Tag Archives: Friends

TWITS, Caveman Conformity and The Toothfull Beastie (Sunday 17th May 2015)

This blog post is being written thanks to my friends who are noticeably “different” in some way. I love and admire them for being the interesting and unusual people they are. Sadly, sometimes other people take against them for it. I wonder why some people treat others who stand out in some way with prejudice or indifference. So here are my thoughts on the matter……

I reckon that cliques and conformity are a form of a Caveman mentality we required thousands of years ago to survive. Separated from the herd, that animal was less likely to live. And once they were separated from the group, perhaps they wouldn’t let you back in- instead becoming a sacrifice to whatever Toothfull Beastie was after the flock at the time. The Toothfull Beastie is more likely to gobble up strays and outsiders instead of attacking the main unit of the herd, the sacrifice of the stragglers allowing the rest of the herd to live another day. Leaving members of the flock behind was probably justified by blaming them for their own predicament, such as being too slow or weak or not really one of them anyway.  Blame is a Hot Potato.

Those of the flock with a conscience may have been thankful that at least it wasn’t them, believing that “It’s them or us”. I tend to think that wherever there’s a Them and an Us, there’s a Problem.  Unfortunately, long after the Caveman days, there is still plenty of that mentality around.   

 

If conformity is fear-driven, that leads to the question: In the case of modern society, what is the Toothfull Beastie?

 

Most predators which once roamed the earth are now either extinct or excluded from most urban areas. Although nowadays there is a lack of animal predators attacking humanity, we retain this mentality out of habit and lack of change.  Perhaps the modern Toothfull Beastie is the fear of exclusion itself.  In a way that makes us our own predators, which is even more destructive.

Before therapies from MLC Scotland (which gave me physical and emotional balance) and Johansen IAS  (which strengthened the sound processing connections in my brain, allowing me to hear speech clearly and consistently) I used to feel different from other people. Difference is great, it’s what makes us individuals, but I felt different in a negative way.

This is partly because I took on some of the views of myself from some people who were herd members in the extreme. Their uniform was generally Ugg boots, short skirts, carefully prepared hair, shellac talons and that healthy orange glow. Instead of emulating their fashion sense and clothes labels and admiring the beatific solarium radiance of their skin, I remained a minority against their numbers. I was a pretty scruffy herd member, with long unkempt fur and almost zero interest in fashion trends.  Because of the serious Auditory Processing Disorder I had when I was at school, I couldn’t hear speech clearly. This made me an easy target for TWITS (Trophy-Wives-In-Training) who identified me as a weaker animal with social skills even less developed than my grooming regime.

Some of them pitied me for not wanting to be the same as them, pointing a bejewelled acrylic claw in my direction and saying “That’s a shame” enough times for my scrambled hearing to pick it up.

Others messed with me out of curiosity as if they were thinking “(OMG!) It’s not the same as us. What does it do?”

And a few of them were just plain mean, the kind of people who intercept the Hot Potato of Blame in midair, just so they can pass it on to someone they dislike.

 

Feeling like easy prey, I took on some of their Caveman mentality. I felt like there was a Them and a Me. I almost believed that being different was something to be ashamed of, because it made me feel lonely and in fear of packs of TWITS every time I entered the school gates.  TWITS are terrified of people who are different, which is why they made sure to remove me as far as possible from them, like doing a biopsy of a cancer. I could have been contagious.

I know many people, who like me, because their differences were seen as negative, badly want to be Normal.  Back at school I wanted to feel Normal, whatever that was, unless it was a TWIT.

Now I know that because “normal” is an average created by measuring how everyone is different, there is no such thing. Normal is a myth, a fiction as non-existent as the Toothfull Beastie.

Safety in Similarity has a nasty sting in its tail: Conformists may show contempt for those who do not emulate them, but if there were no people who were “different”, Conformists would have no direction for their prejudice and fear except to look inwards on themselves. And I think they would find that truly unsettling.

One of the amazing things about evolution is that we adapt to survive. We will eventually realise that The Toothfull Beastie is no more, and that we can come out of our Caveman Cliques and benefit and learn from each other’s differences. Where there is no Them and Us, just one huge united group, by helping each other we will also help ourselves. But sometimes I think Guys, can we maybe evolve just a little bit faster please?

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Saturday 31st January- Lunch with a friend from Lip Reading Class

Today I was back in Glasgow and saw a friend from my lip reading class. She bought me lunch and told me about how her friends and family are getting on. She is like a Gran to me. All of my lip reading friends feel like my older relatives. I was so nervous when I turned up at my first lip reading class almost three years ago. I was scared that I wouldn’t fit in there, that the rest of the class might not like me because I was so much younger and had no hearing loss.

They welcomed and accepted me. I told her this, thanking her for accepting me and making me feel so at home there. I wanted her to know how important her and my other lip reading friends are to me. 

She just looked at me and said, “Jenny, why would we not accept you?”

After school, lip reading classes didn’t just help with Aural Rehabilitation. The friends I made there helped to restore my faith in people. 

Sunday 7th December – Busking

This morning I went out for some busking, with a few Christmas Carols added to my repertoire. On the Royal Mile I met Elaine. She is the world’s most pierced woman, and a lovely person. Her colourful dress, dreadlocks, glittering facepaint and of course, many piercings bring colour to the Mile even in the winter.

She gave me some advice for busking and said that she liked my playing. When she came over to chat and listen to me play, some men wanted a photo with her. She told them to give me a pound instead, because she was busy listening to me right now.

I admire her courage to be the brightest and most colourful person in the street, not afraid to look unusual or to be herself. The world needs more people like Elaine.

Gradually I’m getting to know more of the people of the Mile. There are a few human statues (you have to be on the Mile fairly early to get there before a Human Statue), Market traders with small stalls, some bagpipers, Elaine of course, and a kindly portrait artist who has helped me out with advice when I’ve been busking. Further down the Mile are Fire Jugglers, circus acts and escape artists. They are a part of the street and also a small community, and one of the things I love about Edinburgh. It’s a very different city from Glasgow, but it’s growing on me. 

Saturday 1st November – Same Slug thing, Same Slug place

Apparently, if you don’t have a weird flat mate, you are the weird flat mate. I hope not.

For too long, I have been working on an essay. About Slugs. This slug essay is doing my head in.

Did you know that slugs can digest paper? Well now you do. I love actually doing horticulture, but I don’t like the paperworky learning part.

I’m not busking this weekend. All the tubes in my face are full of goo (kind of like a Slug), so trying to play my flute would be a messy exercise in pointlessness.

Tonight My flatmate had a party. It started fairly quiet when I went to bed. By 3am it sounded like they were acting out a goddamn musical in the kitchen.

I wasn’t sleeping anyway because of all the goo in my sinuses. I had three options:

Ignore the noise and carry on not sleeping

Tell them to be quiet and not sleep in peace

Join in.

The beat of the music and hand clapping was kind of catchy, so I joined them in the kitchen with some egg maracas from my box of music stuff.

By then they were so drunk, they thought that egg maracas were the best thing ever.

One of the people there had created some of the music playing. It was pretty good stuff. Nice people. I tried to shake as few hands as possible because of germs, and made some friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

 

Friday 31st October- Happy Halloween – Hysterical Laughter, Man-Eating Sushi and Guinea Pigs

When I have a cold, my IQ drops like a stone. Today was no exception.

The morning was ok.

In the afternoon lecture I couldn’t stop laughing in class. Nothing in particular was making me laugh, I was just in that sort of hysterical mood I used to get often when I was younger, stressed-out and tired. After I went to MLC Scotland to sort our problems with Retained Reflexes, I had much less problems with this. My energy and mood were more constant rather than peaking and plummeting. However, when I’m tired, stressed-out or unwell I still occasionally get a madcap laughing spell.

I apologised to my lecturer at the end of class (I was in the front row and therefore unmissable). He was very nice about it.

I think part of the problem was that having a cold in class reminded me of school. Back then, I felt like this all the time. I was feeling rubbish, sinuses squeaking like mice and making broken vaccum cleaner noises when I blew my nose. My pockets were so full of tissues, I had a tissue belly. When I’m unsure about something, or freaking out a bit, I tend to laugh.

Got home, ate dinner which I cooked potatoes for this morning. I had woken up very early with this cold and decided to do something useful with my time before college.

In the past, not sleeping well didn’t faze me much. I was quite used to it. Now I’ve gone all soft. I’m become used to normal amounts of sleep and stress. So after just one night of not sleeping well, I can feel the difference.

It’s Halloween night. I got the bus over to the other side of Edinburgh with a friend. We’re going to another Horticulturist-in-training’s house tonight for Halloween. She’s a Goth. It’s going to be awesome.

The house was awesomely decorated, standing out from the houses either side with big black paper silhouettes of spooky things in the window.

She was a jellyfish. Clear umbrella with dangly neon lights. It looked amazing. I also got to meet more of her friends and her many adorable Guinea Pigs.

We watched a Japanese film about killer sushi. It was poorly thought-out, scripted, acted, tastelessly gory and also antifeminist. My Friend the Jellyfish was annoyed by this, but at the same time had a party brainwave and created a game called “Drink to Antifeminism”.

I had a great night in a room full of my college friends, friendly goths and metalheads, and (despite screaming noises from the TV) a contentedly wheek-wheeking hairless guineapig named Captain Hastings cradled in one of her friend’s arms.

Saturday 18th October- Today I bought a piano

It was too windy for my normal weekend busking- my flute was playing itself when the air blew through the mouthpiece, tubes and key holes. I tried to play outside a shop to avoid the wind, but got politely, and firmly, moved on. It’s all still good practice to fight nerves when performing.

Thank you very much! to kind people on the royal mile today who gave me donations.

I got a reply from someone I contacted on Gumtree about an excitingly inexpensive second-hand keyboard. Playing the Harry Potter theme tune by ear on a toy keyboard when I was six or seven was what made my mum think I might be musical. After that I never had much enthusiasm for learning piano, although I got lessons with a kind, very talented teacher who could have made me a very good pianist if I had it in me. I struggled with learning piano, and actually haven’t played since MLC improved my coordination. With Retained Reflexes which make mirrored and contralateral movement difficult, learning piano was tricky. Not having practiced in 5 years, I have forgotten how to play even the first song I learned. Now, I really want to learn again, and play whatever I feel like. A keyboard will also help me learn songs really quickly for busking.

It will be interesting to see any differences in how I learn to play piano after MLC therapy.

Over the phone the man with the keyboard gave me an address. I got on a bus, paid for and collected the keyboard, and hauled my bin-bag clad treasure home.

I can’t play it yet. Because there is no charger until one arrives from Ebay. It’s an old keyboard. A good make, retired from a music school when they upgraded. All the white keys have the notes written on them in permanent marker to make it easier for learners to play. There are little icons above the keys. Some of them are for drum and cymbal sounds. It also has a “drum pad” facility which I am super excited about. Right now, my desk is taken up with college folders, so it will have to share bed-space with me. Bed was too wide for me anyway.

Night out with my friends. The Horticulture Nights Out have become a thing.

A drunk leaning on the counter thought that I couldn’t be over 18 and kept telling me so. He burped and said that maybe if I couldn’t smell his burp (he asked and I politely said no), the bartender wouldn’t smell my age. Then he laughed in a lopsided, conspirational manner. The barman didn’t need to smell my age. I had ID, and left to go to my friends’ table as soon as I was served.

This man was probably too inebriated to be much of a threat, but I’ve learned to be cautious of single, older men in bars who want to talk to me (see March 2014). I didn’t make much eye contact, got away as soon as possible (although I think he couldn’t have followed me anyway because the bar was propping him up), and when he asked my name while I waited to order, I lied.

Dealing with scenarios like this might be second nature to most people, but I’m still learning. In the past, telling a lie would have felt impossible. Also now, if he had seemed like a threat, I wouldn’t have stayed beside him long enough to order.

One problem with socially being a young age, is that if I’m not careful, I could get into trouble, or learn bad habits very quickly. 

Fun night out with some of my college friends. I almost take being able to talk to people, and being fully-included for granted now. Almost. It’s still amazing and makes me so happy.

Friday 3rd October

Class was good today. We had a lecture about vegetative propagation followed by a tour of the propagation units in the garden. After a long lunch chatting with my friends, we had a lecture about leaf formation. This lecture was not so good because there was a hole in my bucket. The desk I chose to sit at had a bucket, because of a hole in the roof. It was a leaky bucket, and the tapping of droplets was starting to get to me. I have another friend who probably has Auditory Processing Disorder in my class. She has said before that noises of computers, screens, air-conditioning and humming machines have been distracting for her. I know the feeling- before Johansen IAS therapy I used to be just like that. The bucket was really distracting me. I felt like bursting out laughing at the silliness of this annoying situation. Half of me wanted to storm out in frustration with the noise, and the other half (the half which was tired and very over-excited about band practice after college) just wanted to sing “there’s a hole in my bucket!” then slide off my chair giggling.

I was really excited about practice tonight, worried that I’d be able to make it on time, and frustrated about my holy bucket. Every so often, the drips would move towards me and I’d have to shift the bucket, or myself when water dropped on my head. People with APD are known and sometimes identified by poor concentration skills. Actually, our concentration skills are fine. It’s just that everyday stimulus is more distracting to us.

I left class a little early, dashing to the flat to pick up my cymbals and the baked-potato dinner I had made yesterday.

The train price was high, but faster than bus and I missed the rush hour. Soon I was back home, tramping Glasgow rain. It was so great to see my friends. They’re like my big brothers and sister. Great music too. We might have our first gig next month!

The owner of the studio we practiced in tonight must think I’m really goofy. I managed to get a cymbal stuck solid on a stand and lock myself out of the sound-proofed studio. Tapping on the door and shouting at my friends through the window in it did not work. He must have heard me and came upstairs from his office to let me back in. 

My friends gave me a lift home. My parents were on holiday, leaving an empty house. They left me a note on the table sending their love and saying that I could eat anything in the house I wanted, including the elderly, apologetically sagging pineapple beside the note. A week at home with no one to complain about noise levels or evict me from my drums in the attic. Heaven.

Tuesday 30th September- My Brain Explained with computer analogies, and Death Stares

My auditory processing was a little patchy at college today, but pretty good considering the busy times I’ve had recently.

Something new is saying things without conscious effort. I no longer think, after a processing time lag: “They said that. What does that mean? How do other people respond to similar thing? What do I think? What do I want to say? How do I say it?” In the past, before Johansen, this processing slog my brain went thorough made every sentence in every conversation really long and difficult. By the time I thought of an answer, (if I heard what friends said in the first place), by then they were already on a new topic. Here’s a computer analogy (because computer analogies seem to make sense for lots of people)- the speed my brain processes at now is like the processing speed of my up-to-date windows laptop, compared to the speed of the room-sized computers people used about 50 years ago. You can probably do on a gigantic, ancient old machine, most of the basic, important things I do on my laptop, such as word-processing and emails. The difference is the effort and energy required for processing. The more energy required, the less energy remaining for other tasks and everyday life. Yes, you can get by with windows B.C. or whatever, but it’s awful nice to be able to read my emails with one click, then just get on with my day.

Nowadays I find myself talking and responding almost spontaneously. It’s less effort, and also a more genuine response from me. I don’t overthink about what to say until the opportunity to speak has gone, with that slow old processing route. My brain is a-moving with the times.

Johansen and MLC therapies really helped by giving me a solid foundation for life. Now, gradually I’m going through stages of development I missed and growing into my own age. For anyone else who has chosen to go down the route of MLC and Johansen therapies, in my experience it is normal to still be seeing improvements 3 or 4 years later. I’m very lucky that I was diagnosed during my teens. As an adult, I would have much more to catch up on, perhaps even most of a lifetime of missed social experience and development. Something I noticed recently is how much I can be influenced by behaviour and information from people around me. I can learn a lot of social skills in one day, and more about myself in the process.

Being able to hear clearly, and also the benefits of MLC, are something to get used to. It takes a while to adapt to your brain’s strengthened, faster-functioning neural pathways. Here’s another computer analogy: It’s like putting the SIM card from an old brick-style mobile into a brand-new smartphone. You know instantly that it works faster and the same old information is there, but you are yet to understand how to use the new system. And with this upgraded version there are new things you can do that you haven’t even discovered yet.

Any emotional habits and problems related to retained reflexes etc. will also have to be dealt with. They won’t vanish overnight. Sometimes it might seem that the same old problems are still there. They might be, but without whatever was holding you back before, this time you can really change.

I once joked that I never got round to being a difficult, stoppy teenager. Well, technically speaking maybe I didn’t. Perhaps stroppy isn’t my natural temperament, but more and more I feel like I’m catching up with my age group. Over the last year I’ve been listening to heavier music, got a new ear piercing, don’t worry so much about the small things, and am finding it considerably harder to get out of bed. Some of that sounds like the beginning of puberty, although I just turned 20. My parents might be relieved that I’ll no longer be living at home with them for the delayed teenage years.

Tonight I had my friends over to watch the end of Hot Fuzz, which is hilarious. One of my favourite films.

One of my friends is teaching me a Death Stare. He’s very good at it. I can’t do it yet without cracking up or smiling. Death Stares could be a very good life skill. Something my friend is teaching me is that sometimes it can be useful to put up a bit of a front to protect yourself from unsavoury types. He’s a really nice person, but can give a stare to freeze your blood. 

In the past when I felt threatened I used to go the opposite way, becoming more goofy and confused than before. Safety through looking a bit simple rather than scary. Now I don’t feel confused all the time, and when I’m nervous my brain can still string a sentence together. I don’t need to do this anymore. Within a few years I’ve gone from not talking much at all, to enjoying chatting with new people and making friends. But I’ve only got a few years of social experience, and sometimes have an overly optimistic view of people. I’m still learning how to judge characters.  So although socially I’m much more able than before, if one day I realise that I’m in a situation with some bad people, a well-practiced death stare may come in handy.

SUnday 28th September- More Busking

I got up earlyish, practiced a little then headed out to royal mile. This morning I had put effort into learning the main song from  Frozen. I thought that people would like it, but the general attitude to it was more like, meh. Maybe they’d heard it too many times already. I did get a request from a guy with a 1ft Mohican for a flute rendition of The Dead Kennedys. I put it on my list. I do play some rock music. It’s something I’m working on it. At the moment I playing one of the more melodic songs by Nine Inch Nails, called Losing Hope. It’s slow, sad and beautiful. It’s hard to play angry, edgy stuff on a flute. And something I’ve noticed is that tourists often prefer happy songs. Playing endless mournful stuff won’t earn me much.

I did okay, £10 for about 3 hours. Some of that was spent walking to different pitches. The top of the royal mile seems to be best, but you have to arrive fairly early to get a spot. I thought I’d found a patch until a bagpiper turned up and drowned me out.  Since a flute is a piercing instrument and echoes on the buildings, I don’t need an amplifier. But bagpipes still trump all.

Would I have had the confidence to play in the street in the past, before I went to Johansen IAS & MLC Scotland? Never. My confidence is growing. Even events like yesterday help. It can’t go as badly as that, I think to myself. I’m just starting out at busking, and although I’m not the best street musician there, it’s a relief to probably not be the least skilled.

I wouldn’t have busked in Glasgow. It’s easier to start in a very busking-friendly city, where barely anyone knows you. I suppose that busking actually is a good way for many people to know and recognize you, but I’m doing it because I love music, could do with a little extra money, and want to kill my performance nerves before my first gig as a drummer. It gives my flute a purpose. I love playing to people and seeing some of them smile as they pass. I feel like thanks to the Johansen and MLC therapies, and my fresh start in a new city, old parts of me which I’d forgotten are starting to come back to life.

Off to a friend’s house in the afternoon. We bought some drinks, watched the start of Hot Fuzz and had dinner.

On my way home I passed a homeless man. It’s so sad that people still have to live without shelter, especially in this wealthy country. It makes me angry that life has failed them. I’d given him a little change on my way past, but almost forgot about the big bottle of Mango Rubicon in my bag and went back with it. I probably wouldn’t use it. Maybe he’d like it. When I asked, he said yes, he did want it thanks. He said you’re gorgeous I love you. Not in a creepy way, which is kind of how it sounds here. More like, in return for a litre bottle of mango Rubicon, he wanted to give me the nicest words he could find. I hope his life gets better. He seemed like a nice man and worth writing about.

That’s me written up the last week in one night. I’ve been too busy to write recently! The Gibberish Dictionary website is very neglected.

Now the theme tune of Frozen is stuck in my head. Tomorrow is my first day of a pretty much 9-5 course.

It will be a lot of work, there’s not doubt about that. But I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and chatting with my class. There’s a social side of college I never got near at school. Now I can talk to my friends, hang around with them, hear enough and have the confidence and attitude and energy to be completely included. Before I could hear clearly, it was like every sound and thought was foggy and I had nothing to contribute. Now I’ve been hanging around in a group with my college friends, talking and laughing. Maybe even the odd race on the wheeled common area chairs is in store for me. It’s what I’ve always wanted.

Tuesday 6th May 2014

I was gardening again today. They dropped me off early at the train station early, wishing me luck for my British Sign Language exam. Sometimes I wonder where all the nice people like them were when I was at school. The answer is that they were there, all the time. I just didn’t have the stability, social skills, confidence and clear hearing to interact with them.

My exam went okay. I was last because of the alphabetical ordered list. Damn that second name.
I think I have a chance of passing, which is all I need. I did my best after a time so busy I could hardly revise. My college class and teacher are a great group of people. I’ll miss seeing them every Tuesday night.

Fingers crossed I’ve passed!