what the spoon?

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Photo by Dawn-joy Leong. Please do not reuse without prior permission, thank you!

I’ve said many times I am a reluctant advocate. I wish there was no need for vigorous advocacy – because this would mean that society has progressed to a place where people (at least the majority) are not only aware of differences in embodiments, but actually actively embrace and practice the effort of empathic reciprocity across divides. Peace. That is. Empathic resonance inside a Clement Space of Peace.

Autism Advocacy is one of the fiercest, most contentious arenas in the disability field. I cannot think of any other disability that is so copiously mired in greed, personal ambition, powerful corporate agenda and human pride and prejudice. And I do not mean only the vested interests of the Neuronormative World. Autistic persons also take advantage of this platform to further their own ambitions. And why not? Since the arena is a free-for-all dominated thus far by non-autistics, why can’t Autistics now use their own platform to further their aspirations for whatever it is they yearn? Money? Fame? Employment? etc.

I’m the last person wanting to set a moral tone. My protest has always just been that of tiredness and utter disappointment in humanity – regardless of neurological identification.

The one thing I am learning from all of the churning, heaving and tumultuous goings-on is this: everyone – myself included – has an Agenda. But not many – neurotypical, neurodivergent or autistic – can truly understand when an agenda departs too far from their ‘norm’ – their sphere of thinking. Who’d believe that I have done all these rather radical things, exposed myself in such grandiose and sometimes even bizarre ways, pushed myself to the very edge of my perimeters, just for a naive and simple agenda?

Singapore.

People repeatedly ask me if I have gained higher professional standing, garnered more paid employment, and generally benefited in positive ways, as a result of my many public appearances on television, in the news, etc. My honest answer is no. All my professional achievements have been built upon the foundation that I had painstakingly laid years before I returned to Singapore. A decent portfolio of solid work. Relationships built upon straight forward decent hard work and trust, humility to learn from those who dared and bothered to teach me, and a lot of patience. Nothing to do with the superficial ‘stardom’ that people see. That – the media presence, the pomp and ceremony somewhat crass even – was all for the sake of Autism Advocacy, and if anything, I have suffered personal loss as a result.

Dealing with neurotypicals in the autism platform, I am met with suspicion and the usual jaundiced eye, not to mention patronising condescension and tokenism. My ‘unfiltered’ communication style has earned me a reputation – not necessarily a welcome style especially not at all in Asia. This is my so-called “social impairment”. Yes it is a serious impediment here. Don’t forget also the dodgy snake-oil peddlers and ‘cure’ brigade whose toes I have trodden on in my fight to inform and educate. On the other hand, while dealing with autistics, I have met with petulance, inflexibility and a puzzling determined absurdity, almost echoing of the stereotypes slathered upon us autistics by neurotypicals that I have been trying hard to debunk. Holding open heavy doors to learning opportunities, I am met with autistics grumbling about their $2 spoons, and various other permutations and combinations of such. Oh, and the competitive jealousy and envy too. From both sides of the Grand Neurological Divide. The catch phrase shared by all – neuronormative or autistic – when called out (and even when not called out, they actively and vehemently volunteer this snippet of wisdom):

“I’m only human.”

I despair. Too much – too often. What about my humanity? What about my spoons? I do not know what to feel or think, to be honest. All I do know is, more and more, I am driven back to hankering for my childhood dream. My Original Agenda, if you like.

When I was a child, at the teeny itty bitty age of six, I had already identified this sense of hapless hopelessness in my own reaction to the human species and human constructs. My dream at the time was to create a Utopia – just me and my animals, living in a cave deep inside nature, far from human intervention. Of course, that was ridiculously naive of me, and as soon as I became aware of the necessity (to me) of running water and flushing toilets, I abandoned that dream. (Yes, I even studied how to make my own toilet but it proved too daunting due to my hyper olfactory senses.) But the spirit of this yearning has stayed with me throughout my life, a longing for an impossible Clemency of Space.

Three years on since my return to my beloved homeland, I am truly happy that I did what I did, with the help of many key mentors and supporters within Singapore and overseas. And I am eternally grateful for the friends – loyal people and wise – whom I have undeservedly gained. But what I have been unwilling to admit – until now – is that the personal price was a heavy one. Apart from being variously mistaken for someone who is seeking attention and vain-glorying, or a militant ‘Autistic Threat’ out to take over the world, I realise that in my thankless quest for this nebulous “peace” agenda, I have neglected other things I hold much dearer to my heart. I have neglected good friends, and the one Being most precious to me – Lucy. And I have faltered in my own pleasurable and soul enhancing pursuits of art, music and research – my own Autistic Joy that nourishes me and builds me up from inside out. I guess my throwing all my Spoons on this advocacy mission, vision or whatever else one wishes to call it, has been my own downfall. This was my Grand Agenda for three years. An impractical one, I know. Impractical and impracticable it seems. But the dichotomy is this:  I am an artist, a musician and an academic at heart. So dreaming isn’t really something I can just will myself to stop doing. It is inexorable as the process – a life of its own. As for those damned Spoons, ah well, c’est ma vie. Win some and lose some – spoons will be spoons, humans will be humans, and I shall always prefer dogs.

Regardless. It is time for me to refocus on what really matters: ‘world peace’, ‘the greater good’, bridging the Neurological Divide, ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’, and all that stuff sounds amazing and lovely, even seriously valuable, but I must not forget that I owe a monumental cosmic debt to Lucy. And it is one that if I do not start trying to repay now, I will lose this Divine Opportunity for Grace forever. Lucy grows ever older as I run around lavishly spending our spoons helter-skelter – yes, you read correctly, these spoons belong to Lucy too and I am spending them on everything other than her. Humans are intrinsically selfish. Aren’t we? I am blessed to have such a patient teacher and mentor as Lucy Like-a-Charm. So, all the more, I must not betray her faith and trust in me. I owe to this unassuming, wordless creature my very life. Again, something very few humans are able to come close to grasping.

Onward Spoons then, Tally Ho! The Spoons are marching ever forward – but now with a Renewed Agenda, and rightfully so. Woof! Spoons for Love! Spoons for my Canine Angel. Yay to Spoons! Our spoons! To spend on Us!

Returning to Scheherazade’s Sea

Lucy Like-a-Charm

I cannot be all things to all humans – nor do I desire for such spiritual degradation. But to one exquisite Alternative Embodiment, I am indeed All and Everything. Wordless, faithful and steadfast, waiting patiently while I scuttled in hapless concentric circles; watching as I threw the precious pearls of our conjoined time into the miry bog of human pretensions; failing over and over again that dreadful Sally Anne Test, wearied, brow beaten, marginalised, yet stubbornly holding fast to clouds of lighted gas. Trust gained, so hard won, nothing but delusion, sliding down oozing greasy slope as rug is pulled from underneath with petty sleight of hand. What revelation – that ominous sinkhole never really was repaired after all, and blue dancing lights illuminate merely duplicitous display of pyrotechnic might.

Scheherazade Sea beckons once more – I can smell the delicate tremors of elemental empathy, it caresses so tenderly, drawing inexorably home into Clement Space, where I belong. It is time to cease from futile human meanderings, walk away from deceitful grotesque gyrations of do-gooding… and repay the debt of life I owe to Pulchritude, my Canine Angel, Lucy Like-a-Charm.

angel

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angel (June 2019)

Listening
Whirring fridge
A-flat
Human laughter in the wind
Slightly off C
Sudden dull thuds
Quickened heartbeat
A flash of white
Searing fear
Sirens scream
Inside the cavity
Of acid green
What is that smell?
Nebulous, acrid
Footsteps pounding
Headspace resounds
Broken B
Chairs dragged
Across cheap tile
Shattered F-sharp
Quivering interstice
And then amidst the chaos
Here in my bed
An angel’s breath
Comforts me

(9 June 2014)

clement Saturday

Too hot for walks, mumma!

Today, I woke up somewhat off-kilter. Lucy was unfortunately in sync with me and didn’t even want to go out walking in the early morning. The heat this month has been really depressing. Too much to-ing and fro-ing in the last few days, methinks. Sensory overload happens even when I am enjoying myself. I have a headache, sore throat, and there’s something not quite right along my nasal passages. I just want to be with my Lucy. The family have gone out for lunch and grocery shopping: the two little fluffies in their bright green buggy and mum in her super Wheelie (we call mum’s wheelchair the Wheelie), my sister, brother-in-law and their helper.

I’m now waiting for my FoodPanda lunch delivery – Hainanese Chicken Rice set from a restaurant nearby. Lucy and I could’ve walked there, of course, but this is Singapore and if you’ve never been here, you have no idea how assaultive the weather can be at this time of the day. Well, at any time of the day, actually.

While waiting, I played the “waiting game” with Lucy – I place a treat near her nose, and tell her to “wait”. She must not touch the treat until I say, “Okay!” She is a good girl, even when it’s her favourite cheesy biscuit! Now, Lucy has moved to the day bed and she is chewing on her Venison ear. I am listening to the rhythmic crunching, munching and gnawing sounds she is making. It’s all music to my ears, even the squeaky juicy sounds emanating from the air-conditioning sounds pleasant. All is good and clement. Just Lucy and me here. Clement Space for Two.

Oh, is that the FoodPanda guy now? I hear his motorbike downstairs in the carpark.

Hainanese Chicken Rice set with KaiLan and soy sauce egg.

This one is for you, Rick. In memory of our Saturday noshments! Have a dogly weekend down under and say hello to Paddo from us.

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!

a clement Christmas

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Clemency is hard to find. Clement Space is an ongoing quest. As is the Endeavour of Empathy.

Looking back, contemplating crashing fortissimo and lifting appoggiatura, soul crushing depletion and spiritual strengthening… Artaud and Wagner, humour, beauty, gritty determined ‘dogliness’… Lucy has once again carried me through yet another year with her gentle, wordless steadfastness of spirit and embodied grace.

It’s Christmas Eve. I recall with gratitude and fondness, the most precious Christmas gift from our sojourn in Paddington, Sydney. It was 2013, a quiet Christmas Eve, early morning when the summer air was still cool and crisp. Those roses, tossed out by someone, still fresh and beaming with a brilliance I’ve never yet seen nor witnessed again in a bunch of flowers. Put into my hands with a gruff greeting, from our friend Michael, an eccentric old man who lives in a rickety van. We met when Lucy and I were out walking, Lucy chose to say hello to this elegantly dressed solitary figure, smoking and reading the newspapers on the park bench just by our grass patch we call “dog patch”. I miss Paddo. I miss our neighbourhood, our friends, and I think of them often. Especially Michael. I hope he is well. One can never be sure. Michael comes and goes. Nobody knows where and when. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. He was choking back tears when we last said goodbye, too proud for a hug, we did not even make eye contact. But I hope he knew how much we would miss him.

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This Christmas Eve, Lucy and I are ‘home’ with mum, my baby sister and brother-in-law, their two little furry children, and our helper Nula. Lucy has over-eaten again, too many treats and a giant lamb bone from her aunt who thinks she is too thin. (Though I keep reiterating that Lucy is a Greyhound, they are naturally lean.) We are waiting for Christmas Eve dinner – yet another private gastronomic feast by my amazing brother-in-law. The over-fed Canine Angel is asleep in bed, next to me. I can hear her rhythmic breathing, and she opens her sleepy eyes occasionally to check on me.

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I reflect on Christmases long past, and I realise how peaceful it is now. Without any more pomp and ceremony, no more need to dodge snide remarks and undercurrents of bitchery or witchery, no competition for whose gift is the most expensive or who has achieved the most success in the year. Those are now distant memories, and juxtaposed with our recent ones, they stand as reminders of how much goodness has come along since I walked away from all that mire.

We had our pre-Christmas dinner with extended family and friends last week. It was a very merry one, noisy and overloading but not at all emotionally or mentally exhausting. A pleasant, happy, kind of overload. And, of course, the food is always delicious – how could it not be, with a top professional chef and two F&B professionals in the party?

This year, I slogged away all week to finish my handmade gifts to mum, baby sis, Mini-B and Tiny-T. A welcome restfulness of spirit and blessedness of mind – taking time away from a surfeit of advocacy work, campaigning and proposals – just to touch, feel, and flow with the patterns and variations so clement to the senses. ‘Making’ is a beautiful activity for me, calming and restoring. I’ve named my jewellery line “LaLaLouBelle” – after Lucy and my childhood nickname for baby sis. Every piece is made up of vintage and antique components, collected through my early years of avid travelling or handed down to me from mum and granny. Each one a narrative of love and filled with meaningful history.

Oh, yes, and Little Mini wee-wee-ed on Lucy’s bed yesterday, so I’ll have to buy Lucy a new bed. Mini is a spunky little (fat) button, with a penchant for Lucy’s bedding.

We’re all set! I’ve put up a miniature tree, with tiny lights and trimmings. Our presents are all ready for the ritual tonight. – we open ours on Christmas Eve.

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A peaceful and clement Christmas Eve wish to all from Lucy and me!

shifting sands

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2018 is coming to an end. Another year has gone by. Laboriously long yet flashing by almost unnoticed. Ironic and paradoxical, yes.

What is “family”? Who are “friends”?

The frames have shifted through the years, sometimes shuffling along unfolding slowly and other times abrupt and sharply decisive. People once considered family have now drifted into the nebulous dark mists of hell and damnation, frothy flotsam and jetsam, haphazard filigree patterns on a dirty old blanket. Demarcations have moved, and others once existing in a blurry background now come into focus. Friends, too, have come and gone, riding wave upon wave of change.

This Autistic Bunny is happier than ever before, more content with the noshments on the buffet table than any previous memory serves. The ghosts of Christmases past still flit around, awkwardly slashing the benign atmosphere as if in feeble attempts to remind me of their continued existence on a blighted and beleaguered earth. Yet, they fail to cause any real damage to Clement Space – an ecology of grace, comfort and wellbeing.

The world rages ever on and on, angry swirls of unmet expectations, unfulfilled striving, and the quest for more and more, and yet more – bringing with it a vicious cycle of destruction and chaos, jealousy and meticulously sharpened hatred.

Yet, for now, despite and perhaps even because of the trepidation and uncertainty, tribulation and impecuniosity, threat of loss and prospect of stark challenging change, a ‘newfound’ (over the last decade or so) clarity has arrived, of the various components and constituents of love, goodness, loyalty, acceptance and undeserved favour.

And… for now… very much treasured, every single moment of this blessing, I have Lucy Like-a-Charm.

Meandering thoughts for the season. Thank you for wading through this with me. Wishing Every Bunny a Beautiful Holiday Season!

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