Ain’t nothing but a Visual thing…

Ok, I have a confession to make, but this is very hard for me to admit….

Ok, maybe I was joking for just a minute, but this is something that I just rediscovered about myself that I felt was so natural to me, but I admit that I’m a visual thinker, like Albert Einsten and my Spectrumite mentor, Dr. Temple Grandin.

As she explains in one of her books that spawned the HBO auto-biography that bears her name: I think in pictures. As she herself explains it in My Experiences with Visual Thinking Sensory Problems and Communication Difficulties (which is visable here: https://www.autism.com/advocacy_grandin_visual%20thinking), visual thinking is:

…like playing different tapes in a video cassette recorder in my imagination.

Basically, it’s a visual encyclopedia of a Google Search which the filter is stuck on images and pictures instead of words and language. When I find myself driving in a new area or somewhere I don’t usually venture into, I’m always looking at Google Maps for a while to help me visualize where certain landmarks are so I don’t make a mistake while I’m driving. It also helps in my attention to detail at my job, where my attention to detail helps me see things that most people can easily overlook, as in the case of fellow Spectrumites such as Dr. Grandin, as she herself explains:

A brilliant autistic computer programmer told me that he visualized the entire program tree in his mind and then filled in the program code on each branch. A gifted autistic composer told me that he made “sound pictures”. In all these cases, a hazy whole or gestalt is visualized, and the details are added in a non-sequential manner. When I design equipment, I often have a general outline of the system, and then each section of it becomes clear as I add details.

That might make me look like I’m a bit scatterbrained at times, but that’s not to say that I haven’t attempted to adapt and make my visual thinking a strong point for me in my life. But it hasn’t been easy to adapt at times as it can be a little frustrating when people talk about street names, route numbers and everything else. It just makes a simple thing like visualizing landmarks, prioritization and organization seem so much more difficult. The reason I focus on landmarks as I’m driving is because, quoting Dr. Grandin herself again:

An object that is not in the person’s immediate surroundings should be used for this visualization procedure. When I do this, I see in my imagination a series of “videos” of different churches or cats I have seen or known. Many “normal” people will see a visual image of a cat, but it is a sort of generalized generic cat image. They usually don’t see a series of vivid cat or church “videos” unless they are an artist, parent of an autistic child, or an engineer. My “cat” concept consists of a series of “videos” of cats I have known…To retrieve facts, I have to read them off a visualized page of a book or “replay the video” of some previous event. This method of thinking is slower. It takes time to “play” the videotape in my imagination.

Imagine if you’re a visual thinker and you try to translate spoken language into images: things get lost in translation, misunderstood and scrambled making visual thinkers feel lost or scatterbrained. It’s all because we need time to translate your words into images which are easier to digest and process, as Dr. Grandin explains:

Visual thinking is not a fast method of thinking. It takes time to “play” the “video.” I am unable to instantly access my memory. An accountant with autism wrote to me and explained that he had to think slowly at his desk, but he could solve problems that were difficult for other accountants…I still have difficulty with long strings of verbal information. If verbal directions contain more than three steps, I have to write them down. Many autistics have problems with remembering the sequence of a set of instructions. Children with autism perform best with written instructions that they can refer to, compared to verbal instructions or a demonstration of a task, which require remembering a sequence of steps (Boucher and Lewis 1989).

After thinking it over and reading this article, my scatterbrainedness makes so much sense now, it’s an eye-opener; a revelation that takes a lot of weight off my shoulders.

My visual thinking isn’t a bad thing, but it is something that I know I can work on among others things, but I need support during those times. In fact, that’s what all Spectrumites need, we need time to think about what needs to be done (checklists are perhaps a good idea.) If not, then we rely on instinct to get stuff done, both in life and at work. But with understanding and support, know that we can do better, improve and let our lives…

Shine On!!!

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A Colony, a Community, a Family..

Any poet that’s been in the Hudson Valley knows of the Colony Cafe in Woodstock. To many a poet, The Colony Cafe was a place to express yourself, a place where had a local vibe but made you feel like you were a pro wrestler that was debuting in Madison Square Garden. The pressure of bring a featured reader there was always there, but if you could make it there, you could make it anywhere. There was a sense of accomplishment by being there in and of itself, one that made you work harder at your craft.

It always had a community feel, like an unofficial town square feel to it, as it did when the artist community there (led by the incomparable Phillip Levine of Chronogram fame) held a memorial service for my late mentor Larry 12 years ago as we all laid him to rest in the nearby Artists Cemetery.

The point I try to impress is that there was so community feel to the Colony, one that was sorely missed when the poetry reading there closed some years ago.

That’s what makes tonight so special for me, as I type this, I’m back at The Colony Cafe for a fundraiser for a legendary local poet, Donald Lev, who needs renovations for his house but needs the community to help him as he’s dealt with the cards he’s worked with all his life, be it age or other factors.

As it has done in years past, the community has rallied around Don and brought family, friends, fellow poets and a community in general together all for a common purpose: to help those in need. Indeed, a true example of community and togetherness will be hard to find, much less top (though some will equal it, in all fairness.)

Community can be the best thing to rely on in both the best and the worst of times but there’s no doubt that without it, it can be daunting (impossible, perhaps?) to overcome the rough patches that come in life. Even while losing his wife and other things, Donald has taught us all so much and by his example, has shown us all how to preserve and to….

Shine On!!!

Packed Out Poetry: Shining all the More..

At the behest of my wonderful friend, someone I respect in the local poetry scene, Mikhail Horowitz (who will be performing this weekend in Woodstock with his partner, Gilles Malkine, if you’re so inclined), I decided to expand more into newer forms of poetry in an attempt to expand my poetic arsenal and seeing what I could make of them.

So, with the weekend being a slow day for me, I began my search and after seeing many different forms, I thought of one that really shines like a diamond, like I hope we all do from time to time.

Literally, one of the forms I saw in my search was a form whose name means diamond, the diamante. It’s made from seven lines, each one either comparing or contrasting the subject of the poem, doing so in one half of the poem or the other half, so people see the beauty or hardship of the subject in question.

Looking at my first attempt, these aren’t bad for my first tries at a new form:

Dream

By Brian Liston

Dream

wishes, hopes

digs, strives, cries

Despite all that comes against, even it never ends

Learning, evolving, growing

in both springs; summers

is all worth it.

But, in light in recent events, and for a wonderful friend and treasure of the Hudson Valley poetry community, Donald Lev (which Mik will be performing with Gilles this Sunday in Woodstock at the Colony Cafe), I dedicate this diamante to Donald, something that is more needed in our lives, now more than ever:

Art

By Brian Liston

-For Donald Lev, a treasured friend-

Art

treasures, memories

survive, thrive, suceed,

All because we believe in it, even if other’s don’t.

Sorrows, joys, numbness

Feasts or famines

  Still, we perservere.

I hope you all enjoy these diamantes and do what diamonds do everyday….

Shine on!!!

Sharing a Spectrum’s Light

I think that it’s safe to say that we all have stories to tell, no matter who we are or what we do in life, our stories are a mere continuation of others stories in our collective families.

Historically speaking, when you read (or hear and see) the stories of other people, one can see themselves in their shows, it makes them relate to themselves more and by extension, other people. Look at The Sound of Music that made Julie Andrews a bonafide star she is (and her co-stars for that matter) as they acted out the real life story of the Von Trapp Family. The Diary of Anne Frank explained how horrible she and her family were treated in Germany, as did St. Faustina document the spiritual struggles in The Diary of St Faustina. Another book that was turned into a movie Freedom Writers was another example about how we can learn from other stories, as it was in the case of the students and the Holocaust survivor. They learned so much, as can we all in the grand sceme.

The reason I started this blog is to share my story, the good, the bad and the ugly, but the reason I want to share my story is becuase I feel confident in myself to share it with others, especially when people look at me as an inspiration. There was an article that was shared by the Global and Regional Asperger’s Syndrome Partnership or GRASP (GRASP.org for more info.) This article, which I saw before the New Year was eye opening for me and gave me pause: Authoring Our Own Lives: How Autistics and the World Benefit from Auti-Biography (the link for the story: http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2017/12/authoring-our-own-lives-how-autistics.html?m=1 for full credit.)

One part of the article in particular was intruging to me and something that I’ve noticed in writing my life, how much I’ve changed in the five years since I moved from the only place I knew as a home, the author says the following:

Every piece of your life’s journey has worked together to make you the person you are today. When you write about your journey and how it has affected you, you uncover and clarify your values and priorities. It might sound illogical, but in documenting who you are, you discover who you are. Seeing things written down on paper or in pixels on a screen can help you to see that you have ideas and experiences of value to yourself and others.

If you have a journal (as I do), it’s fascinating to see where you are now from where you were before, looking at things in hindsight. The best episode that showcases this is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s In the Pale Moonlight, which Captain Sisko has to go over events that happenedon DS9; decisions he made in the moment and how he can accept the consequences of what he did in the context of his situation. All this he did by looking back at his story and that can ring true for us. All I can say that my poems when I started out writing are not the poems I’ve come up with, I can see how far I’ve come.

Writing can help you go through the rough patches in your life as much as it can for others to hear your story, as the writer says in the aformentioned article:

Writing your feelings and history can be cathartic and therapeutic. It can give you a safe place to address your traumas and work toward healing them. Many of us who have been through therapy have found the standard pace too invasive and emotionally overwhelming. When using autobiographical writing to uncover and work through traumas, you get to set the pace of disclosure.

Not only can writing your stories help you move from victim to survivor to thriver, but there is documented scientific evidence that writing about your life in an emotionally expressive way improves your health, from strengthening your immune system to improved outcomes in asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Finally, all of the above benefits: getting to know yourself better, feeling more competent and in charge of the narrative of your life, addressing and resolving traumas and other problems, reminiscing about the good times, and improving your skills can lead to an increased sense of peace and wholeness overall.

Wow!! That last piece was the one that gave me pause the most: I feel like by writing my poetry, getting the chance to write and share my story has given me a power I’ve been scared of for so long, honestly, because it gave me the chance to be the leader of the orchestra in my life’s symphony, it gives me the ability to grow and chance into a better person; a stronger person. I feel like over the five years since I’ve moved, I’ve been learning to see myself for the first time, like the pieces of my life all came together and I got to see the masterpiece instead of one part of it.

It’s been quite a feeling, to say the very least, so my hope in writing this blog, by sharing my story and my poems, I want to give people hope, shine a light to them and help me, like writing always helped me to do…

Shine on!!

Packed Out Poetry: An Acrostic of a Great Name..

Happy New Year to all of my friends!!!

One of my New Years Resolutions is to try to become more self confident, as self confidence and self esteem are aspects that all Spectrumites deal with at one point in life. There have been times where I feel, no matter the efforts I put into anything, I always seem to feel like a failure and I find myself believing it at times.

It’s quite a surprise from what people have told me about my accomplishments: inspirational, hard working and creative. It’s hard for me to believe it, and it’s something I’d like to change in 2018.

It’s in this vein that I’ve created my latest acrostic, named after a great name: my own, which I hope you enjoy..

Brian

By Brian Liston

Bravery emblazoned inside his heart

Rapidly changing as life goes on. Outside, meek

Inside, a lion resides; creativity; his hallmark

Always ready to help others even as he’s in

Need of comfort, compassion, building inside.

 

Until next time, Happy New Year and always find a way to..

Shine on!!

It’s Never Easy but it’s worth it…

Well, another year has come and gone…

Another year of sky high dreams, some successes and some losses as well, but nevertheless, the lessons, the growing pains seems to have been worth it, even as it’s been challenging.

My friends have told me how much I’ve changed ever since I moved to my current home, how much I’ve mellowed out, how hard I’ve worked to grow into myself now, especially how I have begun to balance myself between work and socialization, which I’m still working on today.

Another aspect that I’m happy to say that I’ve matured about is mending my bridges and keeping my cool in difficult and stressful situations. I’ve had curve balls, twists, turns and everything in between and even though it was stressful for me and it felt insurmountable, with the support of my friends and family (and a little bit of faith) , I was able to deal with every obstacle and I was made all the better for them.

My point in saying this is that if I can overcome many things in 2017, and if you’re reading this and you’re going through your struggle, I just want to let you know that you can overcome it, but it’s not going to come without hard work and sacrifice and hard work. Change, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is hard for anyone to deal with, especially when you’re so used to routine.

I want to challenge you for 2018: change yourself, challenge yourself, ask for advice if you need it; go outside your comfort zone and face your fears.

It will scare you at first, but if you trust me and yourself, you’ll come out all the better and all the stronger for taking that first step. I promise you that if you challenge yourself to change, to push through the nay sayers, those who don’t understand you and write your efforts as futile, then you’ll find yourself in a position to really have a great New Year and to always….

Shine on!!