4 Feelings That Suck

Sometimes you just feel like crap. Such is the human experience. I think that the goal of life should be making sure that good things are the majority, and the crappy things are the minority. But even if your life is mostly good, even if your feelings are largely positive- some of them still suck.

This post isn’t about changing these feeling. That’s a totally different post. This is just acknowledging that feeling like this are real, they exist, and that they are universal.

Plus, I find screaming into the void to be very therapeutic sometimes.

1. Getting lost: Realizing that you’re lost immediately turns you back into a 5 year old. All of a sudden, everything around you is 10 times taller and you’ve shrunk like Alice after she drank that potion. I get lost a lot. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Between having a terrible internal compass and stopping every 5 feet to touch something shiny, I’m a pain to shop with- just ask my wife. She always finds me eventually, but not before the panic that I’ll never see her, my home, or anything familiar, ever again sets in.

Honorable Mention for being lost in a more existential way as well. That also sucks.

2. Losing a special interest- I don’t know about you, but I’ve had special interests for as long as I can remember. And with the exception of Star Wars, none of them have lasted. And sometimes that’s ok. When a special interest gently fades to the back of your brain, it’s like it’s lived a good life, and now it’s time for it to go. Especially if it’s making way for something new. But there are other times. Times when you realize that something you love is being pulled away from you, and while you desperately try to hold on, all you can do is watch as it slips away. For me, I spend so much time with my special interest, that losing them is like losing a constant companion.

Honorable Mention for accidently gaining a special interest that you didn’t want. That also sucks.

3. Everyone understanding something but you: Smile and nod, just smile and nod. Because in situations where for whatever reason everyone knows what to do except you, you’ve got to fake it. How do the public collectively know what to do in these situations anyway? I find being in social situations like this comparable to everyone in the room doing a dance that you don’t know- usually I compare it to the Macarena- and they’re all having too much fun dancing to explain to you what’s going on. So instead you mentally beating yourself up for being too dumb to do something that everyone else can easily do, you tell yourself over and over that you don’t belong, and you’ll never to try again, because this feeling isn’t worth it.

Honorable Mention for spelling something wrong for years. That also sucks.

4. Being Misunderstood: Communication is hard for everyone, but I know that since I sometimes communicate in a somewhat non-standard way, I seem to run into misunderstandings more often than most. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through an interaction, and then realizing that you’re having two different conversations, or realizing that you’re not being understood at all. Besides being really frustrating, it’s often guilt inducing, knowing that you’re bringing your best communication game, and it’s still not working. It’s like you’re grabbing at a possibility to connect, and you’re just missing it.

Honorable Mention for having your tone of voice be misinterpreted. That also sucks.

So this one was a bit of a…downer. Sorry.

I hope you know that I’m not trying to imply that these feeling are always present, or that wallowing or over-analyzing is the way to go.

I know that I’ve found it therapeutically useful to recognize when I feel like this, and acknowledge it, so it can pass. I also know that when I can share them with people who might have similar experiences, it can turn feels that suck into feelings of connection.

So go! Watch your favorite show, hang out with your favorite people, pet a puppy! Hell, pet 10 puppies.

Take good care of yourselves.

6 Word Stories pt.22

This week has been wracked with anxiety, and I’m trying to weather the storm. It’s made writing more difficult, as I’ve lost every bit of confidence that I have, so even if I can start something, I find myself deleting it immediately because to me, it all reads like crap. I’m trying to change up my strategy a bit, writing more from that heart, about experiences I’m having as they come. We’ll see how that goes. Other news is that I had my first infusion using my port. The whole thing went pear shaped and I ended up having a meltdown at the infusion center, but I’m hoping things will get easier. On the bright side, my stitches have healed, and the port has stopped hurting, although it does itch like crazy. I’m thinking that will go away soon too.

 

  • Why am I in the kitchen?
  • Knit purl, knit purl, soothing stitches.
  • Important Announcement: New Special Interest Acquired!
  • Too many books- not a problem.
  • Dear strangers: please don’t touch me.
  • I’ve decided that bras aren’t necessary.
  • Can’t handle this friendship falling apart.

Hope everyone is having a good week, and I hope it’s as warm wherever you are as it is here!

6 of My Favorite Board Games

So we all have special interests, right? Those things that capture us and enchant us, they draw us in and they even make us seem obsessed to other people. Right, exactly, those special interests. I know that when I have a special interest, I want to talk about it. Which is usually fine, but is sometimes problematic, like when you’re eight and all you want to talk about it the Holocaust. That freaks people out a bit. But even if our special interests aren’t a weird, topic, people eventually get kind of tired of us talking about it. Which, thank goodness, is what the internet is for!

I’m here to talk to you about one of my current special interest- board gaming. As a kid I loved games like Sorry, Clue, and Risk (not Monopoly. Never Monopoly), but, like most adults, I stopped playing. But thanks to the internet, I learned that board games had moved on from the Classic games that I knew, to more Modern Board games. Games like these are become more popular, in fact, you may have heard of games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, or Pandemic. These are the types of games that pulled me in.

I love that these games are like competitive puzzles, and that you can play them over and over without them feeling old. They also involve a social component, and while this is something that I struggle with, Game Nights aren’t socially stressful at all!

So I’d like to share with you a few of my favorites, partially because I like exposing everyone that I meet to board games, partially because I think you might enjoy them, and partially because if you get tired of listening to me talk, I won’t know.

1. Patchwork– This is a fairly new acquisition, but I’m smitten. Patchwork is a two player game, in which both players are racing to build a quilt out of Tetris shaped pieces. I will make it known right now that I am terrible at this game. More often or not, I actually end up with a negative end score, but as bad at it as I am, I keep coming back to it. There’s so much strategy, do you make money, or do you cover more squares? should you shoot for bonus points or try to complete your quilt?, that I feel the need to play it over and over again. Let’s just say, the day we got it, we played 3 times in a row, and leave it at that.

2. Codenames– This is a great party game, which is generally defined as a cheap easy game that plays a lot of people, and Codenames fits all of these. It’s easy to find cheaply at places like Target, it can be learned in under  5 minutes, and it allows up to 10 players. And as a bonus, it comes in themed versions like Marvel and Disney! This game is played in themes, like Pictionary or Charades, and involves guessing words from limited clues, also like Pictionary and Charades. I enjoy playing it in groups, because as the games go on, people go from being a little stressed, to being incredibly enthusiastic. This is a great game to play with anyone, gamer or not.

3. Betrayal at House on the Hill– Betrayal is a really interesting game because it has two parts. In the beginning it is a cooperative game, meaning all of the players are on the same side, and are working together. But in the second half of the game, one play betrays the other, and it because the betrayer against everyone else. I’ve been informed that when I’m the betrayer, I’m ruthless, down to having an evil laugh, but who are you going to believe, them or me? This game is highly replayable, because it doesn’t have a static board, the player build the board out of tiles as the game goes on. It also has dozens of scenarios for the betrayer, so it never gets old. For any fans of Baldur’s Gate, there is a themed Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate too!

4. 7 Wonders Duel– You may eventually start to notice that I talk a lot about two play games, and this is mostly because my gaming group only gets together once or so a month, so I spend most of my gaming time playing with my wife. It used to be hard to find good two player games, but things are changing! This game is a spin off of a very popular game called 7 Wonders, which involves you building up your civilizations by building wonders like The Pyramids and The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, advancing your scientific knowledge, and building your military. It’s a lot of fun, but I have to say that the two person version is actually better. It’s more streamlined, it is a lot easier to understand, and it’s not nearly as sprawling (7 Wonders can take up a whole table). This is another game that I lost a lot in the beginning, but I’m finally starting to understand the strategy. It’s a pretty solid game, even for people who don’t game much, is pretty rare!

5. Jaipur– This is another two player game (see, I told you!), that is definitely simpler than 7 Wonders Duel. The theme is that you’re a merchant on the Silk Road, trying to sell spices and jewels and silk to make money. It’s a set collecting game, like Uno, so say you’re collecting silk, you want to get as many as you can, because you’ll get more money and more bonuses selling 5 silk than 2. It’s a very straightforward game, it doesn’t take a lot of attention or thought, yet, the more you play, the more you realize there’s little bits of strategy here and there. Our scores having slow increased from the 40’s to the 80’s as we’ve gotten more plays in, which is really satisfying. Also, there are camels.

6. Niya– I got this in my Christmas stocking, and we’ve already played it 4 times! It’s another two player, very simple game, think of it like two steps up from Connect Four. The reason I’m including this is because it’s portable enough to keep in your bag, it has a super small play area, so you can play it at restaurants while you wait for you food, it plays in under 10 minutes, and is so easy to teach that you could find a random stranger and play with them. Also, this game is gorgeous, based on traditional Japanese art, so it’s fun to look at, and fun to play!

So here we are! Did you get tired of listening to me? I certain hope you made it this far, and also that your interests may have been piqued in regards to board games! I’ve linked all the games that I talked about, and if you have any questions, I’m more than willing to talk about it. In fact, I’d welcome it!

Do you like playing board games? How about when you were a kid? Talk to me about your experiences and your favorites, I love talking about this stuff!

Can You Relate?

I run my hands over something soft

Something bumpy, something smooth

There’s no describing how good it feels

Can you relate to that?

 

I’m in a place that’s much too crowded

Too much noise, too much light

My senses hurt me, overwhelmed

Can you relate to that?

 

Engaging with my favorite things

Special Interests, special joy

Makes me want to jump and flap

Can you relate to that?

 

Talking to people I do not know

Try to smile, try to listen

Being polite is a social requirement

Can you relate to that?

 

Accepting that I’m a bit different

Always have been, always will

I’m starting to love who I am

Can you relate to that?

Snapshot: Knit and Purl

Something I haven’t outgrown from when I was younger is the need to fidget. I didn’t know the word ‘stim’ back then, but that’s definitely what I was doing. When I was in high school, my parents got really annoyed because whenever I’d watch TV, I’d take apart the remote controls, which inevitably broke, and they were tired of fixing them. So in order the keep my hands busy, I decided to learn how to knit. I figured old ladies did it, so it couldn’t be that hard, plus, all the yarn I saw at Wal Mart cost $3, so it was a cheap replacement!

Oh how little I knew back then. Sixteen year old me couldn’t have known that I would pay $30 for a skein of yarn, or that I’d make lace so complicated it would take a day to do a row, or that I’d end up owning a spinning wheel. She also couldn’t have known that her fidget replacement would be her very first hobby.

When all you have are special interests, hobbies can be hard to come by. Something that you enjoy, but you’re not obsessed with. Knitting became this for me. I found the process of using my hands soothing, that following complex patterns stimulated my brain, and that giving away things I’d created was very satisfying! I’ve never found a hobby that hits as many area as knitting does, which is honestly ok with me. It means that I can keep looking if I want, but if I don’t find one, knitting will never leave me.

8 Most Important Special Interests

I don’t know if this list is going to be relatable for everyone. I haven’t met enough autistic people to know if they have some special interests that were more important to them than others. While the current special interests are usually the ones in the front of my mind, I acknowledge that there are some that shaped who I am.

The Roman Empire: This is kind of an odd special interest, but it’s even more odd when you’re 6. This is one of the earliest special interests I can remember, and it’s one of the most important. I dropped out of school in the first grade, and was home schooled through the rest of elementary school. Being in a classroom setting wasn’t working for me, and after a few months, I declared that I was done, I was never going to school again. The main reason I gave (besides that I was bored and that the teacher was stupid), was that none of the kids wanted to talk about what I wanted to talk about. Which makes sense now, they were 6, they wanted to talk about care bears and power rangers. The penal code of the Roman court wasn’t really on their radar. This SpIn is so important to me because if I hadn’t had it, things might have been different. I might have decided to stay in school and that would have changed everything.

The Holocaust: What 4th grader reads obsessively about the Holocaust? *points at self* this one. I was a pretty secluded kid. Home-schooled, not many friends. My world consisted of my books and my piano and my cats. The Holocaust blew my mind. I gave myself stomach aches trying to figure out how so many people, so many countries, so many governments could let something like that happen. It temporarily broke my empathy button. I had to disconnect from everything in order to keep reading. And when I realized that that exact tactic was how many Nazis were able to commit so many atrocities, I broke. But I kept reading. I still read. I can’t help myself. Even though it makes me sick, even though it gives me nightmares, trying to reconcile what I know about humanity with what happens during holocausts, or massacres, or exterminations is something I can’t turn my back on.

Star Wars: This one is more pleasant, I promise you, in fact, it might even border on heartwarming. My dad is a huge nerd, and by nature, nurture, or some combination of the two, so am I. He introduced me to Star Wars very young, and made sure that I not only appreciated the visual effects and the lightsaber battles, but the complexity of the story as well. We talked about what makes a Hero, and how people aren’t all good or all bad. He showed me the Expanded Universe novels (which have recently been un-canonized, which I have major issues with, but that’s another story.) and didn’t care when I stole his books before he got to read them. He wasn’t always the most present parent, but this was what we bonded over, and I’m so thankful that George Lucas gave me a platform for connecting with him.

Bullet Journals: Do you know what a Bullet Journal is? I didn’t until recently, and when I got interested and went looking for information, it mostly seemed like hyper organized people who had 5 hours a day to make straight lines. Now, as someone who has a decent amount of Executive Dysfunction, this was not something that seemed doable, much less enjoyable. But then I saw all the rulers and the stickers and the markers and I decided to try anyway. And it turns out, that this thing I’ve made that partially resembles a bullet journal is really helpful. It acts as a visual schedule that I can doodle on! I can keep track of my moods and my self-care, and it helps me do activities at home instead of just interneting all day. All in all this special interest has made me more independent, which is why it’s so important. And hey, I learned that I’m great at hand lettering fonts, who knew?

Autism: I think this is a pretty common one, especially for people like me who were diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) later in life. It’s like you finally had something that explained everything in your life, and you had to learn more, and more and more. And I think some of that is processing everything that’s going on in your life. I mean, I write three times a week about autism, so clearly I’m still processing it, and also, I’m still fascinated by it. Through all my research I’ve found a community that I think will shape my future. I hope, anyway.

Sondheim the Birthday Concert: This is very specific. It fills a category of special interest that nothing else has ever done. Stephen Sondheim is a composer, responsible for shows like West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods. Every few years, the Broadway community throws him a giant birthday filled with performances from his body of work. I caught a rerun on PBS one day, and this 2 hour long special became my comfort show. I watch it when I’m happy, or upset, or confused. I go months watching it every day. I know the songs and the dancing and the jokes all by heart, and I never get tired of it. I don’t know why it affects me the way it does. But in a world where I often have trouble feeling safe, this PBS special is my comfort space.

Knitting: This one is going to be short and sweet. I learned how to knit in high school, after my parents got frustrated that I had taken the TV remote apart. Again. (clearly teenage me needed a Tangle). Knitting was my first real stim toy. It was something I specifically went to when I needed to use my hands for something, instead of chewing my fingers or taking apart remotes. I also discovered that can be a great tactile stim! Alpaca and silk, in particular are so so so soft! And fiber festivals are a great way to touch soft yarn, soft animals, and watch really cool demonstrations, like sheep herding dogs, and spinning wheels! (Have you ever seen a spinning wheel at work? It’s entrancing.)

Musicals: Musical have been a constant in my life. Both my parents were fans, and I’ve had a continuous special interest in musicals for as long as I can remember. Sure the specific musical changes, Annie and Oliver when I was a kid, Les Miserables and Rent as a teenager, and as an adult, Wicked, Hamilton, and Into the Woods. Needless to say, there’s always a musical soundtrack playing in our car. Besides the fact that musicals have been a special interest constant, they’ve also contributed to my understanding of other people. A lot of media types, TV and Movies especially, rely really highly on nonverbal communication. Not that I don’t enjoy them, but sometimes I get a little lost. But in musicals, if someone is happy, they sing about it! And if their heart is breaking, they sing about it! They describe every thought and every feeling out loud, and this makes the world and the characters more relatable. In fact, between the orchestral score and the relating, it’s rare than I make it through a musical without crying.

This list in particular is something I’d be interested in hearing thoughts about. Do people who aren’t me having special special interests? I’m really just curious.

Playing Roles

I have always been a pretty big nerd. Looking back over my life, I’ve got Star Wars: check, Anime: check, Comic Books: check check check. This year, I decided to add another scoop of geek cred to my pile by doing something I’ve always wanted to try. Enter Dungeons and Dragons. It worked out that some friends of mine had been wanting to start a new game, and what better way to learn than with friends? I spent hours making my character. Seriously, his backstory is pages long. Since the best way I know how to do something new is to absorb all the information I can find on it, whir it up in my brain blender, and then make it my own by reassembling it, I took advantage of the almost 45 years worth of character building literature out there. I know his alignment (true neutral), I know his race (Tengu), I know about his family, I know how fast he is, I know his motivations. I also know that his name translates into ‘Garbage’ (his parents were clearly very cruel). I know so many things about him that I’m starting to feel really comfortable playing him. But I had a thought recently and I’m still mulling over it. If I’m playing Taaka, does that mean he’s autistic too?

 

One of the great things about Role Playing Games is that you get to be someone who is entirely unlike you. And I’ve found that to be really freeing. In real life, I’m definitely a rule follower. Granted the rules I follow are my own, and not always those accepted by society, but still, I usually follow rules regardless of what I want to do personally. This character is not like that. His short life has been hard, and he has no qualms about doing whatever is necessary to survive. So in that way, I can reconcile him being different from me; we have totally different backgrounds. I can imagine his past well enough to guess what he would do in a given situation. But what I’m not sure I can do is imagine what a neurotypical person would do. Life experience has proven that I’m not very good at predicting what a non-autistic person will think or do or say. So does that mean that my autism is coloring how my character experiences the world?

 

I think it comes down to the issue that often comes up when neurotypical writers try to write autistic characters: that even if they get past the stereotypes, they are still trying to understand the world in a way that is entirely foreign to them. It’s hard to teach someone to think in a different way. It’s why ABA doesn’t actually work. People can be taught to imitate the thoughts of others, but it’s sort of like learning a second language as an adult, you may get fluent, but you’ll never be a native speaker. So can I treat neurotypical as a second language of sorts? I spend most of my life scripting, and people learning languages rely heavily on that as well. I fake nonverbal communication, and language-learners fake accents.  In the beginning, they can probably only order coffee, find a train station, and count to twenty, and on bad days, that’s about all I can do too. So the major question is, are my neurotypical ‘skills’ enough to let my character be neurotypical? If I’m faking it, is he faking it? Is his big picture colored by my autistic lens?

 

I’m asking a lot of questions because this is the sort of philosophical thing that really gets stuck in my head. Mostly because I’ve spent such a large chunk of my life trying to observe and imitate other people. I’ve gotten good enough that sometimes, I can pass. Sometimes I can even understand the thought process behind what I’m doing (which let me tell you is so cool!). But neither of these things makes my brain any less autistic. It’s just like a native language, I think in autism, I dream in autism, and I communicate most organically in autism. Which has led me to the following conclusion: I can never truly play a neurotypical character because I’ve never lived a neurotypical life. I can research it, I can understand it, but in the end, my character will never be able to interact with his world in a truly neurotypical was because I can’t. It’s easy to play a character with a different alignment than you, with a different temperament than you, with a different religion than you. People play dragons and elves and gargoyles all the time. Hell, my character is a giant bird-man, and I manage that ok. I can pretend to have feathers and a beak, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pretend that the way my brain interprets the world can be anything less than autistic. So Taaka will have a small trace of my autism, and I think he’ll be better for it. Maybe my next character will actually be autistic. Or whatever they call autistic in Golarian. There are things about me that I can stop from translating to my fictional role, but I think it’s ok that autism isn’t one of them. I’m playing him as an Autistic Tengu Magus, and all three of those parts of him are important. Maybe not as important as him getting his hands on a bag of holding, but we all have priorities.