Flying On One Engine

My kingdom for my plane!

If black boxes survive air crashes — why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff? — George Carlin

I love airplanes. I mean, LOVE them. I used to sit, fascinated, at the windows of whichever airport I happened to be in at the time, nose pressed to the glass, my eyes taking in the big 400-ton behemoths that defied every law of physics to go soaring through the skies with a full payload of fuel and passengers and luggage.

Those of you who know me might also know I’ve developed a fixation on pilots as a whole…but that’s another story. This story is about the planes themselves.

I find myself at a crossroads at this point in my life. For the first time, I’ve received an official diagnosis for Asperger Syndrome (AS), and I no longer have to guess or speculate about it. I’m “officially” disabled, even though it’s not an obvious disability like a wheelchair or a service animal might be. That means that I’ve gone through over 30 years of life without any sort of name for my eccentricities, my various behaviors and quirks that made life interesting at times, but more often made it intolerable and unbearable.

Many, including those closest to me, thought I was acting this way to get attention, or possibly due to a heretofore undiscovered vengeful streak. Teachers, coaches, co-workers, fellow students, even my own relatives. All of them described me as weird at best or antisocial at worst. What they didn’t realize at the time was that these “behaviors” were as much a part of my DNA as having brown eyes or large feet. There was no cure.

That’s the funny part…everyone did try to cure me over the years. If only I would try a little harder, or be a little more “loose,” or “count my blessings,” or “be nice,” everything would work out and I’d become a productive, included member of society.

As much as you tell a cat to try and be a dog, he cannot. What you can help him do is be the very best cat he can be, and locate cat-friendly accommodation.

They do...if you have a cat you know this

After trying to fight the system and “conform” for most of my life, it’s an immense relief to know that I may not have to fight anymore. There are accommodations in place.

So, back to the title of this entry (I have a habit of straying from the topic at hand.) Those massive 747s and their smaller cousins are engineered to fly on one engine in the event that the others should fail. Amazing, isn’t that? The big monster in the sky could in fact run on a single engine.

Life has been like that for me. I’ve barely gotten by flying under the radar-couldn’t resist another aviation image there-by taking a series of low-paying, dead-end positions and never really getting anywhere. With the exception of one, none of them ever knew I was disabled in any way. They always just assumed I was the resident office eccentric who talked about odd things at the watercooler, plastered her space with images of her favorite celebrities, spoke at the wrong times and in the wrong tone of voice.

Because I could “fake it” to a large degree, I was able to get by. I flew on one engine. Not always. It would take more than two hands for me to count the number of jobs I’ve either lost, been fired from, or just walked out in disgust from over the years.

It was never because I couldn’t do the work. They always concocted some excuse that I “wasn’t fitting in within established perameters” or “didn’t positively contribute to a healthy group environment.” I find it hard enough to understand regular NT-speak with its various double meanings and euphemisms and hidden meanings, not to mention Corporate Gobbledygook.

Usually, though, I was able to “fake it” just enough to get by. Then, by the time I got home, my one engine was so overheated and beat-up that it was incapable of doing anything else. I sank into depression. The process repeated itself over the years. Instead of getting the other engines repaired, I kept relying on the one and hoping things would get better. They didn’t. The one engine broke down and I had to start all over again.

I hope, my readers, that I’m not boring you with all these personal stories. In telling them, and sharing them with a broader audience, it helps me to see in retrospect what worked and what didn’t work. Even as an NT, you may be “flying on one engine” right now. The thing is, nobody can sustain that method forever. Things, relationships, minds, families…all break down.

So, since I’ve begun my quest for a real niche in this world, I encourage you, the readers, to do the same. Make a few minutes in your day to do something you really enjoy. See if your workplace might be willing to help make you more comfortable. Talk to a counselor (you don’t have to be “crazy” to do this, and it really helps. Trust me.)

Everyone is capable of running on all four engines. That so few of us do is one of the sad things about life. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as I’m finding out now!

It never hurts to have a few good “mechanics” such as co-workers, counselors, family members, friends, clergy on your side either. Can’t always fix those big engines by ourselves. I’m pleased to say I have found precisely the “mechanics” I need.

How'd this homing device get here?

If you look out the right hand side of the aircraft you will notice that the right wing is on fire. ~H.M. Murdock, The A-Team (2010)

Questions? Comments? Think I’ve gone mental? Write me at!

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on September 3, 2010.

2 Responses to “Flying On One Engine”

  1. Dear Heather,
    I cannot express how much I admire you for being…well, you. I find your personal stories touching, and I can certainly relate to ‘running on one engine’ even if in a different way than you. I wish I were as brave as you, putting myself out there and saying “this is me, take it or leave it”. Instead, I keep my personal blog as guarded as the Black Gate, lest anyone realize the pain that goes on behind it. Maybe when I have a second engine working, I will be able to share too.

    ~ M

    P.S. Since I know you can truly appreciate my LOTR geekiness, I assume you can forgive the Black Gate reference. 🙂

  2. I always find your blog interesting, and I am beyond pleased and grateful that you are finding your way. Know that I am cheering you on.

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abandonen toda esperanza aquellos que entren aqui


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