The Matrix

I thought that I would faithfully write about the journey in raising my son. The more I wrote, the more solid I became in my convictions to organize this brain that wasn't mine, to train into it some alien pliable form that was not going to stay on track anyway, and otherwise teach what seemed unteachable. Daily writing brought too much verbal thinking into my own visually-oriented mind to allow me to grasp the world in which my son immersed himself. And so...I embraced my own scattered nature, my own visual and spatial world, and became a part of his world. We were much happier -not that the road was smooth- when I invited my son into our world, slowly enticing him into space, a tentative shared space, between his universe and ours. I hope to share insights from the past, present, and future as I continue to ease the transition of this young man into an adult world. The only proven method I use is ages old -- I honor who he is and help him find people and places who do the same... square pegs fit nicely into soft putty that molds around them...and the push into plasticity is gentle.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Writing for a Thousand

When I see a fresh piece of origami paper I can see how it folds into a crane. After folding the bird I realise I had forgotten to bring out the instruction book. I am a Visual-Spatial Learner (VSL), I think in pictures. When I hear, see, or remember the word “banana”, a picture of a banana pops like a surprised light bulb into my head. This banana is every single banana I have seen or eaten, from a freshly peeled plantain to a spotted, rotten banana. While I enjoy these images, the other effects of a VSL brain still pursue me like the tail on a dog. I find that I can’t write neatly and I have troubles with taking notes, finding myself doodling on the side of my notebook, if I can find myself, when I can find my notebook. As someone who thinks in pictures I can see a thousand things in every image but cannot conjure a single word to describe one of them. 
If, as we say, a picture is worth a thousand words, then why am I not allowed to ditch the written assignment and sketch this essay for a comparable grade? According to Professor Gerald Grow, a retired journalism professor who helps visual spatial writers adapt, VSLs have difficulty with expository writing because their thoughts do not “translate” into prose. Expository prose, regularly demanded of high school and college students, is assembled through combinations of story, focus, sequence, drama and analysis. Grow posits that VSLs become effectively disabled by that process. Unfortunately, this is true for me, and I still misspell simple words and trip over my sentences; my syntax suffers, and so do my readers. The organisation in the mind of a picture thinker is different from the sequencing demanded by academia, who says, “Get Organized!’.Get Organized? If called to organize, I find difficulty in arranging my baggage in a recognizable order in both real life and real time writing. My backpack looks like Frodo's worst nightmare, but thanks to my spatial awareness, everything in my backpack is mentally mapped out for the journey on pictures in my mind. Like my backpack, my thoughts are all jumbled and spewed untidily across the page.(great for poetry, not so much for sentences) Outlines do not aid me; graphic organizers that look like spiders MIGHT rearrange the chaos in my brain, but only on a good day. After many detours and attempts at sanity, I give up on that nicety, go with the chaos, and I always manage a paper during the last legs of the journey, but the journey itself has been rife with strife.

I am a visual thinker - there are some metaphorical pros, but there are far more debilitating cons. Strong visual memory with moronically weak memory for words  cripples my attempts to communicate verbally or on paper, despite (paradoxically) verbal strengths that most academics would envy. Four paragraphs... twelve hours; yes this is a disability. Two more hours and I might get This One Small Paragraph right. Every artist dreams of walking among the mountain folds and valley folds of origami-like creations. Its like walking on water! The stormy sea of writing, however, is ever and forever a sinking experience.


Wild Child -- Freedom to be...

In the book (and movie) The Secret Garden, Dickon is the essence of the Moor. His eyes look like "pieces of moorland sky," and he smells like "heather and grass and leaves..." and sits beneath trees with his
wooden pipe, charming woodland creatures. Wild Child.

Wild Child lives here between nine thousand acres of inland delta, an estuary, the river and the sea. Folks much prefer his wanderings with bamboo flute than with trumpet. Understandable. Smiles follow as he heads for water with fishing pole in one hand, breakfast in his other. Neighbors hand him cookies for his morning snack. One proffers a jar for catching minnows for her pet turtle's lunch. After winked mutterings of turtle soup, he and his math book and leather-bound sketch book, disappear. I'll never see fish, but oh, the salamanders...

Wild Child designed and planted my garden. His arrows lopped off the tops of new blossoms and his bunnies ate the greens. Two nights a week he worked at the rock gym. His skis and snowboard lived in the kitchen. Eventually he rode a new red bike to college and returned with.....salamanders. Go figure. 

Freedom to be. Perhaps that's the secret.

Shhh. Don't tell. They'll think I'm totally crazy. But, perhaps I'm not. My ASD, ADHD, anxiety ridden, EFD son pretty much played his way to college by his mid-teens. He played with fishing poles and skis and kayaks and metal detectors and homegrown herbs in a frying pan...and with metaphorical thinkings, and lyrical tinkerings and a cultivated tongue dedicated to argumentation. Tired, I am.

I stopped reading the books about how the world thought he should be. After all, even he began reading them and laughing along with me. I ignored all the voices telling me that he should or should not do this or that by age whatever or even how this professional or that predicted he'd be. I turned a deaf ear to threats that I'd be forced to put him in school and the other deaf ear to those who pretended that I damaged him beyond belief or worse...they pretended that we didn't really exist or that I asked for this.

(Oh, yeah...every woman just dreams of living life like this? I don't think so!! Really --- worms? fishing poles?  metal detectors? )

I learned a lot about perception. I learned that I like mine. I learned to appreciate and cultivate intuition....mine and his.  He'll need it to catch the next creature or two.

Freedom to be.