Tag: language

Reconciling evolution and intelligent design.

Reconciling evolution and intelligent design.

Fair warning, this post is about religion. I’m not a religious person–but I’m fascinated by the structure and influence it has. I admire those who have the strength of faith to believe in what cannot be proven, and those who take these ancient teachings and utilise them to be generous and kind. I hope that my thoughts below carry my respect for others’ belief. However, if you find religious discussion confronting or uncomfortable, you may wish to skip reading this blog.

If you are religious and find your way through my thoughts–I would love to know your view.

Why is a twit like me thinking about religion so much?

I was raised to believe in what I chose to believe in, so for the most part that was the hidden magic of the universe that you see in books and movies. I hoped every day desperately that I would catch my toys interacting in the dead of night, a tiny world that nested within my own. I attended a church with my grandparents and siblings on the weekend, their way of giving my parents some much-needed peace, but the miracles of the Bible just never grabbed me in the way it does others.

I liked the stories, and I loved the massive lunch they held once a month. I got enough familiarity with the routine and structure of church that I eventually decided it wasn’t for me, and I would have to find another activity with free food.

Simply put, I couldn’t suspend my belief enough to accept the Bible as a historical source. I still can’t, and I think it’s downright amazing for those who can.

I do think about it a lot, though, especially with the influence that religion has on society. Trying to reconcile happenings in the world with oft-quoted Bible verses keeps me occupied.

Genesis vs The Big Bang

One thing I never really ‘got’ about Genesis was the concept of the world being created in seven days. This makes very little sense if you consider that prior to there being light, there was likely no way to measure day and night. But then, who are we to assume that a God’s concept of day and night is the same length as our own?

The magic-wand approach of ‘intelligent design’ just doesn’t seem right. Why magic a universe from the depths of nowhere, when you could grow one? Why go for instant gratification when you could pull cosmic forces from hither and thither, smashing them all into one ‘big bang’ and forming the beginnings of a baby universe?

I don’t see how the Bible and scientific theories of universe creation are incompatible.

Remember too, that when these tales were initially formed, society didn’t have the deep scientific understanding that we do now. You could assume we were told a story we would understand, one of magic and wonder. Much like a child’s fairy tale before the child is old enough to comprehend that these things (allegedly) don’t exist.

God as a scientist.

So if we assume then that God is the instigator of the ‘big bang’ and our universe is His pet project, we then begin to see God not as an almighty magician, but as something better. A scientist!

This does mean putting aside the idea that God’s way always is and always was perfect. Perhaps in days of Eden it might have been, but whether you believe that sin and corruption changed the course of the world–or that God allowed nature to grow as it would–you can’t deny that the world has been evolving and adapting.

A close friend advised me that God gave man free will, that man could choose to love Him independently. The concept of the unknown element, ‘free will’ ties in nicely with the idea of us as an ongoing project. Another teaching claims that after the original sin, man was given the freedom to seek his own salvation in goodness and worship. In other words–God let us loose upon the earth to see what we would do.

Choose him? Better ourselves? Tear the world apart? In giving that free will, God himself was unable to know the outcome of the universe. Sounds like a pretty awesome project to me!

Evolution vs Intelligent design

With me so far? This one can be tricky. Once again, we’re going to assume that Genesis is a story told to man based upon how they understood themselves at the time. That is, a race that could stand, walk, and communicate.

Evolution suggests we weren’t always like that. Evolution suggests that we evolved, like all other organisms, from the smallest building blocks in the universe. The Bible states that we were made in God’s image. The fight over what view is correct has been raging since the theory of evolution first arose.

They’re not incompatible. We assume that the Bible means our current shape and form, because that is what we know. We don’t know what God’s image is. God, as is commonly accepted, is an all-knowing presence with no corporeal form. There’s no evidence that contradicts the idea that God Himself is able to change forms, and plenty of evidence that humans have evolved over time.

We were created in his image, and molded further to suit the changing planet, perhaps?

The universe as an ongoing project.

I’ve said a bit about this already, but the idea of our universe being seven day’s work and then sitting back to see what happens? Doesn’t sound much fun for God. I think evolution tells us that if He is the driving force behind all creation, he is still creating.

The world is changing and reacting in ways that He may not have predicted. Adjustments are needed, punishments are delivered and rewards are given. Over centuries organisms grow or lose tails, shed or grow fur to suit new climates, breed and diversify into the complex kingdom we live in.

What if we’re not just discovering new species of animals, but he is creating them for us to find?

Could you imagine the pure joy that God must feel as we explore and discover these creations? Pride when we broke our world down into building blocks, atoms and cells. Excitement at our discoveries, like a parent for a child. This is why I especially can’t get behind the Religion vs Science idea. God is science, and science is God’s magic.

On developments since the time of writing.

I can accept that the Bible may (in places) suggest that homosexual relationships are not acceptable. But remember, in this time and age, there was a great need for people to populate the earth. If men lay with men, and women with women, the progress of man would have been hobbled. We were not in the fortunate position we are now, where so many brilliant minds carry society forward.

We no longer need the reproductive power we did in Biblical times. ‘Go forth and multiply’ is no longer feasible when the world is bowing under the strain of overpopulation.

There’s a study done with rats by John Calhoun (1962) that I think illustrates this nicely. A number of rats put in an enclosure of a certain size will grow the population to a point–and then it plateaus. Put those same rats in a larger enclosure and the population will grow again, until the optimum population is reached and once again the numbers plateau. For any size ‘world’, there is an ideal number of inhabitants.

The rats controlled their own population by becoming bisexual, homosexual or asexual. As the rats were unable to flee the situation, the end result in most cases was a pretty scary dystopia–and there are plenty of counters to Calhoun’s research that suggest human society is less likely to follow that exact path.

However. If God works in mysterious was, and we must assume He does, how is homosexuality not a perfect solution to overpopulation? He’s not taken away the ability to love, but broadened the acceptance of other options and the idea that not all relationships must create children. We no longer need to multiply, but we do need to love and care for each other. There are children without families and families that cannot have children–it may be a literal match made in Heaven.

There are many verses in the Bible that speak to social contexts that no longer apply. Clinging to the words on the page may be inhibiting society’s ability to move forward with His grander plan.

The vast difference between Old and New Testaments illustrate how God adapts from guiding man with lessons built on fear, to the gentler acceptance and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Society changed, and God’s method of guidance did as well. Not everything that was acceptable before is acceptable now–not everything that was unacceptable then is still unacceptable now.

Basically? The truth is bigger than the Bible.

If I had the faith, that is what I would believe. The Bible was a guide book for centuries ago, one that can inform us of where we came from–but has limited use in our current social context. In accepting that the world is changing around us, and that this is by God’s doing, it also needs to be recognised that Gods plan is also changing.

Therefore, a thick volume of preserved words can only tell us so much. For the rest we need to take the spirit of God’s message (be kind, be generous, and love one another) and ask ourselves how it applies to the world as it is today. And from then, trust that if we act with that message and with God in our hearts, that we are acting in accordance with his plan.

I may not have God in my heart, but I do wholly believe in the message–insofar as it teaches love and acceptance. I see churches turning closer to this, and it makes me happy. Religion is a very powerful tool in society, and it should be used to bring people together–not tear them apart.

Especially not over ancient, difficult-to-translate text.

Frustratingly undiagnosed

Frustratingly undiagnosed

Labels are a weird thing. Some we crave, because it gives a sense of belonging. Others we fear and reject, for the stigmas that come with it. Labels can be limiting. They create social boundaries that we define ourselves by, labels are the facets of our many-sided selves. What we show to the world depends on which face we want to display. Which label we want to be seen under.

Loss of a label is… confusing.

I knew it was coming. The whole point of arranging to see a psychiatrist and starting the diagnosis process all over again was because I didn’t feel that ‘fast-cycling bipolar’ was accurate. It fit some of the symptoms, appeared to explain some behaviours, but left more questions than it answered.

The diagnosis itself (or, the addition of a label) came with came with a series of confronting questions. I began to doubt myself when I felt good, worried that I was ‘too good’ and in fact sicker than the days where I felt rotten. I began to wonder if I was as quirky or off-beat as I prided myself on being. How much of it was me and how much was a symptom of the illness?

Me: Are the days I feel good and dance in the supermarket a lie?
T: You dance in the supermarket on your bad days. That’s who you are.

Trying to draw the boundaries between what was me and what was a product of bipolar was exhausting. And because my ‘good’ days were very good–I also worried that dealing with the bipolar would take away the light at the end of depression’s tunnel. However bad things got, I knew that a day would soon come where I would feel productive and content.

Me: I don’t want to lose the good days that I do have.
C: What if I told you they could all be good days?

At the time it made enough sense, and I accepted the diagnosis. I was pretty desperate. I knew that something was not right–something was not being managed.

The mood stabilisers prescribed did little more than knock me out. What was supposed to be a ‘weaning dose’ put me to sleep for upwards of twelve hours, with no indication that this would lessen with long-term use. Even if I was mentally awake, my body felt so incredibly heavy and sluggish that movement was impossible. I suppose you could describe the emotional situation as ‘stable’, but realistically it was as if someone had wrapped my world in heavy grey wool.

I wasn’t having intense emotional outbursts. I wasn’t having anything. It was worse, even, than numbness. Sleep felt like a coma, waking was a superhuman effort, and I lived for the next moment where I could just lie down and rest. I wasn’t even particularly exhausted, just heavy.

I stopped after a few months. I found that I much preferred my erratic moods to the weighted ‘stability’. I felt more like myself. I tried again a few times, when repeated ‘episodes‘ were causing me distress, but the result was always the same. All I felt was frustration and loathing, with no energy to express it.

So I found myself, a year after that diagnosis, seeking the counsel of a different psychiatrist. I didn’t want to poison the well by mentioning that I had a bipolar diagnosis first up, though my anxiety and depression were immediately clear.

I wanted to start from scratch, lay out what I was experiencing, and see what his initial beliefs were. Toward the end of the session I explained that I had been given a bipolar diagnosis, but was unsure if it explained what was happening.

There were a few things that happened during that session that peeved me. I think he liked the sound of his own voice, as he frequently talked over my responses with more questions. He asked, repeatedly, if I’d been mistreated as a child–which I understand is information plenty of patients want to conceal, but there are only so many times I can try and explain that my childhood was very safe and my family loving before I start getting shitty at someone trying to ‘uncover’ information to the contrary.

But what annoyed me most of all was how dismissive he was when I tried to explain things that I felt were important. He waved them away with the statement ‘Well that’s just who you are’… but is it?

First, in spite of an expensive degree in psychiatry, this was still just a man I’d known for all of forty minutes. And not, to my knowledge, someone who could read my mind. If I don’t have a full understanding of myself, I very much doubt even an experienced doctor could have a solid enough understanding to wave things away like that.

Second, whether its part of ‘who I am’ is irrelevant. I was trying to bring to his attention some facts about myself that I find distressing or challenging in my daily life. I’m not comfortable accepting them as part of myself until I have some understanding of why they are, and how I can work with them. He flat refused to engage any discussion on things like my social awkwardness, communication issues, or in fact–anything else I tried to bring up.

Every aspect of the conversation was brought back to his questions, which seemed to center on one theory: I had a shitty childhood, so I was having a shitty adulthood.

I don’t accept that. There were aspects of my childhood that weren’t so fun, but they didn’t make my childhood wholly shitty. I did learn some counter-productive coping mechanisms, some bad thought patterns and emerged negative self-esteem. Most kids do, and some learn more than others.

Those flawed thought patterns are responsible for some of the anxiety and depression. But before the thought patterns can occur, they need a trigger–an event that starts the circle. Like when things change too fast, when I’m misunderstood, when things aren’t as I expect, when I’m tired and fed up with being around people, when I’ve retired to somewhere quieter and start hating myself for not being able to keep socialising.

Depression and anxiety explain a lot of things, but they don’t explain why, on my sister’s hen’s day, I ended up in a dark room confused and crying. I wanted to be out having fun. I wanted to be enjoying myself like everyone else, but no–I was sobbing in frustration because as much as I wanted to go back out and rejoin the party, the very thought of going back to the noise made me feel sick. It made me shake.

I did calm down and rejoin, but I don’t know if I can accurately describe how incredibly horrible it is to want something so much, and at the same time feel physically ill at the thought of it.

It wasn’t a panic attack. I know the difference. It was an episode, and nothing in the psychiatrist’s self-confirming theory explains it. But he didn’t want to hear about any of that. Only the things that made him sure of what he already believed.

I have an appointment booked with him again, I’m still debating on whether I should go. I do think he’s right about it not being bipolar, but the rest doesn’t seem right. Without the bipolar diagnosis, I’ve been feeling a bit more lost.

Where I once had a condition I could google and look for support, stories, and management strategies–I have nothing. I don’t know where to look for ways to help myself, and I really want to find ways outside of medication.

I want to identify all the things that I do differently, my strengths and weaknesses, learn how I can develop and work with them. I want to optimise my brain and my way of life, rather than fight it into ‘normality’. There are things I do amazingly well, and things I am catastrophically bad at.

If I can get a handle on that, there’s no reason I should ever be depressed. I will know the best ways to be productive. I will know the best ways to calm myself, motivate myself, and all the things I need to do to find happiness. I’ll be able to accept the mistakes I’ve made and am yet to make. Because I will understand.

Right now, I don’t understand. So all I am… is frustrated.

 

Confessions: I need subtitles

Confessions: I need subtitles

This may or may not be a series of posts. It might just be a series of one.

I watch TV with subtitles where I can. I find it easier.

It doesn’t detract from the visual experience. Rather, it enhances it with more understanding. Sometimes I do find myself more absorbed in ‘reading’ the show than ‘watching’ it, but that isn’t less enjoyable.

Without subtitles, I tend to get lost. It’s hard to describe because my hearing is very good, but at the same time annoyingly bad. Where it gets particularly bad is in dialogue. Subtitles allow me to clearly understand dialogue without having the volume up at a ridiculous level. Low, deep toned speech seems hardest to understand.

I’m also terrible with accents, which makes me feel incredibly racist. I get especially anxious around foreign doctors, taxi drivers, bus drivers–anyone that I need to be able to communicate with that doesn’t speak the same variety of English as I do. I have less trouble with American and British accents, unless they’re particularly thick or a variation not common in media.

It’s embarrassing to have to ask someone to repeat themselves several times. Sometimes I say I’m deaf in one ear, because that feels nicer than admitting that I find their accent tricky to understand. I know that many people who speak English as a second language are already sensitive about whether they can be understood.

If I don’t understand them the third time, and it’s not critical… I just go with my best guess. Laugh, nod, give the right indicators that I understood.

I do avoid doctors with accents. How good the doctor is isn’t relevant, if I don’t feel I can understand and be understood I won’t book a second appointment. In that situation I need to be sure that communication is clear.

I skirt around the tricky business of communicating an address to a foreign taxi driver by using the iPhone application to book my ride. I can put my destination address in and the driver has that on-screen with a GPS map. They know exactly where I want to go–and with the critical details sorted we’re free to chat. I love chatting to my taxi drivers, even if I don’t always understand what they’re saying back to me.

It’s a bit like hearing a baby talk, actually. Sounds that you know are supposed to be words but all you hear is noise. Usually I can guess via context, but not always.

TV, at least, lets me read along with the dialogue and know what is being said. Drives me crazy when the speech and subtitles don’t match! Even in shows with clear accents I do understand better, I can pick up on subtle themes and stories much better if I’m reading the dialogue rather than listening.

So that’s why my Netflix profile is set to Subtitles: On. Now you know.

The articulate monkey dilemma

The articulate monkey dilemma

One of the compliments I often get is that I am ‘articulate’. It makes me laugh every time, the idea is so absurd to me. I’m not blind to my own strengths, but I don’t believe that being articulate is one of them. At least–not most of the time.

There are two situations in which I can be articulate. One is here, in writing. Writing gives me the ability to slow down, put the words out there in the order I want to present them. Ensure that nothing has been missed (and to go back and review, making sure nothing has been left out!).

There’s no ‘negotiated communication’ in writing, where what I want to say alters by the response of my audience. When I’m speaking, I’ll often gloss over things or even stop talking at all if I think the person I’m talking to isn’t interested. I’ll make heavier subjects lighter, pick and choose the parts I think people want to hear based on how they react.

True, people will read into this whatever they want to–but the actual message doesn’t change. Once written, I lose control over it. I no longer get to curb and polish on the fly, either people will read or they won’t. Either they will understand what I see, or see something else entirely.

The other situation is in ‘rehearsed’ or ‘performed’ speaking. Best example is always in class presentations or job interviews, which I do very well in. Odd, isn’t it? For someone who feels anxious and uncomfortable in social situations, I am bloody good at public speaking. I get nervous, but once I’m up there and get going, it’s a whole new me. A confident, expressive, informative and articulate me.

But that’s not me so much as it’s the result of so much rehearsal. Hours upon hours meditating on what to say, what order to say it, what words to use. How slow to speak, when to speed up, how to accentuate my points with gestures and facial expressions. Sometimes I’ll have a proper script, sometimes I’ll rehearse it out loud… but the majority of it is internal.

When I’m watching TV… rehearsing.

Listening to music… rehearsing.

At work… rehearsing.

Any moment where my brain isn’t completely consumed by another task at hand, I am rehearsing.

Sounds exhausting–and it is. Fortunate though, right, that those sorts of presentations are far and few between? Yes, but they’re only the obvious examples.

Need to talk to a friend about a complex and potentially hurtful matter? Oh, I definitely need to rehearse that. There’s no way I’m walking into that situation before I’ve thought out how the conversation might go (and its hundred variants), played them through my mind and assessed the merits of each approach.

Going somewhere that involves being around someone I don’t know well, or have that much in common with? I’ll make an arse of myself if I don’t rehearse. I also research. Facebook is a great way to covertly follow different topics and easily find tidbits of information that can be then worked into conversation. That’s how I do it. That’s how I keep up.

Putting in an order at McDonalds? Better rehearse while I’m waiting in line. Don’t forget to clearly express ‘no cheese’, somehow that always gets missed. And add ‘coke for the drink’ so they don’t have to ask. Oh and make sure you say ‘large meal’, that way they’ll have all the information they need and we won’t have to fluff around getting my order straight.

It literally applies to all conversations. Even conversations among the most trusted people in my world, especially group conversations, I am often largely silent. And then I will speak up, hoping to say my piece before the topic changes. By the time I speak, I’ll have rehearsed that one phrase 6-8 times in my head, questioning whether I should say it.

You should see how often I have to discard well-prepared statements because the conversation changed or (another issue I seem to have a lot) I wasn’t sure how to break in to speak. Or, I start speaking, and… realise no one cares and stop. I often try to break in to conversations at the wrong time, end up talking over people and backing off. The more people involved, the more complex it all gets and the more likely I am just to sit and listen.

Obviously, I should just stop rehearsing and learn to be ‘me’. Talk on-the-fly, don’t get so anxious about what you’re going to say that the chance to say it passes! I’m only hurting myself by holding back my contributions, right?

I really don’t know. My rehearsed, thought-out responses are at least that: thought-out. Like my writing, they are more capable of saying what I intend than any attempt to speak without script or rehearsal. Working in customer service, the communication exchange for that role was so repetitive that you could have replaced me with a robot and nothing would change. It was a script I could recite even on days where I felt completely empty.

Once I’m outside the scripts and the rehearsal, I’m lost. This is why I laugh when people call me ‘articulate’, even though almost all they get to see is actually quite articulate. They don’t see my inner debate on how to speak with someone, they don’t watch the sentences fall together until I like them enough to give them breath. They don’t feel my frustration in knowing I should have something to say, but not having anything available.

So what does happen when I’m unscripted? There’s a couple of reasons it can happen.

One, I’m in an extremely good mood and I’m with someone I trust. I get extremely chatty when I’m happy, and I desperately want to talk to people about everything that I think is wonderful or interesting. I still edit myself if I think what I’m saying isn’t going well, which usually means shutting up about whatever I’m rambling about and asking more about something the other person wants to talk about (I’m aware that not many people really want to hear about my fascinations… it bores them.)

Two, I’m drunk in a good way. When I’m drunk and happy, it’s much like me being happy only I won’t stop and spare you the details of whatever I’m ranting or raving about. In both cases, I often talk fast and I can jumble my words in the excitement to get them out. I want to tell you absolutely everything I can before I start censoring myself again. This is probably the purest form of me. Annoying… but I don’t give a shit. You can sit and listen to me.

Three, I’m overwhelmed.

If I’m overwhelmed, you’ll be lucky to get anything at all. In computer terms, all of my RAM is taken up trying to process what is going on around me and I literally don’t have the capacity to formulate an output. I’m basically that spinning wheel cursor, trying my hardest internally to get something happening–but it doesn’t. Sometimes that just means that I stay silent until I’ve worked through enough to bring other systems ‘online’ again. Note that I also struggle with carrying out other actions while overwhelmed, like… lifting a hand, or removing myself from a situation.

Not all situations give me the time and space to process and then speak. That’s where it can get ugly. Often I want to have a response, but don’t. Sometimes I am supposed to have a response, but I don’t have anything rehearsed and ready. It’s like the whole English language has vacated my brain and I’ve lost the ability to string coherent sentences together. The more pressing the situation, the harder it is to recover. I’d be a terrible journalist under pressure.

This isn’t one of those situations where if I just ‘try harder’ the words will come, or where I’m being silent out of guilt, or to aggravate another person. I literally, completely and absolutely, cannot speak. I can’t underline that enough. I don’t have access to the words to respond.

Occasionally I will manage a small nod and a ‘yep’/’nope’–this is the closest I have to a ‘script’. This is the closest I have to a rule for dealing with these situations. This is the only speech that I know is ‘acceptable’ in the situation. The only reason I can do that much is to make the conversation end. Placating the other person until I can retreat and process, and think up all the things I should have said.

That feeling when you think up a great comeback days too late? Me. All the time. Every conversation ever.

The last reason is that I want to break out of rehearsed conversation, or I feel a need to. No, I don’t like that almost every word out of my mouth is reviewed and edited and examined (before and after saying it). Sometimes I want to speak in situations I’m not ‘prepared’ for, or have what feels like ‘honest’ communication with someone. It’s almost always a train wreck.

Unless I’ve considered how a statement might play out among people, it usually gets taken the wrong way. People assume I’m talking about something else, have an opinion outside of the one I’m trying to communicate, or otherwise hear something that I don’t intend to be saying.

The words can come out jumbled, awkward, I have to stop and rephrase. I confuse things and definitely don’t say what I’m trying to say. There’s nothing articulate about it. A thousand monkeys on a thousand keyboards probably scripted what I have to say. It’s not that I’m speaking without thinking, but I’m not thinking enough. Like running a spell checker over a document and not seeing red lines, assuming it’s all good to go–where normally I’ll go through each line and painstakingly draw out all the grammatical errors. The words used wrong. Put things in a better order.

It’s usually closer to what I mean to say (at least, I think it is), but rehearsing and scripting takes time. ‘Casual’ conversation is work. It takes a level of attention and processing power that is above and beyond other casual activities… like watching TV. And even then, I still often don’t get out what I want to–because I’m editing the words as they come out of my mouth.

Friends who let me babble on about whatever has sparked me when I’m chatty–thank you. Thank you for letting me ramble your ear off in my fast and tangential way. Even if you zoned out partway through, or weren’t listening at all–still thank you. It actually means a lot for me to feel I don’t have to shut down the conversation because you’re not interested.

On the other hand, if you’ve noticed that I do turn topics away from something that clearly interests me, and you don’t feel bored or bothered by it–tell me. I absolutely suck at taking hints and reading situations, and I’m constantly looking for signs that I’m making people annoyed or uncomfortable. Good old me interprets the benign as a reason to stop, and manages to completely ignore actual cues to give up.

I love talking about the things I love, though. I really want to share them with people, and show the people I love the things that are fascinating to me.

Sometimes I worry that the excessive rehearsal and consideration I give to my words also results in them being void of emotion. I’ve been accused several times throughout my life of ‘indifference’, and I’ve never been sure why. I’m pretty much all-or-nothing. I throw myself at things until they break me, I take so much pride in the work that I do that when it’s criticised.. yes, I feel personally hurt. I know that rationally I’m going to make errors and they’re not the end of the world, but my work is an extension of me.

I don’t feel differently of things because they’re less important. My parents once remarked that I used to make ‘shitty coffee’ as a means of getting out of being asked to make them–they thought the story was an amusing anecdote about a spiteful child. Thing is, I took great pride in the coffees I made even if I didn’t want to make them.

What I think happened was there was a phase where I would pour the hot water into the cup with just the instant coffee and sugar in there, and then add milk. This was because if you added the milk first, not all of the coffee dissolved and there were ugly brown spots floating on top. It didn’t look like good coffee, and the way to fix that was do the hot water first.

Nevertheless, I didn’t find out about my ‘shitty coffee’ making until I was an adult. Which sparked, as comments like that always do, a full analysis of how it could have been understood that the reason was I don’t care. Why does this reason keep coming up? Most of all, how do I fix it? Short of pointing to the subject and directly stating ‘I care very much about this’, how do I communicate that everything I do I consider to be a part of myself and my stamp on this world?

Questions about my sincerity and other emotional states have been raised over time, too. It’s kind of a shock to realise that something you believed you were expressing has become so warped in transmission that people aren’t sure if you mean it. I blame a poker face built on years of not letting bullies see me cry. Add that to the fact that I am oblivious to most social cues, and I guess what you see from the outside is a cold hard bitch (yes, I’ve been called that too).

Speaking of social cues… did you know that when someone comments on something you’re cooking (like, ‘Oh wow! That smells amazing!’) that you’re supposed to offer some? I actually just learned this from a book. Is this really a thing? Have I been offending people by not offering what I’m making? Worse, have I been sending my housemates the message that I want their food when I compliment how wonderful the house smells at dinner? It does smell nice! They’re amazing cooks!

The whole thing leaves me feeling very confused and a little isolated. I’ve always known I’m socially awkward, but I’m only more recently becoming aware of this huge disconnect between what I think I’m saying–and what’s being heard. I’ve even had relationships end over it, because he thought I didn’t care and wasn’t invested while I could not think about anything else but the next time we would see each other.

I like communication that is direct and concrete when it comes to feelings and plans. I love debates that are abstract and philosophical, but when it comes to information that I need to rely on, I hate having to second-guess what someone meant. I hate the idea that people second-guess me because I’m not making whatever signals I should be making.

Ask me. If you feel my behaviour is out of place with what I should be displaying, ask me. I’d rather have a five minute conversation that is mildly awkward than a prolonged period of someone being upset or confused by me and having no idea why. I can’t see myself from the outside, either, so I think so long as no one comments that I’m doing things right.

Apparently I’m not. When people ask, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on what I did, said, and how it was received. That’s information I can store away for future reference and correct myself going forward.

And if it so happens that asking me leads to me being unable to speak, don’t freak out. Say what you need to say, accept that I can’t respond in that moment. I’m listening and I’m hearing you, and I’m probably frustrated to tears because not being able to get words out is its own kind of torture. The more rational and direct you are, the better I can process things. State the situation as you see it, and give me some space to process.

I’ll get back to you with answers a when I have them.

A lifelong love of language

A lifelong love of language

I’ve been obsessed with words for as long as I can remember. I don’t recall learning to read, or having any difficulty doing so. Like breathing or walking, it feels like something that was just always there.

I’m sure that I went through the same stages of discovering letters and how they form words, no doubt my parents remember me learning to read–but I don’t. Words are a part of me, I feel.

My writing reflects that, and so does my love of reading. I don’t have the attention span for novels like I used to, and something about the prospect of holding a book for an extended period of time (or carrying it around with me so I have it when I need it) feels strangely overwhelming. Still, I continue to read anything and everything I can.

tumblr_lzo8akavq51qzado8o1_500

I can read articles for hours. I love exploring the unique use of language in social media. I have an enormous group of friends across the world with whom I communicate almost exclusively in text mediums. BuzzFeed, Forbes.com, and LinkedIn are some of my favourite sites to visit for interesting or thought-provoking articles.

Lately I love reading up on content marketing strategies, and I’ve always been fascinated by advertising. I hate when effective content and social media strategies are reduced to a game of numbers. It seems crude, even if it works.

Linguistics and the construction of language is a fascinating area of study, too. I tried studying it at a university level, but too much of it focused on using obscure or dead languages to demonstrate theory (taking away the familiarity of English so the construction could be more easily seen). I’m not particularly interested in how other languages work, so I didn’t pursue it beyond an elective class.

Array of colourful alphabet letters

I love the shape and sounds of some letters. Some I hate. They have a colour, and a feel. I like the combinations they make on the page and in my head, on my tongue when I speak. My favourite letter is L, but only capital L. Small l looks too much like I, and is less satisfying in shape. L is blue. That’s my favourite colour. It’s smooth, like a water-worn rock.

I dislike O in both capital and lower case. It’s orange, my least favourite colour, and it tastes like the rind of an orange. I don’t like how it feels to write, either. I can never get the ends of the line to join into a nice loop. Frustrating. Or it looks too narrow, too fat… O is a stupid letter.

I’m glad I don’t have any in my name.

I like and dislike certain combinations of letters, too. I looove ie/ei, though I can never remember which way they go in some words. I rely on autocorrect for that. Bad me! I also love Rh, ir and yr, ri, el, th, mr, ai, iq and sa. I love the letter S, too, now that I think about it. It’s sleek, gold, and probably tastes like glass… though I haven’t thought about it much.

Combinations I hate include cl (I just think of clowns, I can’t help it), kr, rk, um, ur, et, ith, and sh. I think they’re gross. They look gross, sound gross, and feel gross.

The shapes are important, though. Words have a shape and a rhythm (now there’s a word I adore: rhythm!) that is more than the shape of the combinations inside them. In primary school, our teacher would give us boxes that represented the shape of words, and we had to guess what the words were.

I have really horrible handwriting. Always have. My pen licence was revoked three or four times in primary school, and I think in the end I only kept it because forcing me to grey lead pencil any longer was going to end in more ridicule. It was largely anxiety related, part pure laziness, and part just how I write.

writ_neat
‘I always had terrible writing. Even concentrating long enough to write this neatly is hard.’ – an example of my writing closer to what it would have been ten years ago.

One of my closest friends never had trouble reading it. Even when I’d forgotten what it was supposed to say, she was always able to decode it (mind you, she was also the one I went to when, for whatever reason, I couldn’t open my combination lock yet again). She said, ‘The trick is to forget the letters and read the shape of the word.’

And she was right. The shape of the word was there, the general idea of it was on the page–but the individual letters that made the word weren’t necessarily legible. I’ve become so reliant on a keyboard in my post-school life that I’m not sure even that is true now.

Back then, it meant that I could disguise words that I wasn’t 100% comfortable spelling (though there are very few of them) without compromising the meaning of the message. This was especially great when I suddenly found myself struggling to spell ‘when’ in the middle of a written exam.

writ_mess
‘The shitstorm that is my writing cause I’m too lazy to put any real effort in!’ – my writing as it is now. 

That happens, too. I lose words. I spent a very confused hour one day unable to recall the words for ‘plastic bag’. Would have been fine if I hadn’t been actively working at a supermarket check out! The whole time I could ‘feel’ it just outside my reach while I took bags from the holder and waved them limply at customers, saying, ‘Do you want… um, this?’

635795166639922384-1197256506_anigif_enhanced-buzz-5314-1407094608-10

These days my hand writing is just a shitstorm. There’s no nice way to put it. I don’t enjoy holding a pen, and I can get my thoughts out way quicker on a keyboard. Hand writing feels backward and uncomfortable, constricting. They say it’s better for you to hand write, but anything I write by hand I’d also intend to re-type for use, so it’s terribly inefficient.

I don’t like doing something twice if I only have to do it once. As Dad says, if you do it right the first time you shouldn’t have to do it again.

I’m working toward overcoming the obstacles that challenge my ability to put fiction together. I have folders upon folders of writing scraps ready to become novels, but not yet the full toolset to get it done. Finally moving up from retail and into a job where I get to weave words daily has brought me all sorts of happiness, I do genuinely enjoy writing about industrial cleaning equipment!

I just love words. Language creates our frame for understanding the world, it shapes what we can and cannot comprehend. Without our vast and productive language skills, we are no more than instinct and needs-based communication. Language is what makes us human, and from language came the possibility for other language: art, music, mathematics.

1057

It boggles me how some people just don’t see that. I might be weird for thinking the letter S tastes like glass, but I’m pretty sure that people who don’t give language the full respect it deserves are weirder than that!

doctor-who-books

In Shifting Colour

kaleidoscope71

I collect words. Not in a formal sense, they’re not written down or stashed under my bed–but they are phrases or ideas that someone has given me over my life, and I treasure them. I got a new one tonight, a heartfelt apology that I know I’ll never forget and always appreciate. Some are as simple as being described as a ‘good human’, others are literally just words that I’ve come across like ‘quaquaversal’ (moving outward in all directions from a common center) that set fire to my imagination when I heard them.

I’ve spoken a little about how I did (and still do) feel ‘other’ in the way I think and view the world. For a long time, I thought that view was more than just different–I thought it was wrong. I imagined my whole self as something that was wrong, in need of reshaping to fit in properly.

If only I could like this, do that, be more of the other–then I would be right. Then I would be normal. Then I wouldn’t be weird.

Except I never was, and I never will be. I started embracing that properly when I first made friends that didn’t shy back from my wild philosophies and rampant imagination. Some of them, to my great surprise, were even more ‘out there’ than I was. They weren’t ashamed. I started getting comfortable with my weird, and I’ve never looked back.

High school was easier socially, but I was still a teenager and still subject to the anxieties that came with feeling out of place. I was only beginning to accept myself as ‘quirky’ rather than ‘strange’, I still imagined that somewhere out there was a key I could turn and slide into society without a hitch.

I didn’t care if it would make me boring. I didn’t want to be noticed. I didn’t want to be special or unique. I wanted to live a nice beige life and do all the things you were supposed to do at the age you were supposed to do them. I wanted to be unremarkable.

Having friends who also looked at the world sideways helped, and being free to be my ‘artistic’ (not ‘weird’), creative (not ‘crazy’–though we’ll come back to that word in a later post), and ‘tech-savvy’ (not ‘nerdy’, although later that became a cool thing) self did wonders for my self esteem. But there were days it got me down, where I was frustrated by my inability to hold back that one weird comment too many.

Which was noticed, and I don’t think I appreciated the value of that at the time. One teacher made a point to tell me (and I forget the exact words she used, and what she actually said. I remember only two words, and the rest is what I built around them).

She said I had a ‘kaleidoscope mind’. Yes, I saw the world differently–but that wasn’t wrong. My view, although not something others would immediately understand, was still beautiful. Full of colour and originality. Unique to me and precious because of it. It was something to value, not hide.

The phrase still sets my imagination running. Looking back at myself and my own shift from inward and self-ashamed to bolder and unapologetic, it has more meaning even now. The colours have shifted, and I shifted with them. I am something new. I will be new again tomorrow. Not always ‘improved’, but always different and pushing for progress. Stability. A stronger sense of self.

Never less than I was the day before. Never wrong, and never ugly. Just… shifting colours, trying to find the pattern that suits me best.

Originally I wanted ‘kaleidoscopemind’, back when I was first signing up for tumblr. Someone had taken that, and after some thought I came up with ‘InShiftingColour’.

With the ‘u’ in ‘colour’, it’s not a wise choice from a marketing perspective. Too easily mis-spelled. But this was never about branding, or marketing.