Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016

Carra

Carra
Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012

QUOTES QUOTA

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx




Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

26 December 2016

Christmas - The Return (Part 6000 And Counting)




“The main problem… centres in the mind rather than in the body.”    Alcoholics Anonymous, page 23

Hey, how’re you doing?  Did you survive ‘the Season’ (if, that is, you celebrate it at all)?  Or is it still on-going?  Here in England we have Boxing Day, not to mention the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are supposed to start with Christmas Day, and extend to just beyond New Year’s - not start twelve days before The Day, which is what I used to think.  But then a lot of traditions have just become extremely confused and mixed up over time.

Anyway, enough of that.  My point for this post is that it kind of struck me this morning that I’m obsessed with Christmas, and I hadn’t really realised it.  (Okay: pick your jaw up off the floor, Dee.)  Bizarre, huh?  I mean, you’d think that someone who has written an extensive post about the whole thing, every year for the last three years, would actually be aware that they were rather obsessed with the topic, wouldn’t you?  But no.  Somehow the word ‘obsessed’ had slipped my mind when it came to the C word.  Probably because my mind was too busy actually being obsessed with the whole thing to have time or room to notice what it was doing.

And then there’s been the peculiar idea I’ve had that, because I haven’t talked as much about Christmas this year as on previous occasions, I therefore have not been as obsessed.  Thinking about it (including memories of past Christmases), listening to Christmas music for weeks beforehand (and having it playing on a loop in my head continuously), watching book-bloggers on YouTube talk about it, and preparing and reading Christmas-themed novels doesn’t count, apparently - in the world of the terminally deluded.  Hello?  Forgotten what an obsession is, have we?  I think so.  Perhaps we need a reminder?

An obsession is, fundamentally, something I cannot stop THINKING about.  It CONSUMES (good word for a compulsive overeater like me) the mind.  As it increases, there’s no space (or very little) for anything else.  Everything starts to revolve around it.  It leaks out into conversation, AND ACTION.  It affects how I feel.  It becomes the whole of my world.  And, with Christmas, there’s the illusion that, once the season is over, then so too is the obsession - and next year will be different, and I’ll deal with it better.  But it isn’t, and I don’t, because I keep missing the point.  

And the point seems to be that I don’t accept that I have an obsession with Christmas because I’m autistic, and I get obsessed with everything I think about - because I’m autistic, and that’s the way my brain is wired.  But with a lot of those other things I’ve started to recognise, and accept, the part my autism plays in them, and so they pass relatively quickly (some quicker than others) because I’m also now learning how not to feed them.  With Christmas I seem to think that it’s different, that it’s down to years of learning and conditioning (which has its part to play, but its now, again, primarily all in my mind because I no longer engage in any of that Christmas celebrating - but my mind is still obsessed with it all).  

I have stopped what I consider the major behaviours revolving around it, but it hasn’t shifted my thinking.  Well, duh?  Have I not been paying attention?  Replacing them with a few ‘minor’ habits (like the music) still feeds the obsession: and it takes so very little for me to become obsessed.  Or had I not noticed?  Seriously?  Do I walk around with a blindfold wrapped around my cognitive functions? *rolls eyes and sighs - deeply*  

So every year I still get my knickers in a twist about the idea that it’s coming up, and that I’ve got to find some way through it (as if it were some physical obstacle camped out in my flat, or an impenetrable forest that had sprung up outside my front door); whether I should celebrate any part of it at all (like putting a tree up, which I do still own, and actually like doing); or find some other aspect of this time of year to celebrate, like the pagan winter solstice.

Though why I’d want to celebrate the lengthening of the days with the return of the sun is ridiculous when I HATE this time of year.  I love autumn and winter, the darkness, and the cold weather; and the fact that it keeps people mostly indoors (especially my downstairs neighbour, who goes into almost literal hibernation, and from whom I hear hardly a peep - oh joy!!).  

I find it depresses me when we reach this point, when even though it’s the time that winter begins, spring is on the horizon.  And Christmas is messily all wrapped up in that, what with it being the end of December, with a new year on the horizon.  I thrive in the dark, like a mushroom.  I want to hibernate and hide in the spring and summer.

Basically it seems that, for some reason, I think I’ve just GOT TO celebrate something.  Why??!!  You know it occured to me just now that it’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that everyone else does (or so I imagine - when I’m obsessed I only ever see that it’s happening everywhere, even if it isn’t), and another of my autistic traits happens to be that I feel the need to copy everyone else.  

So, autism all round, then, huh?  Copying; obsession; difficulty dealing with change (seasons, end of year, celebration); don’t know how to celebrate; rigidity (seeing it as ‘the end’ of the year, not just a continuation of the flow of time); literality (the ‘magic’ of Christmas, etc); worry and anxiety; and analysing and complicating everything.  There’re probably more, but I think I’ve mentioned the predominant ones.  Plus I’m bored now.  

I even managed to sneak in some impaired social understanding and ineptitude on Christmas day, when I met a nice couple out walking their puppy; and, in the midst of a pleasant interchange (though with me feeling increasingly frantic as I tried to anticipate and keep up with the conversation), they told me their names, which precipitated a paroxysm of confused thought on my behalf as to whether this now meant that we were friends (the exchange of names is almost tantamount to the offering of engagement rings in my world).  I conveyed my bewilderment to a person I know to be my actual friend, who assured me that those people were merely being polite.  I wasn’t now to wander around my village, anxiously anticipating bumping into them, and being invited to socialise (so I can stop rehearsing responses in my head).   

Well, I guess this autism thing really affects EVERYTHING, eh?  Who’d’ve thought?  And Santa Claus really isn’t real, then?  Bugger!

HO HO Hope you’re having a good day.

Śanti.

02 December 2016

What's In A Name?

Clarity, supposedly.  Or that’s what I thought.  Apparently I’m wrong.

What am I waffling about?  You may well ask.  (And hello, by the way.  I’m still here, post US presidential election.  And the less said about that the better.  Much the same as with Brexit, here in the UK).

So, to the point.  Vegetarianism.  Do you know what a vegetarian is?  Seriously.  I thought I did but it appears that, even with a name so seemingly self-explanatory, there is still room for misunderstanding.  Which, I have to say, baffles me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a vegan (so, not only do I not eat meat, but also any of the products produced by living animals - in case you’re not clear on this); but before that I was vegetarian.  This means I stopped eating meat, and all meat-related products - this includes not just the obvious stuff like beef, steak, lamb, sausages, chicken fillets, turkey, bacon, liver, kidneys, duck, etc, but also potted meat, meat-based patés, meat-based gravy, Bovril, and the like - anything that involves eating any part of the animal itself, which requires the death of said animal for the purpose of feeding me.  

Now, you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned fish,  crustaceans (crab, lobster, shrimp), or sea mammals like whale or shark (I think shark is a mammal, or just an abnormally large fish with very big teeth.  Or is it a dinosaur?  I have a vague notion that I read that somewhere…  *looks vaguely perplexed*).  Anyway, apparently, to some people, fish don’t count as meat.  Which, I have to say, comes as a bit of a surprise to me, considering the fact that they are living, breathing, sentient entities.  

And since my main reason for becoming vegetarian in the first place was to do with the ethical considerations, then this categorisation really is befuddling.  A bit like saying that Jews, or blacks, or muslims, or the poor, or women aren’t human, and therefore aren’t entitled to the same rights as ‘real humans’.  Don’t eat cows, but you can chow down on as much fish as you like ‘cos it’s good for you.

I mention this because I happened to watch a self-proclaimed vegetarian on YouTube sharing one of her meals - which contained tuna fish.  I was astonished.  Nay, I was veritably irritated.  I wanted to rip that chickpea and tuna salad out of her hands, and toss it over her head.  How DARE she call herself something she’s not, and confuse all those viewers out there who are perhaps thinking of following her lead, and who are being fed false and confusing information?!  

Fish and crustaceans are conscious, feeling beings too, you know.  Do you know that lobsters scream when they are boiled alive?  Wouldn’t you?  I mean, which sadistic monster came up with that as a method for cooking them?  At least if you’re going to eat meat then have the decency to kill it before you cook it.  And do it humanely: don’t fucking torture it to death.

What confused me about this woman’s strange assertion was the fact that she appeared to have come to this decision about giving up meat after reading a book about the ethics of eating meat.  So… did she miss the bit that referred to fish et al as being living creatures, and therefore not included in the canon of things a vegetarian can eat; or did the author neglect to mention them?

Or is it, perhaps, me and my expectations and understanding of the word vegetarian, and the concept thereof - yet another instance of the difference between autistic and non-autistic?  Is this an example of my need to rigidly adhere to the letter of the law (in this case, of vegetarianism), my black and white, literal perspective on things?  I have come across this difference before, and it seems to me that neuros are less concerned with following a thing exactly, and instead follow the spirit of the thing rather than the wording, and so frequently ignore the bits that don’t concern them, but which to me seem rather important.  

I had another, recent example of this when I went to my usual greengrocer, who made the comment that the fruit and veg I’d just bought “should keep them going” (“them” being the family he assumed I was feeding, due to the amount of produce I buy).  I decided to correct him, and told him it was all for me, to which he posed the question of whether I was a vegetarian.  I told him yes, and he then told me that so was he, mainly: he just ate a couple of slices of roast beef on Sundays, and the occasional piece of chicken at the weekend.  I thought he was joking.  But then I realised he wasn’t. 

And there are many people like him, and the YouTube lady.  People seem to have a real problem with the idea of giving up something entirely.  It seems that abstinence is not well-thought of, nor even well-understood, in our society. 

And once again we return to the indisputable fact that language for an autistic is a relatively ineffectual way of both communicating with, and understanding, the world - ‘cos the world doesn’t mean what it says.

By the way, I would just like to point out that, despite the possible tone of this post, I am not one of those vegans/vegetarians who think that the whole world should stop eating meat and meat products.  I would strongly (VERY STRONGLY) prefer it if people at least bought their meat products from an organic source, or someone you know treats their animals humanely whilst they are alive, and when slaughtering them.  But I don’t insist that the whole world should follow my example.  We are not all the same, and there are some people who need animal products in their diet in order to function effectively, and stay healthy. 

I am aware that being vegetarian/vegan doesn’t naturally mean being healthier.  There are unhealthy, unhappy vegans/vegetarians in the world, some of whom eat crap: it’s just non-animal produced crap, so they feel better about themselves for not contributing to the widespread cruelty to animals.  Sometimes it’s because they don’t understand nutrition, so they haven’t worked out a balanced, healthy, vegetarian diet.  Sometimes it’s because they’ve made the decision based purely on ethical grounds, and/or guilt and anger about the poor treatment of animals, but that’s it: they’re trying to make a point, but they’re not happy about it - and they really miss meat.

Fortunately for me, I’m not in any of the above categories.  I am happy to be able to say that, whilst ethical considerations were a major part of my reasons for finally giving up meat entirely, I was led to that decision gradually, when I was ready for it, and giving the stuff up was no big deal because I’d already reduced my meat intake (again, gradually) until I was primarily eating a healthy, balanced, vegetarian diet (I did a whole LOAD of research on the subject!  Instead of just being food-obsessed, I was now health food-obsessed).  And my need to change my entire diet, and become healthy, was primarily activated by my eating disorder - so, for me, it’s part of my recovery.  If I eat crap, even non-animal based crap, I’m in shit.

Well, there we go.  I hope you’re all enjoying your food.  And, since we’re in the holiday season, if you can spare a thought (and the money, ‘cos I know organic and free-range costs more), please think about where your turkey is coming from, and the conditions in which it's been raised.

Śanti

31 October 2016

Inconsistency, Thy Name Is Lisa (or, Lisa, Thy Name Is Inconsistency)

Hello.  It’s the end of October (which I’m sure you’ve probably noticed).  I haven’t posted since the beginning of the month (which you might also have noticed, if you follow my blog at all).  So, setting myself a weekly calendar ‘prompt’ went well, then, didn’t it?

Am I surprised that it hasn’t worked to help me be consistent?  Yes.  Kind of.  More disappointed, I guess.  I was hoping that this time I’d really found something that would work (given that it did seem to be doing so for about a month - which is longer than a lot of the ideas I’ve tried, most of which don’t get beyond the first day of conception.  Perhaps that’s because it wasn’t actually my idea at all this time).  

As readers of the AA Big Book might recognise the phrase, I was hoping that “this time it would be different”: the same way that, as an active alcoholic, I’d hope that, with each new attempt, I would be able to control my drinking.  Only to find that nothing I did to change the way I drank made any difference.  I still got drunk.  And I still persisted in believing that there was some way that I could alter the outcome, by sheer force of will.  

Of course, due to the obsession that had taken hold of my mind, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t; and, therefore, the only logical answer was to stop drinking entirely.  Too simple.  Too scary.  Too logical.  Too extreme.  Too rigidly black or white.  (I know.  How bloody ironic for one whose nature it is to bounce wildly from one extreme to the other, and views everything as a choice between either/or.  An opportunity for some of my autistic personality traits to come in useful, and I decide I’m going to wander in the world of grey. *rolls eyes*). 

So, here’s my dilemma - I keep trying to apply the same principles of the AA programme to things like my inconsistency, because that’s the language and the philosophy that is familiar to me, and with which I have been imbued for nearly thirty years now.  Except that it doesn’t quite work.  

Or, at least, due to the way my autism affects me, I am not able to adapt it and get it to work (and, by God, I’ve tried!)  All that keeps happening is that I confuse myself (even more than normal), and cement the feeling of failure I have about my inability to manage what I’ve come to view as my ‘failings’.  So, that’s a double whammy of failure to get in a pickle about.  Jolly good.

How do I accept that I am inconsistent, and give up trying to enforce it in myself?  

Don’t you sometimes feel as if the world is set up to defeat you, when it appears as if you come up short, or are outright deficient, in everything the world tells you that you need in order to be a thriving, successful, happy, healthy human being?  

Everything feels like such a bloody battle at times, like being in the trenches, never making any headway at all. *heavy sigh*  What would happen if I waved the metaphorical white flag, do you think?  Would someone shoot me?  (Yes, if I was lucky.  Put me out of my misery of having to listen to all of this tediously repetitious and woeful thinking.  Actually, I’d probably shoot myself.  Probably by mistake.)

So, just to maintain the ‘war’ metaphor, a full frontal attack doesn’t work.  Has to be a sneak attack.  So, back to the battle plan.  Or the non-battle plan.  Or the non-plan (given that plans don’t work for me either).  How to surrender, that’s my dilemma.  When I figure it out I’ll let you know.  (We could be waiting a long time, then.)

I hope you find peace with yourself.

Śanti

04 October 2016

Blowing A Gasket

Excuse me while I have a bit of a rant.

I don’t trust people to be able to do their jobs properly.  I know it’s not a particularly ‘nice’ trait, but it’s true.  To pretend otherwise is pointless, and dishonest.  I think people are inept, and I expect them to fail at their jobs; which is why they obviously need me to watch them, or worry, whilst they are doing what they’re doing.  After all, I, on the other hand, am totally ept.  

I do feel bad about it sometimes, when it turns out to have been unwarranted; and I try not to expect the worst.  But it seems it’s either that, or going to the other extreme, and having high expectations, which are then usually not met.  

And suggesting that it’s okay to have expectations, but that I should try not to set them too high is like asking me to throw myself off a cliff, but then stop my descent half-way down.  As with everything else, I don’t have a middle ground: it appears there’s just a great big, cavernous hole where the ground should be.  

Personally, my goal is to have no expectations at all, but I fear that this is probably only attainable by those who’ve achieved advanced yogi/spiritual practitioner status, which is beyond me at the moment.  And possibly forever.  After all, I have no idea whether it’s possible for an autistic yogi (with added adhd/anxiety/and obsessive compulsive disorder) to achieve such heady heights…  But I can dream big, and die trying.     

Now, as I said, some of this may come down to my having unrealistic expectations, which is exacerbated by me being autistic, and not understanding what to expect from people (plus the whole black or white thing I’ve got going on).  This I accept.  But sometimes it’s actually because people really are bloody useless.

Take my gas engineers, for example.  PLEEEEASE, take them!!.

My gas boiler decided to have a bit of a nervous breakdown the other night, making lots of loud banging and hissing noises when I tried to run the hot water.  It’s also been leaking for a few weeks, but I decided to ignore this because it was still working (albeit the pressure gauge had dropped to almost zero): and, basically, I just hate having to phone up and report repairs (I hate using the phone), so I generally leave them until they can’t be ignored any longer (you know, when the thing in need of repair ceases to function altogether).  

My reticence is also due to the fact that, because I have anxiety and worry about things, I’m never quite certain whether I’m just making a mountain out of a molehill, and I don’t want to appear to be just some neurotic nelly.  

So I finally took the hint on Tuesday night, and phoned the gas service people.  An engineer came out the next day, and boggled me with some vague and convoluted diagnosis of the problem.  It couldn’t be fixed that day, but would be scheduled as soon as possible.  He did reassure me that I could still use the boiler.

A visit was arranged for two days later, and then had to be postponed until after the week-end (other, more urgent, jobs had come up; made me feel really valued).  And finally the day arrived - and so did a different engineer, bringing greetings of doubt about the efficacy of the solution suggested by his colleague.  Good start.  It’s always reassuring when people working for the same company disagree with each other’s opinions.

He took one look at the boiler, said that the pressure gauge was really low, and that that was probably the problem.  Had the other engineer not filled it up when he was here, he asked?  Answer - no.  And yes, I said, I had pointed it out to him: just as I seem to expend a great deal of breath on pointing it out to nearly every engineer who comes to service or repair the thing.  But you’d think I was asking them to dismantle the whole boiler, the way some of them react to my request for them to top it up.  I’d become rather worried that perhaps I was just paranoid and obsessed with the gauge, because none of them seemed to deem it that important.  I have, after all, been known to become obsessed…

So he did that, and fixed the leak.  And off he went… fortunately, only as far as to sit in his van outside my flat.  I found that the drip was still dripping, so, at the risk of appearing neurotic, I toddled out to him, told him, and he reassured me that it was probably just a residual drip, after he’d filled it up: nothing to worry about.  But if it was still doing it tomorrow, call them out again.

Two minutes later, he was back, saying he’d just check it to be sure.  And lo and behold, there was a leak - caused by a fault in a repair done by a previous engineer, who happened to work for the firm which is no longer employed by my Housing Association.  Good to know that ineptitude runs through all of the companies to whom they contract out work.

So, it’s fixed.  This is good (though I do keep checking to see that the boiler is still working, as is in my nature).  I don’t have to entertain the idea of the whole system having to undergo major replacement surgery, which is a relief.  I was meant to be having a new system installed last year, but after receiving a letter of notification, I heard nothing else.  

Which is the story of my relationship with my local Housing Association.  It’s like dealing with the Keystone Kops.  They are mostly nice people, but they excel at ineptitude.  I need plenty of Ps when dealing with them - Patience, Persistence, Perspective, and Practise (all of which I am rather deficient in) - but just abandon all hopes of Perfection.

And here endeth my rather mild rant.  By the time I was nearly at the end of writing this, the sting had gone out of it, and mostly what I could see was the humour.  I’ve learnt that it’s pointless to keep holding onto the irritation and anger; that it can’t change anything; and it just harms me from the negative energy that it produces.  This doesn't mean that it's gone permanently yet: it will probably take a few days, maybe even weeks, for that to happen - I am a chunterer, someone who doesn't let go easily.  This is just the beginning of the process of me letting go.  

So I leave the Keystone Kops to their bumbling, and give thanks to God that the problem was finally (hopefully permanently) sorted; and that I have central heating, and I don’t have to pay for the repairs.  I have lived in homes without it, or with completely ineffective systems, and it was miserable.  At times like these not only do I need to see the humour, but I also have to remember to count my blessings.

May you see the funny side in all your dealings with authority.

Śanti

27 September 2016

Boundaries

Hi there (I’m trying to be less formal, but I’m really naff at knowing how to greet people.  And end conversations.  And then there’s the bit in the middle…  Well, that just about covers it all, then).

To the point of this post.

I did something remarkable, for me, the other day.  My local housing officer turned up for a visit, completely out of the blue.  She said it would only take five minutes (translation for us literal-minded autistics - it would be a short visit, but definitely not only five minutes long).  She just wanted to update my details, and as she happened to be in my village visiting other tenants, she thought she would just “pop in”.  So, was that okay?

Simple answer to that is “No”.  But of course, being me, I had a few moments where I considered saying yes, because that’s what I do.  I am one of those autistics who struggle to say no to people (this includes saying no to myself, the person responsible for coming up with my worst ideas), and to set boundaries about what I will and will not tolerate.  

I’ll tolerate almost anything, just as long as it allows me to avoid the discomfort of standing up for myself, and the possible consequences which may ensue (which are always dramatically awful in my mind, though rather vague.  If you ask me what I think might happen, I can’t really tell you.  I just KNOW it’s going to be BAD).  

And I also hate the idea of upsetting people, for fear that they might not like me.  So, basically, it’s all about how I look to other people…  How dumb is that?  Especially as most of those people are usually strangers to me, or ones who are of no real significance in my life - but I’m going to bend myself into a pretzel to not upset them; and then I’m going to hate both myself, and them, for the fact that that’s what I did.  And then I’m going to have a meltdown.    Methinks I should have me a Dodo Alert for when I’ve wandered into Dodo territory…  It’s a wonder I’m not extinct, too.

Back to my tale…

I said no.  Yep, I told her I was busy.  Fortunately, it was true - I was on Skype at the time, but I did consider cutting off my call for the moment while I talked with her.  My VERY IMPORTANT CALL, with my VERY IMPORTANT FRIEND, with whom I only get to converse three times a week.  

But even had I not been busy, it still wasn’t a good time, because I don’t deal well with spontaneous visits (spontaneous anything) - I can’t shift focus fast enough, and I end up saying things I don’t mean because my brain hasn’t had time to shift into gear.  And it just basically ramps up my anxiety levels, and freaks me out.  So, NO!  Just NO!!!  I don’t do people “popping in”, so go away.  Please.  (‘Cos I hate not being polite).  

So, yes, my mind, which has a fear of anyone in ANY position of authority (dustbin men, librarians, pen-wielding minor civil servants, anyone wearing anything vaguely resembling some kind of uniform - hello supermarket checkout assistants and shelf-stackers), had me wobbling for a moment, wanting to insist that the Housing Officer takes precedence over my friend.  And instead I ignored my mind, and I listened to the Voice of Sanity instead (commonly known as God, in my home).

What a relief!  I’d finally listened and acknowledged who I am, and what I can deal with, and it felt great.  I didn’t have to make some long speech, or try to explain in depth: I just had to say no, I was busy right now.  And nothing bad happened.  She accepted what I said, and arranged a day on which to return, which allowed me to be prepared in advance.

And today she arrived, and it was fine.  I got to tell her about my autism/anxiety/adhd; to explain why I don’t deal with spontaneous visits; and she seemed to understand (at least, she got why her unannounced arrival the other day freaked me out, which is all that I needed for her to get - another big change for me, ‘cos not that long ago I would have needed for her to FULLY comprehend my autism, and I would have expended ginormous amounts of energy in a futile attempt to explain it to her.  Me, the woman who can’t explain how to get from here to the bottom of my road - and it’s a straight road, and not very long).  

Even more impressive on my part, I didn’t apologise.  Normally I would have begun my speech with the words, “I’m sorry that I couldn’t…”, but I didn’t.  I merely stated the reasons why I couldn’t.  This is remarkable for me because I am a great apologiser.  “Sorry” has to be one of the most frequent words out of my mouth.  You bump into me, I say sorry.  You make a mistake, I say sorry.  You don’t explain yourself effectively to me, or I don’t hear clearly what you said, I say sorry.  I breathe, I say sorry.  

I often have Skype sessions with my friend where I literally have bouts of continuosly saying sorry, for no reason other than that I can’t quite get out the words that I want to say, so I fill in the gap with sorry.  It appears that I must think that it’s not so annoying having me apologising non-stop, rather than have her ‘suffering’ the silence that would ensue whilst I try to get my thoughts together.  I fear we have just wandered into Dodo territory again…  What kind of mind thinks up logic like this?!

Plus, I literally can’t stop once I start: I even find the repetition quite therapeutic, though I’m not sure it has the same effect on my friend.  Fortunately, she understands.  She’s very patient with me, and we just take the piss out of it.  It’s very difficult not to, considering that I am an erudite, bright, highly literate, intelligent, educated, intellectual woman with a gift for writing - and yet here I am, reduced to repeating “Sorry” like a faulty parrot.  Or one with sole access to an autistic whose vocabulary exclusively consists of the word “Sorry”.

So, the visit went well.  I said what I needed to say.  She did what she was here to do.  And off she went.  Oh, and she really liked my paintings.  And yes, it took longer than five minutes, but I was expecting that, so it doesn’t bend me out of shape any more.  I just had to channel the surge in anxious energy after she left, and find a way to calm down… which is how come I’m writing this.

And now here we are at the end… the other bit that I’m not quite sure how to do.  Goodbye?  Have a nice day?  Hope you’re more adept at setting boundaries than I am?  See, this is why I’ve taken to using Sanskrit terms plucked from my knowledge of yoga.  It’s so much easier - even if no-one understands what I’m saying.  Therefore:-

Namaste (and I wish you well on your journey to A LIFE LESS SORRY)

25 September 2016

No Comment

You may have noticed that I don’t allow comments on my blog.  Here’s why.

I am someone who cannot just ignore what people say about me, or what I write.  I know there are those who say you have to not take any notice of the negative comments; that it comes with the territory; and that you can’t let those people stop you from engaging with other like-minded individuals (unlike the trolls, who aren’t looking to engage in a conversation at all, but seem to simply enjoy posting inflammatory comments in order to incite an argument; and appear to like having the opportunity to express their opinions on anything and everything, no matter that they may be completely ignorant about the subject matter - which is more often than not).  

I have lived on this planet for forty-nine years now, and I have yet to be able to take anything “with a pinch of salt”.  Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was an idiot.  Or they had never met anyone like me, for whom words cause more harm than a bloody heat-seeking missile.  So I’m not about to give some negative arse-hole the key to the missile launcher.

There are also those well-meaning people (mostly non-autistics) who might misunderstand what I’ve written, and then say things like, “I know what you mean.  I do/feel/think that too.”  And then proceed to prove that they don’t know what I meant at all, but they’re just being neurotypical, doing that thing that so many of them find so necessary to do, which is to identify with everything in order to connect, make the writer feel better, included, the same.  Whilst I understand there is no harm meant, and that this is the basis of community to a neurotypical, this also drives me nutty - which would lead to even more time spent obsessing about what was written; or responding in an attempt to explain what I meant, and thus tying myself in ever-increasing knots.  

I’m also easily influenced, so anyone questioning what I’d written, or offering an alternative viewpoint, would inevitably spark into action Mrs Self Doubt, the part of my brain that can’t seem to hold onto one opinion for longer than sixty seconds before she’s wondering whether another one might be better.  She’s bad enough as she is: she doesn’t need a readily available source from which to choose, to make it worse.  I’m trying to train her to stick to one thing, thanks all the same.  It’s like potty-training a labrador puppy.  Or a cat.  Have you ever tried training a cat to do ANYTHING?

Also in the same vein, I would inevitably start questioning whether what I was writing was what people wanted to read.  I’ve seen other bloggers do this, though it’s been intentional with them - they ask their readers what kind of content they want to see.  But that’s not my intention with my blog, though it could inadvertently end up being.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the desire for ratings, and wanting to be popular.  

It’s happened to me a lot: I’ve found myself thinking about how to tailor my blog to appeal to more people.  It’s ridiculous: I’m a bloody autistic, meant to be writing from a specific, unique viewpoint.  Also meant to be writing, primarily, for my own benefit.  But no, I want to be more inclusive…  I sound like one of those neurotypicals I just described, who’re unconsciously suppressing individuality in an attempt to make everyone a part of the world-wide community.  See?  Easily influenced.  Get me around non-autistics, and I start forgetting who I am.   Before you know it, I turn into PSEUDO-NEURO-WOMAN!!

And finally, I want to say that I wish I could allow comments in order to be able to participate in ‘the conversation’ with anyone reading my blog (if there is anyone actually reading my blog who would even want to leave a comment, never mind have a conversation.  I could be worrying for nothing here).  But actually I don’t really want to.  This would just be my Politeness Gene popping up; and have you ever noticed how much shit being polite gets you into?  

Plus, I’d be suffering from one of my frequent bouts of delusion, where I think that I’m a social butterfly, and a people-person at heart; when, in fact, I’m useless at conversation (hello? Impaired social communication and understanding - two of the three defining characteristics of autism), and I much prefer to converse with myself.  I call it thinking.  Hell, I don’t need anyone else to debate with, I do a fine job alone.  Adding anyone else into the mix would just confuse me (more than I already am, if that’s possible).  Besides which, I do have someone (other than me) with whom to converse, which is enough for me.

So there you have it.  I hope that none of what I’ve said has offended anyone - unless you happen to be a troll.  In which case, please feel free to return to your bridge.

Though I can’t join in (other than in spirit), I wish you all many happy and productive conversations.

Namaste

18 September 2016

Seriously Humourless

Hello, I’m back.  Fret-ye-not, I’m still here.  I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, or into a black cloud of internet doom.  Or any kind of doom, actually.  Though I have to admit that part of the reason for my absence of late has been due to one of my tediously frequent world wide web wanderings.  

But that’s not all that I’ve been doing.  No.  I’ve also been getting myself entangled in the words of a post I’ve been labouring over (labouring being the operative word), which I finally worked out was not coming together because:

a) I was being literal in my interpretation of the words of the quote from which I was working;

b) I was thinking too much, and too hard, about the meaning of the words, and what I should write; the resultant dodgy combination equates to ‘me + thinking = catatonic inertia’;

c) I appeared to have misplaced my sense of humour.

This last point in particular is most important, as without it I’m only half a person (not literally, of course.  Think how weird, and confusing, that would be).  

I am extremely serious by nature, but God has seen fit to balance this out by bestowing on me a sense of humour.  It may be dry, irreverent, and impenetrable to a lot of people, but I’ve definitely got one.  I’ve checked with Someone Who Gets It.  It helps to keep me sane - as much as that is a possibility with a mind as loopy, and prone to depressive donkey mode, as mine (think Eeyore, without a balloon to cheer him up).  Can you imagine what I would be like without it?  Dead, probably.

Unfortunately, I sometimes forget that I’ve got one, and then life becomes REALLY hard work…  

And you can see when I’m suffering from a humour-bypass because it manifests itself in my writing.  My blog posts turn into laboured, tedious, repetitive, formal, clod-footed, minutiae-obsessed lectures.  

This particularly happens when I’ve decided that the topic on which I want to write is meant to be serious.  Like recovery, for example.  Hence ending up with the pompously meant-to-be-clever-but-is-actually-pretentious sounding title of ‘Recover Your Self’ for those segments of my blog.  Shoot me now.  (I am going to change the title.)  

It sounds like the name of one of those awful self-help books with which I used to be so enamoured, with titles like Dying Of Embarrassment (yes, that’s a real book - and totally useless for an autistic with anxiety); The Drama Of Being A Child; and all of those endless Co-dependent No More books with their sequels, prequels, and off-shoots - like one of those film franchises that never end, which are so prevalent now. 

And sure, recovery is important, but that’s not the same as serious. Don’t ask me what the difference is, because I’ll give myself an aneurysm trying to work it out.  I just know that it is.  Even reading the two words gives me a different reaction.  ‘Serious’ just sounds really heavy, and doom-laden.  I feel the weight of expectation in that word, and in that ‘Recover Your Self’ title.  And I never work well under those circumstances.  

All creativity flees screaming from my being when confronted with expectations, and seriosity (no, it’s probably not a real word, but who cares?  It’s my blog, and I’m in charge).  I’m beginning to think it has more sense than I do, the dodo who goes boldly (and stupidly, not to mention repetitively) forward to embrace such things as have been proven to be anathemas to my soul.

We have a quote in AA for this (we have a quote in AA for everything): “Recovery is to be enjoyed, not endured.”  (This can, of course, be interchangeable with the word Life, for those not in recovery from something - is there actually anyone out there who isn’t?)  

The point is, it tends to get forgotten.  I certainly forget it.  Oftentimes I’m not even sure what it means…  “Enjoyment?  What’s that when it’s at home, then?”  And off we go on another existential tangent, seriously contemplating the meaning of joy.  An oxymoron waiting to happen if ever I heard one.

And the other reason for my absence from my little corner of the blogiverse is that I have been on a retreat from all things computer-related.  Again.  I have spent the bare minimum of time on here (which has meant one hour, three times a week, for my Skype sessions with my sponsor/best friend).  The rest of the time the computer has been switched off.  

I was intending doing some blog writing - just the ‘old school’ way, with pen and paper, ready to type up on the computer so that I wouldn’t be spending as long staring at the screen - but I haven’t felt much inspiration.  Instead, I’ve done a lot of journal writing, reading, and sleeping.  Yep, I give up the computer and, rather than the promised better sleep (in all of those articles I’ve read about digital ‘detoxing’ - now there’s a word that conjures up seriosity), mine goes to pieces.

Despite the sleep thing, I have felt better.  I’m always amazed at the difference in me when I manage to stay away from the internet, in particular, for any length of time.  It’s like a fog is lifted, one in which I wasn’t even aware of being engulfed, and I start to think clearly.  

It’s phenomenal.  I have my own thoughts and opinions!!  What the hell am I doing reading about the best jobs for your zodiac sign?!  Or the life-cycle of the lesser-spotted, three-legged, antipodean, ridge-backed newt?!!  Or how to cook lentils twenty different ways (I already know how to cook lentils; I don’t need twenty alternatives - having more than one option confuses my brain.  What, in the name of arse, am I doing)?!!!  

But then I forget what happens to me, and I want everyone else’s thoughts as well - except that it seems I have to let go of mine for theirs to replace them, because they can’t cohabit.  A bit like me.  It’s why I live alone.  Put me with someone else and I disappear.  

So, there we go.  Or that’s where I’ve been.  And now I’m here, but I’m going.  If I can manage to bring this to an end.  Which, at this rate, could take a while.

I wish you clarity and peace of mind, and time in your day to retreat from the world (especially the web part of it).  And may you find the humour in everything, to lighten your way.  (Sounding a bit Yoda-ish now.  Definitely time to go before I start sprouting tufty ears.)

Śanti  

31 August 2016

LITERARY INSPIRATION #3

BOOK - THE SILVER CHAIR by C S Lewis


 
“But first, remember, remember, remember the signs.  Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night.  And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.  And secondly, I give you a warning.  Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia.  Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken.  Take great care that it does not confuse your mind.  And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there.  That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances.  Remember the signs and believe the signs.  Nothing else matters.”  

I love the writing of C S Lewis, and especially the Chronicles of Narnia, of which The Silver Chair is book six.  This is kind of ironic, given that he was a devout Christian and apologist of his faith, and I am definitely not religious; but I believe in a Higher Power, a universal Creator, an Energy underlying everything (both seen and unseen), which I no longer have a problem calling God, and which is where I find myself in agreement with Lewis.  

This somehow allows me to be able to go beyond the Christian allegory within his stories, and interpret them in a way that makes sense to me, fitting in with what I believe.  This, I think, is what makes him such a good story writer.  The Narnia books can be read as straight-up fantasy-adventure (which is how I viewed them for years), or as deeper, allegorical tales: they work both ways.   

Unlike his Christian non-fiction, in which he is extremely adamant and forceful with his opinions, which doesn’t allow much (if any) room for manoeuvre or personal interpretation (I recall a quote in which he is absolutely insistent that Jesus was not a mere man and great moral teacher, but the Son of God), there is room for such here in his stories. 

My beautiful hardback copies, which I've had for eighteen years.
As to the way I view this passage, to me it perfectly symbolises the process of meditation.  The clear, still, peaceful air of the mountain-top represents the elevated state, beyond the clamour of the mind and the material world, needed to be reached  in order to be able to ‘hear’ what God is trying to communicate (and I see Aslan as representing God, not Jesus); a place where I am one with the Universe.  

Interestingly, in yoga (and other forms of meditation) this is achieved by slowing down the breath, and breathing deeper, thus allowing more, fresh air (and the energy of the universe - the breath of God, the breath of Life, if you will) into the mind and body, to clean and clear the system, paradoxically both filling and emptying it at the same time (but then I guess God is the ultimate paradox, being both Everything and Nothing, the Beginning and the End, and everything in between - simultaneously.  Gosh, I feel a profound moment passing over me…)

The thickening of the air to which Aslan refers conjures to my mind all of the build-up of energy and noise, distractions and demands, that come with living in such a heavily populated world.  It’s often very difficult to see God in the midst of all that hubbub*, to be able to decipher what S/He is trying to ‘say’ to me because of all of the complications that we, as people, bring to life: interpreting God’s signs in the context of our confused reality takes a lot of practice, and is always best undertaken with the help of someone on the same path, some kind of spiritual mentor (fortunately for me, my AA sponsor fulfils this role).

But the great thing is that I can always return ‘to the mountain top with Aslan’, anytime, if I just remember.  And it’s not complicated (not easy, but simple) - I just have to sit still somewhere, and breath deeply.  For as long as necessary.  And to remember that, ultimately, nothing else is as important as connecting with the flow of Energy, and following God, because S/He/It is all Life, Creativity, Happiness, Joy, and Freedom - no matter that the world tries to convince me otherwise.  I just have to breathe It in, embrace It, and act on It.  As the book quote says: “NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.”

So, I leave you to your own interpretation.  Hopefully it might have inspired some of you to check out the book (or books) if you’ve never read it/them: or, if you have, to return to them with new eyes, if you’ve never seen beyond the surface.

I wish for you your own mountain-top retreat - a place to reconnect with your Source, and replenish your soul.

Namaste  


*I double-checked the meaning of this, and found the perfect definition in my dictionary: “confused sound of many voices”.  Sounds about right.

The quote, in situ (in my large, omnibus edition, which is also about eighteen years old)

25 August 2016

Thought Bypass

This is what I need when attempting to navigate my mind...

“All action is born of thought.”  Author unknown

Okay, so I just checked my blog to see when I last posted, and it’s been just over a week, again.  It doesn’t seem that long, but then I have no sense of time, so how would I be able to tell?  This is why I now have a calendar notification set to alert me once a week: so I get the question, “When was the last time I wrote my blog?” popping up every Friday as a reminder.  I need something to prod me, given that my initial, over-enthusiastic posting has rather drastically waned to the more familiar dribble.  Ho hum.

This is not to say that I haven’t actually been writing this last week - or trying to.  I have started five separate pieces (they’re all sitting there, in various states of fruition, at the bottom of my screen - waiting…)  

But, unfortunately (as I mentioned last week), my attention has been divided between them and the Olympics - and when something like that happens then you can almost kiss goodbye to the writing; or, at least, to my being able to stick with one thing, and see it through to completion.  

My brain cannot cope with two things or more at once demanding my focus, and it will always choose the most stimulating, but least taxing - the one that gives instant, easier stimulation and gratification.  Writing does stimulate my brain, once I get going, and give myself over to it; but it requires no distractions, otherwise it just ends up as a sporadic, rambling mess, which needs a whole load of editing (if I even manage to complete it).  

It can also seem like too much effort when directly matched against the immediacy of the internet - one click of a button and I can be zoned out within seconds.  This is why I bang on so much about my problem with the internet - it’s a quick-fix to me, which is not good.  It certainly isn’t any good for my creativity and productivity. 

So, kind of moving on…  

... and this is what I imagine my mind looks like.  Scary.  No wonder I get lost.

… to the quote at the top of the page.  Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with this saying, I also think there should be a companion to it which goes, “All inaction is born of too much thought.”  This would perfectly embody my problem with thinking.  

I think too much.  I can think myself into, then out of, a course of action within seconds.  And then back in, and out, in and out, on and bloody on, ad nauseum…  I tire myself out with my thinking, which is why it’s never a good idea for me to give too much thought to what I’m going to do (or to anything at all, really, ‘cos by the time I’ve finished I’ll be too knackered to do much of anything).  

This is partly why I don’t do plans - ‘cos I think myself into and out of them, changing my mind about them every sixty seconds, redesigning them, changing the parameters, worrying about them, blah blah blah, and basically living in the future with the plan, and missing out on the moment: ’cos I am not one of those people who are able to make a plan, and then get on with what’s in front of them in the day.  

It’s like giving my mind the opportunity to talk my way out of it in advance; much better to catch it unaware by simply living in the day,  trying to bypass the receptacle of noise that is my mind, and tune into my higher Self (God - who exists only in this moment, ‘cos this moment is all moments rolled into one - deep, I know) for direction on what to do now.  

Easier said than done.  But I keep trying.  Plus, it is the essence of yoga (and I am, supposedly, a yogi).  Note to self: this might explain why I’m taking so long to reach ananda (the state of bliss that comes with being one with the Divine).

Interestingly, the time when thinking before acting would come in useful is the time when I don’t do it - or, at least, not conscious, considered thought.  I’m talking about just before I leap onto the internet with gay abandon, which I do with the vague idea that it’ll be alright this time.  And it never is. *heavy sigh*

So, once again, as with everything else in life (it seems), it all comes down to balance: too much thinking, and I turn into a catatonic potato; too little, and I turn into a fried potato (from jumping into the frying pan without looking where I leap).  And I don’t do balance.  I do erratic swings and roundabouts.  I guess I’ll have to get used to being dizzy, then.  You’d think I’d have grown accustomed to it by now, I’ve been doing it so long.

Right, I’m off.  Hey, look at that, though.  I managed to focus, and get this written all in a few hours, on the same day.  And I didn’t give it much thought beforehand: just had the title and a vague idea this morning, and off we went.  Yep, thinking is definitely overrated, in my opinion.  Just wish I could get my mind to agree.

I wish you peace and blissful union in the moment you’re in.

Śanti      

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Love

Love
Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis