Adventures in a Neurologically Mixed Marriage

Posts tagged ‘humor’

Ghost Cat

Ghost Cat pic

She says:

 It’s spring in LA and I had the door cracked open to get some fresh air. I was working at my computer when I saw a furry gray streak out of the corner of my eye.

“Buddy!”

I jumped up to follow what I thought was the cat that normally lives outside, but when I turned the corner a split-second later, the cat had vanished. I walked down the corridor to the laundry area, looking for evidence of the feral intruder, but there was nothing but empty space and silence. I scouted around a bit then gave up.

When I went back to my desk and looked out the window, I could see Buddy outside on the woodpile, lounging in the sun. So who had just run through the room?

Later that night, I told Tom about it.

“Was there any sound?” he said.

Come to think of it, there wasn’t.

“It’s Ghost Cat,” Tom said.

He says:

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise, really, since we live in a 100 year-old house. After all that time and all the folks who have been through here, it’s only logical to assume that something must be haunting the place. In our case, it’s a little gray kitty.

At first, Ghost Cat was a gray streak seen periodically out of the corner of my eye, usually when I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. After awhile I could sense him staring at me, disappearing as soon as I would look in his direction.

By all rights this should be freaking me the hell out, but it doesn’t. One aspect of Asperger’s Syndrome is the ability to simply accept the world around you with little or no judgment. Bourbon on the right. Chicken in the oven. Louis Armstrong on the stereo. Ghost Cat at your feet, staring at you.

Having Ghost Cat has some distinct advantages over other varieties—he doesn’t shed, he doesn’t make Linda sneeze, and I haven’t seen a single Ghost Mouse the whole time we’ve lived here.

And like the full-bodied, living, breathing, meowing variety, Ghost Cat doesn’t seem to particularly care about whether I’m there or not. Maybe Ghost Cat has Asperger’s too.

©2014 Tom and Linda Peters

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Underneath the Blank Expression: Asperger’s and Emotions

She said:

We were sitting on the couch scrolling through the just-released list of 2014 Grammy®* nominees when we saw Tom’s name in the classical section. I screamed. Tom stared straight ahead stone-faced.

“You’re a Grammy® nominee!” I said, trying to elicit a more enthusiastic response.

But Tom was quiet and stoic, looking much like Harold, the porcelain phrenology head that stares down on us from the bookcase.

“I’m ecstatic,” Tom said, finally.

And despite the lack of a matching facial expression, I believed him. I learned early in our relationship that the best way to find out how Tom is feeling is to ask him directly. When I try to figure out how he’s feeling from his body language, I almost always get confused.

Case in point:  My musician husband had just been nominated for a Grammy®, the biggest award in the music industry, and he looked about as interested as he does when we discuss which kind of laundry detergent to buy.

He said:

Here’s the thing. I feel emotions very, very deeply; they just don’t always show up on my face or in my body language. Until Linda, this has caused a lot of problems in my relationships. I’ve been accused of being selfish, self-centered, unreasonable, angry, depressed and downright uncaring, all because I don’t react the way people expect.

You really can’t know how I’m feeling by simply looking at me. You have to not only ask me, but also trust my response. While this is classic Asperger’s Syndrome, I think it also applies to NT relationships.

You see, I really was ecstatic. At the tender age of 5 years old, I fell in love with the sound of the symphony orchestra when my father sat me down in front of his hi-fi console stereo—remember those?—and played Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture for me. When I got to the part with the synchronized cannons, I was hooked. My mother once caught me conducting Beethoven’s 5th with an entire symphony orchestra of stuffed animals.

It has been my dream to be a musician since that time.

Now, at the ripe old age of 50, I find myself nominated for a Grammy® award along with my colleagues Aron Kallay, Vicki Ray and Willy Winant for a recording of John Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things. For a musician, this is the pinnacle, and something I never thought would happen.

When the 2014 Grammy® nominations were announced, I anxiously scrolled down, heart racing, and there it was: John Cage: The Ten Thousand Things was nominated!

I was ecstatic.

My face might not have shown it, but really. I was.

©2013 Tom and Linda Peters

*OK, I know the ® is totally pedantic, but the Recording Academy® requires it.

The Advantages of Asperger’s Syndrome, or Can I Keep Him? Huh? Huh? Can I Keep Him?

She said:

It was 2 AM and a clattering noise in the living room woke us up.Bigfoot UFO

“Did you hear that?” I said.

Tom went to investigate.

“Um…we have a problem,” he said.

There was animal poop on the hardwood floor and we don’t have any pets.

“Whatever it is, it’s not small,” he said, searching for the intruder. “I could use some help.”

But I couldn’t move. I was curled up in a defensive fetal position. When I was little, I used to be scared that nightmarish monsters would sneak into my room while I was sleeping. Now, one had finally found me. I was sure that if my bare foot touched the floor, the beast would attack.

“I…can’t…”

Before this incident, I had prided myself on an above-average ability to handle a crisis. I’d always found it easy to calm people down and make a plan, even when things were going terribly wrong. But we weren’t dealing with people in this case. We were dealing with a wild animal. And it was in…the…house. And I needed to use the bathroom.

“Can you check the bathroom,” I said. “Just in case.”

And behind the standing towel rack, Tom saw two fuzzy ears.

“It’s an opossum,” he said.

“What?!”

“North America’s only indigenous marsupial is in the corner, next to the bathtub.”

He said:

Dealing with a marsupial in the bathroom is not one of Linda’s strong suits.

Linda and I are a good match in many ways, particularly in a crisis. Linda handles aggressive people with absolute aplomb. In situations where I would be a confused mess, she steps in and takes charge, navigating the treacherous waters of human interaction.

I’m much better with the nonhuman variety—computers, mechanical things and small, furry animals. In this case, I think that having Asperger’s Syndrome equipped me for being able to get into our fuzzy little interloper’s brain. Animal reason and logic is not word-based, so by putting myself in his little paws I knew instinctively that the critter was not about to attack.

As I stood in the bathroom eyeing my opponent, I could immediately tell that he wanted out of our house more than we wanted him out, but he was terrified and wasn’t about to budge.

After checking the various nooks and crannies for any other furry compatriots, I called Animal Control. After convincing them that no, I wasn’t going to just put a box over a wild animal and take him outside, they sent help.

Now all the holes and entry points have been sealed, so I doubt we’ll be seeing any more surprise guests.

Still, that little opossum was pretty darned cute.

©2013 Tom and Linda Peters

Some NT Advice for Communicating with an Aspie Partner: Be Literal

We had just finished dinner in our new apartment and my teenage, now-stepson had left his dirty dishes next to the sink. Again.

By The original uploader was Tim Simms at German Wikipedia

By The original uploader was Tim Simms at German Wikipedia

“Can you please show him how the dishwasher works?” I said to my now-husband, Tom.

It wasn’t really an accusation. The place they had lived before was dishwasher-free.

I went out the door to collect the laundry. When I came back, the dishes were next to the sink, untouched. Tom was watching TV.

“I thought you were going to show him how the dishwasher worked,” I said.

“I did.”

There had to be more to this story.

“What did you say to him?”

Tom opened the dishwasher and pointed inside. “I showed him how the rotating jets ascend when the door is locked, and how the chemical composition and velocity of the arced spray rinses off the food and disinfects the plates.” He smiled, like he was proud of his role in passing on the physics of dishwashing to a new generation.

Here’s the thing. He had explained HOW the dishwasher worked because that is exactly what I had asked him to do.

“I just wanted you both to put your dishes in there,” I said.

But from Tom’s perspective, if that’s what I had wanted, why didn’t I just say so?

For an NT, it’s hard to believe that a person can really be so literal. As NTs, we naturally understand how to read between the lines, and we are suspicious of anyone who claims to be unable to.

It would be easy for me to be upset over these situations, and to blame my husband for secretly trying to make me angry by using a “literal loophole” to avoid fulfilling my requests.

But it’s also easy to believe that my husband is a loving person who happens to process language differently than I do. And when I approach communication from this perspective, things turn out better. I get to be happy. I get to be heard and I get to feel like my needs matter.

And so does he.

© 2013 Tom and Linda Peters

Honey, Where Did You Put M45?

We can’t find a good place to put the Pleiades.

She says:

I bought the wall-sized poster to bring some twinkly fun to my home office.  It’s a 4×6 foot view of the famous star cluster, and the otherworldly colors and light fascinate me.

But sitting next to the massive dark mural, I felt like I was falling into a black hole and had to grip my ergonomic armrests for support.  I needed a little distance from deep space. Luckily, I married a space junkie who was totally fine with plastering the universe across the far wall of our living room.

He says:

That I’m totally fine with it was an understatement. When my son was 6 years old, I spent a whole week arranging plastic glow-in-the-dark stars on his bedroom ceiling in an accurate representation of the night sky. Astronomy is something I have always loved—one of my Aspie Special Interests.

One of the markers for Asperger’s Syndrome is a tireless devotion to a specific subject. I’ve had a long trail of Special Interests in my life — from astronomy to fish keeping to origami to bonsai to classical music (my profession) to carnivorous plants to my current obsession with the ukulele, the banjo and music of the 1920s.

For me, the universe represents something fixed, something stable and reliable—all qualities that I find in short supply with the ephemeral nature of day-to-day life. If I look up at the sky, the Pleiades will always be there, in its usual place—like an old, loyal friend.

I was a little disappointed when Linda put down her compass and told me that the feng shui situation in the west was all wrong for star murals and we’d have to find a more auspicious spot.

Our search for a place for the universe continues.

©2012 Tom & Linda Peters

What To Do About the Head in the Living Room

We’re trying to decide how to dress our phrenology head for Halloween.

The head, nicknamed Harold, was a wedding present. He’s a beautiful bald vision in porcelain, with inspirational statements handwritten on his cranium.

She says:

Harold sits on our entry table, staring out at the world with a blank stare, seemingly lost in his own little world, and encouraging us to “Dance like no one’s watching” and “Love like we’ve never been hurt.”

We’ve been a little remiss in dressing Harold, as evidenced by the funky necktie and Dodger’s cap that he’s still wearing from Father’s Day, so we’re trying to be more proactive. We love Harold and want him to have the best Halloween costume that a disembodied head can have.

Tom thinks Harold would like dressing as a bunny, complete with fuzzy ears, but I think he’d find that get-up way too emasculating. With his sparkly white skin and faraway expression, I say we get a pair of plastic fangs and go Team Edward on him.

He says:

Linda is correct. Harold has a blank stare and a head full of ideas. Based on that alone, I’m certain that, like me, he has Asperger’s Syndrome. In other words, he’s an Aspie. Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism hallmarked by an inability to read social cues. Aspies often gaze out at the world through blank stares.

If Harold were a neurotypical porcelain phrenology head—NT for short—he would view his world with a definitive expression, deftly reflecting the world around him, and engaging in pleasant cocktail conversation.

Instead of dwelling on such platitudes as “Love is the sharing and giving of two hearts together” and giggling quietly to himself about the pithy Dr. Who reference he just made (and if you understand that reference, please have yourself tested for Asperger’s immediately), he would be filled with more practical notions such as “The gas bill’s due” or “Make sure you pick up a birthday card for Aunt Miriam.”

Still, he would look great with a kicky set of bunny ears.