relentlessly unpredictable

Not all the features of atypical human operating systems are bugs. By autistic standards, the “normal” brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.
~ Steve Silberman
(NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism & The Future of Neurodiversity)

A major source of anxiety for me is any sudden change of plans. Over the years I’ve learned from observation that other people don’t see these as the catastrophes I experience and have at times concluded that there is something terribly wrong with me. Or then I think something is wrong with others, that they’re rude not to stick to a plan. I’ve spent countless hours giving myself pep talks about learning to be flexible and learning to go with the flow. When a change of plans pops into my day I have a hard time telling if it is a reasonable response to an unanticipated development or if it is just someone else’s whim. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I force myself to accept the change and exhaust myself repressing the panic I feel, trying to be “normal.”

[Lewis] Carroll’s transitions from chapter to chapter are abrupt and unexpected. Alice is rushed from one scene to the next without any opportunity to stop and process what she has just experienced, or to prepare herself mentally for what’s to come. This kind of abrupt time change, without transition, is similar to how a day at school feels to a child with AS. There is no flashback, no foreshadowing: since there is only the immediate moment, shifts in time and place are disconcerting and stressful. Carroll captures this feeling of urgency and panic very well.
~ Julie Brown
(Writers on the Spectrum: How Autism & Asperger’s Syndrome Have Influenced Literary Writing)

“Alice Meets the White Rabbit” by Margaret Winifred Tarrant

I have a very poor sense of time and an “unreasonable” fear of being late. When I know I have an appointment I rush around checking the clock all day, much like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and cannot manage to do anything else. It seems like such a waste of time, but I cannot help it. Inevitably I leave the house too early. I watch in wonder and awe as others effortlessly multi-task and juggle appointments and chores in the course of a day. But to me it’s too overwhelming and confusing!

When surprised by the doorbell or the phone ringing I experience an adrenaline rush. I’ve worked hard over the years to not startle or gasp when that happens. Similarly, it is difficult to keep myself together when hearing a horn or a siren while out driving. On the other hand, I love the soothing sounds of foghorns and buoy bells, one of the comforts of living by the sea.

It’s interesting to me that I accept other sorts of change with far more grace, the change of seasons, the stages of life, evolution, or lifestyle changes. Knowing that nothing stays the same or lasts forever makes it easy for me to do things like let go of clutter or keepsakes and accept that children grow up and move away. Perhaps because these changes are more predictable and expected.

first snow

janetchui-firstsnow
“First Snow” by Janet Chui

Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.
~ Andy Goldsworthy
(Midsummer Snowballs)

I am a book of snow,
a spacious hand, an open meadow,
a circle that waits,
I belong to the earth and its winter.
~ Pablo Neruda
(Winter Garden)

muffled steps outside

johnbauer-in-the-christmas-night
“In the Christmas Night” by John Bauer

The snow is lying very deep.
My house is sheltered from the blast.
I hear each muffled step outside,
I hear each voice go past.

But I’ll not venture in the drift
Out of this bright security,
Till enough footsteps come and go
To make a path for me.

~ Agnes Lee
(The Second Book of Modern Verse:
A Selection from the Work of Contemporaneous American Poets
)

strange places

“June” by Theodor Kittelsen
“June” by Theodor Kittelsen

When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory. Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. It is not the previously known. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.
~ Alan Alda
(Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself)

…first day of winter…

Sulamith Wülfing (1901–1989) German Artist & Illustrator
illustration by Sulamith Wülfing

It’s winter
The loud-mouthed wind bellows
Up the fjord
The houses shake but stand
braving themselves
against the storm –
Under the sombre sky
glimmer mellow lights.
~ Kjell Sandvik
(Sea & Sky)

Welcome Winter!

penetrating the past

tree.cemetery

Genealogy becomes a mania, an obsessive struggle to penetrate the past and snatch meaning from an infinity of names. At some point the search becomes futile – there is nothing left to find, no meaning to be dredged out of old receipts, newspaper articles, letters, accounts of events that seemed so important fifty or seventy years ago. All that remains is the insane urge to keep looking, insane because the searcher has no idea what he seeks. What will it be? A photograph? A will? A fragment of a letter? The only way to find out is to look at everything, because it is often when the searcher has gone far beyond the border of futility that he finds the object he never knew he was looking for.
~ Henry Wiencek
(The Hairstons: An American Family in Black & White)

Recently Tim & I had our DNA tested for fun, to see how well our genetic material lined up with our known family histories.

The biggest surprise for me was finding out that I have absolutely no Native American ancestry! There was a story handed down that one of my mother’s ancestors married a Wampanoag Indian. So now I know why we were never able to find such an ancestor and will let go of that research goal. Another curiosity is that 13% of my ancestors came from the region of Italy and Greece. I had no idea!

dnaBarbara.pie
Barbara’s DNA ancestry

BARBARA
38% Great Britain (my mother’s New England ancestry)
34% Europe East (my father’s Ukrainian ancestry)
13% Italy/Greece
4% Scandinavia (my Norwegian 3rd-great-grandfather)
4% Europe West
2% Iberian Peninsula
5% Traces of Asia Central, Caucasus, Finland/Northwest Russia, European Jewish & Ireland

Because Tim’s maternal grandfather was the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants we had assumed that would be about 25% of his ancestry. But he’s only 2% European Jewish! And he also has a few Scandinavian ancestors. The only ancestry Tim has that I don’t have is a trace of Asia South. And the ancestry I have that Tim does not have is 34% Europe East and traces of Asia Central and Finland/Northwest Russia.

dnaTim.pie
Tim’s DNA ancestry

TIM
65% Great Britain (Tim’s New England/Nova Scotia ancestry)
20% Ireland (three of Tim’s Irish 3rd-great-grandparents)
4% Europe West
3% Scandinavia
2% Italy/Greece
2% European Jewish
2% Iberian Peninsula
2% Traces of Asia South and Caucasus

We are finding all this utterly fascinating! I’ve also been watching Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS. It can be seen online for anyone who is interested. It’s amazing what researching the paper trail left behind by ancestors, combined with DNA testing, can reveal.