Some years ago, I had a stapedectomy, an operation to reverse hearing loss; involving a little implant. I feel as if it hasn’t worked the way I’d hoped, or else maybe the hearing problem is starting in the other ear now. Case in point: My partner, Al and my son Silas were all together in the van when Silas remarked that it appeared there was an older woman involved in a car accident. Silas was in the backseat and I turned to hear him better. I’d seen the police car but not the older lady in the white car Silas was referring to. So I asked Silas if the lady looked hurt. This is what I heard him reply:
“She’s from the oatmeal connection.”
Well that couldn’t be right. As usual when I don’t fully hear words, I nodded politely but Silas knows me, and said: “You didn’t hear me did you Mom?” I could’ve turned to my son that day in the van and said, “I’m sorry, but with the sound of traffic and the van AC blasting, I’m not understanding your words. I think I’m having hearing trouble again.” He would’ve then perhaps leaned into the front and raised his voice. I chose to simply nod and not hear what he said.
Misunderstood communication abounds, and not just in my tympanic membrane. Take Fitbits for example. (wiki definition: an American company headquartered in San Francisco, California. Its products are activity trackers, smartwatches, wireless-enabled wearable technology devices that measure data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal metrics involved in fitness.) Don’t take your device too seriously! It can ‘read’ you and display results that are not accurate.
I have never had a Fitbit but I was researching it within the autism community for input. One person stated that the Fitbit thought she was napping for 90 minutes but she was actually hyper focused for that 90 minutes… on Art. Another person said that her Fitbit thought she was exercising when in fact she was watching an episode of Scorpion. Very interesting. A colleague was picking strawberries and got Fitbit credit for swimming. Yet another person’s Fitbit gave them credit for walking over 100 steps- before they even got out of bed. Apparently they tossed and kicked in their sleep.
If you are autistic, an introvert, or different in some way, or even if you’re not any of those things, you belong to the human race and as such, have known miscommunication, or misinterpretation of communication for all your life. It is human nature. I have brought up the way that the human body (my ears) can misinterpret incoming information and the way that technology is also not foolproof and can be mistaken about it’s input. I’m sure you can name similar miscommunications in your own life. Especially now, the most chaotic and surreal time period in history I have ever lived in. It’s maddening to be misunderstood.
It’s 9:30 at night and I’m refilling my night water bottle in the kitchen sink. (I keep water by the bed). I was ready to go to bed and read until I got tired. There was a small light by the sink and the window was open. I had a view of my dark dead end street out the window over the kitchen sink. Just a streetlight illuminated a portion of the road. And then came the distant sound of melodic chiming outside, and it was coming closer. The music was like you’d imagine from an antique jewelry box in a dusty room in a centuries old house.
The ice cream man has taken to coming late at night now, since the pandemic got underway. It is a bit eerie. It draws small crowds, who I admit do adhere to social distancing, albeit unmasked. But the ice cream guy, an older afroed redheaded man who is very friendly- he is masked. And to me everything about that is surreal. Is there a reason the ice cream truck suddenly comes under cover of darkness? Is he afraid he’ll be in trouble and get called out for coming during the day and causing crowds to gather? I am sure his intentions are twofold- bring joy to people stuck at home. Make money for himself.
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SCARY AND HEARTBREAKINGLY TRUE:
Elijah McClain, a young man whose pasttime was playing violin for kittens at shelters because they seemed lonely, was stopped for “looking suspicious” and he insisted he was not suspicious, he said “I’m an introvert and I’m different.”
And he ended up dead.
Elijah’s last words anger me and break my heart. “I’m an introvert and I’m different.” People are very apt to make a 911 call these days and report people who are different. Perhaps people should be more inclined to look for the ways we are the same.
I’m Different as in… I don’t have to abide by rules
A man at a local McDonalds, is told recently he must put on a mask to come inside. No one can eat inside yet, but he can order inside and take the food out. The doors are clearly labelled with “must wear a mask” signs. He returns, irate, with a paint gun, and blasts out a McDonalds window.
I’m different and I’m an introvert and I use art as a way to refuel.
Here’s an activity I enjoy. Like Grant Manier, I enjoy using puzzles in my artworks. It is repurposing. It is eco-friendly. Here is my favorite part of the process: I search online, at thrift stores and I have puzzles -usually missing key pieces- given to me. Sometimes they are just precisely the group of colors I am looking for or the pieces have eyes on them, or bits of pieces of faces are on them. I get a comfy seat and put Baggies all around. Then I sort boxes and boxes of pieces into hues. I put different colors in each Baggie and store these Baggies in bins. Electric blue, yellow and red are special finds and all the pieces have snippets of other colors on them too but I sort according to what the prevalent color is on each individual piece. When I begin a project, I can grab bags of carefully selected different colors, the way someone might set up squirts of paint on a palette. Then I peel them and start gluing to make a picture.
The curly pieces, because puzzle pieces come in all shapes and sizes, will lend themselves well to things like forest trees or hair. This activity is not so different as to when I was collecting shards of broken pottery and plates, and sorting the colors into plastic boxes for mosaics.
Except it is different in this way:
People are misintrepreting my motivation to choose puzzle pieces. Puzzles are colorful games. That are useful in my art, and although I have not made art with them for years, I am getting militant comments from a select few people
(okay…….actually only ONE sole person)
who is saying things I will not repeat here because my sincere hope is that she will grow from these exchanges she’s had with me. I can respect other views. I really hate the popularized and overused psyche term “trigger.” But even more, I hate that people
1) Mistakenly assume or think that I support the use of puzzle pieces as a “symbol” for autism.
(even if I did, I have the right to that. I don’t have to defend a personal preference, but I like the rainbow infinity symbol if in fact we must have a representational icon.)
2) people Assuming that the autism community and it’s art, movements, popular convictions, etc. is something I’m ignorant about- and that I am not a “proper” member of said community because I use this source of paper in art.
(Group-think, and especially trying to ENFORCE group-think, is very dangerous.)
3) people Assuming I can’t possibly know how ”triggering” it is to look at my art pieces.
(again, learning to live and let live without trying to bring others down and respecting their viewpoints would go a long ways these days.)
So many things around me are making me “see red” these days. Like the way pistachios used to be dyed red and the color stuck to your fingers and stained them.
Or the “juice” I’d be served as a kid, not juice at all but some red punch concoction that stained the tongue for hours. Or the merthiolate medicine parents put on our cuts that painted them red (and contained mercury).
But, this thing that I’m feeling is an internal red… this pervasive chaos that permeates the head space, stains it, and if you aren’t careful it is hard to shake. It colors everything.
I even got a Facebook friend request the other day from a guy (grown ass man) who sexually assaulted me with a gag and wrist binds years ago. Why? Why try to friend me? I’ve seen you at two functions since then and neither time did you acknowledge or apologize for that trauma you inflicted on an 8 year old me. Where is accountability these days? I’m seeing red, and not just because Silas dyed his hair that color. His hair is pleasant.
I recall going for a drive to Canada when my (autistic) son was just about 8 years old himself. This was when you didn’t need a passport. My (late) spouse and I were detained a long time at the border, to my horror. They took us parents aside and questioned us separately. Apparently my son’s different mannerisms, such as hypermobility and darting eyes, had them thinking we had kidnapped him. “He always looks shifty!” my spouse had said. They let us go. They had listened. Our stories matched. We were none the worse for wear.
WHAT IF we had been black and that happened recently? Would we be dead now?
I was at the doctor’s office a few days ago, masked and trying not to engage. I needed a bloodwork recheck and I’d put it off for 6 mths. A very loud and kind of assertive 78 year old man came in (he told me his life story, pulled down his mask and asked me if he looked 78, and he chose a seat very close to me, even though the place was empty save for us two).
The receptionist asked about my granddaughter. I liked her, I’ve “known” her for years. The man started raving on about the atrocities we are facing today, about how Trump was off the deep end and making everything worse and he was sure Trump was racist. I agreed by nodding because all that is true, but still I was hoping not to engage. I was too focused recalling my verbal script list and anticipating the questions the doctor may ask.
The receptionist, (a petite 30-something blonde lady) chimed in.
“Are you talking about our President like that? He is a Christian you know!”
I was again feeling like I was in a surreal world. I chose to keep my mouth shut, right or wrong. Do I wish I’d challenged her? Maybe. Here was a man to my right, extroverted in an intrusive and intimidating way. Here was a woman I thought I knew. A Christian? Really? define that.
It gets curiouser and curiouser out there. Stay safe.