My birthday present to myself

It’s my birthday. So I get to write about anything. I get to indulge. The first thing is that I want to republish a poem that I published a long time ago, when I thought maybe I could get away with publishing poems on my blog. Now I know that for sure, poetry kills traffic.

But I like this poem so much:


by Beverly Rollwagen

She just wants to be employed

for eight hours a day. She is not

interested in a career; she wants a job

with a paycheck and free parking. She

does not want to carry a briefcase filled with important papers to read

after dinner; she does not want to return phone calls. When she gets home,

she wants to kick off her shoes and waltz around her kitchen singing, “I am

a piece of work.”

I like it maybe because it’s me. Sometimes I get tired of having to earn money. I have so many things I want to do, and it’s so distracting to have to earn money. I could have married someone with a lot of money and then I wouldn’t have to worry about earning money, but I didn’t choose that.

For the record, those dates went terribly.

And I think I am most grounded when I am running my own business. I like the process of figuring out how to make money. I think it makes me happy. I think the hardest part of being an adult is making sense of the contradiction that things that make money make me happy and things that don’t make money make me happy and how much should I do of each?

Some days I do a good job of doing both. Like the day I took my son out of school for a trip to the city (yes, Madison, WI is “the city” for us now). I did a TV segment for Court TV (some guy with Asperger Syndrome was on trial.)

And then we went out to lunch for pizza and played air hockey.

I’m not sure if this is what I want though. I know I keep talking about how I’m lonely on the farm, but I think I might like being alone most of all.

Can I earn money if I want to be alone? I’m not sure. For example, I am an excellent journalist because I have a sense of what is news before it becomes news.

Ori Heffetz, professor of economics at Cornell, sent me some happiness research he was working on. It was not yet published, but I could tell it was going to be big, so I asked him if I could interview him. Then I missed three appointments. I don’t know why. I think because I have huge anxiety of picking up the phone. Having to switch from alone time to time with someone else is very hard for me. I really like alone time.

See this picture. It’s my idea of a great day:

Okay. So the problem is that I love being alone and also, I have a really hard time switching tasks (very common for people with Asperger’s), and it sometimes feels impossible for me to do a phone interview. So, this is typical for many interviews I do.

Ori wrote:

Hi Penelope — not quite sure how to explain your sudden disappearance but either way, I thought you might be interested in this piece in The Economist that mentions our paper and in general seems aligned with your interests.

So I could have scooped the Economist. But I didn’t. So look, just click there. It’s a good paper on jobs and happiness, and Ori is onto something.

I love being alone, but I worry about being alone. I obsess about happiness research because I am trying to figure out where I fit in in that research. I clearly do not need as many social connections as other people because socializing is completely overwhelming to me . But I do need connections.

I had this idea that the farmer would be my one connection in the world. The love of my life. I thought I’d be on the farm and just talk to him, and sort of talk to researchers but mostly miss phone calls and life would be great. But it’s not happening that way. The farmer does not really want that sort of connection. He is not the connecting type.

Don’t tell me you told me so, okay? I’m just trying to figure out what to do. I’m trying to figure out what else can make me happy.

Happiness research has been a big disappointment to me. For a bazillion reasons. But today the disappointment is that it assumes we have no limits. The most high-functioning, optimistic people assume they control their own environment and they do not blame other people for their problems.

Okay. So I am taking control of things. I am going to tell you how I am going to be happy.

First, I’m going to focus on what I can control. I could link to AA here, but I’m going to link to Ben Bernake’s commencement address at the University of South Carolina. People who focus on what they can’t control are not happy. This is hard for me. I want to feel disappointed about the state of my marriage to the farmer. I know it’s not good for me. And it’s my birthday, so I can do it for one more post. But I promise that at the end of today, no more.

Next, I’m going to do what I’m good at. I’m good at creating businesses. I should do that. I’m good at finding great business partners. I should do that. Right now I’m focusing on stuff that’s hard for me — parenting, budgeting, fitting into a new community. This is not stuff that will give me that feeling of flow. Flow is what makes us feel happy. Or content Or whatever we’re aiming to feel. Flow is good. I want flow. So I need to build a business again. Somehow.

Next, I’m going to keep a gratitude journal. The reason this is a good thing to do is because then we don’t take things for granted. Here’s a post on Marginal Revolution that shows why keeping a gratitude journal is the most effective action you can take, by yourself, to shift your happiness level.

I have tried this gratitude journal thing before, and I have stopped after two days, because it’s too fun to be pissy. But now I have a trick. I got myself to meditate by doing it with my kids. Once I told my kids we were going to meditate because it’s important for a good life, I was great at making them do it every day. And now I’m doing it every day, with them. So I know if I have them do the gratitude journal every day then I’ll do it, too.

So I guess this post could be about co-dependence as a path to happiness.

A free ticket to co-dependence is a great birthday present, I think.

83 replies
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  1. melanie gao
    melanie gao says:

    I find it hard to switch activities too and I don’t have Asperberger’s. Right now I spend a lot of time alone and it irritates me when I have to show up for an appointment or meet a commitment. This could be a phase. I’m going to give it a few months and see how I do.

    BTW don’t you love having microphones clipped to you? That’s one of my favorite parts of performing. It’s oddly sensual.

  2. Carla Hinkle
    Carla Hinkle says:

    Hey, is Dec 10 your birthday? Mine too. Hooray for us, we made it another year. Hope you figure some stuff out in 2011.

  3. tique
    tique says:

    Penelope. You’ve got to stop this. The farmer loves you. You can’t just accept this and continue to post these passive aggressive posts about your relationship.

    You are with someone that loves you. Deeply. Doesn’t that count for something, P?

    • Joe Campbell
      Joe Campbell says:

      Thats a rather boastful comment to say the farmers lover her, are you her? How do you know? My hope would this is the case, however providing advice like this via a post is rather, well strange…

  4. Penelope
    Penelope says:

    Happy Birthday, Penelope- I find a good way to think about the complicated web of life, which you talk about – is thinking of it as a tapestry (there is the warp(warped ) and the weave, and some times part of the tapestry needs repairing (where I am at right now ) and other times you are just weaving away, and like our namesake we weave, undo and weave again, because life is full of contradiction and discovery, but unlike classical Penelope – we are modern day women, and so we take real action, whereas Homer’s Penelope couldnt –
    Happy Birthday, from a Penelope in Paris who runs a bookshop and adores your blog: as a business woman, as a mother, and especially as a reader.

  5. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Happy Birthday!…
    Keep on trying new things and do what you and others around you enjoy and Happiness will find you.

  6. Erika Harris
    Erika Harris says:

    Penelope, I love your birthday present to yourself. It was a present to your readers, too. Mmmmm, idea-cake and dream-cream. Yummy :-)

    Your idea of a great day — and the accompanying photo — blows all the happiness research out of the water: red barn, afro-trees, narrow plowed road bending toward fulfillment. It’s just a matter of being inside this pic, and allowing the happiness, rather than suspecting it.

    Here’s a business idea for you that came to me while I ogled at your pic: Quarterly retreats on your property for people with Aspberger’s, Sensory Processing Sensitivity, Social Anxiety and Introversion. It’s kinda laughable rounding up folks like us. But only in the sense that Heaven, Home and Head-to-Toe orgasms are laughable. And sublime. So anyway, this unique collection of bright minds gather for a True Indulgence: we get to BE… on the spaciousness of your farm. We do yoga, hide-out, have deep discussions about life + work, hide-out, pitch biz + creative ideas with each other… networking, but all done amidst this unlikely tribe, the whole event feels as safe and comfy as a broom closet ;-) Lots of micro-businesses would probably hatch. You could help incubate them with strategy sessions, and maybe even co-partnering with your faves. Anyway, time spent in a community like this would be well worth the registration cost. I’d be there in a heart beat. And I know a bunch of HSPs from my MeetUp would, too.

    Any other readers interested in a gathering like this?

    Penelope, you always say how much you like blurred lines. I think this is the next level of blur.

  7. tiger
    tiger says:

    you’re so wonderful. you and your fearlessness are among the most inspirational and motivational forces in my life. you’ve been instrumental in my finally biting the bullet and actually publishing my own long-pondered blog instead of just endlessly pondering it, and you continue to inspire me in more subtle ways as well. thank you for your revelation about flow; i was behind a car tonight whose license plate read “GOT2FLOW” and it didn’t mean anything to me until i came home and received your blog entry. i don’t know that you and the owner of the car were thinking the same thing, but you sure put the plate into perspective for me.

    it’s 5:14 am here in new york and i’m on NyQuil in my efforts to stomp out the last of this cold, so i’m going to stop writing weirdly and go to sleep, but i want you to know how much you do for me, which is a lot, and to thank you for that, and to wish you a *very* happy birthday. you deserve it.

  8. Ann
    Ann says:

    Happy day, happy year. One of your best post ever! I think that poem speaks to all women. It certainly did to me!

  9. Miss P.
    Miss P. says:

    Happy Birthday Penelope! Or maybe rather: Interesting Birthday Penelope! ;)

    I have come to adore your blog over the last few weeks. I love the posts you write and I often giggle at the controversies in your comments section. Personally I believe that the story of you and the farmer that you portray here is just one side of a many sided story, but hey if others want to take it at face value…

    Cheers P.

  10. Alisa Bowman
    Alisa Bowman says:

    Happy Birthday! I wish you so much happiness! Since you are meditating with your kids, you might want to check out a children’s book called Zen Shorts. I love it. I have to force my kid to listen when I read it. I guess I read it for me. She doesn’t like it. But you might like it. There’s a question in the book: “Then why are you still carrying it?” I think of that question whenever I’m feeling unhappy and it seems to help. I feel like you need to good friends…. people beyond the farmer. Two people who love every quirk about you. Two people who without fail can get you to laugh.

  11. lb
    lb says:

    For a long time, I’ve been pining/yearning for a soulmate …. someone I can talk with about all the Great Big Things in life; a deep connection that lasts the rest of my life; someone who’ll love me & watch my back, no matter what.

    But, at the end of the day: I think I’m finally realizing that I’m happiest/most content when I’m alone.

    I’ve had a successful & interesting career for nearly 20 yrs now, and I continue on b/c I have to pay the mortgage (and I need that pension, dammit). But when Friday finally comes, I’m so pleased to put the rat race – and all those people! – behind me, if only for the weekend.

    So, PT, youre not as unique/alone in your thinking as you might’ve thought …

  12. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Our society has too many dumb definitions of happiness. It doesn’t distinguish between happiness and pleasure, for one thing.

    I think the best definition of happiness for Aspies is Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow.” It fits with what you’ve described here.

    You may be happier than you think!

    Happy birthday!

  13. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The first photo of you in the mirror really tells it all for this post. An honest post of introspection where you are now in your life and some ideas on where to proceed next. Birthdays tend to do that to anyone.
    I like the goals you have outlined for yourself. They are well thought out and achievable. Co-dependence is a path to happiness as well as a path to success as any good leader will attest.
    Also, I thought ‘knowing yourself’ could be a category for this post.
    Happy Birthday!

  14. Melissa Breau
    Melissa Breau says:

    Hey P-
    If you want a business to get involved in, I’m starting a digital only magazine. I’d LOVE to have you involved.

    Moxy Magazine is a digital magazine that will utilize multiple revenue models to create a profitable start-up, web-only publication. Most traditional magazine rely on advertising as a primary revenue stream – €“however the industry is finding that that is not a sustainable business model.
    Drawing from these examples of successful print publications – €“like The New Yorker which offers its classic cartoons in book form and on a variety of goods and Real Simple which also offers a variety of books and products created in its name – €“and a number of profitable websites, including those that are part of the Envato network, Moxy Magazine will supplement advertising revenue by offering a variety of product in line with its core mission and targeted at its audience.

    Men have the Good Ol’ Boy’s Network. Women will have Moxy Magazine. Our readers are women who are already on their way to success – €“our articles just help them get there faster. Moxy Magazine speaks to up-and-coming professional women, covering the issues of tomorrow, today, by leading the discussion on topics women want to follow. Moxy is on the smart edge of information: the new issues, services and trends.

    We believe in helping our readers achieve their personal definition of success, whether that means raising a family, traveling the world, becoming a CEO at a Fortune 500 company, or starting their own business.

    Even if you’re not interested in getting involved…I’d love to have you write for us.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think this is a great idea, Melissa. And what I really love is that you pitched your idea in a public forum. So many times people pitch their ideas to me like they are a big secret, like someone will steal them. But I can’t stress enough that there are no original ideas — if you have the idea than 20 other people do, too.

      And the great thing about telling lots of people about your idea is that you get lots of feedback. So my feedback is that retooling the book industry is very hot right now — take a look at Seth Godin’s recent post about his joint venture with Amazon.

      Good luck!


      • Melissa Breau
        Melissa Breau says:

        Seth’s ideas are very interesting; although most of the ideas he mentions here have been floating around the book industry for a few years now (we discussed some of those ideas in my Masters in Publishing program, along with why traditional publishers aren’t able to adapt and implement them).

        However I’m not sure how you’re recommending I incorporate them into a digital magazine… ?

  15. jim
    jim says:

    Happy belated birthday! I’m glad that you’re taking stock a little bit and refocusing — sounds like you’re going for a mix of acceptance and optimism. Sounds right to me!

  16. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    First, happy birthday!

    Second, I completely empathize with so many aspects of this post. “I love being alone, but I worry about being alone.” This is such a problem for people who are homebodies at heart but who are also obsessively aware of what other people do. From the inside, it looks like happy people are out doing things, talking to people, living it up, so you (and by you, I mean people like me who identify with what you said here) long for that. Even if it’s not what makes you happy.

    Then again, I understand when you say you do need some connections. I’m recently married myself, and it’s a hard thing to acknowledge that no one person, not even your spouse, can satisfy you completely. Yes, it’d be easier if the farmer was more of a connector, but I feel pretty confident saying that even then, he probably couldn’t connect as much as you want him to. You’d still need something or someone else to make you feel whole.

    Thanks for the post and good luck with your endeavors!

    • lynne whiteside
      lynne whiteside says:

      I started meditating/breathing correctly only recently – I’ve decided that I feel good and that alone time is o.k. with me. I’ve also had the awareness that more people today spend more time by themselves, by choice. We are where we are supposed to be, – I have to remind myself of that all the time, otherwise I used to trip on why was I was more fortunate than others. Could be an old hang up from being Catholic. Your post is so right on I had to reply, Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  17. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    A silly idea, but have you tried knitting? I find knitting to be a good activity for stress-free socializing[1]. There are groups just about everywhere and you can go once a week or once a month. You can be thoroughly engaged in the conversation or head down in your knitting and no one will even notice.

    [1]The knitting itself is enjoyable (or frustrating) in its own right, of course, but you were looking for ways to balance social interactions.

  18. Mary K
    Mary K says:

    Happy birthday, Penelope! Mine was yesterday. I, too, worry about enjoying being alone and I don’t even have Asperger’s to blame it on. I just get overwhelmed. I love your opening poem. “I am a piece of work.” Aren’t we all? Just be you. No one else can do that.

  19. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Mairzy and I love the poem (and both want that job). You are a great writer, we love your work, we wish you joy and optimism for the unknown in 2011.

  20. Chickybeth
    Chickybeth says:

    Happy Birthday Penelope! You seem like a person who is good at finding your flow so I’m sure you will get back to it soon. Just think of this time as a long transition to the next phase, and long transitions are good, right?

  21. Mari Anne Snow
    Mari Anne Snow says:

    I think it isn’t about happiness. I think it’s more about contentment. It seems to me that it is quite possible to be happy being miserable. It is also possible to be happy when you are conflicted. Contentment is something completely different. For me, it implies stillness and peace. Both things elude me and it appears they elude you as well. I don’t think you are built for contentment any more than I am. But this doesn’t mean we can’t be happy in our discontent.

    Happy b-day.

  22. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    Dear Penelope,

    Everything you wrote in this post today seems to be productive, logical and grounded. I too glean happiness from a personal creative process where no one, and mean NO ONE, can say “NO” to me. And in this regard, your blog, your unhampered creation, is touching many, many hearts and pushing even more buttons. Honesty bubbles up everywhere. So I think you’re making a positive difference in this world. You’re shaking things up and making people think. Especially me.


  23. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Today is my birthday. It struck me as obvious that you’d be a Sagg! I knew there had to be another reason I could relate so well to your posts.
    There could be new research everday and while it’s interesting, I think we all know ourselves a little better than what our fears like to dictate. Some things are just not applicable because like loving someone else, loving yourself is a wholly personal choice that comes intuitively-often missing logic which is what these studies try to harness in order to explain what is very abstract. So like I said, all of that research is valuable in an interesting way, it shouldn’t represent some baseline of how we need to conduct ourselves.

  24. Judy
    Judy says:

    Penelope – I really enjoy your writing. It’s compelling. You say what so many of us only dare think.

    About Happiness: you don’t get it from outside yourself. It isn’t external, it comes from within, when you are at peace with who you are, and in sync with (& really noticing) all the beauty in the world, including the beauty of uniqueness. Then, you are in the energy or vibration of Love. It makes everything just exactly as it should be. (No need to change anyone!) Life flows, effortlessly.

    I have a feeling you are over-analyzing your life and what you should be doing. Perhaps try a little book called The Greatest Manifestation Principle in the World.
    Happy Birthday!

  25. Virginia
    Virginia says:

    Happy Birthday. I just wanted to mention that I was in a similar situation during my first marriage (divorced 25 years ago). I was lonely, living out on a ranch in the middle of Nevada, married a nice ranching guy and imploded from the isolation. I wanted him to be my companionship – he would rather hunt and fish with his brother. He wanted warm food, house cleaning and moral support – I wanted an equal partnership. We split up after 5 years of struggle and when I look back, he was the best man I have ever known. We were both looking for something in a relationship that is not necessarily realistic in this day and age. However you don’t know this until after all is water under the bridge. You can be lonely in the middle of NYC or in the middle of the ocean. It is all in your own head and you are not alone.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Every post generates one or two comments that really changes how I’m thinking about the topic in the post. This is the comment for this post, Virginia. Thank you for telling me your view from the future. Also, sometimes, when I’m telling myself that what I have is just fine, I ask myself who would put up with this? Why am I choosing this? To read about your hindsight vision really helps me to see what I have now. Thanks.


    • Helen
      Helen says:

      Wow, its not often that people acknowledge regret in their lives. Yet, if we were all really honest with ourselves, we could probably look back and pinpoint moments where we should have gone the other way. Perhaps this is why we are so scared of making decisions sometimes. It is so true that we make our own happiness, despite the mistakes we make along the way.

      • Erum
        Erum says:

        Happy Birthday Penelope! I’m a Sag too. I agree that the above post was powerful in what was shared. I think we spend most of our present time wishing and wanting for some ideal and only appreciate what we have after the fact.

  26. lynne whiteside
    lynne whiteside says:

    My BD too, the 11th, I’m 65y.o. – you have wonderful fans, smart fans, intuitive fans, generous fans and always with love.

    It took me time to figure out that whatever I’m thinking or feeling, however my emotional self is doing – I am never alone… please, keep sharing it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, because we, your fans are right there with you, your words are helping all of us feel better about what goes on in our mind. The unspoken is spoken and we feel better for it.

    Happy Birthday Sag…

  27. Jesse
    Jesse says:

    Loved the poem. The best job I ever had was making and wrapping sandwiches as fast as I could. No one worries about sandwiches when their shift is over. But, no one proudly wears the title of World’s Fastest Sandwich Wrapper.

    But then, why not? There is serious flow to be found in making and wrapping sandwiches.

    On happiness… What is your definition of happiness? Are you using some other person’s definition? Would it help if you compared your current self to your past self to see if maybe YOUR happiness grade has increased?

    Happy Birthday?

  28. Laura
    Laura says:

    Hi, Have a wonderful birthday.
    Maybe happiness is eluding you, or you think it is because you think you NEED something or someone to be happy. If you are really happy with the farm, the farmer and living there learning to let go of negative thoughts is a huge deal. I have a tendency to over think everything and then get depressed when I am not living up to the ideal that everyone thinks I need to live up to. Living up to what YOU think is going to make you happy is much more important.

    For instance, most of the time I run around trying to make everyone happy and yet am in the dumps myself…..I am learning to let all the excess go, if you can’t fix it, it ain’t broke, stuff like that….well in the long haul will it matter? No it won’t….it sounds to me like you think you need to think about not being happy because you are happy and you need to re think what is important. Important, the farmer, the boys and your career…yes in that order.
    Just me though, and I am the mom of a 16 year old boy Aspie, who is right now driving me nuts with texting.
    Go have some b-day cake and ENJOY!!!!:-)

  29. Amy Parmenter
    Amy Parmenter says:


    Have to tell you that you faked me out…or I faked myself out actually with this post. My birthday (50!!!) is this week, so I have been writing about it on my blog. When I got your post on my blackberry, all I could see was From: Penelope Trunk
    and Subj: “My birthday gift to..” The next word didn’t show. So for a split second, I actually thought it was going to say “My birthday gift to you”..(me!) and that you were going to reference my blog…only because I remember your saying that you love to surprise people by mentioning them when they don’t even realize that you read their blogs. D’oh. Needless to say I got a good chuckle when I opened it to find that it was your birthday too. (apparently I am more self-absorbed than I realize). Anyway…thanks for the laugh at myself. And happy birthday. I, too, am the cow with her head thru the fence – must be a sagitarius thing…

    The ParmFarm

  30. downfromtheledge
    downfromtheledge says:

    LOL….ur damn right it’s “too fun to be pissy” and besides, u don’t want to turn into one of those perpetually chipper fakers who i sometimes just stare at thinking ‘no one is that effing happy, so just shut the hell up.’

    CONNECTION. i think that’s the most important word in your post. i know u feel like your husband doesn’t want the same sort of connection you yearn for — i feel that way about friends. friends stopped CALLING when e-mail came along, stopped E-MAILING when facebook came along, stopped FACEBOOKING when they all got on their iPHONES…

    the point is: we’re all so friggin “socially connected” thanks to technology that people in our society feel alienated and lonely, lacking that fundamental human connection – the REAL kind – we all long for. i know u termed it “codependence” in jest, but really: it’s not.

    people need other people (i’m not gonna break into a barbara streisand song, don’t worry). we’re not built to go it alone. society tauts individualism & achievement…and at the end of the day we’ve got no one cuz everyone is married to their TV’s and laptops and blackberries…and ignoring us.

    somewhere along the line, our priorities got screwed up.

  31. Mark
    Mark says:

    I think we're the same age; I’m a few weeks into working with an AS doctor because of exactly what you describe here, after being disappointed with ALL advice and research and constantly having to defend a time and energy expenditure without end and no results. Simply dissatisfied with fragmented answers that don't pull these tendencies together into some kind of intention, I eventually couldn't recruit anyone but a doctor into even a conversation around this pursuit anymore. I find no adequate compromise available between the needs of passion and practicality. For instance, how does one reconcile a preference for being alone with loneliness and the need for companionship?

    I am always seeking advice in one way or another, and I envy your talent for exchanging one form of advice for another from your readers, tailored to you, in such a way that doesn't repel and even invites goodwill. And then I get the advice too and even occasional answers. I don't know if this was your experience, since you don't really talk about the AS community so much, but I'm finding answers in the AS community – €“ people who can signal you when you start to veer, when you are falling and when you are standing up, reminding you that your passion may well be simply resolving Asperger in your life and that subtle shift in thinking could be key in mapping to a different set of possibilities.

    I'm not as gifted as you are at giving advice; you fully acknowledge the role Asperger plays in your life, so forgive me if I presume to suggest what you already know, but do you ever allow yourself to really accept Asperger as not just a contributor, but THE problem? Let yourself off the hook without guilt or feeling self-indulgent, or any such obstruction to full ownership and embodiment of the condition? Do you think bridging the divide between you and the farmer mirrors your bridging efforts in general as an Aspie? At those times when you are aware that you are primarily resolving Asperger all the time, do you get better insight and find your way to a better place? Again, I apologize for any offensive presumption. I'd almost recommend that Aspies look for companionship with Asperger health professionals, but I wonder if by simply exposing and involving the companions to/with the Asperger world in a larger way, that you are connecting them with the largest part of yourself and that that in itself becomes a bridge.

    Happy Birthday,

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Mark, you ask a really good question, about do I ever let Aspergers be THE problem, and then let myself off the hook.

      I really try not to do this, because I’m not sure if it helps. Also, I get a lot of grief in the comments section when I even sound like I’m going in this direction, so my instinct tells me it’s bad.

      That said, the move the the farm is very very good for me and my son with Asperger’s. We are both in need of the calm and the animals and the farmer’s very good sense of how to deal with people with Asperger’s because so much of his family has it. (There. I said it. But I hid it in the comments section. So hopefully nobody will see it here.)

      The move is not great for my younger son. He is an outstanding leader with such notably good social skills that almost every adult who meets him comments on it. I think the farm is too limiting for my youngest son. But I told myself that if we lived in NYC, where he would probably flourish, I would go nuts and so would my other son. So, because of Asperger’s, my youngest son is living on a farm. I hope it’s okay for him I hope I made the right decision.

      Really, this is what I say every day here on the farm. I hope I made the right decision. It’s one thing to make a bad decision for myself. The thought of making a bad decision for my kids is just devastating.


      • chris Keller
        chris Keller says:

        Mark and Penelope, I appreciate this exchange between the two of you. Mark says that it is okay, that you don’t need permission, to cut yourself some slack because you have a condition, Aspergers, that you cannot cure. You CAN work within your perceived limitations. Perhaps it is US, the non-Aspies, who have the limitations; while YOU are ahead of the pack, on the cutting edge of human endeavor.

        I submit that you and other Aspies are like van Gogh and Emily Dickenson, who were brilliantly creative and insightful, but who lived their lives like outsiders. It is as if you are from another culture or another time in history. It is incumbent upon you to fit yourselves in to this time and culture–which is somewhat unfair to you. You want to have people in your lives who appreciate you as you are, who are not pressuring you to change yourselves . . .

        Penelope, life on the farm is tremendously stimulating, and only lacks throngs of people. The farm is a constant and varied science experiment; a look at the complexity of animal behaviors; a chance to develop an over-the-top work ethic. There is farm machinery to maintain and repair. There is the weather to understand. There is the soil and nutrition. You can have an intimate part in those elements, which you cannot have in New York or Chicago. Your younger son will not suffer from this. It is a rich soup and he will prosper, and he will learn lessons that city folk will never imagine. Don’t think you are doing him a disservice. He will learn to explore and learn the most basic lessons taught to us by the earth and by animals.

  32. Savvy Working Gal
    Savvy Working Gal says:

    Happy Birthday Penelope.

    I've recently started keeping an "interesting" journal instead of a gratitude journal. Each day I jot down at least three interesting thoughts or occurrences from the day. I am bored with my gratitude journal and am hoping to discover my life is more interesting than I had thought.

  33. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Happy Birthday Penelope! And one thing I say to myself is that how we remember something turns into how it happened, for all intents and purposes.

  34. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    Happy birthday, Penelope, for yesterday. Can’t believe I missed your post. I hate that. I feel very lonely a lot, too. And I live in the middle of a city. So maybe that’s worse, because I keep telling myself I should go to the gym more since it’s 1/2 a mile from my apartment and then I would probably make friends AND lose weight. And surely that would make me happy! But then I don’t get out of bed until 7:30 so I have to wait to see if I’ll be good tomorrow and it never happens. When it does, I chicken out and go to the fitness center in the apartment complex instead so I can run on the treadmill alone and pinch all my fat bits in the mirror without judgement. I am like you in that I think that perhaps my boyfriend should be my connection to other people, at least other couples, because people do that–hang out with other couples, it’s so convenient!– but he doesn’t have many friends, either. And then occasionally we realize that we’re both just so content in our loneliness.

  35. Sabrina
    Sabrina says:

    I think as a form of “reader gratitude” for your birthday, I’d like to link my favorite post of yours (OK, posts, because really you can’t read just one):

    From this post I took away that I am hungry to up my game and as much as the Internet has revolutionized how we connect, I need to move from my hometown. Its time to be in a community of interesting, smart people who are interested in solving big problems.

    The last 6 months I’ve been carrying around a set of thank you cards that are signed, sealed and stamped– stopping just short of dropping them in the mailbox. It took me the previous 4 months before that to WRITE those cards. And each is addressed to different people in my life who really stepped up in a major way while I was going through some Awful Stuff. Sitting down to write those cards to give my heartfelt thanks only caused me to feel deep sadness and remind me all the Awful Stuff. And reading this post made me realize that literally carrying around my thanks to these people in my purse has just been part of the process of putting myself back together again.

    And last but not least:

    I have been there. And I was happy to see the farmer come through for you. It is devastating when that doesn’t happen. And you’re left more worse off: overwhelmed and feeling alone (and not the type of alone, I think you like to be).

  36. Nowgirl
    Nowgirl says:

    You might want to try approaching talking with the farmer the way he approaches having sex with you when you’ve curled up into a ball.

    Seriously, you’ve described fantastic conversations you’ve had in the past. It’s clear that what you’re going through now isn’t the fundamental limits of your potential together kicking in. It’s a temporary struggle, in need of some fresh insights and strategies.

    Don’t let disappointment swamp you – or distract you from what’s most important. Right now that is figuring out how to be married.

    What would you do if he was your boss? Or your employee? What would you try?

  37. Jody Urquhart
    Jody Urquhart says:

    First off Happy Birthday! This is a halarious post which i relate to in so many ways. I too am self employed and I spend alot of time alone, prodding along looking for ways to be creative and make money. I love the alone time but it makes me lonely and i have a hard time switching to being a happy positive socialite. When i am being paid i speak to audiences average size of 300-500 people and i need to give energy and life to the event. If they only knew i spend the balance my time wholed up in my office, hunched over my computer, a real introvert

  38. amy parmenter
    amy parmenter says:

    You rock. Thanks for the ‘gift’. I feel as though I have come full circle because YOU are the one who told me to start blogging in the first place.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

  39. lb
    lb says:

    Confession: I admit I was a little skeptical when I first started reading about The Farmer. (Hey, he is a guy, afterall.) But, the posts about the porch-sitting & the couch cushion-squeezing (with you) and his interaction with the boys around the farm helped changed my mind. (That, and the pix of him, I’ll admit.)

    It sounds like he has the patience & compassion – from first hand experience – to help support you & your kids in a way a lot of folks couldnt. Nobody’s perfect and no living situation is without challenges/compromises; but still … from what you’ve said, I have even more admiration for him.

    I’m glad you & your boys have him, and vice versa — even if everybody has to take time/make an effort to make it all work ….

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