I found myself experiencing a mild case of writer’s block this week. Instead of writing my weekly blog post, I decided to finish putting together a short video that I had been working on. Given that I was entering my 2nd week of training for The Chicago Marathon, the video which was predominantly about running seemed to be a good fit. I had decided some time ago that I wanted to make an inspirational video that I could put on YouTube. The video would be set to music and it would be a source of inspiration for my marathon training. In addition to inspiration, I also wanted this video to convey a message to family and friends that may view it but most importantly for my sons. I gave the video a title of “The Autistic Mile 2018” and the finished product has a run time of just over four minutes. Those that view this short flick may not realize the hours of work that it took to make. People also may not understand the message behind the video so I am here to set the record straight.
My writer’s block was immediately unblocked after receiving a text from my son Shane upon viewing my work. He first texted me “Cool” to which I replied “Did you like it?”. The next from Shane read “I liked the message, I just don’t think the video itself spoke to me. Overall it was good”. I was bothered more by the fact that my message failed to hit the mark rather than Shane’s lukewarm video review. To set the scene, this video starts out with a few quotes and some dialogue from the movie “Without Limits” which is about the life of distance runner Steve Prefontaine. That segment jumps right into a picture montage set to the song “Hall of Fame” by The Sync and featuring will.i.am. The pictures vary with many of myself, family, friends and some that I find inspirational. It finishes with dialog from the James Bond movie Skyfall where Judy Dench quotes a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. I can understand if the overall tone of the film seems vain but I assure you that was not my intention. Casting aspersions aside, my video was meant to convey a positive message that highlights the importance of family, friends, colleagues and others that we come into contact with every day. Furthermore, it was designed to illustrate the need for self-confidence, personal growth and achievement. I was truly hoping that this video would speak to Shane but in that effort I may have failed miserably. What Shane may have failed to deduce from the barrage of images and quotes were the vast number of people that come through our lives. He may not yet comprehend the necessity for variety in every-day life or the profound impact that may result from exploring the vast world beyond his own comfort zone. Shane has been on summer vacation for 14 days now and I would hazard a guess that he has devoted 12 of those days to playing video games. I know that these games and his virtual world are a safe place and believe me, I get it. That being said, he is running out of time in making a decision whether he will lead a life of self-imposed isolation or if he will be brave enough to embrace the world around him. I know that if he studies my video more carefully, he might just get the point. Perhaps he will see past all of the music and the running and he will appreciate the many places that I have been and all of the wonderful people who have been a part of my life, including himself. Maybe he will see what true love of 26 years looks like or what friendship of 43 years looks like. My hope is that he will see that this video represents what I consider to be a fulfilling life and that he will soon embrace the need for change in his own life.
As I was furiously typing away writing this blog, I received another text from Shane in which he stated “At first I only watched like the first few seconds of it and thought ‘oh, this is one of those motivational running videos. I know how these go’ and just stopped right there. Only a little bit after you responded did I realize you made it. Then I thought ‘Oh..oh…I just made this awkward’. So yeah, I’m sorry”. This is just one of many teachable moments and I am sure that Shane will learn and grow from our little misunderstanding even if he doesn’t find personal meaning in my video. Video aside, I’m quite sure that his video game addiction had a little something to do with his quick dismissal. As a fellow aspie, I can truly relate to this lack of focus on something that appears on the surface to be irrelevant. Unfortunately, communication skills and personal awareness can often be difficult for those on the spectrum and they may have to be exposed to situations multiple times before they are able to make the necessary corrections. In the brief time that we have been working with Shane to improve his social skills, my wife and I have noticed the significant progress that he is making. Last week Shane excused himself from the dinner table and got about half way to his room before he turned around and said to Matt and his girlfriend Kate “I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening”. A little voice went off inside his brain and he recognized that he wanted to convey this pleasantry to people that are important to him. It is times like that reinforce my belief that times like this are worth expounding upon.