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

23 May 2010

Asp Attack

I have no idea what to write about. Everything I think and say seems to originate from somewhere other than in me. I feel like all that I am is a human photocopier, except that I don’t simply copy the original as it is, but mash together a whole conglomerate of differing ideas and behaviours, ending up with a confused mass, and never knowing where most of what I think comes from. Is it any wonder I don’t know my own mind, or why I behave the way I do? My own thoughts seem to be buried somewhere beneath a bloody mountain of shit (and I don’t mean that the shit is bleeding!) Or perhaps I just don’t have any of my own? Maybe I am just an empty vessel, except that I’ve never been able to allow my vessel to be emptied of all the rubbish I’ve accumulated over time, and so achieve that perfect yogic state of allowing thoughts to come in and go out, like the breath.

With me everything goes in and stays in, and then we have to go through the long-winded and arduous task of sorting through every single item individually, and from every conceivable angle, to determine whether it is of use to us before deciding whether it can be let go of. And even then, it seems, I never actually let go of anything ‘cos it all stays imprinted in my memory (just in case – at least that appears to be the reason for it, but then that suggests that it’s a conscious cognitive choice I’m making, and it doesn’t feel like it is: but what would I know about how my brain works?!)

I never realised that I copied: at least not to the extent that it turns out I do. But then I never realised that I was completely obsessive, that everything I do is done obsessively. Nor did I realise that I was rigid, hate change, hate discipline, can’t function without routine, can’t maintain anything, take things literally, don’t understand people, can’t chat, take everything seriously, often don’t recognise when I’m being teased, obsess about the minutiae, can’t see the bigger picture, can’t multi-task, can’t empathise, have absolutely no spatial awareness whatsoever (very freaky!), suffer paranoia, anxiety, stammer, self-stimulate (rock, make folds in my clothes, stroke my nose, etc), can’t bear certain sounds and cannot filter out noise, flap my hands, hate being cuddled and fawned over (a quick hug is fine, everything else makes me go rigid and, as I’ve recently realised, my brain interprets as sexual – which is fine, as long as it’s with a male, and one whom I like, which is very rare!), have a very limited emotional vocabulary and rarely interpret correctly what I’m feeling, cannot see beyond my own world, can’t focus for very long and lose interest and get distracted very easily from what I’m doing, see everything as black or white, do everything to the extreme, have temper tantrums (now that I’m an adult they’re in the form of silent rages), have other sensory difficulties (eg can’t tell temperature, can’t tell when I’ve eaten enough), hoard and display, can’t plan, can’t organise, have limited imagination, ad infinitum.

I’m going for my formal aspergers assessment in three weeks time. Do you think I’ll “pass”?!!

16 May 2010

Speaking With Forked Tongue

This could get seriously tedious. I’ve already had to write an addendum to one of my posts, and now here’s another one, and for the same reason. I wrote something that I thought was the truth, but it isn’t.

I know a man with aspergers who describes neurotypicals as “speaking with forked tongue” because they never say what they mean. Basically, he says, they lie. I think it’s catching! I’ve spent so long around them, learning to be polite, having to answer such stupid questions as “How do you feel?” (with my hands!), or be accused of repressing them or, ironically, of lying if I say I don’t know, that I am now even more bewildered as to what my own truth is because of taking on board other peoples’ ideas – neurotypical peoples’ ideas.

I’m finding it hard to embrace all the things that make up my aspergers because they seem to clash so resoundingly with what I have learned makes up a well-balanced, healthy, mature, responsible, caring, selfless, human being. Basically my aspergers seems to make me the antithesis of all of those things which make a person more likely to be successful and accepted in society. And so I unconsciously lie to myself or sugar coat it (another neurotypical technique I’ve learned), because the truth sounds so unpalatable.

Who wants to say that, actually, they do see people as being interchangeable and replaceable like light bulbs or batteries; that people represent certain things, like security and safety; that the most that you can achieve is a feeling of attachment to them for what they can give you, rather than one of connection and mutual sharing? When I talk about it it sounds so cold and distant, but then I feel distanced and disconnected from my own self, so how on earth can I expect to be able to connect to any other self, in the form of another human being? For me it is a neurological impossibility, and not a choice that I am making, just like my inability to empathise. The highest compliment I have paid my best friend is to tell her that I love her as much as I love yoga and my yoga mat – and I REALLY love them! The amazing thing is that she isn’t offended by this – she understands that this is the way it is for me, and she accepts it without question. And in return she loves me the way that a neurotypical loves, which is completely baffling!

So in my last post where I wrote that I now realise that people are not interchangeable, and that you can’t just replace them, I’ve not told the truth. Yes they are, and yes I do. I don’t want it to be like this, but to say otherwise is a lie – and lying makes me uncomfortable. It’s why when someone asks me “How are you?” I feel the compulsion to tell them the literal truth, and often do, no matter that they might be a complete stranger to me. After all why bother asking me if they don’t really want to know?

This is an example of speaking with forked tongue, though I know that the answer in their world is that they are just being polite. But to me you can be polite just by simply saying hello. Anything else just seems to catapult me into a whole dimension of confusion and frustration as I attempt the impossible and try to focus on more than one thing at a time – trying to work out where the boundaries are and what is appropriate for me to share, at the same time as doing it! Plus I really don’t do chatting, I do information exchanging and then have to go away and process the data!

I have had to learn to lie (sorry, I mean be polite!), and exercise some discretion, so I now do sometimes just say I’m okay: but it goes against the grain.

And as to the people who ask “How are you?”, and then sometimes tell you how you should be if you happen to make the mistake of telling them, I often feel as if they are simply going around reassuring themselves that everyone is alright, and that they go away feeling a sense of satisfaction that they’ve done their duty in making sure the world is as it should be! And when I’m feeling really paranoid I think that they’re checking up on me, as if they are working for some covert government agency that’s keeping an eye on all of the oddballs of society, just in case we gather together and start a revolution!


05 May 2010

Making Friends

How do you make friends? Okay, literal translation time: “Take a large lump of modelling clay, a few adornments for the face and body, mix them all together, and there you go! A large, squiggy mess! No, sorry, I mean – a person. You’ve made yourself a friend!” Er, I think not, though how I wish it could be that easy!

Wasn’t there a book called “How To Win Friends And Influence People”, or did I just make that up? I’m sure there is, or something like, and I know I’ve never read it. And even if I had it wouldn’t have helped me navigate the strange world of socialisation because I would only have taken it all very literally and misinterpreted most of it, starting with the title – does it mean you have to “win” people, like in a game of cards? So there’s a competition between you and another person to win the friendship of a third?

On second thoughts I think I might have inadvertently read some of that book when I was about five because this sounds awfully similar to my approach to friendship! As I’ve discovered recently, I can’t multi-task at all, and I can now see how this even extends to the “task” of engaging in relationships with people. I can’t seem to “do” more than one friend at a time. Back when I was a child I was always part of a group of about four or five, trying to balance being friends with each member, and seeming constantly to be in conflict to establish who my best friend was, and where all the others fitted in: or, more to the point, where and how I fitted in. It seems I couldn’t simply be one of a group of friends, just as it seems that I cannot simply be one of a group of anything!

So anyway, to return to the days when I had friends (plural) but didn’t quite know how I’d achieved this miraculous feat, I now see that I didn’t so much “make” friends as acquire them, a bit like the way I acquire carrier bags or boxes – I don’t quite know how I got them, I don’t quite know what to do with them once I’ve got them, but I keep them nonetheless, and because of that thing called “attachment” that I do – I just can’t seem to let anything, or anyone, go!

And because it’s what you do, isn’t it, have friends? And the more the better, as far as I’d worked out from what I’d picked up in the world, because if you lose one (or, God forbid, more!) then you’ve still got a few left to replace the ones who’ve gone! Plus they also appear to be a statement to the world about how popular you are, and generally what an interesting and busy person you must be, and what an exciting life you must lead.

Personally I can’t see how you can possibly have the time to do anything particularly interesting or exciting when you’ve got so many people demanding your attention, and you spend half your life gabbing on the phone or meeting in coffee bars etc to chat: but then that’s because I’ve got aspergers and I can’t multi-task! Oh, and I don’t do chatting, but long monologues because I don’t know when to stop talking once I’ve started! Basically chatting is hazardous to my health – not to mention to that of the person I am assailing!

I think that part of my problem is that I think there are actual “rules” to how to go about making friends, a kind of instruction manual that exists somewhere which everyone else appears to have read and understood, but which I seem not to have been party to. And, as with the way I approach everything in life, I seem to believe that if only I could learn these rules and apply them exactly as they are written (ie literally!) then I too would have lots of friends, the way other people do.

Having examined this subject in detail (and had a number of failed attempts at making and sustaining friendships) I have come to the conclusion that, as with everything in life, there actually aren’t any specific rules, only guidelines: and therein lies the problem. The requirement here is an understanding of social communication in order that you can read social signals, such as whether someone is genuinely showing an interest in being your friend or simply being polite. I cannot count the number of occasions on which I have mistaken simple politeness as being the prelude to a deep, meaningful friendship which, most of the time, I haven’t really wanted, but I’ve felt that it’s only polite to reciprocate! I have therefore deduced that being polite is a dangerous business, and often results in a confusing mess unless you know what you’re doing with it – so this rules me out! This basically goes for the whole friend-making business. You might just as well ask me to make an atom bomb. It would probably be easier, and less likely to blow up in my face!

Plus, to complicate the whole thing even more (as if it wasn’t complicated enough), there are different types or levels of friendship, which require subtle differences in behaviour. Unfortunately I don’t do subtle. I can’t seem to discern the difference between what’s appropriate conversation when talking to a complete stranger, and talking to my best friend, so I communicate the same way with everyone! Actually I have recently learned to show a little more discretion, but it is only a little, and it isn’t consistent. I am still apt to spout forth the details of my life to anyone who unwittingly engages in any kind of dialogue with me, no matter how trivial. Or, equally as bad, to offer my opinion and assistance (unsolicited!) whenever I feel that I have an answer to some problem they may have shared with me.

Witness my attempts to solve the sleeping problems of my next door neighbour, with whom I had barely exchanged more than two words of dialogue, other than to say “hello” whenever I had previously seen him. He foolishly told me one day, when we were standing at the bus stop, that he suffered from insomnia. In an attempt to be chatty, and seeing an opportunity to be helpful (I seem to have a desperate need to be helpful, which possibly stems from the delusion I have that I know a lot about everything!), I proceeded to bombard him with a series of questions about his habits, and whether he’d tried various remedies, including the one thing closest to my heart – yoga! Fortunately, before I had time to suggest a complete overhaul of his whole lifestyle, the bus arrived. He moved house not long after that!

You see I mean well, and because I can’t do spontaneous small talk, but I don’t want to appear rude by not at least trying to reciprocate, I grasp hold of anything that appears to be an opportunity for me to be able to keep the conversation going. Inevitably, though, I end up wishing I hadn’t bothered because the resultant headache and confusion created far outweighs any benefit. After all, what is it I’m trying to prove anyway? That I’m not a social leper just because I can’t do chatting?!

In conclusion, I have decided that having just one good friend is enough, especially as I have been blessed with her being such a good friend. I have given up chasing after this particular neurotypical dream, of being popular and inundated with friends, and of needing lots of back-up friends in case my best friend suddenly pops her clogs (that means dies, for those of a severely literal nature)! As I’ve recently realised, people are not interchangeable like batteries or light bulbs: you cannot replace them and not notice the difference. And now I wouldn’t want to anyway. My best friend is very special and unique, and I’d never have the exact same relationship with anyone else as I have with her.

Personally I think that making friends is an art form that requires special skills which, unfortunately, they don’t formally teach in school. Apparently you’re supposed to learn and pick it up instinctively just by being in school around other children – imagine that?! To me it’s as unfathomable as the inner workings (or otherwise!) of my computer and, as with my computer, I should perhaps simply give up trying to understand how it all works, and just blunder on as best I can. After all it has worked, in its way, so far, and you just can’t learn this stuff by rote. A pity, really: I’ve always been far better at theory than practise!

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