Monday, 16 February 2009

You should have been in my shoes yesterday

When I was younger I used to walk a lot. It all started when I was a teenager still living at home with my parents. I'd sneak out the backdoor when everyone else was in bed and just walk and walk. We had a dog at the time which was quite active so I would take it with me and she loved it too. When it heard me come creeping down the stairs, or go near the back door at night it'd prick its ears up, asking if we were going out again.

I was born and raised in Scotland by the shore so there were always loads of walks, loads of great views and interesting places. I'd have all sorts of routes I'd go on, a lot by the shore, but some high up to the hills behind my home town where you could see for miles. When you have insomnia and a mind that never stops racing, just getting out for a walk can be quite calming and relaxing and I'd always have my Walkman for company. It beats being cooped up indoors with things just running over and over in your mind. Even when the dog eventually passed away I'd still go on the same walks into the early hours.

When I had to move away from home to spend my placement year in industry I was once again by the coast, once again racked with insomnia and restless thoughts. The difference now was that I didn't need to sneak out, but I still had miles and miles and coastal walks, walks around town too. This was back when Sunday trading laws were still tight and the whole town centre would be deserted like a scene from "28 Days Later". I don't know where everybody went…but I still walked around.

For my first real job after university I moved into a land-locked concrete jungle, however I was soon finding good routes to walk at night, although walking soon gave way to driving and I'd go on nightly jaunts in my car rather than walking. Again I'd have all sorts of routes that would loop through local towns and villages, maybe stopping at a service station along the way, then back home.

When I stopped living on my own the walking kind of stopped. The main reason is that people thought it was "odd". How could I explain to a girl that I was just nipping out for an hour or so. "Where are you going?" "Nowhere, just for a walk." "Where?" "Nowhere really". In fact I even recall being stopped by the police on one of my early hours sojourns and they wanted to know what I was doing out at such an hour. "Nothing, just walking". When the late-night walks stopped I think a part of me stopped too.

I have moved again and once more I have found myself back at the coast, I don't think I could ever really live away it from it now. I've been here for years but still no routes. No walking routes or driving routes. Instead I spend the early hours watching DVDs or TV or drinking or playing my XBOX. I was feeling quite cooped up and agitated tonight. I'd had a bad day at work and was feeling anxious about a few things. To get myself out of the flat I took a walk to Blockbuster for some popcorn to accompany my movie for the night. It's only a 10 minute walk so I was there and back with my salted treats in no time. Except I didn't go back into the flat, I just tossed them into the porch and headed out to the beach.

I can't believe in all the time I've lived here I've never taken a late-night walk down to the beach. It wasn't that late so some people were still there, disturbing the silence. The piers are closed but there was a small group sitting around a fire on the beach playing acoustic guitars. Further along people were still kicking a ball around under the promenade lights. I took the long walk away from the promenade, into the darkness and toward where the waves were crashing. Such a sound, it's hypnotic. I walked along the water line where the sand was firm under foot and not hard to walk on at all. The sounds of the guitars and balls were soon lost to the sea's waves and I stared across the massive, black void to be alone with my thoughts.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Do you think I asked for a 12 inch pianist?

As lacking in social skills that I am, there is one arrow I seem to have in my quiver in that I think I have a good sense of humour. Now I suppose everyone says that, however if I rationally analyse a social gathering (which I can easily do, after all I'm always on the outside looking in even if we're standing next to each other) then my jokes seem to get more and harder laughs. Unfortunately it does leave me looking a little like Chandler from "Friends" in that I stand there until I have something funny to say, then shut up waiting for the next joke to float along. This is to the extent that I have actually had people watch my face, smiling already, as I add something not intended to be funny to a conversation only for their face to relax at the end and add "oh sorry…I thought you were telling a joke." Hell, I've even had some people say I should be a stand up comedian, and I admit I've thought about giving it a go, however I'll stop short of believing my own hype for the time being.

I actually think that my Asperger's Syndrome (AS) has something to do with this…in a "God giveth and God taketh away" kind of deal. The same "out of the box" thinking that helps me in my computing career can seemingly also be used to find the funny lines that others didn't think of, and find them quite quickly too. Add to that my lack of empathy and "nothing is too much" attitude, not only can I seem to find lines that others didn't think of, but my range of possible material is also a lot more diverse as no subjects are "taboo" to me. And even if the end result is not taboo in itself, you can sometimes get there going by way of areas that are taboo.

This wide-ranging aspect to humour is something that I have learned to temper as I have gotten older. Like most social aspects, people with AS have to learn what comes naturally to others. I have had to learn (unfortunately by trial and error) that not everyone finds certain topics funny, and there are some things that you are seemingly never allowed to joke about, mainly gallows humour. However again I tend to apply my rational way of thinking to gallows type jokes and will crack them anyway and if people are offended I can go off on a lecture about how gallows humour has always existed and it is important to help people deal with difficult situations. What I have learned about gallows humour on my own travels is that it seems to split people into two camps…those for whom it is a tool to help them deal with a situation via humour, and those for whom it is a tool to help them deal with a situation by chastising gallows humour via righteous indignation. No matter what camp you lie in, gallows humour is at least of some use for you.

In a way I'm glad that it is at least one social skill that I have. It means that if I am in a group conversation it usually gives me the odd thing to chip in here and there (although it means waiting for others to do the ground work). I also think it gives people something they can warm to about you; it gives you a facet of personality, a hint of likability…just "something". Alas you can't build a circus on a one-trick pony, and if anything it might also make people not take you seriously and think you just mess around and that's all you are. Also as someone or something is usually the butt of a joke it can maybe also make you appear a bit negative and bitchy. Still, overall I don't mind, it's my "thing". If you can make someone laugh it's always good, and girls seem to say they like someone with a sense of humour and I've found that to be fairly true. I'd never go as far as to say I have "laughed someone into bed" (maybe out of one) but my sense of humour has always been a fairly large part of my relationships. Getting back to the one-trick show, however, it's a precarious edge to balance a whole relationship on.