ache of simplicity

分分鐘需要你 – George Lam. When I first heard this song, ages ago way back when I was a wee li’l teenager, I liked it very much. It’s a ridiculously simple melody, with almost goofy-tacky words. The sonic clarity appealed to me, but the meaning of the lyrics never hit home in this resonant way until I found Lucy. Throughout my life, I had been ‘programmed’ by people who ‘knew better’ than me, about love, relationships, what to do, what not to do, what I should look for, and how to get what I ought to get. Some were well-meaning, they genuinely wanted me to be happy, and others were, well, manipulative with various levels of artistry, if you can call that an art. They were all horribly wrong. That was because none of them understood, ME. I didn’t even understand me, until I began to discover the light, when I was officially diagnosed as proudly Autistic. But even then, it took a few more years for my brainwashed mind to rid itself of all the rubbish that was stuffed into this gullible Autistic Bunny’s limited brain. When Lucy entered my life, she brought along with her a knowing-ness, and I finally began to become Me, the person that resided in my faraway most primal origins, the person who survived the deluge of terror and still remained hidden, deeply embedded, confused and afraid to emerge. Lucy gave me Life, as I had never known before. And I finally understood why my young soul was so drawn to this almost infantile love song. That is because this is what Lucy has taught me. Love in its purest, unsullied, uncrowded and most powerfully fulfilling. Lucy is the love of my life, and ours is a symbiosis that people mistake as anthropomorphism. They think I am making Lucy a human so we can be close. I don’t blame these people, they only understand human love, even most autistic people will find it hard to grasp, because most of us have grown up brainwashed by ABA or other familial and societal pressures to become human-centric in all our foci – be they work, personal, mental, physical or emotional. But I do know some people understand this. And I am writing for those who do, as well as those who want to see.

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COVID19: family blessings

We celebrated Nula’s birthday recently. Just us five in the family. We had takeaway from our favourite Thai restaurant, Diandin Leluk. Eating at home is so much better anyway, comfy and relaxed, no sensory overwhelm. Nula is from a state in the far north of Myanmar. She’s been my mum’s helper and part of our family for five years now.

On the subject of ‘family’… It’s been a rough familial ride, but I am happy at last, with my ‘real’ family now, and so glad to be spending time getting to know mum in a new way, unobstructed by other people’s hand-me-down bitterness influencing my gullible socially-clueless Autistic mind and all the gaslighting that contributed to a rocky one for mum and me in the past. We’ve had our huge fights, we struggled in the beginning when I first returned home, while the evil elements tried their best to stir the already murky waters with added poison, but we’ve both emerged stronger and our vision is clear now. Mum and I have arrived at our special Clement Space – truthfulness and honesty is our way forward. Indeed, truth sets free. Only then can we learn love. Lockdown – being cooped up with mum 24 x 7 for months – has been surprisingly pleasant too. Well done, gals!

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reviving love

 

I wrote and recorded this song 20 years ago, with Leena Salim. Directed, arranged and piano played by brilliant musician, now psychologist, Dr. Chris Fong. All made possible by generous funding from a treasured friend.

When Leena contacted me about reviving this song in her Throwback Thursday series, I was delighted. Here is Leena’s lovely MV with some photos of her, her cat, and Lucy and me. Somehow, we never photographed the both of us in the studio, I think we were having too much fun.

The world is in turmoil in ways and on levels not experienced before in recent times. All the heaving, swirling, churning and seething is too overwhelming for me. I’m no advocate or activist of any kind. I’m that bubble-head person that says I want “World Peace” with a sombre straight face and mean it. I’m also that cynic who has observed humanity for 55 years, and read about human history, and I am in despair, because humans have learned next to nothing despite our thousands of years of practice. I know I have no power to heal the world. So, here is my music and art, because this is an inexorable process and journey for this one insignificant Autistic life form, Me.

Fools, 2000. Music and lyrics by Dawn-joy Leong. Vocals, Leena Salim and Dawn-joy Leong. Director, arranger, pianist, Chris Fong.

“Where are the Fools?” they ask,
Well here I am.
Just another actor in the stage of life.
So, round and round, we go,
In search of truth,
Chasing our dreams,
The rainbow’s end,
Would we ever find?

I believe in Love,
And truth and hope,
And within a dreamer yearns
For love to find
Scarcely daring to admit it to myself,
A fool.
But then you came into my life
And suddenly I have found it in myself
All the courage to love and be a fool for you.

But life goes on, they say,
I guess it’s true,
And I know our paths will soon
Begin to part.
The sunlight in your hair
the pealing bells
Every haunting note
Will always stay deep within my heart.

Why are we so scared to love and give
Never wanting to admit
The loneliness, the pain.
If only the world were kind to us
If we could only be kinder to ourselves
Maybe we would find a way
To be true, to love.

(Hit a Like or Follow on Leena’s Fan Page too, while you’re at it!)

rhapsody

Lucy Like-a-Charm, my muse and closest beloved. In the midst of chaos, whenever my soul needs grace, she is my Clement Space. Lucy is not a pet. I’ve had many pets before and I loved them all. But not Lucy, she is no mere pet. She is a higher Being.

But some angels grow old, and their time on earth is limited. I’m trying to capture as much as I can of her beauty, every little nuance and gesture, the look in her eyes,  and with each click of the shutter, she makes my heart fill with gratitude and wonder. None of these images do her justice, but they are all I can muster, with my limited photography skills and one little Fujifilm camera that was given to me by a good friend.

Lucy has been reverting to some old habits and routines that we had during our days in Sydney, but which somehow fizzled away in the struggle to survive the last few years. She has begun once more to remind me that it is time to go to bed at around 7.30pm, I would brush her teeth, put paw balm on her paw pads, give her a massage and sing to her. Then I’d get back on my laptop and just mess around until 10pm, when she would stir from her sleep, give me an annoyed look and push away my laptop with an elegant, long-legged outstretched paw. That was her signal that it is time to turn off the light, shut down the laptop and settle into bed for the night.

I’ve been taking photographs of Lucy in bed, just before I turn in. There is a different aura that emanates from her during this time, and I want to remember this always. Some of the photos here were taken with my iPhone 8, not a very sharp camera, but it was handy at the moment.

And then there are the ‘melty’ ones of Lucy and her two ‘cousins’ Tiny and Mini-B. It’s been hot and humid here – well, actually it always is but some days are more horridly so than others.

 

Any which angle I look at her from, she is to me the purest essence of wonderment, my Rhapsody in Pulchritude. I only wish I had the skill to take better captures of her.

 

taking five

Here’s another nostalgic musical moment. My friend Rick posted this up in his Facebook today, and I was remind of a silly little adventure I had in 1988 or 1989, so long ago I cannot quite remember when. Back then, I was an undergraduate student in the music department at the University of Hong Kong. Well, it was a sensory memory more than anything, really. I attempted to play this piece with a friend who played the clarinet. I cannot describe the mess we made of this piece, but it was incredibly fun and hilarious. We ended up in stitches and as far as I can remember, we headed off to the tuck shop for tea and never tried it again.

Music is hard work. But it is also amazing. I wish I worked harder at it in my younger days, maybe I would’ve been better if I’d pushed myself that little bit more? I’ll never know. But I am thankful I fought for and followed that dream.

Now, I am longing to reach a stage in life where I can stop scrambling for chicken droppings and just relax and play music, make art, write papers, work on my epic autobiography, doodle, paint, sew, crochet jumpers for dogs in shelters… Hey, wait, actually, that’s just doing almost the same things that I am now doing, but without the crushing anxiety of having to scrape the pennies off the floor, or spin dribble trying to tell people how wonderful I am and please could they give me some money to do my art, pretty please? I often envy dad – the autistic polymath who sold his clinic, retired at fifty, and indulged in all his amazing intense pursuits of Autistic Joy thereafter. Still, I should be thankful for little things. I have Lucy Like-a-Charm, oh wait, she is a big thing, not little at all. And I have music. And art. And friends. And a small part of family. I don’t have good health but I still have life. Which is a damned sight better than many others I know. Such Clemency.

Lucy Like-a-Charm: joie de vivre

Ah, such joie de vivre!

melt

 

No, not meltdown. Just musing on a tropical theme: it is hot and humid here in Singapore. Staying home since early March has been lovely.  Well, mostly anyway. These photos are my way of recording the beauty that I am surrounded with, and being thankful for little things, because no matter how little, they are good things, lovely things and hugely important for the sustenance of life.

I am talking about our canine angels.

The heat makes everyone sluggish. My elderly mum doesn’t like the air-conditioning, so we kiddos one and all usually just stick it out during the hottest part of the day, which is between 12pm and 5pm, of course with all the fans blowing at top speed. These are the photographs I’ve been fiddling with, after dinner, when I have stopped working on the research projects. Lucy barks at me to remind me to go to bed. I brush her teeth and apply paw balm on her paw pads. Then I give her a full body massage, and she will lie in my bed for awhile, before settling into her own. I spend another hour or so just doing whatever I feel like doing, writing and fiddling with photos etc. It’s my way of ‘winding down’. Then Lucy will get up and give me a hard affronted stare at around 11pm if I have not turned off the lights and gone to bed by then. We are creatures of habit. And some habits are worth keeping.

COVID19: privilege

In normal times, privilege is associated with wealth, power, being in a majority race / gender, authority positions etc. But these are not ‘normal’ times anymore. Yes, the normally privileged still hold sway, but there is another privilege that is enjoyed now by also those less wealthy or powerful.

Now, in the swirling midst of a global Pandemic, privilege clearly belongs to the healthy.

What is this I am waffling on about?

Privilege means you can laugh and say:

“It’s not so bad, stop being paranoid, just wash your hands, come on, it’s only the elderly and already sick who will die. It’s not gonna happen to you and me.”

Privilege is getting annoyed at a time like this, when you are:

  • unable to embark on your amazing travel plans… guess what you have health and money enough to travel, how wonderful is that! Can’t you wait till after the pandemic?
  • when you are frustrated about having to work from home because you want to feel that ‘vibe’ at the office… guess what, you have a job! how great is that? Many of those in the ‘never mind they’re gonna die not I’ category don’t have a job, and some who are freelancing have lost all their work because of this pandemic, or are unable to carry on working. And, did you know that for years and years the variously disabled have begged for work that can be done at home, and what kind of response do you think they got from employers? Now, thanks to COVID19 you get to enjoy what so many needed but were denied.
  • when an entertainment event is cancelled and you’d bought tickets or really looked forward to it, what a bummer, isn’t it?… seriously, after all the infections that already happened in other mass gatherings, you’re saying it’s a nuisance you cannot go to more of these things?
  • when you insist on attending social stuff that you don’t absolutely need to do… you are adding to the potential risks for others who have no choice but to be out and about for bread and butter reasons, and some of these may be immunocompromised, did you think about that?
  • when you actually do get sick because you refused to practice decency, social responsibility and self-care… you are taking up resources that could have been better allocated to those who need it more, and you are adding to the overwork of healthcare workers.
  • when you are served a stay-home order by the health authorities and you have enough food to survive with, a comfy bed, a roof over your head, enough entertainment to last you years on Netflix etc, the means to socialise via social media, and yet you grumble because of the inconvenient incursion of being stuck in this slice of luxury… think about the people who are sick but have no means to stockpile food because they live on daily wages and nobody to reach out to when / if lonely (elderly cardboard collectors most probably have no laptops and social media friends).

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change

goldfish on beads

Somebody said Autistics don’t like change. Who was that ‘body?

Running fingers through the air, playing piano in the water…

Contemplating flux.

I wonder…

There’s a knot in the diaphragm, that solid rubbery nugget that seems to urge trepidation along…

What terrible things unknown lie around the dark edgy corners?

Fish out of water, flipping, staring, exhausted, gasping.

The beads are bright and bold, the blankets soggy, threads easing awkwardly out of the sad pom poms.

Who is that in the mirror? The face of change. I don’t recognise her.

No, don’t leave me. Eight years is far too short a lifetime to spend with you.

Tarry for longer, I plead, so that I may rise from this mire, and at last be able to deliver on my sacred promise… a better life to proffer…

For now, we slip, slide, backwards down the tunnel… then, scramble up again, nails screeching a terribly out-of-tune howling.

I see you twitching in your sleep, your breathing has changed too. It is more laboured. Older. Heavier. As mine mirrors, heard through tepid dreams, grating, half snore half sigh, we echo each other.

Too many changes. My Autistic brain is balking, wanting to run away, turning hither thither, but the smell of your warmth brings me back.

For as long as you tarry, I shall stay. Let change swirl and shovel. I must remain unchanged, steadfast, in this one resolve.

Wordless beloved. I am still here.

100T1215-lucy

autistic opinion

Sunday morning. Not much sleep. Too many reasons to list. I am grateful always for Lucy by my side. Difficulty with sleeping is another one of the many struggles that most autistic people face. Again, it’s probably less to do with Autism per se, and more about the state of high anxiety that we seem to be perpetually in. Hyper vigilance inextricably blended with acquired trauma (just staying alive can be a traumatic journey for many an autistic person) would be my own guess.

I am listening to Joan Baez today, because of an ear worm that began to wriggle in my headspace as I got out of bed today. This song. So beautifully sung by Joan Baez. “The Water is Wide”. Continue reading

savouring pulchritude

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Spending time with Lucy, just us both, nobody else, is both precious and renewing. What she gives me is more than I deserve, really. How can I not place her right up high on top, in my list of priorities? My life is so busy with this and that, but I am all she has. The inequality between Canine Angel and Mere Human is absurd. So much Beauty in the hands of a weak, confused, distracted and faltering human.

It was hot and steamy – not the kind of weather we like for walking – but we both love the Botanical Gardens. There is always something new to discover, yet so much that is comfortable and familiar.

No rain for awhile, and the grass was losing its deep green colour. There wasn’t any cooling breeze this time, I felt my body cutting through the thick moisture in the air, and I could literally sense the droplets cooking in the heat, my skin tingling with the subtle minuscule movements.

I was once told by a forestry expert that there were some really old tropical hard wood trees in the gardens. What I do know is that this place is very well cared for, the rangers, cleaners etc are very kind and friendly, and dogs are welcome here, though they must be on leash. It makes sense to have dogs on leash here, because there is vulnerable wildlife, and to keep the dogs safe from snakes. Yes, we have cobras here in Singapore.

We were too hot – I was drenched in perspiration and Lucy was panting heavily – and so we headed to the cafe for respite. I had a coffee, which I mixed with my iced milo in the bottle I brought with me. I settled Lucy on her mat with her water bowl and a huge length of Chewy Roo from our favourite Loyalty Pet Treats, which we order direct from Australia. The owners are wonderful folk, and we’ve become friends through the years. We’re lucky to have good friends, though I think it is Lucy who attracts the good people to us. I have her to thank for this.

The Princess was remarkably calm and collected, even when the chickens came to check her out! And there I was, feeling nervous about them chooks coming too close. Silly me.

We spent just over two hours at the gardens. It wasn’t a big day out, only a slice of the morning, but these little moments means so much to me, and I hope to Lucy too.