I bought a new alarm clock today. It took me four tries and four stops. Target, Walgreen’s, Tuesday Morning and finally in CVS, there, on the bottom shelf, covered in dust, sticker price $14.29, sat my new alarm clock. In all probability, the final resting place for the last singularly purposed alarm clock left on the planet, sans radio features, USB port, plug ins...designed to be simply alarming enough to wake me up, so I can hit the Snooze button three times in succession, before I actually wake up and sit up.
I have a fancy phone. A touch screen gadget filled with pretty icons blinking and winking at me in bold primary colors. Rumor has it there is a very nice young woman living in my phone that I can talk to whenever I want. A young sweet thing ready to guide me here and there and everywhere. I heard her once, by accident, when I touched something I shouldn’t have, and our conversation was rather one sided with one voice repeating over and over, I can’t understand what you want, and the other, mine, polite at first and ending rather harshly with me screaming profanities in a variety of languages. You see, on my phone, my fancy chit chat fanatical phone, I use only two features. Making a call and taking a Message. That’s it. Any other techneeze is the result of a slip of hand or a slight of the tongue.
A mental sneeze, if you will.
More alarming news. My alarm clock. I set the time exactly two hours and thirty minutes ahead of the actual real life real time. My rationale? After snooze (Part1), snooze (Part2), snooze(Part3), I hold the clock in my hand and do the Math. The Mental Math. By the time, the literal time, I am fully conscious, I am also off to a great start on a new day with two hours and thirty minutes to spare. It makes me smile. Every darn day. Imagine it. For me, everyday is like that magical Fall eve, when we all turn our clocks back and pull the covers up, knowing an extra hour of sleep awaits. Only for me, I have two and a half hours more of life to spare, every single day. You get one yearly Get Out Of Jail Free card, and I get one every morning.
I am not normal. You may have noticed. There is no certified name for my abnormality in the DSM yet, because my symptomatology fits no particular pattern or design. I rather like the uniqueness of that distinct distinction. The only way to explain it to you is to explain it, because you are out there and I am in here. You can’t see my missing spaces or my exceptional places.
Por ejemplo, I cannot read a map right side up. I can read the names of the cities in both Spanish and French and a few in Greek and Russian. But here, in the English Department, if I want to use the map to get from Point A to Point B, I must rotate the map 180 degrees. Up Side Down. If I had to tell you what direction I am facing right now, as I sit here writing to you, I would need a minute or two to orient myself. Looking up. North. Looking down. South. But if I stretch out my arms, I pause. Left is...Right is...and then I see the dry cleaners in my head, and I know that it sits on the East side of the street as I drive past, so I must be facing East. Then North is thataway and South is over there. Yes. Got it.
As long as I don’t move.
Now before you call the Demented Dementia Squad, here’s the kicker...
Over forty some years ago, I visited my grandparent’s house in Pennsylvania. By train. A sixteen hour trek in the day and the night, waking to the fog settled deeply over the ground as we crossed the bridge leading into the Scranton station. Then, by cab, in the back seat, my nose no higher than the bottom of the passenger window. I stepped out and stepped up eleven wooden stairs into a house on top of a hill. A house with a wrap around porch and a coal fired stove in the kitchen. Out back, three white cherry trees, in want for picking.
I went back once after that. Without a map. In a car. Coming into town from a completely different direction, I found the house. The first time. Without stopping to ask for directions. Without a chatty GPS. I saw it. I saw the map in my head. I knew each turn, I knew how the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill would feel as we crossed over before heading up the hill. I counted the steps to the porch and walked straight through the kitchen to check for cherry trees.
Not the first time for me. It has always been this way..
Once there, I can always find my way back.
Every. Single. Time.
Another symptom of my yet to be diagnosed disability, I cannot fill out a form without help. Doesn’t matter if the words are in Bold right underneath. LAST NAME HERE. I know my name, but it never lands where it should. One space up or one space over. I tend to do a trial run in pencil, that is, until my lawyer handed me a document to sign and introduced me to these wonderful and colorful arrow shaped stickers that point the way to exactly the right space and place. I know the inventor of these little gems must be just like me. Just needing a tiny nudge in the right direction. I’ll bet one day, he or she, held an important document in one hand and a roll of these stickers in the other. If we met face to face in real time, or two hours and thirty minutes behind, we would lose the map, lose the forms, and be able to meet again and again, always finding our way back to one another.
Part F,G,H,I...LMNOP: What’s the point?
I find my brain to be an amazing maze of wonder. There are gnarly, knotty disconnects especially when reading a training manual or setting up scary machinery. But there are moments that surprise and delight. Nose deep in The Solitude Of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano, was one of those moments. A Prime Number. A number that can only be divided by itself or the number one. I spent days on the computer with pencil in hand making lists of prime numbers and reading everything that should not make sense but did.
Or after reading Look Me In the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s by John Elder Robison. He didn’t read the world the same way as others, but he could visualize the solution to a problem in his head. Present the problem, and his mind made maps to the solution. Then with his hands, he could build what his mind could see, but what he could not explain in less than two thousand words.
Or the day I struggled to teach my deaf students Geometry, and stumbled upon a children’s book about the Fibonacci Numbers. Math Curse by Jon Scieska and Lane Smith. The Fibonacci Numbers led me to the world outside. To the rhyme and reason, the pattern and design of nature’s wonders. The whorls, the spirals, the dot, the line and the ray. I was captivated and amazed that a mind such as my own, would struggle with maps and forms, yet somehow find its way to and fro amidst the frollick of numbers and complicated mathematics.
I found myself in the middle of an article on string theory and fractals only to leap up to grab my camera. For there, outside my window on the the barren branches of a birch tree, I could see them. The basic pieces of structure. The beginnings of tiny little vees, all organized and patterned, solid in their sense of time and direction.
It doesn’t really matter as I know very well that if you are still reading, you think I have lost my mind. Truth is, it is found. Complicated with memories and miscellaneous useless bits of information, yet so very like the book on the top shelf of the last row in the non-fiction section of the library. The one barely sticking out.
The one that catches your eye as if to say...you ain’t seen nothing yet.
I think of my life as I write this page. All of the letters on this page have appeared somewhere somehow in another shape and form. You have seen each and every one of these letters.
You know A from B and C to D and beyond.
The sweetly alarming fact is that just by rearranging their order, the length of a sentence, the turn of a phrase, the emphasis or a pause, the writer pens a new map for the mind.
No matter your age, your time in space,
there is a place you have not visited,
yet a place so familiar you will want more.
So be wise, be surprised, and set your clocks ahead, so you don’t waste a minute.
I’ll give you a two hour and thirty minute head start,
and a pocket full of sticky arrows to help you fill in the spaces.
The Not-Yet-A-Yeti story remains incomplete.
The Yard Yeti Women are restless.
As I sit here, in the wee hours of the morning,
I can hear them riding on the night wind just outside my window.
They are teasing me to find my way home.
Soon, I whisper, soon.