ophiomorous

princess & snake, 2010 – ©Dawn-joy Leong

Ophiomorous. Lizard / snake-like.

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.

ataraxia

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.

feelings

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.

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cinderella adventure

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!

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god on our side

there is still time now to turn around

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…

food, pain & blessedness

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.

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trash stress

One glaring example of the fragile nature of autistic existence: crashing into the swirling abyss of physical sickness after a couple of hours of intense ‘masking’, politely listening to a self-declared ‘expert’ spew utter gibberish about themselves, grandiose false claims and all, and then watching another person being made into a cute little token while left alone to flounder in choppy waters, all taking place in the Grand Disabilities Circus, and being unable to do anything about it (because of that “social training” thing about knowing your political place even if it means allowing other innocent folks to be harmed).

Fever, vertigo (dizziness, nausea and vomiting), mouth and throat ulcers, arthritic swelling in every weight bearing joint in the body, neural pain and muscle inflammation, IBS fire, and terrible anxiety and depression.

At this point, I hear the familiar utterances, “Cannot be that bad?”, “You’re just imagining it!”, “You’re just prejudiced!” and “It’s really not that serious, you’re overreacting!”

Dear humans, I’m not imagining it nor overreacting. Do you really believe that I would purposely conjure up three full days and nights worth of suffering and incapacity just for the heck of it? You are the balmy one for even thinking it! Laugh or cry? There are people who do still react like this, some of them close relatives too, who’ve witnessed my suffering at trigger moments for years and years, and still say I conjured it all up by sheer willpower. How “empowered” do they really think I am? Educated folks too, mind you. I shake my head in despair at all those wasted years in school being school darlings and their long distance ‘higher education’. Sigh.

Self-care time. I cannot save the world. My ideas may be groundbreaking, but my fellow humans around me may not be ready to grasp them, or execute them properly. My fellow humans may also just take my ideas and use them to advertise their own ‘woke-ness’ in some really bad ways. So… time to leave the circuses to the circus folk – the good bad and ugly all (my hopes of course are on the good doing the good stuff bravely, I know a few), be kind to myself, spend more time on what is truly important to me, with those who are precious to me (Lucy first of course) inside Clement Space.

Oh, and I cannot resist leaving you with this favourite repeat repeat repeat autistically, from Laurie Anderson (love love love):

angels and demons

I used to have recurrent nightmares of demons pressing in on me, sitting on my chest, asphyxiating me. The white hot fear of being engulfed in that aura of foreboding and terror is still tangible upon recollection.

Another thing that used to appear repeatedly in my dreams and nightmares was my running away from something or someone so malevolent that it had no physical shape or form. Sometimes, I was able to fly away and soar towards the vast expanse of the sky, but it was always fraught, and the sensations of fear and dread all pervasive.

And here is the mystery, or maybe not really a mystery after all, depending on how one perceives such things: these recurring dreams all faded away when Lucy came into my life.

Nowadays, I merely get the normal nightmare here and there, reactions from my day and the happenings around me. No more demons, because I have an angel in my bed.

too-too

I’ve watched this video, I think, about six times now. And I will be watching it again and again until my brain is satisfied at having captured as many details as possible. Sumita is one of my very favourite autistic researcher-artists. She very kindly narrated the duckling story in my rearranged digital version of the very first Scheherazade’s Sea from 2010, Scheherazade’s Sea: stories and songs from a hidden world, 2020.

What I love about Sumita’s work is that there is so much packed into a tiny space, so much to uncover, so much to ponder, so much to tease apart and look at from different angles, it seems to me always to be new, even when I am supposedly hitting the repeat button. But I do know that the way I see, hear, think, taste, smell and embrace the world puts me in a very tiny minority, even among other autistic people. Perhaps I feel a certain kinship with Sumita, she buzzes resonantly in one part of me, an intense, sometimes dark, yet somehow joyful space that few have ever managed to activate.

Watching and listening to this video again tonight has led me to ponder a separate but in my brain related issue that I have had to grapple with all my life, something that many autistics face (though not all, of course).

Our brains can fire rapidly and there is just so much going on that we tend to spew our thoughts at super prestissimo – not giving anyone the chance to put a word in edgewise. When we do that, our thoughts and words are usually unfiltered. All this brings along censure, sometimes even excoriation, depending on the person or persons you ‘offend.’ “You speak too fast, I cannot catch up with you, you give me a headache!”

Then, other times, our brains go on slow motion mode, I am not sure why and it is hard to predict but during these times, I find it difficult to hurry my speaking muscles along and my usually rapid-fire brain feels like it is moving in a lake of mud. There is a goopy kind of feeling, I can almost hear it go squelch with each slow step. This heralds a different kind of disapproval, and I am castigated again, for just being Me. “You speak too slowly, you’re boring, hurry and say whatever it is you want to say, for goodness’ sake!”

Too fast. Too slow. Too this. Too that. Too Too Everything. Protocol, politics, and all the incarnations of tics and ticks you can conjure. It’s all too much .

Extreme States of Being vs Extreme Human Farce.

It is exhausting, really, having to accommodate all and sundry, at such horrifying cost to intrinsic, organic Beingness, when all you want is to Be, and do it in peace and tranquility. You know you’re in the minority of minorities when this happens. It’s a Circus. Humans are the ultimate Circus-makers. Humans exhaust me – autistic, non-autistic, disabled, non-disabled – all humans, including myself. What merry-go-rounds we make, all the bitching, twitching, hitching, snitching, itching – why are we not tired of ourselves as a species? I am amazed and appalled at the same time.

How is it that humans are upset when being compared with animals? For goodness sake. Lucy is a far superior being than I could ever be. So, don’t insult the dogs or pigs or rats or whatever by using them as disparaging remarks or comparisons against your fellow humans. “You’re such a HUMAN!” Would be the ultimate, sad put-down… because… it would be true. And truth hurts, but hey Truth also sets free. It’s a package deal. And I prefer to be set free, even if it hurts.

So…

Bleugh! Scribbly, squidgy, goopy smattering, splintering bloob bloob bloobingness to youz! Go, meoweez, we shall sally forth with spatula and wheelbarrow! Wave that grubby smelly flag then, I’m bouncing in the opposite direction anyway. I don’t give a human’s pimple anymore.

Beep, beep!

happy feet

Greyhounds tend to be extremely sensitive about their paws. When she was eight years old, I began to notice that she started to walk just a wee bit differently: her rhythm and flow, the way she placed her paws, the sway of her majestic Greyhound butt (rump and upper thigh) and even her breathing etc. Her vet in Sydney did Xrays and told me that the wear and tear was pretty harsh for a dog of her age, attributed to her having been a racing dog when she was younger. Overworked, was the word the vet used. Humans are appalling, they should gamble on each other instead of the poor dogs.

Coincidentally, I too am very sensitive about my feet. They are not beautiful feet at all, in fact, the way I see it, somewhat unusually formed, and I’ve been enduring considerable sensory pain in my feet for as long as I can remember. As a result, I developed a persistent focus on footwear, collecting as many as 200 pairs of shoes at one stage of my life. (No, I don’t have that many anymore, I’m trying to travel light!)

Well, both Lucy and I have sensitive ‘feet’ and we much prefer the bare-foot / bare-paw way of life, but living in the city means we must dutifully put on our shoes each time we venture outside into the concrete landscape. The lush greenery and large old trees around our neighbourhood have all been mercilessly cut down and hacked away, replaced by a humongous wide road, and construction sites. Pathways exposed to the full forceful glare of the tropical sun become uncomfortably warm or even hot by 9am, and by noon, our bare feet or paws will begin to burn if we spent more then 5 minutes walking around unshod. Then there’s the debris to look out for too, we don’t want nasty things to become embedded in our paws, do we?

To make matters even worse, Lucy developed corns around this time in 2018. Corns are a scourge to many Greyhounds, and I was hoping that she would escape this, but unfortunately it was not to be. Since then, I’ve been trying all kinds of ways to alleviate the discomfort, because corns keep growing back after they are hulled, and walking becomes uncomfortable or even painful.

The combination of corns, lack of grass and hot concrete pathways meant that Lucy needed shoes! And what a struggle it was to find shoes that would fit Lucy nicely, that she would deign to endure. I tried the whole range of doggy footwear, from the super expensive to the cheap ones. We tried Neopaws, which I liked because they extend further up like high-tops, but the first order never arrived and I had to make another order, which cost me a pretty sum, only to find out that Lucy hated them. Then I tried Therapaws, but they were so round and flappy that we both hated them – Lucy because she didn’t like the feel of them obviously, and I am guessing also because they were a bit heavy. So I gave them to a friend to try on her Greyhound. Then out of desperation, I ordered near to a dozen different cheap Made in China ones. Ironically, the best ones – well crafted and not using cheap material – did not meet with Lucy’s sensory approval and she settled for the cheapest of them all. Sadly, they did not last, and she went through three more sets before the seller ran out of stock.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and a great deal of frustration and even tears (mine, of course), we finally found Hunnyboots, a company that makes special booties for the long and narrow Greyhound paws, which are very different from other dogs’ which are rounder and bulkier. They’re not cheap at all, but very reasonably priced for something one just cannot find anywhere else in the world. Then, they didn’t have the colour I wanted, in fact, they didn’t have any other colour in Lucy’s size apart from the bleh “Passive Fawn”. Sigh. I so much wanted the Hot Pink or Red. Anyway, I made do, so long as Lucy was comfortable, the colour didn’t matter to her anyway.

Then, guess what, they produced a brand new style called V3, and the Grand Greyhound Booties Circus started all over again. I pre-ordered a set of red ones this time, and waited an age for them to finally be ready to ship. When they arrived I found to my horror that they were too small for Lucy! They’d changed the measurement chart and I failed to notice that in my enthusiasm. So I sent them back and ordered a size larger. Hunnyboots uses DHL for delivery to Singapore, so they arrived pretty quickly. But, sadly, Lucy hates them. Well, I don’t blame her, because the front ones keep falling or twisting off no matter how tightly I pulled at the velcro straps. In fact, I hurt her once when I pulled too tight and she let me know her disapproval with a sniffy squeal of displeasure. Since then, she would balk each time I tried to put them on her paws. I did manage to get them on, determined as I was to try and make it work, but each and every time, the front booties would come off. I realised that I was distressing Lucy and it was counterproductive because I didn’t want her to develop a horrible phobia for shoes.

So, we are back to wearing the old Hunnyboots, which are now becoming quite grubby. Well, I did kind of create an acceptable compromise: I painted them red at the mesh area with fabric paint so that I could at least have the satisfaction of looking at red booties instead of the bleh fawn colour, and Lucy is happy with these old grubby comfy booties that don’t fall off as she walks. She can even do a bouncy trot in these ones. Pity they don’t make them anymore. I’ll have to try and figure out a way to alter the new ones to fit Lucy better… or find another kind of booty, which is a terribly daunting prospect – aaargh then the Grand Greyhound Bootie Hunting Circus will have to begin all over again. Sigh.

For now, as long as these ones last, we are Happy Feet!