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

03 December 2017


I’ve been meaning to write some posts like this for, oh I don’t know, maybe two or three years?  Don’t know where the time (and the inspiration) went…  

I had intended starting with how I deal with my sensitivity to noise (I’d made notes and EVERYTHING for it), but then something happened last week which has shifted my focus, so I’m going with that first instead, in case I lose momentum.

I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I have a real struggle having to stand up for myself, no matter how minor the issue might be.  The anxiety I feel makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.  And last week I was confronted with just such an incident.  

I looked out of my living room window and saw christmas lights hanging from my trellis-fence, fencing which I paid for, so there is no dispute about ownership - it’s mine.  And on going outside and checking, I found that the lights were draped on both sides - which meant that my neighbour had come into my garden to hang them, and had never bothered to come and ask me first.  
My initial reaction was confused and diffused by the voice in my head that tells me that whatever I feel is bound to be ‘wrong’ or over-reactionary due to my being autistically over-sensitive, anxious, and paranoid.  So when I spoke to my friend that evening and told her about the lights, I described how I felt as being “a bit miffed”.  

Imagine my surprise when she said that she’d be steaming angry if it happened to her, and that she wanted to come down here, remove the lights, and return them to my neighbour, along with a few choice words. 

As we spoke, I was able to begin to process what I really felt and thought: and imagine my horror when she then said that I was going to have to go round to my neighbour’s and tell her that what she’d done wasn’t okay, and to ask her to take them down, otherwise she was going to continue to take advantage if I didn’t put a stop to it now.  She only moved in about a month ago, and already she has shown herself to be a bit of a bully - not threatening, but the kind of person who expects to get her own way, and rides roughshod over everyone else in order to do so.

At that point my real reaction kicked in - gut-clenching fear at the idea of having to go and deal with her, and possibly start a conflict.  That’s what I’d felt earlier when I first saw the lights, but part of my instinct for survival is to avoid anything which has the potential to explode into an argument or disagreement by minimising what I feel about it.  Plus I’m just plain slow at processing information, so it took me until the next day to fully realise just how far beyond ‘miffed’ and into ‘piffed’ (with a double ’s’) I really was.   

And then I remembered that I’d got another option to the dreaded talking - writing.  I could write her a note (or, in my case, a letter).  I’d done it before, with another neighbour, and it had helped tremendously, giving me a way of alleviating the feeling of being powerless to do anything because of my anxiety.

This way I could relieve some of the stress and fear about not being in control - not knowing how she would react, but possibly even worse not knowing what my own reaction would be: would I babble incoherently?; become mute with fright and brain-freeze?; or bolshy with impulsive anger?  And, knowing myself, would I forget who was actually in the wrong, feel guilty and end up almost apologetically grovelling for forgiveness, and for her to do me the favour of taking them down, if it wasn’t too much trouble…  All in an attempt to try to control her, and hopefully stop her from being angry with me (which is how I assume she’s going to react, because it’s what I assume about everyone, given that I cannot for the life of me ‘read’ people.  And I am a depressed donkey whose default position is to expect the worst…*big sigh*).  But then I would hate myself.  And then I would blame her, and then I would hate her.  Not a happy place to be. 

So yes, writing.  A way to have some control over my part - what comes out of my ‘mouth’, as it were.  I also use writing for when I have to phone people (eg to report repairs).  I write scripts for myself to help me remember what it is I need to say, otherwise I’m likely to forget the words, or lose focus and babble.  These are as specific or as loose as I need them to be - so sometimes I literally write whole sentences to say, or I’ll just need to make a note of key words or phrases as prompts.

I know this suggestion won’t be useful to everyone (for those of you for whom writing in itself produces stress and anxiety), but I hope it might help someone who might not have thought of it, and who is labouring under the illusion (as I was) that there is only one way, and that I HAD to learn to be able to confront/challenge/tackle/communicate with people verbally, and in person.  As my friend frequently reminds me, “There are many ways up the mountain.”  

Therefore why would I keep persisting in trying to follow the hardest route, which keeps me stumbling about at the bottom making no progress, without the necessary means to overcome the obstacles in my way?  As I’ve remembered just recently, trying to use force will always create resistance.  Better to make use of the tools that God has given me to move into His flow, and find an easier way, one that relieves some of the stress.  Life’s difficult enough as it is for autistics without adding to it by trying to follow a neurotypical route.

So, I wrote my letter, read it to my friend to check that it was okay, and posted it (eventually).  It took me a couple of days to find the courage to go out and stick it through her letter box (under cover of darkness at the crack of dawn, I kid you not!), and of course I had the anxiety of wondering how she would react.  But it achieved what it was meant to - the lights were taken down that day, and I haven’t seen her to know how she reacted to the letter.  I just have to keep reminding myself that she was in the wrong.  

And I thought it might be helpful to add the letter here, in case anyone needed some kind of guidance.  So here it is:

Hi (I’m sorry but I don’t know your name),

I noticed on Friday evening that there are christmas lights on my trellis, and, given that they’ve never been there before, I’m assuming that they are yours (if I’m wrong, and they’re not, apologies, and please ignore this letter).

I am autistic, and I also suffer from social anxiety, and I found it extremely disturbing to see not only that they had been put on there without my permission, but that they are also on my side as well as yours - which I can only assume means that whoever did that for you either came into my garden, or leaned over the trellis into my garden.  

I was in all day on Friday, and I didn’t hear anyone knock on my door to ask me if it was okay for them to do that; but if they did knock, and I didn’t hear them (which is a possibility), the fact that they went ahead anyway, rather than wait until they caught me in, I find equally disturbing, discourteous, and inconsiderate.

I would never dream of doing any such thing to anyone else, especially knowing how anxious and distressed the idea of other people encroaching on my space and privacy makes me feel, and how difficult I find it having to challenge them about it.  I would appreciate it if, in future, you would respect my privacy and my boundaries, and ask before you decide to do anything that might affect me.   

So, having had time to think about it, I would like you to take down the lights: you do have your own trellis in the back, so it isn’t that you don’t have anywhere to put them.  I’ve also decided that I would prefer it if you did not put anything at all up against my trellis, having also had time to think about your question about planting a climber there.  I already have a honeysuckle growing up there.

As I said, I am autistic, so I struggle to communicate clearly with people to make myself understood, and the anxiety makes this worse.  This is why I have written this letter rather than talk to you directly, as I find it easier to express myself in writing - it allows me time to think about what I want to say, which talking to people does not.

Kind regards


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