I have just spent two full days in a hothouse setting trying to learn a skill that I feel quite hopelessly incapable of mastering because some key elements require a high level of social agility which my autistic embodiment just cannot muster, try as I might. Sitting in my chair and trying to look engaged with the subject matter while weaving in and out of lucidity was about all I could achieve. My brain felt broken while my body was hollering unhappy slogans. It’s the kind of scenario where people who don’t know me well would look at me, incredulous, and say, “But you have a PhD, how can you not understand such simple concepts?” Um… well… You see, it’s not the concepts that I don’t grasp, it’s the ‘knowing-feeling’ that I cannot execute or bring to life these fundamentals that cause my brain to short-circuit, and thus my Being rejects the entirety while in the process of imploding. Continue reading
Here it is again, that photo of my Thai set meal.
My first production meeting with a new friend who’s kindly consented to be my crafting/making assistant for an upcoming project. We had brunch at the Siamese Cat Thai cafe near my home.
This cafe has had quite a number of complaints about their unenthusiastic service, and I can understand why. We arrived at 10am, when the cafe is supposed to be open for service, but nobody bothered with us, until half an hour later. Never mind, we’re resourceful creatures, we found ourselves a suitable table, and we launched into our excited discussion straight away. Continue reading
I shall be chatting with Paul Micallef on 18 October about Autism-Friendly Learning Environment, how to encourage learning from within the autistic paradigm, rather than by correction and coercion to comply with neuronormative channels.
Here’s the preview video to my session:
Autism Explained Online Summit is a week-long online summit featuring autistic and non-autistic professionals in the field, providing insights and advice to parents on different themes. The line-up of speakers includes Temple Grandin, Peter Vermeulen, Yenn Purkis, Daniel Giles, Andrew Whitehouse, Shadia Hancock, Wenn Lawson, Tom Tutton, Chris Varney, Emma Goodall, Jac den Houting, Chris Bonnello and many more presenting eclectic viewpoints, all in the same space!
Don’t forget to register for free access!
How does this Autistic Bunny deal with autistic burnout from too much to-ing and fro-ing in the Grand Autism Circus?
I cut, tear, rip, shake, turn, flip, shred and poke many many holes. Sounds violent? Actually the opposite. These are necessary actions in the process of making clemency.
Recycling and repurposing is an activity that has followed me since childhood – both my parents were creatives in their own fields, with fascinating hobbies. I owe a lot of my own artistic approaches to my parents.
This one took me a day. Its still amazing to me, even though I’ve been at it for five decades already, that an old pair of jeans, some old scraps of fabric, trimmings, buttons, yarn and silk flowers can give me so much comfort and joy. The best part of it all? I have Lucy by my side. I don’t want or need a circus. I have Clement Space and a Canine Angel.
Deliciate: to delight oneself; to indulge (in feasting or other revels)
Old words fascinate me. And this one is a timely balm to a fractured, frayed and frazzled soul. (Yes, I also love alliteration. Part of my sensory ‘stimming’ – calming, even if just for the rhythmic enunciative physical qualities.)
This is one old word that I’m longing to luxuriate in.
Sometimes, the cosmos interferes vigorously, even sharply, for my own good, especially when I have been self-destructively obtuse, obstinate and obscurant – inwardly – denying what ought to be glaringly obvious, covering my ears to the roaring whispers of ratiocination. A knock on the head was needed to wake me from my self-induced somnambulism. This thunder-clap on my thick skull came from a remark made by an autistic man, expressing an utterly selfish viewpoint with foot-stomping petulance and digging in of the heels with so much defensiveness that it was almost bizarre. The age-old “What’s in it for me?” agenda reared its ugly head. I was shocked and disappointed at first, but I realise now that, inside a deeper consciousness, I already and always knew this side of him. I had merely been blinded by my very own enthusiastic hope that the person would change, daring to even think that I could make a difference in this person’s attitude and learning journey within such a short span of time as three years. Continue reading
Syncopating synchronicity. A homecoming. Returning to grace. Active, inspiriting, body-mind-soul connecting with intrinsic approbation.
Yesterday was the first of five days of rigorous physical andragogy. No, I am not training for a Iron Man, but it did feel like it to my old body, floppy with misuse and pushed beyond the limits, running helter skelter for purposes not directly beneficial to me.
I am one of a group of artists in the SYNC Leadership Programme, brought to Singapore by the British Council, Singapore International Foundation, Very Special Arts and collaborating supporters.
When an eclectic collection of highly-charged, dynamic and tenacious artists with disabilities cram into a small room together, a different kind of ‘normal’ is constructed. Our artistry is varied, each vastly dissimilar from the other, as are our personalities, backgrounds, styles and art forms. Yet, we are connected by the intoxicating electric charge of Artistry and all this encompasses in its multifaceted expressions.
The gruelling demands on my body were partially mitigated by the gastronomic infusions – plentiful, yet not so overwhelmingly lavish that my sensory brain is driven into a state of confused shock. Simple, straight forward and manageable abundance.
And I cannot describe with words right now how exquisitely, incorruptibly peaceful – yet almost Lucullan in its graceful gestures – this is to my soul. I am looking forward eagerly, despite the physical punishment, to the next few days. Scheherazade is rising yet again.
Sensory photos from Day 1.
Autistic ‘Masking’ is now at last being studied in earnest, and I am especially interested in the context of Autistic Women / female presenting Autistics. As far back as I can remember existing, I recall the consciousness of being different, an almost painful palpable awareness of the need to observe, learn, be vigilant and ‘on point’ in order to navigate the horrifying confusion of the ‘outer world’.
Growing up undiagnosed had its pros and cons. Whichever way it panned out, I am here today, and I am at last comfortable in my Beingness.
It’s funny how people’s perceptions of one can be so very different of one’s own – and for me, it is all about my Autistic Masking, my theatrical presentation of Self to Other, and the lack of empathic resonance of Other to Self. Empathy impairment does not belong solely to the autistic, though for too long this has been the dominant subjugating myth.
Some old friends refuse to believe I am Autistic. Even new friends, including a prominent brain scientist (not a neurosurgeon but a scientist studying the brain). Just because I do not present like Temple Grandin. That has me rolling in laughter, because their response is a reflection of how little they know me and how little they know autistic people and Autism (in the case of the brain scientist and other ‘experts’).
For other friends who did somehow grasp the edgy essence of my embodiment, my revelation of the diagnosis did come as a welcome ‘Aha!’ moment.
The Autistic Female who presents with any measure of self-confidence is not far different from any other woman who comes across as unwilling to wear the societal stigma of shame. The difference is that autistic females presenting this way are ironically much more vulnerable to becoming prey to sociopathic persons in multidimensional social realms – from familial relationships to friendships and beyond. Because evil always manages to sniff out innocence.
I call it “Performing the Unnatural as Naturally as Possible.” The dark side knows this performativity and they will do all they can to capture and own such naive brilliance.
Well, recent conversations with some old and new friends in separate situations have unearthed an interesting dichotomous juxtaposition.
This is the external perception of who I was before, in my younger days, and for new friends, this is what they perceive or imagine that I used to be too, as embodied in Ta Ta Young’s “Sexy Naughty Bitchy”. Perhaps it was the self-confidence on the surface? The flamboyant dressing? The theatrical persona? The meticulously studied and finely honed performance skills?
It could be flattering, I guess, but my Autistic brain does not compute the compliment at all. I am merely fascinated by the social experimental element and the exercise in observation, and the almost clinical surreality of it all.
However, the following was and is more my reality. It was all about Survival. Everything outside my Autistic Clement Space of Being has been and remains survival. Surviving social abuse, surviving colonisation of mind, soul, body, surviving as intact as possible, remaining as true to Self as one can, in the face of overpowering odds.
Two versions of the same me, from different vantage points, both sharply accurate and both utterly rebellious in its blend of quiet containment and unfiltered disobedience.
Today, I don’t need nor wish to mask anymore. But the years have already made an expert improvisator out of me. My ‘mask’ is already part of who I am. Yet, unlike some others, I feel no animosity towards this part of me, no self-loathing despite the tumultuous Artaudian-Wagnerian journey. I embrace it as yet another facet of a rich existence, the entire embodiment of my eclectic Tapestry of Self that continues along its inexorable unfolding inside Scheherazade’s Sea.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.