by Larry Brody
Several months ago in this space I came out of the closet of normality and ‘fessed up to having Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. After which I braced myself and waited—
For a firestorm never happened.
No, “I always knew you were weird, Larry B.”
Or, “Yep, if ever there was a crackpot writer it’s you, dude.”
After a few weeks a response to my announcement finally came. In the form of an invitation to contribute to a book a friend was writing about his theory that autistic men and women have a greater than normal awareness of what is known by some as “the Great Unknown,” by others as “the Wind of Mystery,” and by still others as:
Turned out he too is an Asperger’s kind of guy (my friend writing the book, not God), and to him it was no big deal. Certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
So why was I?
I’ve been letting that question percolate for awhile and finally have an answer. I think it’s because in the environment in which I grew up—family, school, neighborhood—I was made to feel guilty about who and what I was. I was regarded as “antisocial” and “introverted,” and being antisocial and introverted were considered bigger sins than gluttony, sloth, and just about anything else short of murder.
“Why don’t you want to talk to people?” my mother would ask when I was a little kid. “Why don’t you want to go outside and play with Melvin and
Bumpy when they call for you?”
And, when I was older:
“Aren’t you lonely staying in your room like this?” my father would say. And from more than one teacher: “Don’t you want to just go out and have the kind of fun most teenagers do?”
The replies to those questions were: “I don’t like talking to people. It hurts me too much.”
“Playing with Melvin and Bumpy is fun for Melvin and Bumpy, but not for me.”
“But I’m not alone. I’m with a terrific book.”
And, “The kind of fun most teenagers have isn’t fun for me.”
I didn’t utter any of those replies because the interaction itself would’ve been way too painful. I always felt on the defensive. Under attack.
Simply because I didn’t belong.
And not belonging, not feeling part of any group, is what Asperger’s is all about.
As an adult I’ve kept all this a secret so I wouldn’t have to re-fight my youthful battles. It’s only now that I’m more mature that I’m able to stand up for myself to the outside world the same way I always stood up for myself in my interior one.
I’m comfortable with the differences between the way I perceive and react to the universe and the way most other people do. As I see it, I’m not the one with the problem. Those who’ve spent so much energy unknowingly inflicting pain on me in order to make me more “social” have always been the ones with the problem.
My perception is that because of the way my brain works I’m able to focus on what’s important to me more than most human beings can. I can analyze myself and others and see our foibles from a perspective available only to a watcher who is distanced from his subject. Yet I can go so far inside myself that I connect with the Great Unknown, the Wind of Mystery, and, yes, even God much more intimately than I’m able to communicate with words.
And if in return I lack the wherewithal to make cold phone calls or connect with small talk at parties or feel the joy of leaping from my seat to cheer for my team in the Super Bowl, so be it. I understand that life is a trade-off.
Because I actively take part in that trade every minute of every day.
I understand that I’m luckier than other Asperger’s types. I can feel love for others and love in return. And I’ve learned how to communicate these facts with them using my body and my words and my soul.
I like these things about myself. They give me great joy.
And I appreciate, possibly also more than I can describe in words, what another friend said to me recently. “You’re the least obnoxious guy with Asperger’s I know.”
In fact, for one brief but shining moment I came this-close to feeling that he and I were connected.