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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

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Observations

Evening thoughts (6)

1. I think I need glasses.

2. ^^^ I’m kind of bummed about that, because so far, I’m the only one in the family that hasn’t needed to wear them.

3. ^^^ Seriously, I’ll be the last one in the family to start wearing glasses. I’m the sole holdout

4. So far, reading glasses have helped, especially with working on the computer.

5. ^^^ Although I’m beginning to suspect that using them while writing in longhand is going to be useful, as well.

My reading glasses.
Note the rather large safety pin.
Sigh.

6. If I’m gonna wear glasses, then by golly, I’m gonna embrace the hell out of it.

7. I’ve been wearing the reading glasses that I’d bought when I got cast in The Mousetrap a couple of years ago.

8. It lost a screw the other day, so now it’s being held together by a rather large safety pin.

9. I am resourceful.

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Morning Thoughts* (5)

1. Coffee is a food group unto itself. But I’m sure you already knew that.

2. I have the best gym in the world and I don’t even pay fees – in 30 to 45 minutes, I’ve worked out almost all the major muscle groups at once at least two or three times a week. How? I clean horse pens.

3. In ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, there’s a character named Catherine, who advises Francis (Diane Lane) to live spherically. I’m interpreting that to mean “Don’t make yourself small to make other people feel comfortable. That’s not your problem.”

4. Who is Kesyer Soze? A mousy character in The Usual Suspects (1995), obviously. But this can also describe someone who blows the secret to the fucking movie in his acceptance speech.

5. People will experience you differently, but there’s always a constant thread. As Maya Angelou once said, “‚ÄúI’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

6. One of my many goals in life is to just give people something to smile about. There is nothing too small or insignificant to smile about.

7. Naps, the terror of childhood, are actually good things.

8. I’ve compartmentalized my life so well, it would shock you. I’m not kidding – it shocks me, sometimes.

9. Road trips are a must – take them as often as you can, even if it’s an hour or two away.

*as opposed to evening thoughts.

Peaceful day at the bay.

Evening Thoughts (4)

1. Raise your vibe. Everything else will start to fall away or into place.

2. Embrace your inner child. Wear pigtails and put banana stickers on your nose. Have fun. ūüôā

3. Be delighted to see the people you care about and love, whether friends or family.

4. Chill out with a horse. Sometimes, the best wisdom comes from the silent presence of a 1200 pound animal.

5. Put a little sparkle into your outings.

6. I am one with the Force, the Force is one with me.

7. Be brave. Be true. Stand. All the rest is darkness. (from IT, by Stephen King)

Evening Thoughts (3)

1. In the last couple of years, I’ve encountered three types of bullies. They all did the same thing – attacked certain aspects of my person that threatened their ideas about who they were and their place in the world. Needless to say, none of these people are in my life.

2. My physical reaction to being bullied, regardless of the kind of bullying, is the same – shortness of breath; panic attacks; weight gain or retention; wearing baggy clothes in order to hide or disappear; severe anxiety; loss of appetite; shrinking into myself; nervy.

3. Given my experience, you will almost never recognize when someone is being bullied. Bullying is not always about broken bones or bruises – a lot of it is gaslighting and manipulation.

4. In the last four months, I’ve lost 20 pounds. My diet did not change; my activity level did not change (walking a mile 3 or 4 times a week; cleaning horse pens). Only one thing changed – I was no longer being bullied and/or harassed.

5. I give far too many chances to too many who don’t deserve a first chance, but once I’m done, you’re out.

6. I am always happy.

7. If I seem anxious or stressed, ask and listen. Really listen, without your ego.

8. Do not fuck with a Pisces. Some fish have razor sharp teeth and they bite hard.

9. My favorite shark is the carcharodon carcharias.

10. My favorite summer movie is JAWS (1975).

11. My most unique skill is remembering conversations verbatim, which is hilarious, because there’s a good portion of my life that I don’t remember.

Evening Thoughts (2)

He waits, he watches.

1. Henry the Gray had a massive brain storm and spent a good amount of time racing around.

2. It’s a good feeling when you realize your most recent bully is more than three decades too late to instill fear in your heart, because you’ve met worse at the age of ten.

3. If you feel that you are ‘accommodating’ me because I’ve got boundaries and I’m insistent that you respect them, then you have no idea what the concept of respect means.

4. From October 31, 2016 through September 23, 2017, I was being bullied, harassed, sexualized, objectified and put into such a deep state of anxiety, that I would have a panic attack before I even walked in the door. This was despite my repeated establishment of what my boundaries were – not even an email worked.

5. Do not ever ask me to place my faith and trust in someone who willfully, actively and deliberately destroyed any reason for me to do so, just because he got his feelings hurt because I stood up for myself.

6. If someone tells me I need therapy one more time, I’ll ask, “Why? Because I’m comfortable talking about it or because you’re uncomfortable hearing about it?”

7. I know who I am.

8. I am a solitary person by nature. I enjoy my company and my thoughts and am quite happy to plot my next Unexpected Adventure on my own. If I am inviting you into my life or am participating in social situations, it’s because I WANT to share things with you and that I CHOOSE to be there, not because I am lonely.

9. There is a worm hole or black hole in my house – five times this evening, I witnessed Henry the Gray exit the garage, cross my room and go into the hall to the rest of the house. I did not once see him do the reverse.

Evening Thoughts (1)

1. It is the ultimate form of abuse to tell someone who has finally found their voice and courage to speak up and say “No more!” to being disrespected, abused and bullied that they need therapy.

2. If you can’t speak up for yourself, you will never be able to speak up for others.

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
Credit: Pacify Mind

3. Carrie Fisher is my rebel patron saint of No Fucks to Give.

4. I am feeling a tremendous amount of pure energy in my heart and soul. Yesterday, I could hardly sit still – I wanted to move hills and reshape valleys and redirect rivers. For lack of a better word, I will call it the Force.

5. I am one with the Force, the Force is one with me.

6. I know the difference between someone making a naughty joke and someone who is deadly fucking serious.

7. I am enough.

8. The actions, feelings and words of others are not my problem – do not attempt to make it so.

9. A woman who knows her own power and claims it is not to be trifled with.

10. I am surrounded by books. I may have to send up the white flag and surrender.

So, part of being an Aspie (Asperger’s)…..

………is that there is a tendency to overshare.¬† I’m very aware of it in myself.

This is what it feels like – having the gas pedal pushed and clamped down into permanent ‘Go’.
The harder I try to stop the flow of words, the worse it gets.  That feeling I described above gets harder to overcome Рit becomes a physical pain.  Everything around me is thrown in sharp, distorted, almost fun-house relief.  I become stressed, anxious and panicked.

How do I handle it?

By going with the flow and finding a way to re-direct it. Once I relax into it, I find I can regain control.  That gas pedal feeling goes away.  I can breathe.  Any anxiety or panic starts to dissipate. The world re-sets itself and I am fine.

It’s helpful when I’m with a group of people who know me and understand that I have this disability.¬† That feeling of being among friends, with whom I feel safe and accepted regardless of location, has helped a lot.

Some Thoughts on a Saturday

Small towns have this very appealing veneer of wholesomeness, untouched by the darkness of a major city.  Norman Rockwell captured this in a lot of his art, making us feel nostalgic for a time and place that never really existed, except in our own minds.  But small towns are actually far more David Lynchian than Norman Rockwell, in part because of human nature Рthe good, the bad and the very ugly.

I grew up in a small town and still live here.¬† I’ve always seen both its surface appeal and the dark nature that lay beneath.¬† I love it for the same reasons I hate it – it’s small, I know almost everyone and life is fairly predictable.

How would I describe my town?¬† On the surface, it’s very Mayberry – one could fully expect to see Andy Taylor and Barney Fife make their rounds, touching base with residents, tourists and shop owners alike.¬† But once you’ve been here awhile (or grown up here), you start to get the sense that there’s something else lurking, something dark and unsettling, very like that fictional town of Twin Peaks.

When I was a kid, I used to think there were psychic vampires living in the sewers (this was years before that seminal Stephen King classic IT (1986) was published).  Under the bright sun, I could see darkness and it was everywhere.  It was in my classrooms, it was in the theaters I chose to participate in, it was even in my home.  How do you fight that?

Unlike Twin Peaks, Washington or Derry, Maine, the darkness in my town is not supernaturally related, but very human.

And so is its light.

So, I’m on the autism spectrum (Asperger’s)…..

…..and here’s how it manifests in me – it’s like navigating the world with a paint pallet, but with half the colors.¬† This means I will miss some social cues and over-analyze every word and encounter until my head hurts.¬† The knowledge that I’m (unofficially) an Asperger’s has been enlightening – finally, as I look back on my life, things started to make sense.¬† My unofficial diagnosis occurred in 2009, when three separate counselors in two different cities within a six-week period asked me if I was Asperger’s.¬† Never having heard of it before, the answer was naturally “No”.¬† Being officially diagnosed is on my List of Things to Do, and it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to find sources that would help (one is in Los Angeles).

How did I survive all this time?

Well, as it turns out, theater probably saved me in a way nothing else could have.¬† I got involved with theater at the age of three and eventually joined and several local theater troupes, as well as acting classes in college.¬† This gave me a safe way to explore relationships within context and having a script is really helpful. [1]¬† Theater is about trust and collaboration – if you didn’t trust your fellow thespians and techies, then there was a problem.¬† In this scenario, I had to learn who I could trust so I could work with them. [2]

Outside of theater, I tended to be on my own.¬† I liked being with my friends and doing stuff with them, but it also takes a LOT of energy to just be ‘normal’ enough to interact with people and social situations.¬† I’m also an empath, so I can¬†feel what everyone else is feeling at any given time.¬† For example, while I might not be able to pick up on physical behaviors when someone is lying to me, I can definitely feel it when it happens.

What does it feel like to be lied to?¬† That’s a really good question and I’m sure it’s different for everyone. For me, it’s like being sucker-punched so hard, that I’m knocked out of the situation for a few seconds.¬† When that feeling passes, I’m no longer able to view things as they had been.¬† Everything feels fragile – too bright, too dark, too uncertain.¬† Unreal.¬† I’m unable to know for certain that what I’d been experiencing before the lie was true or if it was also a lie.¬† So I will go quiet and shrink back into myself and observe.

And I do that a lot – observing.¬† I watch how people behave with each other and if an action is confusing to me, I’ll find a way to ask about it.¬† This is helpful both as an actor and as a writer, which is another thing that helps me survive, analyze and negotiate this world.¬† As it turns out, I seem to have a pretty good grasp on¬†seeing what’s going on around me.¬† Interpretation is no longer out of the question.¬†¬†Case in point – about two years ago, I watched two people meet for the first time.¬† There was nothing unusual about their meeting, nothing I could point my finger at with any conviction and say, “This was the catalyst.”¬† But something¬†pinged in my mind as I watched them and I remember thinking,¬†This will develop into something, they will be a couple before the month is out.¬† Lo, and behold, they were and still are.

More than one person has expressed to me that perhaps therapy would be the best way to learn social cues, to which I say, “Bullshit.”¬† What could a therapist teach me that real life social interactions couldn’t?¬† You don’t learn how to ride a horse in the classroom – you go out to the barn, hire an instructor and get in the fucking saddle.¬† Same thing with driving a car – sure, there are some classroom stuff that you need to learn, but for practical experience, the only way to learn how to drive a car is to get in the driver’s seat.

Same thing with learning about people and social interactions, which is where theater has been an enormous help.  At some point, you have to go out into the real world and deal with real life situations.  You find and surround yourself with people you like and feel comfortable with, so that you have a safe way to experience things in a group.

And then you just go and do.¬† Observe people and their actions and behaviors.¬† Ask questions if you find something puzzling.¬† Be honest about who you are and how you process information, if you think it will help create understanding.¬† For me, I’ve found that, in most cases, being honest about my Asperger’s does help to alleviate any potential awkwardness.¬† I don’t even have to go into a lot of detail.

But don’t ever let someone make their discomfort your responsibility.¬† It’s an unfair position to be put in and one from which you might not be able to defend yourself.¬† In those situations, the best way to handle it is to walk away and let them hold the bag for their own poor judgment and behavior.

You owe them nothing.

Theater is a great place to observe and learn.

[1] I’ve tried improv and I cannot do it to save my life, nor do I enjoy it.¬† Improv is too off-the-cuff and on-your-feet thinking for me.¬† Having a script gives me a sense of structure, which enables me to then build and expand.

[2] Trust is essential in any aspect of life.¬† However, I’ve also learned who I couldn’t trust.¬† And that’s a separate post.

Recommended Reading:

The Autistic Brain – Temple Grandin
The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome – Tony Attwood

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