the-shelf vacuum cleaners leave behind. It was very impressive. I remember being absolutely fascinated with it as a kid, even to the point I did the vacuuming around the house because I was just so enamored with Kirby. Even my parents found it weird how fascinated I was with a goddamned vacuum cleaner – but of course now we know why I had such an interest.

When my great-grandmother passed away, the vacuum kind of became mine. Mom and dad got other vacuums along the way (mostly bagless because they didn’t want to deal with changing bags), but when I vacuumed I always insisted on using Kirby. The others just weren’t the same, nor do they have anywhere close to as much suction. A Kirby will out-suck just about anything else out there.

When I moved out for college and grad school, I took Kirby with me as he wasn’t getting used by my parents at all by that point. I needed a vacuum cleaner for my place anyway, and if they let me have Kirby that was just icing on the cake. It cost me nothing to take and I wouldn’t have any other vacuum if given my choice.

He came back with me and into storage after grad school when I was living with mom and dad again. I took him with me to Dallas, where he got used in my apartment there, but then went back into storage again after returning to Abilene once again, where he would remain for a year and three quarters, until Laina and I went by the locker this past Sunday on our Abilene visit and recovered him to bring back with me to San Antonio.

Last night I fitted a new bag and fired him up for the first time since February of 2018. Like long-lost friends, we picked right back up where we left off. It was like yesterday. He sprung back to life the second I plugged him in and he’s running as great as ever, save for needing a new self-propelled transmission.

So here we are in November 2019, 24 years and change after it became part of my life. It’s been with me through ups and downs, and we grieved the passing of my beloved great-grandmother together, but he’s still never missed a beat and is reliable as ever.

Sure, I’ve replaced many drive belts along the way, along with a few brush rolls and even a fan impeller, always opting to do the work myself instead of paying for labor (the same will be true when I am in a spot to replace the transmission). Me being how I am (autistic) I’ve always loved to tinker with stuff (even before I knew why), and Kirby was no exception. To me it just feels more personal when I do it myself. Now there will come a point I can’t and I have to send it back to the manufacturer for a full rebuild, but that’s years and probably even decades in the future as these things are built to last.

Anyway, funny story about the fan impeller – I was vacuuming out my car and sucked a huge rock into the vacuum, and almost immediately heard a loud “crunch” and a bunch of pinging. I immediately shut the vacuum off and took the hose off to reveal that the impeller had shattered into about 4 pieces. Of course I wasn’t going to pay someone to replace it, so I just went to the parts store to get a new impeller and put in the sweat equity myself.

Little did I know the G4 was the last model that featured a metal fan impeller – the G5 on up have kevlar impellers which I imagine were developed for that reason. Needless to say Kirby is now retrofitted with the kevlar impeller and we have not had a repeat and I’ve sucked a lot of sizable shit up into him since.

Alas, that’s the story of my strange attachment, 24 years in the making. I almost feel like Rob McGroarty talking about my beloved Kirby vacuum (and kudos to whoever gets the reference), but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Kirby and I do share a special bond that just gets sweeter as time goes on, and you’re free to judge or ridicule if you wish because I know it’s real to me.

Month 1 in the Books (Almost)

So I’m almost all the way through my first month in San Antonio. I’ve settled into my new place (which is very nice, I might add – small and cozy but nice enough for one person) and gotten into somewhat of a routine that feels right; still making some adjustments but almost settled nonetheless. I should be over the moon, right?

Eh, not really. After the “newness” has worn off I’ve returned to what I will call a baseline. Don’t get me wrong, the baseline I’ve returned to is a bit higher than what it was in Abilene. Overall it has been a good change, an “upgrade” as it were – but not as big of one as I had initially anticipated.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very big improvements in my quality of life. Being closer to the one who means the most to me has been a godsend and no doubt I come to life when we hang out together. Alas, when we have to part for awhile (be it bedtime, work, etc.) it’s like I’m back to square one – we’re talking Abilene levels of misery (cue this timeless classic song)…

Don’t get me wrong, I realize we both have lives outside of each other. I’m under no illusion that has changed nor am I under any delusion that will ever change. I’m not a needy person at all – I’m more than capable of entertaining and taking care of myself. That said, there is a certain loneliness when we’re apart for a considerable amount of time, to the point it’s almost impossible for me to be happy in her absence.

So where does this leave me? Do I have bits of happiness in my life now? Absolutely. Is it an improvement? Yes, because I had absolutely no happiness in Abilene. It was constant misery. That said, I still don’t have true happiness or joy at my core.

This is leaving me wondering when, or if, that will ever happen for me. Was I meant to just be a miserable person for my entire life? Am I atoning for some major transgression in a past life (assuming past lives are a thing – something which we can only take on faith)? Or does it just come down to a true case of major depressive disorder? Do I need to go back on antidepressants? Is there some other root cause I’ve yet to uncover? No doubt I need a good detox – I probably have a very toxic load given the fact that my mother A) smoked while pregnant and B) worked in a dry cleaner while pregnant.

Let it be known the above rant is not to be construed as suicidal ideation. I have no intentions of taking my own life at this point in the game. Maybe once a few years have passed and I’m in a position to launch Leaf & Barrel things will really start looking up for me (of course, this is all a big “if” depending on what the FDA decides to do in regards to premium cigars and pipe tobacco).

In the meantime, I just have to fight through what appears to be an uphill battle. I mean, if I do bail out early, let’s consider the possible outcomes:

  1. Nothing. Oblivion. Man that would be nice, but am I really willing to gamble on a 33% chance? Right now I’m not inclined to.
  2. Reincarnation. Talk about even more misery next time around (shit, maybe I did commit suicide in my past life, assuming such a thing exists).
  3. Heaven/Hell. As I’m not an adherent to any of the 3 Abrahamic faiths (in fact I thoroughly despise all 3), and given the fact that all three pretty much teach that suicide is an automatic ticket to hell, well, that doesn’t bode well for me either does it?

Whatever the case, here I am questioning my place in this universe and what, if any, greater cause my pain and suffering could be going toward. I guess that will be revealed to me in the coming days, weeks, months or maybe years. I guess I’ll just ride the wave and see, but goddamn I just want a baseline of happiness.

Then again, I wonder how many people truly attain this. On a poll on debate.org about whether or not life was really worth living, 82% of respondents voted no!

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Now, I imagine the voters in this poll likely do not meet the statistical definition of a representative sample, but holy shit there sure seem to be a hell of a lot more miserable people than happy people in this world. One has to scratch one’s head at why this could be. I wouldn’t even venture a guess.

Well I guess I should shut up now. What should have been a brief status update turned into an almost 800 word diatribe. I guess I have a tendency to do that huh? Oh well. Until next time, folks!

Aspie/Autistic-Friendly LED Light Bulbs

First off, Happy Halloween to those who celebrate it. I hope you have a fun-filled day of costumes, candy and all that jazz!

Anyway, today’s topic is light bulbs. I know, boring right? In the days of being energy-conscious and “green” it seems we have a lot of choices for light bulbs. There are still those who insist on incandescent bulbs and are willing to pay the much larger electric bill associated with running those.

For those of us who are more energy conscious and on more of a shoestring budget that really isn’t an option, though. That said, for those of us on the autism spectrum, it seems many of the alternatives are just absolutely unpalatable – from the compact fluroescent lights (ugh!!!!), to piercing halogens and even a lot of the LED bulbs out there which have almost a bluish tint and are way too intense.

Well, when shopping for bulbs at the Lowe’s just up the road from our apartment complex, Laina and I stumbled across these in a display and decided they were just the ticket:

These GE Relax bulbs have a lovely soft white appearance – even softer than a soft white incandescent bulb! This A19 60W replacement bulb consumes just 8.5W and is a great option for anyone, but especially those on the autism spectrum. It will give you the light you need but without the irritating overstimulation.

I have outfitted my entire unit with these, from my living room lamps to the bathroom and closet light fixtures. My kitchen already has LED track lights but those aren’t horrid so I left those alone. The only thing they would not be an option for is totally enclosed fixtures as these are not rated for those. As with all of those types of fixtures, you’ll need to choose bulbs that are rated for them or remove the enclosure entirely (as I did with my closet fixture).

Anyway, I hope this helps somebody. Good luck!

Almost Two Weeks Straight Gluten-Free

Wow. Can you believe that? I’ve stayed gluten-free for almost two weeks now! I’ve still not gotten my Cyrex Array 3 back yet but it’s a matter of days now I would think.

Alas, I naturally ate gluten-free all during my vacation (having discovered many delicious options for both eating at home and eating out), including entrees, snacks and even desserts! As much as I was dreading it, I can honestly say the discovery has been a ton of fun! It’s a new way of eating but I don’t necessarily feel deprived.

As far as changes in how I feel? Holy shit! I no longer struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I’m up and revving straight away. I’m much less irritable. My clinical depression has lightened dramatically. I don’t feel like I’m about to crash come mid afternoon. I’ve also lost some weight without even trying. My “skinny” pair of DD’s? I can button them again! I don’t have them with me right now (as I loaned them out to someone else for the time being), but that was huge when I was able to.

Does the work day still suck? Oh yes. I still hate the shit out of my job (which yesterday marked four years in the crane and rigging industry for me). I’ll still leave that toxic industry behind sometime (trust me fellow Aspies/Autists – you do NOT want to work in the crane and rigging industry), but I’m not as edgy as I was before.

Further leading credence to the gluten reactivity theory is a physical exam of my tongue. I had a large, jagged fissure in my tongue prior to cutting gluten out. I always thought nothing of it, but apparently it’s a sign of food reaction (according to a certain Functional Medicine practitioner I know ;-)).

Right now my biggest challenge staying gluten-free is a family that does not practice the lifestyle. I’m having to do my own thing and for now actually hide it from them, because I don’t want them thinking I’m a hypochondriac as they have in times past (such as my own Asperger’s self-discovery and when started having heart problems about 10 years ago, which was later shown to be WPW). Rather, I will wait until I get the test results back to disclose so I have some scientific backing for my lifestyle change.

Anyway, just some random observations. I know with 99.9% confidence now that I am reactive to gluten. What form that takes will be seen soon (I’m hoping Non-Celiac as that’s easier to manage). All I know is I feel loads better following a gluten-free diet.

So that’s where I’m at now. I’m anxiously awaiting the test results, but noting the marked changes in how I feel, for now I’m sticking with being gluten-free.

Being An “F” Sucks…

No, I don’t mean a failure, though that would suck too. I mean a feeler, as in the Thinking/Feeling spectrum of the Myers-Briggs personality types. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I am an INFJ (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling Judging). To be fair, the F is the least strong of the four dichotomies in my case (it’s about 55/45) but it remains that I am more feeling than thinking, and that feeling side of me has gotten me into trouble more than once.

The most recent manifestation of that trouble? The car situation. I had my scope narrowed down to two candidates, both of which had a six-speed manual transmission (my biggest personal requirement in a vehicle).

Candidate A: 2017 Honda Fit, 4K miles, $14,500.
Candidate B: 2013 VW Jetta GLI, 47K miles, $12,500.

Any thinking person would have opted for Candidate A, hands down. Newer, fewer miles, better fuel efficiency, even if a little higher priced. Candidate A was, for all intents and purposes, the practical choice. That said, it was just another car; no real fun factor to speak of. It was rather, shall we say, “uninspiring.” My Fiesta, though not exactly inspiring, was more lively than this thing, despite having a smaller engine and only a five-speed manual.

As you all know, I opted for Candidate B, against my better judgment. I say better judgment because my brain was telling me to go for Candidate A, but Candidate B won my heart over with the fun factor, the raw power and a more engaging and entertaining drive, not to mention her looks. Yes, my feeling side won out.

Also as you all know, that decision is biting me in the ass with the lengthy repairs she’s needed. Luckily I won’t be out anything more than a $100 deductible at the end of the day, but it’s still been a frustrating, irritating journey.

This is just one such example of how being an F has, for all intents and purposes, been a royal pain in the ass. I know, I know, “The grass is always greener,” but in this case, I can’t see how being an F is in any way better than being a T. If I was a T, it probably would have saved me so much headache later.

I can’t say as I know of any advantage Fs have over Ts. We often make erroneous decisions based on feelings instead of logic, we’re more emotional (and usually in the bad way), among other things.

Alas, it’s how I’m wired and I can’t change that. Oh well.

A Sunday for the Record Books

First things first, a big, hearty congratulations to Simon Pagenaud, champion of the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. He qualified pole and brought it home in a very exciting fashion. He earned it heartily and I tip my hat to him.

Second, wow, what a Sunday. Laina and her best friend since grade school graced us with their presence for a totally gluten-free cookout and an outdoor viewing of the greatest race on earth. We had fun, a ton of fun, great food (it’s amazing at how great GF food can be!), hard cider. It was a total blast – it’s always fun watching racing with her; virtually is fun but in person is so much more fun.

Anyway, as much fun as that was, I did have one major ulterior motive for bringing her out here, one which she gladly obliged. As an owner of multiple small businesses in the past, I really wanted her here when I had “the talk” with my family so she could offer her perspective on my next major life transition. I had a feeling they’d listen to her better than they would me. Whereas I’d been dropping not-so-subtle hints and references all day, the time came after the race and after dinner to have the talk.

We excused ourselves to my bedroom for some “private conversation” in which we discussed how I should approach the topic (and maybe a few other things). We emerged from my bedroom, sat down side-by-side, holding hands, and I started the comversation.

I can honestly say my parents saw it coming. They could see it in me months ago. They knew what was I was about to say as though I had already said it, but much to my surprise they seem very supportive since 1) I have a plan of action in the works and 2) I’m not going into this blind. They know this is something I *WANT* to do. This time, I won’t be moving because I have to, but because I want to. There’s a totally different vibe to that when one’s heart is actually in it. Cranes aren’t my passion. My passions lie elsewhere.

Of course Laina offered her perspective from having done this herself, to help put out some of the fires that I knew would start during this conversation. This is why I wanted her with me when I had this talk so she could help me put these out, which she was a very effective firefighter through it all.

Being a “corporate slave” (my mom balked at the term but that’s what it feels like to me) is a toxic environment for those of us on the autism spectrum. It just is. If I keep doing what I’m doing now for the next 10+ years I’m going to go insane. That’s just a fact. I’m too “different” and free-spirited to do be just a slave surveillance (insert loud, raucous “throat monster” here) I mean social security number drawing a paycheck for doing mind-numbing tasks day in and day out with people I absolutely despise.

Needless to say I feel better – much better – now that everything is out in the open and I have my family’s blessing in this endeavor. I’m sure they’ll miss me, as well as my Abilene friends when I do take that step to “go home” and start putting my plan into action, but I’m sure they’d rather see me happy, even if someone else, than cooped up in hillbilly hell (which is exactly what Abilene is) doing corporate work for the rest of my life.

All in all, a great day. One of the best in recent memory for me. I can sleep more easily at night now with everything out in the open and knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a very real future for me in which I can not only survive, but thrive. It’s a totally different feeling for sure, and a total relief.

Thanks again, Laina. Couldn’t have done it without you. Really. I am in your debt.