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

30 April 2014

Analyse This

“There’s no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.”      E B White

Apparently, I complicate everything.  I don’t know how I do it, but I can’t keep a thing simple to save my life.  It appears, though, that one of the main techniques I use to inadvertently achieve this state is by analysing everything.  Funny thing is, I didn’t realise that this is how I complicate.  

I was under the illusion that my attempts at analysis, and being specific (trying to attain a definitive explanation for everything) were actually helpful in simplifying things, aiding my ability to understand and accept.  But when I honestly look back at my life, and how much I have achieved by means of this process, the fact is that it has actually hindered rather than helped me to do anything, or to change.  And it continues to do so.  Any change that has taken place in my life has occurred despite my tendency to analyse, rather than because of it.

Much as it wounds me to have to do so, I have to admit that these particular thought processes of mine are part and parcel of that wondrous gift I have for procrastinating.  If I can think my way out of doing a thing then I'll will.   

According to the Chamber’s Dictionary, analyse means “to resolve or separate a thing into its elements or component parts; to ascertain those parts; to trace a thing or things to the source or cause; to discover the general principles underlying individual phenomena by doing this; to psychoanalyse”.  

Umm, yep, sounds like what I do: except that I’d found another word to separately describe the part about separating a thing into its separate elements - I call it compartmentalising.  Of course I would.  Why have one definition when twenty will do?  Let’s face it, keeping things simple is a concept I have only a fleeting relationship with - I tend to wave at it as I’m floating by on my cloud of analysis, getting wrapped up in, and distracted by, the minutiae of life.

But the point is that it’s rather difficult to identify something in myself when I don’t know or recognise what it actually encompasses.  Or perhaps, sometimes, it’s more a case of when I don’t want to know or recognise it.  My self-will has a vested interest in keeping me in the dark, and reinforcing certain beliefs in order that I don’t do anything to change the status quo.  I am, after all, a person who fears, and hates, change, and if I continue to believe that I can’t change then there’s no need for me to deal with the possibility of maybe having to do so. 

I guess the truth is also that I’ve got used to thinking like this, and been doing it so long, that I’ve become convinced that I can’t do it any differently.  And having the handy rationalisation of being autistic/ADHD has become a useful block to change it - I’ve talked myself into believing that my mind is wired to do this, so I can’t not do it.  

I’ve realised, though, that this is not true.  It dawned on me that analysis is only one part of the thinking process, and that I don’t analyse every single thought I have, much as I might feel and appear as if I do sometimes.  Yes, there have been times in my life when I have become completely obsessed with something to the point of analysing myself into a state of paralysis.  But in recent years I have actually made some progress, mostly through the practice of yoga, which has taught me to be in the moment, using the breath or what I’m doing as a way to bring the focus back to the present (rather than on what I’m thinking).  So the actual evidence is that I can manage my tendency to analyse.  I just have to want to.

Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with analysis - lots of people do it.  It’s one of the functions for which the human brain was designed, I believe.  My problem, though, is that I over-analyse, and I tend to analyse that which doesn’t actually require analysing (which, at its zenith, means basically everything).  I can get to the root of a thing, and then bypass it completely as I whizz by in a tornado of obsession, chewing endlessly over the same thing, trying to find an answer to a question that’s already been answered.     

I frequently don’t notice that I’m doing it, it’s become so much a part of who I am - like breathing.  But then I’ve learnt through yoga that whilst breathing is something that we all do instinctively, not everyone breathes efficiently or effectively.  However, you can learn to change and improve your breathing technique to attain the maximum benefits, which I have done.  

As a recovered alcoholic/addict I cannot risk taking medication at all, so I have had to find a way to manage my anxiety, along with all the attendant difficulties of having ADHD/Aspergers.  Yoga has literally been a God-send, along with the AA Twelve Step programme (which can be adapted to suit any ‘problem’ or condition), and the change in my diet (which came about as the result of me being a compulsive overeater/undereater, bulimic, with a sugar addiction, which was way before I ever knew I’d got ADHD/Aspergers, and that diet could make a difference).  

I no longer eat sugar, except that contained in fruit; I became vegetarian/vegan, so I gave up dairy as part of that change (plus certain foods, like cheese and yoghurt, I could not stop eating once I started); and I prepare everything from scratch, and don’t eat pre-prepared meals, processed food, junk food, or anything instant.  I believe that, like everything else, being a compulsive overeater is a blessing, the necessary motivation for having to change my diet, because God knew in advance that it was going to help manage what I wasn’t aware of at that time - especially the ADHD. 

Of course, none of this happened as the result of me overanalysing any of it.  In fact, my insistence on analysing and questioning everything kept me delaying taking the necessary action to bring about any of these changes.  It’s only when I stopped thinking, and started doing, that anything different happened.  As it says in the AA Big Book (page 449, third edition): 

“When I stopped living in the problem and began living in the answer, the problem went away."

03 April 2014

Fear Is The Key

‘“Ah!” said Rabbit, who never let things come to him, but always went and fetched them.’      From ‘The House At Pooh Corner’, by AA Milne

“Every human thought, and every human action, is based in either love or fear.  There is no other human motivation, and all other ideas are but derivatives of these two.”      From ‘Conversations with God’, by Neale Donald Walsch

I have all the patience of a toddler waiting for Christmas to arrive.  Just like Rabbit, I find it almost impossible to wait for things to come to me, be it inspiration for a painting or a piece of writing, or the answer to some question.

For a long time I believed that this was intrinsically part of my ADHD, but I’m no longer certain that’s true.  I think it just happens that one of my particular personality traits is an excess of impatience (like I seem to have an excess of everything!), and having ADHD exacerbates it.  

It’s as if the ADHD trait of poor impulse control combines with my impatience to produce, or heighten, my distractibility, restlessness, and quick loss of interest.  It’s kind of like they have a symbiotic relationship - the more impatient I become, the more easily distracted, etc.  The same goes with any emotion, whether it be positive or negative, e.g. if I get too happy I find it impossible to calm down, leaving the way open to the familiar ADHD symptoms.

Another characteristic I have, which I believe is part of my autistic hard-wiring, is a bone-deep inability to stop myself from copying, and absorbing.  I say it’s hard-wired because I do not choose to do it.  It happens automatically, without any conscious decision on my part, and more often than not I haven’t got a clue that it’s occurred, until later.  

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t do it - it’s one of the things about having Asperger’s that I actually hate.  It has confused me for a long time because I am so vehemently against the idea of imitating other people: I long to be an individual.  Before I got my diagnosis I wasn’t even aware that it was something I did, probably because I was wandering around with the conscious belief that I didn’t want to be like other people, or follow the crowd.  

But it seems it’s often the case that the conscious thought is merely what you would like to be the truth, and not what the reality is: as in this case.  And everything about me screamed out otherwise - from the way I behaved, how I looked, to what I believed and said.  I was like a walking car-crash, a tangled mess of confusing and conflicting influences, with hardly a sign of the original, intact person left behind.

The fact is that, much as I might be telling myself that I don’t like copying, at the root of me something is going on which I can’t see, which drives me to do so.  And, again, just as with the ADHD, discovering that copying is part of my nature as an Asperger, and trying to attribute it solely to that, has only served to answer half the puzzle.  But I might have finally found the rest.

I copy because I don’t have the patience to wait for an answer, or the faith to believe that one will come in time (God’s time, not mine).  

I copy because it’s easier and quicker than having to deal with the unknown, and the feelings that sprout forth as a result - I can just follow someone else’s path instead.  Unfortunately, this still means that I have to wait for the result, which I also find impossible to deal with, hence my inevitable tendency to chop and change, abandoning one person’s ideas in favour of someone else’s, and never being able to stick to one path and see it through to its natural conclusion.  As I’ve mentioned before, I am the Queen of Tweak.

I copy because when I get distracted, restless, and lose interest (an ADHD attack) it’s the quickest way to fix it, to go on-line seeking new stimulation to try to awaken my dopamine-deficient brain.

Basically, what all of this boils down to is that at the root of me I am motivated by fear.  I fear that if I don’t go and look for the answers then they’ll never come; I fear that I’ll miss out on something; I fear that I might be doing it (whatever ‘it’ is) wrong, and I won’t learn unless I go looking to someone else for the answers; I fear that the feelings will not pass. 

In the words of God (from the book ‘Conversations With God’), “This is what I have called the Sponsoring Thought.  It is either of love or fear.  This is the thought behind the thought behind the thought.  It is the first thought.  It is prime force.  It is the raw energy that drives the engine of human experience.”

So then you put these two things together, the autistic copying/absorbing, along with the fear-driven motivation, and the result is me going searching on the internet for quick answers and inspiration (not to mention it’s distractibility  appeal, which allows me to forget myself and all those pesky feelings that I’m trying to escape).  

But, whilst I might break free for a while, I don’t escape unscathed.  Instead, I return with a confused mess of new ideas and information which will inevitably come back to bite me on the arse at some point in the future, when I’m suddenly reminded of something I read, and decide on a whim to try to integrate it into my life.  Which usually means abandoning something that works in favour of something new that inevitably doesn’t.

Of course, this wouldn’t be such a problem if I weren’t autistic, and if I possessed that miraculous ability to filter information, discarding what isn’t relevant, and adapting what is to suit my needs.  But I don’t.  For some reason, God saw fit to create me without a filter.

It also requires some modicum of self-awareness, to be able to identify what is relevant, and to recognise the commonalities you share with the people about whom you’re reading.  Nope - I don’t have any of that either, and it doesn’t look like it’s coming my way any time soon, much as I’ve kept on striving to acquire it.  Seems this, too, is a hard-wiring issue, and I came out of the factory with the relevant bit missing.

So what’s the answer?  Well, I guess I have to accept that I copy, and always will do, so seeking solutions and an escape on the internet will always be a problem.  It does not hold the answers for me, but merely compounds my difficulties.  My choice is between non-acceptance of my autism/ADHD and it’s limitations (which could be turned over and viewed as blessings), or giving up the fight to prove that I can do what other people do. 

Acceptance means the need to shift from fear into love (and faith) - which means practicing the opposite to what I do at the moment, and start believing that God has the answers, and will provide me with them and everything I need, if I allow Him/Her/It to do so.  Which means trusting that “This too shall pass” (a slogan we have in AA), when I am plagued by feelings - as long as I allow them to do so, by not going off and trying to escape them.  

Filling my head with other peoples’ ideas and opinions does not help me to find myself - it merely helps me to lose touch even more with who I am, as I get buried under a blanket of random useless information.  To act out of love (to trust in God) would mean to honour the fact that I am autistic/ADHD, and so stop doing the stuff which only serves to hurt me.  

Maybe then I could truly embrace the concept of ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’, ‘cos I might finally find the Self to which I could be true. 

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