How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore!

As long as you have some form of love in your life, then you're already a winner.

As long as you have some form of love in your life, then you’re already a winner.


Have you ever felt like your life is written in song lyrics? If so, what song is it, and why does it mean what it does? Is it about your pain or about your joy? Well, the song that best describes my life right now is the REO Speedwagon rock ballad “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. This is because I met someone very special when I least expected it. Since then, the resulting swell of emotions and feelings have made my head spin! I’ve never felt this connected to any woman before. She has become my girlfriend, and she is also much more than I ever could have imagined.

We met at a convention I was attending. There was a dance in full swing and I noticed a girl at the volunteer area table. There was something uniquely appealing about her, something attractive that radiated from within. After I introduced myself we both listened to the music that the band was playing. I noticed her mouthing the words of many American Jazz standards and my heart skipped a beat! I felt like she knew something that I thought only I knew! It was a feeling I couldn’t deny.

Within minutes I could feel my inhibitions and fears disappearing, so I took a leap of faith and asked her to dance. She knew what I was asking her because she finished my sentence with me and said yes! I felt a growth of confidence and self-esteem that I’d never felt before. My nervous tension, born out of my Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Anxiety, began to melt away as we danced and I stopped caring too much about what other people were thinking. Somehow I knew that I could trust this girl and be myself around her. I believed that she was going to profoundly change my life.

As the dance was winding down, we said good night and parted ways, but that wasn’t the end of it. Regretfully, I didn’t run into her on the last day of the convention. I felt a pang of disappointment, until I discovered, that night, that she had looked up my name on social media. I immediately responded back and established a connection. This used to be difficult for me. I didn’t think anyone would ever understand the deeper parts of me, and it used to be very hard to open up to people because I’d been hurt before and was too scared to put myself in a vulnerable position. Yet, as I began to see her more often, I found myself being more and more honest with her. She was embracing my core traits as if she had known me for years! I began realizing that we were going to enrich each other’s lives in so many ways.

We’ve been seeing each other for more than two months now. The longer we’re together, the more we discover how much we have in common. In each other’s company, we’re a safe zone of open and honest communication that enhances our trust of one another. I feel like I’ve fallen in love with my best friend! We understand each other on so many levels and have bonded over so many experiences that its like our most impossible dreams and desires have come true! I don’t feel like I’m someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, I’m just a man who’s finally learned how to be in love. She has brought a new level of joy and fulfillment to my life that I’ve never had with any other woman. We love each other wholeheartedly and our lives have become a song; and like the song says, “I can’t fight this feeling anymore“!

Today’s musical inspiration is, of course, REO Speedwagon with “Can’t Fight This Feeling“.


The Rest is Still Unwritten

What will your story be?

What will your story be?

Let me ask you this: do you believe that each of us has the ability to write our own stories?  Does everyone deserve a chance to tell that story?  Well, based on my observations, some people have forgotten about this ability, or have never seen it in themselves.  Because I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I was so unsure about who I was or what my purpose was that I used to believe that what other people said about me was my entire story.  It took quite a while for me to learn that I was wrong.  The only person in control of my story is me; to believe that other people have it is to give my power away.

There’s a song that helped me remember this fact. It’s called “Unwritten”, sung by Natasha Bedingfield. I used to like it simply for its uplifting lyrics and melody, but the more I listened to it, the more I could hear a special message about the power of words. The chorus really drives home the meaning for me. “Feel the rain on your skin, no one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in. No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips. Drench yourself in words unspoken, live your life with arms wide open! Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten“.

I never realized how much these words meant to me before. Let me put is this way: I have my own sensory interpretations of the outside world, and they’ve been affected in different ways by my Autism. It took me a long time to accept how sensitive I really am, but because of these abilities, I’ve learned to be more aware of the world around me and I’ve gained more control of my reactions to it. By gaining more awareness and control, I could develop the vocabulary I needed to create the story that only I knew how to write.

I’m learning to embrace the experiences that are positive, negative, and everything in between; whatever words that can be used to describe them will always come at lightning speed. I alone have the power to select the best words to go on the pages of my life story. Every day is a new chance to write a portion of that story; whatever will happen tomorrow, is unwritten. Until then, all I have is this one present moment.

I feel like we all have the power to determine what sort of destiny we’re aiming for in our stories. I am blessed to feel this way because I discovered that Autism is not a destiny, it’s a way of life that has been waiting to be written by someone with both talent and responsibility. I am quite grateful to have developed my talents in regular school, college, and in life, itself; this means that I have a responsibility to use them in a way that brings light to the Autism Community.

So, what kind of story do you want your life to be? Are you just learning to write it down, or is it second nature to you? You know, it doesn’t matter if you’re penmanship is the best (and believe me, as an Aspie, my penmanship leaves a lot to be desired); as long as you’ve got something to write about, you’ll find a way to make it real. All you can write about is now, the future is still unwritten.

Today’s musical inspiration is, of course, Natasha Bedingfield with “Unwritten”:

Just The Way You Are

"I think music in itself is healing.  It's an explosive expression of humanity.  It's something we are all touched by.  No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music"- Billy Joel

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music”- Billy Joel

Once again, Billy Joel helps me to say what’s in my heart, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. This will be my final post for 2013 and I’m glad I can end the year writing about love and music: two of the great cornerstones of my life. One of his most beautiful ballads is “Just the Way You Are”, and it perfectly describes how I feel about romance. This song helps me speak when words are insufficient.

Don’t go changing, to try and please me; you never let me down before. I don’t imagine you’re too familiar, and I don’t see you anymore. I would not leave you, in times of trouble, we never could have come this far. I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times, I’ll take you just the way you are. In life, there’s no guarantees, but I’ve learned to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. I can’t back out of a commitment I’ve made with someone I care for, it doesn’t sit well with me. My word is my bond and I do my best to uphold it. I’ve always felt that true love is work that shouldn’t feel like a job. There will be times when I don’t feel like communicating my feelings, but someone who truly loves me will be able to see through whatever walls I put up. Knowing that I can do the same for her is also reassuring to me.

I need to know that you will always be the same old someone that I knew. Oh, what will it take till you believe in me, the way that I believe in you? I said I love you and that’s forever, and this I promise from the heart. I couldn’t love you any better, I love you just the way you are. I’ve discovered that how a person feels about someone can change on a daily basis. But as long as you remember why you love and respect them at your core, there’s no doubt that you’ll stay close to them.

The past two-plus years have been full of self-discovery and hope for me; I look forward to sharing it all with my past, present, and future supporters. There have been many changes in my life; writing this blog has helped me understand them and remember my true self. By giving my journey with Autism a voice, I feel as though I’ve been able to provide hope and understanding about living on the Autism Spectrum. In the coming year, I will continue to shine a light on my story. I feel optimistic because I’ve found a new rhythm and there’s someone special who’s seen it in me.

I’ve been in touch with this girl for several months now. Recently, there’s been a growing chemistry and connection between us. I’ve found it easy for us to be loyal and sincere with each other, and I’m optimistic because we’ve connected on a deep level of friendship and love without even trying. This song reminds me of what I need most from a woman and what I have to offer her. As long as we remember why we’re together, we’ll have no problem being close. I’ll be proud to say to her: “no matter what, I love you just the way you are”.

My final musical inspiration for this year is, of course, Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are”. Here is an amazing live performance clip:

I Can Heal the Pain

George Michael Paul McCartney

Recently, I rediscovered one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s a classic ballad sung by George Michael in 1988 and re-recorded as a duet with Sir Paul McCartney in 2006; the title is “Heal the Pain”. I love it because not only is it a beautiful acoustic love song, but it speaks to my core being as a potential lover.

The first verse is an opening up of two hearts and a reassurance that leads to the supportive first chorus. “How can I help you? (Please let me try to) I can heal the pain that you’re feeling inside. Whenever you want me, you know that I will be waiting for the day that you say you’ll be mine“.

The second verse is an inquisitive one where the singer realizes that his lover can’t see the good he is trying to do, but he’s not giving up hope. “Won’t you let me in? Let this love begin! Wont you show me your heart now? I’ll be good to you…I can make this thing true…show me that heart right now!”

The lyrics of the bridge resonate with me the most. They speak the most directly to my heart. “Who needs a lover that can’t be a friend? Something tells me I’m the one you’ve been looking for. Oh, if you ever should see him again, won’t you tell him you’ve found someone who gives you more? Someone who will protect you, love and respect you. All those things that he never could bring to you…like I do, or rather I would. Won’t you show me your heart like you should?”

Why do I love this song so much? Because the words are honest, caring, supportive, and express exactly what’s in my heart. Ever since I had my first crush, I felt something that I didn’t want to lose ever again. I didn’t know how to articulate it because I was still a child who didn’t know that he had Asperger’s Syndrome. As I grew and was diagnosed, I learned how to communicate my feelings to people who I trusted. I was blessed with a supportive environment that enabled me to get in touch with my emotions. Considering that it’s hard for Aspies to express emotions easily, especially if they’re males living in a society that teaches them that emotion is weakness, I’ve done well for myself in this respect.

I’ve had my share of difficulty with relationships in the past, but since when does a man ever get it right the first time? What I do know is that I will be a safe haven for a woman who loves herself enough to love me. I will do my damnedest to be her best friend, her strongest support, and her shoulder to cry on. I know that I was meant to be a great lover and God, it hurts to not be able to show it to someone! However, when I play this song, I remember who I am deep inside and what I have to offer to a woman. My spirits are lifted and I know that I’m exactly who I was meant to be thanks to the music and lyrics of George Michael and Sir Paul McCartney.

Today’s musical inspiration is, of course, George Michael and Sir Paul McCartney, singing “Heal the Pain”:

This is My Life!

"I think music in itself is healing.  It's an explosive expression of humanity.  It's something we are all touched by.  No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music"- Billy Joel

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music”
– Billy Joel

Billy Joel has written and performed some of my most favorite songs. One song that resonates with my journey with Autism is his classic rock and roll hit entitled “My Life”. Singing along with it reminds me of my need to stand up to people who make assumptions about me and act like there’s something wrong with me. I know who I am and my conscience is clear: God made no mistake with me and I no longer allow other people to dictate how I should live my daily life. I still take advice, but I listen to my instincts at the same time; I’m at a great place right now and I can only get better.

When I hear the opening piano chords, I know exactly what song it is. The famous chorus is what I sing with conviction and passion. “I don’t need you to worry for me ’cause I’m all right. I don’t want you to tell me ‘it’s time to come home’. I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life! Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone…I never said you had to offer me a second chance. I never said I was a victim of circumstance. I still belong…don’t get me wrong, you can speak your mind, but not on my time! I don’t care what you say anymore this is my life! Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone!”

When I sing this, I feel like I’m standing up to my critics and naysayers. The truth is that I’m happy where I am right now and worrying about my perceived faults is just a waste of time and energy. I mean, what did I ever do to you to upset your precious sensibilities? To tell me that I need to “come home” because I’ve sinned in the eyes of you and your God is a grievous misuse of whatever moral authority you think you have. I’ve grown tired of being told that something is wrong with me and I’ve accepted everything about me, good, bad, and indifferent. I’ve let go of my ‘woe is me’ attitude and embraced a sense of control and responsibility for my words and actions. I’m part of the human family and will always belong, no matter what anyone says. I’ve got my own life and I’m not wasting time with negativity. You can live your life the way you want to, all I ask is that you respect my wishes when I ask you to leave me in peace.

This song has given me the confidence to embrace my personal truth and live passionately. It expresses a courage that speaks to my heart and soul and reminds me that I’m okay with where I am right now. It took me a long time to find this inner strength, but for someone on the Autism Spectrum, discoveries like this are few and far between. Now that I have it, nothing can ever take it away. Some days will be better than others, but I won’t lose sight of what’s important. My name is Tony, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and this is my life.

Today’s musical inspiration is, of course, Billy Joel’s “My Life”:

The Man in the Mirror


One of the best things I ever did was to look in the mirror with a critical eye. This was difficult for me, being born on the Autism Spectrum, because I didn’t want to admit my own faults. But somewhere along the way, I found the courage to really look inside myself and use the critical thinking skills I was developing in college. When I finally was able to admit that I needed to improve myself, but didn’t know what to do or how to do it, I received a lot of support and encouragement that was essential for me to feel validated. I discovered that I was in the process of doing something that not many people, let alone Aspies, have the courage to attempt. That is, to admit weakness and faults, and become a better person because of them, not in spite of them. This is exactly what Michael Jackson asked people to do in his groundbreaking song “Man in the Mirror”. His words have great meaning because I was learning to live by example before I even understood the song. Knowing that I had to start changing myself to have a more positive outlook was one of the best lessons I ever learned from music.

When the song begins, Michael tells the world what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. “I’m gonna make a change for once in my life. It’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right! As I turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat, this wind is blowing my mind. I see the kids in the streets with not enough to eat. Who am I to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs“. I needed to learn empathy for other people, which is very difficult for someone on the Spectrum. Of course, I also needed to not to become depressed or overwhelmed by the world’s problems. The best thing I could do was to find out where I could make a difference in my own community and be happy that I changed at least one person’s life.

The bridge then leads to the famous chorus. “That’s why I want you to know: I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change!”. It was Ghandi who said it best when he said “be the change you wish to see in the world“. These lyrics were telling me that I needed to admit my shortcomings and not be ashamed of them anymore. By focusing more on my abundance of certain skills rather than my lack of other skills, I could be more positive and aware of the world around me.

The second verse and bridge feel like they were written for someone on the Spectrum, like me. “I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love, it’s time that I realize…that there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan. Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone? A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart, and a washed-out dream. They follow the pattern of the wind, you see, ’cause they’ve got no place to be. That’s why I’m starting with me!” I was guilty of being self-centered, desperately wanting people to notice me. Even when I was at my lowest points and wanted to take my own life, I was still thinking in a selfish way, not realizing how much I would hurt my loved ones by doing that. Today, I feel that no matter what happens, I can love myself enough to give back to others. I learned to love who I am and I’m able to share that joy with others and not keep it hidden inside. When the chorus repeats and goes into the breakdown, the song ends with Michael’s important final words: “Make that change”.

When I listened to this song critically, I discovered that I was doing the right thing all along and didn’t even know it. It was a beautiful moment when I realized that one of my musical idols was telling me exactly how I needed to grow when I was in the middle of doing so. I feel like I can look at myself and say that I have come a long way from being completely unaware. I am proud that I can tell people, especially other Aspies, how I learned to live passionately and engaged and that they can do the same. In order to change the world, I needed to change myself first. So, what do you see when you look in the mirror?

Today’s musical inspiration is Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”:

To Be Young At Heart

My grandmother holds me for the first time before Christmas ,1981

My grandmother holds me for the first time before Christmas, 1981

To be “young at heart”…what does it really mean? Being spry and able-bodied? Possessing an energetic spirit? Well, I feel like it’s the choice to continue growing and learning rather than becoming stagnant and slowly decaying. It’s a choice to give in to despair or to embrace hope. A choice to merely exist or to be fully living. It’s a state of being that took me some time to embrace completely, but I’m living so much better because I did so.

This is a feeling I’ve had for the past several years. It started after I made a conscious decision to eat healthy and commit to regular exercise. Doing that helped me to gain a new physical fitness that has greatly reduced my risk for disease and infirmity. The feeling continued as I discovered new music while revisiting all of my old favorites. There’s a great American standard that’s been done by several singers, but it always conveys the same message. It’s become more relevant to me as I’ve discovered my new lease on life. It’s the classic tune “Young at Heart”.

It starts out at different tempos, depending on who sings it, but the lyrics are always the same. “Fairy Tales can come true. It can happen to you, if you’re young at heart. For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind…if you’re young at heart.” Simply put, when someone’s mind is balanced in realism and not dwelling on empty fantasy or pessimism, they gain the drive to work for what really matters to them. Of course, the work has to be done; I’m doing the work to raise awareness about what it’s like living with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The second half of the first verse continues with “You can go to extremes with impossible schemes…you can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams! And life gets more exciting with each passing day, and love is either in your heart or on its way.” I feel that if someone still believes in impossible dreams, they will pave the way for more realistic dreams to become reality. Even if things don’t turn out the way they were planned, there’s still a lesson to be learned once the emotional sting has lessened. I’ve had my share of false starts and disappointments and it hurt when they occurred, but I didn’t lose my desire to make a difference in the world and show that I really mattered. I’ve embraced a new role: something I never could have imagined, but I’m excited that it’s becoming a reality. Now I know how to make a difference in the best way that I can.

The second verse is sung twice, bringing a special message to the listener when the song ends. “Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on Earth…to be young at heart. For as rich as you are, it’s much better, by far…to be young at heart. And if you should survive to 105…look at all you’ll derive out of being alive! And here is the best part: you’ll have a head start, if you are among the very young at heart.”

What this means is, there’s a difference between being rich and being wealthy. To be rich is to be secure in material possessions and money; to be wealthy is to have a sense of abundance in all areas of life, external and internal. Case in point: Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were very rich. But towards the end of their lives, they were not wealthy because they had lost sight of what it meant to live a life of abundance. All of their money and fame could not buy the fulfillment they so desperately needed.

I’ve learned that having a passion for wealth is not being greedy. It means craving a life that is full and overflowing with abundance that is emotional, physical, and spiritual as well as financial. Material wealth means nothing if doesn’t enhance the owner’s life and the lives of others. Knowing that I have the ability and resources to give something back to people and enrich their lives is my definition of wealth and success.

I’m looking forward to the success of our family business: San Diego Scan and Share. I don’t know what it will look like, but I’m filled with a feeling of purpose that has given me a zest for life even stronger than what I felt in high school. As such, I feel more alive and aware than I was when I was a teenager. My health is great, I have a new lease on life, and a purpose that gives me hope and energy. Now I wonder, what makes you feel young at heart?

Today’s musical inspiration is the American classic “Young at Heart” sung by living legend Tony Bennett & Bluegrass singer Shawn Colvin: