prepotence

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Propped up by a broom.

A huge ‘hidden’ but acute disability of mine is something that many autistics share: executive dysfunction. Teetering at the edge of a cliff, there is that sensation of falling, and yet one is still on firm ground – if just only by a hare’s breath. The feeling of executive dysfunction, of running out of what they call ‘spoons’, being at the very thin and slippery border, that unstable, fine line between (a veneer of) absolute control and complete breakdown, is a queasy, heart-rupturing silent scream. Sometimes, the tasks can be the most rudimentary, things that people just do, as naturally as any spontaneous activity like brushing their teeth or picking their nose. For example, answering multiple WhatsApp messages one after another upon emerging from a three hour meeting, without mixing up the who, how, where, when details of doing and saying. Then again, most people do not have to do all this while trying to quell gurgling, seething, frothing nausea, sometimes even excruciating migraine headaches and sharp stabbing pain in the eyes and inner ear, all from sensory overload. For the autistic person with executive function challenges, dealing with ‘simple’ chores can often turn into a battle with large roaring monsters, and staying on top of things becomes a colossal full-body, underwater wrestling match with an invisible Leviathan. For me, this is especially overpowering if ‘things’ involve many different human beings who are interacting in ways that seem to my brain to be alien, diverse, fragmented and scattered. The more human interaction is in the pot, the more cruelly exacting the grand performance becomes. Making mistakes is an inevitable and frightening feature in this unmerry-go-round. The ringing of the phone or the pinging of message notifications have become Pavlov bells of agitation and vexation for me. I have a horrible white-hot searing fear of sending messages to the wrong people, or not remembering certain details when people ask questions outside the ‘compartments’ in my mind that I’ve created for them. A person messaging me directly, taking a conversation outside a group chat but asking me questions that (in my mind) belongs to the group chat, can quickly send my brainwaves into wriggling, jiggling, wildly gyrating spams. I panic – why I do not know because it is not logical to panic – and of course I end up replying with either some garbled nonsense, or wrong information, simply because my mind has short circuited.

Even the most ‘expert’ of non-autistic ‘experts in autism’ fail to notice the subtle nuances of executive dysfunction and mental-sensorial overload as it happens in real time. In fact, I have yet to meet a non-autistic ‘expert in autism’ who can actually ‘expertly’ communicate with the autistic me. It is usually I who have to make all the necessary overtures – performing the unnatural as naturally as possible – in order to get any meaningful communication across. And autistics are supposed to be the ones ‘impaired’ in social interaction and reciprocal empathy?

This is how my autistic executive dysfunction plays out. On the surface, nothing is noticed. Not yet. There I am, deep underwater in the miry depths, engaging in mortal combat with that Brobdingnagian of Executive Dysfunction, but people sauntering by throw nary a glance at the pond, and nobody sees the tiny desperate bubbles bursting silently as they make contact with the aerosphere. All is cleverly concealed, until my spent and bloated corpse makes its way upwards, causing a huge blister on the placid surface. Then comes the shock and even derision. The accusations too.

People can be ‘aware’ that autism means a difference in neurological function. People can even be ‘aware’ of the terms “sensory overload” or “executive dysfunction” etc. But people have little or no idea how to identify the actual unpacking of all their ‘awareness’ in real time, especially if the autistic person is labelled by the non-autistic world as “high functioning” (not rocket science to figure out why I detest functioning labels, is it?). All this Autism Awareness with its fanciful labels is therefore as useful to me – an actual autistic person – as Blahblahblahdittydoodada. And this, while mildly comical, is not at all funny.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I am autistic. I love what I love with intense, all-consuming passion. And I am great at doing what I am great at doing – even rather brilliant. But I find the simple activity of keeping track of WhatsApp messages so difficult that I have developed a phobia for the sound of a message notification.

Prepotence in uncomfortable co-existence with decrepitude.

snapshots of grace

 

(Above: Rhapsody in Orange – photos of Salmon roe, Salmon, and common wholemeal bread squares.)

Unabashedly photographing food – almost everything I imbibe – as if on a mission. Unlike most, though, my food is seldom fanciful or posh, my captures are not from expensive restaurants or showy, but merely simple snapshots of quite ordinary and mundane fare. For me, each one carries an association – sometimes sensory memories of textures, smells and colourful tastes, other times brief mini narratives of sorts. Sometimes I am captivated by its arrangement, its visual composition framed within the plate or bowl, and the larger assemblage on the table of many miniature narratives.

 

(Above: Visual captures of Lunar New Year fare, snippets of tastes, smells and accompanying sounds – mostly very loud sounds – of festivity and celebration. Individual photos have descriptions.)

When I began this blog, I started out with a simple mission: to document the great food challenge of ‘How to eat on a scholar’s miserable budget”. Musings were deliberately kept light, sometimes whimsical and other times pondering the deeper things via the cogent agency of ‘food-ing’.

 

(Above: Photos of BunnyHopscotch style food-ing.)

My photographs of food are always intimate and personal – to me – and they speak of suspended moments in time and space, taking deep breaths of appreciation, gratitude at each savouring, and wonderment that I possess such intricate senses – all reflections of and conversations taking place in a kind of Clement Space that I inhabit together with the life-giving morsels du jour.

 

(Above: Eating out with family has a different kind of melodic & harmonic structure.)

 

I like the act of documentation, and my senses are natural archives being fed on a constant basis. And most important to me, on a deeper level, food-ing has been and continues to be an agency for gratitude, and the learning to embrace grace.

clement riffs

 

It is 6.40am as I start typing this. The churning, heaving, hurling and caterwauling, the uneasy prancing around Neuronormative plastic tulips, swimming against the tidal cacophony of insidious agenda and spiteful fear mongering, all while valiantly maintaining expert façade of sangfroid-with-edge. What a week it has been!

The highlight ‘achievements’ of the last seven days?

Rid myself of the Millstone of Inefficiency in a project I am working on – nothing personal, I am not here to make friends, I am here to work and I find it hard to tolerate hindrance.

Emerged from the miry bog Swimming with the Hogs, made a firm decision to take control and issued forth my Ultimate Ultimatum – it’s my terms or nothing at all, I’ve allowed them to snuffle in the mud for too long, time to move ahead or leave.

Not melting down while dealing with Belligerent Entities must of course count as the highest accomplishment of the week. Very proud of this Autistic Bunny. (But of course, I had help from my Canine Angel.)

Now, for some clear lines, like fluid aromatic ink on smooth silk, here’s Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin with a song I love (I learned to play the Autumn Leaves by ear as a wee lass of seven and it is still one of my favourites). Sitting with my Beloved, watching the light slowly seep into the dark sky as a new day asserts itself upon our consciousness.

I am so glad I took the good advice of my Fine Arts Professor (who has now become a well loved friend) during my undergraduate days and chose music as my major. Now that I have made the transition into art, music is still a Clement Space that I return to for sustenance and strength.

A Clement Sunday to Every Bunny!

reflets dans l’eau

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stille nacht

2018 was unexpectedly obstreperous and brutal. A vast, swirling, seething, somewhat inebriated ominous monstrosity ingurgitating every attempt at hopeful rejuvenation, each ounce of vim and vigour slowly inhaled into its impenetrable mucilaginous dark cavern, leaving limp, brittle skeletal remains crackling in the sizzling heat of unrepentant tyranny, unrecognisable construal of once fierce passionate and spirited determination.

Advocacy has extracted its ponderous price. What irony, for one who never set out to be an advocate anyway. It is too arduous and violent for gossamer wings, too loud for tender ears, too rough for quivering fingertips.

Yet, where there is life, there remains slithers of flickering hope. And my life is not yet over, albeit saved time and time again by a Canine Angel whose existence beside me surpasses all reason, all logical apologia.

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whispering hope

My minuscule whisper to the grand cosmic gyration for 2019? Time to reflect, rest, and retreat gracefully into Clement Space: art-making, embracing pulchritude, tasting each nuanced fluttering of time moving rhythmically through wordless interstices.

only an expert

The Autism Grand Circus Industry has grown out of proportion. Tiresome and tiring, depending on where one happens to be standing. Everyone claims expertise – from the Autism Mom who has written a few books based on their observation of their own child/children and now goes around giving talks and dishing out sage advice about autism, to the learned non-autistic professional with many degrees in Autism, everyone is an expert dealing with the Autism Problem. Everyone, that is, except the Actual Autistic person. Autistic people are mysteriously ignored and sidelined in the Autism industry. A phenomenon so strange that it is almost eerie.

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Can magic mushrooms cure autism?

Talking about bone-chilling, I recently found this in a webpage of a business specialising in “treating” autism. The alarm bells rang loudly when I saw “Chelation” and “CD Water”. Then I did some research on the various “Dr” people named in this letter, and found them all to be promoting expensive dubious ministrations aimed at “shedding”, “recovering” and “overcoming”. Some of these involve injecting the autistic child with unregulated substances, others focus on dietary interventions, all couched in complex-sounding pseudoscientific terminology. Is your blood curdling yet?

ARN screenshot

An autistic friend of mine has been valiantly trying to educate parents about snake oil sales pitches, dodgy programmes and harmful approaches to fixing the autism problem. Very brave person indeed, because he was variously derided and chided, treated like a foolish child, instead of someone worthy of respect. I often wonder, do these same parents even have the mindfulness to ponder this: If you treat autistic adults this way now, what kind of world are you preparing for your autistic child to grow up into? Is this how you’d want others to treat your autistic child when they become autistic adults? Or are you gambling all you’ve got on the great “cure” casino floor, thinking it’s going to be fine, your child will be rid of autism by the time they become adults, and hence they will not have to face this kind of demeaning and crushing ableism?

I honestly find it difficult to fathom what goes on in these parents’ minds – there, I admit it, I lack Neuronormative Theory of Mind! It is excruciatingly difficult to be thusly illogical and unthinking. Yet, I am told I should empathise a little more, “slow down” and allow others to catch up. My doctor says it’s good for my heart – you know, that strange squishy squashy rhythmically driven organ responsible for pushing blood around the body? Yes, that one.

Perhaps 2019 will be a year of “slowing down”, but in a different way: that is, finding Clement Space inside gentle things, wondrous connections and conversations with the material universe. I love my autistic world, it is a pulchritudinous eco-system, but the crass, grating vibrations of the normative realm is at odds with autistic tranquility. Too many experts. So little space for Beauty.

reciprocate

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I dance because I cannot walk…

Should a disabled person have to apologise for not performing according to ableist constructs?

Should a wheelchair user apologise for not zipping up steps and not running marathons?

Should a deaf person apologise for using sign language instead of the spoken vernacular?

Should a blind person apologise for feeling, touching, smelling and listening to the world instead of seeing the way the sighted do?

Why, then, should an Autistic person apologise for not performing to normative social standards?

Who writes the librettos? Who pens the symphonic blue prints?

Look me in the eye!

Don’t stare at me for goodness’ sake!

Sing when you’re told to sing.

Stop singing when you’re told not to sing.

Do not flap, you look silly!

You need to learn to self regulate!

You’re crying for nothing again.

Can’t you see I’m hurting, how insensitive can you be?

All the world’s a stage… but who directing the Grand Theatre?

describing torment

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clement juxtapositions

Dogs are amazing creatures. Their ability to adjust, accommodate and survive never ceases to intrigue me. Too often, despite trauma and abuse, dogs nevertheless seem able to rise to pulchritudinous grace, something which I long to be able to learn and adapt to my own fragile humanity.

Here is something I wrote this day three years ago, describing in words – though most inadequate – what sensory overload is like in the midst of trying to live and survive inside normative-dictated frameworks and prescriptions. There is sadly very little ‘clement space’ for the autistic entity inside this overwhelming overstimulating normative world – well, almost none at all.


 

13 November 2015 at 18:38 Continue reading

Autistic Thriving @TEDx Pickering

 

“Autistic Thriving” – Dawn-joy Leong & Lucy Like-a-Charm. (Captions available on Youtube – please turn on cc option.)

Apologies for not posting this earlier.

“Just what you being made ‘aware’ of? And where are the Actually Autistic voices in this grand cacophony of opinions and interpretations?”

ingannation

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ingannation
(IN-gah-NAY-shun)
Noun:
-A cheat, trick or clever deception.
-The act of making someone believe something that is not true.
-The act of deceiving someone.
-The fact or condition of being deceived.
-Something that deceives.
-An act or statement intended to make people believe a falsehood.

Archaic – origin unknown.


 

I promised my good friend Rick that I’d make good use of this word. So, here is my take on the old, obsolete word, now démodé.

I’ve been thinking about lies and deception today. What is the most prominent, most soul crushing feature of my recent journey that focuses so much on advocacy? Ingannation. Continue reading

special

THIS VIDEO! Yes! I couldn’t have said it better.

I cringe at the term “special needs”. It has never settled comfortably in my mindscape. Whenever the normative world employs this term, it has always felt like a tiny slap in the face, imperceptible to the “not special” people who view themselves as “more special because not disabled”. Calling us “special” in that way gives the normative a kind of authority, a Colonial power, over the “special people with special needs”.

At the age of 53, with a PhD that won the very highest award given to only one top candidate a year, I am still met with saccharine condescension whenever I reveal the already widely known fact that I am autistic. Continue reading