Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Circumstance of Opportunity

“Lorin, don’t you dare…!”

“Ok, Grandma, I don’t tell anyone the guy in the picture is Lee.”

(And I’m not gonna, either.)

The trip the boys and I took to Grandma’s ranch this summer marked a turning point in the life of each of the four of us, for varying reasons.

For starters, it was the first time my boys spent more than maybe 24 hours at the ranch in the summertime, much to my embarrassment. Grandma and Grandpa bought the 88 acre piece of land in 1976, and I have spent probably more time there than anywhere else, excepting my own individual homes. So yes, that my sons are 11 and 13 and just now spending several days at the hunk of hot land, which I secretly refer to as a private haven… Yeah, Mom of the Year, right here.

Secondly (or thirdly, if you count the boys individually…), Grandma came out of her shell in a way I had never seen before. She had been re-arranging her photo albums, and it appeared as if she had been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to share her memories.


As we perused the albums, she remembered such detail, that I was genuinely surprised. My grandma is not a young woman. Family, girlfriends… Guy friends… (Notice I did not say “boyfriends”?)

Grandma was engaged to a young man who went to WWII. The story I had always remembered was that Grandma’s fiancé died in the war while she was waiting for him to come home and marry her. I guess I didn’t learn that story from Grandma, because that isn’t what happened.

“Well, Dear, your mom assumed whatever, and probably just because I didn’t tell her the rest of the story.”

Well… Grandma did tell me the rest of the story.

When Grandma’s fiancé came back from the war, things didn’t exactly work out for the two of them, and they broke up the engagement. He did live through the war. He died later, but it wasn’t in the war while Grandma was waiting for him back home, as I had always believed. He passed on in a more “typical” way. (Is death ever really “typical”? Hmmm…)

But this other guy, the one Grandma got all-a-twitter about? She was pretty sure that had she been unattached, they would have dated. But back in that time, the young soldiers left for war, often planning to return to marry his bride… It was a Quixotic time.

“Lorin, all I have to say is that I wish I would have known that when my fiancé returned, it would not have worked out. I couldn’t have known that, so I wish I would have just… Done things differently.”

We talked at length about people having the tendency to hesitate, to wait for something which hasn’t happened yet. Planning for things which aren’t quite within reach, or, in other words, waiting for just the right circumstance. Of course, the “right circumstance” never comes. Things are never perfectly planned. But the circumstance which does come is really simply an opportunity.


When we sit and evaluate our life and decide when X happens, I can do Y. When I do Y, then I will feel Z. (Z typically representing happiness, of course.) And so many people say X is the circumstance. They wait for the world to change around them, so they can do Y. Y is action. Whether a decision, an outward-reaching action, or a change in perspective… Y is what we do to accomplish Z. The elusive (to some) Happiness.

So… What’s wrong with going straight to Z?

(Another topic for another day, I think…)

Ok, so maybe people aren’t always happy with the hand they’ve been dealt. Despite that we are all are generally responsible for the station we each are in our life, I’ll accept that opinion. It’s true, actually. I know there are some things I would like to be different about my own life. I think everyone would change some things if they could. So, making that change is the Y. If we are in control of the Y to get to Z, then why do we need the X?

I mentioned before that X is the circumstance. That which many people rely upon, to create the right environment for Y to be possible. (Or, at the least, comfortable.) But why does X have to be what happens around us? Why can’t X be opportunity?

(I haven’t strayed too far from Grandma, trust me.)

If X is circumstance to most, why couldn’t the circumstance be the circumstance of opportunity?

Here’s the cool thing… We don’t have to wait for opportunity to find us. We already have opportunities in our back pockets.

When we reach in and pull out an X, we can go through with Y. That will get us to our Z.

Me, I’m a Z Girl. I reach for the opportunity.

When we keep our eyes and ears open, and connect to those around us, we are constantly filling our cache of opportunities. Well, potential opportunities. It’s the person you met at a dinner party who happens to be a publisher, the dad of a friend who happens to have an advertising firm, and bumping into a graphic artist at the grocery store… Maybe not all contacts are opportunities we can jump into at the moment, but opportunities with potential.

I guess that’s what Grandma saw with her, uh, friend. Opportunity. With potential.

Back in 1942, Grandma didn’t engage in anything “inappropriate” with this friend of hers, of course. But the opportunity for a relationship might have been there, and there’s a part of her that wonders what would have happened if it had been realized. (I can tell you that if she had, I probably would not be around to be having the conversation over 65 years later…) But Grandma is one tough cookie, who has taken on her fair share of opportunities.

“Dear, all I have to say is when you see your opportunity, you’d better take it. You never know what will happen if you do, but you’ll never find out when you don’t.”

I guess that makes Grandma a Z Girl, too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I want you to ask me.

I want you to ask me. Although you may not understand the answer…

Desolate. You are walking through streets of a desolate city that you have always lived in, and yet you don’t know your way around. It’s bright and dusty, and despite the sheer volume of things going on, it’s quiet and surprisingly bland. It’s what you might imagine a city would look like after a nuclear war.

As you walk around, you see people who are shuffling about, although you can’t tell where they are going or what they are trying to accomplish. And unfortunately, everyone’s faces look almost the same. There are people you have known your whole life, and yet when you look at them, their faces are so similar that sometimes it takes several seconds to tell one from the other.

One thing you do know about this place is that there are rituals, rules, and restrictions which seem (to you, at least), to be highly illogical. The unfortunate thing is that violations of this conglomeration of protocol can have highly detrimental consequences. But because the rules seem illogical, it’s difficult to predict what is and is not ok. The laws are easy to follow because regardless of the logic, they are clearly defined. It’s the unwritten rules which are almost scary, because violating them means losing a job, ruining a relationship, and ridicule.

They speak your language in this place, but that doesn’t mean communication comes easily. Many of the words still mean the same thing, but there are just enough differences that while you know misunderstandings are very possible, it’s difficult to know when the misunderstanding is actually occurring. Unfortunately, the people around you don’t know that these misunderstandings are possible, so although you are on alert, the other people around you are sure that you mean what they think you mean. And when you try to clarify, it only becomes more confusing to them. Add to this that the others are physically accustomed to the debris of the nuclear mess, but it makes you very sick. The others can’t understand why sometimes you have to wear a mask, so you are ridiculed for that, too. You may even lose your job for wearing it. (But you’ll also lose your job for being out sick from not wearing your mask.)

There are many beautiful dimensions to the strange world, but they need to be found. They are secret places that are hard to find. Like the colorful butterfly garden hidden in a warehouse, and the sunrise which you can only see with your blinder goggles on. There is grass between your toes, but only when your eyes are closed. There are things which you see in this place which you love, so you cling to them. When you see a blooming tree with pink blossoms, you spend many hours sitting under it because it shelters you from the blistering sun, distracts you from the others passing by, and calms you in a way that the others just don’t understand. But you cling to it nonetheless.

As you walk around the streets of this frightening place, you are pretty sure there are others like you. Although they, like you, are hiding. Some are hidden in nooks and crannies. Others like you congregate in pockets, but no one knows there whereabouts because once they go into their preferred pocket, they never come out again. In their pockets of people there is color and music and laughing. And it’s completely up to you to find them.

If your parents are like you they could have helped you learn about this odd place. But they aren’t, as they are like the rest of the others. They didn’t know how to help you, or even what you needed help with in the first place. So your life is like this, and your parents try to cope with helping you down the right street if you get lost. “BUT I NEED MORE HELP THAN THAT!!” you keep shouting. But as much as they love you, all they know how to do is point you down a different street, which may or may not get you where you are going at that moment. Or maybe they were like you. If they were, they taught you about this place, showed you where the pockets of people are, and how to hide your mask. They knew what you would need to know as you grow, so they knew how to help you. Maybe your parents were like the others but knew about people like you. So they did the best they could for you, with what they had. And for you, it was good enough. What happens when your parents die? You are alone in this place.

Imagine this was your world. Now ask me what it’s like to live a life as an adult with Aspergers. Although, you may not understand the answer.

Copyright © 2008 Lorin Neikirk

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