The autistic brain takes longer to process things, probably because we notice the tiniest details so sharply and there is so much more that our brains ‘take in’. It has been a week now, after that traumatic experience of having my safety thrown under the bulldozer of meaningless self-serving social ‘feels’, and the after effects are still rumbling, shaking and rattling in my mind.
A friend I’ve not seen for over a year contacted me yesterday about having dinner today. She planned to buy dinner and we would eat here at my place, instead of eating out. I felt that was already very kind of her, not to ask me to meet her at some eatery outside, knowing that I wasn’t keen on venturing out not just because of the pandemic situation but also because of sensory overload.
Then, an hour before she was supposed to arrive, I received two photos from her on WhatsApp – they were her Covid19 swab test results. She had gone the extra mile to do a swab test before coming into my home.
I’ve known this friend since we were 9, way back in primary school. She is bold, almost brash, easy going and generous. A bright and funny person who doesn’t engage in deep intellectual conversation, she is by no means what people in the USA call ‘woke’ regarding disability, yet my friend displayed today a level of awareness and care for my disability and access needs that nobody else has shown me throughout this terrible pandemic. In fact, what she did for me today shone a very penetrating light onto the hypocrisy of so many around me who claim to be ‘disability aware’ and ‘allies’ of disabled people – even some disabled people who fancy themselves advocates too. My invisible disability – not Autism but my medical disability – that is ignored even in disability circles was sharply present and foremost in her mind, and she acted upon it in her signature no-fuss way. She didn’t even announce her intention beforehand, she just did it and sent me the photos, with a short note, “My covid test just in case – negative.” And she didn’t talk about it thereafter. It was just done. That was that. A matter of fact.
We had a happy reunion, tucking into sushi and catching up on each other’s news. I was one very much humbled and grateful immunocompromised human. This act of simple, unembellished grace is healing balm to a wearied mind and soul. I had not even told her about what transpired last week.
My friend has shown me, without need for long ponderous discussion, the true heart of the matter. Too much talk about access and inclusion can become desolately vain after awhile, one can become so numb from the droning and not even recognise hypocrisy and betrayal until it hits right between the eyes. We need to get off our miniature pedestals and just do it. That is all. Just do it. In fact, my friend, who knows nothing about disability at all and has never experienced any disability in her healthy robust life, has just set the bar even higher than I was holding it. I have learned an important lesson today: first, that I am worthy of this respect, and second, that I too must learn by example and I must henceforth do the same for those I know who are immunocompromised like myself.
The numbers continue to rise, as COVID19’s Delta variant wreaks havoc in Singapore – and it isn’t all the fault of the virus. I say this a lot, “Viruses do not listen to PAP / the government.” But humans are intrinsically foolish, selfish, socially-obsessed creatures, they put their feel-good-feels above consideration for the weak and vulnerable, above the safety of others, and above science. And most humans have disgustingly filthy habits, which they are very happy with and will not change, until they are struck, and it is too late. The sad irony is that we have achieved 80% + herd immunity, yet the numbers are exploding around us. Well, firstly, the current vaccines were not made for this aggressive variant. And humans don’t seem to understand what vaccines are and what they really do, in any case. I despair, humans are just inexplicably pathetic… I say this bearing in mind that I count as human too, yes, so I own this trait together with all the other humans… but that is for another rant in another post.
Yes, I am still processing the entire traumatic experience, my autistic brain will not let me sleep without this nightmare playing on repeat, on a loop even in my subconscious. Awake and conscious, my brain throbs with pain at the pugnacious audacity of that person who shoved aside my politely worded instructions to self isolate and went behind my back to cry cry cry cute little feelingly-feelings of hurt and offense, and caused someone I trusted to make a terrible judgement call (in a moment of mental fatigue and weariness, no doubt, a decision that was unlike their usual good sense), throwing me to a horrifying game of chance at an unevenly weighted roulette table.
This horrifying worldwide pandemic has brought out the best and worst in humans. Unfortunately, I am seeing more folly in my immediate vicinity than wisdom, more callousness than care and more selfishness than consideration.
Perhaps this is because my fragility is ‘invisible’ to the social bulldozers? My disability is gaslighted even by other disabled people – the medically healthy ones.
This dreadful human, now persona non gratia, was actually privy to meticulous details of my vulnerability, but I realised I was merely throwing the proverbial pearls to swine. Again, I apologise to the pigs – I know for a fact that pigs are extremely intelligent animals, and in the light of all that I am discovering about humans, pigs are actually superior beings to us humans. Yes. I said it. You can make me a social outcast for preferring all other animals to the human one, I really don’t care for your social addictions that do nothing but harm to me anyway. And, to make it even more preposterous, this was not a social occasion, by the way, it was work, and still the social-feeling-feeling-emo-shits over rode my request for respect, consideration and simply erring on the side of safety and caution.
Someone suggested to me that this person is an important part of the team. Well, that reasoning really blows my mind, I cannot comprehend how this statement can be considered logical at all. How essential or integral to the work is someone who tosses aside the very valid and reasonable request of the leader, goes behind the leader’s back to whine and simper at the co-leader about feeling-feeling-feeling-offended at being told to please kindly self isolate and do not turn up for work, someone who pays no heed to science, and lacks important, fundamental consideration for the safety of all others in the team? Especially when the most vulnerable member of the team – the leader – had already spoken? In the end, this pathetic human arrived late and everyone had already pitched in, rolled up their sleeves, to do this person’s work anyway.
What did they achieve from all this fuss and careless hissy-fit dramatics? Was it worth it? Sure, I am fine, physically, nothing bad happened (no thanks to this person, mind you), but I am not at all ok – the trauma of this experience is deep and probably indelible, as with autistic brains and trauma.
Yes, the person apologised to the co-leader afterwards, but I heard nothing directly from them. No apology for putting me in this position – zippo, zilch, zero, diddly squat and whatnaughtnought! Does it matter? Yes and No. An apology would make the person seem more decent, that is all. But saying a mere verbal “sorry” to me would not change my esteem of the person and the decision I am making, anyway.
In a way, I am glad it happened. I am sure as hell glad I am ok, of course, but I am also very grateful to this person for revealing to me so absolutely clearly, without any room for even a smidgeon of doubt, that I must henceforth have no more dealings with them. Already twice bitten (longer story, wait for the memoirs?), it will be sheer senseless abandon were I to allow them to come anywhere near me a third time. Professionally of course, because they were never in my social circle anyway, and never would’ve been under any circumstances at all. I have only a handful of close friends. That is enough for me. I don’t need any more friends, thank you.
Persona non gratia.
Yup, I have a list, and it is growing, thanks to COVID19. And I really don’t care what people say about me. I don’t need any social-addiction-feels or social validation to feed my self esteem or whatever.
Nobody is indispensable – apart from Lucy Like-a-Charm.
This little babble will be quite surreal, so brace yourself for it…
I am thinking now of the way one person in my midst has managed to create subtle chaos for everyone, and which nearly derailed a very precious relationship.
Human language is unfair to actual lizards and snakes, of course. It’s not the fault of the reptile that it is a reptile, is it? That’s just how they are. And reptiles are actually very beautiful creatures. It is up to us humans to identify and avoid them if we don’t wish to be tangled up in an unpleasant encounter. They do not seek out humans. So the negative terminology is of course skewed and too human-centric.
But some human behaviours and motivations resemble the superficially perceived ugliness of animals (because we misunderstand animals anyway).
Slithery. Some are venomous when they bite. That’s about all sneaky humans who are labeled “snake-like” really have in common with actual snakes. The rest is just human-like nastiness.
Anyway, about this human… once again my autistic senses were ignored in favour of trying to be ‘fair’ according to a system that is not mine to own or practice in the first place. Mine is the autistic way. When I try to do things the non-autistic way, I almost always end up making mistakes – some small, others really costly ones. But after a lifetime of being told my instincts are wrong and being forced to learn how to exist as a ‘pretend’ non-autistic, I’ve lost the sharpness of my autistic senses, I’ve all but forgotten how to trust myself. And I am taking a hellishly long time to learn how to use this innate gift to my advantage.
Looking back at my first encounter with this person, I remember my senses recoiling and a taste of rotting fruits wafting into my consciousness at a very low decibel level, like a softly buzzing basso continuo of vomit. Our subsequent dealings didn’t go all that well either, they lacked the finesse of spirit and tenderness of touch that I wanted and needed to help me with my work. Strange things also happened with third parties once I left things in the hands of this person. But I blamed myself, as I usually do, just as I was trained like a circus animal to do, because it MUST be me being irrational, being snobbish or being unkind, it COULDN’T be the other person! It didn’t help when I tried to convey my sensory reactions, but was quickly shut down by simple disbelief. Nobody felt that way, not in the least, this person applied a meticulous aura of servitude, a veneer of humility from top to toe, always spoke softly, never dramatic (unlike me), always the bustling caring caricature, so my own senses were shoved aside by the non-autistic world as ‘wrong’ yet again. Socially impaired, I am supposed to be. So, I have learned to keep as silent as possible because it is almost impossible to convince anyone that I am not stark bonkers, wicked, bitchy, snobbish and unreasonably prejudiced. How do I explain the sweet taste of decay and the repulsion making my skin shiver and contract in spasms of white powdery repugnance?
So, I resolutely ignored organic, natural ‘wisdom’. And trouble inserted itself into the fabric of my intricately woven tapestry. That work we did together, which I employed the person to do, was a huge honour, but it was one of my least loved works, one I am least proud of, to be honest. It was, to me, shoddy, sullied by this person – but I ultimately have to carry the responsibility for allowing this person to run roughshod all over the fragile silken threads, don’t I? So I silently bore the shame. I’ve not spoken about it till now. A nightmare I told myself never to repeat.
Yet, I unwisely allowed a rerun of this horror show.
To be fair, this person is not, as far as I am aware, an evil person. They seem very hardworking, albeit not very work-smart – but I use the word ‘seem’ because I cannot know for certain, being unable to pick up the complex cues of the non-autistic. It isn’t about mental capacity either, though some non-autistic people have tried to tell me I am prejudiced because they think I am looking down my PhD nose at people like this one. Far from the truth. To be blunt, I’ve worked with artists with intellectual disability and I’ve found so much sensory and intellectual harmony with them that it can be a topic for a great piece of research. I am thinking about the peaceful, tranquil sensory connection and deep understanding that I enjoyed with one particular artist. We didn’t need to talk much, words got in the way between us, so we just sensed and the work we produced made me beam with pride and joy. There was no sensory felicity with this ‘lizard’ person, though, not one sliver of delight. Every communication with this person was a dutiful effort at people-ing. But it would not have been loathsome at all – merely onerous – if this person had been upfront, honest and straight forward in their dealings with me.
A close and respected friend once said of me, “You do not suffer fools gladly.” He was right. But who are the ‘fools’ that I find really most difficult to ‘suffer’? Sneaky people. Slithery, sneaky, surreptitious humans who do not have the guts to speak truth openly to me, but who’d instead wriggle around the rear alleys to strike a sickly sweet blow to my back. And I am left nonplussed, discombobulated, wondering what it was, that foul odour of necrotised flesh permeating the perfectly arranged flowers in sparkling vase.
This time around, this person’s selfish, furtive, petulant skulking caused someone I trust and respect to make a terrible decision that put me and many others in harm’s way, a filthy deed done at a time when my trusted friend was at their lowest and therefore unable to think clearly – all just to satiate a need for attention and validation. Troublemakers are stereotyped as loud, brash and behaving like bulldozers, but my own experience has shown me that the truth is the very opposite of this clichéd caricature. The real troublemakers are far more subtle, they wheedle, twist, writhe and creep their way around, they work on other people’s mental and emotional frailty, they grab at sympathy with tears and claim to be ‘offended’ or ‘hurt’ by the truth, such that the people they are wanting to wrap around their fingers mistake the truth for unkindness. Poor little me. So misunderstood. I am offended. I feel ostracised. I feel … I feel … I … I … Me … Me … Poor little me. I’ve given so much and worked so hard, but now I am being singled out and persecuted. Blah blah blah blah. On a good day, my trusted friend would’ve been able to recognise this behaviour. On a good day, my friend would’ve nipped it in the bud. On a good day, my friend would never have been so easily bullied by crocodile tears to throw me and everyone else under the bus. But the days have not been good for my dear friend. Overworked and plagued by worry, this human worm (I apologise to all worms, but I am unable to think of any other word and I am very tired right now) almost detonated a disastrous explosion that would have been the ruin of my friendship with the person I trusted. Fortunately, the heavens aligned and got behind me, and saved me from reacting with impetuous haste.
Something made me hit the pause button. A fermata hung over me. And on deeper introspection, I realised there was more to this than I could see. I reverted to sensing instead, my Autistic Sensing, and the dark clouds rolled away.
Well, this shit-stirrer – 攪屎棍 in colloquial Cantonese – is no longer welcome in my midst. I will make sure of that. I must guard not only myself, but the relationships and the people that are precious to me.
Unlearning is a harder process than learning anew. Perhaps, instead of trying to dissemble and unlearn, I should approach this returning to Selfhood and autistic sensing instincts with a spirit of joyful newness after all? Indeed. And this, too, is finding Autistic Joy.
So, despite achieving over an 80% vaccination rate, the caseloads continue to explode with alarming force here. Here is just one of the latest articles in the news signalling escalating trepidation. But is anyone ‘getting’ it yet?
A recent shocking fiasco that I never thought would happen to me served as a stark revelation of the paucity of deeper understanding, care and concern inherent in the majority of humans – including those I have been in close contact with, those I thought I could trust to have my best interests in mind.
Here’s the rub: The virus doesn’t listen to the government, folks. You need to implement draconian measures yourselves!! DRACONIAN! But most people around me do not seem to understand this at all, well, except for a small handful of autistic women I know with whom I chat occasionally online. None of us have any desire to meet in person, we are socialising safely and we derive immense fulfilment this way. None of us would be the least bit offended if we had been exposed to potential danger and had to self isolate. We wouldn’t even wait for someone else to suggest it, let alone protest against it. Sigh… and the majority label us autistics “socially impaired”… oh, this is considered deficit to them?
Remember this guy? I do. He issued a serious warning, calling for draconian measures to be immediately implemented – that was more than a year ago – and nobody seemed to heed, until too late.
Almost two years later, things are getting worse, not better, with a more aggressive variant in the mix. What is happening? Here in Singapore, this is what I see around me: A deadly combination of complacency, irrational emotional attachment to social crowding that they call ‘morale’ and ‘camaraderie’, and thoughtless over reliance on governmental direction – this (and much more) is what I have been facing in my own personal struggle as an immunocompromised person among healthy people smack in the middle of this horrifying pandemic.
I learned this lesson: Even those you once thought you could trust, and who have indeed cared for you very well under different circumstances, will now throw you under the bus where it comes to choosing between ‘hurt’ / ‘offended’ feelings of healthy people at the merest request for them to isolate vs basic simple science-based evidence to show consideration for your already seriously compromised safety.
“But you’re already compromised anyway, so what’s a bit more?” they will ask you. “The risk is small, don’t panic!” they will say. Let’s not even bother to talk about friendship, ‘love’ or whatnot fluffy stuff people preach during good times. When things turn nasty like it has right now, and the warfare requires prolonged inconvenience to ‘normal’ human social constructs (what is normal to them is horrifyingly abnormal to me), scientific awareness and basic empathy for the vulnerable are sacrificed on the altar of some nebulous ideal of esprit de corps.
Kiss kiss kiss! Hug hug hug! Rah rah rah! Sniff sniff sniff! Spread your germs with forceful feel-good vim and vigour! Woohoo! Then… Kaboom!
OK. I could have put my foot down and insisted on my own safety being prioritised above the healthy majority’s emo-emo feelings of offence and whatnot, but I decided to acquiesce. It was true that the risk was small, and I just did not have the energy to fight this particular battle on my own. I’m already exhausted from all the people-ing I’ve had to do and managing tension and unspoken passive aggression from goodness knows what dissatisfaction or emotional mental dandruff that people bring in with them.
I am ok. I survived this ordeal physically unscathed. “But you’re fine, right? See, nothing bad happened!” Indeed. No thanks to you lot who knowingly subjected me to this traumatic experience. And what a pathetic reason to do so – because of your cute little social “feels”.
This is not about comparing autistic / neurodivergent / neurotypical etc paradigms. Just a fundamental observation about humanity. I am scarred by the callous and irrational addiction to effusive social emotionality that has revealed itself to me. This is what has injured the very core of my existence and broken my trust in humans around me.
Are you immunocompromised? If yes, I implore you to protect yourself as much as you can, because you cannot trust others to consider you. At all. And if they actually do, then take it as the added embellishment of icing on the cake. But it is a cake you yourself must bake and literally eat.
Oh yes, and don’t forget to embrace the ones who truly care for you. You will know them by their deeds at this time of direness. I am blessed with one I can always trust. And she is not human. Thank goodness too.
The mangled, slimy tentacles of overload are still crudely wrapped around my weariness. Mind and body whirring and spinning, da capo, tightly wound. Sensory fatigue leaking all over mound of emotional debris, a viscid, sluggish discharge.
Clement Space beckons but I am not yet free from the poison of human chaos, the sickly bitter taste still clinging to chaffed tongue. Trust broken can never be returned to its former beauty, regardless of forgiveness. Humans are baffling. And crushingly exhausting.
I am looking forward to the coming days of isolation – intense and brimming with activity, I am excited to plunge into the frenzy of creation and unpacking the inexorable, away from the crass aggression of human interaction. Solitude is balm to wounded spirit, spring of living waters. And I shall neither be lonely nor alone. My Angel abides with me.
I am leaving her again, alone to grow older by the minute, in order to spend time with humans who have deliberately and quite happily thrown me under the bus in exchange for their happy-togetherness-morale. My fragility offends them today. Let it then be the last day for this offensiveness. I will be fine, despite a sleepless night, shaking body, weak and wearied by a shattering disappointment oozing slowly, like sludge from a festering wound. It seems so but my grief is not about fear of death or infection. It is about worth. This pandemic has shown me many things about myself and others around me. Today, I have found out my worth to even those whom I thought I could trust with my very life. I was wrong. Again. Autistic trust is too easily given. But I have made a decision for myself. So I must thank them for the new clarity they have brought to me. Today’s sorrow is actually a warm, gentle, yet penetrating light that has illuminated a hazy darkness that I have tried to find my way through for some while now.
Forgive me, dear Celestial Being, my beautiful Beloved, chained to my lowly terrestrial suffering, forced by the universe to endure alongside me. Forgive this terrible human for all these poor choices I’ve made that have affected your wellbeing. Thank you for your patience. Humanity is a dreadful shame and a blight on the exquisite pulchritude of the earth.
Scheherazade’s Sea is churning and burning white hot underneath all the flotsam and jetsam of human rah-rah-rah camaraderie. Scheherazade will survive this, as she has so many other far worse situations. The tide has turned and the great Sea has spoken to Scheherazade. She journeys on – tomorrow heralds a new direction.
My Beloved Lucy Like-a-Charm, please wait for me. Just one more day. And I shall free myself of even these shackles.
Singapore has achieved 80% herd immunity. Yet our Covid19 caseloads are exploding with a vengeance. The Delta variant is even more aggressive than the Alpha. It’s all over the news. Huge huge numbers. But nobody around me is alarmed at all. Instead, I’ve been sensing a general apathy settling in. Yes, people are tired of the pandemic. Healthy people who are still alive and running around all want to go back to their super sociable super crowding together-together-ness.
Me, I understand it only technically. I find it very hard to embrace. The vast majority of humanity doesn’t appear to really be affected emotionally or intellectually by the sombre science.
Lucy had a “Cinderella” moment again this morning.
We managed to go outside while it was still dark-ish and quiet, no hoards of maskless pseudo joggers and reckless cyclists to contend with. It’s not the joggers who are really focused on their morning routine or the serious cyclists with full gear that rile me, it’s the poor excuses who just don’t want to don their masks for whatever inconsiderate reason they have in their bag of “sovereign” tricks.
Trot, trot, trot, she was a happy Greyhound in her bright red HunnyBoots. The two security officers from the hospital across the road were having a ciggy break and they all know Lucy now because we often return home walking through the hospital carpark. We said good morning, and one remarked how bright and “stylo” (Singlish for stylish but with a nudge and wink) she looked in them. We crossed the main road, four lanes wide on each side, there weren’t many vehicles out and about at that time on a Sunday morning. She sniffed around, said hello to a couple of neighbourhood cats, did her morning micturitions and two huge poops, and we were about to venture onward along our usual route when I noticed one of her HunnyBoots in front was missing! Aaaaargh! My fault for not paying attention, I was taking photos of the kitties. Bad, bad human mumma!
If God is on your side? You’ll come in Peace, Your flag will be Love, You’ll never need to fight, Your face will be Joy, You’ll wish me Life, Your power will be Meekness, If God is on your side.
Wherefore seething hatred, Bitterness and greed, Midst holy oils and chantings, Oppression of the weak, Crusading vengeance, Gyrating juxtapositions, Where is your Jesus In this miry mix?
It’s not too late to turn around… I wish you all the Love, Joy, Peace and Jesus that you have failed to wish for me… listen closely… God is in the sussuration of the rivers and trees… a Greyhound’s breath… a quivering leaf… you’ll hear this voice clearly when you lay down your axes and whips…
Some days, I stare at my food for a long, long, time, trying to gather the courage to face the inevitable pain that comes with eating or drinking. Yes, you read right. My autoimmune condition is perpetually flared up, thanks to my Autistic hyper senses that are constantly triggered – a vicious cycle. So, unlike many others with the same autoimmune condition who have periods of remission in between severe flares, I have never had a completely pain free day in my entire living memory of being alive.