Living Out Loud

“Is it too much?” I asked Sally. We were walking along the beach, heavy surf pounding and strong wind making it a bit difficult to talk.

“Is what too much?”

“The blog,” I said. “Is it too much?”

“Too much how?” asked Sally.

“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head. “Too much. Too Aspie. Too emotional. Too revealing. Too scary. Too off-putting.” I sighed. “You know. Too much for people.”

Now it was time for Sally to shake her head. “I don’t think so, no,” she said. “Not judging from the comments you’ve been receiving. I think people need you to write how you do and say what you say. Natalie Goldberg says to ‘go for the jugular.’ I think people need you to do that. Maybe you could even turn it up a notch. Really let it out. Say the things that feel even scarier to say.”

The metaphor was appropriate, I thought. I wrote a post in my previous blog called “Blood on the Sidewalk,” about my tendency to expose my emotional life online.

“It’s how you live out loud,” Sally continued. “Just like the characters you love in movies and television: the ones who live out loud. They expose their inner lives. So you can understand them and relax a bit in their presence. There are other people who need that just like you need it.”

I thought about that. I don’t really want to write a blog that’s trying to achieve something. That has an aim to persuade or teach or convince or create change. I’m having fun writing a blog for the first time in my life, and it’s largely because I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything.

But maybe I can achieve apart from convincing and persuading. Maybe sharing my experience will just… help somehow. The thought of that frightens me for some reason. I do not know why.

I nodded. “It’s scary,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Sally. She squeezed my hand.

We kept walking.

The surf kept pounding.

The wind kept blowing.

5 Comments for “Living Out Loud”

says:

As one who is perpetually Too Much, herself: it’s not too much for me. I’ve been very glad to read your posts. Thank you for revealing yourself, for whatever purpose you deem important. Thanks for not trying to be convincing. Thanks for being true to your own experience.

Also, thanks to Sally for encouraging you to go for the jugular.

I had a whole bunch of thoughts while reading your “More Hank than Max” series but I’ll probably need more time to revisit your words and untangle my own neurons. One thing that popped out at me, though— I didn’t click on all the links you provided, but I did click on one that led to Penelope Trunk’s blog, and I realized with a start that her writing had a considerable impact on me at one point, as well, not so much for her writing about Asperger’s, but for writing about how to be a single homeschooling parent. And it seemed to me that her having Asperger’s gave her some particular strengths in that regard, as well as in her work, which I rather envied.

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

Thanks, Jen, for your kind words of allowing. They mean a great deal to me. For myself, I find that, like Penelope Trunk, my Aspie neurology does confer a suite of skills, knacks, and superpowers that I am very grateful to have. I know that the “experts” like to call it a “disorder,” but I don’t feel dis-ordered, so much as re-ordered, and that only in comparison with what I observe, and hear, about the “neurotypical” experience. All swords are two-edged, it seems, so my game is to learn to wield the one’s I’ve been handed. Take care, and happy untangling! Pax-T

Paul Heft

says:

Please continue. The Asperger’s series, in particular, is useful: it shows how life might look very different from another point of view. That helps us develop empathy and, perhaps, helps us to less often jump to conclusions about a person’s motivations. And I’m sure some people will recognize themselves in your experience and use your writing to open up their own self-understanding.

I remember one recent post where you wonder whether it’s OK to let down defenses and show yourself more completely (your truer? persona). My belief is that vulnerability is useful for learning more about yourself (though you may have to experience some pain). Also, if I had a chance to visit you and you acted strangely (not making eye contact, seeking alone time, etc.), what would be the harm? I bet that I would still benefit from the meeting.

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

Thanks, Paul. My plan is certainly to continue. I think there’s a book project in here somewhere. I do know that it’s helpful in the world, to live out loud. It’s just a bit difficult at times, which is why most people don’t do it.

Here’s the thing about eye contact. Unlike a great many Aspies, I have no problem holding it. I don’t know if I was born that way, or was taught when I was young, or figured it out on my own, but I don’t remember there being any conversation in my life about not holding eye contact. This is contrast to the memoirist John Elder Robison, whose first book, about his own journey to an Asperger’s diagnosis, was called Look Me In the Eye.

But while I can do it, what I know now is that there are many times that I don’t (especially in stressful situations with new people). And I know now how much it costs me, and how often I don’t want to, and how much easier it can be for me when I do not. To my mind, the effect arises from the combination of my “light dash of Asperger’s” and my “suite of traumas,” most of which hit me in adulthood, rather than childhood. It’s been mostly during my relationship with Sally, whose need for the face-to-face and the eye-to-eye is as great as my need for the side-by-side, that my “eye habits” are a bit atypical. I think trauma has exacerbated that tendency to look away, an action which reduces the intensity of the face-to-face.

Take care! T

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *