Monthly Archives: January 2010

Cold.

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I am writing this entirely submerged under a big pile of blankets. No part of me is sticking out.

A few minutes ago, I heard Fey jump onto the bed. I lifted up the blankets, wondering if she would poke her head in and then rapidly pull it out, finding some other place to be. She didn’t. She went straight under the covers. Then she went over the lowest blanket and under the rest, down near my belly. I felt her paws scrabbling around while she turned around several times. Then she finally curled up, and is still lying there, one blanket separating her from me.

I remember being the size of maybe two or three cats, and the way blankets turned into an interesting series of caves. But now I am much less maneuverable, and much taller. But it’s still nice to be burrowed under blankets with a cat on a day like this. (And I have to say she chose a better spot than the time about a year ago when she burrowed into my crotch while I was asleep and I dreamed I was giving birth.)

Right here, right now.

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In my last post I talked about my tendency to have an automatic and instinctive assumption that dead people were still around. Again, regardless of my current religious beliefs at any given time — I am not talking about heaven hell or purgatory, not talking about ghosts, and not talking about living on in my heart. I mean the literal assumption that they are still living. Except possibly in another time period that I have no personal access to. But I process other time periods as “now” instinctively too, so it all gets very confusing and not conducive to the English language.

I got to thinking about whether it was a more general thing about my conception of time, or some other thing beyond specifically about people who have died. And I realized I do it about objects that have been lost or irretrievably transformed, and places that have been destroyed or transformed.

When I was a kid, there was a VIC-20 game called Omega Race, and a book having to do with a character called Underdog. Both of these objects were obviously and completely lost. Not coming back. I had no particular attachment to them beyond other similar objects, but I insisted on scouring every conceivable location for them over and over again. This was not (as it looked) because I thought I might have missed a place, or (as my brother said of searching for lost items) because I “kept looking in my favorite locations hoping they would turn up”. It was because they had been right here. Right in front of me. And therefore they were right in front of me now. And there must be something wrong with me that I could no longer reach out and touch them. Because in my mind back then, “They are right here darn it, I have grabbed them a zillion times, and it makes no sense that I cannot grab them now.”

If that was traumatic (and it was), when it happens with places it is even worse. I know somewhere deep inside me that there is a Video King store, right near D&J Hobby. You go in and there are videos and Nintendo games for rent. Each video has a little tag you take off and bring to the register, and there are different ones for VHS and Beta. This exists. Now. But I go there later and it is replaced or empty. And that is hellish, because it should exist and there is no reason for it not to.

(It’s strange. Sometimes things work like this, and sometimes the moment something is out of direct perception, it never existed — I can turn around and not remember what was on my other side, move a hand and the thing I am touching is no longer there and totally forgotten. I wonder what the difference is, and why I seem to have both of those reactions instead of the reaction I have only intellectually memorized, where things change and the past and future stay firmly outside of “now”, and you remember things as past while knowing it is the past and not now. I seem to overshoot that mark in both directions.)

Sometimes this even goes for tiny changes, so that, for instance, I perceive myself as currently and simultaneously in every location I have ever been. And it also happens with myself growing and changing, such that for a long time I had constant silent and wordless conversations with my “past selves” (for lack of a better term) because they were all “right now” at once. And for awhile I would walk along routes that took me to places from my past (which I was sure were still there) and if I happened to find people from my past I would triumphantly interact with them and expect them to be as excited that they were still there as I was. (I had no way of explaining this to anyone though, so if anyone wonders the real reason I at one point started showing up at both of my elementary schools and giving long nonsensical reasons for it if asked? This is the real reason. I just had no way of saying it, so I made up the only responses that were available at the time (borrowed from dystopian novels, I think), with disastrous results on one such occasion. I knew you had to give responses, I didn’t know they had to pertain to what was going on inside my head, and if I had known I wouldn’t have been able to give one anyway.)

So I know this is how I have perceived things ever since I was old enough to figure out that unseen objects still existed (which I figured out late and sometimes still don’t know — it’s a skill that doesn’t permanently take for me, it comes and goes). I know it is not how most people perceive things, from the reactions I have gotten when I bring parts of it up with people. I can sometimes intellectually decide things are different than this, but my bones (or my brains) say otherwise. I don’t know if it’s due to my temporal lobe oddities or something else, but it is definitely related to how I perceive dead people. It’s one of those things I could never talk about or ask about growing up, where maybe if I had been able to I would have “corrected” myself. Or maybe not. But it’s still terrible to be confronted with the solid evidence that something that is right now right here, is… gone, or changed, or different. And yet even past that point, my mind still believes it is right here.

There’s something about death I don’t understand.

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There have been two significant deaths to me recently. My grandfather died just before Christmas. And Judi Chamberlin (the first psych survivor I saw besides myself who challenged the leadership in that community by the likes of Szasz, Laing, Breggin, and other professionals who upheld many of the destructive power structures within psychiatry while claiming to be rid of them — she wrote a really good book called On Our Own) died this weekend.

And yet again I am coming up against my instinctive responses to death, that don’t seem to be all that standard. (Note that these are instinctive reactions and have been totally unchanging regardless of my religion or lack thereof. The second one especially is not a view or belief, it’s an involuntary reaction on the same level as most people’s assumption that their house looks the sane every day unless something specific changes it.)

For one thing, my memories of people who have died do not do that peculiar transformation I see in other people’s minds. That is, I remember the people the exact same way I remembered them in life. They don’t transform into saints, the bad memories don’t go away, I do not suddenly see them as all good and no bad. I know that this steps on a massive taboo. I did not know how massive until I saw people judging my entire character on the fact that when a particular person died a while back I did not suddenly cease to criticize the dead person’s actions (even though the dead person had called for dreadful things to happen to people like me, and even though the dead person continued after death to have the level of influence that would make those bad things more likely).

Whereas I find it incredibly disturbing that when people I know die, even people I mostly like, suddenly they are transformed in eulogies into people who never existed. Sometimes the eulogies even turned those people into the opposite of who they were in life — a total gossip will be described as never having an unkind word to say about anyone. This strikes me as frightening, disturbing, and disrespectful, but then my way seems to strike most people the same way. (Hint: If I were really the monster some people have made me into for viewing things this way, I would not care about how disturbing I find it to disrespect the dead by turning them into people they never were.)

So that was thing number one about my reaction to death that seems to be weird.

Thing number two is related but different. This is that not only does my memory not suddenly change the person into someone they weren’t, but that my memory does not change at all. The person is still there as far as I am concerned. I continue to use the present tense, not just by habit but because as far as I am concerned the person still exists even when I am fully aware of the fact of their death. I have heard of something superficially similar happening during denial but this is not denial. It happens whether I am grieving a good deal or grieving not at all. I simply don’t see the person as gone. I don’t see people who died thousands of years ago as gone either, I just see them as… temporally inaccessible or something. I grieve for our inability to inhabit the same time-area as each other anymore, but I don’t grieve for their nonexistence because they seem to exist, just somewhere (or rather somewhen) I can’t share with them now.

The first thing makes me into a terrible person in some people’s eyes. The second just seems to make me strange. But both of them are just how I am, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be otherwise. I mean I won’t go to a funeral and talk about how much I can’t stand the dead person, but I see nothing wrong with discussing their faults somewhere else (and I see a good deal wrong with actually changing descriptions of who the person is and what they have done just because they are dead — it’s one thing to refrain from talking about the bad points with people who are grieving, but actively claiming the opposite? Just… no, that erases the person more than death ever could).

And as for the second thing (which I find more interesting by far)… what is it about me that doesn’t respond the same way most people seem to when death occurs? I have talked to a lot of people and very few respond the way I do, or even understand my response. And I don’t understand theirs either. Why is it that most people process death so differently? Why does death seem to me almost as if it didn’t happen? Is there something about death I just don’t understand?

(And before anyone asks, I doubt that either one of these has to do with autism. Many of the differences between me and others on both counts are things I have observed both within and outside the autistic community. I have only met a few people who see both the way I do.)

Oh, and I am not printing comments that claim I am evil or something. It’s one thing to discuss different viewpoints about death in this situation. It’s a whole different ballgame to use my personal reactions to two recent deaths of a relative and a role model to castigate me for not mourning “properly”. Heed the difference, I will not tolerate the crossing of that line.

More Cat Photos

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Still taking awhile to write the cat posts, so more cat photos are happening:

The first one is a photograph of Fey sitting on top of her PetPocket, which is on top of the couch. She sits on that thing all the time, when she’s not taking rides in it.

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Here is a blurry photo of her curled up in an interesting shape on the bed:

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Here the photo is in better focus, but is cut off in the middle of her eyes. Her tongue, though, is sticking out and curled up to one side, in the middle of a wash apparently:

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Here you can see part of her face, and part of my face, with the mattress taking up most of the photo:

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The following three photos are of her leaning her head against the mattress, from three different angles:

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Here she is snuggled against me my face, seen from above. Having a shaved head again is great, because I can feel her fur with any part of my head.

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Here we are again, but she has her nose tucked under her arm:

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Here we are with our heads pressed together at the side, but pointing in opposite directions:

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Here she is with her arm over her nose, looking at me out of the corner of her eye:

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And here she is sitting on my wheelchair yet again:

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A useful link

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When Allies Fail

Something I would add is that when these sorts of things come up for any group of people (autistic people are far from the only ones, there is much culture and class-based stuff in there as well) whose normal way of interacting has been considered by those with power to lack “proper” social skills… when we get angry at people who perpetuate some form or another of prejudice or oppression is NOT the time to start lecturing us on how our social skills are atrocious and we need to calm down and be polite before anyone can listen to us. That is just adding a whole new layer of fail on top of whatever the original one was, and trapping us into a situation where we need to communicate in the same way those in power do before those in power will listen. (Which is false anyway. When we do manage to communicate in that manner we are usually ignored. Which means the insistence that we all communicate in that one way is just another way of not listening. Which is why it pisses me off so much when I see so-called allies demanding perfect decorum from those they are supposedly allied to. It’s really just another twist-and-turn of power play and will doubtless just cause a feeling of impotent rage in anyone it’s applied to.)

Still working on the cat posts. And right now lying back to back with a cat in yet another mode of cuddling.

I think this is the best theme I could get right now.

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I liked the old theme, but it was incapable of widgets (I like the website kind if not the cognitive kind) so I found this one and replaced the awful cherubs with another close-up photo of Fey. All in all, I am better off using a theme I can actually work with, rather than bumbling about and using up lots of spoons trying to pretend I can understand more than the rudiments of php and stylesheets. I may or may not edit the colors on this theme or make a few minor tweaks, but overall this theme’s solidity is much more comforting than the other one’s fragility.