In Defence of Joy

There are dozens of self help gurus, books and videos telling the world to do what we love.

Maybe this is my autistic thing, but I’m puzzled why someone might need someone to tell them that.

However, the irony is that for AS youth the messaging is somewhat contradictory.

Their joy for something is reduced to an “obsession” or “special interest”.

It’s societal gaslighting.

I remember my interest in fascist regimes (prompted by watching The Sound of Music over and over again) – was looked upon as a very strange obsession. Yet knowing everything I could gave my life meaning – and JOY!

My love of language (and music) that counters hate eventually led to work in project management and political social justice fields as an anthropologist.

Is it because we are classed as different that we don’t “deserve” to have that joy fostered into skills? Is this just reserved for neurotypical adults – in the books consumed in million dollar self help industries encourage the rest of the world to do?

I was lucky to have a parent who encouraged me to follow my interests instead of what everyone else wanted for me.

Yet, because AS young people often show signs of knowing what we love so early, this seems to be detracted from by some (not all) educators and parents. Sometimes it’s because they think we don’t have room for the rest of the curriculum. Maybe the child is more important than rigid adherence to curriculum?

And yes, I do understand the importance of curriculums.

Are we meant to just go down the path of lots of general knowledge and unhappiness and not knowing our joy because then we’ll be “normal”? I reject this type of normal.

Then there is footage of youth being restrained and dragged down hallways for not conforming. This madness is not the fault of the young person with AS, but of a system trying to turn people into consumers of self help products.

If “normal” means I am meant to be searching for meaning in books written by people who’ve done what I’ve always done (found joy in focussed interests) – then isn’t that a wait of my resources and energy?

Why is there then an apparent double standard when it comes to AS young people? To anyone really?

Because I’ve looked at the books, videos and talks and they all say the same thing:

Find what gives you joy and do it. Make a career out of that joy or something related to it.

Not exactly rocket science. Often AS young people are blessed with what the self help books are selling at an early age.

Whilst I doubt that this is possible for everyone, I’m sure that aspiring to it, is not a terrible thing.

Maybe, just maybe, if we seriously created industries of joyful meaning from birth onwards – not only for marginalised AS children and people – but for everyone, the world would be a much happier, more peaceful world.

 

*I have used identity first language in the majority as is my right as an Aspie woman. I understand that some carers, experts and parents prefer to use person first language and that is their choice. However take away my autistic identity and I am not me – and I’m proud of who I am. So thus I prefer identity first language.

Leave the birds alone

To deal with the world I use music. I love my AirPods.

I deal with crowds and railway station platforms hidden under a veil of sound that mutes the cacophony that plagues my brain.

The direct input quashes strings and waves of the sounds that scatter around me. For a long time I thought everyone experienced this – that I was just mad. That I should hide the madness.

Now I embrace it. A couple of things I’ve learned to be able to embrace that:

  • Hearing gossip 50m away is a good thing. I hate gossiping. It used to upset me that I knew who the gossips were. Now I use that information to my advantage. To stay the hell away from them. Life is better without spiteful gossipy ninnies.
  • I find that when I put the music on to drown out the world I enter my own world. I go deep into the music and enjoy the experience fully. It often becomes like a happy trance.

From this happy trance I find my love of watching the world go by. Particularly on the train station platform.

Oh the birds. Doesn’t matter what sort of bird. But birds use rail platforms like little playgrounds. I can almost see the joy they take in the chaos of the humans.

They flit in and out in time with my musical headspace and it’s like a slow motion film reel. People blurring, birds in sharp relief. Leaping, dive bombing, swooping.

Recently a large human stomped up to sit beside me with a packet of crisps. An inquisitive sparrow had been sitting within 10 cm of my feet. They shushed it away.

From my trance land I found my silent head speak coming out loud.

“Leave the birds alone. They are not going to hijack your food and you look like you could spare a crumb anyway”.

Whoops! I covered my mouth when I realised what I’d done.

The person next to me roared laughing. They then offered the sparrow a bit of crisp which it gladly took.

Hooray!

A Story of People and Dogs

A story of people and dogs.

Dogs. Some are dangerous. Some are not. But you don’t go up and attempt to cuddle them all without making a thorough assessment, do you? Do they look like they might bite? Showing whites of eyes? Ears back? Growling? Please note they may still wag their tail when feeling aggressive and can still be dangerous – so stay away when they exhibit all or many of these behaviours.

People. Some are dangerous. Some are not. But you don’t go up and attempt to cuddle them all without making a thorough assessment, do you? Do they persistently breach your boundaries even when you make them clear? Do they insist on behaviours you have asked them to stop? Do they get angry with you for asserting your personal right to feel comfortable and safe? Please note people can smile and look presentable and still be assholes I want nothing to fucking do with and I will exercise that right…and I’ll be happier for it (true story – you don’t end up lonely – you end up loved!).

End. Of. Fucking. Story.

Pirates and Poems

My special interest as an Aspie is language.

At uni it was the language of power and propaganda. That gets me jobs.

At home it’s poetry and prose. That gives me joy.

On stage it’s comedic poetry, wordplay, political statements through satire and parody. That gives me satisfaction.

Yesterday I performed in a Melbourne poetry event – my first since I moved here.

Got to include another love (costumes) with poetry and comedy and got to dress up as a zombie pirate in a dead pirates themed event.

I’ve poetry slammed twice in Alice Springs and was wanting to continue when I moved. Last Dirty Word I did in Alice I did a serious poem about DV. It was very personal and very hard to do. But I’m glad I did.

Here’s one of my more serious poems…

Me as Zombie Pirate.

Comedy and NOT Hiding in Plain Sight.

“Hiding in plain sight”.  I feel that until I was 45 that is exactly what I was doing.  Then I found the joy of performing comedy.

My father’s father was a iron monger.

My mother’s father was a house painter.

My father’s mother was a milliner.

My mother’s mother was a “housewife” aka as business manager of a house painting business.

Working class.  Blue collar.  Not that Australian’s like to think we have classes.  But we do.

I work in the white collar field of anthropology, I am a writer and a performer. I travel lots. I don’t aspire to the same way of life my grandparents did and most certainly not to a “settled or domestic life”.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved and admired both sets of grandparents and appreciate how different their lives were and that many of the choices I have were limited to them or not available at all.  So, the motivations for how they lived had to be different as a matter of course.  However, some of my ancestors would not have chosen a different course even if it is available to them – of that I am sure.

Yesterday I walked through the Melbourne CBD, where I will be working in the near future – thinking how very different I am to the last two generations of my family.

None of them wore parts of the female anatomy on stage.  *Yes, I sometimes do wear a large costume on stage that is to do with women’s reproductive rights – but not always*

None of them went to university.  They only travelled because of war.  How very lucky I am and how very grateful to my ancestors I am.

And exactly how much my hiding in plain sight was linked to the identities of my grandparents and perhaps much further back than that. 

We now know that some of our inter-generational behaviours are genetic – so that explains some of how difficult it is to be different from our forebears.

It also explains something for me about how different my course is – but how fundamentally similar it is.  I will always work in jobs that fight for the underdog, the battlers and for those who experience disadvantage.  Those are my social and genetic roots.

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Thank you to the Melbourne Observer for featuring my show! Read the whole edition (and me on page 51.) online at http://melbobserver.com.au/wp/

This might explain why we might feel as though we are “hiding in plain sight”.  Trying to blend in where we don’t really feel we do.  I think this is the source of much unhappiness for many people.

We need to stop hiding in plain sight.  The world’s diversity is it’s greatest gift.  

Stop it.  Stop it now.

Be who you are.

I am no longer hiding in plain sight.

I am holding my own space – fiercely.

 

You can see my show “Labelled” at #SydneyFringe and #MelbourneFringe Festivals.

Sydney Fringe – Kings Cross Hotel – 14 & 15 September – book tickets at:

https://sydneyfringe.com/buy-tickets/?e=MTU2MzU

Melbourne Fringe – at the Hare Hole at Hares and Hyenas, Fitzroy, 24, 25 & 26 September, book your tickets at:

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/labelled-a-comedic-story-about-stories-about-people/

 

Faster.

Faster.

Quicker.

Swifter.

But not necessarily better.

What? I hear some of you say!

“Haste means Waste” – somebody wise from the past.

Remember that time when you hurried because you thought you were going to be late and ended up later because you fumbled?

Sometimes slowing down and ordering your priorities is a better option. Maybe it’s better to arrive calm and smiling, in your third favourite earrings instead of your first.

Remember that time you decided the discomfort was not worth waiting a bit longer and took the next available opportunity only for it to be terrible over a long period?

Waiting is uncomfortable sometimes. But let’s face it – we are all sitting in life’s waiting room. Good things often take time.

Why rush something you can’t possibly control?

In my current situation, in a life circumstance of trying to establish myself in a new city, I’m consciously taking time out to take care of my “patience”, and feel okay about a period of joblessness. It’s making it a completely more joyful and pleasant circumstance, even though challenging.

Discomfort is part of every experience (whether you class that experience as good or bad). If you avoid it in an endless search for the comfortable or pleasant – sometimes you forget to stop and appreciate the little things. Little joys.

Cultivate little stops if need be, but rush and miss all those little joys, the choice is ours.

Day 3 and 4 – On Comparison

Okay, yesterday I didn’t journal. So that leaves me with two responses to myself:

Get angry with myself and feed a cycle that means I will blog less because I’m feeding recent traumas with anger and berate myself for not being efficient to my plan to blog everyday.

Or..

Forgive myself and just blog today. Ta dah! Here it is.

Yesterday I caught up with a fellow artist and friend Tamara. We were talking about the perception of people who achieve a lot. I was going to say “over-achievers”, but I think this is a misnomer.

In fact, most people I know who are classed as “over-achievers”, don’t think they are and are often trying to live up to an internal dialogue that says that are not doing enough. That can be positive or negative in outcome or a bit of both.

We laughed at our modern tendency to overdose on self-improvement or self-help texts/blogs/books/videos and how that can become counterproductive, particularly to our sense of self-worth.

We make projects out of projects about projects about improving ourselves. Sometimes there is no room to just “be”.  Always comparing ourselves to something or someone else.

In the last five years I have abandoned everything that previous generations of my family thought were important. I sold my home and started a business and travelled extensively. I have abandoned that business because it became about 80-hour weeks and rejected a job in the one place. I have rejected the notion of life being about possessions and kept my possessions not more than I can sell quickly or put in my car. I’ve lived and worked in China and finished writing a historical fiction book and developed an emerging career as a performer and producer of comedy and spoken word.

desertpeasIt means I have been broke ass poor and then well paid in cycles that mean on average, I have not a stable income and that’s stressful in patches. But then I change something, and life becomes full of wonder again.

There are days when I doubt myself and mostly those days are when I am around people with settled lives. But the irony is these people are the people that admit to wanting to be able to move around and follow work or an ambition beyond the white picket fence.

But they are learning from me, that just as their choices are hard but often rewarding, so are mine.  They are just different, not necessary better or worse or equal.  Some are different and similar and all the variations in between.

There are so many things I have gotten to do in the last 5 years that have been things I never thought I would get to do. These are things my family of origin did not necessarily approve of, so there is always a sub-conscious negative hum running in my psyche that I must compete with. However, my experiences in life are the reward.

I’ve put a picture of Sturt Desert Peas here. Probably because they grow in the harshest of conditions, but are not perfect examples of what is traditionally thought a beautiful flower like roses or daisies. They adapt in often harsh conditions, but I am sure they are not beating themselves up about it.

When we all commit to just being kind to ourselves and others and listening to each other’s stories without judgement we discover something new about ourselves and others.  We discover a diversity of stories that is life affirming and often life changing.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Narrative Songs

I have a challenge ahead of me. I already perform comedy and public speak.

I am an interesting and engaging lecturer and facilitator of anthropology. I am learning about radio presenting and have done my first live broadcast. I am an independent producer of complex comedy productions with social messages. I am most proud to get to perform at major Fringe Festivals.

However, I choose parody song in my comedy when I can really sing. A rich, jazz voice. Those that have been lucky enough to hear it are suitably impressed. But I am rarely convinced.

There have been a few ways we have talked about the politics of identity over the years. So many ways we have chosen to look at the notion of “being yourself”.  I know that means, for me, being a performer.

When I was living in China I entered a street stall with thousands of white t-shirts with the words on it “Be yourself, no one else can”.

*Irony alert*

Yes, you too can achieve this goal by wearing a mass-produced t-shirt like millions of others!

I want to talk about our own personal t-shirt slogans that hold back our voices.  Our internal narratives that mean we may ignore natural drives to perform, sing, paint, speak or do whatever it is our heart calls us to do.

The voices we hide away or may not recognise at all.

It took me many years to find my voice and to be brave enough to commit to a natural drive to perform that I have suppressed all my life. But around 2015 I saw the narratives that were holding me back clearer than ever.

Every achievement in my life, small or big, was always accompanied with a certain voice.   Then something terrible happened and I was forced to be creative in my healing.

The below video is a short snippet from my speaking product “Normal is a cycle on a washing machine”.  This talk goes on to talk about how we can use “normal” as a way to limit our healing and how to overcome our internal voices about what is “normal”.  Part of this is changing the way we use language.  Language is a powerful action.

Through that healing, guided by a few more positive voices I recognised some negative voices from my past – particularly in regard to singing.

It came from years of people in my circle as a young person who said to me, “It’s okay, but it’s only <insert minimising language here>”.

“Only a small-town choir”.
“Only a paper award certificate”.
“Only an average voice”.

There are none of those voices left in my life, I have consciously removed negative people from my life.

Yet sometimes the relics of their narratives stuck and I have to work around them.
The interesting thing was that these negative voices are always from people who never even tried to do what I tried. They were always too scared.

These are the people who curb your enthusiasm with platitudes like “well everyone needs a hobby”, when you start working towards making a career out of performance.

Fear and negativity breeds fear and negativity. They suck you in and you get stuck.

When I perform now, comedy or public speaking – I still hear whispers of these old voices. But I acknowledge them and put them in an imaginary rubbish bin that I visualise in my mind’s eye.  I convert the negative narrative to a positive one.

“I am on stage and the crowd wants me to entertain them”.
“I was acknowledged with a review”.
“The crowd will enjoy the parody song”.

Yet, I am still not quite able to sing properly on stage – but here’s some news, I am about to change that.  It’s the next big step in my healing journey.

A small artistic musical project called “Steame Funk”.  Stay tuned.

Oh and if you want to book me for a positive mental health talk or a comedy show…contact my agent at https://www.inspiringrarebirds.com/jacci-pillar/

An Outback “Royal” Wedding

img_1658.jpgThe bridal party stood between an old wind mill named the “Southern Cross” and the ruins of the Old Ambalindum station homestead. The reception was held at Hale River Homestead, 115km NE of Alice Springs, on the famous Binns Track.

It’s not very often I get excited about weddings.  But Laurie and Nico’s wedding was an exception.

The guests drove 55km of the dirt and heavily corrugated Binns Track (4WD only) through beautiful but rugged outback country. On the drive there I was passed by a ute carrying lounge chairs (little pieces of their home brought along). Later I would sit in these with groups of guests late in the evening, under the stars, toasting marshmallows in fire drums.

The caterers also navigated this road, with a trailer loaded with a bain-marie and other catering equipment. That must have been a precarious journey indeed.

This was a true outback wedding with reinvented traditions reflecting the unique and beautiful people that Laurie (Laurel) and Nico are.

Both the bride and groom are part of the very vibrant Alice Springs creative community.

Apart from the obvious remote logistics of the venture, this was far frimg_1659om your average wedding.  Besides being super relaxed, it was progressive and free from the constraints of old ideas about marriage.

The celebrant Dave wasted no time on the usual formalities of wedding etiquette and was funny and thoughtful.

The vows were delightfully heart-warming but also light-hearted.

Probably my favourite line would have been from the groom.

“You’re the chickpea in my hummus”

Myself and other guests joked about the ratio of beards to bare faces. A number of established rockers in group meant one of my favourite things (a good beard) was visible at every turn.

Whilst the preparation for this event was no doubt hectic, the wedding was far from hectic. It was all about the kind of love I aspire to – not judgemental, but authentic.

The reception. Oh my gosh…the reception. 

The venue is a large woolshed with a bar and kitchen area in the back is a feast of fun history and artefacts of outback and remote life.  img_1499
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The rustic and romantic venue lit up with strings of lightbulbs and fairy lights.

 

The food ranged from roast pork to vegan and gluten and dairy free. Everyone was catered for without any major fuss or difficulty in how this was achieved.
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Three awesome rock bands perched on the back of a truck, and rocked us into to the wee hours of the morning.

There was no formal (and usually pretentious) “first dance” song, just the bride and groom dancing with all of us, until all of us couldn’t dance anymore.

Laurie and Nico have what the rest of us in the world could invest in more often – both share a passion for an authentic, inclusive, creative and community minded life.  The wedding was a telling demonstration of that philosophy.

We were a colourful and creative bunch.  Most of us were combinations of performers, musicians, film makers, photographers, artists and writers. The conversations were lively and filled with laughter.

There were four of us gals with fluorescent hair colours, so I wasn’t alone with my vivid magenta and purple locks.

Throughout the night, cartoons were drawn, and tales told. I practiced some comedy material around the fire and made new friends.  The people that Laurie and Nico are was reflected in the similar people that surround them, creative, interesting souls.

I felt very honoured to be asked to this wedding and I can honestly say it was the most enjoyable wedding I have been to in my 47 years of life.

“Fly 990”

To finish, here is a short list of things that made this event truly beautiful to my way of thinking (I could list many more but this just the main points):

  1. Arrernte country was acknowledged in the ceremony. The land on which the wedding took place has always been and always will be Aboriginal land.
  2. The celebrant stressed that under Australian law “marriage is between two people”. The wedding goers whooped delightedly. Australia has just been through legal changes recognising same sex marriage and many people present were part of that fight to have those basic fundamental rights recognised.
  3. Laurie’s aunt and nephews and nieces serenaded us at the reception in Maori.
  4. There was no “Mr and Mrs” assumed. They were just introduced as “Laurie and Nico”. They are married and no old-world names or ideas about ownership (such as ridiculous traditions about surnames and titles) needed to be applied.

This was a wedding for everyone (not just for the bride and groom), there was no pretensions, it was 100% about love

Not only the love between two people, but love of life, music, community and each other.