revelatory comedy

On the 18th July 2018 I drove into Melbourne from Alice Springs to do a season of Melbourne Fringe (via Sydney Fringe) and to settle here after an assault in my day job left me depressed and unhappy.  This decision came after being in remote or overseas locations since 2005.  That’s not unusual for my profession.  I am an anthropologist by day.  In my 40’s I pursued what I had been afraid to all my life – being a comedian/writer/performer at every opportunity I can find.

I’m a variety type of human.  Some would say that’s because I am Autistic.  I think that’s accurate, I need novel ideas (and also more structure to pursue them than other humans, which a common contradiction in the Autistic experience).  But also, I am just easily bored.  But living back in Melbourne (last time I was four years old) has been more than transformative – opening up opportunities to be fully authentic on stage that is allowing me to be the same in life.

Art just doesn’t imitate life, it is life.  It makes you feel and do and change.  I am one of those people who still thinks comedy can be an artform.  I do skits, character and musical comedy with storytelling/narrative observation comedy woven in amongst it all.

I don’t perform as often as I would like.  I have some big sensory and social challenges to work around to get on stage, but once up there I love it.  Venue and performance accessibility is and always will be an issue for me, but I have carving my way regardless.

The last 12 months have been personally transformative, or rather, revelatory. I hold comedy 80% responsible for that.

I knew I would have to deal with culture shock.  The shock of coming from the remote Northern Territory to a city was one aspect.  But I had lived in a large Chinese city too, so that wasn’t the most of it.

What I found was that I wasn’t prepared for the changes it would prompt in me – that would allow me to be me.  You may recall a post where I had been diagnosed with depression just before I arrived in Melbourne.

I am happy to say I was not depressed, I was oppressing my true self.  That caused sporadic depression as not being authentic invariably does.  That’s not actually any rocket science really – but something so many people struggle with.

A kind of period of chaotic and complicated personal change took place in the last 12 months. This wasn’t a learning curve.  This was a learning mountain epic filmography, complete with crevices and dodgy theme music.

I knew I had to leave an mask behind when I came here, that Melbourne would have a much more accepting culture.   I had already started to drop the mask when I started doing comedy in 2016.  I fully accepted that the diagnosis of autism I had been grappling with (first mentioned to me in 2006, partial diagnosis for years until recently) and started to get my head around the fact it made me who I am – it didn’t make me less.

In my first ever comedy writing workshop, before my very first performance in Darwin I had a lightbulb moment. I was confronted with an exercise often done in comedy classes.  Two truths and a lie.  I did it well, but mainly because all of my stories about my life are weird.

My answers were:

  • I nearly married a Tunisian olive farmer during the second wave of the Arab spring revolution in 2011
  • I have just come back from living and working in China
  • I’ve been married three times

No one picked that I have only been married once. The other two are true.  My life and it’s funny stories made other people laugh and I love making people laugh.

I refuse to lie on stage.   I choose to embellish stories to get bigger laughs, but not lie.  In the process of finding material it has all come from my experience and research and knowledge combined.  Experiences such as being a late diagnosed autistic person, a late coming out queer (I actually outed myself on Channel 31 BentTV) as an ENBY-femme and gray asexual (I can hear some of you opening a Google tab…).

It’s not catharsis either, as some cynics have said to me.  It’s about me OWNING who I am and poking fun at world that dictates to us who we should be.  Plus I think the performance world is changing.  We are challenging non-disabled actors playing disabled parts.  We want real. That’s a good thing, not something to be cynically given a clinical label to.

There is part education though.  A fellow comedian once said “your comedy is like a TED talk, only funnier”.  I will take that.  That’s fine with me.

haresandhyenasmargotfink
Performing out and proud for “Wear it Purple” event at Hares and Hyenas – Produced by Teddy Darling. Photo by Margot Fink. Image description: Jacci standing on stage, arms raised, mid parody song, dressed in black with pride striped rainbow socks.

But putting my foot on stage for the first time prompted a wave of personal change for the better, but often through tumultuous times, like I never expected.

The mask has broken.  I am me on stage and increasingly more so than ever – off stage.

The comedy journey has been harsh and hilarious and helpful.  Sorry about the alliterations, it’s one of my autie quirks.

I refuse to do the low hanging fruit of comedy.  I aim to “punch up not punch down”, critiquing systems and the language of bigotry and prejudice.  If some think attacking bigotry and prejudice is punching down – then Google “false equivalence”.

So through four years or so of dabbling in comedy and several large-ish productions that I have written, produced and performed in (including the recent Melbourne Fringe opening night variety showcase “Tickets on Myself“).

A couple of thoughts why performance has set me free:

  1. Somewhat paradoxically, the opportunity to lie on stage (which I chose not to take) freed me of expectations to be other than myself.  Yep, you read that right.  Whilst I have never been described as fake, suddenly I was presented with something that I realised I had been doing all my life – and no longer wanted to do.  To stop lying to myself about who I was (we call this masking as a survival technique for Autistic people, but it’s nearly always harmful to us) and be myself.
  2. The influence of some amazing performers I have met along with way who are completely comfortable with who they are.  Some of these people are big names, some are not.  But none of them subscribe to “fake it until you make it”.  They ascribe to developing confidence, self-belief and bravery, which is something quite different, in my humble opinion.

Up until six months ago I was scared.  Recently I have found that holding the stage made me brave. So I went all out and revealed my true self. And it feels fucking marvellous.  

I need to give the incredible Nelly Thomas a huge shout out.  You may remember my post about her new book about neurodiversity, Some Brains. I was very privileged to have her as my Melbourne Fringe Navigate Program mentor.

The weekend before Tickets on Myself, she reminded and encouraged that me I only had one job – to bring joy.

And I did.  I hope I made you proud Nelly.  Thank you – you believing in me still makes me tear up (in a good way).

Finally, I remember being in this massive t-shirt market in Guiyang in China in 2014.  There was a wall covered in hundreds of the one t-shirt slogan, “Be Yourself”.  I remember it made me laugh heartily out loud.

The irony was here were mass produced t-shirt proclamations were telling us something the world least expects of us.

Because if the world did give us permission to fully be ourselves, the t-shirt industry would go broke.

After the world stripped me of the safety to be me, the comedy stage gave me myself back.  There is no going back now and that’s a beautiful thing.

I hope everyone puts down the t-shirt slogan and finds their own personal comedy stage, figuratively and literally, to be who they are, not what the world expects them to be.

Hold Space, Mad Pride Comedy

I’ve been doing comedy almost three years now.  It takes all my hours outside of my day job. It has consumed my life for the last 13 months.

I started doing comedy to hold space as a fat, nonbinary, autistic femme.  None of those words are insults, they are descriptors of diversity.  And diversity is a beautiful, interesting thing.

I just want to hold space as me.  I’ve only started to do that recently.

My first gigs were traditional comedy.  Boom, boom, tish, punchline based standup. https://youtu.be/YS-1KO6pGB4

Then Labelled happened.  I fully embraced who I was and wanted to tell stories, not punchlines. https://youtu.be/Q-VNpvLSxN0

Audio-visual.  Make people think about the issues of judging each other.

Anyway, I’m tired and I’ve lost my mojo and as far as I am concerned it’s showing on stage.  Because I’m starting to measure myself against the mainstream again.

madI did a show called Mad Pride last night and felt like I wasn’t shiny enough.

I let my anxiety rule me about performing in the same show as someone as shiny as Felicity.  But I’m not Felicity Ward (who is fantastic by the way).  I’m not skinny, fast and furious and filled with hilarity.

I’m fat, different, non straight, meandering, making people think and laugh at stories at a slower pace.  But last night I was so unhappy with that.  I lost lots of the energy I brought to the first solo show in Darwin.

I’m too worried about not being Felicity, that I’ve lost sight of the plan to hold space for everyone who isn’t Felicity.

I’ve been tearing myself apart about this performance – until Heidi Everett reminded me to just hold space.

So, I’m taking a break from too much comedy and going off in search of finding my mojo again.  I’m gonna do other forms of fun things I like.  Sing.  Improv. Radio.  Poetry.  Writing.  Just anything other than anything remotely resembling mainstream comedy.

I’m going to hold space.  I wanted to change up what the shiny people do and I need to stop measuring myself against mainstream.  I want to honour the;

Bentfat

Strange

Not pretty enough

Not popular enough

Fat

Queer

Disabled

Neurodiverse

Visible panty and legging lined!

Hold space

We don’t have to be shiny in a mainstream popular culture way.  

Unlearning with Pepper

So after three years of thinking about this I’ve decided to take advice about a service dog.  This past two years has been an exercise in unlearning.  Unlearning ableism.

I looked at various options and decided to follow the MindDog process; whereby you can select your own dog and work with the trainer to train that dog to be accredited.

I sort out the services of Laura Mundy who is an accredited MindDog trainer and psychologist.  We discussed what personality dog I would need to seek based on what I wanted to get from the relationship with the dog.

During my teen years I had a horse who I credit with saving my life.  Another myth about Autistic people is that we don’t have empathy.  I have trouble reading other people’s hints, sarcasm and passive aggression as I have low cognitive empathy, but I have enormous amounts of effective empathy.  I am affected by high emotion settings but struggle to process why.

My response as a child was to freeze, as an adult it is a meltdown (which was often confused with a panic attack). My horse used to calmly help me get rid of that excess emotion when we went riding alone. I loved just being with her, away from people, sitting in a quiet spot in the bush.

Laura recommended a greyhound because of this history and gave me a list of traits to look for in a rescue greyhound.  An important part of this process is the right bond between dog and human.  The next step is to start the MindDog accreditation process along with training and assessment from Laura.

The idea was to find a dog that will encourage me to find the least crowded ways of walking by pausing and making me slow down, slowing my responses to my anxiety. A chilled out dog, but a dog that can also understand that my anxiety comes from sensory overload and how to help me deal with that. Slow down Jacci, walk another way. When I am anxious generally, the dog will take my focus away from the anxiety inside of me.

img_2880.jpgI was approved at two services and then went to look at Pepper on Sunday the 24th February 2019 (I won’t forget this date) at the Baxter office of Gap Greyhound Adoption Program Victoria.

I was super anxious as she approached me, but was holding back tears and pretending to be okay.  She just knew.

She walked up to me and pushed her head into my legs and leaned against me really affectionately.

I wanted to cry, but the urge to cry fell away and I felt safer.

It was amazing and so reminded me of my horse that used to put her forehead on my chest and gently press.  Note: yes, she is thin.  There are efforts underway to improve her weight, she was a racing breeder and she has gained a bit in the last two weeks already. 

I picked her up and brought her home early Saturday the 2nd of March and in just 24 hours I already feel different and we are getting along amazingly well.  Like I can do this.  Like I am not less for being who I am.

She seems to know when to leave me alone and when to intervene.  I often feel dreadful anxiety in the mornings just getting out of bed.  This morning she refused to budge until I had processed that with doggo cuddles.  Only when I felt better did she go “come on let’s go”. img_2916

With Pepper I am about to shed years of learned shame.  But this shame doesn’t come from nowhere.  It comes from my early life and how the world (and the people around me) spoke of anyone with a disability.

So many times I’ve resisted so many therapies and simple steps I could take to make my life better. I hid and suppressed things that I now know are part of me and not things to be ashamed of. Because deep down, despite my protestations otherwise, I thought I was “broken” and was trying to make myself like everyone else.

I didn’t want to be pitied and cooed over like my Dad was.  I couldn’t imagine anything worse, but that was happened to my father with his chronic illness.

Then there was the martyrdom and burden stories associated with his care and the narratives about how stoic and brave he was.  To me he was just Dad and I knew he felt like a burden enough without these dramatic stories circulating around him.  He would hide symptoms of his illness to prevent the drama it would create around him, something that didn’t help with the chronic heart condition he had.

To other members of the family telling these stories appeared to give them hero status in a 1970’s and 80’s world were carers “had to put up with a lot”.  The culture of ableism was high during this period, without any real discussion about what the person on the other end of that caring felt or thought or needed.

I know I did not want to be the centre of attention for being broken.  That was the family story.  So I pushed on through and at times, and sometimes did break myself.

I am no longer ashamed of my synaesthesia and the anxiety it can cause me.  I have a clearer picture of how I internalised that ableism in the past and how I can change it now.

Conversations with optometrists are coming back to me with new relevance.  They would do extra periphery vision testing because I would describe what I experience.  How artificial lights exhaust me, or how I experience the world like I am under a spotlight. How nighttime street lighting makes me feel as though I am in a tunnel.

Early on in my life wearing glasses I stopped telling the truth about the swirling but almost translucent colours (it varies in intensity) that permeate my vision moving in time to the sounds around me.

When a psychologist suggested wearing sunglasses to me and that I wear them anytime I am not at a computer, I balked.  Now I do, and the improvement in my quality of life is rapidly improving, because I am not so exhausted mentally.

I now know that when I talk about the tastes in my mouth when I touch things, I don’t need another test for diabetes.  I know understand how I stim (see this great video on this) and what it means for me, but that’s another whole blog entry.  Check out Agony Auties great video on stimming and quiet hands and shutdown.  My experience is very similar to hers.

Must be time for a walk to the beach with Pepper.  Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Autistic Employment Collateral #1

This is the first of a series of posts about the aspects of something I call “Autistic Employment Collateral” and its impact. I hope it’s useful and that the parents of AS young people and AS young people find it validating. I will examine three traits each post through my own experiences and offer the practical strategies I have learned to use.  *nb: all Autistic people are different, but hopefully some of my experience might help others with may have experienced similar.

The last five years I have shifted from denial to acceptance of who I am – and moved beyond the “collateral” that the world claimed from me. I have stress related illness (including blood pressure) from masking myself to make the world feel more comfortable with my autism and I am done with it.  I will do my best not to mask anymore, unless of course I don’t feel safe, and then it may come back up.

I have also recovered from a trauma and associated brain injury that means I have a complex set of challenges I manage daily. I am tired of not talking about it and the world bullying me into a being just a commodity and not a human being first.

Happy to be a human being and a commodity, but on my own terms.

I also need to say these are Autistic (AS) traits. They can’t be turned off but can be harnessed into skills, but they are not deficits.

Many AS people are tired of being “normalised” as though the “unicorn” of normal is what we are meant to be modelled against.  Unicorns are cute, but I don’t want to be one. I would wear unicorn slippers. Probably to work too. But I digress.

I am Jacqueline (Jacci or Jacqui), depending on what context you know me in.

I am autistic. Here’s an example of some the collaterals that the world has taken from me that I have tried to mask and now refuse to mask –

1. Eye contact drains me, and prolonged eye contact distresses me. Yet the western cultural world tells me to look people in the eyes. If I don’t use eye contact, people think I am being dishonest or shifty, when my senses are just overwhelmed and drained by looking at you in the eyes.

When I studied Anthropology, I was delighted to learn that not all cultures think eye contact is a good thing. I ended up being quite comfortable with working with Aboriginal Australians and having awesome conversations where little eye contact was had.  Without the aggression of forced eye contact, the conversations were so meaningful and rich. I dropped the eye contact mask and I now tell people that I am not good with eye contact.

What I say to people now is, “I may look at the floor, or over your shoulder when we talk. But I am listening to you. In fact this is how I listen to you best”.

2. I see the world and process information visually (in pictures), in 3D detail in my mind’s eye first, then I convert them into words. Yet people think my drawing and doodling is distraction or that I am being rude. In recent years my career has become about helping organisations to represent complex systems and charts and visual representations. That is my autistic superpower.

In the past I was given minute taking roles because people thought I was good with words.  There are people who are great at minutes, but I need to record the meeting and do it later.  I am good with words, words are my passion, but it doesn’t start with words. It starts by images and a lot of them. I sort them out using words, arrows, shapes and I process the relationships between the images and through the words I hear or read visually.

But the words don’t come first and often I have frustrated employers who don’t understand that I need to understand the relationships of things before I write and that I am not just a “scribbling monkey” for their own personal use. I need to walk, move, draw, map the ideas before I can write them.

I once was bullied by an employer because I needed to walk the hall and draw the work before I wrote. They thought I was wasting their time and that I didn’t want to work or that I was “slacking off”. When they forced me to stay in my office and “just write”, I nearly ended up hospitalised with mental health issues.

In recent years I have learned to say to employers and even at interview; “I am a visual thinker. I can break down systems into images and representations and words for you, like you have seen in my previous work, but in that order, not the other way around. I need to walk and draw and mind map before I write and design”.

3. I do amazingly well at detail and logic and can focus on tasks for long periods, but people think I am being harsh or critical or nit-picky or, in the extreme example, they “diagnose” me with depression or anxiety. I see the world in complex ways. This is not a problem. I can relax. I know how to relax. I just don’t need somebody who isn’t autistic telling me how to fit in with their way of seeing the world.

In fact, let me distil this down. When you try and force me to lose the detail, you are telling me I am less. You are turning me into a problem. I do then start to develop mental health problems – panic attacks primarily. These are such that I must withdraw from the world and take time off, which can put me at a financial disadvantage and have long term negative health impacts.

The other issue is like the one at #2 in that I get shoved into an office and get too much detail thrown at me, because I am good at it. But it takes its toll and I need to walk, draw and talk to people to stem the constant flow of information in my head – unless it gets too tiring. Think of the matrix, yet you can’t unplug without conscious effort and to seek quiet or nature or meditate or engage in a mind stilling exercise that best works for the individual concerned.

But my mental health problems are caused by the world insisting I should “dumb it down” and that my expression of detail is unwanted. It is a rejection of my very person, my very humanity. When I employed for my detailed analysis and supported, these mental health issues abate, and I operate far more efficiently.

Now, I have learned to say to employers, “I can process a lot of detail for long periods. I can then analyse and distill it down for various audiences very quickly. However it takes a toll on me and I need to break up my duties so it doesn’t exhaust me.  If I am allowed to do this, you will get large amounts of clear and precise work from me. So I am not ‘slacking off’, I am processing.”

Illustration of an isolated line art comic balloon with  a broken shieldFinally, let me conclude with this.

The mask is off. Women with autism have exemplary masking ability. That is because the world expects different standards of us as women to begin with and we are therefore better at it.

The mask is not a lie. The mask is a way of coping with a world that turns us into medical problems rather than see that our “issues” are superpowers when harnessed and valued correctly.

I will not put my mask back on. I have smashed it. It is gone.

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.

img_2045.jpg
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/

 

Monotonous Management, Mindfulness and Negative Solidarity

I’m finding looking for a new job monotonous and frustrating and I am having to work hard to be mindful to get through that monotony. As human beings sometimes we seem to punish each other for not being able to do monotony well and nowhere is this quite seen the most as at work.  It’s often referred to as negative solidarity.

“I had to go to meetings every day and be miserable, so should they”.
“I had to write 50 long selection criteria job applications to get a job, it’s just part of it”.

What a load of crock. When I have taught critical literacy or ways to optimise learning or practices (which is part of my expertise as an educator), I have not punished people for not wanting to do boring tasks; that’s counter intuitive.  Instead find a way to make a boring task more interesting and engaging.

Let’s take the traditional meeting for example.  Someone talks and we all listen.  Sometimes we brainstorm – but if we are just mainly talking, people will only take about 10% away from it.  Add visual content or genuine workshopping activities and that figure goes up to 65%.  Don’t believe me?

Check out what brain expert John Medina has to say about traditional meetings and how they don’t work for everyone (towards the end of this video).

The gab-fest meeting needs to die a rapid death and visual active meetings are more effective.

Every one of us is wired to process information differently and most of us know what works for us but the fact is the more visual a presentation the better everyone processes it. That old school educator idea about sitting still and listening in a meeting or a classroom is a defunct and potentially damaging concept.

Fuck negative solidarity. It is time we grew up, left a competitive high-school mindset behind and aimed to get the best out of each other and not diminish creativity or innovation by insisting on monotonous management processes.

I’m not saying that people don’t do the “boring” task. Not at all. I am just saying how we do it makes a difference. I’ve begun to look for more interesting ways I can do job applications – and I have started voice recording ideas for selection criteria and then writing them as I try to make the process a little more interesting.

I just wish modern corporate HR practice would catch up with what we know about human beings so that the selection criteria process might not end up excluding creative people. Just like boring meetings don’t do creativity or innovation any favours. Maybe that is okay if you are regulatory body and maintaining the status quo is what you want – but even then, you need some problem-solving ability and that doesn’t come from monotony.

Monotony vs. Mindfulness.

Let’s talk mindfulness. Mindfulness is about routine in a way, but it is about taking in the beauty of little tasks and finding joy in them. There is an aspect of monotony in the carrying out of a mindfully created task, but it is not the driving force. Mindfulness takes an everyday task and injects some joy into it.

One might pour the coffee slower and take delight in the shine of the coffee and the fall of the fluid, knowing full well that it will never be the same in any moment in time ever again. Mindfulness sees the beauty in the fact that no single task is ever identical, that life is filled with unexpected delights.

Slower? Ack! You might say that you don’t have time for slower. But haste invariably means waste. The mindful coffee pourer spills less, smiles more and spends less time cleaning up. Sometimes slower is better and more useful than you might think.

Mindfulness can be used to focus on monotonous tasks. A friend of mine knits during meetings.

In a world filled with meetings that we are often required to take part in regardless of their usefulness to our work, you might find yourself doodling on a note pad. Oddly the little side task can help you get through monotony and focus on what is important in a long meeting. Others secretly look at mobile phones on their laps. But my friend uses the mindfulness of knitting to listen better.

Yep, you read that right, she knits to listen better.

Not all of us have the same learning or communication style and all our brains are wired to process information differently.

The idea of a meeting where everyone talks does not meet everyone’s communication style and a lot of us find them difficult to concentrate in. In fact, I would argue that some meetings are indeed, completely pointless.

Some of us need to “do or see” as we listen to be able to synthesise the information. That might mean doodling, writing notes (that are often incoherent at the end of the meeting but might have served a different purpose to help us focus, so this matters not). For some people this is viewed as disrespectful to the speaker during the meeting.  I would argue that the monotonous manager insisting everyone sit still and listen is disrespectful to…well…just about everyone.

No-one has only one learning or information processing style (like hearing) and meetings that focus on talk are counter-productive wastes of time.  We may like to listen as a primary way of receiving information, but that is just one way of processing, not the be all and end all.

I have a visual learning style first and foremost and for me, just listening is not enough.

My knitting friend has a kinaesthetic or tactile learning style. That means she learns and adapts information through moving or touching.

I’m a doodler. I discovered my doodling pissed off teachers and colleagues, so I wrote  notes and diagrams instead. When things get interesting in a meeting I will often draw a diagram about what is being spoken about. At no point did I not take in what was said in the meeting, in fact I take in it better if I’m drawing or writing the words I hear while listening. It’s how my mind maps the information in a way that’s meaningful for me.

Often I am now asked to reproduce the diagrams I draw in a meeting as visual demonstrations of model or idea or concept.

For my friend who processes things tactilely, as she knits she is pausing through the rhythmic movement and focusing on information that is important and not losing interest in the meeting.  She is mindfully processing what she hears and making it tangible to her learning style through knitting while listening.  She’s knitting the words into her mind.

Monotony is often confused for mindfulness or good management, which it is neither. Monotony is people doing mindless routine tasks, over and over the same way (whether they work for us or not) because they think it will bring peace to their lives. Or order. Or control. Or wealth.

The monotonous manager is the manager who thinks there is only one way to do a task and inflicts that on everyone else – because they relate it to efficiency.

But monotony often has the reverse effect. It can create a grumbling discontent and a need to for the malcontent manager to pick at the scabs of their life and the lives of others and create hostile work environments. They become the people who are so bored with their lives they pick on everyone else’s methods for living to make themselves feel better. I am always surprised when someone can go to a special and unnecessary efforts to instruct me that the way I do a task should be done another way – although I achieve the task with the same efficiency as they do. These are the people that are annoyed by someone doing something differently because of rigid views of right and wrong based only on their own world view. I’m writing about this not to pick on them, but because it’s obvious they are stuck in the rut of monotony.

Let me be clear. Routine can be very important. But a life filled with mindless routine in the pursuit of things like feelings of power over a team can equate to a long slow death to any modicum of workplace happiness. There are buckets of books on this subject. Yet we still find people, largely in the workplace insisting “we’ve always done it this way” and accusing others of unprofessionalism if they do things differently.

It’s time to honour diversity and see it as useful, not punish people for having different wiring.

Why are we still practicing meeting structures that we know don’t work? Organisations that use co-design and workshop things (with physical and visual activities) are far more innovative.

I look at the selection criteria process and think it’s just another monotonous process that doesn’t guarantee anything except that someone can write to the criteria.

I have seen some good examples of alternative recruitment processes and I am part of one this coming week. I will be part of a pre-screening process that means the organisation gets to know me through a recruiting professional first. They will get to know my motivations and ways of operating and I hope I will be matched to a role and organisation that honours that diversity.

I’ve been asked to answer two broad questions and then go for coffee with a recruitment specialist.  Then an interview process that will include tasks.

It will be interesting. I still can’t believe that, considering all the information we have about people and diversity, we still think selection criteria answers are a good enough reflection of a human being. Cause they are simply not.

It’s like the boring meeting of recruiting.

Now, I am going back to writing selection criteria. Maybe I will try a video version and put the hyperlinks to video selection criteria?

The Egg of Doubt – Managing Change

Doubt, like any emotion or response to an emotional state, has a purpose. I don’t doubt my decisions that led me to where I am now, but I am experiencing some self-doubt. But I have no doubt that this doubt will be useful! Irony much?

If you don’t doubt what you are doing, then you are not growing, not developing, not learning. Doubt exists right in the middle of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. The ZPD. The heart of my egg of doubt.

So, Vygotsky’s ZPD is about our learning comfort zones (see image below).  The ZPD requires  thatzpd the learner access properly scaffolded (staged) learning activities to make them more comfortable with the stuff they don’t know how to do. Then after a while the stuff they didn’t know becomes the stuff they do know.

But I think the ZPD exists in our emotional learning too. I think we can apply ZPD to the doubt we experience when making major life changes or trying something new.

This is something I have called “The Egg of Doubt”. Why an egg? Because doubt usually represents birth or growth, as does an egg. It’s important to note that I am applying this to change that we have chosen, not change that is inflicted upon us (although some of this would still apply).

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I have renamed the ZPD to the WTF. Yes, the “Zone of What the Fuck”.

Because change makes us doubt and doubt makes us change. It is a contradiction of the most perplexing and, often, frustrating type.

Making Sense of “The Egg of Doubt”.

While making coffee this morning I collected some thoughts (as you do!) on how to make sense of this as follows:

  1. Do I want this change or challenge? If the answer is no, then re-evaluate the change. It might not need to be thrown out altogether either.
  2. Does this change bring me discomfort and is this real discomfort that is a threat or are we merely sitting in the “What the Fuck” zone? If it is discomfort that will cause you harm…go back to #1. Maybe the change does need to be thrown out altogether. Or change the change. It could just be that you are clinging to the familiar and you need to let go and be okay with the discomfort. It’s okay to not know what you don’t know.
  3. What do I need to do to in “What the Fuck” zone to ease the doubt and move to the new knowledge zone? This is where you make a list of things to do to make the journey more comfortable while still learning. This could be talking to the people around you about the change you are experiencing and getting support. Or practicing self-care. But it is important that’s not too big a list or composed of large tasks. Nurture the WTF zone. It’s there for a reason. It’s there to get you to the new knowledge that will eventually become the stuff you do without thinking much about it.
  4. And finally, but most importantly, give yourself time. Change takes time.

Again, as in #2 above:
It’s okay to not know what you don’t know.