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 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.


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.


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