About Me

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grew up in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, contemporary of Judd Apatow. Listened to Free to Be You and Me and Yellow Submarine countless times on a phonograph that could play 16⅔, 33⅓, 45 or 78 rpm records from the inside of a large console cabinet on the floor of my living room. John Lennon was assassinated, the 1980's began, and I went through puberty. On late night radio, random people asked Dr. Ruth all variety of questions about sex. She asked, "Do you masturbate?" If the caller said yes, she gleefully exclaimed "Gut!" in Yiddish, and then took the next call. Went to college, abroad, grad school, work and more grad school. Married, started a new career and had kids. Decided that like Jung at age 37, my time for individuation had arrived. I'm ISTJ according to Myers-Briggs; I'm a five according to Enneagram; I experience "flow" as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, but surely there must be more to it than cleaning one's closets. And what is "love" anyway? After one of my children was diagnosed with mild Asperger's, on September 24, 2010, I heard Tim Page on the radio say that he figured it out after his son was diagnosed. Oh.


1. friendship

play. In elementary school during recess, most of the kids ran around on the playground. I usually caught grasshoppers with the one other kid in the class that I could relate to, who was more of an outcast than I was. I remember not being able to relate to what most of the other kids were doing, just running around and acting "crazy." As a child, I often felt like I knew how to relate to adults better than my peers. Adults made it very clear how I should behave and seemed happy when I was well behaved. I didn't know how I was supposed to behave around other children.

birthdays. When I was a small child, at one of my first birthday parties, I just hid under the dining room table and wouldn't come out. I've often wished that people would just leave me alone. I got my wish, and now I'm unhappy. Actually, I don't want to be left alone. I want to have friends. I remember one of my siblings saying to me that I didn't have any friends, and my parents had to find friends for me. Obviously, this made me feel bad and I said it wasn't true, even though I suspected it was true. I have never felt confident in my friendships. I have never felt like someone was my best friend or that I was another person's best friend.

conventions. When I was 13, I had the mother of all birthday parties, a Bar Mitzfah. When you lack confidence about who your friends are, birthday parties are stressful, so I was of course anxious about my Bar Mitzfah party. I remember thinking that my Bar Mitzfah was like an important homework assignment that didn't actually mean anything to me. I didn’t make a speech, for the simple reason that I didn't have to, and I didn't want to. I did not have any feelings about the experience. Afterwards, I wrote the thank-you notes that were part of the Bar Mitzfah invitation package, and I remember leaving off the "Dear" salutation and the "Love" valediction for the ones addressed to my parents' friends. How could they be "dear" to me and how could I "love" them if I didn't even know who they were? Of course, I had to go back and change those before they were mailed. My actions were interpreted as rude and lazy, even though that was not my intent at all. To me, it seemed extremely odd to tell people that they were "dear" and that I "loved" them, when in fact I didn't even have the slightest idea who they were.

presentation. I've often had trouble giving and accepting gifts. It seems like the ideal gift would be something that the person wants but does not already have and cannot or would not buy for themselves. Since it's frequently difficult to ascertain what such a thing would be, people usually get gifts they don't want, especially if they're picky, like me. What am I supposed to do when I get something I don't want. I think I'm supposed to pretend that I actually do want it and I'm supposed to make the other person feel good about giving it to me. If that's what I'm supposed to do, that's fine, but in that case getting gifts doesn't make me happy. It just forces me to lie to somebody to try to make the gift giver happy. In order to avoid giving another person something they don't want, I might ask the person what they want. But then the "gift" concept is apparently lessened by the fact that I did not choose the gift. In fact, I could have just as easily given the person cash in order to buy the thing. On the other hand, the gift could be the act of buying the thing and delivering it to the other person. In some cases, a thing is hard to find, or the person receiving the gift might know the general or specific function they want the thing to do, but they don't know which type or brand of product will perform that function. So the gift could be figuring that out for the other person. Still, the person is likely not to want the thing I buy if the person is not able to or does not want to tell me exactly what they want. It would seem like a better practice to tell the person exactly what I intend to buy before buying it. Most people don't like to spend the time and effort to return something. Of course I could give the gift with the understanding that if the person doesn't want it, I will be the one to return it. But again, the usual practice is to lie and say you do want something even if you actually don't want it. Now it could be that I'm missing the whole point. It's actually the "thought" that counts. But if that's true, why can't you just tell someone that you like them. I don't know about other people, but that would be a sufficient gift for me. But I suppose it's not good enough to just tell someone how you feel. You have to demonstrate it by doing something that requires a concerted effort. I have found, however, that in reality the other person doesn't know how much effort you expended buying the gift, and how much they like the gift really has little correlation to that effort. A gift is supposed to be wrapped and is supposed to come with a card. I can't understand either of these things at all. If someone comes to my house and gives me a wrapped gift, that's just an extra layer of packaging I have to get through to get to the present. It's hard enough opening packaging these days without that extra layer. Also, since I'm generally the one to ensure that garbage is taken away from my house so that it doesn't accumulate on my property, the wrapping paper creates that much extra work for me. And I know that even though the garbage does eventually get transported away from my property never to be seen again by me, it does not actually disappear. All of that wrapping paper is sitting in a landfill somewhere, or perhaps it was incinerated and it's in the atmosphere somewhere. That's on top of the energy that was used to manufacturer the wrapping paper and transport it to me in the first place. Everything I said about the wrapping paper also goes for the card. Now I know that cards sometimes also contain a funny joke, but the gift giver could probably tell me 10 jokes or more for the amount of effort it took to give me that card. It's true that people usually write stuff in the card, but again couldn't they just tell me those things? That would actually be a lot more personal and meaningful to me. A lot of cards don't even have jokes on them. What's the point of those cards? The whole gift-giving/wrapping/card presenting thing is a mystery to me. To me, it's just a tremendous amount of effort that is more likely to lead to bad feelings than good feelings. On top of that, I don't want more stuff. If anything, I wish I had less stuff. Instead of giving me presents, I wish they would come over to my house and take away some of the stuff I already have and don't want, like that stupid present they gave me last year. I remember in school, some of the kids would hand in assignments such as a "term paper" with some kind of special packaging to improve the presentation of the assignment. For example, the assignment would have a cover page and a plastic binder with a transparent cover and a heavy back. I remember feeling insulted by this. Why would anyone care about the way a homework assignment looked; the only thing that mattered was the substance.

teasing. The whole time I was growing up, boys frequently called me a "faggot." I think boys do this a lot to each other, but maybe they did it to me more than others because of the way I reacted to it. I always interpreted the insult literally, like they were actually accusing me of being a homosexual; it never occurred to me that they were just being mean in a general way, and they did not literally mean what they were saying. My general reaction was to offer some kind of defense of my heterosexuality, although a lot of this took place before puberty so I really didn't even have much in the way of sexuality. Also, I know that I always felt the need to add that I didn't think it would even matter if I was gay. Why was that even an insult? I'm actually proud of the fact that I always felt that way. I have never understood why anyone would make a value judgment about a person's sexual preference. Until very recently, I had completely lost touch with the other, odd kid who used to catch grasshoppers with me on the playground. When I reconnected with him, I found out he was gay. I think that as eight year-old schoolmates, we both had trouble relating to the other kids but we had a special shared consciousness.


2. consciousness

other-consciousness. My first career was as a teacher. This was a terrible choice of careers for me, because I lacked the charisma and persuasive ability to motivate the students or to get them to like or respect me. After teaching three years in three different schools, I was again out of work. I applied for many jobs and sometimes got interviews (on paper, I had a great resume). After one interview, I was asked to wait outside while the group of people who interviewed me were talking about me. They did not know it, but I could hear what they were saying. I overheard someone say that the school should not hire me, because I did not smile once during the entire interview. So when I was 26 years old, after being a secondary school teacher for three years, I overheard this person say that I was supposed to smile when talking to people. I don't think that had ever occurred to me up to that point. Now, I make a conscious effort to smile when talking to people. I was fired from my next teaching job. My boss said that I was the "Pete Rose" of teachers, meaning that I was an expert in the subject matter I was teaching, but my students perceived me to be such a jerk that many of them complained about me and/or could not learn from me.

pretending. I have never wanted to pretend. I never knew what to do with a doll or a stuffed animal. If it's an "action figure," I do the "actions" a few times and then it seems to have no purpose whatsoever. I know what pretending is and I am capable of doing it with mental effort, but I have no recollection of ever pretending just for the fun of it. I can pretend just like I can do long division. In fact, I probably find doing long division to be more engaging.

recharging. Trying to act in a socially acceptable way around other people is an effort for me. When I was in school, I had to take a nap when I got home from school to recharge my batteries.

charity. If I read in the news that there were 10 people on the other side of the world stuck in a coal mine right now who might die, it would not affect me, even if I saw pictures of them and their families. My first thought would be, yes, but there are 40,000 people who might die of starvation today and every day. They are not in the news, but I care more about that. I think my concern is much more logical, and that it's likely that when I donate my money to charity, I donate it to a better cause.

busyWhen you ask people how they are, they often state that they are "busy." What does that mean? I know that some people genuinely are busy, for example a single parent with children working two jobs who also does volunteer work. There are some people who really do wake up in the morning and do stuff all day until they go to sleep at night. But curiously, these are usually not the people who say they're busy. So what does it mean most of the time when most people say it? Of course, most people do something during the whole time they are awake, like getting food and drinks at a drive-through window, driving a car, talking on the telephone, working at a job, cleaning, cooking, watching television, reading a book or a newspaper, etc. But if you spend a few hours every day doing things that you've chosen to do, as opposed to things that you have to do, what does it mean to say you're "busy"? A lot of the time when people say they're "busy," I interpret it to simply mean that there are other things they'd rather be doing than interacting with me. People who are "busy" never seem to be too busy to do the things that they want to do. They're only too busy to do the things they don't want to do. In some cases, it's just one of those polite lies that people tell. On the other hand, I think a lot of people genuinely believe that they are "busy." With rare exceptions, I've never really felt busy my entire life, even though I don't think I do less than the average person. Maybe people just feel better about themselves if they think of themselves as busy. "I’ve been so busy" sounds better than "Yesterday I had nothing to do for two hours, so I read a book that was moderately interesting, and I watched a boring television program." Maybe people really are busy, because they're really inefficient. Whenever I'm doing something that I have to do, I do it with intense focus and with a constant effort to do it as efficiently as possible. Socializing may not come naturally to me, but trying to do tasks efficiently does. Ironically, I always do stuff as if I'm really busy, as if I have to finish the job as quickly as possible. As a result, I'm hardly ever busy. Maybe being busy doesn't mean anything; it's just something that people say when they don't know what else to say.

lying. Most people learn to tell white lies at an early age. I had difficulty with this for a couple of reasons. First, I thought the rule was that you are supposed to tell the truth, and I did not understand that in certain situations, you are supposed to lie. (I've been told that "white" lies are actually not "lies," but I disagree, so I refer to them as lies.) Second, I believed that it was more important to be honest and to say what I really believed than to say what the person wanted to hear. Third, I probably had little awareness of what the person wanted to hear. So, for example, if someone asked me, "Do you like my new haircut?" I might reply, "No, I liked it better the way it was before." Obviously, this caused people to think that I was disrespectful and rude, but that was never my intent.

conflict. I've been told I'm pigheaded. I tend to be critical rather than giving praise. If I want one thing, and someone else wants another thing, I usually think that either I'll get what I want or the other person will get what the other person wants. Usually, I'd rather just let the other person get what the other person wants than be persuaded to want something different, even if that different thing is a "compromise."

dreams. When I was little I had a recurring scary dream. It was based on the feelings aroused by the Mickey Mouse short "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice," in the animated classic Fantasia. Mickey causes a broom to come to "life" but then is unable to control the broom. Mickey panics, grabs an ax and chops the broom to pieces, but each piece comes to life, forming hundreds of new brooms which continue to be out of Mickey’s control. I was frightened by the concept of infinity. Apparently there is something called apeirophobia, which is fear of the infinite.

embarrassment. I have never feared public speaking. I've never been afraid to raise my hand in class or express myself in front of a large group of people. I unintentionally embarrass other people. I point out others' mistakes in a way that people perceive as critical and hostile, even though that is not my intent. I did this to my teachers growing up. I never really thought about my teachers as real people. They were there to teach me stuff, and I either liked their class or I didn't. It never mattered to me whether my teachers liked me. Contradicting teachers is not always a bad thing, because sometimes the teacher really is wrong. When I was 12, my soccer coach was making the team do sprints, and one kid was running a little slower than everyone else. Perhaps he should have had some kind of consequence for not "hustling," but the soccer coach slapped him in the back of his head hard enough to knock him over. I thought that was bad, so I just walked off the field and went home. A couple of the other kids went with me. Some of the other parents found out what had happened, and I remember someone commending me for my actions. Being complimented like that was embarrassing to me.

self-consciousness. I remember becoming self-conscious when I was eight years old. I distinctly remember lying in the bathtub looking at my toes and thinking that I was the only being in the universe with consciousness of my own existence and that I would remember that moment for the rest of my life. I did. For years after that, when I looked in the mirror, I had a palpable feeling of the uniqueness of my own self-consciousness at that moment. I would constantly think to myself, "I'm me and no one else besides me could ever have the feeling of being me." For years after that when I looked in the mirror, I experienced self-consciousness as a strange, foreign emotion.


3. emotion

moodiness. I have always been moody. I am frequently worried and anxious about things that don't necessarily warrant those feelings.

feelings. When I was 17, my grandma died and my family went to her funeral. I knew I was supposed to be sad. I understood why it was bad for her and others that she had died, but I really didn't feel anything. I really wanted to have the feelings that I thought I was supposed to have. I remember pretending to cry, and some people tried to comfort me, which made me very uncomfortable.

aloofness. My freshman year of college, I rushed a fraternity. At the very end of the process, I was told that the brothers were willing to have me as a member but there was doubt about whether I actually wanted to be in the fraternity. They sensed that I did not feel any enthusiasm for being in the fraternity, and they were probably right. But I stated that I did sincerely want to be in the fraternity, and that satisfied them. I think the conversation stuck with me, because I frequently do the right things and say the right things, but still come across the wrong way.

expression. I often have feelings that just don't "come out," so there's no way for other people to know how I'm feeling. I know what people who love each other do, how they treat each other. But I have great difficulty understanding the "emotion" of love.


4. love

"Do You Love Me?" from Fiddler on the Roof goes like this. "(Tevye) Do you love me? (Golde) Do I love you? For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. I'm your wife. For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him, twenty-five years my bed is his. If that's not love, what is?" I am not generally an emotional person, but I cannot hear or even think about this song without tearing up. It so perfectly conveys the difference between the way I perceive love, and the way most people seem to perceive it. I know that I feel love as strongly as anyone else.  The problem is communication.


5. communication

first words. I didn't speak at all until I was two and half years old, when I said: "I want a Mallomar." Then, I just talked in full sentences. I never referred to myself in the third person.

funny sounding words. When I was nine years old, I had one classmate who I felt a special connection to. In class, we spent a lot of time giggling when he said "doy" and I said "der." He was doy and I was der and I found this hysterically funny. I have no idea why. When I was little, I remember trying to figure out what the purpose of life was. I decided that the purpose of life was to laugh. I still think that maybe I was right.

body language. When I was little, I always used to stare at people with a blank expression on my face. At some point, I stopped doing it, but whenever I am in public I need to constantly fight the urge to stare at people. When I'm talking to people face to face, I make a conscious effort to make proper eye contact, but I often think to myself, "should I look at the left eye or the right eye? If I dart back and forth that will be distracting to me and will probably look strange to the other person. I’ll just concentrate on one eye. Okay, here I go." I actually consciously think these things when I talk to someone. When I walk down the street, I'm always conscious that I'll look at someone too long, and I need to avert my eyes. I have never gesticulated while talking.

literal. It took me an extraordinarily long time to understand that people often do not mean what they literally say. I did not used to know that "How are you?" usually just means hello, and the other person doesn't really want an answer to the question. I have been told my entire life, "you’re so literal." Some people I knew in college even nicknamed me "Mr. Literal." I remember learning the word "blocks," as in city blocks, when I was a child. I could not understand what the word meant. I knew it had something to do with streets, but all I could imagine was a small pile of children’s blocks in the middle of the street. I remember once in high school, I was with my friends, and we went into a house that had a young child. One of my friends remarked: "Wow, the kid's shit is all over the place." I said: "I don’t see any shit." It didn't occur to me he was referring to the child's toys. It took me a long time to understand the expression "black ice," because I had never seen ice that was black. After hearing the expression numerous times, I finally understood that "black" ice means transparent ice on top of a black surface. I guess that concept is immediately apparent to other people, but not to me. I distinctly remember the first time my teacher asked me to use a vocabulary word in a sentence. I don't remember what the word was, but let’s say it was "peculiar." The sentence I wrote and handed in to my teacher was: "I looked 'peculiar' up in the dictionary." Not only did I think this was an acceptable and correct answer, I thought it was the best possible answer, because this sentence not only worked for this word. It could work for any word. Of course, my teacher derisively told me that my answer was wrong. But it wasn't my fault; her directions were wrong, or at least incomplete. I have always enjoyed puns and wordplay. I think this follows directly from having a literal interpretation of language.

conversation. When I was growing up and wanted someone's attention, I used to grab the person’s chin and physically force the person to look at me. In social situations, when people are talking about something, the conversation will frequently diverge to a different topic. I often find this very disconcerting if there has been no "closure" to the first topic of conversation. I frequently have the urge to "finish" the first conversation, before moving on to the second conversation. Other people seem to have no problem flipping from one topic to another, like constantly changing the channels on a television without ever finishing a program. A lot of times when people are talking, especially women, they laugh even though nobody said or did anything humorous. I have trouble understanding why they're laughing. I need to make a conscious effort to indicate that I'm listening to someone when they are talking to me. Saying "uh huh," "yes," "I know," nodding, smiling, making eye contact or other gestures does not come naturally to me. I have read that other people have a natural ability to understand what others would find relevant or interesting, how to begin a narrative, the proper duration of a narrative, what information should be included and excluded, and how to be neither curt, obtuse or boring to the listener. Trying to do all those things requires a great deal of conscious effort for me. When someone's talking to me, one way to indicate that I'm interested in what the person is saying is to ask questions. But when I do, it's often interpreted as giving the person the "third degree" or "cross-examining" them. People assume I'm trying to make a point, and their feelings will get hurt, because I'm being argumentative. I'm actually just trying to engage in conversation. Maybe, I'm just supposed to say, "uh huh, uh huh." "Yes, that's wonderful!" But I find it difficult to force myself to do that. Other people seem to do that without consciously "acting," but I am not able to. I think I'm as good at making small talk as anyone; I just find it completely tedious. I enjoy conversations in which someone conveys to me information that I don't already know. Purely "social" conversations are a big effort for me. Subjectively, it appears to me that most people find me boring and I find most other people to be boring, but I don't think my own thoughts are boring. I now know that people don't usually want to hear details, even though to me the details are the most interesting aspect of any narrative.

reaction time. Sometimes I react unusually slowly when someone says something to me. Sometimes it just takes some time to process what I've heard and to formulate how I want to respond. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for me to notice that someone else is intruding on my own thoughts. I've noticed that other people often begin responding to what I'm saying before I've finished talking. It seems to me like they are rudely interrupting me, or responding thoughtlessly without really considering what I'm saying.

tone of voice. How many times have I heard, "it's not what you said, but how you said it." It is so frustrating to do all the right things, and even say all the right things, but others still dislike me because my body language and tone of voice betray me. I remember that I sometimes talked oddly when I was little. My voice became high-pitched at certain times, and I tended to speak with something akin to an English accent. I frequently talk too loud without realizing it. It wouldn't surprise me if people find me a lot more pedantic than I realize. I like teaching people things I know and learning from others things that they know. To me, it seems like a lot of people just like to spend a lot of their time complaining to each other, which I find extremely tedious.

tuning out. Sometimes I tune people out. I don't think I do this on purpose.

shyness. When I was little, I was "shy." That's kind of an understatement, because much of the time I simply did not talk at all. I remember many times listening intently to people talking and pretending I did not hear or understand what they were saying, even though I was actually listening to every word. Sometimes, I was pretending to be asleep even though I wasn't. I think I've always been a little afraid to express myself to others. When I was little, I wanted the game "Mousetrap" for my birthday. When my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said "Mousetrap" but was unable to communicate that I wanted a game called Mousetrap that I saw advertised on television. My parents had no idea what I was talking about and bought me a mousetrap for my birthday. I of course was upset, because it wasn't what I wanted. They then bought me the game I did want, which I liked very much. The point is that I was unable to express the simple thing of what I wanted for my birthday. Perhaps one reason I have always had difficulty expressing myself to others is that I can't distinguish between the thoughts that I should express to other people and the thoughts that I should not express to other people. I think I frequently feel ashamed about what I'm thinking.


6. thinking

talking to myself. I think in words. I hardly have any ability to imagine anything besides language. Complete sentences are always running through my mind as if I'm constantly talking to myself.

one track mind. When I get an idea in my head to do something, I feel a need to complete what I've started. I have trouble changing course. When I learned to play chess, I would develop a strategy to try to check mate my opponent and then follow through with it regardless of whether it was working or not. Sometimes I won with a surprising and creative strategy, but I usually lost, because I failed to adapt to what the other player was doing. I've always had difficulty asking for help. I probably epitomize the person who is lost but refuses to ask someone for directions.

memory. My family used to own some undeveloped property where we went camping for a few nights once a year. When I was 5 years old, I buried an apple in the ground there. When we came back the following year, I immediately wanted to find the spot to see if an apple tree was growing. Certain things make indelible marks in my memory, while other things don't stick at all. I have a terrible short-term memory. When a person tells me his name for the first time, I instantly forget it. If I look up a phone number in the phone book, I cannot remember it long enough to write it down on a piece of paper. I actually have a fairly good memory, but I need to "commit" something to memory, make a conscious effort to remember it.

learning. When I was 12, I loved learning how to diagram sentences in school. These are the different parts of speech, and here is a picture of exactly how they fit together to form an English sentence. Beautiful.

detail. I do not learn holistically. When I was 5, I took violin lessons that were taught by the Suzuki method. I was taught to memorize, through rote learning, Suzuki's Variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." I remember the experience to this day as follows. I learned to play the song along with the other children exactly as I had been taught, but I was unable to understand how the song was "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." The Suzuki method version is in quarter notes, as if the song were "Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Lit, Lit, tle, tle, Star, How, How, I, I, won, won, der, der, what, what, you, you, are." We practiced the song for weeks until it was memorized, and then we performed it together as a group. During the performance, it finally dawned on me how the song was in fact Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I felt no satisfaction or joy from what I had accomplished. The only thing I thought was: Why did these idiots spend an entire year teaching us "Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Twink, Twink, Kle, Kle, Lit, Lit, tle, tle, Star, How, How, I, I, won, won, der, der, what, what, you, you, are," instead of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, How I wonder what you are"? I have a natural tendency to focus my attention on something that requires meticulous attention to detail. Luckily, I now have an occupation where this is an asset, and I have a really good, high paying job.

reading. I learned to read at the same time as my classmates, but my reading comprehension lagged behind. Even though I could read the words, I had difficulty following the meaning of a passage of text. I focused on each word individually, not the meaning of the words when they were put together. Also, I was unable to focus my attention on a book for more than a few paragraphs. After reading about one page, my mind just wondered. When I was 10, I started to be able to read a full length book and comprehend what I was reading. For a long time, when I was asked in school to read things out loud, I remember that I was able to do so very well. But I never had any comprehension of what I was reading out loud. I just read individual words, and I could not process what the thing as a whole meant. I had no trouble understanding when others were reading out loud, and I was just listening. I have never had any trouble understanding things that were spoken to me verbally. Also, I wonder if I would have been able to understand non-fiction better than the fiction we were always asked to read. Why do schools always push children to read fiction far more than non-fiction? Even today, I find it very difficult to concentrate on pure fiction (as opposed to something like the "new journalism" style of Tom Wolfe). On the other hand, I can easily read and enjoy reading pure expository writing that follows a logical progression and structure. I have never been able to understand poetry, even if I really try. Poetry (other than something such as a clever limerick or haiku) has always been a complete mystery to me. Unless someone explains it to me, I never have any clue what a poem is about, other than the literal meaning of it.

math. I was always very good at math, but I never learned my times tables. So, for example, I never memorized that 7 X 6 is 42. If you asked me 7 X 6, I would think, 7 X 3 is 21, doubled is 42. 8 X 6? 8 X 3 is 24, doubled is 48. Why did I never memorize my 6 times tables? I have no idea. As a child, I counted everything. If I went to a theater, rather than watching the performance, it was more likely that I was trying to determine the number of seats in the theater. I count stairs when I climb them. The idea that someone could live in a house for years and not know how many stairs are on the staircase from the first to the second floor is absolutely incredible to me. How could a person possibly not take note of that?

achievement. In school, my IQ (according to a test I took when I was 13) was more than two standard deviations above the mean, whereas the scores on the verbal portion of my college board exam was within the first standard deviation from the mean. I think the reason was that I had extremely poor reading comprehension of random fictional passages. My brain isn't very good at processing this for someone with my logical reasoning ability. By the way, on the subject of standard deviations, my wife frequently asked me how big my child's bowel movement was after I changed a diaper. I would usually say that I thought it was within one standard deviation of an average size bowel movement. My wife was always nonplussed by this response. Was I supposed to give a different answer?

computing. In 1981, when I was in eighth grade, we got an Apple 2e computer, one of the first personal computers that people bought to use at home. It was more of a challenge to use it than today's computers, because there was no mouse or "Windows" operating system. If you want to remember what that was like and you have a PC with a Windows operating system, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Command Prompt. You had to type DOS commands to get the computer to do stuff. I was able to figure out how to work the computer by using the books that came with the computer and teaching myself. I even started to teach myself Basic programming language. But no one else seemed interested in this kind of stuff, so I lost interest. I remember turning a homework assignment in that was typed on the computer and printed out on an early dot matrix printer. The teacher discouraged me from doing that again in the future. She didn't like the way that the letters looked like a bunch of dots, unlike a typeset font. She encouraged me to handwrite my assignments like everyone else. In retrospect, I think that was pretty idiotic advice.

auto-didact. The most valuable thing I ever learned in school by far was how to teach things to myself. Now, I spend most of my free time learning on my own. So I don't just learn what someone else thinks I should learn. I can go with the flow.


7. flow

Most of the time, what I "feel" is either boredom or mental stimulation. Spending time with other people is often boring. I'm detached because I'm distracted by something else that is stimulating my brain. I like being distracted. I spent a lot of my childhood alone in my room playing with Legos (I specifically liked the Technic type). If I wasn't playing Legos, I was building structures with wooden blocks, playing with an erector set, putting together models, flying rubber band powered balsa wood planes, etc. I have a craving to learn new things, to acquire and process information. I love learning and practicing a new song on the guitar until I can play it from memory with no mistakes. That moment when motor memory takes over from conscious memory is magic. Sometimes when I'm really "into" something, I'll spend all of my free time doing it for some period of time. If it's a finite project, I'll spend all of my free time doing it until it's finished. Others might perceive this as being "obsessed" with something. But why? Why is it better to do a smattering of different things, than to just focus on doing one thing for some period of time. I like being "pre-occupied." When I am hyper-focused on something, the chi flows, and I find the tao. Sometimes I lose track of time, and the hours can pass by in minutes. Usually, I’m doing something that I consider to be productive and fulfilling; but occasionally, my mind is being hob-gobbled by a foolish consistency.


8. consistency

compulsions. I constantly check to make sure that electricity switches are off. I don't like to go to sleep when I know that machines that are not being used are powered on. A faucet being left on or a leaky faucet causes me great anxiety.

blowing off steam. Physical tasks or activities, such as house and yard work, riding my bicycle and playing my guitar are things that help me calm my nerves.


9. nerves

fidgeting. Growing up, I was frequently told to stop fidgeting. I had a nearly uncontrollable desire to lean back in my chair and try to make it balance on it's two back legs. I need to wear an occlusal guard, because I grind my teeth when I sleep. I've always chewed on stuff: shirts, pencils, pens, etc. Going to sleep is scary. I used to rock myself to sleep by tightening and then relaxing one of my leg's adductor muscles in my crotch. I also used to press my hand on my heart so that I could feel my heart beating. I often catch myself inadvertently staring at light bulbs in a kind of mini-trance. I've read that autistic individual sometimes engage in stimming. Stimming is a repetitive body movement, and the word is short for self-stimulation. I don't remember ever doing any repetitive body movements, but I have certainly always engaged in self-stimulation. When I was little, I constantly walked around clutching my penis. I remember being constantly told to get my hands out of my pants. Eventually my parents got me to stop doing that.

walking. When I was growing up, people made fun of the way I walked (kind of a duck-footed, bouncing waddle). I force myself to walk with the same type of gait as other people, because I'm still conscious of the way I walk. Sometimes I feel like I still don't really know how to walk correctly.

balance. I didn't learn to ride a bicycle until I was 8 years old. Like a lot of things, I was alone when I acquired this sixth sense.


10. sense

tantrums. When I was a little boy, I had tantrums when my parents combed my hair.

overload. On the kindergarten school bus, I screamed at the top of my lungs and thought it was odd that I could barely hear the sounds I was making and that no one seemed to notice. Perhaps that was a contributing factor to the bus driver's careening off the road into a tree. When I was 10, I looked up the word "noisy" in a thesaurus and found the word "cacophony." I used that word in a written assignment at school to the surprise of the teacher. I still remember saying that word out loud for the first time, mispronouncing it as "'CACK-a-pho-ny."

touch. I love being squeezed really hard (like a bear hug). I always feel itchy, and I love being scratched. I hate most clothing. I have an aversion to buttons, and I don't like anything tight around my neck, like collars or turtlenecks. Men are expected to wear collars and buttons, and many jobs require that employees wear buttons, including my own. This gives me a constant background feeling of anxiety/unhappiness. I'm put off by other people's clothes, a problem for me and manifestly unfair to them. When I was little, I joined the cub scouts, but I quit before becoming a boy scout, because I had a complete aversion to the uniform. Participating without the uniform did not appear to be an option, and I was way too reticent to assert that desire anyway. My parents took me to Niagara Falls when I was a child, and we rode the "Maid of the Mist" boat to the Falls. I was completely miserable, because of the supplied rain coat that I had to wear. I hate the way tags on clothes feel and look, so I remove them when possible. I just like comfortable clothes; any aspect of the form of clothing that doesn't have a practical function is anathema to me. Sometimes when I go to work, I just sit down and start working. Three hours later I'll realize that I haven't taken my coat off. If I'm comfortable, it just doesn't occur to me to change my clothes. If it were socially acceptable, I would prefer to just wear the same clothes every day until they got dirty. I hate being shocked by static electricity.

hearing. The sound of someone scratching a blackboard doesn't bother me, at least not so long as it's a good clean scratch with nails only. But if the person rubbed some of their skin against the board while scratching, it would make my skin crawl. It's like when you write with a crayon and the paper around the crayon is not peeled away enough, and the paper covering the crayon rubs the paper you're writing on. I'm horrified by the sound or even the thought of that. When I was growing up, the sound of the vacuum cleaner made me really anxious, and I couldn't wait for it to be turned off. On the other hand, I love the sound and the feeling of a violent thunderstorm. I sit in the house with all of the windows open, eagerly awaiting each bolt of lightening and hoping the thunder clap will be louder than the last one.

sight. I don't like bright sunlight. I could never live in the American Southwest or the Mediterranean. I need to wear a hat and sunglasses when it's sunny. I love moonlight. When the ground is covered with snow and there's a full moon on a clear night, everything is perfect. It's oneiric.

temperature. I hate being hot. I overheat. My wife says I'm a radiator.

smell. I can't stand the smell of hair spray. Try to avoid the hair-sprayed people if possible.

taste. When I was young, I was nauseated by cooked spinach and ripe, raw tomatoes, but I think I have a lot of allies on that one. It's interesting that it's acceptable to assert an aversion to the taste of foods you don't like, but it's socially unacceptable to publicly express most other sensory aversions.

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