I set out today, with high hopes, to get a new driver's license--nothing was wrong with the old one, it was just from a state in which I no longer live. I'd been procrastinating on this for a while, for reasons both obvious and subtle, and I'd also had some trouble getting my act together regarding the paperwork. But, after much prodding from Chris, I finally seemed to have all my ducks in a row, and I figured today was the day.
I failed the eye exam. I wasn't terribly surprised, as I barely passed it last time, and I was pretty sure my vision had gotten worse. And I've had glasses of one prescription or another since I was twelve or so--you may remember me wearing them in class that first year--I couldn't see the PowerPoint presentations otherwise. The next year I returned to campus without them because I'd gotten sand in the case and scratched the lenses to near opacity. Fortunately, there were very few PowerPoint presentations the second year, because I didn't have the money for new glasses. I didn't have the money now, but at least I have a positive cash flow at last, so I could make due. So I went and got an eye exam and new glasses--yay!--but while I was doing that the Department of Motor Vehicles closed for the day. We have to go back tomorrow.
The whole thing was a huge pain in the neck for Chris, so to make it up to him I bought him lunch/dinner ("linner"?) at Ruby Tuesday's while we waited for my glasses. And then I couldn't figure out the tip. Tips always muddle me. Chris figured it out. Yes, I'm a graduate student in science who can't reliably do basic arithmetic. It's not that I'm afraid of math, and I do fairly well with mathematical concepts, but I'm just not reliable with the basics--which means my ability to understand higher math doesn't do me a whole lot of good. I used to mind needing eye glasses when I was younger--I refused to wear them for many years--but I don't mind them now. I'm actually really delighted by my new glasses--everything looks all clear and clean and precise. You'll see them, probably, at Tom's party. More importantly, if you are there, I will clearly see you. But I get really bummed out about this math thing. I just get tired of being limited.
"Limited" was the phrase the headmaster of my old boarding school used. If one of us told him about some odd little emotional hang-up we had, he was likely to sigh and say "yes, I'm limited, too." He meant emotionally or psychologically limited, but he also openly identified himself as learning disabled in other contexts. He hoped we, at least, being young, might grow less limited in time. He wouldn't put up with what he considered emotional laziness, selfishness, or irresponsibility, but he accepted our limitations with a sigh and without judgment. He knew he had his own, and that he would likely die with them. And he did.
For the most part I follow his example. For the most part I fly the flag of cognitive diversity, insisting that there's nothing wrong with my brain for not being able to do division without help; I can, and have, done class readings a year a half in advance and still dominated the class discussion. I knew what baleen was when I was three. I'm smart, ok? But sometimes I just get frustrated.
I get frustrated by myself and others. I will not identify the current miscreant, whom I think too highly of to complain about in public, but you can probably guess. I mean, really? How difficult is it to keep track of this, that, and the other and not waste other people's time? There are very few people I care about who don't seriously irk me now and then (the people I don't care about generally only irk me once). But oh, how I didn't want to be mad at this person. I didn't want her limitations to be real.
I've been watching the new "Sherlock" episodes, lately. They're set in modern-day London, and they're fantastic--though the title character is generally played as a kind of benign sociopath, rather than as the Aspie the original Sherlock Holmes so clearly was. In one episode, after admitting that he finds it easy to think of murder victims as just intellectual problems, Sherlock notices that his friend, John (Dr. Watson) is hurt and disappointed.
"Don't make people into heroes, John," he says. "They don't exist, and if they did, I wouldn't be one of them."
Have I made a hero? Of course. I've made more than one. I admire a lot of people, though I'm not sure all the people I admire quite count as heroes of mine, and I like admiring them. I like admiring you, for example--did you know that? But you are limited, and all my heroes are limited, and I am limited, too. Sigh.
I think admiration must be tempered with compassion, or it is no kindness.