Thursday, October 15, 2015

Finding The Missing Piece

Confronting the toughest challenge I've faced

"Although I laugh and act like a clown, beneath this mask I am wearing a frown..."

Earlier this year at a wedding reception, the table I was seated at was waiting for dinner to be served. During the wait I was told I looked bored. My response was something to the effect of, "It's been a busy day." What I didn't say was "I'm feeling sad...sad because there's been a missing piece to my life. I regret to say that I've never been in a long term relationship. At all!

I find myself in this position out of one word...fear. A fear that they would run if my only words were, "I have Asperger's Syndrome." Perhaps it's just a case of mental stage fright. Regardless, I've been afraid  to confront this topic for years. It seems I would have the courage to walk to the end of the diving board, but freak out when it was time to jump. Now that I'm over 40 years old, I feel the time has come to jump. At least try to.

Lets face it, I'm not getting younger. For each day that passes is another day I ask myself one question? Why? Why did I wind up on the spectrum the second I entered the world? Why was I given a life of weak social skills? Why has it taken me this long to finally have the courage to confront this?

The answer to the last question could be from a number of possibilities. It could be from running 7 marathons in the past 6 years. Challenging myself to run 40 miles on my 40th birthday. Did I mention the two 24 hour races I did over three weeks?

I've grown accustomed to the feeling that the other mans grass is always greener. The world of social media can some days be difficult. Sure I'm happy to see my friends celebrate milestones, i.e. engagements, weddings, birth of a child. However, there is a part of me that wonders if and when I'll experience those milestones. What's worse is the assumption that most people my age are married and have a family. Meanwhile, my status is the same as it was 20 years ago. It's enough to make me feel discouraged and to say "Improvement? What improvement?" To rub salt in the wounds, I'm seeing an upswing in engagements/marriages of folks in their 20's. Yup those born after the 76ers won their most recent championship.

                   When it comes to interpersonal relationships and the spectrum, discouragement has prevailed.

Last year I found the strength to inform everyone who knew me that I'm on the spectrum. I received a positive response and plenty of encouragement. I just wasn't ready to come forward with this shortcoming. I couldn't figure out where to turn for help. I was far too embarrassed to tell anyone other than my Mom. Even that wasn't easy. She did everything she could to get me on the right path. I knew the rest was up to me.

Unfortunately that's where I'd hit a dead end. In years past I've developed a crush on women who I felt looked beautiful and had a great personality. That's where I've turned into an ostrich and stick my head in the sand. It seemed I just couldn't muster enough courage to ask anyone out that I had met say through running. Even if I knew they were single. As for online dating, I'm not sure what sites are good and the ones to avoid. Sure it's for people looking to find that special someone. The thought of meeting a stranger for the first time throws me into freeze mode. The fear of striking out on the first date intimidates me. A situation such as this is what I dread. (Replace that dude with someone who has trouble making eye contact and struggling to have a conversation. Get the drift?)

There was a time when I reveled in the comfort of being alone. It was my safe haven. I did not have to feel the pain of experiencing my social weakness compared to everybody else. Lately, however being alone has me feeling downtrodden. Perhaps that's why I've been feeling unmotivated all year. There's been days where it's a struggle just to get out of bed. I have a hard time going out for a run more often. I haven't been in the best shape caused by not eating/sleeping right and gaining weight. If I hadn't run the 24 hour races, I might be a twin of King Hippo. I find myself in a constant struggle, like playing tug-o-war of life. I'm headed for the mud pit.

I may have a one way ticket to King Hippo land if I don't watch it...

I'm in control of my life, in the pilot seat so to speak. It's up to me to turn the tide. Socially I'm in better shape that I was in 10 years ago. I attribute that to everyone I met through running. Just in the past six years alone I've mostly broken out of the cocoon. I have one foot out, I just need to get one more. I understand my strengths and weaknesses to get an idea of my current state.


  • Loyal
  • Caring
  • Dependable
  • Ambitious
  • Trustworthy
  • I've been told more than once that I'm "incredibly sweet"
  • Patient
  • Organized
  • Look at the positives more than the negatives
  • Don't get frustrated as much as I used to and show it on the outside


  • Trouble making eye contact
  • Seldomly call people on the phone
  • Never been one to organize social gatherings
  • Struggle having conversations in noisy environments. (Loud bars)
  • May lack sex appeal??
  • Talk to myself frequently (Been doing that for as long as I can remember)
  • A personality that may seem a bit quirky
  • Inexperience with dating

To tie it all together, I haven't been myself lately. I'm not enjoying life the way that others are. It's like the one dark cloud in my life is overshadowing me. The stinging feeling from social media is just the tip of the ice berg. Sometimes before social gatherings, I get a feeling of nervousness. Never knowing if I'm gonna feel intimidated surrounded by a group of people with their loved ones. A feeling of being kind of an outcast so to speak.

Anyone in a relationship can tell you all about the benefits of one. Whether it's going on vacations together, walking and holding hands, smiles, laughs and above all the love for one another. I hope there will come a day when I can surprise someone with flowers. I'm sure 1-800-FLOWERS will as well to get more business.

I've gotten by all these years being single. Perhaps I was living on borrowed time. Lately it's taken a toll on me. I'm feeling frustrated, not happy, like there's no hope at all. The years of high school, college, the 20's and 30's are gone. I would hate for the 40's to be status quo. My brother and two step brothers are married and have children. In fact I became an uncle for the first time a few weeks ago. I couldn't of been any happier! Unfortunately it only eases the gloom temporarily.

The following is a poem based on one my uncle wrote in his book Sunday's Fools.

It's an empty feeling
sitting all alone by myself
wondering, hoping,
if the dark cloud above will disappear.
My future is uncertain.
Will I ever hold hands
with someone beautiful,
like a sunny day.
Until then I can only wait,
hope and pray.
That the fear will go away.

To be continued...