Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016


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


"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 February 2010

Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?

So sang Professor Henry Higgins in ‘My Fair Lady’. Obviously he had never met an asperger woman! Sounds a bit like a superhero’s name, like Superman, don’t you think? “I am ASPERGERWOMAN!” She cooks, she cleans, she can even give birth: just don’t ask her to empathise! She can’t multi-task!

I don’t do empathy. This is not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. My wiring doesn’t allow for it. Now I realise that in our society this is not a very comfortable thing to have to consider, the idea of women not being empathetic. After all that’s their main role in life, isn’t it, to do most of the nurturing, at least at an instinctive level? Heaven’s above that’s what they were made for, wasn’t it? To look after men (and their brood)? “She must be inhuman, abnormal, a freak! She’s probably just a rampant man-hating feminist who just needs a good man in her life, and she’ll soon find herself feeling like other women, and wanting to have children, and the rest of it!”

I have thought these things myself, and had these doubts, mainly because of all the messages I have picked up from society, and what other people have believed about me. I can now say, without a doubt, that I don’t have it, and it’s not for any of the reasons listed above. I actually rather like men – a lot! It’s rather a nuisance sometimes because I find myself obsessing about them, and flirting with nearly every man who comes within spitting distance of me: and it happens without me knowing why! It doesn’t matter who he is – the gas man, the doctor, the delivery driver! It’s that bloody annoying “human factor”, and those annoyingly uncontrollable things called hormones!

For a long time I believed that it was a choice I was making because I’d decided that I didn’t like people (hated a lot of them), and that I was trying to toughen myself up against feeling anything in order to not be hurt. A lot of change has happened to me since those days, and especially in my view of people: I’ve grown to like them, I’ve tried to integrate with them (and in the process found myself disintegrating!), and I’ve stopped trying to pretend that I don’t have any feelings. It was a bit silly anyway, considering that I get upset at the slightest thing, especially if someone raises their voice at me!

So having discovered I’d got feelings (though never having mastered the art of being able to identify what they are, having such a limited emotional vocabulary) I naturally assumed that being able to empathise was automatically part of the package. Er, apparently not! I’ve tried doing it. I’ve believed that I have been doing it. But it turns out that what I’ve been doing is having compassion, and this is not the same as empathy. My neuro-typical best friend (and interpreter) explained it to me. And then she explained it to me again. And again! (It takes me a while for things like this to fully compute, and fortunately she has infinite patience!) Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but still as yourself, does not constitute having it!

To be empathetic is an innate quality and not just a transitory condition, apparently: so no, you can't learn how to do it! In order to be empathetic you do not have to have experienced what the other person is experiencing. You are not comparing your situation to one that is similar in order to be able to find a commonality with which you can identify (eg comparing the plight of having aspergers, and being in a minority, with that of being black or gay, etc.), and so have compassion for their situation.

And if I can’t find anything with which I can identify then I find it very difficult to be compassionate, and can often end up being, or seeming, very intolerant as a consequence. It’s because I do not understand what is making the other person tick, and what their motivation is. And if you don’t operate like me, or within my range of understanding of human affairs (which I now realise is VERY limited), then you’re kind of buggered and off my compassion list! And, let's face it, I don't have a clue half the time how I tick!

The thing is I apply logic to everything, especially emotion. Okay so my logic is very wonky, and not very logical at all at times – but it would be because I’m being driven by the instincts of a very young child! Young children don’t tend to make a great deal of sense most of the time! So if it doesn’t make sense to me then it’s dumb. I find it very hard to take into account the “human factor”. This means that I have problems even, or particularly, identifying with my own sex - my answer to women who go on about men is “well why do you bother having relationships with them then? Just stay single.” Fortunately I have learned to keep my mouth shut, and to possibly look and sound as if I’m empathising, but I’m not really.

Nor do I know if I’m responding appropriately: for all I know I probably have a look of total bewilderment on my face, or a vacant gaze! I can’t even empathise if I’ve had the same experience: the emotional part of it has gone from my memory bank, so I just cannot connect with what the other person is going through at all. Apparently this is what men are missing, the empathy gene or wiring. Now you’d think I’d be able to empathise with them since we have this in common, but I can’t: I can no more put myself in the place of a man than I can of a woman. I think they’re just as dumb when they go on about women!

And nor can I empathise with other aspergers, be they male or female. In fact they are posssibly the people I understand the least, which makes sense considering I'm one of them and I don't understand myself! Plus I've spent a great many years studying neuro-typicals, of which I thought I was one, and misguidedly believed that this had given me great insight into how they, and therefore I, operate. How wrong can you get, on both counts?!

The other thing about empathy, which I find bewildering, is that the person doing the empathising is not actually experiencing the other person’s feelings whilst putting themselves in their place. This would actually make them ineffective in trying to be of use: can you imagine two people experiencing the same nervous breakdown?! Methinks this qualifies as “the blind leading the blind”! No: somehow, which is totally baffling to me, they are just able to place themselves temporarily there in order to see the world or some particular circumstance from the other’s point of view.

Isn’t that awesome? They can pop in, and then pop out again, because that’s the other thing about it – once there they don’t remain there for longer than necessary: it doesn’t take over their lives: they don’t become obsessed with it, and worry long after they’ve ended the encounter: they don’t feel responsible for the other person, and for having to come up with a solution! They’re not aspergic about it!! I tell you, if I reincarnate after this portion of my life has ended I want to experience being able to do that! But for now I am coming to enjoy being Positively Autistic!

24 February 2010

I've Lost My Voice!

I have been struggling to find anything to write just lately. I did put this down to having nothing to say, but then I have aspergers, and since when did an asperger ever have nothing to say?! No: I have had plenty of words all crammed in my head, fighting to be let out on paper or computer, but I haven’t had the inspiration to string them together in any coherent way.

I think my problem has been to do with not knowing how to approach writing a blog. I am a writer: I love writing. I have been writing since I was a child, and I just instinctively took to it, and to a love of the English language. It is a God-given gift, I believe: it has to be because the truth is I don’t fully understand half the words I use, and yet I somehow manage to get them into the right context! The thing is that, as such, the only way I know how to write is as a writer: ie in essay form, with all the punctuation present and correct, a title, a beginning, a middle, and an end. I write like that even on texts and emails: I just can’t help doing it! I also do it when writing anything factual, like in a letter of complaint to BT: it takes me at least three drafts to pare it down to the actual point, and to take out all the narrative waffle, and I have to have help from my neuro-typical best friend to do that because I find it difficult to know what is relevant and what isn’t!

So, to try to get to the point: I have been struggling with the idea that I have to change the way I write because this is a blog, and there’s a “proper” way of writing a blog – isn’t there? The way I think that there’s a “right” way to do everything in life, including breathe! I think that there are rules for everything, and that I have to find out what they are before I can do anything, otherwise I’ll be breaking them – and who knows what will happen then? The “Rule Enforcers” will come swooping down on me and drag me away somewhere to punish me for daring to not conform!! Now I do know, logically, that this is nonsense, but it doesn’t seem to get any further than my conscious mind, and so I do still have this instinctive desire to have to get everything right, which is a bloody pain in the arse!

One of the reasons for writing this blog was to try to help me get inspired again to write, and to find my own voice. It’s also meant as a place for me to just be myself, which I am finding very difficult having only found out about the aspergers last year and now realising that I’m not sure who I am at all.

The thing is I already do have a voice: not everything I am or have become is down to copying. Writing is where my voice comes through the most, if only I’d let it. I have become so worried that all that I write is just a copy of some of the authors I’ve read that I think I’ve probably managed to create my own writer’s block. I’ve got titles coming out of my ears (not literally, of course!), and yet no stories or articles to go with them. I am so busy trying not to be a copy, and to try to find something completely original, that I’ve just come to a standstill. I vaguely recall part of a quote from CS Lewis where he says, "Don't try to be original. Just be yourself, and then you cannot help but be original."

I’ve also forgotten (a frequent occurrence, me forgetting really important things!) that the main point of writing is to do it because it’s what I love doing: never mind trying to copy the neuro-typical goal-oriented thinking – that you have to be published, you have to make money from it, you have to be critically-acclaimed, etc, etc, before you can dare to call yourself a writer, and be able to consider yourself a success.

Therefore I finally came to the conclusion that by trying to change the way I write just for this blog, and so bending my mind into a pretzel and removing all the enjoyment once again, I would actually not be being myself at all. And who knows? Maybe as I get into it I will evolve a less formal, more rambling, style of writing for it that doesn’t involve the stress of trying to force myself to change something that really doesn’t need changing.

13 February 2010

Don't Mind Me

One of the most disconcerting things I’ve found about having aspergers is the fact that I don’t seem to know my own mind at all. It’s like living with another person, and she keeps everything secret from me! My behaviour doesn’t match up to my intentions, and my intentions are always good. It’s no wonder we are often misdiagnosed or classed as being schizophrenic, or having multiple-personality disorders: I’ve sometimes doubted my own sanity too!

I used to think that I was just some Contrary Mary, rebelling against everything I was told just for the hell of, and on the principle that no-one was going to control me. This especially seemed to fit my behaviour as a child: I was unruly, undisciplined, hyper-active, with the attention span of a gnat, with a mind that wandered off everywhere taking my body unresistantly with it! I felt like I was always being led astray, only I couldn’t point to someone outside myself and say “She made me to do it!” The person making me do it was always me, except I wasn’t consciously aware that it was. I’m still not consciously aware of it, hence still finding it a problem figuring out what’s going on in me.

That’s one of the problems with aspergers: the link between mind, body, and soul (true self) seems to be broken, or not properly connected because of the neurological wiring in me being skewed. It feels as if the three parts of me are all separate entities, and they never seem to be acting in synch. They don’t even seem to be communicating with each other half the time! I imagine the wires in my nervous system as looking like a bunch of electrical wiring, some of which are aimlessly and dangerously flapping around giving me an electric shock every so often as they touch each other randomly, and the rest look like they have been soldered together by a blind man wearing oven gloves!

I know this is probably not correct but it helps me to visualise it this way. It reminds me that what I have got is a lifetime condition and not an illness that can be cured. It also helps to alleviate some of the guilt and self-condemnation I suffer over some of the way I think and behave at times.

11 February 2010

A Salesman's Dream

I feel a new obsession coming on ... with blogging! No doubt it will last for a while and then, hopefully, it’ll settle down – or not, as the case may be!

I’m tired today. I’ve been for my once-weekly shopping trip, which lasts for a total of three hours, one of which is the travelling there and back. I have it down to a fine art now. I know exactly where I need to go, I take a list with me, and I follow the same routine each week, with the occasional variation for things that are not part of my usual weekly grocery shop. But still I get distracted. And still, despite the list, I find myself with the dilemma of trying to work out how many of something I might need, ‘cos even though I wrote the list I don’t quite trust it! And the memory of what I’ve got back at home has usually faded by the time I am faced with the enticement of all that wonderful fruit and veg. How many sprouts and apples does one person need for a week? Well, apparently, a whole truck-load (if you look in my fridge!) But seriously, how much is enough? I’ve been cooking for myself for over twenty years and I still haven’t worked it out!

I am a salesperson’s dream because of my gullibility, as well as being a nightmare, because I’ll take forever trying to decide. I once had a British Gas rep trying to sell me the idea that I should change my supplier, and he stood there talking for at least ten minutes, believing that he’d got a convertee, only for me to dither at the end and tell him that I’d think about it, and perhaps next year?! It never occurred to me that he was in a hurry to get round as many people as possible because that’s how he gets paid, and that I had essentially wasted his time by being so polite as to let him ramble on because I felt bad about the idea of being rude and telling him “no thanks” before he’d even had a chance to tell me what he was selling! My best friend, who is a neuro-typical and who basically interprets the world for me, had to explain it to me. And still he came back six months later, bringing a fellow employee with him (probably for moral support in case he got caught up in another pointless discussion with me!) This time, though, I was ready: and so was he, ‘cos he cut it very short, having remembered me from the last time! I guess it’s probably hard to forget an encounter with an asperger, isn’t it?!

10 February 2010

The Wee Whimper

This is my blog. I wanted to start with a bang, but I fear it will probably be more of a whimper! I’m not even sure what the purpose of this is going to be for me, other than a vague hope that perhaps I might find my own voice, and it might help to re-ignite my enthusiasm for writing. Oh, and that maybe there will be someone out there with aspergers whom it might help. You never know.

I am already having problems writing this because of my difficulty with spontaneity. I am trying to attempt what could be the impossible for me ie to not keep on editing and re-editing everything I write, in an attempt to get it right, and to make sure that no-one can possibly misunderstand any word I’ve written! I love words, and I love writing. I will read absolutely ANYTHING if left to my own devices – menu lists from the local Chinese takeaway (I don’t eat takeaway food!), leaflets about things I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever, the blurb that’s written on labels on anything I buy, etc, etc! I devour them, like the compulsive overeater that I am (it’s in remission).

They distract my attention, and as a child I could barely get my nose out of a book once I’d started reading it: I would read whilst walking to school. It served the useful purpose of giving me something to focus on other than the confusion of the world around me, and how to integrate with it. After all what do you do when there’s someone walking towards you on the same pavement? Where do you look? Do you smile? Do you make eye contact? Is that rude? Will they smack you in the face if you happen to look at them “the wrong way”? What is “the wrong way” to look at someone?! What happens if they smile at you, but you miss your cue and you don’t smile back? Will they think you’re being sullen or rude? Will they say something cutting? And then, of course, what happens if you ever see them again?!

All this, and more, going on within the space of about five minutes (because I’ve already started thinking the moment I spotted them on the pavement in front of me, half a mile up the road!) Ah, what a joy to have/be aspergers! And to think I used to believe that everyone went through this same protracted, and frankly gut-wrenching, exercise whenever they came into contact with another human being: or even when they just thought about having to interact with anyone else!

So this is my first blog entry. Not what I had planned to write at all, so hey, look at that – I did the impossible, and wrote spontaneously!! Now the plan is to try to write from my heart: that could be really difficult considering that we apparently don’t have one (at least not according to some sources!!)

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


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