Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Being an Inventor of Words

I’ve been a writer since before I could read.  I’m still not exactly clear on how this worked, but I can distinctly remember the conversation I had with my mother about the fact that she wanted me to write about my day even though all I knew were the ABCs.  She sat me in front of a typewriter and told me to just find the right letters, so I reminded her I couldn’t spell things either and she insisted that I could figure it out.

That’s pretty much how my childhood went: Figuring it out and raising myself.  I was scared of people, especially her, so I made up stories in my head nightly to go to sleep.  I only started writing things down around age 10, when I started writing poetry before school, which functioned a bit like meditation. I wrote nearly every day for six years, before an unfortunate incident with a very bad teacer ruined poetry for me.  

This is not an entry about that. This is an entry about being a writer, and what I do with that these days even when I can’t write.

I invent terms.  I usually invent terms for things which are really frustrating in order to make them make more sense.  So, when I started to have more bad days than good for a while in terms of fatigue and what my body would allow me to do anymore, I invented, “going on safari,” for those days when getting out of bed/going into the other room/transferring from your chair were so exhausting on so many levels that it felt like going on safari.  That phrase stuck, and I’ve passed it on to many a crip, and I wouldn’t be blogging about it unless I knew that by doing so I was passing it on to yet more crips.  You can have it. It’s fine.

One I invented more recently is, “Psych brain.”  This is how I describe my brain.  I have a degree in psychology, and in getting it I realized just how much I didn’t fit inside the field.  But I have an inherent interest in the kinds of research projects psychologists do, and I run little hypothetical studies in my head or among my friends for fun.  Like the time I polled a bunch of people about what really happened in Newtown, CT, recently, after I met a new friend who was from there.  As expected, most people couldn’t really remember what happened there, and I helped them backtrack.  “What happens in Connecticut?” “I don’t know, it’s in New England.”

Yes, and it even borders New York.  Nothing ever happens there, don’t worry.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, here, because Connecticut and what actually happens there deserves its own post. The point is, I found exactly one person who knew anything much about Connecticut, and he’d already been my friend for well over fifteen years.  Instead of getting annoyed, though, I’m just fascinated by this kind of weird mind-thing that people’s brains do.  I am endlessly fascinated by the human mind, and how to help people because helping them fascinates me.  I think about it all the time and how I can better help my friends.  And I make myself available to counsel them through ableism, health woes, stupid academic politics, and financial crises.  I know enough psychology that I just learned how to talk to people and that’s what I do.  I find it comforting.  I think about these kinds of issues so much throughout my day some people might consider this a stim--not the counseling people part, but the “how can I make this better, what would make this work right?” It’s very calming.  

I call this having psych brain.  It’s a damn sight better than a lot of other labels people have given me.  You can use this one too, if you like it.

So I guess, some years back, you could say I conducted a little psychology experiment.

I had been watching a lot of Babylon 5 with Phillip, the  guy who knows more about CT than anyone else I’ve met who doesn’t live there.  And one day I was turning over in my head one of the interesting factors in the show. From these musings would come a term.

Babylon 5 was a sci-fi show written by J. Michael Straczynski that ran for 5 years from 1994-1998. It spawned a number of TV movies and spinoffs, but ultimately several of the cast members died and this stopped Babylon 5 from becoming any bigger than it was already. One of the actors who died was a crip named Richard Biggs.  He used his fame to propel forward education for deaf kids.  I fell in love with his character of Dr. Franklin and am still sort of saddened that this really cool actor isn’t with us anymore.   So, Babylon 5 left a bit of an impression on me.  I sometimes wonder if Biggs was ever consulted or knew the people who consulted on this huge, honking disability parallel that was in the show:

On the show, there were natural telepaths.  Sort of like XMen, though, the ability wasn’t considered an ability, really.  There were two types of telepaths as far as the government was concerned.  The ones working under government control, and the ones who refused and were then heavily medicated, sci-fi style, to control their abilities.  The medication stole the lives of the telepaths who didn’t kowtow to the government.  

Over time, though, it’s revealed that there is another faction of telepaths, the rebels.  They’re unmedicated and don’t work for the government.  And what better set of people to outsmart the government than a bunch of telepaths, or “teeps?”

I won’t spoil the show for you, except to tell you that this huge parallel reminded me, and still reminds me, of my crip friends.   I was thinking it over one day when it came to me: What would the CPers do if they knew this story and how many parallels there are to disability?  Would they like the term ceep?

Some didn’t.  Some told me I was totally stupid for creating it.  But some did.  It’s been turned into more than one Keep Calm meme.  And some people, they can’t get enough of this word.

I told the story once, and I just did what I usually do, a little, “I’ll just leave this here.”  I watched what happened as the memes started being made.  I watched who used the term, and what they did with it.  For a while.  One thing I noticed was that people got really confused really quickly about where it came from, and some credited the people who made the Keep Calm memes. I thought this was funny, because I love the Keep Calm meme.  It’s actually a meme rooted in the history of World War II.  I highly recommend you look it up, because the story is a good one.  But I am a quiet person, especially when I could be watching psychology in the making. So I just noted that people were highly ready to take credit but didn’t really remember where it came from.  I didn’t say much.  I’d told the story one time.

Eventually, I left behind the CPer community, because my CP is not “mild,” and I find the propensity for the CPers to insist on this identifier ad nauseum kind of nauseating.  I let them keep “ceep.”  And they can still keep “ceep.”  When I use it, I do so ironically, as a commentary on the dangers of groupthink.  In the end, I’m the one who could tell the origin story of “ceep,” because I created it, because I care about disability parallels and spent two years of my undergrad career piloting my own disability studies work.  During that time I wrote a thesis on disability and body image, studied eugenics, and taught myself film criticism to critique 20 films from around the world for one paper on disability representation in world cinema.  It was a while ago, but it means I know some things, and one of those things is how to find disability parallels and common ground with disabled people.  

But not when they’re trying to out-”mild” each other… so I let the CP community go, and I let them keep “ceep.”

I’m too neurodiverse for them, anyway.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Missing Keys And Other Things: How I Went From Frantic All The Time To Much More Zen

This was not the first entry that I planned for this blog, besides the intro stuff. But then I kept saying, “I’m gonna make this a FB post,” and not doing it… so here we go… This is good to be blogged because it will help more than just me and my two friends who were in a discussion about it.

So, keys and I especially do not get along. Only once in my life did I have a suitable small bag (never a purse) where I developed a system for placing my stuff.  Systems of placing things in bags don’t really work for me because generally that feeling of “OMG IT IS LOST!!!” prevades everything that I do when searching for things. Now imagine that I was a very anxious college student.  I was a workaholic. I just wanted to know where my keys were, pretty much at all times, so I could go back to being a workaholic academic.  So here’s how this would go:

*checks for keys before leaving the dorm* Oh, okay, they’re right THERE. Okay, let’s go. *leaves dorm*

At cafeteria: I have my food but what if I dropped my keys? OMG I have NO MEMORY of where in my bag they are SHIT ARGH now we have to CHECK FOR KEYS. *roots around in bag for 5-10 minutes, questing everywhere and not finding keys, panicking* SHIT. Oh. Okay. There’s the keys.

About half an hour later I would have to repeat this “in case I dropped my keys.” Yeah, are we seeing a wee bit of OCD? Well, my mom is a wee bit OCD so there ya go, but the cool thing is I STOPPED DOING THIS!

Here’s what I did:

First, I stopped using traditional keys, which is only a positive for me. If you like keys, use ‘em. For me, my wrists don’t work properly for turning them fast enough so I did a lot of dying to pee, standing with my key outside of my house, trying for the umpteenth time to turn the damn thing, and trying also not to explode. Yeah, I hate keys. So I moved to this place, and there they offered me a garage door opener style thing that unlocks and opens my damn door. I am NEVER going back to keys. Ever again.  Yay suddenly realizing access has been granted when you never knew you needed that access before.  Whee! It was pretty sweet.

So anyway, now I have these garage door opener things, and I even have two! (I didn’t always have two. But I have two right now.)  If you are in posession of keys, though, just generalize this to use of keys. If it’s cell chargers for you, then that’s your perpetually missing thing.  For me it was always keys, shoes, and hairbrushes. OMG with how much of my life I felt was wasted looking for these things!

For keys and hairbrushes, I got more than one.  For shoes, I dumbed down my wardrobe to one pair….but then again that works for me because I use a chair and have less use for shoes. I was never a girl who liked to have a lot of pairs of shoes. Shoes are kinda embattled if you have a mobility impairment, or they can be. Do I have shoes that mostly fit? Yes? Okay, we’re done. ;)

So, find the secret formula that works for you of more-of-these, but less-of-these.  Then stash the extras in a designated place.  I tend to buy cell chargers in batches of 2-3.  I have one in my bedroom at all times and one available to be used with my computer USB port.  Then when I am lucky I have an extra for when one or the other craps out. As far as my garage door opener, one has a home in my bag at all times and one is by my bed at all times.  This means that I can open the door while lying down but I also don’t have to take that one anywhere, it’s always by my bed (or, occasionally on my desk, but basically inside the house.)

With this system, I calmed the hell down.  One set of keys is always in my bag, right? Also, my bag has a normal set of keys too, attached to a key chain, for the normies to go, “Oh, look, your keys are in your purse!” ;)  (What can I say, they provided both…it’s a good visual reminder: Keys are in the bag. Relax.

As a result, I stopped freaking out and checking every 30 minutes. Keys are in the bag. I double check before I leave, and because the garage door opener is big (a big keychain will also work, or a lanyard or other around the neck kind of thing if fumbling in a bag doesn’t work), it’s easier to find. I still pull it out to make sure that’s what I’ve got my hand on, but this ultimately means I only check 1-2 times a day, not every 20-30 minutes while my agoraphobic ass is outside in the very stressy big blue room.

For objects other than keys, they still go missing on me even right in front of my face. For situations like that, I have a few systems: I let anyone who works with me or deals with me regularly know I have eyes that have trouble focusing and skip over common objects. I let them know NOT to move anything, even if it looks messy. Anyone who cleans at my house is supervised by me and is instructed to clean but put the messy piles back because I know what the hell is in the messy piles, thanks.  And if I still can’t find something in my messy pile system (something I know many crips use), then I “borrow the eyes” of a person I trust not to get so super curious about what I am looking for and why. They just know what it means when I say, “I need to borrow your eyes,” by now. It doesn’t mean “And then you get to open my mail,” or “And then we get to have a discussion of why this is going on.” It just means, “I need to borrow your eyes.”

It works for me.  Feel free to add in comments what works for you. :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

This One Time at Band Camp, I Mean College

At my weirdo college, they have recently decided that standardized tests mean nothing at all, or something, and it was already a college full of anxiety-prone people with ADD and hyperfocus. We planned an individual research project for every single class and then wrote a large research paper in addition to whatever normal five-paged papers we wanted to do.

The only time I ever dropped a class for too much research was when I tried to take Italian level 2 and I realized that in addition to all the drama of learning a language (which involved a shit ton of extra work because this was Sarah Fucking Lawrence style which meant extra everything at all times, so basically everything involved with Italian 1) there was also a 20 page paper expected. I mean, that was SLC in a nutshell, but basically I was all, “Talk to the Hand,” and dropped the class.
Anyway, I love research, and that was the ONLY time I ever balked at it.  One time, though, I was interviewing for a class at SLC, which you also had to do there, and I told a teacher I wanted to research the importance of snakes in world religions.  He totally axed me from the potential roster.
In honor of this blog, though, I’m totally gonna do the research for this damn paper I never got to write. I won’t put it in academe language, though, because I forgot how to do that. Sort of on purpose. But I’ll just quietly do the research, because the Internet is big now and there are a lot of interesting books.  And I like snakes.  And that will be a cool side project to make me feel smart in the face of a lot of bullshit.

That’s pretty much who I am, really, someone who soldiers through being underestimated, pigeon-holed, mistreated, and legally discriminated against by listening to a LOT of music, doing a LOT of research, and writing irritated letters and FB posts. ;)  A couple of irritated letters are turning into notes and phone calls that nobody is expecting.  So I’m busy with that, and should not blog until the notes and phone calls are kinda if not done then at least in progress.  That doesn’t mean that’s going to be the case, though.

Stuff that’s gonna be on this blog: Irishness, writer and reader geekery, snakey geekery, science geekery, Jewishness, disability, word nerdness (coined phrases), bears, snark, sarcasm, probably some stuff about cats because this is the Internet, and possibly some plugs for my other blog that is not my personal one in cases where it is relevant to the discussion.

I’m trying to do Facebook less and Practice Being a Writer. I have this series I am planning, you see, and I need to exercise writer brain.

ETA: This is a copy of a blog that I was keeping at Wordpress but that wasn't working.  I have my disability and faith blog at Wordpress and this blog here at Blogspot, despite the fact that I really hate Google. It's here for the moment, anyway, because I like the features of these two sites, and like sites like LiveJournal/Dreamwidth worse.