Thoughts from a tree

A Matter Of Perspective

Once upon a time, back when “car phones” were the size of dictionaries and Apple was a struggling company, I was in a car with a friend, waiting at a red light.

She glanced in her rear-view mirror at the driver behind us, said, “look, she’s talking to herself,” and laughed.

“She could be singing to the radio,” I said.

“No way. That’s not what it would look like.” She then proceeded to mimic singing, moving her body in time to the imaginary music and tossing her head.

This memory stuck with me for two reasons. The first was the added fear that, oh great, now I have to worry about people judging me from their rear-view mirrors, and for something as simple as singing. The second, of course, was that she was wrong. Not everyone sings like that. I don’t, for one. She assumed that everyone else must sing that way because she did. The only perspective she would consider was her own.

Some people might wonder why I’ve been writing these posts. And I’ve gotten some reactions I didn’t intend. Nothing bad… but I wonder whether I’m succeeding with my objective. I’m not out for sympathy, pity, or condolences. I don’t need to hear that people still like me, or whatever (and I’m not very good at handling compliments anyways). I’m happy with myself. I’m happy with my life. My friendships may be few, but they’re strong.

My goal, is to offer a different perspective. I want people to think about their assumptions about other people. I usually try to give people the benefit of the doubt. When they do something that bothers me, I try to think of a reason why they might have done that. I’ve gotten into arguments trying to defend someone’s actions with possible justifications. Granted, this optimistic viewpoint has burned me on occasion. And some people will cross a line after which I will assume the opposite. I still think that trying to imagine the perspective of others is a good idea. Maybe it’s natural for me to reach this conclusion, since I’m so bad at reading body language. I Might as well err on the positive side. Or maybe it’s because I know that I am so often misread.

I have unintentionally offended people many times. My default expression when I’m deep in thought apparently appears to be a glare.Some people who I eventually became friends with told me that they thought I hated them at first, because of this. Sometimes, I was just trying to remember who they were (I have horrible facial recognition skills). A teacher once said I gave her “the evil eye” – boy was that a fun parent-teacher discussion.

I give honest answers when the standard social convention would be to lie (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve lied since childhood, and each one still bothers me – please don’t ask me if I think your baby is cute). I’m rarely intentionally rude, but I often come across that way. Managers have yelled at me to be more tactful, as if it’s something I can just *choose* to do. It isn’t that simple. The social niceties aren’t instinctual. Lies, even “white” ones, are abhorrent.

I am not the only one with these problems.

Other people have different problems.

Just because something isn’t what you would do, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just because some action from you would be an attack, doesn’t mean it is from someone else. And even if that girl *was* talking to herself, she didn’t deserve to be laughed at.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Imagine someone else’s.

Wow, I didn’t realize it had been a year since the last time I did one of these. I’m such a slacker😦

This is a short one too, but I wanted to share this link before I forget: Newly re-discovered fairy tales

I’m always excited about new fairy tales. While the ‘classics’ are great, it’s important to remember that they cover a somewhat small spectrum of the world, and were compiled by people with an agenda. One of the fascinating things the article discusses is how the new collection makes obvious the gender-bias and white-washing done by the Grimms in their collection.

However, what I’d really like to start seeing more of is non-European fairy tales. And I’d like to see a Disney Princess moved based off one of them. One of my biggest disappointments with the Disney Princess movies has been their treatment of non-white characters. Why is it that every non-white character has to have a historically-based story line, instead of a fairy tale?

When they decided to do a black princess, for instance, why not celebrate a folk tale from Africa? They could have even just followed the book closer (I mean “The Princess And The Frog” by E.D. Baker, not “The Frog Prince” fairy tale), and it would have been a fairy tale type of story.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love all these movies, and I’m glad they at least *tried*. I just feel like they could have done even better. Studio Ghibli has several great examples of fairy tale stories that aren’t European, and they’re awesome! Wouldn’t it be great to see something like Princess Mononoke based on Native American mythology? How about a heroine that has to deal with Anansi?

Every culture has their own type of fairy tales, even if they don’t necessarily have “fairies” in them.  Stories of myth and magic. Stories originally composed to teach morals or lessons. Legends. Folk tales. I want all of these stories to be shared and remembered.

How I Learned To Be Human

A lot of the time, I feel like a fake. Someone just pretending to be “normal.” Not that I will ever really pass for normal, but there are varying degrees. By this I mean someone who isn’t about to get locked up, ridiculed, or ostracized. Social interactions are the worst of course, but it goes beyond that. Faking my job. Faking relationships. Faking that I care. How much of that doubt is just low self-esteem is hard to judge, because in some ways, I *am* faking it.

Asperger’s is often referred to as “High-Functioning Autism” (whether or not those should be two distinct labels I’ll let someone else argue about). The definition of “high-functioning” appears to equate to someone who can function in society. You tend to hear about Asperger’s in regards to children. Parents freaking out, mostly. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that by the time we’re adults we’ve learned enough to fake it. I feel like parents should calm down a bit. In the end, their kids will be fine, more or less. They’ll figure it out. Maybe they’ll never win a popularity contest, but so what?

I think it’s the worst for girls. What we suck at is social skills, yet girls are the ones who are expected to be good at being social. Boys are more likely to be forgiven for “anti-social” behaviors and more likely to be encouraged if they express desire in odd intellectual pursuits. We’ve got all those absent-minded professor and Bobby Fischer archetypes to point to and say “well, maybe he’s like that.” Not a lot of examples for girls. A woman who doesn’t have people skills is a lot more likely to be persecuted than celebrated, regardless of what else she does. Hopefully less so today than in the past. At least there are fewer being burned at the stake.

My upbringing was probably easier than most girls like me. If my parents ever freaked out about my behavior, I didn’t know it (admittedly, part of that may be related to how many other Aspy family members I have). The private elementary school I attended had very small classes and an inclusive attitude. It wasn’t until I went to a public middle school that it was clear to me how horrible I was at making or keeping friends. It wasn’t until high school that I cared enough to try to change.

It’s difficult for me to understand people. I’ve often wanted the ability to read people’s minds. Why did they do that? Why did they say that? What do they mean? One of the things I like best about books is how they get inside the heads of other people. They help me to understand. I prefer books with multiple points of view. Seeing how different characters react to the same events is fascinating. I’m not a fan of first person though; it feels too much like having someone chatter *at* me, instead of seeing inside them. I want to see how the gears turn, not hear what the clock sounds like.

It’s not just books though. Movies, TV shows, video games, music – anything with a good story can teach something about the human experience. About what it’s like to be normal. Or not normal. I’ve read several stories about Autistic kids who first learned to express themselves because of Disney movies. And I love Disney movies. How much of my own adaptations are thanks to them? As Elsa clothes herself in ice, I clothe myself in stories. Each one a thread in my garment of pretend normality.

Even some of my eccentricities are another shield, in a way. If they remember my tie-dye, maybe they won’t remember something else. Like how I’m not good at meeting their eyes or smiling. And if I do manage to stay focused and smile? If I succeed in carrying on a normal conversation, about nothing important? Then I feel like a fake. Someone who learned how to pretend to be human. And I always was a fast learner…

How did I get here?

As I walked, this was the thought that kept running through my head. How did I, someone who had frequently professed to “hate running” end up trying to do not just a full marathon, but 48.6 miles in 4 days?

It started out small. I joined a 5K race on a lark, refused to run for any of it (I can walk pretty fast) and finished it successfully. Then there were more 5Ks, I started running, a 10-miler, and we completed a few half-marathons.

On the heels of finishing a half marathon “surprisingly easily”, our friends somehow convinced us (ok, me) to try the “Dopey Challenge”.

I should have known better. Really. When I first started the races, it was always my feet that held me back. Flat feet + Fibromyalgia caused immense pain even during 5Ks. Better shoes, new orthotics, and medicine that actually worked were the only reason I could go longer distances.

During training for Dopey, I soon realized that the improvements weren’t going to last me through a full, even with an increase in meds. Then, with less than a month to go, my ankle gave out. Between then and the first day of Dopey, I think I only managed to do one practice run. Not the best preparation.

The 5K was rough. The 10K was rougher. After finishing the half, I said, “How are we supposed to do that TWICE tomorrow?” By then it was a battle for which was worse: my ankles, or the standard foot pain.

I started the full with a brace on each foot. They helped the ankles, but made other parts of my feet hurt worse. By mile 3 I started having IBS issues, on top of everything else. Around mile 11 I told Gary to go on ahead of me. I also got some Tylenol from a med tent, even though I knew it would make me sick.

By mile 12 I was more than ready to quit. I went to a restroom, took off the ankle braces, sat there for a while, and massaged my feet. When I went back outside, there was no one in view but the emergency people on bicycles. I thought it was already over, and felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. Then some runners showed, but not many. I ran, and managed to catch up with the balloon ladies.

I told myself I’d stop at the next med tent (it seemed like a better plan than just sitting down in the road to wait for the struggle bus). Then it was “after the next mile”. Or the next. I ran little, barely kept ahead of the balloons, and thought about quitting at pretty much every step. When my friends hit 20 miles, I got a notification, so I knew there was a tracker there. I decided I’d try to go that far because it would post mine to Facebook, and then people would know that I at least got that far. But at 20 miles, well, there were only six miles left. Right?

Somehow, I made it to the finish line.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I was sure I wouldn’t make it, but I still showed up on that start line. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. Two years ago I would have laughed if anyone had even suggested that I should run a marathon. Yet, I did it. Determination and stubbornness can do amazing things.

Our dreams may appear to be impossible. Our fear of failure can be so high, that oftentimes we don’t even begin. We talk ourselves out of showing up on the start line. But, if we take just one step at a time, maybe we can get there after all.

What have you accomplished that you didn’t think you would? What are you working towards now?

10 Question Writer Blog Hop

Beth Salmon tagged me to answer a 10-question blog hop.

1) What genre(s) do you write, and why?
Adult Fantasy. It’s my favorite genre to read. It has magic, unicorns, and mermaids – what more could you want? I read all shades of it, but I prefer the “traditional fantasy” according to Goodreads categorizations. Stories related to fairy tales are my favorites. There’s some argument over whether my current manuscript is NA (New Adult) or not, but it’s not filled with sexy stuff, so as far as I can tell, that means it can’t be NA, at this time.

2) Do you mostly read within your own genre, or do you read others as well?
I read fantasy the most often, but I also like historical fiction, mystery, sci-fi, and paranormal romance. I’ll try almost anything, but I have very definite preferences. In particular, I will stop reading books where very bad and/or graphic things are done to animals. I also get bored with strong military themes and most romance.

3) What have you learned as a writer that you wish you knew when you first started?
There are so many things… If we go all the way back to when I was a kid, I wish that I hadn’t stopped pursuing it as a career. I was talked out of this by my well-meaning father who threatened that I would become a “ditch digger” if I tried to become a writer. And that I wouldn’t be able to afford ponies😦 . I’m not sure that qualifies as something I’ve “learned” however. I suppose learning to not write in omniscient earlier would have been helpful. Since that’s what most fantasy novels used to be, it was how I started out.

4) What author or book speaks to you the most and why?
Anne Bishop – she writes dark fantasy filled with amazing female characters, talking animals, and a dash of romance. Although horrible things may happen in her books, the bad guys always end up equally punished by the end. As someone who believes in eye-for-an-eye, I especially enjoy that sense of justice being delivered.
Kristen Britain – Her Green Rider series (yes, with a title tailor-made to appeal to me) is an epic fantasy told from the point-of-view of a female messenger, who also happens to have a bit of magical power. This started out as a fairly standard good vs. evil fantasy series, but has since evolved to be much more, and the characters turned out to have a lot more gray in them than originally suspected. Her last book even centered on time travel. The only problem is that it takes her YEARS to write each book, partly because they are each very large.

5) Do you have word/page count goals?
Sometimes. Not at the moment. I’ve completed Nanowrimo a few times, so I know I can crank out a lot of words in a short period of time if needed.

6) Where do you do most of your writing?
At home, in my recliner, with an airdesk to hold my laptop. If I’m writing a first draft though, I use pen and paper, which means I can curl up and write anywhere that is quiet (I do not handle noise well).

7) If you could disappear somewhere for a few weeks to completely immerse yourself in writing, where would you choose?
Somewhere quiet and with few distractions. Maybe a cabin in the woods, as long as it had working plumbing and temperature control.

8) Pick one of your main characters. If his/her house were on fire, what would he/she choose to save and why?
Lisa would save her books. There’s not much else she cares about. Depending on the point in the story, this might mean trying to save her bookbag (holds unlimited numbers of books), which would be a pointless gesture, since it is indestructible. She might also try to simply put out the fire, once she’s learned some control of her powers (early enough in the story and she might have caused it instead)

9) What’s your bad writing habit?
Oh, you mean something specific to writing?
I probably over-edit. I can always think of more things I want to change or fix. I was at a conference recently, where a story was told about an author who would go into bookstores and correct copies of his books after they were published. I can totally understand that desire.

10)What is your writing goal for 2015?
I still need to think about this some, but at least one goal is to finish the book I just started. To query more agents. To make more friends at writing conventions. I’ll be more specific later. Oh, haha, and to blog more😉

I have a confession to make

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, but kept procrastinating writing it. Partly due to fear, I’m sure, of what the reaction of others might be. Will they treat me differently? Think of me as somehow “less”? Argue with me about the validity of my statement, as has already happened once? Then, this weekend, without really meaning to, I told a room full of mostly strangers. It was in the middle of something else, just a line that’s in my query letter, which I was reading out loud. The reaction was thankfully minimal, at least to that, but my *secret* was still out there.

Meanwhile, I have several other posts that I want to write, that require this post to come before them.

So the confession is this: I have Asperger’s.

This won’t be a surprise to those who both know me very well, and understand what Asperger’s is/means. I don’t want to call it a disease, or a syndrome, because I don’t think that’s accurate. It’s just a “difference.” A different way of seeing and processing the world, with both pros and cons.

I had pondered the possibility for a while, first given to me in 2010 at an ex-AOLers party. When discussing my lack of tact in certain matters, someone said to me “We probably all have a little Aspy in us.”

I researched it, of course, and took some online tests (all of which were positive), but was still reluctant to admit it definitively. We all know how unreliable self-diagnosing over the Internet is, after all. But I kept thinking about it, and considering…

A bit later, I was working on a book (the one I’m currently querying), and some of the main character’s personality traits are modeled after my own. One thing I really wanted was a main character who wasn’t witty in conversation, who didn’t immediately make friends with everyone, and who had problems understanding things like body language. They say you should write the books you want to read, and I wanted a character I could relate to.

Then I saw the episode in Glee with the girl who uses Asperger’s as an excuse for everything and it made me really angry. When I think of character’s on TV who portray Asperger’s, I think of Bones, and Sheldon. But not that girl. She’s just a caricature (as everyone on Glee is, I’ll admit). But because of her, I decided that I wanted to put it out in the open why the character in my book is different. I wanted people who read it to know that that girl on Glee isn’t a good representation. I wanted children who have been diagnosed with it to *know* that my character was like them (not counting her magic powers and personal baggage). I wanted parents to see more in their kids than the problems. And I didn’t want to deal with people telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about, though I’m sure some still will.

So, I got tested. It was a somewhat lengthy and expensive process, more so than I expected. I could only find one place in the Orlando area that would see me as an adult. I’m not sure what they think happens to kids when they grow up, since this isn’t something you grow out of. You just learn to cope, with varying degrees of success. Asperger’s basically means people with a form of autism that are still able to function in normal society. So there are lots of people, particularly in the generations before it was well-known, who have it and were never diagnosed. Lots of people I know, since I work in a field where the Aspy tendencies are both accepted and beneficial, as my former coworker pointed out. Many of my friends. Many of my family.

I stumbled across this post over the weekend, and it was the final push that made me decide it was time to write about it. I think it’s important that Asperger’s in adults is discussed more. I think it’s important to recognize that women have it too.

After I got the diagnosis, the therapist asked what I wanted to do now. Did I want therapy? Did I need anything for anxiety or depression? No. I just wanted to know. I wanted a word to use to describe the differences in myself. A word that others might understand. An easier way to explain why I don’t like big parties and can’t lie when someone asks me if the picture of their baby is cute (sorry, but it never is). I don’t want to change who I am. I want to be understood and accepted.

Now you know.

“And knowing is half the battle.”

My second-favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. An old fairy tale, it has more versions than can be counted. The traditional versions follow a similar thread: a merchant loses his fortune when all his ships go missing and he is forced to move to the country. Upon hearing that one ship has been found, he goes back to the city, but first asks his daughters if there is anything they would like him to bring back. The other daughters ask for frivolous and expensive things, but Beauty only asks for a rose (or flower seeds). When he gets to the city, he discovers the ship was taken by pirates. Still poor, the merchant heads home with nothing, gets lost, and ends up on the Beast’s property.

The Beast (unseen) lets him eat and sleep there unmolested but becomes enraged when the merchant takes one of his roses. The merchant explains about Beauty’s simple request and the Beast agrees to let him go if Beauty comes instead. The merchant goes home, tells the story, but doesn’t want Beauty to go. She insists, sometimes with the encouragement of her sisters. What happens once she’s in the castle varies widely, but he asks her to marry him every night, she always says no, and eventually the Beast falls in love with her. When he finds out she wants to see her family again (sometimes because her father is sick), he lets her go but sets a time limit and tells her that he will die if she does not return before then.

Once at home, Beauty delays, or is tricked by her sisters (who are jealous of the riches the Beast has given her) into staying past the time limit. Then she realizes that she has been gone too long (from a vision in a mirror, a dying rose, or something else), panics, and returns. The Beast is near death when she finds him, but she cries and says he must live because she loves him and will marry him. He then transforms into a prince, tells her he was cursed by a dark fairy, and they live happily ever after.

I couldn’t tell you which version I read first, but my favorite is Robin McKinley’s version, Beauty (she also revisited the tale decades later with Rose Daughter). Of the versions I’ve read, it also seems the closest to the Disney version, with a more liberated and intelligent heroine, though it was written first.

As far as the Disney movie goes, the detail that bothered me the most is that the entire thing takes place in a handful of days (the little mermaid at least gave an excuse for this, though it annoyed me there too). On the other hand, I liked that she was a bookworm and had a horse. The whole Gaston issue was new too, but that added tension and fit well enough. Magical or cursed servants exist in other versions prior to Disney, including McKinley’s.

I was also a big fan of the original television series, Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton, which was a much more modern version (at the time) and also involved fighting crime. More recently, there was the modern-day retelling, Beastly. I haven’t read the book, but did enjoy the movie. It bothered me that the “Beast” didn’t seem very ugly to me, and just had what looked like a lot of odd tattoos, but I did like the modern detail of her complaining about her imprisonment on Facebook.

A long time ago I read another version that I wish I could find. It was also modern-day-ish, but the Beast had been disfigured by either a disease or an accident. I don’t think she ends up with him at the end, but she does convince him that he should see a doctor and try to get some of his injuries fixed so he can look and feel normal again. It was a very different story than usual and I regret I can’t remember enough details to find and re-read it.

The theme of Beauty and the Beast is one of the most ubiquitous story themes, particularly in romances or stories with romantic elements. There is something very compelling about a story wherein someone learns to look past appearances. Interestingly, this theme is rarely gender-reversed. I’m not sure if that says something about men, or just our faith in women. Women do seem much better to me, in general, about looking past physical attributes, both in regards to romance and otherwise (though maybe not during high school).

My current work-in-progress is loosely based on the beauty and the beast theme as well, though my beast was never human and isn’t going to turn into one. At least not permanently.

Disclaimer: Although I work for Disney, I just work on computers, and have nothing to do with the movies, marketing, or anything like that. My thoughts have nothing to do with the company, nor have they been encouraged or paid for by the company.