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journal page 080610 So much has been happening, and I’ve been happening to so much, as well!   Change and transition and uncertainty and obstacles/threats, and both anger and fear, triggered by the present, but often with fuel from the past, leaves me somedays feeling positively beaten about the head and neck!  But it passes.  That’s the cool thing, and also the not cool thing.  It’s cool, because I know that even in the throes of pain, confusion, anxiety, depression at times, not knowing what exactly to do/how to cope, I also know that I am experiencing this pain right NOW, and the time of suffering will pass, the fog will clear, the mood will lift, and I will emerge from those moments with something more than I had before—more insight, more relief, more control over the experience (not so much restrictive, as experiencing it intentionally, mindfully, as the process unfolds).  I am keenly aware, as I never have been before, of how I have been shaped by experiences that I didn’t even remember, that telling the story of what I learn along the way, including detailed scrutiny of processes at work, both passive and active/proactively, is itself a multitude of lessons.  It gives me insight into how my own thought processes work—very differently from most of the world, I might add, and why it’s always been so difficult for me to fully connect with others effectively. 

The image is of me, approximately in my 20’s, but connected to me is this elephant.  The elephant represents the fact, unbekownst to myself or my family, that I was, since birth, the “elephant-in-the-room” born autistic (Aspergers), with all the cognitive, functional, and medical potential that Aspies are shaped by, even before they are born.  And this little Aspie “elephant” spent the better part of the first two years of her life, being forcefed toxic pollutants while living next door to a coal burning power plant, years before the Clean Air Act even existed, and decades before they managed to effectively enforce restrictions on coal-fueled electricity.  The damage was already done to this autistic girl who already had a compromised immune system to begin with.

I was constantly sick, and had even been hospitalized once in 1963 with severe dehydration.  I got every virus that came my way, and, as my father later reported to a pediatric neurologist in 1971, “allergic to everything.” 

The third major developmental “insult” occurred when I fell from the upper floor fire landing of a local gymnasium, head first onto solid concrete. It was a very bad head injury, 3” skull fracture, intracranial hypertension and secondary brain injury, also referred to as “diffuse axonal injury.”  The secondary injury, caused by swelling and increased pressures on the brain, caused a lot of the connections between nerves to “shear” or tear apart, while at the same time the brain has trying to heal itself and keep me alive.  This went on for so long, that how it healed, and the rewiring to do it, took the hard wiring in my brain another huge step further away from “normal”.  From the outside, one could observe that the swelling and bruising finally went down, I did not die, and about 9 months after I came home, I was able to sit up in bed without head pressure problems. 

But there was not only no understanding whatsoever of Aspergers Syndrome back then, but also doctors had no idea what such an injury might do to a brain that survived such a fall.  No therapies or medications were administered, no tests for functional damage was done, and I, being only 5 years old at the time, had no idea that I had even less in common with neurotypical humans in how I would interact with my world going forward.  I had a strong sense that I was different from other children as early as 3 years old, but I had no idea why, nor any ability to understand the minds of others. 

Bridging the communication gap has been a lifelong struggle for me, both to understand and to be understood.   I want to be able to relate to other people, to connect with them in ways that are valuable and mutually beneficial.   It’s been agonizingly difficult, cumbersome, time consuming, and exhausting for all parties when I am trying to explain, to clarify my thoughts, feelings, overall perspective on a thing, yet know that I have failed, based on the reaction of those on the receiving end.  I fail for a number of reasons. I have gotten quite expert at being able to profile others, to analyze their behaviors, provided that I am not interacting with them at the time, or at least interacting where I have to be concerned about their perception of me.  This became a huge strength for me in my former job, and as it turns out, is a manifestation of one of many savant abilties.  The way that I journal now helps me really give glimpses into my own mind.  While I do my journaling totally for myself (as I do all of my art these days), I’m open to sharing parts that may be  of interest or benefit to others, or where it illuminates where my head and heart were, on some past event that may have gone totally awry. 

It’s interesting to me how varied my self-portraits are—the images are relative to time, heavily symbolic, even iconic at times.  This was done in my cheap standard lined lab-type notebook, in whic the pages are stitched into a cheap cardboard cover, typically imprinted with some sort of marbled effect, in various covers.  My thoughts that day are about my present situation, but the connections to past events…looking back and experiencing the connections more than the details, how I am represented depends upon what I am experiencing as the most important aspects of the connections in that moment.  Here, I am in my early 20’s.  The elephant part of me, has existed and endured the onslaught of many “insults” that have altered my brain to render me something almost other-humanly in how I think and process input from the world.  With the exception of autism, which I was born with, most of it was caused by the decisions by others act or fail to act—some were family, others including teachers, judges, police, school official, and it developed its own momentum after a while, with the blind following the blind, being slapped with labels/definitions that came to be accepted because the path was well worn, and, neuro-typical humans of all ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds, being naturally susceptible to their own attributional and cognitive biases, unique creatures like myself more often will not be able to sustain acceptance when I come up against those biases.  They used to think people like me were schizophrenic, and often spent their whole lives in institutions.  I was kept in one as a child for 2.5 years, records show that I was orderly, compliant, a good student, and remained there only because there was no stable place for me to live who would accept me.  No one.

The filters are a kind of lazy rule-based system that assumes that I should think and act in a certain way because I look like I belong to a certain group, and when I violate the social rules—spoken and unspoken, the belief is that I knew, or should have known about the rule, and that the violated social rule is something that I can and should conform to, without question.   What

I don’t feel invested in the “blame and shame” game, at least when it comes to my own family’s roles in that damage.  I am less forgiving of societal institutions that participated or turned a blind eye, when they could have taken some simple steps to help.  I understand the things that motivated their choices, their biases at the time as society existed.  That does not mean that I am prepared to forgive.  I still feel that I am owed a debt, at a minimum for the many intentional harms (ie., rapes), looking the other way when abuse was staring them in the face and I was complaining of being molested and raped (which they chose not to even report), noticing, documenting irregularities provided them in reports that they never questioned, never investigated, and never told me about, and leaving it for this brain-damaged woman who happened to have certain gifts, to discover from their own records, piece together the connections, and discover the truth, and even then, only after becoming totally disabled by the ravages of all the mistakes and abuses that had accumulated.  No one is willing to take responsibility.  That is wrong.  I am accustomed to that, but that doesn’t mean that it is right to just accept that nothing should be done to right the wrongs that can be righted, and at least recognize these human-made perfect storms. 

Is it any wonder that I feel safer far away from civilization?  Disasters happen in nature, as well, but nature operates by rules, at least, and they may have undesirable outcomes, but at least they make sense.  That is something I can live with.  I can accept death by tsunami, however tragic.  I’m not yet prepared to accept “that’s just the way things are” when the way things are is entirely constructed by humans motivated by personal agendae, that may or may not have anything to do with justice or even equity.  That is my issue.  And if it can happen to me then, and still happens to me now (except that I fight back), it can happen to others, so it’s not just in the past.  I feel a deep sense of personal responsibility to do something before I die to prevent similar harm from befalling others.  I need to become an advocate.

But first, I need to become an effective advocate for myself, and that means going through this right now.  My art enables me to communicate with others, and to get them to be more open through the way I approach presenting the principles, getting acceptance of possible situations like mine, and only then, telling them my story.  It is becoming easier to have dialogues that are more receptive to understanding my perspective, suspending disbelief long enough to consider the reality, and build bridges of understanding. 

I think in pictures, not words.  I learned many languages, trying to discover the key to communicate with others, but it was woefully inadequate.  Now that I can draw, can do art (since almost one year ago for the first time), I am finding ways to bridge the gaps and find opportunities to improve things.  I hope I can live long enough to do something with it that will help others.  Then it will have been worthwhile.

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beaautiful creature s-p 052010 small file-1

This began as an elaborate graphite sketch in my small sketchbook, and I transferred the sketch to a notebook cover, then drew it out some more, and painted it in acrylic.    The image was not something that I thought about drawing; it sort of arose on the paper.  I later realized that it was very much a self-portrait, not perhaps in the literal sense, but maybe spiritually?  Everything about it says beautiful, natural, authentic, what I feel coming from it.  I think that I am perhaps more connected to this painting than many others, yet where is it?  Hanging on some wall of pride?  Nope.  It’s painted directly onto the soft cover of one of my notebooks.  You can see the curves on the edges, and lots of scratches.  I’ve recoated it a couple of times as it picked up stain and scratches.  I’ll have to put something a bit more durable, I suppose.

Does it make you think about beauty?  What sort of creature this is?  If it’s a self-portrait, what sort of creature am I?  Indeed, that is the question, is it not?  If you understand this creature, you will also understand how it is a mirror of me inside….

I’ll say this much, if you haven’t picked up from other posts:  I find creatures much more comfortable than people to be around.  They have an inner consistency and logic that I can understand and relate to.  Trying to play human rules is just plain stressful to me.  The rules they claim are broken more than followed.  Their social *intuition* usually gets them quicker conclusions about things, but wrong much more often than they will ever realize, and probably mostly won’t have to discover.  Their social intuition are more like blinders than wisdom, shorthand that they treat as if it’s longhand, and forget that when they fill in the blanks later, their shorthand may show that they missed it.  You probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but I am not socially intuitive with people, because people are filled with contradictions.  I “read” them, “read” the environment, “read” all the details, and do the math and figure out what things mean.  The rest of the creatures of the universe?  Social intuition is a fine thing, because they operate within their own logic, their own rules, and those can be understood.  They make sense in the context of the creatures.  But humans?  Not so much.  But when the intuitive process yields disaster, they call in creatures like me, to tell them what went wrong, and build a better working model, if possible.

When creatures like myself get themselves born, but they have a limited set of things in common with humans around them beyond what they actually look like, it can be tough sometimes to find a truly “familiar” face, a “kindred” soul.  But I do look for them sometimes, or at least keep my radar on, in case one shows up someday.  I’ll settle for a few humans who can accommodate a gentle creature like myself, who can leave me to be me and that’s just great for us all! 

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Ok, I’m way behind in getting some images uploaded…long story, will update this over the weekend, but here’s the last image I was working on yesterday.  I’ve been drawing, but had to modify to cope with lots of stuff going on.  This one has lots of meaning for me, but will revise this post with that later this week/weekend.  Here’s an image.  Direction in drawing has become very integrated into medical treatment now, and I’ll explain that, too.  I may yet tweak this one a little bit more, but this one was done in pen & ink, watercolor, and colored pencil.  The book is actually just a retail catalog that someone had discarded that was on fairly heavy paper and the size seemed suitable for my purposes (app 7.5” square).  On some pages, like this one, I have glued some cheap manilla-colored children’s drawing paper over the catalog pages to give it some thickness.  I use this book for random doodling like this.  Odd how I often do some of my favorite drawings in recycled books like this. I have a smaller one that I’ve been working in, that I’m going to have to rebind, as the painted pages have torn away from the stitching somewhat. 

For the most part these drawings at least start and progress for quite a while as automatic drawing, and later compositions arise out of them as the image begins to take form.  If I had to plan this picture, I probably couldn’t have done anything that I would enjoy nearly so much or that would mean as much to me.  That process of not planning that seems to have been consistently successful in my drawing apparently still holds true, although I did set an intention to use a limited pallet, primarily blue(without regard to what the actual image might become). 

 

Small Worlds, Big Potential 012810

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unicorn1.0 

I’m adding these themes to my working list of the sketchbook project that I have in process right now: 

  • you don’t have to be a tree hugger to talk to trees, and it can save the world
  • how an extraordinary little girl used every day magic to save the world (series of pages tell the story)
  • how “childish dreams” can save the world
  • can we be polite and still save the world?
  • what unicorns can teach us about saving the world (It’s a secret-this picture is a teaser page!  You’ll have to keep following the story to learn the secret!)
  • How what you believe could save the world

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Page 2 to go into my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project.  My assigned topic:  How to Save the World.

 

sketchbook Project #2.0-1

A little background about the symbolism on this page: 

The symbolism here is tied to the religious paradigm of the mythical hero off to slay evil demons out in the wilderness so as to protect kith and kin. 

This paradigm was articulated by Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), a native of Romania, who was “a well-known historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day. His theory that hierophanies form the basis of religion, splitting the human experience of reality into sacred and profane space and time, has proved influential.[1] 

“Eliade argues that religious thought in general rests on a sharp distinction between the Sacred and the profane;[83] whether it takes the form of God, gods, or mythical Ancestors, the Sacred contains all "reality", or value, and other things acquire "reality" only to the extent that they participate in the sacred.[84] suggests that in traditional societies, people tended to view the world as being one of opposing realms, of the known world, and the unknown world.  The known world was “the realm of established order; and beyond the known world is a chaotic and dangerous realm, "peopled by ghosts, demons, [and] ‘foreigners’ (who are [identified with] demons and the souls of the dead).[116] ….According to Eliade, traditional societies place their known world at the Center because (from their perspective) their known world is the realm that obeys a recognizable order, and it therefore must be the realm in which the Sacred manifests itself; the regions beyond the known world, which seem strange and foreign, must lie far from the Center, outside the order established by the Sacred.”  Full Wikipedia Article on Eliade’s life and work

Eliade’ argued passionately for the universality of these paradigms, probably the most controversial aspect of his work to others.  But I would argue that one doesn’t have to look very hard at contemporary cultures, to at least see the pervasiveness of the paradigm of the mythical hero as a recurrent theme today across most cultural groups, in religious stories, as well as popular drama and other entertainment.  It continues to be held up as a value throughout enculturation processes in some form.  The details may vary, but it is a powerful motivator to act, even today. Though the paradigm has its roots in traditional societies, it clearly persists in modern culture and shapes values on a primal level.   

It is a romantic notion that lies at the heart of the decisions of world leaders to take up arms, though how those leaders have formed their perception of who is included in the sacred or in the profane derives from how they, as individuals, have come to see who is “in” and who is “out”.  Whether you are looking at individuals who take extreme measures to strike through hostage taking, genocide, and mass murder, or the knight who fights on his home soil to defend against invaders, all can be seen to be acting on a sorting process.  This process of sorting the universe of being “one/part of us” or “in” and being “not part of us” or “out” begins in early social development.  How we learn to sort and how we act on that sorting is shaped by how we our personal biases are formed.  It is how we judge the behavior of others. 

If we view and judge others around us as being the profane, “outsiders”, “others”, we make them “dragons” in our minds, or the “chaos monster”, as Eliade would describe them.  We believe that it is a hero’s duty to slay dragons that threaten us.  The problem here, is that they are probably not dragons at all, and the facts are likely not that we are good and they are evil and must be defeated.  In fact, they may just be afraid of us, as we are of them, and by our perceptions and acting through fear, we cannot build empathy or understanding.  What is required to avoid the outcome that we are afraid of, is learn to see one another without judgment, to foster trust and acceptance through mutual respect of our common humanity and unique qualities.

When we are looking over at someone that we are perceiving as a “dragon”, we should question our perception, and the assumptions that form that perception.  We should investigate before we behave with prejudice toward another, and try our best to understand them, to see them as they are, not just as we “fear” they might be.  We should set aside our fear and loathing for what is unfamiliar and try to build empathy with others, not try to force them to be “us”, or to force us to be “them”, but to appreciate the differences and how the uncomfortable feelings arose, and then find the common ground to address respective concerns.   We can’t control what other people do, but we can do our part to attempt to bridge the gap.  This is how we can each be a “hero”, and save the world.

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“I see, said the blind man, when he could not see at all.”

 

horse study #1 5x7 11.13.09 I feel as if I saw a horse for the first time yesterday—I mean really saw what a horse looks like,and they are incredible!  In fact, I feel as if I’ve lived the last 44 years of my life, prior to this past year, as if I’d been blind in so many ways.  During those years, I can count very few, very brief memories of actually experiencing the pleasure of just being, of really connecting with the world around me, in the absence of external or internal judgment or criticism, regret or worry, or the nagging feeling in my gut that something was badly wrong or missing. 

Having struggled most of my life to uncover information that would lead me to some sort of enlightenment about what was wrong, I didn’t have a clue about how I was actually “supposed” to feel.  I just knew that I didn’t feel right.  And the more I learned as I searched for answers, I was afraid that I might not even know what to do with them if I ever did find them.  Experts would  sometimes conclude that whatever was wrong with me was “all in my head”, and those opinions certainly didn’t get me any closer to the answers that I needed, or help me restore a feeling of wholeness and normalcy that was unknown to me. 

Well, I found the answers I was looking for, and what can now be remedied has been or is being remedied, and the rest is with me on this journey for now.  Some of the fallout is physically disabling, and incurable, and I often hear from caring and concerned people that they don’t know how I get through the day, how I don’t feel like giving up, why I’m not bitter, depressed, and so forth. I can say that I did feel a lot of frustration for years, and it was a bit of a shock when I finally discovered what was behind everything. For a short time after discovering the truth, I thought that doctors should have tried harder to figure it out, since they were supposed to be the “experts”, but honestly, I just don’t think that is very realistic, nor does it matter to me any longer.  However I got them, I do have the answers I needed, I’m still alive, and more alive in many ways than I ever was before. 

The thing is that I don’t really see my brain as “damaged” now, even if my body has suffered some setbacks, even if the various growing collection of inflammatory diseases, surgical complications, etc. can be traced back to a very nasty accident that should have killed me before I saw the inside of my first classroom.  The injury healed a long time ago, and just happen to have reprogrammed my brain, but I can hardly call it brain damage, when the “experts” couldn’t have sorted it out with my brain’s help!  That is one of the advantages that I enjoy with this reprogrammed brain.  I prefer to think of it as just different, but it is about as unique in how it functions as a fingerprint, or so I’m told.  In fact, I am blessed to have a brain that gives me significant abilities when it comes to making these kinds of connections, apparently due to massive connectivity & coordination between right and left hemispheres, with amazing abilities to intuitively sense patterns, relationships, and make connections of many kinds, that are not readily apparent to many people, even without particular expertise in those fields. Now that I’m not getting pumped full of intolerable chemicals that interfere with my brain, it does this even better.

I feel no bitterness about the past, what I didn’t have, or don’t have now, I’m not worried about what I won’t have or be able to do in the future.  I’m not afraid of the future, and I’m not miserable about the past. I feel really peaceful right now. Because the thing that I do have now, is what I have been searching for my whole life: to be able to be in this moment, and experience everything that I can experience right now. I LOVE that!  To take all of my living right now, and drink it in, to experience it without judgment or fear, makes me feel more alive than I’ve ever felt before. It’s true that a lot of my body parts don’t work like they used to, and I can’t do all of the things that I used to enjoy doing, but who is 50 and hasn’t experienced that, even if not to the same degree as me right now? Hell, I could have died 100 times from all this stuff, but I didn’t.  Instead, I have lived long enough to be able to experience life fully, and to understand me as a whole self today!  How great is that?!  Things finally make sense, and for the first time in my life, all the experts work with me as a team, and I couldn’t be happier!

And although I can’t do some things that I used to, there are so many new things that I am discovering every day that I can do, that I never dreamed of, like drawing a horse!  This gives me great joy. I can SEE things now, that I could never see before!  And what I see, I can draw, and I see so much more than I ever did before, things that used to be so elusive to me, like what a horse’s eyes actually look like, its muscles, and so many other things that are fantastic and amazing!  I think I first felt the NEED to draw, not in spite of pain, but BECAUSE I was in pain.  Now that I was feeling everything, I needed a way to process things, and integrate it into a more aware ME.  I started drawing for the first time ever in July.  It opened up new ways for me to connect with life around me, to experience it, to see it, and to feel more alive and whole.  Now my mind’s eye can see new things, too, things that spring from my own imagination, many possibilities, and delightful impossibilities!  I can show what is inside of me through images now, and not only with words.  How incredible!   Why wallow in disappointments of the past, when I have this to experience right now?  I don’t need to run away from anything, and I don’t need to desperately search for something to fill a hole in my bucket—I have all that I need right now, experiencing this moment.  I am blessed!

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