Friday, 31 May 2013

A neurodiverse menagerie

Perhaps you've met PhilosoraptorBusiness Cat and Socially Awkward Penguin.  They're advice animals, memes featuring a series of animal characters each with their own identifying trait.  The web has spawned squillions of them, from a froggy bachelor to a mallard that gives handy household tips.  They're usually intended to be funny, often in a rather dark way, rather than having any deeper meaning.

But then there's a convoy of advice animals which serve a more substantial purpose.  Tumblr is their natural habitat, and they're a rallying point for marginalised groups to share memes relating to their own particular experience.

The ones I'm most familiar are those circulating in the Aspergers and related communities.  There are many, many more for different communities and subgroups, but here are a few autism (or neurodiversity in general) related ones:

Autistic Eagle covers all aspects of autism, and is run by a team of autistic moderators.

Autistic Hedgehog is a place where autistic contributors can be "a bit prickly, sarcastic, and facetious about the things we deal with in our daily lives".

Aspie Alligator covers Aspergers related issues.

Executive Dysfunction Goat also posts tips on getting (and keeping) your caboose together, and also gives general support and fellowship.  Their background is the colour of James May's famous pink and purple striped jumper of doom, which is an immediate win.

Sensory Sea Turtle is for sensory processing disorder and related conditions, such as the sensory disregulation that comes with autism.

Misophonia Meerkat is specifically for sound sensitivity.

And some related advice animals:
Tourettes Toucan 
ADHD Aardvark
Dyscalculic Dolphin 
Dyslexic Duckling
Dyspraxic Panda

And a shout-out for Survivor Rat.  While not neurodiversity related per se, so many people with disabilities go through bullying and abuse that it'll be relevant for many of us:

All images belong to their respective tumblogs.  

Monday, 27 May 2013

Monday Muster

Good Monday, comrades!  Have a group shot:

I went bowling on Friday night, the first time I'd been since primary school.  It went much, much better than I thought it would, entirely because the group I went with were really lovely.  

Here's this week's wrap of interesting things from around the web:

Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience have a paper by Steven K. Kapp: Empathizing with sensory and movement differences: moving toward sensitive understanding of autism.  I don't have the mental spoons to read the whole thing in detail at the moment, but this sentiment from the abstract is a really promising sign:

 "Social abilities and behaviours occur between people in social contexts, and autistic and neurotypical people share mutual difficulties in understanding one another. This paper challenges attempts to reduce autism to social deficits, and suggests the need for better interpersonal and societal understanding of and support for autistic people."

Personally, the executive functioning and sensory aspects of autism are much more disabling for me than the social stuff.  I think it's really promising to see some acknowledgement from the research community that there's more to autism than just the social side, and that the social stuff can't be looked at in isolation, as if the sensory/motor/EF aspects aren't things that matter.

An older post but well worth reading, Autistifying my Habitat is about creating a space that's functional for an autistic way of life.  The big thing I took out of it was the need for prominent visual reminders - like the author, if I don't see it, it's not a thing.  I found Google Calendar and the like worked for keeping work dates and information in order, but for remembering to eat/clean/exercise and generally do stuff, I too need a more tangible reminder.  I love the idea of bits of velcro so tasks can be physically moved from place to place as they're done - I might modify that idea to magnets on a whiteboard or fridge for my own chart.

On Forbes, Judy Owens looks at the issue of disclosing your disability when you apply for a job.  I personally disclose, because I don't pass and don't buy into the idea that we must pass if we can.  But for those who can pass, I really do understand why you might not disclose because of all the layers of stigma and bullshit that surround disability, particularly 'invisible' disability.  Importantly the accessibility of the corporate culture is recognised, as well as the physical accessibility of the space.  However the example given ('person with quadruplegia' versus 'quadruplegic') is pretty tame.  How about we first tackle the liberal use of slurs like "retard" and people feeling they have the right to say "if you can't handle X you shouldn't work here"*?  Particularly since 'person first' language is far from universally accepted anyway - many in the autistic community prefer to be identified as autistic people (or Aspies, autists, or other like terms) and consider person first insulting.

* I was told this at a former workplace just last year, in relation to particularly excessive background noise causing pain due to my sensory disregulation.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Missed connections

Sometimes I have trouble making connections that should be obvious.  My mental compartments, which are sometimes like sieves that allow ideas and concepts to flow and mingle in all sorts of interesting ways, other times seem to slam down the shutters and refuse to combine things that should go together.

I'm getting much better at this as I get older, although I'm not sure whether my actual ability to make these connections naturally is improving, or I've learned to look for them consciously.

Me, circa 1996
For instance, at school I was crap at physics.  I'm crap at most things involving mathematics, but I was allegedly clever and had a point to prove, so I did those subjects anyway.  And although I had trouble following in class for a dozen reasons from my own mathematical crapness to sensory overload to untreated (at that point) depression and anxiety, it didn't actually occur to me to check out a bunch of books from the library and see if they'd help.

The odd thing I was in the library all the time, and read like a fiend.  But reading and libraries were for fiction, or for research for English or other humanities-related things, and it just didn't occur to me at all that there was a whole slab of the nonfiction section dedicated to the infernal angles of refraction that were giving me so much grief.

Exactly the same thing happened a few years later, when I'd somehow muddled through university and was in my first proper journalism job.  Interviewing was the hardest part for me for a long time, for not just the obvious reasons but also my shyness and the aforementioned depression and anxiety.  And while I was aware that journalism textbooks existed because I'd just spent three years with my nose in them, it didn't occur to me to track down other books about the things that were giving me trouble.  It wasn't til I came across a book about interviewing at my boss' place (I was housesitting, it's a long story) that I realised that actually the whole world had a massive nonfiction section I probably should be using, just like the old school library did.

I wonder how much of this stuff I'm still getting wrong, or not realising.  I know there's a lot of stuff I don't get, but sadly it's more complicated than finding books about it.  Interpersonal stuff, networking stuff, and now that I'm not working and need to find sources of income, self-promotion stuff.

(Side note: why do all the other Aspie and Autistic bloggers seem to be so snappy and hip, and able to follow and analyse current events, and remember all the disability rights theory and history and social justice stuff and the correct terminology?  And they all seem to know each other and remember each other's life stories and who posted what, whereas I have no clue - I only recently realised two fairly high-profile bloggers were different people, because their blogs have vaguely similar colour schemes so my mind decided to merge them into one.)

Friday, 24 May 2013

Making connections

My brain often makes connection between things in strange ways.  If I happen to experience two things together, sometimes a permanent bond between the two somehow forges in my mind, even if they're completely unrelated.

I don't mean understandable reactions and associations - like being robbed by a guy in a hoodie and thereafter fearing anyone wearing a hoodie even if they're a 90 year old nun.   I mean utterly disconnected pieces of random brain-data.

For instance, every time my brain hears the first five seconds of Ebeneezer Goode, (which is what tween girls of my generation listened to, Justin Beiber not having been invented yet) I irresistibly see Patrick Troughton's Doctor Who in a fur coat.

There is no link between the two, but it so happens that once upon a time I was reading a book about Doctor Who and listening to Triple J on my walkman, and that song came on just as I turned the page to a photo from The Abominable Snowmen.  Some synapse chose that moment to bloom, perhaps because at that age I studied best with a background of thumpy music, and ever since then the Second Doctor and The Shamen have been forever one in my mind.

I used to think this was just because I was odd, but it seems it could be an Aspie thing.  In an old article which I now can't find online, Tito Mukhopadhyay described how as a child the concepts of clouds and bananas became fused for him in a similar way.  I can't remember exactly how they came together - perhaps someone said "banana" while he was looking at a cloud, or said "cloud" while he was eating a banana - but after that, the two ideas were muddled together in his mind.

Friday, 17 May 2013

What to do when you've got no spoons left

... or tokens, or whatever your terminology of choice is for that point at which you have no more energy, no more strength, no more coping-ness, to deal with one more damn thing.

Sailors sleeping on flight deck of the USS Lexington (CV-16)., 11/1943
I find myself here more often than I'd like to admit, because I'm not so great at identifying exhaustion, overstimulation, and general burnout until I'm already at the point where EVERYTHING needs to STOP AT ONCE.  It's a combination of getting engrossed in things and losing track of time, of a sense of duty that keeps me working when I should stop, and generally wobbly self-care skills.

So, what to do when you're spoonless?

These are some things that work for me.  They won't work for everyone, and no doubt there are some good ones that I haven't stumbled across.  I'd really like to hear yours as well... points to comments box

  • A hot shower (not bath)
  • A cup of tea (by myself - this is about the tea itself, not socialising)
  • Sleep!  Either a full night's sleep or a nap, depending on the circumstances.
  • Losing myself in a favourite activity - reading, sorting buttons, watching one of my favourite shows.  A timer can help if I'm worried about losing track of time and staying up too late, eating into my much-needed sleeping time
  • Doing something simple but constructive (shredding some paper for the recycling, for instance) so that I feel like I have some modicum of control over some part of my life, at least
  • Time out.  Just doing nothing.  Sitting.  Stimming.  Daydreaming.  
It's not 'being lost in my own world', about wanting to get out of work or deliberately skiving on my responsibilities.  It's essential downtime when I can do no more, it's the emergency shut-down before I either collapse in a weepy heap or get ragey.  When I'm at this point, unless I specifically ask for help with something, the best thing to do really is to leave me alone to recover.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Further (and further and further) education

For all that I didn't like the specifics of school - the enforced sport, the pointless busywork, the endless repetition of the same material, the polishing of church pews - I quite liked the idea of school.  I was good at learning.  I got good marks, for the most part.  This was a very important self esteem booster in a big, bad, scary world that seemed determined to crush my spirit in as many ways as possible.  I couldn't play sport, ride a bike, make friends, apply makeup, draw, paint, sing, flirt, dance, talk to people, or any of the other things girls were supposed to be able to do, but I got good marks.  I read a lot.  I was clever.  That was my thing.
Unfortunately, there are two downsides to having Being Clever as the hook from which you hang your identity.

The first is that clever is a relative term. I did very well at primary school, but looking back the school itself was, to be honest, a bit crap.  We did a lot of hymns, polishing of the aforementioned church pews, and copying things verbatim off the blackboard, but the only science project we ever did was when a teacher found a dead rainbow lorikeet on the ground and got us to go out every day to watch it rot; an experiment which came to an abrupt end when a passing dog ate it.

But at high school there were many more students of much greater diversity, and I was no longer one of the smartest kids in the class.  The work was suddenly much more difficult - possibly because I missed some of the groundwork while polishing pews and observing dead wildlife - it was suddenly a lot harder to be clever.  But I didn't switch to easier subjects, even though it would have massively reduced my stress levels and the number of homework-related meltdowns.  I Was Clever, so I had something to prove.

That's the other problem with Being Clever being a core part of your identity.  If you're suddenly not - because the work gets harder, because the skills you have are suddenly not relevant to the problems you're facing, because you're thrust into a world where problems can't be solved with long division and analysis of Shakespeare - suddenly a big chunk of your identity has been taken away.  Not only are you struggling, you're a failure.  Who even are you, if the only thing you have going for you is gone?

Fortunately my catastrophic final results in physics didn't amount to much in the real world, because by then I'd given up on dreams of being an astronomer and slid into an arts course at uni.  I was back in my element - I was Clever again.  My ability to wheel out big words and echolalic recall of the kinds of phrases that pressed my lecturers' buttons enabled me to sail through quite comfortably despite the occasional complete misunderstanding of the actual assignment.  I loved uni.  I could have stayed there forever.

And here's the thing - I really could have stayed there forever.  I could easily have continued into postgraduate study and stayed in the hallowed halls of academia for the rest of my life, learning a great deal about a great many dead poets and then inflicting my learning on the next generation of literature students.  It would have been a much safer course than the one I took, into the uncertainty and chaos of journalism.

But while it would have been safer, I'm glad I didn't choose that path.  I've learned so very much though my adventures in the big wild world outside academia, and met so many people I wouldn't have in a uni setting.  It also provided the opportunity to be diagnosed, which I'm not sure would have come my way otherwise.  I feel I've grown more as a person - as clich├ęd as that sounds - than I would have done had I taken the safer option.

For Aspies with an intellectual inclination, academia may be a safe and orderly refuge in a hostile and bewildering world.  For those who function well in such an environment, I can see the strict rules, hierarchy and structure of academic life holding a very real appeal.  In fact, I haven't entirely ruled out going back for further study one day.

But not just yet.  Because there are many adventures to be had in the wider world as well.

Image: Pembroke College, Cambridge, from the Cornell University Library collection on Flickr Commons

Monday, 13 May 2013

Monday Muster

Happy Monday, comrades.  Have a pretty vintage landscape:

Shore line of Wizard Island
 Joel Deane has written a scathing open letter to the high school that acted like a hatful of adders when he spoke to them about enrolling his daughter.  Joel's daughter has Down syndrome, and there are many stories in the article comments from the families of autistic children who've faced similar discrimination from schools.

Neurodivergent K from Radical Neurodivergence Speaking has an insightful piece about how insulting it is to use cancer as an analogy for autism - to both autistic people and cancer patients.  Here's a comment from someone with firsthand experience of both:

"I have (had) cancer and aspergers. The cancer was way worse to deal with. Also, while I would never want to be non autistic, I would love to have not had cancer. I am now missing my thyroid because of the cancer. I have to take daily medication for it that means I can never afford to be uninsured. There is no way these two things are remotely similar."

Another great post from an autistic blogger this week, To You, The Children by Alyssa from Yes, That Too.  Check it out.

Friday, 10 May 2013

I can't eat that! Aspergers, sensory sensitivity and food

Sensory disregulation can take any form: some people struggle with light or sound.  For some it's smells, or heat, or cold. The tactile sense of clothing or water on skin does for others.  Some can't stand light touch, others can only bear the lightest of touches.  Most Aspies have some sort combination of multiple sensory triggers.

When I was musing about my weight last week, I mentioned that I have trouble with sensory sensitivity in relation to food.  It's become less severe as I've got older, but there are some foods I just can't handle at all.  Sadly it tends to be the healthiest foods - raw fruit and vegetables - that cause the most trouble, while artery-clogging deep fried carbohydrates generally go down OK.

Every person with sensory issues will have their own unique triggers, but these are mine:

Bitterness: A lot of fresh fruit, things like berries and stonefruit in particular, taste really bitter to me.  Even when other people are commenting on how sweet this season's apricots are, I'll be screwing my face up like I've just had a vinegar mouthwash and surreptitiously looking for somewhere to spit.  I wonder if I'm more sensitive to whatever compound in fruit gives it a bitter taste?  I think it may actually be a self-preservation thing on my body's part, because if I do manage to get down a normal-sized serving of the sort of fruit that triggers that reaction - in a smoothie with honey or sugar, for instance - it plays havoc with my digestion on the way through.

Whatever it is that causes this is destroyed by cooking, because I can eat cooked fruit quite comfortably and without stomachular upheaval.  It works if it's just been poached in water, without sugar or anything else to change the taste, so it seems to be the heat itself that cures the problem.

Slimy texture and off smell: Fruit chunks in yoghurt is the classic culprit here.  Fruit or veg that's been preserved in liquid sometimes takes on a slimy texture and a smell that's really, really offputting.  It doesn't affect everything - beetroot pickled in vinegar is perfectly palatable, and dried tomato in oil - but the things that are affected genuinely do taste like they're rotten.  There's no "oh, this tastes bad, I'll spit it out" thought process at work; it's a genuine, instinctive gag reflex, the same as if you had put something genuinely decomposing in your mouth.

A blender is a great help with this one.  Fruit yoghurt can be blended smooth, and the offending taste and texture disappears once the fruit is no longer in lumps.  The resulting yoghurt does tend to be rather thin though, so it appears I accidentally invented drinking yoghurt.  Similarly I accidentally invented tapenade by blending up a bottle of olives and other antipasto things in oil which wasn't quite right.  It was quite nice blended to a rough paste and spread on toast.

Fibrous stuff: The only thing I can think of off the top of my head for this category is citrus fruit, but I'm sure there are more.  I actually quite like oranges and mandarins, but I find their texture really hard to swallow.   It's got this weird thing going on where no matter how thoroughly I chew it, it feels like it's not sufficiently processed to go down.  Like the off-tasting pickled stuff, it's not a conscious "I don't like this", but an instinctive reaction.  My body's apparently decided that the orange fibre's going to choke me if I swallow it, so it just refuses.  Fortunately orange juice doesn't cause problems, even if it has pulp.

Fresh tomato: gets its own heading because I just don't know what its problem is.  Tomato sauce? Fine. Paste? Fine. Soup? Fine. Dried in olive oil? Fine.  But fresh, in slices on a hamburger or kebab?  No way on Gods' green earth.  It somehow manages to trigger the bitterness, slimy texture AND fibre issues, all while looking completely innocent and inoffensive.  I can only assume tomatoes have it out for me unless they've been boiled, mashed, dried, blended or otherwise pulverised into submission.

Image: Homesteader feeding his daughter, from the US Library of Congress collection on Flickr Commons

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Friendship is hard work

When I was a child, it just didn't occur to me that friendship was a thing.  On my first day of riding a bus to school, Mum asked me when she picked up up at the bus stop whether I'd made any friends on the bus.  Friends?! The concept of making friends with the other kids on the bus - or even talking to them - just hadn't occurred to me.  I was 13.

By then I'd learned that the best I could hope for was to be ignored, and at worst was some variation on the bullying theme.  The idea that these people might actually like me just wasn't one that was on my list of possible outcomes.

You see, it hadn't really happened before.

There's a stage, somewhere between the early childhood stage of not being really aware of anyone but oneself and the point where one starts to properly identify individuals and choose some over others, where children will play with pretty much any other children.  I very vaguely recall this phase, and participating in something that involved running around chasing or tackling or the like, but by the time my cohort had grown up a little and was starting to bud off into cliques, they'd decided they'd have no truck with me.

Looking back, I can't say I entirely blame them.

It was never that I actively didn't want friends.  Up until maybe ten or so I didn't really get the concept.  I think I considered anyone who happened to be in the same grade as me to be a "friend", regardless of whether they liked me, didn't know me, or actively hated my guts.  It was about proximity, rather than interaction.

Then, and I think it probably owes more to Alvin and the Chipmunks than I'd like to admit, it dawned on me that friends were people you enjoyed being around, people who enjoyed being around you, people you did fun stuff with.  And once I understood that was A Thing, I wanted in.

But I didn't have the skills to make it happen.  By now I was about 11, and there are few crowds tougher to crack than tween girls at a Catholic school, especially if you've missed a lot of the groundwork.  There was a lot of subtle, complicated social stuff going on to which I was completely oblivious, and would be until years later.  No doubt a lot of it eludes me, and some of it always will.

Something I did for a long time was assume a friendship was closer than it actually was.  For instance, when I was about 12 I Blytonesquely described someone in my diary as a "firm friend".  ( I was still in my echolalic phase, when my language was largely based on phrases and ideas from books and TV rather than actual autonomous self expression.  Getting from there to actually having words of my own was somewhat complicated, and worth a post of its own sometime.)  She wasn't.  She was just someone whose name I knew, who was in the same grade, and didn't hate me.

Today I do have some wonderful friends, and it's been largely a matter of time, luck and work.  Time because it took me a lot longer to "grow up" than a typical woman my age.  It's only the last seven years or so I've really been in a place to be able to make meaningful adult friendships.  Also time has mellowed the others around me - making friends with people in their 30s is a lot easier than making friends with teenagers!  Luck brought me into an industry full of eccentrics, creatives, and outliers of various sorts, and most of my IRL friendships so far are with people I've met through work.  And work, because sorting my head out and getting a handle on how people work was work.  Or rather, is, because it's ongoing for me and always will be.

But it's so very, very worth the effort.

Image: Hitchhiker with his dog Tripper, from the US National Archives on Flickr Commons

Monday, 6 May 2013

Monday Muster

Happy Monday, cats and kittens!  Have a tree and some lovely blue sky.

barrage tree

Are you (or yours) recently diagnosed and wondering whether to "come out" to work, extended family, or the world in general?  This matrix from Tiny Grace Notes can help you weigh up the pros and cons of shouting your neurological status from the rooftops.

The brain activity of autistic adults is different from that in autistic children.  That's the result of research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, which proves something autistic people have been saying for years - that we continue to develop and change throughout our lives, rather than having our brains frozen in carbonite on our 18th birthdays.

Have you heard of The World's Strongest Librarian?  It's a memoir by US librarian and weightlifter Josh Hanagarne, who has Tourettes.  Here's a video of his story:

Landfill Harmonic, a youth orchestra in Paraguay where the instruments are salvaged or built from garbage, is currently funding on Kickstarter.  They're very close to their goal, so please check them out and drop a dollar or two in their hat if you can.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Is there a link between obesity and autism?

I'm fat.

And I'm not alone - some number crunching from the US has shown that kids on the spectrum are more likely to be overweight than the general population of kids their age, although the research didn't go into reasons why that might be.

In my defence, I'm wearing heavy jeans and had just had lunch and a 2L bottle of water.  Also in my defence, it's my body and I love it, so screw you.
There are quite a few reasons for my own circumference, most completely unrelated to having Aspergers.  I have diagnosed but untreated polycystic ovary syndrome, which can play merry hell with your weight.  The particular antidepressants I'm on are known to cause weight gain.  Until last week I worked full time in an office, so spent vast slabs of time sitting in front of a computer.

But there are three more potential reasons, which I think are related to Aspergers.

I'm not saying autism causes obesity (or that obesity causes autism!) or that all people on the spectrum will be overweight.  As it happens, some of the Aspies I know are in very good shape and fearsomely fit, and a surprising number are underweight.  What I am saying is that, personally, I think some of the ways having Aspergers affects my life do have an unfortunate affect on my waistline.
  • Sensory sensitivity and food, meaning a lot of healthy foods like raw fruit and vegetables I just can't eat because the taste or texture literally makes me gag.
  • Trouble telling hunger from anxiety, meaning I tend to overeat because I think I'm hungry, when I'm actually anxious.
  • A bad history with exercise, because having undiagnosed motor skills and body awareness issues isn't exactly a perk in the primary school PE class.
These are all worth blog posts of their own, so rather than trying to cram it all into this post I'll come back to these issues over the next few weeks.

There are also some issues which don't personally affect me to a great extent but are experienced by other Aspies, which may play into gaining weight.  For instance some people, either through a need for stability and routine or as a defence against sensory bombardment, have quite restricted diets and eat the same thing day in day out.  That can cause problems if it means they aren't getting the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and other complicated dietary things they need to stay healthy - especially if they have a love of bland carbs like I do.  I think I could live quite happily on things like pasta cabonara and chicken flavoured potato chips if I could do so and stay healthy.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

I deserve to exist even if I'm not awesome

You might wonder what the hell this has to do with anything on a blog that supposed to be about Aspergers, but bear with me for a minute while I talk about storks.

Storks are traditionally said to bring luck if they nest on your roof, and the folklore about their role in bringing babies goes far back into the mists of time.  So, for various mythical reasons, storks are pretty awesome.

But we're intelligent citizens of the 21st century.  We know how is babby formed, and that luck is a combination of privilege, effort and random chance which operates independently of avian influence.

But storks are still pretty cool.  Their feeding habits help keep insects under control, their massive nests provide shelter for various other bird species and assorted little critters, and they're also an indicator species that can help us understand what's going on in the habitats where they live.  If you're a birdwatcher, they're also pretty neat to look at.

So, they might not have supernatural luck- and infant-dispensing abilities, but they're still important creatures because they're part of an ecosystem.

Similarly, Aspies deserve to exist because we're human beings and part of society.  Our existence shouldn't be conditional on having awesome savant-skill superpowers.

Quite often, discussions about Aspies' worth and contribution to society revolve around one or two extraordinary outliers, the classic example being Einstein.  I'm not going to argue whether or not Einstein really was on the spectrum.  I don't know.  I wasn't there - and neither were you.  But Einstein is not a typical Aspie any more than he's representative of all men, all Germans, or all people with free range hairstyles.  He was remarkable, and deserves to be remembered and celebrated.  But today's Aspies can't lay claim to a stake in his brilliance by dent of having a shared neurology, any more than people can by sharing his place of birth, his gender or his mad hair.

And more to the point, we shouldn't have to.

Most normal people are just that - normal.  Eat, sleep, hopefully do something productive, occasionally get wasted.  Very, very few of us will be Einsteins, or da Vincis, or Frys, or remarkable in any other way.  And that's OK.  That's more than OK, that's how society works.  Society is not a linear sequence of brilliant minds; it is a mosaic of small, ordinary souls, each at once ugly and beautiful, covering every square inch of the earth with the myriad tiny acts of love and hate and duty and apathy and care that make up humankind.

We are all ordinary.

And we all deserve to exist.