It's Friday in this part of the world and that doesn't mean all that much to most people, but it's as good a day as any to talk about a recent development which has been the center of my life for several weeks. For those of you who know me in person, you may or may not be surprised about this revelation, but I bet you some people will will be saying to themselves it makes a lot of sense. For those of you who do not know me in person but have had e-mail interactions with me will probably react in much the same way. If you don't happen to know me, well, no big deal, right?
Recently, I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Yes, that Asperger's Syndrome, which rests on the autism spectrum. The recent edition of the DSM (I forget whether its number 5 or 6) removed AS from its list of disorders and placed in simply within the boundaries of Autism. It doesn't maker a big difference to me where it is placed because no matter where I am on that spectrum, I am still me, and I still have to deal with all of the same crap.
A little while ago, my wife wrote a blog post about my diagnosis and some of the difficulties in dealing with being married to someone who is identified with AS. I think she was incredibly generous considering all of the stupidity and frustrations she has put up with over the past 20+ years of being married to me. If you have the time, you should go to her blog and read her take on the subject. As for mine, I am still trying to figure a few things out, but I have a few things I want to say now.
I am not really comfortable talking about how this revelation has made me look back and re-examine my marital life, so my first thoughts are going to be about my life as a poet. I have been serious about poetry for quite a while. I started writing when I was 15 or so, and I got serious about it when I was about 20. One of the things I thought was wrong with me and my poetry was not being able to write with what I perceived to be the 'linguistic depth' as other poets. Now, I realize that one of the common disorders which accompanies Asperger's is something called Alexithymia. It's the sub-clinical inability to 'identify and describe emotions in the self,' or, at least that's what Wikipedia tells me. Well, I have it in spades. When I took the profile questionnaire my numbers weren't off the chart, but they were quite high. Imagine my astonishment that one of the special interests I had developed (poetry) as people with AS are prone to do, is hampered by an inability to do what said special interests requires. Simply put, I am a poet who cannot identify or describe his emotions.
Suddenly everything became clear. My poetry tends to focus on place (landscape meditation in particular) because I have an inability to express my own emotional status. My descriptions remain clinical and disembodied from my psyche because I cannot express how those natural landscapes affect me on an emotional level. My poetry, if not landscape/place oriented alternates between simple description and direct and blunt trauma because I cannot interweave emotional complexity into the language. I think it's why my poetry publication has a history of being hot or cold, on or off. My poetry is either showing up in all sorts of places or it is playing the hermit. Even more telling than my publication history is my patterns of writing themselves. I think I hit a vein of subject matter, much like William Heyen in certain ways, and I write like mad, sometimes drafting an entire manuscript's worth of poems in a two month period from beginning to end. Between those periods, poems are rare as hens' teeth, if they come at all. It is not uncommon for me to not write a poem for a year or even longer, yet here I am once again with 50 pages of poetry towards another complete manuscript of poetry only months after my most recent book was published---and that the end part of a four year streak of book publications.
Please don't think I am bragging. I look back and I am thrilled I have come so far with what I can only guess at being a severe deficiency when it comes to writing poetry (a guess because I really have no way of comparing with the alternative) and I can't help but think what might have been if I was not saddled with AS and/or Alexithymia. I look at all the poems I have wanted to write but couldn't, knowing now part of the reason was I cannot express my own emotions in a way which makes sense. I look back at those poems and mourn their loss, remembering how I agonized at my inability to write poems with the craft and depth with which they deserved to be written.
I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone (not just the poets I know) who has had to bear the brunt of my callous and rude behavior. I look back and see all of the time I spent dominating conversations and being so self-centered when it came to sharing this life in poetry. I also see how my behavior caused some people to walk away from our friendship in frustration, having tried everything reasonable before jumping ship.
Finally, to my wife, Becky I would like to state again and for the record how deeply humbled I am that you would put up with me for so long, especially since most of that time there was no diagnosis to explain so much of my bad behavior. If ever there was a person on this earth deserving of all the good graces and good fortune emanating from the universe, you are that person. I love you and thank you for everything you have done for me.