27 January 2008

Strange Lights on Saturday

This is a bit unusual for me, but something unusual happened, and I felt the need to write about it.

It happened on Saturday.

My mom was driving, and my dad sitting in the back seat, I was sitting in the front passengers seat, and we were going north on the 57 freeway, and the traffic started to slow down significantly, and people around us were looking at the sky. I looked ahead, and then a big light (close to the apparent size of the moon) appeared high up in the sky. It looked as though it had a trail of sparks behind it, and it was very slow in its descent.

Then, it went out, but another one appeared, just like the first. It seemed to veer off to the right, in a twirling motion. It went out again, and there was a pause, for about 3-5 seconds during which I couldn't see any. Then two more appeared, and a third, and they continued to do the same things. One went out, and another two appeared. At this time there were about four or five in the sky at once, all doing the exact same things, except at progressively lower heights. As they got lower, the impression that they were trailing sparks became much more distinct.

Towards the end of (what I saw of) the event, there was one which seemed to be very close to the ground - not so close as I would think it a few feet from the ground, but close enough that I grew the genuine concern that it might hit our car, or hit the freeway close enough to cause a crash that would cause damage to us as a result.

However, this, too, disappeared from sight, as though it had burnt out and lost its light.

At first, I thought it was pieces of a satellite, as the trails of sparks that gave them their fiery looks seemed to suggest, and it's far too slow to be a meteor, at least any meteor I've seen. I would think that such a case would involve the objects falling faster, though, so I do have some questions surrounding this idea.

I felt pretty neutral beforehand, pretty good, actually, as I was listening to Relayer, and was pretty shaken up during it, mostly relieved afterward that it hadn't caused us harm, whatever it was. I still don't know, don't think this is an extraterrestrial-controlled thing, but it is certainly very unusual (first thing I've seen like it, compared to any UFOs, stars, planets, meteors, planes, or satellites that I have seen), and I wouldn't rule this possibility out, particularly as I lack a better explanation as of this point. (Edit: It did turn out to be some people in balloons or parachutes, who were performing nearby.)

I am just furiously anxious to understand what happened. Apparently a whole bunch of people in the parking lot of the restaurant The Hat were all looking up and staring at it. I have seen nothing of it in the news, on YouTube, in image searches, news searches or general web searches, with the singular exception of a couple of people who reported it as UFO reports. I don't think it's extraterrestrial craft, though, and would be really eager to hear what it likely is.

21 January 2008

The Penny Looks Sad

I don't know how common this is among autistics, but for many inanimate objects, I feel very emotionally connected to. Not as emotionally connected as with other people, but I seem to be able to express it much more clearly for non-human things and objects.

Today I apologized to a window decoration because I tore it. It was out of curiosity, as to how it would look and feel if I tore it, and it was a conscious decision I made to tear it. It made me feel sad, though.

I feel more sadness for people, when other people are hurt (either by me, other people, or other things, such as natural disasters). However, I don't show it in the ways other people seem to do, or expect me to do.

I'm not sure exactly in what ways my external appearance indicates to others that I am not emotionally connected, but I do know that these assessments are usually wrong (the exceptions being when I defended myself against someone attacking me, or if I do not feel sorry for someone who has done something awful and I feel they deserve it.

However, simply not liking someone is rarely grounds for me to feel that they "deserve what they get". I will still feel sorry for that chatty, materialistic girl who entered my class in sixth grade and made fun of me even though I told the boys, who criticized that she wore too much makeup, to give her a chance, when her next boyfriend treats her badly.

Unfortunately, because we express things differently, we are rarely listened to when we say that yes, indeed, we do care.

After only a few short years from when I was diagnosed at age 10, though, I had heard enough of the misconceptions about autism that by age 15 I was parroting back that I was practically emotionless, like a robot. I insisted that I had no empathy, that I was a strictly logical being, and that I had excellent rote memory.

None of these were true.

So I would caution anyone against taking the assumptions found in the medical literature as a factual representation of how all (or most) autistics are. This goes for any autistic person reading just as much as any non-autistic person.

19 January 2008

A Lesson on Embarrassment

When I was young, say 8 or 9 or so, I was in the waiting room of a doctor's office. I don't remember whose appointment it was, or why, but it doesn't really matter, I guess.

It was a long waiting time, and they always have those awful fluorescent bulbs. They use to bother me more when I was a kid, giving me headaches and making it hard to focus and process information and whatnot. The effect is the same now, but to a lesser degree.

There were other kids around. They played by the corner, where the kids' toys were. I wanted to go join them, but my mom said I was too old.

I love that thing where there are the beads, and there are the thin, plastic tracks they can follow in curvy paths to the bottom. I liked to envision it as an advanced public transportation system. Please board the Green Bead Line on its way to Chicago. Now boarding. Please have your ticket ready.

But I was too old, and certainly my sisters, one 2.5 years older than me, approximately, and one almost exactly 5 years and 4 days older than me, were too old, though they didn't express interest in these toys. When I was 13 visiting a neurologist for my seizures, there was a picture book about a Brain Cell. Or something like that. I should write fanfic for him.

The lights continued to glare, and people's names would be called, people picking up and flipping through magazines, babies crying. It was all so much. So, I made a dive for it, and I burrowed myself under the chair I had been sitting in and pretended I was in a Bomb Shelter, hiding from horrible and yet unknown threats from above.

My mom tried to get me out from under there, and tried to recruit my sisters for help. But no, they must be only clones of my family, trying to get me out of there so that I wouldn't be safe from the attack!

My sisters ended up joining in my play. Or at least, I thought so. Turns out they were just making excuses to be rowdy, but I didn't know, and I thought of them as the intruding army. I covered my ears so they wouldn't use their brainwashing propaganda tactics to turn me into a vampiric zombie. As presumably they would.

So I got out of the shelter and started pacing about in circles, humming to keep their threatening broadcasts from reaching my ears.

My mom whispers loudly, in that frantic-type voice, "Melody, you're embarrassing me!"

Without pausing in my circuit, I say, matter-of-factly, the wisest thing I believe came out of my mouth during my youth: "I can't embarrass you. You can only embarrass yourself."

Of course, what I meant was: The fact that I'm doing something doesn't embarrass you. It's that the thing I'm doing is something you don't look at as socially acceptable, because of what others might think, and so because of your attitudes, you are becoming embarrassed.

I thought of this as I took my written exam for taekwondo, and there was a question about attitude, and how it's important how you react to stuff.

"Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it."

I knew how I would react to it. My mom now knows how she will react to it. How will you react to it?

02 January 2008

A Rant About Entitlement

Some people act like they're entitled to a certain standard of living, a certain child, or a certain material gain. To me it seems to be a version of that whole "American Dream" concept and the glass ceiling - but with a twist. The thing is, under certain unexpected circumstances, the privileged find themselves in a situation where one of their assumptions about how their life would turn out is not met. Rather than look at things as challenges or part of life, they look at it as an attack of their entitlement.

What spurred this rant?

The only part of Autism Every Day I laughted out loud was when that woman was complaining about her poor, leaking roof, where she had this elaborate setup to catch the water. Ha! Try not having running water and leaks so that when you need a bucket of water to wash your hair or do dishes you have to go outside in the rain and turn the water on, but you only have a few minutes and no heating and, hm, here's a thought, put a TARP over your roof.

Maybe that's harsh, and I don't think I particularly have any business levelling this claim of "whininess". I felt similarly to this when I read the book "Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America".

The author, while well-intentioned, and I wouldn't criticize her motives, seemed to make a big deal out of difficulties that are part of the everyday living experience for myself and a large percentage of the human population. It almost had the undertone of "Let's pity these unfortunate poor people who must work for minimum wage."

I am familiar with the very real struggles of being poor, at varying levels, but there is a difference between someone who CANNOT feed themselves and their family, and someone who can but faces additional difficulties and cannot afford most of the amenities that many Americans seem to take for granted. In fact, many of the minimum-wage workers she worked alongside didn't have much interest in creating a (minor) revolution in the system, and got by fine. (Remember, we're talking minimum-wage, not below-means. Multiple jobs are sometimes just a fact of life.)

Of course, someone who's got things a lot worse than I do, if they read a life story of mine, would probably respond similarly "If she thinks this is tough..." And they'd be right in that.

So what is the usefulness of such a line of thought?

Often, those who have enough disposable income that they don't have to worry about not getting the kids fed, or about getting the rent paid on time, their concerns go to the expectation of their kids going to (a prestigious?) university, to get the kids driving at age 16, and all those other measures that society looks at for material success. People who aren't so focused on just surviving experience the added pressure of having an "ideal" family setup.

Not that the poorer parents would have any less difficulty raising an autistic child - more would be the standard fare, I'd presume. But the attitude that something is "missing" or that the child would somehow bring embarassment to the family's image just doesn't seem to be so rampant among people who just want to make sure their kids survive, rather than spending additional energy trying to get them "near-normal" or anything like that.

Maybe I'm wrong. And in any case, it would be just a trend, and trends never do tell anything especially useful for individuals, except as relating to the societal attitudes and how these may or may not impact. It would certainly explain some of the marketing strategies employed in videos such as Autism Every Day. If the largest dollar amount in donations is going to come from wealthy or semi-wealthy people, it would make sense to appeal to the expectations and fears of the upper-middle class. If the potential donors can identify with the prospect of the "horror" of having an "aberrant" child, then they'll probably identify with the goals and support them.