Rambling On…

Alternative Routes — 03/18/2011

Alternative Routes

Karen and Lori with our map.

Long day today. Exhausted. Got a bunch of maps at AAA and K planned us yet another alternative route in case the weather is bad, which it looks like it will be. K posted the exciting details on our site: http://karenandlori.com/2011/03/19/stormy-weather/

12 More Days in Oakland — 03/16/2011

12 More Days in Oakland

I hella heart Oakland

We are moving in 12 days and I am starting to freak out. Our house is full of boxes. Everything is different. I will miss our house terribly. We have lived here for 8 years and I have loved every minute of it.

Karen is very busy seeing people before we leave. I have seen a few people. There are more I want to see, but probably won’t because there are so many things going on and I can barely even stand to think about adding more things.

Things keep breaking. As if there weren’t enough things to do, we have added waiting around for repair people to the list. Our washer broke one day before the warranty expired. It was a weekend, but Sears let us use it because we called before the expiration date. That was very lucky. We were not so lucky about our freezer. That one expired in December. It has been leaky and not freezing things as it should. Tomorrow is the day for that repair. Spent 3.5 hours at Costco yesterday waiting for tires. Considering we will be driving almost 3,000 miles, I think it was worth the wait. Hopefully we will get out of here before we spend all our money on repairs.

Mostly I am freaking out because I can not at all picture what it will be like to live in Baltimore day-to-day. I don’t interact with very many people here, but over the years, I have managed to not be completely isolated from the outside world.

There are 3 ways that I can interact comfortably with people I don’t know very well:

  1. Geek events – meetups, conferences, cons, camps, etc. It is easier to talk to people at these events because we share the same interest and excitement about whatever technology we are celebrating at the moment.
  2. Beer – I like to drink a beer with people sometimes. Maybe even a scotch or Jack and Coke. Still not terribly easy, but definitely takes the edge off.
  3. Martial arts – Even though I have such a hard time talking to people, for some reason, I usually have an easy time fighting with them. I think this is strange, but I don’t really care.

I am not worried too much about having a beer. I think that will happen on its own. I have been researching Baltimore geekery and found a few meetups, including WordPress. Hopefully I will meet new people to work with and talk shop with. I have met some really great people here through WordPress meetups and I will miss them a lot. I have also been looking for a new karate (or other random martial arts) school with weekday daytime classes. If it wasn’t for karate, it is very likely I would have no human contact for most of my waking hours.

I am lucky to know some people in Baltimore already, one of whom I am especially excited to be living near again (that is you Kim, if you are reading this). Over the years, I have met lots of Karen’s friends there and have always had a good time with them. They are very welcoming and down to earth and strangely easy to be around. Thanks K’s friends!

As each day passes, we are doing more and more “lasts”. It is possible we will do all those things again someday, but probably not for a very long time. Today might be the last time I go to San Francisco before we leave. Karen will go back next week to party with her friends. It is all very strange. I don’t like it. Still, I am looking forward to new adventures in Baltimore and am very curious what life will be like a few weeks from now.

Karen and Lori’s Big Adventure — 03/10/2011

Karen and Lori’s Big Adventure

We are moving in 18 days! I can hardly believe it. In honor of the occasion, I did what I do for just about every occasion and built us a website to track our drive across the country and further adventures in Baltimore. Karen and I will both be posting stories, maps, pictures, etc.

There is not much there yet, but if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and visit us at KarenandLori.com 🙂

Autism and Empathy — 03/01/2011

Autism and Empathy

I watched a great video today featuring John Elder Robison that touched on the subject of Empathy and Autism. There is a popular opinion that people with autism do not have empathy. I am not sure if this true.

I think I am a very empathetic person, but I am not completely sure that I am empathetic in the way that other people are. Sometimes, when I see someone who is sad, I feel sad too. If it is someone very close to me, I can feel their sadness like it is my own. Sometimes even worse. I think this is similar how most people experience empathy. On other occasions, I think I can not experience empathy in the common way due to not always understanding the way the general population thinks and feels.

There have been many times in my life where I have found myself being stared at in exasperation by someone because I do not understand what they are feeling or why they would be feeling a certain way. Sometimes, I can look back and understand what I had done wrong, but other times, it remains a mystery.

One thing I really have a hard time with are social conventions and expectations having to do with clothing. I will never understand why it is acceptable to wear uncomfortable clothes (that may possibly even endanger your life if you have to run from someone!), but wearing clothing that has been aged to soft perfection is looked down upon if it is beat up looking or has holes.

Over the years, I have learned that it is sometimes embarrassing for people to be seen with me because they are concerned about what other people will think about them, about me, or both. I accept that as a fact and often try to not put people into this uncomfortable position. The conflict comes when I do not have the energy to go along with this and/or am very upset by it for some reason, like entering a situation that is terribly uncomfortable and having the added stress of not wearing familiar and comfortable clothing. I realize that I am much more sensitive about clothing than most people, but it is not something I can change, and therefore, always something I have to deal with.

Even though the situation above is only about clothing, it can cause strong feelings of anger, disappointment, and sadness. I can not always empathize with someone who is feeling a lot of anger or sadness because of the way I dress, even if I completely understand why they are feeling the way they do. There are plenty of other situations where this applies that have nothing at all to do with clothing.

I have often been labeled “non-compliant” or “anti-social” and perceived as a person that does not care about anyone or anything, including myself. Lack of empathy is just the tip of that iceberg. School officials, medical professionals, and even sometimes people who are close to me have believed that I don’t care and/or don’t understand what they are thinking or feeling.

It is true that often I have not understood. Over the years, I understand more and more. It has never been true that I don’t care even if I acted like it. Does not understanding and thereby not being able to feel what I “should” be able to mean that I am not empathetic? I think it might.

In the Apple widget dictionary, empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” If I don’t understand why someone is feeling something, even if it is a feeling that most people would instinctively understand, by definition I can not empathize with them.

As usual, this is getting rambly and I have ended up with more questions than answers. John Elder Robison is taking part in some studies that may someday figure out these mysteries and I am very curious what becomes of them. Does anyone else have thoughts about the experience and/or non-experience of empathy in autistic people?