Let’s play assumption ping-pong again, or not.


It seems as if I may have to reiterate a post I made last March: Let’s Play Assumption Ping-Pong. It describes pretty accurately some of the assumptions people make about me, and why they end up wrong, and why even the assumptions they replace them with end up wrong.

Basically, if I tell you something, or look like something, and you make an assumption based on what I told you or how I look, don’t blame me when your assumption turns out not to be true. I cannot possibly write my entire life’s story in all its nuance and detail every time I communicate with somebody. It’s not possible, and even if it were possible I doubt it would be desirable: I usually want to just interact with people as who I am, not fill in loads of backstory and self-dissection every time I talk to someone.

And please read that ping-pong post if you have any inclination at all to assume things of this nature, it will save me and possibly you a lot of trouble. I’ve also written a longer disclaimer on assumptions to disabuse people of many further assumptions.

About Mel Baggs

I am a highly sensing person. I am a child of earth and water, I was born into a redwood forest and I left the forest but it never left me. I'm 34 as I wrote this. If I had an alignment like in role-playing games and MUDs, I'd be chaotic good all the way: I don't think it's possible to fill ethics into a moral code, the world is far too complex for that. I let the world be complex and chaotic and try to respond situation by situation from a small number of principles of right and wrong. My responses may seem to contradict each other, but that will be because either the situation has changed, or I have changed. I am a poet who is trying to practice more every day, hence the poetry blog. I am a cat lover and live with a wonderful elderly cat. I am a painter when I have the time, energy, and resources. I have multiple cognitive, physical, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities, and my health is not usually stable. Put all together, I'd be considered severely disabled. I get a lot of assistance throughout the day. I am a real living cyborg, part human part machine: I have a GJ feeding tube to feed me through one tube and drain my stomach through the other,, an InterStim implant for urinary retention, and a port (a permanent central IV line). I love life. I think Love (not the sentimental emotion, but the property of the world) is the most important thing that human beings can offer each other. Being near death enough times has taught me that, and has also taught me that I have no time for bullies or pettiness. I'm involved in disabilty rights and other causes that people these days would call 'social justice', but I don't consider myself part of the 'SJ community' or the 'anti-SJ community' because of that thing I said about pettiness -- they're more about one-upmanship than fixing the world. I wish they had not taken over the words 'social justice', which used to mean something else. I love talking to just ordinary people about fixing the world, they have far more realistic ideas and more likelihood of putting them into practice. I'm a Hufflepuff to the core, with some Gryffindor tendencies and even a little bit of Ravenclaw. I admire some Slytherins but I don't have much ambition or cunning at all. I still think the Slytherin common room is second best, with Hufflepuff coming first. My favorite color is brown, especially when combined with a bit of yellow or blue. My favorite music is country, and my favorite country artists are Kathy Mattea, Lacy J. Dalton, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn. I don't like most new country but i occasionally hear something on the radio I like. At an early age, my family listened to country almost exclusively to the point where I thought all the different types of country were all the different types of music! I couldn't put Lacy J. Dalton, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson in the same category. Although now that I've grown up I can hear that they are all country, but as a kid my ear was trained more for minute differences in country styles, than for recognizing country from other types of music. Country isn't all I like. Some other bands and artists I like: The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Rasputina, Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, Rich Mullins (I'm not Christian but some Christian music is amazing), ), The Raventones/T.R. Kelley, Planet P Project/Tony Carey, Sinead Lohan, Donna Williams, Suzanne Vega, Phideaux, and Jethro Tull, to name a few. I love the Cocteau Twins in particular because they are everything being sensing is about: Words are chosen for their sound, not their meaning, the voice becomes yet another instrument rather than a conveyor of words, raw emotion pours out of them, there are layers upon layers, and they were around for long enough there's lots of their music in a variety of different styles -- including their later stuff where the words have more meaning than just sounds. Each period in their music has its benefits and drawbacks but I love them all, or nearly so. Their music comes as close as any music can come to conveying how I experience the world, as what Donna Williams calls 'pattern, form, and feel'. And Elizabeth Fraser has a beautiful voice, I once had a teenage crush on her. As I type this, I have a cat sitting on my shoulder, cheek to cheek with me, peering around and occasionally rubbing me. My relationship to her goes back 15 years to when she was six months old, and we've rarely been parted since. It's been an honor to watch her grow into a wise but crotchety old lady cat. She knows she's technically older than me and tells me so sometimes, especially during arguments. She has trouble with the fact that there are parts of the human world I know better than she does. She sees me as her big, dumb kitten who needs protecting, and is beside herself with worry if I end up in the hospital (which seems to happen frequently these days). I don't experience myself as having a gender identity, I call it being genderless. You'll sometimes see the pronouns sie and hir in my work, they are gender-neutral pronouns pronounced 'see' and 'hear'. I was raised female, which gives me both disadvantages (outside the trans community) and advantages (inside the trans community). You don't have to remember my pronouns, lots of people have trouble with gender-neutral pronouns. I won't be upset with you. People make mistakes, and some people just can't get the hang of new words, and that's okay. I have vocabulary problems myself (mostly comprehension), I'm not going to penalize other people for having vocabulary problems of their own. Right now my father is dying of cancer that's metastatized so many places they can't figure out where it started, my mother has severe myasthenia gravis that can land her in the ICU (and she's my father's primary caretaker), my "second mother" (who took over when I grew up and my family didn't know how to prepare me for the world) has endometrial cancer, and my cat is getting old. All of this is bringing death to the forefront of my mind and my poetry. In fact I think I've been able to write more poetry because of all the feelings about so many people dying or with precarious health. It was easier to handle when it was me that was going to die (averted by diagnosis and treatment of severe adrenal insufficiency that'd been going on for years). It's harder when it's someone else, someone you love. My other hobby is crocheting, and a lot of the time if I'm not writing, it'll be hard to find me without a crochet hook or occasional knitting needles in my hands. I love to be able to make things. I have been making hats and scarves with spare yarn (which I have a lot of), and putting them in City Hall Park wrapped in plastic, with notes saying "If you're cold, take this." I know what it's like to be cold in the winter, and if anyone takes them and stays warm I'd be overjoyed. You may have noticed I'm long-winded. This is actually the result of a language disability that makes it difficult for me to leave out details, to see two almost-identical things as perhaps something that doesn't need repeating, and to summarize or condense down my writing. I know this is a flaw in my writing, and it even prevents me from reading it sometimes, but I've found no solutions. Sometimes on my longer posts I'll put a "TL;DR" ("too long; didn''t read") summary at the end in bold letters for people to skip down to.. But even those don't feel adequate, even when I can do theme, which is not always. I think I'm getting better though. Learning haiku and other short poetry forms helps me condense my words better. Anyway, I hope that gives you enough idea of who I am. At my most basic, I care about Love more than anything (whenever I come near enough to death, I feel like I get asked the question "Did you Love, and did you express that Love properly?"), but like everyone I get sidetracked into things that are much less important. I try to make my writing an expression of Love. Sometimes I succeed.

10 responses »

  1. I don’t know why people will often assume that another person has been lying if that person turns out not to fit one of their assumptions, even if that person never claimed to. Or if that person doesn’t fit into a particular pre-conceived idea of theirs. It’s happened to me before, as well as several people I know.

    I can tend towards them myself, as well as having them made about me. I think that having so many made about me may also be the reason that I try to be cautious about them, though.

  2. Just come across your blog, through your video in your native language. I blogged your work and subscribed to your feed.

    I wonder what an RSS feed would look like that actually contained the media of your native language. I wonder if there will ever be a time when we can share sensations over the web, to experience something of each other’s world’s in a way that does not require translation…

    Until that day, I’ll just keep reading what you write and watching what you do. Thanks for putting it out there.

  3. just revisited your blog & read Jan 17th comments about overload and trying for non-existence. My gosh that was me. All through childhood and early adulthood. If only people would understand – try to understand – *sigh* I totally get the wanting to turn into the cold smooth floor thing.
    Did you pick your YouTube name from the book about cats?

  4. More of a guess than an assumption, but from the way that you describe your language I guess that your experience of a relatively quiet environment is much the same as I would experience walking into a disco with lights flashing in my face, loud music making thoughts slippery, and everyone that was there trying to talk to me at once so that I have nothing to grasp on to as a point of reference for what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

  5. I’m so impressed with your website. Your poetry is amazing. I’m not assuming you want to discuss this…but my daughter is autistic. I watched your video. I immerse myself in her world and don’t find it too different from mine. I want to show her your video because I know (even though she’s young) she’d understand it fully.

    I have a question: you talk about your own language and how you interact differently with the world around you. For you, would you interpret the differences as differences in how you sense your interactions? I guess I have another question too: Feelings. What does that word mean to you? The reason I ask is because I think my daughter interprets feelings much different than some people. For example, sadness is not always the result of how most people would interpret an event which would cause someone to be sad.

    I thank you so much in advance for your response…and look forward to hearing from you further.


  6. Thank you for your video. There’s a LJ discussion on it at http://community.livejournal.com/asperger/1410881.html

    Your video asks meaningful questions about how people define communication. For me, the meaning of communication is the response you get from making the communication. If you interact with water, the response of the water is the meaning of your communication with it.

    But my definition of communication is different from my definition of language. If I knock down a tree in the middle of the forest, I have communicated with the tree, but is knocking down a tree an act of language? Someone would have to be able to ask the tree.

  7. Thank you so much for your video “In My Own Language.” I have watched it over and over again, as it has affected me very deeply. You have put into words something that I am only beginning to understand.

    I have a daughter with Down syndrome, who does not speak. But she has a message just as you do. I have written about you on my blog today if you care to read it. http://bits-of-betsy.blogspot.com/

    Many of us strive to positively affect at least one person in our lifetime…and believe that if we do that, we can consider ourselves successful.

    I think you should consider yourself immensely successful.


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