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Being Unable to "Let Go" with Flying C.O.L.O.R.S.!

When you have met one person with autism…you have met one person with autism. This is a common expression in the autism community, but we cannot ignore some commonalities that tend to unite large groups of us and allows for an easier diagnosis. I hate to call these characteristics…symptoms. How about character strengths, harmless eccentricities, well-intentioned benevolence, challenges, or attributes? One of the telltale challenges that exist within many of my peers is the inability to “move on” or “let go.” Most individuals are unable to easily let go even if they are neurotypical (non-autistic), but for those with Asperger’s it can be a unwinnable battle. We are held prisoner by dwelling in a house of our own obsession and when our exasperated advocates shriek, “Oh, God! Just let it go already,” this advice rarely helps. In fact, it often makes it worse. I have always been ordered to let go as though it were a demon that has to be exorcised with a few exceptions. The personnel manager at the human service job that fired me eight years ago lets me meet with her in increments of six months while I attempt to earn back my position. Our society should understand the inability to “let go” or “move on” is as much a strength as a possible impediment. The strength of this “weakness” was reinforced this past Sunday, November 2, 2014 once again thanks to Delsie Howey, Luz Morales, their co-founder, Kevin Connors and Delsie’s father, Pete.

The inability to “let go” extends to when I occasionally fail in my mission. Punctuality and being a man of my word is something that I have battled to infuse in all my endeavors. Planning ahead and leaving an extra half-an-hour to beat traffic always tweaks the odds of success. It seems like one of the few things I have control over in this life that is not always predictable or fair. These qualities also make a difference when it comes to compensating for social challenges. If most employers had only two extremes to choose from, “They would rather go with the employee who is punctual, honest, and socially-inept compared to the gregarious and charming employee who is as reliable as the airline schedule during a winter blizzard. I sadly failed in my mission at the start of August when my second book was released on Tuesday, August 5, 2014.

Finally seeing a book on the shelves is a euphoric experience that comes with plenty of pressure. There are interviews, book signings, speaking engagements, and business emails to juggle. Unless a writer is affluent enough to hire a personal secretary, we must do everything by ourselves. I already had one phone up to my ear when the cell phone rang. A sweet voice spoke, “Hello Jesse. We were supposed to meet at Dunkin Donuts this morning.” I gasped as the memory returned of us making an appointment, and it was even on the calendar. It was Delsie Howey from the C.O.L.O.R.S. foundation in Wappingers Falls that provides resources to struggling individuals throughout all of Dutchess County. As I apologized profusely, I could tell that Delsie was slightly irritated about having wasted part of the morning to meet with nobody. As she should be, of course. But I also detected beautiful forgiveness in her voice. She would not hold a grudge forever regarding this mistake, and it would not taint her view of me as a human being or someone who could contribute to her foundation. For some reason, I could not forgive myself and the guilt bounced around my consciousness like a possessed Ping-Pong Ball! How could I have been so careless and thoughtless especially at age 32? Most individuals would have eventually “let it go.” But I reacted by showering Delsie and her supporters with gifts for a solid month! A storm of mail shot through her mailbox like that scene from the first Harry Potter movie with all the letters gushing from the Dursley chimney. The C.O.L.O.R.S. Foundation has received two complimentary and autographed copies of both my books; a monetary contributions; a gift certificate for a woman to receive a makeover at a local beauty salon; and a box of Moonstruck Chocolates. Delsie was very gracious, and I finally felt square with the house.

Delsie and the C.O.L.O.R.S. Foundation came to support me at the Grinnell Library in Wappingers Falls the day after Halloween on Saturday, November 1, 2014. Their smiling faces propelled me through anecdotes about fighting bullying and Autism Awesomeness. I told the audience how we connected and explained that if anybody else wants to be pummeled with cash and gifts all month long then they should hope that I end up standing them up at a restaurant. The desperate attempt at humor provoked a chorus of laughter. But I was not done yet and fate once again stepped in to let me continue paying the debt to the C.O.L.O.R.S Foundation.

After my presentation had included, the program organizer, Jessica Simmons informed me that someone had left a glasses case containing a pair of eyeglasses on one of the lounge chairs. After every presentation, I always collect the names and addresses of people who purchase books so I was able to perform an email search of the owner. The eyeglasses apparently belonged to Delsie’s father and Luz’s husband, Pete. I left them there assuming that Pete would pick them up when he had a chance. But then another idea began forming the following day.

It was my decision to drive back to the library the following day to surprise the family by picking up the eyeglasses and then driving to their house to drop them off in person. It was a magical experience in which I met their small, gimlet-eyed dog, Skittles and gained some excess Halloween candy. I also met Delsie’s teenage daughter, Skye again. Most important, it was another opportunity to justify the eccentricities and over-the-top gestures that were not always appreciated by everybody and sometimes vilified. When I give a speech at any location, the work does not conclude until everyone leaves with all of their belongings!

In this case as well as many others, the product of being incapable of “letting go” has infused just a little more magic into my existence. It reunited a lost pair of eyeglasses with their grateful owner and allowed me to become involved in one of the most incredible foundations in Dutchess County. If you also have any challenge, it should be your objective to show the world there is more to you than meets the eye and justify your differences by flaunting how they may make the world a better place. If you fail due to being human in addition to struggling with your challenges then try to find a way that justifies who you are. Trying to change is not the answer. First of all, you will probably fail and second of all…you will end up pleasing nobody while driving yourself crazy in the process. As you can see from this photograph of me ceremoniously returning the lost glasses… “Weird can certainly be Wonderful!"

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