You know the statue “The Thinker” by Michelangelo (seated naked man with one arm curled up to support his forehead, probably to stop his brain from falling out!)? Well I’ve decided he’s an asperger who went outside to try to figure out what the weather was like in order to decide what to wear, sat down to think about it, and froze to death in that pose because he couldn’t feel how cold it really was!
This may sound a bit odd but to me, an asperger with sensory problems, it makes perfect sense. How do you figure out what the temperature is when your wiring’s all crossed? Me, I rely on my sight: I decide what the weather’s like based on how it looks! Oh, and I stick my hand out the window (once I’ve opened it, of course: the window, that is, not my hand!) As you may well imagine this method has never failed to not work, and I invariably end up dressed inappropriately. But still I persist with it - I know no other way, so I stick to what I do know, even when it’s been proven to be totally ineffective!
It’s not so bad when the weather is “behaving” as it should do ie hot in summer, cold in winter. But it’s the bits in between, the variations in temperature, the annoying hazy bits in the midst of the extremes of hot or cold that cause the problems. It’s almost like trying to piece the weather together using an identikit. If the sky is blue, and the sun is out, I decide it must be quite warm.
But then, of course, I have to take into consideration the season, and then into the equation come all the variables, designed to confuse the process. If it’s winter and it’s a “nice” day then it still probably doesn’t mean that I can go out in a t-shirt. However, if I’m going out walking then I might end up feeling too hot if I overdress, but I’ll probably be too cold at the beginning, and what if I don’t warm up at all? Should I just take a suitcase with me with numerous changes of clothes in case every single possible variation in the weather occurs whilst I’m out for my walk (an event which only takes an hour at the most)?!!
Even more confusing is if the weather is overcast and looks gloomy. This I have got down as meaning that it must be a cool day, because it looks like one, even in the midst of summer - but then you can never rely on the weather in England to behave anyway. It’s a bugger when you dress up ready for wintry weather only to discover it’s milder than the tropics! I should just employ myself a mobile valet to follow me around on my expeditions and carry all the clothes I have to discard as I begin to overheat!
I begin to see why it takes us aspergers so long to do anything! I have a decision-making process as long as your arm to go through which cannot be circumvented. Try to speed it up and all I end up doing is slowing it down further, leaving myself in a complete dither, and generally short-circuiting the system. I appear to be innately incapable of going from A to B: it just seems I HAVE to take in the rest of the alphabet, no matter that I might not want to!
So relying on my sense of sight is neither use nor ornament, but so too is trying to work it out using my hand. I am hopeless at gauging the temperature of anything. I regularly get in the bath only to find that it’s still too hot, no matter that I have checked it frequently with my hand. It has been suggested to me that I try using my elbow instead as it is much more sensitive. I have tried this, and it does appear to work better.
However, due to another peculiar and illogical aspect of my condition, once I have got into one habit I find it very difficult to relinquish it in favour of something better, something which actually works (‘cos the thing it’s usually intended to replace almost inevitably doesn’t work, and probably never did: I just seem to pick these things up like someone at a flea market attracted to all the useless broken bits that get left behind!) Bonkers as it might seem, it actually feels to me too difficult to change from sticking my hand in the water to putting my elbow in it: and, besides which, I have to bend down further to get my elbow in there!! As a consequence, it seems, I just tend to forget that my way doesn’t work and that there’s a better one.
And then there’s the small problem of having to gauge what exactly is too hot, since I have nothing to measure it against except my own peculiar, and frankly inadequate, understanding of the word hot! And for some bizarre reason, in diametric opposition to my dislike of the weather being too hot, I cannot seem to feel the heat enough when I get in the bath, and I hate finding that I’ve cooled it down too much because I’ve been unable to gauge in the other direction too!
I used to be able to figure it out by how red my body was, and how much sweat was pouring out of me (plus how light-headed and dizzy I felt!). I’d read somewhere that hot baths which made you sweat were good for you – they probably didn’t mean that hot, and I’ve since revised my opinion in light of the fact that I have pale, sensitive skin prone to drying out easily (so it’s really not that good for me at all), and aspergers, which means I haven’t got a clue what they mean by “hot” and “sweat”! Since I don’t go to those extremes any more it’s a little more difficult.
I could buy a thermometer, I suppose, and find out what is considered to be the ideal temperature for a bath? But I’d probably just ignore what it registered if it didn’t match up to what I felt was the right temperature, totally forgetting that the reason for acquiring it in the first place was because my in-built thermometer doesn’t work properly! You just can’t win with aspergers!
Perhaps one answer to the problem of trying to gauge the weather is to move to a country where they have only one type, with hardly any variation in temperature – Siberia, perhaps, or Africa? A bit drastic, I know, especially as I hate it being too warm or cold. But then think how much time I would save trying to decide what to wear, not to mention what clothes to buy, which is another joyous event in itself! I could just buy the same outfit for every day of the week, but in different colours so that people didn’t get the idea that I never get changed!
But then there’s also a little problem I have with travelling anywhere further than the local town without suffering extreme anxiety. And, anyway, I don’t think they sell soya milk, peanut butter, or goji berries in either of those countries, not to mention all my other very specific dietary requirements! So maybe I won’t bother after all. Besides which I like England. I even like the changes in weather: each season brings with it such an infinite variety of exciting and inspiring things. It just takes me and my body a while to catch up and adjust to each change, so it’s a good thing that there are only four seasons in the year! And, asperger or not, who wants to almost freeze to death or swelter in a heatwave all year round?!
No. I think I’ll just stay where I am and learn to adapt to the peculiarities inherent in having aspergers. But I don’t really have much choice – my body would still follow me if I decided to move, so it’s a bit pointless trying to escape from it! I just need always remember not to copy The Thinker’s example, and forget to put on my clothes before I go outside to check on the weather – especially if I end up in Siberia!!
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."
From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."