How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘entertainment’

Just Be Honest With Me

-Jason Mraz

“Music is the weapon in the war against unhappiness”-Jason Mraz

You know something? When I can’t find the right words to express how I feel, I just look in my library of music and I usually find what I need.  The music of Jason Mraz has helped me on more than one occasion and his song “Be Honest” is no exception.  Truth be told, the last time I was in a relationship I was thrust into an environment that was discouraging to my being authentic.  I ignored the warning signs and began lying to others and even worse: lying to my girlfriend and myself.

I was in and among people who wouldn’t allow me to curse, rage, disagree, or even voice a differing opinion if it was my own!  Looking back on it now, I was guilty of giving away my power.  After two years, the last conversation between my ex-girlfriend and myself turned into a back-and-forth purging of pent-up pain and frustration that ended with our break-up.  I know that I based that relationship on deceit and half-truths borne out of a strong desire to be loved by one woman no matter what.  I realized that I need to be authentic at all times to have a strong relationship; that’s why “Be Honest” really strikes a chord with me.

With a resonant blend of acoustic guitar and vibraphone, the song begins with intimacy and emotion.  “Ok go, go hang your heart on any tree.  You can make yourself available to anybody, ’cause every livin’ person knows you are a prize!  Whichever way you go I’ll be easy to find, I don’t ask for much, just be honest with me.  I don’t ask for much: Be Honest…”  Here, Jason is saying to his girl that she needs to put her heart into whatever she does in life.  She’s special in some way to everybody that she meets and he knows that his time with her is not exclusive.  The feeling is accentuated by the simple request of honesty that is asked.  I feel like this is the early stages of the relationship where boundaries and agreements are made; only time will tell if they will be honored, but I know I’d do my best to honor those agreements and learn from the experience; it’s in my nature.

With the second verse, I feel that a bond of trust is being built.  “Think of this song as a promise you can do what you want.  If you decide you wanna move into a new stage, deleting me from pages in your mission statement…my love is unconditional, make no mistake.  I don’t ask for much, just be honest with me.  I don’t ask for much, just be honest with me”.  Basically I would be saying “Honey, I don’t want to hold you back from life.  If you really want to keep certain things to yourself that’s all right with me.  Just remember…I love you, and I’ll always be here for you.  All I ask is that you not be afraid to come to me when you need to.  I know you’d do the same for me; I believe in us.”  I long for the day when I can say that to a woman; real love is more than physical attraction.  Knowing how to bring out the best in your partner is what I believe keeps it alive.

When Jason gets to the bridge, he harmonizes with a woman named Inara George.  I can hear two lovers singing in perfect harmony about what true, fulfilling love does to their souls.  They enjoy each other’s company and hold each other up with shared kindness.  It’s a feeling I hope to share someday with a special woman.  “Who we are, when love is what it wants to be, we are free, and we are, having the best day ever by far.  Being treated to the light, like a superstar”.

In the final verse before the ending, it says that I’m willing to give her the space to figure out what role I play in her life.  I’m not asking her to give up her inner self because I love her just the way she is and I feel connected to her when we’re both open and honest.  When we start out a relationship that way, it starts with friendship.  If it becomes more romantic, then we’ll have fallen in love with our best friends.  That is something I know I’ll be eternally grateful for when it happens.  “I can hold space while you see what your heart has to say about me.  There’s no dotted line to sign away your freedom, I’ll acknowledge you for what you do to keep strong.  I’ll always stand beside you, don’t get me wrong, I don’t ask for much, just be honest with me.  I don’t ask for much, just be honest with me.  I don’t ask for much, just be honest with me”.

The ending line is a moment of bliss and contentment shared by me and her.  We’ve found ourselves in each other’s company and couldn’t be more thankful for being alive.  “Who we are when love is what it wants to be, we are free, and we are having the best day ever by far.  Yes we are…”

“Be Honest” is a song that has kept my hope and dream of love alive and inspiring.  I don’t know when I’ll meet the woman who fulfills me and lifts me up, but I’m grateful for music that gives a voice to my desires.  As long I have music, I have hope.  As long as I have hope, I will do my best to live fully and authentically, and that’s the honest truth!

Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TCnqAUODB4

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I Won’t Give Up

Ready to Live!

Ready to Live!

You know something?  There’s a reason why Jason Mraz is one of my favorite musicians of all time.  For me, he’s written some of my most favorite songs.  One of them is a hit that’s been a fixture on the radio for a year and a half now.  Off of his latest album: “Love is a Four Letter Word” it’s the beautifully written “I Won’t Give Up.”  The title alone draws me in with its positive feel, and the lyrics reignite the hopes and desires I have with regard to life and love.  Even though I haven’t been with a woman since ending my last relationship more than four years ago, I know that I have so much to offer the right one.

Living with Autism, I’ve dealt with challenges in my life, and there’s going to be days that will bring up negative feelings.  However, I’ve learned to let go of past regrets and remember all the strides I’ve made in showing the world what I can be.  I know I’ve got a lot to live for and there’s so much that’s on my bucket list that I can’t afford to stop living with so much to create and offer people who are on and off the Spectrum.

As the song opens, I imagine what I’m telling my dream girl when we make that magical connection.  “When I look into your eyes…it’s like watching the night sky…or a beautiful sunrise.  Well, there’s so much they hold.”  This means that all I need to do is look into her eyes and see her interminable spirit and the limitless blessings that God and the Universe have for us.  “And just like them old stars…I see that you’ve come so far…to be right where you are.  How old is your soul?”  I also acknowledge the work that she has done to become the person that I’m attracted to and that I value the effort she’s made.  I then tell her my honest answer as to where we stand with each other.

Well, I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough.  I’m giving you all my love…I’m still looking up”.  One of the most important things I’ve learned is to be attentive to a woman without being needy or smothering.  The second verse tells her that I am more that willing step back when she needs to be alone, but I will always be nearby with a warm embrace and open ears to listen to what she needs to say.  When this happens, I’ll remind her that even the best of us have setbacks both large and small, but there’s always a lesson to be learned when they’ve passed and we’ll hold on to each other to get through them because we trust each other.  “And when you’re needing your space…to do some navigating…I’ll be here patiently waiting to see what you find.  ‘Cause even the stars they burn…some even fall to the earth.  We’ve got a lot to learn; God knows we’re worth it…No, I won’t give up!”

The bridge of the song says so many lyrical things that it gives me strength to be trusting.  I don’t know how or when it will happen, but I hope for the best.  I know that our trust and friendship will be solid because they are the strongest things to base a relationship on.  Now that I think about it, doesn’t the word “intimacy” sound like the words “into me, see”?  That can’t be a coincidence!  “I don’t want to be someone who walks away so easily, I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make.  Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use the tools and gifts we’ve got, yeah, we’ve got a lot a stake!  And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend for us to work, we didn’t break, we didn’t burn.  We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in.  I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not, and who I am!”

When the chorus repeats for the last time, my heart is fully engaged.  The words ring true for me and say what I feel about life and love.  No matter how long it takes, I will find the right woman because I was meant to share my authentic self with her.  I’ve come a long way since I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome because knowledge really is power, and the world has learned a lot, as have I.  Gone are the days when I lived under a label because today I embrace being on the Autism Spectrum, body and soul.

In the future there will be good and bad times and everything in between, but as long as I remember who I am today, I’ll be able to face whatever happens.  I look forward to the day when I walk down that path with the woman I was meant to be with.  As long as I have music to speak to me, I’ll have the power to give a voice to my feelings.  When that happens, I’ll feel them, deal with them as needed, and go on from there.  I’m proud of how far I’ve come; I’ve got farther to go, but I’m glad that I can share my journey with the world.

“I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up, still looking up.

Well, I won’t give up on us
God knows I’m tough enough
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up.”

See the music video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1-4u9W-bns

“Am I Supposed to Feel Warm & Fuzzy Now?”

You may be wondering what the title means.  Well, it’s a quote that’s been said in one form or another by characters I’ve seen on TV.  Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I feel like there is a pretty strong representation on TV of characters on the Autism Spectrum; more so than there was fifteen years ago.  I have also heard several names of a derogatory nature being used to describe them.  One of the most widely used insults in name-calling is “asshole”.  That’s because it’s an angry word used to point out someone’s perceived idiotic, rude, selfish, and/or ignorant behavior.  I have learned of instances where it’s been used on people who have committed a very simple social blunder.  Some of them stay in my mind because it’s possible that the offender was a person on the Spectrum who may or may not know what they’ve done wrong.

It’s a feeling that’s all too familiar to me.  Although I was never called “asshole” to my face, I was called all of the names you can think of: “stupid”, “retard”, “weirdo”, “gay”, the list goes on.  These felt like a never-ending stream of insults and prejudice in my younger Aspie mind.  In retrospect, I felt like my mind was pulled in two different directions.  On one hand, I was desperate to raise my voice above the bullying and find a way for people to like me.  On the other hand, there was a seething desire to use my intelligence and observation to come up with crushing insults or put-downs while not caring about other people’s feelings.

After several years I was able to channel my emotions into self-confidence by growing my authentic self.  During this time, I felt more vindicated that people on the Autism Spectrum were on TV; however, I did notice a somewhat disturbing pattern.  Some characters did not, in my mind, portray people on the Spectrum in a positive light.  Their personalities were condescending, arrogant, and they seemed to enjoy rubbing people the wrong way.

At first I thought I was merely offended by the behavior, but then I realized something else.  My revulsion was born out of the negative behavior I would express growing up; those fictional characters were a magnified reflection of the forced sarcasm I expressed to put up a front of not caring.  Of course it didn’t last long because it’s not in my nature to be so rude and shallow, and by admitting that to my parents, they’ve been able to help me grow.

With what I’ve learned, I believe I’ve found a new archetype of person.  It’s the one who constantly behaves like an asshole and also expresses some traits that may hint at an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  They may or may not have Autism, but one thing’s for sure: I call this person an “Aspie-Hole”.

Crazy, isn’t it?  I used to act this way before I was more secure in myself.  I was trying to be an “Aspie-Hole” out of desperation.  I tried to keep down my emotions and hide my need to feel accepted, but I was only denying what I knew to be true.  Since I’ve admitted my faults and begun working on them, I feel more at secure and at peace.

The first “Aspie-Hole” I ever took notice of was the title character of the TV show “House”.  Here is a man with a full medical education and he’s supposed to have bedside manners, right?  Wrong.  Dr. Gregory House became quite popular for his brazenly insensitive words and unwillingness to listen to input from the other doctors on his team.

Having only watched a few episodes of this show before it went off the air earlier this year, I thought I sensed a possible Spectrum diagnosis behind House’s incorrigible behavior.  It certainly would explain his very antisocial manners, although I don’t know if it was ever mentioned that he was on the Spectrum.  Well, even if he wasn’t, I can still speculate.

The newest “Aspie-Hole” I’ve discovered is the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes in the new crime drama “Elementary”.  Here, Sherlock is a modern British expatriate living in New York City.  He has struggled with addictions and is going through rehab.  Joan Watson is a former surgeon who is hired by Sherlock’s father to be his sober living companion; she quickly finds out that sharing a living space with him will not be easy.

Sherlock is an expert at criminology and forensics, which is why he’s consulted often by the New York Police Department.  This talent does nothing to hide the fact that he says what he thinks and has seemingly no tact and/or filters when it comes to talking with other people.  It is because of Sherlock’s brilliance as well as his bizarre compunction to pick apart the details of people’s lives that I find him fascinating.  The difference between him and me is that he has very little tact and I have developed a bit more.  If things had been different, I could have been more like him, including the addiction problems.

I guess the reason why these characters, these “Aspie-Holes”, fascinate me is because they can use their intellect to override their social and moral filters and say what they want, when they want.  They may have earned a grudging respect from others, but their behavior begs the question: with my own intellect and insight earning me respect, do I want to be right or be happy?  My answer: I need to be happy.  I could have all the success that House and Holmes have earned, but there’s a part of me that wants to feel like I’ve made a positive difference.  It’s just not in my nature to deliberately offend people; if I commit a social blunder on accident, I apologize for it.

Discovering the existence of the “Aspie-Hole” has increased my self-awareness.  This person, both fictional and non-fictional, has taught me a lot about what not to do when engaging in human interaction.  Since I’ve embraced the Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis I’ve done better with people on and off the Spectrum.  What helps to separate me from the “Aspie-Hole” label is my willingness to listen to other people and offer them polite, honest conversation in return.  Have you ever encountered a know-it-all in your life?  Is it possible that they may be an “Aspie-Hole”?  Ask yourself these questions the next time you encounter this kind of person.  Who knows?  Maybe all they need is someone to take what they can dish out and break down their walls of stubbornness.  It may not happen right away, but patience and persistence can lead to a new understanding.

“I Like Lovin’ This Way”

In my Aspie life I often find myself listening to music that resonates with me. What songs resonate with you?  Well, one song that I enjoy every time I hear it is the poetic Michael Jackson ballad “Human Nature”.

Back in 2003, I bought the 20th Anniversary Edition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.  It was the first time that I listened to the album in its entirety.  I had heard several of his more famous hits on radio and TV, but this was the first time I felt like I could hear all the music that was meant to be heard by truly appreciative fans and collectors.

When I played the CD through and through I heard a song that contained smooth, well-crafted lyrics and a resonant organ.  I could not help but make a mental note of it; it was track number seven: Human Nature.  The first time it ever passed my ears, I thought it was somewhat of an artistic departure from Michael’s earlier ballads.  In the past, there was always somewhat of a strolling back beat that would make me sway in a well-timed flow to the rhythm.  Naturally, someone like me who has been singing since the age of five would also sing along once I learned the lyrics and was confident enough to feel the song.

Well, I heard “Human Nature” and it seemed to glide into the vision of a man using the lyrics to artfully craft a song around his innermost desires.  I couldn’t put my thoughts into those exact words, but the spirit and intention lingered in the back of my mind.  The more I listened to the song, the more I developed a different perspective because I was listening with my head and heart.  I began to feel like I was the one confessing that “four walls won’t hold me tonight.”  I pictured Michael being trapped in the “box” of convention and conformity and connected that with my own crazy ride of a life with autism.

“Electric eyes” began to symbolize the stares of people who are so tied to the “machine” of cultural and societal preconceived notions that they can’t help but think what they think and say what they say because they don’t know any better.  I used to feel like “electric” eyes were staring at me because I was so insecure about having autism and I felt like I was misunderstood.

Can you imagine what it feels like to hide something from the world, living with the fear that everyone can see it no matter what you do?  It took me a long time, but I feel like was able to turn off the stares by finding the confidence to embrace who I am: a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome and a voice for others in the same boat.

Responding with “tell ‘em that is human nature” is a way of saying that these feelings of reaching out and loving somebody that you care for are natural and should be embraced.  Sometimes people get stuck in their old ways and don’t know how to move away from them.  In my opinion, you need to deal with them; I say this from personal experience.

I feel like because I’m different in a lot of ways, I’m trying to say that I have normal human desires fueled by an artistic personality.  If some people don’t understand, then I tell that it’s “Human Nature.”  I’m living life from my heart and I feel great about doing so.  Even after the sudden, tragic death of Michael Jackson, this song continues to resonate with me.  I guess we all have to find our own musical poetry to express inner desires.  At least that’s what I think.

I feel like this song was written about me.  These lyrics were my inner feelings put to words, words that I didn’t have before.  To finally have a way to describe my feelings was so invigorating I could finally feel like I would be understood.  “Human Nature” has become a lyrical expression of my artistic soul and autistic mind.  I listen to it and sing it with a renewed passion and confidence that I never thought I would have.  I feel as though I’ve embraced my humanity and I’m grateful to the magic of Michael Jackson’s music for helping me do so.