Things I like.
*(With the obvious exceptions of rhubarb, milk, rice pudding and custard, dogs barking, people snoring, sniffing and humming, repetitive finger tapping, loud chewing, talking too loudly. Touch. Clocks ticking. Small talk.)
So that's simple then. Everything gets almost full marks. And it looks like that I eat pretty much everything. As an ex-vegan, hurray for me. And that tiny disliking of milk and rice pudding hasn't actually impacted on my life in the slightest.
But the other stuff has. It's forced me and my life unwillingly down a funnel of lessening choices. At nearly fifty years old, things can still get difficult. Welcome to my brain.
People, dogs and clocks. The big three.
And yet I like all of them. At least, I like people and dogs. Clocks are useful, so they get to be liked as a utilitarian object. But it's what people, dogs and non-digital clocks do that I can find hard. I'm like a nutty born-again Christian, loving the sinner but hating the sin, if sinning was making chomping and ticking noises or trying shake my hand.
I can make odd decisions.
In a hostel dorm one night, I repeatedly hit a drunk, sleeping stranger around the head with a pillow, desperately focused on making him stop snoring. I've ducked down and run from screaming kids, hands over my ears. I've walked out of countless B&Bs and hostels after booking in because I could hear people talking next door.
I sometimes find human contact too difficult. Crowds, handshakes and hugs aren't much fun for me. Small talk is virtually impossible for me to bear or participate in. I've walked into cafés and left still hungry because I wasn't able to sit in the right place.
On top of the side of me that has the unreasonable, intolerant and irrational dislike of other people's noises, I actually have to make annoying, loud and repetitive noises myself and that's even harder to deal with. My life is sometimes a clown car packed full of irony.
The tics first became bad when I was twelve. I was made to sit in the living room every evening with cotton wool shoved up my nostrils because I sniffed. Then I started grunting too. Tourette's has been an almost continual presence ever since. It can feel like I'm locked in, with no-where for me to go. Occasionally, when it's got really bad, I've lost my voice from the vocal tics, pulled muscles from twitching too violently. I'll be feeling like screaming with the stress of it all and I still can't stop it. Fortunately, these days, it doesn't happen very often.
So I'm one of those strange people you'll occasionally see, quietly grunting and sniffing to themselves in cafés. For me, it can still be excruciatingly embarrassing. But that's nothing to how it really is. I suppress most of it until I'm by myself and I can finally let the barriers down.
As you have probably realised by now, it's not just making funny and quirky noises for me.
When I can, over my adult life, I've removed myself, living away from other people in caravans. When there's no way out of my reactions, no obvious way for me to fix things, simply minimising the ups and downs of my mental state takes precedence. And it works. This way, I can control enough of my environment to stay stable and functioning in the society I still desperately want and need around me.
Fantastically for me, I've still had relationships, friendships, jobs. I've loved and laughed, cried, teased, sung along to Abba, Meatloaf, Metallica, Mumford and Adele like they're the best things ever which of course they are. In most quantifiable ways I'm just normal. And that's awesome. But the other stuff can also be incredibly useful too.
It turns out that studying and photographing invertebrates is a perfect fit for a slightly obsessive and single-minded person like me.
Out in the bush, I'm usually in the middle of no-where, in the quiet, with no undue stimuli or anyone to worry about upsetting. And my vocal tics usually die down. Though more than once I've twitched my arm and thrown away a collembolan I was about to study.
I have a near eidetic recall of the things I'm interested in. I can easily and happily spend days hunting through the rain for an obscure species that's 0.5mm big, spend ten hours stacking photographs together on the computer. And it's all completely frustrating, completely a joy. And even better, my obsessions and eccentricities are often accepted as normal, even considered useful by my peers. And that's a great feeling.
Surprisingly maybe, I'm simply happy a lot of the time. But it's obviously not always that easy. I'm a realist. And that's fine. You have to drop balls if you want to learn to juggle.
This is probably the only time I'll write about this stuff and I hope for those that know me and any others who don't but read this anyway, it's of some use and helps you to understand this stuff a little more. It can be difficult to understand from the outside.
For me, at least, my craziness has always had parameters. It gives me grief, but it also gives me focus and a child-like joy for the world in which I wander. And that wonder, that love for life, together with the friendships I've made are the most precious things in my life.