Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mentoring Justin…

I have recently started mentoring a sixteen-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome and am finally going to invest the time to mail in the rest of my paperwork.  Locked and loaded.  Just “get g**ng already!”  I despise that phrase with a passion because it brings back traumatic memories from those days of yore.  Therefore, I shall use asterisks as though it were a genuine profanity.  Perhaps the reason for my delay is more than the lack of time to complete these mundane tasks.  I could be afraid to take this step out of fear of failure.

“Justin” and I became acquainted during the interview process and I found him to be a remarkable young man.  The staff told me all sorts of wonderful qualities that endeared him to staff members and even some of his peers.  They also warned me.  “Justin” would try to manipulate me into buying him gifts at the mall and taking him to all sorts of exotic places.  He does not always understand why certain actions will endanger friendships and a sense of trust.  And once trust is broken, it may take an exorbitant amount of time to rebuild.  “Justin” is indeed guilty of the manipulation and severe inconsideration that is stereotypical of the Asperger’s population.  The behavior that tragically justifies societal contempt toward my peers.  The nonsense that I have certainly been guilty of in the past and has nearly ruined my life.  But I eventually had motivation to change when there was finally something to fight for and then some.

Human beings are not able to function without the essence of motivation.  It is not a theory, but a concrete law of nature.  For nearly three months I have been depriving myself of all the caloric foods that would produce a temporary state of euphoria, but did so knowing it would help me lose the abominable amount of weight I have gained from a sedentary year of answering my constant e-mails.  I had a physiological entitlement toward success.  While I am not a smoker, I know people quit smoking with the motivation it will dramatically decrease their chances of dying from lung cancer/a heart attack/a stroke.  Without a modicum of motivation…there is a dark, empty space without even flecks of dust floating around for ambience.

I asked a lot of questions prior to the moment when “Justin” came inside the room.  One of the first questions was, “Let’s say he, you know…works on his inappropriate behavior.  If he shows dramatic improvement then will his peers at the Home show mercy?  Will they give him the ‘break’ he deserves?”  Their response was chilling.  “The other kids at the place don’t really give too many ‘breaks’ to anyone.”

As a child, I was told that people would not like me because of my inappropriate, weird behavior.  “What are you doing to bring this on yourself?”  Nobody told me about the absence of mercy when tolerance is warranted.  Nobody taught me how to look into the mirror and show himself the mercy that will not always come from other people.  Justin must give himself a fighting chance to have some peace within his soul.  I will try to help him find that tranquility…

Perhaps we should start off really small and just arrange a trip to Splashdown or Roller Magic.  I am very fortunate that he enjoys some of the same carefree pastimes as me.  And we will have plenty of time to discuss the brutal realities he will have to battle like Harry Potter in the final duel with the sadistic Lord Voldemort.
If you are a friend to someone on the autism spectrum, the best thing you can do for them is show them the mercy that will not always come when it is deserved.  If their behavior is not appropriate, then show them what they must do to earn your profound respect.  Lead them on the path toward a fighting chance or anything at all…

Monday, July 4, 2011

Drastic Measures to Battle the Bulge

My nickname for winter is “The Jewish Mother-in-Law Season.”  It has a chronic tendency to linger long after it has overstayed its welcome and is a real pain in the butt to get rid of.  The full-blown summer is a welcomed change, but comes with its own side effects.  My occasional complaining comes with the understanding the grass was certainly not greener on the other side.

As someone with Asperger’s syndrome, summer gives me the freedom to indulge in some of my obsessions without burdened by the hazards of winter weather.  There is motivation to exercise and become healthier.  Such as on Thursday night when I decided to make a desperate attempt to destroy the caloric catastrophe that has perpetually settled in the round of my stomach.

When I was too young to know any better, I always believed all the overweight people were those who make a lifestyle choice to sit in front of the television on their days off while slam dunking bags of potato chips.  They were the lazy and downtrodden who essentially gave up on pursuing life itself.  I know this is not true based on the amount of weight I have gained despite being a physically active individual who avoids fast food restaurants like a plague.  But as someone pushing thirty years old, I am beginning to see that the body’s metabolism shows little to no mercy.  Everything we put into our bodies carries draconian consequences.

On Thursday night, I made a choice to walk a distance of 29-miles all the way to my family’s clothing store in Millerton, NY from my home in Pleasant Valley, NY  It is hard to believe I once had the physical and mental fortitude to walk from Georgia to Maine on the 2,174 Appalachian Trail based on my struggles to complete this distance on flat roadways.  But the essence of full-blown hiking was still present and accounted for during this journey.

Even during the tepid summer months with no harsh elements, a mile feels like an eternity.  False hope is a constant and lethal force on the journey.  You feel like you have been walking for hours and it has only been forty minutes.  You see milestones that suggest progress and want to believe you have come farther than is realistically possible.  Progress, however, is calculated at the rate of two-and-a-half miles per hour.  It could be more, but it certainly is not less unless one stops multiple times.  No matter how grueling the trek almost always is…it is still incredible how those tiny increments add up to amazing progress.

My journey began at 12:30 a.m. and ended just minutes before noon on Friday.  Nearly twelve hours of nothing, but walking.  The last two hours of my journey was spent banging two sticks together while singing verses of “Puff the Magic Dragon” in a state of quasi-delirium.
I have come to the conclusion that the only people who can afford to look really good all the time are those who can afford personal trainers and a month’s worth of food from Weight Watcher’s.  But even the rich and famous have struggles as evidenced from Jennifer Love Hewitt’s public battles.  But I shall not give up or give in.  Not now…not ever!

As someone living with Asperger’s syndrome, there is not that much I have control over.  I have little to no control over whether an ignorant and/or fearful person decides to give me a fair chance.  I also do not have power over whether a romantic pursuit reciprocates my affections.  But I have just a little more control over my physiology and am entitled to positive results if I make more of an effort.  I will continue to walk like a masochistic maniac and consume as much celery as possible.  Barnum and Bailey Circus recently contacted me asking me to be part of the Freak Show as the world’s fattest man.  After this phone call, I have decided it was time to take drastic actions in order to combat this metabolic demon!!