COVID19: zoom-boom

Zoom

My friend Maxfield Sparrow, autistic advocate, activist, writer, poet, musician and all time amazing person, wrote this article: “Zoom Fatigue: A Taste of the Autistic Experience“.

Here are some really excellent points from Max Sparrow. All true. For me, apart from already struggling with the things Max has pointed out, Zoom / Skype meetings are still the lesser of two terrible evils called “meetings”. In-person meetings mean, for me, sensory overload and risk of infection each and every time. Hypersensitivity + immunocompromised = every activity is a careful choice. Each time I attend a work-related meeting or event, or even a social gathering, I have serious choices to make. Either I choose to go by public transport and end up at the meeting bedraggled, sweaty, fearful, anxious and already completely drained, or I spend precious money on hire car and get there with some part of my brain and physical function still intact. Then, during the meeting or social gathering, I endure sensory overload from the built environment, plus sometimes distracting gossip and irrelevant chatter, and I am still struggling to grasp the essentials of the conversations. In-person meetings also tend to go on for lengths of time that to me seem like ‘forever’, because non-autistics love congregating. Not only am I being sensorially bombarded and physically depleted in the most wasteful way (i.e. spending more than is needed, with no gainful returns), my anxiety is compounded in stretto crescendo because I have no idea when this nightmare is going to end. The time is up, but people are still waffling and laughing and cracking jokes that I do not find funny in the least but just automatically laugh along with because what else am I to do? Whereas, the horror of Zoom meetings tend to end more quickly and people are mostly on-point. I surmise that this is because non-autistic people find Zoom meetings dissonant to their natural modus operandi and hence are less inclined to linger? Anyway, for the autistic and those with specific disabilities that put us at disadvantageous positions where functioning is concerned, it’s all about living an exhausting existence because this world system just isn’t built to be the least bit conciliatory towards our modalities. Continue reading

dental calisthenics

Had my very first dental filling yesterday.

Dentist clinic: Hello, do you have a fever?

Me: Nope.

Dentist clinic: Have you been to China recently?

Me: Nope.

Dentist clinic: Have you travelled anywhere outside of Singapore within the last two weeks?

Me: Nope. And thank you for being cautious! Most appreciated!

Then…

While dentist was furiously trying to tackle the onerous task of my two fillings (I have TMJ and cannot open mouth very wide, so it’s difficult to work on my teeth)…

**cough**cough**splutter**splutter**

Me: Oh, dear… (in my mind, because I could not speak with equipment in my mouth)

At the end, an agonising hour later, dentist asked: How are you, all good?

Me: Oh yeah, it’s great, I survived! Thank you!

Dentist: Yes, I survived too!

Righto. Yup. Erm. OK. We’re both survivors of a very confronting dental filing session? Does that make us heroes then? And I hope whatever you were coughing out wasn’t infectious. Thank you.

Bizarre experiences are normal in the life of this Autistic Bunny.

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spiky spots

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

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

crucial assistance

 

 

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Lucy came with me to the Arts & Disability International Conference today. It was a huge blessing to have her with me, well worth the small ‘inconveniences’, like having to take her outside for potty each time we had a break and thus missing out on food and beverage.

When we first arrived, I made the mistake of choosing to sit in a busy area where people were walking or wheeling back and forth, standing around chatting, and even striding over Lucy, who was laying on her mat next to me at my feet. The lights in the rooms were confronting, to say the least. Lucy took it all in with grace and quietude, and she kept a discreet whisker out for me all the time. I began to feel nervous and agitated from the constant noise, movement and frenetic energy buzzing round and round, and Lucy got up to indicate that we should move to a less busy spot. She led me to the far corner on the other side of the room, and we settled down comfortably there, until lunchtime. Continue reading

syncopation

 

 

Sensory syncopation. Buzzing dissonance. Muted vowels. Overwhelming consonants. All this and more, gyrating – determined and unceasing – in the thrilling, vexing and amazing sensory ecology of Hong Kong.

I haven’t been back in 6 years, not since my Haptic Autistry and Haptic HugShrug exhibitions. It was lovely to be back, on old familiar soil, yet with so much vibrant newness yet to explore.

Three lectures/talks, two public and one private, and a great many old friends to catch up with, kept my days buzzing with activity.

 

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A new adventure awaited in Sham Shui Po – gritty, old, traditional and crammed – where I would stay for the entire trip, in a windowless bedroom above the sensory theatre of wet markets, dim sum stalls, cooked and raw food shops side by side, vegetables and fruit, and … fish. I landed smack in the middle of unfamiliarity. It was a deliberate decision, I wanted to experience somewhere different from my old memories of my life in Hong Kong – and I got what I asked for. Picturesque, and I am glad for my nifty Fujifilm X100T, but the olfactory ambience was confronting, to say the least. The smell of pork – raw, uncooked pork – literally envelopes your entire being, pervading the air all the way up into my dark little AirBnB bedroom. Then there was fish, rotting vegetable, overflowing sewers, and human bodies seething with perspiration wrapped in unwashed clothes – thematic elements weaving in and out of the tapestry, as the basso continuo of pork pounded on and on.

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Elderly lady selling fish and vegetables

One picture carved into my mind, leaving me engulfed in a heavy, thick and excruciating wave of sadness and haplessness, is that of an old lady, bent double, sitting on a small stool, selling fish and assorted vegetables, just in front of the strong smelling butchery at the corner. Her catch differed every day, sometimes there were larger fish, other days small ones, even turtles and frogs (for consumption) and dribs and drabs of wilted vegetables and fruits – whatever she could get to sell, I suppose? There is rubbish strewn around the filthy wet street, and there she is, sitting there patiently waiting for customers. I wanted to give her some money, but was afraid she would be offended, and what good would my few dollars do for her anyway? She was there every morning, and I, a stranger and ‘alien’ to this ecosphere, felt a choking sadness, an anguished torment each time I walked by. Hapless. I can still taste the air, hear the soundscape echoing in my head, and see the spunky, brave yet forlorn image of this lady in my mind. Poverty is crushing to witness, and my heart breaks even more because she is so terribly old and frail.
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deja vu

Revisiting memory imprints in the flesh. Back in beloved Hong Kong – ‘home’ for 8 years. Greeted at the airport by familiar soundscape, smells, rhythmic-patterned visuals.

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Hungry, looking for breakfast? Have some piping hot Shanghainese dumplings “xiao long bao” and lemon-barley drink. Sensory jet lag perhaps, the taste of exhaustion is heavy.

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HKIA – Hong Kong International Airport

Time to find the bus to my AirBnB. Walking through the passageway to the bus terminus, ears ringing with sonic imprints from the past, it is a gently surreal experience of orchestral recollection.

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Welcome back to Hong Kong!

It’s good to be back. Confronting sensory overload. Attraction. Repulsion. Amazement. Horror. It’s all here in this wonderful sonic-tactile-olfactory-visual-proprioceptive-challenging city!

softly yet

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Frenetic week. Confronting confrontation. Set aside a tiny aperture of Clement Space – beginning the day with quietude. Breakfast alone… local Hong Kong style, from the noisy lady around the corner with the paper hat – steaming hot dim sum … before launching head on into the chaos of the day.

Ah… Hong Kong… heady, head-smashing, overloading, amazing Hong Kong!

jumping melons

jumping melons

gyrating mandarins

broccoli crunch

crispy explosions

against tingling palate

tangy aromatics

polyphonic cacophony

grating chromatics

navigating bodies

bobbing, bumping

fading focus

dizzy, fevered

start, stop, start again

pushing rusty wheelbarrow

along bumpy path

uphill, down

left, right, across

worthy labour

just to see

loved ones

happy

it’s all good

anxiety at the BIG Anxiety

Big anxiety at The BIG Anxiety Festival!

Some of this narrative was introduced in my previous post, about Food Markers, but this ramble here is a kind of variation on the theme, from a different angle.

This 2017 working trip has been fraught with dramatic ups and downs, and here’s my as-brief-as-possible review of the Grand Experience, months afterwards. Beware, ye grammar-sticklers, I do move rapidly between tenses, because I am unfolding the unfolding as I am experiencing it, in the now, in the then, and in the next. And that, too, is my Autistic Bunny Authentic Experience-ing. Continue reading