pancakes & jelly beans

 

I don’t know why my brain produced that title. There are no pancakes or jelly beans in any of my photographic offerings here today. The words were just echoing inside, wriggling and jiggling among the other bits and bobs, and so I decided I’d let them out to dance around. Perhaps something to do with switching modes from the ‘seriousness’ of advocacy etc to the now ‘lighthearted’ topic of food and friendships?

Food is an integral part of fellowship for humans, methinks. I miss our weekend noshment adventures with friend Rick, mostly in Paddo, though he did travel to Kensington for the dire period when Lucy and I were trapped in that not so suitable environment. And of course, when we were forced to move to awful Rose Bay, Rick valiantly came to our mental rescue. Thanking the cosmos for really great friendships, without them I’d not have preserved even this little semblance of my ability to function! Continue reading

aggression oppression

 

20190401

I am an artist, musician and a researcher. I am not an ‘Avenger’ or any comic book hero. I am no sword-wielding warrior. I am merely a reluctant Advocate – I dream of a world wherein there is no more need for disability advocacy because disability will just be accepted and embraced as part of natural human diversity – but I know advocacy is crucial in the here and now, else we the disabled will never have equity and autonomy. Without advocacy, I would not be able to practice my art, music and research, because of my known disability. Continue reading

yellow!

Children's-Biennale-PosterInvitation-to-Children's-Biennale

The Dress Code for the event says to wear Yellow. I like dress codes. I like codes. I like structures and frames. They do not limit creativity, but rather create important space within which to be creative. These parts of social interactivity do not bother me, in fact, these are the ‘railings’ that help me to craft my spontaneity. Yes, you read that right. Improvisatory music is not something that is spewed forth willy nilly by ‘talent’ alone, it consists of years and years of finely honed, well practised and internalised riffs, sequences and phrases. The beauty of improvisation is the ‘how’, the ‘style’, the way the musicians brings forth these snippets of minutiae to form the whole, which is what the listener hears. Performance and performing are part and parcel of the joy of engaging in one’s Passion, interacting with it, and expressing it to others.

Anxiety is a different thing altogether. This, and other pressing matters, kept me in a state of restlessness all night and early morning. Well, actually, Anxiety has been pretty rapacious lately, devouring mind and body. I lay in bed, engulfed within an all too familiar nauseating sensation of slurping and sloshing viscera inside fragile cavities, with Lucy’s warm, pulsating presence my only comfort and solace.

Lucy is unwell, and I will not be taking her with me to the event today, even though this place (the National Gallery) is truly one of the most progressive inclusive public spaces in Singapore. Her bright yellow mindDog vest would’ve been just right for the theme.

IMG_0260-lucy@playeum

Lucy @ I-Opener, Playeum

My brain found this composition at around 4am (ish), and I laid it all out later in the morning after breakfast. Doing this helps resolve the tension in my mind, which occurs when I have a complete concept ready to be executed but have not yet arrived at the time and place for doing so.

100T9812-yellow-spectacles

New yellow frames

100T9815-yellow-top

A very old top from ‘Shanghai Tang’

100T9819-lucy-&-pinkskirt

Fuchsia skirt with yellow lining

100T9816-limegreen-handbag

Lime Green handbag

OK, so the lime green handbag – a gift from my baby sister – isn’t yellow, but I think it’ll provide some gradation of sensation and I love the fun, cheeky sequinned motif on the front. I shall wear my gold embossed Ferragamo ‘Audrey’ shoes with this ensemble.

Gold Audrey

Shoes are of grave importance to me, I have had many a battle, some quite fierce, with footwear since an early age. It hurts to wear these things, but they are a necessary evil, to protect against other even more nasty evils that lie in wait to ensnare, cut and graze my sensitive feet as soon as I step out of the safe confines of home. I love the feel of soft fresh grass underfoot, and I still remember the delicious sensation of running around barefoot in the garden of my childhood home, but I live in an apartment now, and I don’t trust grass that isn’t ‘mine’.

Much ado about nothing, you might think? Perhaps, to the normative world, it may seem so, but this ‘nothing’ is actually filled with so much minutiae, detailed connections, intricate complex constructions, rhythms, patterns, and systems, that it really does demand much to do and feel and think about – if you notice it all, that is. This is my ‘normality’ – an integral part of this particular Autistic Female’s quotidian ‘mundanity’, which is anything but humdrum, to be sure. The price Autistics pay each day of our existence is a high one – sensory anxiety is just one small facet, there are myriad other eclectic existential quirks that possess both enthralling beauty and powerful terror at the same time – but I would not exchange this for a life cushioned inside a bland, insipid and pedestrian existence.

I am quite exhausted from the whole exercise, so I shall have to rest a bit before launching into the Grand Mêlée later in the afternoon. Actually, I’m really looking forward to it, despite the gripping anxiety and energies spent on planning and creating order from the chaos it (anxiety) has created. I only feel unsettled at having to leave Lucy at home, because she is unwell and I cannot be there to watch over her. It’s a small thing, mild runny tummy, a bit of reaction after Thursday’s cartrofen injection at the vet’s for her arthritis, and I know she’ll be more comfortable at home, and mum will be there, so Lucy will not be alone. I refuse to work Lucy when she is not feeling top notch, even the slightest thing matters to me – yes, a disabled person with a poorly cared for assistance dog has called me “dogmatic” but I don’t mind that label, because it means I care deeply and passionately.

IMG_0423-lucy-zz

Rest well, my Princess.

concatenate

A massively overloading day. I made it through the first part because of Lucy. We attended the second Opening of I-Opener at Playeum this morning. It was heartening to see so many people at the event, and I was so glad that everyone seemed enthusiastic and supportive, and our work as a whole was very well received – but my senses were screaming with silent horror after the first half hour, and the shrieking crescendo broke the fortissimo barrier by the second hour.

When Peter, our friendly RydePet regular favourite ride came to pick us up at the end of the two hours, I was already in a near catatonic state, my headspace ringing with the imprint of dissonant cacophony. Strangely enough, I was still able to prattle away in the car with Peter and my friend Jacky, who was riding with us to the next event of the day. Was I already going into a state of disconnect?

I left Lucy at home, and Jacky and I went to attend the Peter and the Wolf show. Two of our friends, Cavan and Timothy, were in it, and Timothy’s mum so very kindly bought us tickets. But I couldn’t bring Lucy to this one. Ironic, because the venue is assistance dog friendly – Lucy has been there several times – but the show’s organiser’s “were not prepared” for us.

It was a fun show, the cast were great, and I even managed to smile for the cameraman after the show (he took a photo of Cavan, Timothy and me). But I had to scuttle away quickly after that, because my head felt as if it would explode and shatter into a million fragments.

Home at last with my Lucy, I crashed into a much needed two hour sleep, and woke up only when Lucy decided it was time for her dinner.

The headache is still doing its pounding thing, the two panadol insufficient to quell it. Time for an early dive into bed.

For people like me, some days, just making it through is a laudable achievement, something to be proud of. And today was a pleasant day. Really. I love my friends, so many came in a much appreciated show of support – in fact, I was so overloaded that I didn’t even see one of my friends, who brought her husband and son to the Opening. I didn’t know she was there at all, the sea of faces had melted into a bizarre Salvadore Dali landscape with an aggressive soundscape to accompany. Later, without Lucy, it was even harder to focus and I had to consciously and repeatedly pull myself away from the abyss of dissociation – the out of body sensation that overtakes when I am in overload. It was a day of positive social interactional vibes, but my senses just aren’t designed for this kind of activity. Especially not when I cannot have Lucy with me.

IMG_0423-lucy-zz

Good Night, Every Bunny!

Lucy is now fast asleep in bed next to me. The little fragments of my Being are slowly shifting, shuffling and scuttling back towards each other, slowly joining and melding, slowly mending, inside this Clement Space of ours – just Lucy and me. The best soundscape in the world for shattered nerves? The rhythmic rise and fall of my Angel’s breath.

Good night, Every Bunny! And thank you my dear friends for helping me get through an actually really truly lovely day.

regression aggression

Lucy20161126.jpg

Lucy inside Qantas cabin 2016 11 26

I read with dismay and disappointment that Qantas no longer allows psychiatric assistance dogs on board. What was even more distressing, was reading the comments that followed the article in the The Australian.

article

Screenshot.

Continue reading

(un)broken

broken pieces

This morning, my precious Octopus mug handle was broken by the cleaning lady. It was a gift from a dear friend, bought from a little shop in Covent Garden in London, and it’s traveled with me across many cities and different continents through its 30+ years of existence in my care. Intact. Today, I felt a part of me had fragmented together with the demise of this innocuous object. I can hear the neuronormative puffing and huffing, “Come on, it’s just a mug handle, get over it!”

Well, I am Autistic. I used to become intensely disturbed and distressed when someone so much as moved my pencils in my pencil holder. Neuronormative ‘expert’ observers of Autism label this “meaningless” or “obsessive” adherence to order, because we autistics are supposed to be craving some kind of malevolent “control” over our out-of-control environment.

The “out-of-control” part is accurate, but the “control” part is rubbish. What the normative ‘experts’ – professionals making good money out of us in the autism domain, and normative-minded parents spending a lot of money on non-autistic devised autism ‘interventions’ – do not know, and/or are not ready yet to want to know despite us autistics telling and telling them (though this is changing slowly) is that many hyper sensory Autistics like myself inhabit a realm that is far more exquisite than the noisome pestilence-filled domain called “normality”. We are connected to the vibrant matter around us in ways that normative minds may never be able to grasp, even some Autistics who’ve been so successfully brainwashed and ‘corrected’ by various behavioural mental programmes into becoming pseudo normatives, because they have sadly lost touch with this beautiful part of their embodied existence.

You see, this “just a mug handle” is part of the finely balanced, natural elemental ecology that I call my intimate abode. It’s not that kind of bizarre Svengali-like “control” that the normative minded pronounce us to have. Perhaps, because normativity can only understand this limited concept? Instead, it is a harmonious, gentle, generous, rich and grace-filled connection one small detail with another, molecule by molecule, whisper to whisper, heartbeat to heartbeat, that embraces us. If one component is out of place, or crushed by violent normative callousness, then the entire living ecology cries out in pain. Imagine, if your finger were crushed or cut off, will not the rest of your body scream and thrash? Why, then, are we Autistics punished for our intimate connections just because the normative have no such inkling of Being? (I’ve explained this in my PhD dissertation, under “elemental empathy” – please visit my official website if you want to read and learn more.)

“Get over it!” – sure, I shall, in time. But your finger… you know, that part of you?… if I break it, how soon will you “get over it”?

Executive function failure: I was unable to even insert money properly into my wallet after that incident. My heartbeat is going at a racing pace, the over-exerted organ pounding against my ribcage as if it is trying to escape. I am sitting next to Lucy, inhaling her comforting aura – which includes aroma, fragrance, physical and spiritual radiation – trying to calm down.

Today was supposed to be my rest day, I allocated time to do peaceful, restful, rejuvenating tasks that are for me, by me and help me to recover from having to comply and perform to the excruciating demands of neuronormativity in the last few weeks and months. I have to try and make the most of it now. With a part of me, and extension of my Being, violently shattered.

Wouldn’t you guard your fingers and toes if you’re working and living in an assaultive environment? That’s just what us Autistics are trying hard to do. Yet, you intervene with your behavioural therapies to force us into a catatonic state of numbness and disconnect with our most beautiful modalities. Dear Normative / Allistic people, please don’t punish us Autistics for your own lack of sensitivity and connectivity.

Who is empathy impaired now?

autistic joy

My Twitter friend Jon Adams coined the hashtag #AutisticJoy. It describes our intense passions and the sheer unadulterated joy that we find from their pursuit.

I have been thinking about, and perhaps even yearning deeply, mournfully longing for that little balcony Lucy and I had in Stewart Street, Paddington. The sunshine days when Lucy would lay on her fluffy rug, watching our little Paddo happenings go by, saying hello to friendly neighbours as they walk down the street, the coo-ing pigeons outside Old Bob’s house, and my tomato plants. I had tiny carrots, mini capsicums, sweet ginger, spring onions, basil, lemongrass, and mint – quite a feat for a complete gardening ignoramus.

How I miss that intimate pocket of pulchritude that we created together. It is an aching, sad and forlorn feeling, knowing that they will never return. Lucy grows old. Singapore is not happy for her. We need to find Autistic Joy and Clement Space once more…

prepotence

20190210_200601-broomstick

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!