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

27 September 2016


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


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.


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.)


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