Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Stranger in a strange land

When you're an Aspie, every day is like being in a foreign country where you don't speak the language or know the local customs.  But importantly, everyone else does.  You're not one of a band of merry travellers all getting it wrong together and having wacky hijinks along the way; you're on your own, a stranger in a strange land.

Just another day in the office.  NBD.
For instance, there's some sort of telepathy used in crowded areas to communicate between pedestrians on a collision course, which sorts out who's going to veer which way so they don't bump into each other.  If you don't have that telepathic knack you'll bump into people and they'll think you're rude, or you'll do a shuffly to-and-fro dance as you both end up veering the same way and then both react and veer the other way, and they'll think you're fucking with them.

The people in this land seem to have strangely dulled senses, so to compensate everything is very BRIGHT and very LOUD and very FAST.  Everything's bitter or sour or scratchy or painful and the smell is unbelievable.  And the pace!  It never stops - these people never stop moving and doing and talking.  It's a constant blur of motion day and night and if you can't keep up, you'll be thought lazy or feckless or stupid.

Sometimes you may even find gravity or space and time doesn't work right in this strange land.  You struggle to judge distance and bump into doorways or people, what looks like a slight dip is actually a pothole and you fall when you step into it, you grasp things too tightly and break them, or too loosely and drop them.  You will be clumsy, and the locals who glide through this strange and erratic atmosphere will mock you for this.

The people in this strange land can communicate vast amounts of information with a single syllable.  While they're speaking they're also doing a complicated dance made up of myriad tiny gestures, they're making facial expressions so finely coded that a millimetric shift of an of eyebrow means more than would fit in a set of encyclopaedias, and they're calling in cultural references that may sail completely over your head because it's not your culture.

All the locals of this strange land understand this stuff - the dance, the expressions, the culture, the telepathy - so intimately, and take it so for granted, that they don't even recognise it as as a thing.  They can't understand that you don't know the dance, because the dance comes so naturally to them they don't even realise they're doing it.

At best, you'll find a niche for yourself and make yourself a name, and be celebrated as an eccentric genius.  At worst you'll be killed long before you have a chance to do that.  In the middle, there's a lot of lonely ground where the residents of this strange land will assume you're rude, or unfriendly, or mad, or stupid, or willfully difficult.  Maybe you are.  But you're probably not.  You're probably a perfectly decent human being, quiet and gentle natured and friendly, as sane as one can be trapped in a land that's not your own.

I don't know if there is another land, a homeland, a place where all we misplaced travellers belong.  Sometimes I think there must be; there are too many of us for us all to be random quirks of fate.  But sometimes I think we're as different from each other as we are from the natives of this land, that there must be myriad homelands, a different place for each of us to belong.

Or maybe there's just here.  Just this one land, and it's up to us to make it our homeland; to make it a place where we belong and are safe.  This strange land is not home.  But perhaps it could be, with time and effort.  It'll be difficult, but perhaps it can be done.  Perhaps this strange land could be our homeland after all.

Image: Base image Glacier National Park, Montana from the US National Archives on Flickr Commons, overlay images from From Old Books.