How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘Driving’

Journal of an Aspie: 7/25/2011-“Upon Reflection”

Looking back on the road trip I took, I think about what I learned.  On my last day of travel, I found myself drawn to one of the many beaches in Santa Barbara.  I knew in my heart that I would be able to find a special kind of solitude that would free me from the few disappointments that I had experienced.

I’ve always felt that people on the spectrum have a hard time staying in the present moment because their minds are overstimulated by a world that has contributed to their problems and yet, cannot find a solution to alleviate the stress.  It is my feeling that young children on the spectrum need to be taught a more spiritual, universal way to calm down and focus their inner beings.

What has worked for me personally was being taught how to meditate and focus on the conscious act of breathing.  I was taught to feel every inch of my body’s nerve endings from my crown to my fingers and toes.  I have also felt that it should not, in any way be connected to any external pressure such as culture, religion, or society, because those entities are often muddled with distracting ritual at times.

Because I was fortunate enough to learn from other people with a more enlightened and universal view of personal growth, I was able to find a way to center my mind and soul in a place of peace and tranquility.  I feel that in order to be taught this type of centering, a person should teach it consciously without an agenda in the wings.

Whether it’s personal, religious, or societal, an agenda is often ego-driven and therefore not coming from the center of being.  I believe that for an aspie to really learn to quiet their minds, they have to be taught to find that tranquility within them.  The teacher should guide them gently to that place of being, help them take away all external distractions, and show them how to go to that sacred space within themselves.

Case in point: when I found an empty bench on that day, I sat down and breathed deeply.  Before I knew it, I felt the need to close my eyes, straighten my back, and relax my muscles.

I sat there for some time in a deeply meditative place, letting all the stress ebb away and focusing solely on the world around me.  With my eyes closed I could feel everything, the gentle, cool breeze was like a sedative for the midsummer day.  Any oppressive heat was tempered by the wind off of the gently-moving ocean, as well as the soothing sounds of the waves that provided a refreshing calm.  The sky was cloudless and a vibrant shade of blue; I knew that I was privileged to be a part of the present moment in the middle of creation.

As I stirred, the din of people around me further stimulated my senses.  Even though it’s regarded as a very “busy” sound to most people, for me, it blended into the background and I felt no sense of hustle or rush.  To my ears, listening to the sound of people was just another way of being observant of my surroundings.  Have you ever felt like you were in the right place at the right time and it was meant to happen?  I felt the same way after I left the beach, and even more so after I came back home.

When I came back, I found out that I had overdrawn my bank account when I was traveling.  It was easy to fix online, but the sting of making such a grievous error just didn’t feel good at all.  Looking at it now, I know that in my Aspie brain, I’m sensitive to how I appear to others and I tend to be critical with myself for making mistakes.  This has led me to repeat certain screw-ups more than once out of fear, and being self-judgemental has often led me to miss the opportunity to learn from the experience, good, bad, or indifferent.

It took about a day to process the emotion after the fact, but I realized that there was a lesson in that mistake as well.  After all, isn’t it a human action to realize mistakes and then do something to correct them?  It turns out that I learned a valuable lesson from this financial flub.  Even when traveling on a trip that is meant for freedom and a change of pace, it requires responsibility for things like personal safety and finance.  If there is little control over finance and a sense of reckless disgregard for personal safety, a dream vacation could turn into a nightmare really quick.

I also realized that I’m not the only one who struggles with money.  I personally don’t know the track record of anyone on the Spectrum with regard to finances, therefore I really want to know.  I want to hear from people on the Spectrum or anyone who is close to them.  I need to find out if I am the only one who struggles in this subject, because my experience is by no means universal; I need to know exactly what drives others so that I may better understand myself.

I really believe that trouble with money is not an “Aspie” thing, but a human thing that many people are loathe to talk about.  Thank God that people like Suze Orman are around to help us break through the barriers of myth and false concepts that have held back people for far too long.

In all honesty, my disappointments happened because I didn’t look things up on my computer while I was traveling.  Sure, I wanted to capture the mystique of going where the wind takes me and finding great things along the way, but by having expectations and just a destination in mind, I almost missed out on the journey, which was the best part of my trip.

I’m reminded of “Inherit the Wind”.  I read the play and watched the 2 movie versions, and remembered that Henry Drummond, the defense attorney, was putting forth the arguement that no progress was made without sacrifice.  I believe what he meant was that change is difficult for people, and I didn’t want to look things up, because I wanted to be surprised.  Now, I know that there is nothing wrong with doing research, it is necessary to have knowledge beforehand so that plans can be easily changed without disappointment or bitterness.

All in all, I had fun on my road trip.  Even though it had it’s ups and downs, I realize now that I wouldn’t change a thing.  Events turned out the way they did because I made them happen that way.  Everything was a learning experience, and that is just part of the lessons that I continue to learn, and I know that I am not quitting until I’m ready to walk out of the classroom of life and start knocking on Heaven’s door.

Journal of an Aspie: 7/16/2011

I’m glad that the bed was new in my room, because I really needed the sleep!  I woke up easily, made breakfast, and got the clothes I wanted from my bag before I hit the shower.  As soon as I was packed, I headed north on the 101 freeway.

As I drove, my mind travelled back to 2002 when Mom took me to the town of Solvang in the Santa Ines Valley.  I remember that it was built in the Old-World Danish style and we bought a handful of souvenirs that we still have today.  Being only 30 miles from Santa Barbara, it was wasy for me to drive north.  You drive past several family-owned farms and vineyards whose products are shipped all over the country.  I had forgotten how green the area was, and the warm contrast of the vegetation with the clear blue sky and sunlight made for a beautiful day.

After parking, I took a nice stroll down the main throroughfare.  At the end of the downtown portion, I turned into the entrance of the adobe wall that marked the location of Mission Santa Ines.  One of the 21 Catholic Church missions established during the Spanish Colonial days, today it is one of the many historical landmarks that provides a window into the rich history and traditions of California and my ancestors.

I lingered for a while under the shade of a tree and listened to the sounds of the breeze and of people passing by.  After jotting down my thoughts I continued my stoll through the Mission and the town.  I stopped to buy a pressed penny and even a new ornament for my Christmas tree.  I stopped into a fudge shop on a whim; something about the classic taste of vintage fudge gave me an idea for buying a couple of gifts.

When my purchase was complete, I walked out of the shop and continued until I reached a familiar store called Family Coats of Arms.  Back in 2002, Mom and I bought a few plaques that had the history of my family names from this very store.  At Family Coats of Arms, people can look up their last names, find the origin, discover what their crest looks like, and purchase any number of memorabilia to preserve their history.

I talked briefly with the woman who owned the shop, Donna, I think her name was.  I told her how much my family loved their plaques and that I was grateful to her for helping us find part of our history.  She told me that I was the 5th person to give her such a compliment and that my kind words were just the icing on the cake to an already beautiful day.

After thanking her for her kind words, I walked back to my car to head down to Carpinteria: a beach town about 10 miles south of Santa Barbara.  I was able to get to the nearest motel easily and confirm that I would be staying until Monday morning.  When I finally settled in, I drove to the main streets of town, parked, and went for a jog through the neighborhoods.  As the sun was setting, I jogged along the beach and back to my truck after pausing to watch a train pass by.

I had just enough time for a swim in the pool before I went back to my room, rinsed off, and ate a quick dinner.  Tomorrow is Day 2 of the Santa Barbara French Festival, and I am eager to use it to end my trip on a high note.  Sleep comes easy after a quick shower, and I definitely will sleep well tonight.

Journal of an Aspie: 7/15/2011

I slept a little extra today because I did a lot of computer work after driving yesterday.  I passed out quickly and woke up very slowly.  I was in a good frame of mind, so I warmed up with some excercises.  After some stretches, modified moves with the chair and bed, and some strong barbell workouts, I was ready to wash up and pack up.

After loading everything in 1 trip, I was ready to head west on the 215.  Soon, I reached the 10 West, and the moment I saw the red lights in front of me, I knew I was near L.A.  Slowing down on the 10 was no big deal as long as I was able to stay in the moment and center my mind.

I felt a little edgy after being on alert for a while, so I pulled off the freeway to Pasadena to chill for a few minutes and check my maps.  I remember that I watched an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” with Gordon Ramsay about 2 years ago when he went to Lancaster, CA to make over the Casa Roma Italian restaurant.  I knew I had to check it out for myself, so I made my way up the 14, which leads to the Antelope Valley and the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.

As soon as I made an emergency “pit stop” at a nearby K-mart, I got busy looking for Casa Roma.  When I did find it, I remembered that dinner service didn’t start until 5 pm, so I sought space to jot down my thoughts.  I eventually found a nice little park where there were empty seats near the little league baseball field.  I like how these parks just seem to absorb the din of city noise and provide a nice backdrop to help me collect my thoughts.  At 5, I headed back to the restaurant.

When I walked in, I noticed that the place was dark.  The music was blaring from the stereo system and the menu was for a place called the AV Roadhouse.  One quick look around told me that the pizzeria was gone and the previous owners had pissed it all away.  I was disappointed of course, but at least I got a glimpse of what the Antelope Valley had to offer.

The next hundred or so miles were almost a blur as I tried to put my so called “mistake” behind me.  Trees, desert brush, traffic pockets, houses, and businesses bombarded my burning, bloodshot eyes as I headed west.  I stopped only once to go to the bathroom and eat something quick in Moorpark.

It was almost 8pm when I made it to Santa Barbara County, and after a short drive, I located the nearest hotel in Goleta.  Despite the finicky lock mechanism and the subpar internet connection strength, I was able to settle in.  This one has recently been remodeled; I’ll have to remember this one in the near future.

I feel like I’m not too disappointed, because finding these places has been a nice little memory that’s been made.  Next time I travel, I’ll do a little more research, but not too much so that it spoils the surprises!

Journal of an Aspie: 7/14/2011

I definitely slept well last night, even with the trains going by the road all night.  If I didn’t love the history and feeling of traveling on trains so much, I wouldn’t have woken up very happy!  Well, I was able to get up, make my own breakfast and fell a sense of satisfaction about having bought extra non-perishables; it definitely saves me a lot of money eating out.  I only have to eat out once a day, and maybe not at all if I’m lucky.

Well, my 1st impulse was to locate the nearest freeway to head west.  After I left Indio, I found myself passing through Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs: 2 more famous places to visit in the Coachella Valley.  I’ll have to come back some time to enjoy the natural surroundings and hot mineral baths.

I remember driving through Coachella with family as a kid.  That was the first time I had ever seen wind farms in action.  I think it’s pretty cool watching those giant 2 or 3-bladed wind turbines generating power where the wind always blows.  Trust me when I say that the wind is always blowing in the high desert area.  That’s probably why so many more turbines have been built in the past 15 years; really makes me hopeful that we humans are moving towards renewable energy resources.

Later, I found myself near the western end of the Mother Road, itself: Route 66.  I was able to determine that I would be above the summit where the original road was if I went up the famous Cajon Pass.  So, I drove to Barstow, and found my way down the original Route 66, all the while, the famous song was playing in my head.  I was so absorbed with the feeling of history of the road that for so long connected people from Chicago to Los Angeles, that I was driving like there was no tomorrow.

A funny thing happened on the way back to town.  I passed by Helendale and remembered that there was a supposed to be the very kitschy Exotic World Museum out in the area.  I took a detour and went to see for myself.  I found it, alright: the ruins of it anyway.  I later discovered that the place was closed over a year ago and is going to be reopened at a yet unknown location.  Ah, well, such is life!

I glided back down the San Gabriel Mountains to Loma Linda, where I found a motel in south San Bernadino that I could spend the night at.  I ended up eating lunch at a place called Delhi Palace.  It was a nice little Indian restaurant with a good lunch and dinner buffet that was very satisfying.

I was even able to strike up a conversation with a family of 5 that sat in the booth next to me.  It was a nice married couple with 2 daughters and 1 son; they seemed to like music and singing, and even mentioned to me that their experience interacting with people on the Autism Spectrum has been very little.  So, before I left, I gave them one of my business cards with my blessings.

I enjoy reaching out to people; it reminds me that everyone has a story in this life.  I hope that my story becomes an inspiration for other people who read it; this is what I’m going to use to change the world.

Journal of an Aspie: 7/13/2011

At last!  My best opportunity yet for finding inspiration is here!

I have headed east and then north to see the roads of California.  The road heading east was very clear and I had no problem finding the Desert View Tower at In-Ko-Pah, just east of Jacumba.  This unique stone and brick structure holds a lot of great memories for me.  I first saw it as a little boy with my grandparents.  One of my favorite moments was when my grandfather (God Rest his soul) took me into the rock sculptures and put me on top of a bison statue!

One of my aunts or uncles took a picture of me and him, and I thought it looked cool.  The last time I saw that picture, I remember how it looked like he was a Vaquero on a California ranch and he was giving his grandson a ride on a furry buffalo.  Now that I think about it, I wonder where that photo is?

Well, I did see the bison, and a lot more carved rock statues that make the desert more interesting.  I had no problem manuvering through the tighter corners of the trail, but my hand still kind of feels the sting of about a dozen needles that got stuck in my knuckles after I accidentally brushed against a small cactus!  Kind of reminds me of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon where he was using grease to make his feet move faster to catch the Roadrunner, but he slipped and fell right into a cactus!  He shouted, grumbled, and pulled out the needles with a “twing” sound.  I didn’t hear a “twing” sound when I pulled out the needles, but I’m not forgetting that anytime soon!

After I left the tower, I made my way through the Imperial Valley.  From El Centro through Brawley, and past the Salton Sea, I was even able to indulge in my boyhood love of trains when I pulled over for a few minutes and waited for a train to pass by so I could take a picture of it.  I tell you, it never gets old for me!  I also made a memory of passing through Brawley because my late grandmother was born and raised there, and I had to see it, even for a brief moment.

As I write this, I am relaxing in Indio in a motel just off the 99 Freeway in the middle of the Coachella Valley.  Wifi is no problem, it’s included with my room price.  I really like this format of posting, and the circumstances that I’m writing about.  I think I’ll see about doing this again sometime next year!  For just one day, I’m surprised at how much inspiration I’ve found so far.  This is only the beginning.

Driving Lessons: Part Two

Hi, there.

I guess you’re wondering why I’m posting about driving again, right?  Well, after recent events and personal decisions, I am adding this as an addendum to the other, similar post.

A couple of months ago, I decided to take a road trip by myself on a whim.  Back then, I decided that it would take place around the middle of July, and would involve me traveling through Southern California for about a week.  It would just be a chance to stretch my legs and maybe find inspiration for writing and creating along the way.

At first, I felt like it would be a personal celebration of my recent graduation from college; a culmination of my hard work and accomplishment.  However, after talking it out with those people who are closest to me, I began to think that there was a different reason behind my motivations.

I thought about it deeply, and eventually, I understood that I was looking not only for inspiration, but for a fresh perspective on things I had seen as a kid.  I remembered places that I had been to on road trips with family when I was younger.  During those trips I would see different places and I felt a feeling of gratitude for being blessed to see them with my own eyes.  Today, I  feel that one of my strongest motivations is to see some of these places with different eyes that have evolved and grown with me as I have matured and gained experience in life and in the classroom.

I also realized that this small road trip was satisfying a feeling of admiration I had for two different kinds of people.  For the longest time, these two archetypes have fascinated me for their willingness to let go of certain norms in order to live by their own internal impulses.

The first is the wandering poet or artist.  This person is someone with strong artistic impulses in writing poetry, music, books, or in painting.  They travel in whatever way they can to wherever their creative inpulses take them to find inspiration in creating something beautiful.  I have a feeling that I’ll be able to write new essays that will become posts once they have been refined from the raw inspiration that I’ll draw from my road trip.

The second archetype that I admire is the wandering hero/rogue.  Whether they are in a movie, on TV, or in a book, this person is either forced or makes a choice to leave behind their home or town and travel across the land, searching for a new place to live or for new injustices to right.

Perhaps, it’s because I did so little in the way of dramatic life experiences growing up that these kinds of people have always inspired me.  In a way, going on this road trip will be satisfying to the wanderlust that was always deep down inside of me.

While I won’t be doing anything dramatic like leaving my whole life behind, I will be leaving town on Wednesday, July 13th and returning on Monday the 18th.  By then, I will have taken plenty of photos and written several ideas to post in the future.  Starting on Wednesday, I will be posting here daily for as long as I’m on the road.

This reminds me of when I used to attempt journal writing.  At first I couldn’t understand why I didn’t make it a recurring practice in my life, but I would start one journal, continue less frequently, and then I wouldn’t do it anymore.  Looking back on it now, I feel like I was lacking the motivation to do the work because to me, it was another job that I didn’t feel like doing, in addition to the schoolwork that was made more difficult by the fact that I was born with autism and didn’t see the homework in the same way that most “neuro-typical” children would.

However, with my establishment of this new blog, I realized that I could do my own online journal writing and give my audience a glimpse of what my eyes and mind perceive on any given day.  The inspiration, and motivation to put down my thoughts is now within me, and manifesting in this blog.  I feel now that my journal writing will have a purpose other than to be looked at years in the future by me and my future family.

To be clear, my journal posts will be clearly marked and the style will be more off the cuff and extemporaneous than other essays.  I wish to use this trip as a way to have just a taste of what the wandering hero or artist experiences on screen and in books.

Now that I think about it, this road trip is another excercise in the independence I have gained in learning to drive.  I know that I have been unwilling to use this gift or embrace it in the past because of personal fear that was perhaps left over from a childhood that was a bit sheltered at times, to be honest with you.  Today, I feel like I am coming full circle: reaching for a personal brass ring that I have waited so long to grab.  While it may not have much significance to the average person, this is a personal journey that means a lot to me.

What exactly will come of this I cannot even begin to see.  One thing I know for certain is that I will have satiated the small bit of wanderlust that is inside me, only now, I will use it as a method of inspiration that will propel my creativity and perhaps change a person’s life by the recording of my actions.

Driving Lessons

Hello again!

I was jotting down my thoughts on Thursday, the 22nd of April when I remembered the strangest thing: my driving lessons.  I thought to myself, “why is this so important now?”  Well, the truth is that when I started writing this blog and learning about what it takes to put one together, it felt like the 1st time I ever drove a car, which, believe it or not, wasn’t until I turned 21!

You see, I used to be petrified of driving.  I think the reason was that I was so afraid of losing control and becoming too much like my Dad (He tends to drive offensively!  Which is something that I agree to disagree with him on.)  Looking back on it now, I remember experiencing many close calls as a passenger in my dad’s car.

In my Aspie brain, those close calls were so jarring and unsettling that I was traumatized about going through the rite of passage of a teenager learning to drive and getting their first car.  What also made matters worse was my very obvious lack of coordination which is a common characteristic in aspies.  Children born on the spectrum can be expected to develop life skills at a slower rate than their neurotypical peers.  Unfortunately, the pressures of our image-conscious, often judgemental society attach a stigma to those children and their families, who might cave into that pressure with disastrous results!

However, I eventually realized that the need, as well as the motivation to learn such life skills, had to start inside of me.  It was not until I turned 21, after nearly three years of being at the mercy of unreliable public transit schedules, that I knew I had to stop being afraid of the learning process, and just gather up the courage to tell my parents I was ready to learn.

On day one, it was obvious the learning process wasn’t going to be easy, but then again, learning vital skills for living is also hard for neurotypical children as well; can you imagine what it’s like for someone born on the spectrum?  Initially, I was afraid to get on the freeways; driving at night seemed like a daunting challenge, and even rough weather would make me extremely nervous.

The point I’m making is that starting a blog feels a lot like driving lessons.  At 1st I was nervous about how to do the basics, but I realize that the more I practice, the more my writing will become 2nd nature, just like when I learned how to drive.  You know, not knowing is not an excuse to not try, and unfortunately, I’ve used it too many times in my life.  If I am ever to become comfortable with this line of communication, I need to trust the process as much as I did while learning to drive.

Learning to drive is something to be proud of, just like this blog.