First world cat problems

Today, I asked four cats what their biggest pet peeves are. This is what they said:

“I think one of my pet peeves is when I’m lying in front of the fire, and I get too hot, so I have to actually move. Which means I get cold, so I have to move back. AGAIN. I hate it.” Suri, aged 5

“For me, it has to be when I’m just chilling with my girl, or catching up on sleep, or whatever, and one of the humans interrupts me by making me have breakfast or dinner. Humans can be such killjoys.” Bouncer, aged 13

“When I’m lying in front of the fire,

and I get too hot, so I have to actually move…”

“I thought the worst thing was not getting enough credit for checking the humans are still breathing every night. Wrong. It’s not being able to do it at all because they always close the bedroom door. #unappreciated” – Tango, aged 13

“Sometimes my food bites back. Just when I think I matched wits with it and won, it attacks me from within and bursts forth back the way it came.” – George, aged 4

“I feel like I can’t tell anyone, but I can’t help feeling jealous of the computer in my room. I secretly wish it would just disappear, so that my human would forget all about it, and focus on me, and me only.” – Bouncer

Where’s your computer now? Check MEOWT! – Bouncer

“When you want to be stroked, and you literally have to headbutt someone’s hands or stand on whatever is distracting them so that they get the hint.” – Suri

“It really drives me mad when people won’t stop stroking me until I show them my teeth. Not everything’s all about you, you silly humans!” – Suri

“For some reason, my humans and housemates alike expect me to have finished eating the top layer of my food in just 20 minutes. Come on folks, why the rush?” – Tango

“Why do humans have to be so greedy? Mine takes up at least 25% of our chair and 50% of our bed. It’s like enough is never enough.” – Bouncer

Finally owning this bed – Tango

“I think beds have it in for me. They trick me into thinking they have no limits, then just when I roll over, they disappear from beneath me. I feel like nobody gets how hard this is.” – Tango

“I don’t think my housemates really understand me. I thought it was perfectly acceptable to inspect another cat’s bottom at length whenever I want. Guess not.” – George

Girl power at its finest – Suri

“I’m the only girl cat, and no-one tells you how exhausting it is, hitting the boys in the face when they bother you, or trying to grab their food without getting caught. All that just to prove my girl power.” – Suri

“When I roll over, beds disappear from beneath me.

Nobody gets how hard this is…”

“When you get nice and cosy with your friend’s preferred human and he takes it waaay too seriously.” – George

Come on, lighten up, man! – George

“When your housemate has the nerve to suck up to YOUR human right under your nose, and she doesn’t instantly rehome him.” – Bouncer

The good side of Asperger’s

A lot of people these days try to put a positive spin on being a bit different. I realise that I covered this a couple of posts ago. Because I wanted to make it clear that it’s ok to acknowledge the negatives. But my personality makes me the sort of person who, if I’m not careful, gets weighed down by the bad stuff. I think the aforementioned post, and many other (written and verbal) rants from me have shown this.

So just for once, I thought I’d look at my Asperger’s with a brighter outlook. DISCLAIMER: I don’t mean to brag – while some of the following is what people say about me, this is focusing on AS as a whole, not an individual’s personal strengths. Enough rambling!

Firstly, while people do exaggerate about this, it is true that Aspies are more prone to above-average intelligence than most. And many have skills that are less common in neurotypicals. Some might have a great sense of pitch. Others may be gifted artists. As for our special subjects? Well if you want to know more about cats, or Myers-Briggs personality functions, or anything about the mind, you know where I am.

Then there’s understanding people. Being on the spectrum means you may struggle with this. But for me, at least, it’s on-the-spot social interaction that’s tricky. Once you’re aware of this, you may spend a lot of time trying to make sense of the social world. And you know what? A slightly “outside” viewpoint can lead to a different, and maybe even deeper, understanding of people.

Also, AS people are known for being unwavering and just a little stubborn at times. Making decisions isn’t easy. Going back on them is twice as hard. But I’ll say this. If you have this tendency, chances are, you’re reliable. You keep to a predictable way of doing things. If I’m doing something new and significant, I will carefully plan. Or try to. As for breaking rules? They’re probably there for a reason, and unless they’re not going to work, I’m not breaking them just because I can.

And lastly, this one goes out to everyone in a minority. It might not be a walk in the park, but you have the potential to reach out to people like you and help them feel less alone. Think about it – you could be a role model! Everyone finds it comforting when they find someone they can relate to, and I’m no exception. Sometimes we “token minorities” have to stick together. So why are you still reading this post? Go out there, make someone’s day, and shine!

Easter musings

It’s Easter Sunday, and the immediate family members are busy socialising after a slap-up roast. I, on the other hand, am doing what I do best: hiding in my room hunched over a computer, thinking I should be more productive. And of course, eating chocolate. Because that’s what Easter’s about. Right?

I’ve been trying to think of possible Easter-y things to say on my blog, and for a while, I was on the brink of not bothering. Not because I can’t be bothered with Easter, but because I couldn’t think of anything to say that hasn’t already been said on the internet a gazillion times. After a little reflection, I do actually have a couple of thoughts to mull over. So I’m making this post a quickie.

As a Christian myself, the idea of being able to be Christians despite our imperfections because Jesus was crucified has often puzzled me. Crucifixion sounds like a brutal way to go. And all people, back then and today, are imperfect. But what is the connection between these two facts? I was thinking about this a while back, and realised: the physical consequences of the events of the Easter story aren’t important. Rather, it’s the idea of absolute good surrendering to absolute evil and still winning.

I’ll be honest; reading this back makes me realise there is still so much I don’t understand. But then I pretty much live in that realisation. Besides, whatever your personal beliefs, no-one can claim to have all the answers about big topics like this.

And then this gem from Mum, who I made famous (practically) a couple of blog posts ago. To complete today’s dinner, she made a simnel cake. What’s a simnel cake? This is*:

Image result for simnel cake

The marzipan balls, by the way, represent each of Jesus’s disciples. While there were 12, most simnel cakes miss out a ball for Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Mum, a firm believer in social justice, has included a 12th ball on hers. Firstly, because Judas was guilty for what he did. Come on, he hanged himself! Secondly, it was supposed to happen. And lastly, as Christians, and as decent human beings, forgiveness is key. Especially when it’s been over 2,000 years.

So those are my two thoughts for the day. Working in a Christian bookshop, there’s plenty of inspiration around me for a blog post like this. Then again, between tidying greetings cards, keeping the Easter egg stack symmetrical, and saying “Yes, we do have palm crosses…can I take your surname please?” to the fifth person on the phone that day, remembering to latch onto it isn’t easy.

 

 

*(DISCLAIMER – neither the cake, nor the photo, are ours. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/topdrawersausage/4492925419)

Proud to be different?

For those of you who don’t know, I’m not only autistic, I’m also biracial. Specifically half Taiwanese, half British. And throughout my life, I’ve had more people than I can count react to this. Often unprompted. I get complete strangers saying ni hao to me. Men trying to be funny. Women selling Chinese literature. Boys at school who wanted to “have my Chinese babies.”

People have argued that there’s nothing wrong with saying “ni hao.” It’s only hello, right? Well it’s not funny. Or cool. It makes me feel the same as when men catcall me – they might not be using a direct insult, but it is still disturbing. Plus how do I know they’re not making fun? You don’t go around singing Lion King songs to black people. Or assuming that an autistic person is a living incarnation of Christopher from The Curious Incident. Oh, wait…

Yet being in a minority is seen as special. Which brings me onto a conversation I had with Mum, following a man-trying-to-be-funny incident the other day.

These days, it’s both healthy and trendy to do a Lady Gaga and proudly say “I was born this way, hey!” And many people believe it’s good to be different. Great that they think that, but it’s easy enough to say when you haven’t fallen behind at school, dealt with countless preconceptions about your race or how your brain works, feared judgement even from those closest to you, had people take you less seriously than they should…Sometimes I still hate being different. There, I said it.

But by all means be proud of your brain. Or heritage, or whatever. If you’re neurotypical and/or firmly rooted into your home country by 10 generations, your support means a lot to people like me. Either way, remember that no matter how well things are going, it can be tough. And if you’re not happy in who you are, don’t try to pretend otherwise – it’s ok to be frustrated.

If it does get you down and someone is trying too hard to be positive, say: “I’m glad you think it’s a good thing, and I realise that it’s important to be happy in who I am. But being/having x,y,z can be hard because (insert reason), and sometimes I need people to acknowledge that and sympathise.” This isn’t the same as being pitied just for being in a minority – it’s simply feeling sorry that someone else is struggling.

And if someone says something careless without trying to hurt you, just explain that you are a regular person. Say that displaying preconceptions about you makes you feel really uncomfortable, especially because sometimes people do mean it unkindly. Or because they have assumed something that just isn’t true. If they are apologetic, accept their apology and move on. If not, just…move on.

Meanwhile, I’d better get back to counting red cars. And giving out fortune cookies. Zai jian for now!

Proudly autistic and Asian

 

To Mum: surprise!

You know that awkward moment when you’re struggling to write a surprise blog post, but the person you usually ask for advice is the central character of said post? Yeah. It’s hard, isn’t it? So without further ado, let me introduce…you guessed it, my mother!

For starters, my mum has many names to choose from, the most common ones being Helen, Hez, Hezza, and, according to her Sainsbury’s reward cards, Melen* (my personal favourite). She spent her teen years at ballet school, then worked for several more years in Taiwan, where she met my father. Now back in England and married to my stepdad, she teaches Pilates and is training to be a counsellor. Long story short.

One of Mum’s many achievements in life is to produce two children who look nothing like her. Given this fact, and my father’s shenanigans with other women, I have asked her if she’s sure I’m not some other woman’s child. For some reason, she keeps insisting I’m hers, and refuses to believe otherwise. Almost as if my logic is flawed…

She also never tires of talking about what a huge baby I was, often completely at random. Having recently had my 24th birthday, this subject has been particularly high on the agenda. But given that I’d forget if it was mentioned on anything less than a daily basis, this is probably character building for me.

To this day, Mum still has a collection of letters I posted under her door as a small child. Such as “Dear Mummy, are you sorry that I hurt my knee?” And “Dear Mummy, I am sorry that the book got broken. Maybe we can fix it somehow.” And this classic from Year 1 at school: “My mummy is nice and kind and pretty and firm when me and my sister are bad. Sometimes my sister is bad, but I am good most of the time.” I always was destined to be a writer…

Apparently one of the perks of being a mother is the thrill of embarrassing your children. Personally I don’t buy the excuse that it’s revenge for every time your kids publicly embarrass you. But then her favourite weapon is stories of all those times. She also likes trying to be cool with words like “lol”, “lmao”, “grooveh” and “in with da kids”. Which she does to drive my sister crazy “just for the lolz.”

But for all her eccentricities, my mum fits all the important mum criteria. Throughout divorce, living on benefits, school struggles, Grannie dying, and the trials and tribulations of growing up, she has been there. Loved me and my sister. Fed us properly. Given us a good life. And never let us down. Well, unless you count the time she wasn’t sorry I hurt my knee.

Melen Mum, I will just say this for you. I love you. Oh, and happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

*Whoever created those cards must have looked at her signature, wondered to themselves whether the first letter was an H or an M, and decided that “Melen” was the most likely option.

Little things I have needed to learn as an Aspie

That no matter how much I genuinely like a present someone has given me, if I don’t look at them, smile, and act enthusiastic, they will think I hate it. My mum had to teach me this as a kid.

That if someone (usually one of my parents) is trying to get me to say goodbye to someone not directly in my line of sight, simply shouting “bye” will not cut it.

When someone is talking at length to me, listening means more than just taking in what they are saying. It means looking at them on and off, sounding interested, encouraging them to say more, and saying a few things yourself where appropriate. Comes naturally enough now, but completely bypassed me at primary school.

To remember to make eye contact, to some extent (more on that here).

To be able to say, when I am feeling confused or overwhelmed, “I’m autistic, I find hard, could you just explain…” etc.

That actually you have to stand up for yourself, say no, and set firm boundaries, even if it means someone else can’t completely have their own way. At school, I hated the thought of upsetting people by saying no, when they so desperately needed my stationery, or even treats from my lunch.

That there are some people who are fine with this, as long as it works both ways.

That the worst case scenario in a new social situation is that I’ll find it kind of boring and be happy to get back to the privacy of my room.

That the best friendships aren’t forced.

The difference between when friends need advice, reassurance, or a listening ear. Advice: they don’t know how to deal with a situation and are asking your opinion. Reassurance: they’re saying “I feel so stupid, guilty, embarrassed, etc.” or “I’m not weird/stupid/in the wrong, am I?”. Listening ear: they’re not asking anything of you; they simply want to talk something through or explain something to you.

That feeling sad about someone else’s struggles is a double edged sword – you can either be overburdened by feelings of helplessness, or keep the focus on them and pay attention to what they need.

How to recognise when my batteries seriously need recharging. As a child playing at someone’s house, I’d frequently go and spend time with any grown-ups available. Though I didn’t realise this, I was feeling mentally exhausted and was giving my brain a rest. Now, if I’m socialising and enjoying it, sometimes I don’t realise how much I need alone time until I get it.

 

 

My thoughts on the human condition

When people talk about the human condition, it sounds like some big, deep theory that summarises the whole of humanity from an objective viewpoint. People are always trying to make sense of other people, whether it’s from a philosophical, psychological or religious perspective. Yet without being God, or any other higher being that can see us inside out, it’s impossible to get the bigger picture. And anyway, do we really want to know what humanity must look like from the outside…

But the human condition isn’t just about how people were made, and how we turned out. It’s also in the little things. Like so:

Does anyone else find it annoying when mature adults assume you’re younger than you are, then expect you to take that as a compliment? If you’re like me, you want to look to be an age at which people take you seriously. Yet older people want to look younger for the same reason. So basically, we go through each stage of life either missing, or looking forward to, the years when we get taken seriously. While not taking people outside our age range seriously. Yeah.

And the “us against the world” mindset. Life sucks, doesn’t it? Especially when you have to deal with Asperger’s Syndrome, the odd racist catcall, and an anticipated future of being single and unemployed. Honestly, other people have it so easy…

See what I mean? We can only clearly see what’s wrong with our own lives. Anything that doesn’t affect us has to be right under our noses and relevant to our interests. It gets interesting when this mindset is what unites a particular social group. Then what happens? A fight for a noble cause, or a feud over politics, religion, or race?

On a similar note, when we don’t know everything, we fill in the gaps. Sounds like a bad thing, and sometimes it is, but it’s how we make sense of the world around us. We get glimpses of what’s happening in someone’s life, and what we don’t know, we speculate. Problems only start when we are so sure that our understanding is right, that we lose touch with reality.

Then there’s that old “meaning of life” mystery. Whose life? Yours or everyone’s? I’ve come to realise that you don’t “find” your purpose; you choose it, pursue it, and if it stops working, pick another. For life in general, my theory is: keep the world living and moving by playing your part and striving to make a difference. Best I could come up with, anyway.