How a man on the Spectrum learns to live

Posts tagged ‘Music’

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.

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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“.

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Random Bliss

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Sometimes, you find random bliss in the most unlikely places. That recently happened when I was on DeviantArt and read the latest journal entry of an artist I follow. This woman who calls herself PixelKitties is known among some artists and pop culture geeks for being skilled with drawing and crafts, and possessing a very witty sense of humor. What was different about this journal entry was the candor, honesty, and thought-provoking words that left me speechless.

I don’t have time, inclination or the patience to tell other people what to do or how to live their lives. Policing my own self is a full time job. I don’t want to be anyone else’s moral gendarme. All I want is to be a good person and treat others with the same respect, understanding and kindness that I want to be treated with.

I don’t deal in stereotypes or broad generalizations or beating people over the head with the cudgel of my own personal beliefs. I have faced pain and suffering and discrimination and hurt and heartache in my life-just the same as anyone. I’ve done good things and bad, brave and cowardly, honorable and self-serving. I have been there, just the same as you. And because of that, more than anything else in this world, I believe in empathy and understanding, never condemnation. My past mistakes- and they are multitude- is today’s lesson and tomorrow’s regret. I dare not judge or begrudge others for their missteps along the way.” (May 22, 2014)

Reading these words was like reading my innermost feelings. I felt a sense of grace, as if God and the Universe were showing me that I wasn’t the only one who was felt this way in their core; a reminder that I’m not alone in believing in the best of humanity. I remembered to stand in the truth of my own flaws and mistakes, and remembered that even when I was bullied, I chose to rise above the role of victim. This is important for anyone, not just someone on the Autism Spectrum. I feel like we all need to be reminded that we are not alone in our hopes and dreams. Even on days when we feel secure, a friendly and unexpected reminder can bring us extra joy and contentment. Even the simplest of words can become a gift of unexpected grace and random bliss.

Read the short, but sweet journal entry here at DeviantArt: PixelKitties’ Journal Entry

Today’s musical inspiration is favorite of mine and it’s how I feel right now: Live High by Jason Mraz

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”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7k0a5hYnSI

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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT4A2Ox6hRM

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”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0afIwq6QSg

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”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPd4Qs4Bzik

Selfless Indulgence

Selfless indulgence with Yours Truly at the Farmer's Market.

Selfless indulgence with Yours Truly at the Farmer’s Market.

You know, sometimes the best things in life come from the darndest places. Have you ever had moments where you found something special without even trying? Have you learned to be satisfied with a special item or a small gesture? Did you feel happy inside because you did something good for someone else? Well these were all feelings I discovered while learning to be more aware and outgoing on my journey with Autism. This is very significant for me because it’s common for people on the Autism Spectrum to have difficulty learning new things. It’s also a challenge for Aspies to relate on a deeper level of human emotion, but this all depends on where a person falls on the Spectrum. When I was a kid, my difficulty connecting with people left me isolated and bullied. It hurt me so much and I couldn’t understand why, but with counseling I was able to develop strong emotional knowledge of myself and of human interaction.

I came a long way during my first years of community college. I had the same handful of friends I did in high school and we’re still in contact today. But with the freedom I found, I also discovered my addictive tendencies. The first couple of years were marked with poor diet, a lack of exercise, and an addiction to tv and video games. I was in the grip of mindless self-indulgence that came at a high cost. Fortunately, I was able to admit that I needed help. With support from family and friends I put more emphasis on my studies and less on my bad habits. I needed to learn how to replace them with better habits to keep myself healthy and in balance. Yes, everything in moderation is enjoyable, you just have to know your limits.

When I transferred to the university I felt a change come over me. I was focused on earning my degree in literature and writing and I knew it would help me make a difference in the lives of people on the Spectrum. During my three years there, I decided not to waste my time on binge drinking and late-night partying. I thought “what would I feel in the long run? Does this serve anyone other than myself?” The answer for me was “no”; I could connect with classmates more personally during down time on campus. When I worked in group projects with others, I was open to different ideas and gained satisfaction from indulging in different perspectives on one topic. I realized that a variety of views can enhance your personal knowledge and perspectives.

In my private time, I found a way to connect to people at farmer’s markets. For me, buying the handful of things I needed to cook my own meals was another way to connect to people; it was also good practice for my social skills. More than just a place to buy fresh food, the markets became a source of conversation, vibrant atmosphere, and music by local artists that I support with my applause and the occasional donation. My new habits became second nature; the more I practiced them, the more courage I would gain to tell my truth. When I graduated, I was ready to make a difference, but I wasn’t sure how. With my parents’ careful guidance I was able to create this blog so that I could share my story. The best part was the satisfaction of sharing the gift of my experience with others so that maybe they could see people on the Autism Spectrum in a whole new way.

Today I take great pleasure in small things. Farmer’s markets are still a source of delicious food, live music, and plenty of opportunities for me to be more social. I carry the same feeling over to the conventions I attend and the trips that I take; I used to have difficulty meeting people and networking, but now I’m a lot better at it. If you’re familiar with addiction, you know that you’re never cured of it, you just gain control and maintenance over it. By replacing my negative habits with more positive ones, I’ve learned to enjoy experiences. Whether it’s a special treat or souvenir I can’t buy anywhere else or a show I’ve been wanting to see, it doesn’t take much to satisfy me. I’m happier now that I’ve learned to give others my time and business and maybe make their day a little better. Little things mean a lot when you give and receive them gratefully, and that’s what I call “selfless indulgence”.

Today’s musical inspiration is a live performance of an Old School classic from Boyz II Men, “Little Things”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MmnvAyYbSo