The Life Autistic: How Could You Forget How to Ride a Bike?

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You know that phrase, “It’s like riding a bike – you never forget how?” I’m here to tell you that’s bogus. Bunk.

have forgotten how to ride a bike.

I may be exaggerating, but that there’s not a lot of membership in the Autistic Athletics Association. The spectrum life is about dealing with physical gracelessness and disinclination toward the social aspects of formal sports, athletics, etc.

Exceptional coordination and athleticism is uncommon, but even common coordination can be a challenge for us autists.

I learned to ride a compact, green Huffy bike through the neighborhood of Burke, Virginia. While I was six of seven, I can’t say I was embarrassed about that late start. I was an official biker.

Fast forward to Iceland, that winter, where my parents bought me a new Roadmaster for the “summer” rides we’d take. And by the time that season rolled around, I’d lost it.

I’d literally — in the space of a season — forgotten how to ride a bike. 

I was almost a decade away from discovering just how different I was, but this was embarrassing. Who out there just up and loses their ability to ride a bike?

People like me.

People who fight for every fiber of muscle memory. People who put in work to get to only passable levels of coordination. People who aren’t naturals at this.

I was a whopping eight years old. Young. Stupid. Stubborn. 

Stubborn enough to get back on the bike and try again. And fall. And sputter. And pedal just a bit more. And fall again.

My dad cheered me on; I reflect on it with regrets, disappointment. He shouldn’t have had to teach me twice. He should have watched me take off like any other normal eight-year-old who’d learned to ride before. But after a few hours, it came back. I wasn’t about to revert to my non-riding self.

Since it’s been over a 15 years since I last rode, some people joke about me forgetting again.

I forgot how to ride a bike once, but I learned it twice. 

And dammit, if I have to learn it alongside my daughter this time, I’ll learn it once more.

 

 

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The Life Autistic: Using the F-Word

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By age 20, I’d reached the apex of my swearing potential.

Blame a combination of salty YouTube videos, blue comedy, and hair-trigger temper points, but either way: after lambasting my brother in a ten-minute, breathless, cussive screed in which I machined expletive combinations unique enough to be patented, I realized “Wow, I’ve gotten foul. I don’t think I’ll ever top this.” 

But even in that maelstrom of profane malevolence, in which I found all manner of expression boundless, there’s been one word I’ve never mustered up the comfort to say:

Friend.

We autistic folk, we’re so literal.

We are as literal as we are not social.

So when it comes to relationships, social stuff, there’s this extra layer of ambiguity and awkwardness mixed in with extreme precision.

And golly is it embarrassing sometimes.

It is hard for us to define, much less make friends.

Are friends people you talk to each day? Are they those with whom you have a good, stirring conversation every now and then? Is it someone you know where share some mutual, intentional enjoyment? Is it different from buddy, pal, dude?

It’s always been hard for me to connect with people beyond just the surface. I feel like many who’d be a friend to others would just be an acquaintance to me.

But it’s not you. It’s me.

I don’t navigate this well, and I’m afraid to call people friends, thinking that I should be committing more, being more involved, closer.

It’s part of The Life Autistic – we do genuinely appreciate the people in our lives, those more invested, and in those whom we enjoy the more everyday banter and passing conversation. To be an acquaintance, pal, bud — that’s really good for us.

For all the words we use, good and bad, the F-word is one of the toughest to say.

How David Blaine Saved Me from Slim Goodbody

I have only one “good story.” This is it. Save for embellishments, it’s 110% true.

I’d always heard that you couldn’t see your audience from the stage. But I could hear them, their raucous roars once compelling me there now dying down as Slim Goodbody welcomed me to the platform.

Yes, that Slim Goodbody.

“So, what can you do?” he asked.

I froze. That was not why I was up there.

Not only was I unprepared, I was incapable of doing what he was asking. Big difference. Public speaking is something you can actually do off the cuff, prepared or no. But if you physically cannot dunk a basketball, then there’s no way you’re walking off that stage with your dignity. Incapable.

I was prepared to kiss my dignity goodbye. To a dude wearing a this:

slim

I needed a miracle. What I got was magic:

Continue reading “How David Blaine Saved Me from Slim Goodbody”