Confessions of an Undiagnosed Learning Disability

I have had trouble articulating how I feel into words for as long as I can remember being able to write. I struggle with spelling and grammar. I just can’t remember the order in which letters go in unless I write them out a million times and even then, I am just remembering the pattern in which I spell out the letters. It comes from what is likely an undiagnosed dyslexia and dysgraphia. Trust me when I say that 90% of the words I write often have a little red line under them.

For a long time, I was embarrassed to show anyone my writing because of my fear of them discovering my flaw. I was actually ashamed of it. Everyone else I knew what so much better at grammar and spelling that it made me feel like I was somehow defective. Don’t even get me started on reading aloud or mathematics. If my ability to write was bad, you should have seen my math scores or listen to me try to recite poetry. I distinctly remember a time in high school when I was asked to read Shakespeare aloud and it was a train wreck. Hard to believe that I was any good at choir because I had a hell of a time remembering lyrics. The tune was easy but the lyrics would always get messed up. Somehow, I managed to ace music but barely pass subjects like math and English. I have been resistant to improving my basic grammar and math skills but I decided that it was time to change that.

I have enrolled in the adult basic education program at the Okanagan College for the summer sessions. I am just waiting on hearing back from the school to get more details. Last year, the government declared that all adult education classes are now free. There are a few things that I would like to re-learn: English Grammar, Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. I fully intend to get a better understanding of all of them.

Why am I doing this? For one, I am bored. For two, I don’t have enough saved up for collage yet. I have also been out of the school game for almost ten years now and I have a feeling I need to remember how to be a student again. I figure, it can’t hurt to improve my knowledge of the foundations of education. If I do return to university to pursue further education, I want to know that I am at the top of my game again.

In preparation for this, I am looking into seeking assistance for how to strength the visual and kinetic skills I need to cope with my dyslexia and dysgraphia. I took a little online test from the point of view of a parent who has concerns about their child’s apparent learning disability. I was brutally honest about the answers to the survey about my experiences from both childhood and symptoms I still suffer from today. In doing so, I was able to find some clarity about what I have been struggling with for the last thirty years. I have noticed that there are not a lot of resources out there for adults learning to cope with dyslexia and dysgraphia, so if you know of a resource, I would appreciate the help.

Clara D. Munro

Role Model

X-Files-main-title

I was about fourteen years old when I started watching the X-Files for the first time. The show was already two seasons in and my family didn’t have cable, so we had to get a friend of the family to record the show on VHS and lend it to us each week. This was all before the age of on demand internet streaming, of course. During that time, I fell in love with the characters of Mulder and Scully and the overarching mysteries of the story. I even came to love the Smoking Man and his tragic loneliness. I found every book in our library on the show and deep read into the conspiracies once I did gain access to the internet in 1997.

Dana-Scully-dana-scully-22223715-1024-768

The character of Dana Scully (portrayed by Gillian Anderson), was the first female character who I considered to be a role model. She was an independent, career driven woman. Although she made career choices that her family didn’t approve of, she still followed them. She didn’t come off as butch or tomboy, she managed to still stay feminine while keeping in male dominated professions (medical doctor and FBI agent). I think that if I had continued to follow her example instead of getting distracted by fluffy shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I might have been a bit more dedicated in my career.

When I left high school, I had no idea what I wanted. I thought about archaeology because it combined two things that I love, history and science. I ended up with a degree in history but by the end of my studies, my academic effort was less than subpar. I am not sure what happened to my passion to success, it might have been depression or possibly that I didn’t find that school what a challenge to me. It’s easy enough to regurgitate facts and figures for a test but I found that I wasn’t great at writing essays. I bet if I went back now, that would be a different story.

With the recent release of new seasons of the X-Files, I am watching the series from the beginning. Now that I am an adult and in the same age range of the characters in the show, I appreciate Dana Scully more than I did as a teenager. She is an intelligent, practical, and rational woman (except in regards to religion). She lets the facts dictate her understanding and findings. I think that because I look up to Scully so much, I have become more skeptical in my views on politics, religion, and science. It’s not that I buy into conspiracy theories but I do read every news story and research article with a grain of salt. It’s because I studied history and learned to question every document for both bias and motive. Between my training in sociology and history, I have learned to become skeptical about everything. I still want to believe (I had that poster on my wall for years) but I know that belief is not enough by itself and a certain amount of facts and figures is required before I can take any leaps of faith. But Like Scully, I have a spiritual belief that adhere to. I know that many of my belief cannot be completely supported by science but like Scully, I still have faith in them.

The strength in Dana Scully’s character lays not with her skepticism or her devotion to her partner, Fox Mulder, but in her feminist pragmatism. From her determination to not be overlooked simply because she’s a woman or her willful desire to do things herself, Scully is an inspiration to women who want to be seen as equal to their male counter parts. While Scully is a pretty woman, she’s not too pretty. Her beauty lies in her intelligence rather than in her appearance. She doesn’t play up her looks and in early episodes, she quite geeky looking. Later on, as fashion for professional women starts to look less Murphy Brown power suites and more clean cut famine business casual, Scully takes on almost a softer looks. It’s like she cares more about being comfortable rather than trying to keep up with the boys. Her shirts are never too revealing and her makeup is subtle.

Watching the show from the beginning, I realise now how much of an impact Scully had on my own feminist ideals and my choices as far as my indepence goes. I never wanted someone to look down on me simply because I am a woman. I never understood why men would think that just because they are men that it gave them a right to think of women as lesser or at the very least, less capable. When I am met with someone who does have this ideal, I get angry at them and my respect for them disappears. The same thing happens to me when I meet women who think that men are lesser. All and all, I just want everyone to be on the same playing field.

I made the choice a long time ago to put building any kind of a relationship second to my own passions. I left long term relationships when I felt like I was going to get trapped in it. I have even sabotaged perfectly good relationships because I didn’t want to end up married or with children. When I tried to change directions with this, I found that I didn’t actually want to be in a relationship with anyone and that I didn’t want to do the normally get married and have children path that so many other people take. I am perfectly okay with being single and driven to my own career.

It’s easy to let yourself become wrapped up in work and in daily routine; it’s harder to allow yourself to open up to the commitment of a relationship or to raising children. My last relationship said that I would be good as a mother but I don’t think I can commit to that at this point in my life. At thirty five, I want to be focused on myself and on my life. I barely give myself room to be with friends or family and when I do, I limit my time with both. The longest relationship I have been able to commit to, is the one I have with my dog, Dexter. His life is in my hands and I barely feel that I am responsible enough to handle that at times. I can’t even imagine taking on a child and raising it to adulthood at this point.

I haven’t finished the X-Files, so I don’t know what Scully’s fate is but from what I have seen of her, she remains true to her character and is still an inspiration to me and if I could be so lucky to live with such integrity and passion in my life, that maybe one day, I too will be some one’s role model.

~Clara D. Munro

My Never Take It Off Vow

I recently came across an idea for helping to keep yourself accountable to your actions or promise of action. It showed up in my life as a product from a company called “Never Take It Off” that partners with artists to create limited edition jewellery, like bracelets and necklaces.

The purpose of these bracelets and necklaces is to come up with a promise to yourself, put on the item, and then leave it on until it either breaks or falls off. They can be things like, “I will not have another drink while I wear this item,” or, “I will make sure to follow my dream of being ______.” Essentially, this is not a new idea. It’s similar to tying a string around your finger in order to remember to do something. It’s like an expansion on friendship or WWJD bracelets.

@nevertakeitoff loving the @thejulietsimms snowflake bracelet.

A post shared by Clara Munro (@claradmunro) on

I picked up one of the snowflake bracelets designed for Juliet Simms, a singer who I started listening to this summer who has a kind of Americana sound to her music. She came in second on the Voice at some point, which is pretty cool. She’s also totally independent and works hard for everything that she’s earned. I’m actually pretty inspired by her. The reason why I picked up one of these braceletes was because I wanted support the artists and the causes that Never Take It Off support. I know that I could have made one of these bracelets myself but that wasn’t the point. I purchase it during the holidays as part of my way of giving back and giving to myself.

So, here’s my “Never Take It Off” vow:

I vow to not sacrifice practice for procedure.

Meaning, I will continue to keep practicing, keep improving, and keep following my dream of writing and recording music.

~C.D.Munro

 

Media & Device Addiction

I have never been one to think of myself as any kind of addict, certainly not one in regards to substances at least. I have always taken a sense of pride in being able to say no to drugs, drinking, or smoking. That’s not to say that I have never used any of these, I just didn’t feel like I needed it.

Lately, I have been noticing a different kind of addiction, that of my constant use of devices and social medias like Facebook and Instagram. It’s not that I have been posting like a madman or anything but I have found other things that are quite disturbing with my use. I have a constant need to check for updates. It’s the first thing I do before I get out of the bed in the morning and the last thing that I do before going to sleep.

I have done a bit of moderation in regards to my use of my devices and social media, I have removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone. I didn’t really use Twitter anyways but I did feel the need to clear out the notifications from it. I went the whole weekend without Facebook on my phone and I noticed that I was looking at my phone less in the morning and evening as a result. My next step will be to remove Facebook from my tablet too. I have kept Instagram on my phone in only for its capacity as a an app for sharing photographs. I will likely remove it from my tablet though.

Ever since my vacation, I have been feeling like I need to cut away from device use. I have started wearing my smart watch less and less. I am even contemplating selling it since its become almost useless to me. I don’t need to be as analytical about the time I spend being active. I don’t need a little device to make me feel like I am actually working out. I have better things to spend my energy on.

I know that this is a bit of a turn around for me since I was such an advocate of smart devices for so long. It’s not like I am saying that we should all get rid of our smart devices but I just think that I need to pull back on my use. I get so annoyed when people are on their devices during social events that I should be the first to start putting mine away.

I have been tempted to disengage from Facebook altogether because of this addiction but I also use it as a tool to communicate with friends and family. It’s because of this that I have kept the messenger on my phone but removed it from my tablet. To be honest, the Facebook main feed is basically dead, it’s a tool for advertising and the spread of memes and misinformation. Instagram is almost just as bad, I wish that it had never been taken over by Facebook. I feel that Facebook has ruined what instagram was, a social media for sharing photos and that’s it.

One of the reason I started blogging was because I saw how empty my social media posts were. I could see others trying to connect by the use of the written word on their social media but with the lack of space available and the thoughtlessness put into their words, they often come off as rude, insensitive, or misunderstood. I take the time to write out my blogs in advance in a document before I post them. I check them over for context, language, and behavior. It’s kind of like being a self censor. I sometimes miss some important editing when I read over them but I catch them later and update the posts. I am not so worried about typos or grammar as some might be but I do my best to try and get my point across. I find that with the limitations of social media, I don’t spend the time to do that and often I come off as misunderstood, I hate it when that happens.

The one thing I don’t want to see my blog used for is airing out dirty laundry. I had been using it as such during some emotional turbulence that I experienced last year. I have gotten to the point lately where if when I write something that I don’t feel does anyone any good, I delete it. I get the therapy of writing it out and then the additional therapy of then deleting it. It’s like editing your soul and getting rid of the crap that doesn’t need to be there. That’s what I am doing by acknowledging my device and social media addiction and find ways to resolve my use of them.

~Clara D. Munro

Fear of Making Mistakes: A Culture of Unrealistic Perfectionism

I have met more than my fair share of people who are afraid to try something new because they are afraid that they will make mistakes. Beginner’s luck is called that because most beginners do not have the skills they need in order to repeat their actions with perfection and they shouldn’t be able to. The whole point of trying something new is learning and adding to your toolbelt of skills and knowledge.

When you were a child, were you scared to try new things?
Did you need a little encouragement from your parents or from your friends?
When you tried and failed, did you try again?
Did you learn with each mistake you made?

Think about those old school arcade games, they were designed to be a hard as possible so that you would fail and pump more quarters into them. The more times you played, the better you got. The same as when you were told to practice a musical instrument for band class or riding your bike.

Now you are an adult. What does that mean? Mostly, it means that you are responsible for your actions or inactions. If you commit a crime, you are responsible and punishable by the state. However, you are not limited to just following the laws, you limited by your own will power and desire to make your dreams come true.

Humans have this amazing ability to talk themselves into and out of things. This past month, I stood at the South most point of the United States and there was this famous cliff diving point there. The wind was blowing like nothing I had ever seen and there were people jumping off this fifteen foot cliff into clear blue water. I looked over the edge and thought how I would never have hesitated to jump off as a teenager. That was only fifteen years ago, not all that long in the grand scheme of a lifetime. Both my brother and I said the same thing to our parents who were with us. There were people my age jumping off but I had no desire to do so. Not because I was in fear of the consequences but I just lacked the desire to do it. I know that it would have been exhilarating to do so but I took one look at the latter to climb back up and thought that would have been the real challenge and one I didn’t want to do. So, I took a picture of the jump off point and walked away.

That choice to walk away stuck with me the next few days as I made some choices on whether or not to take a surfing lesson. There was a lot of fear in that choice. Fear of hurting myself, fear of being a total fool on the board, fear of getting bitten by sharks. That last one was likely the most irrational fear of them all. In the end, I put those fears aside because I wanted to try surfing again and I wanted to do it right. I signed up for the lesson and I was able to do an hour of it before my shoulders gave out from exhaustion. It was an exhilarating experience and left me hungry for more. I am glad that I did it and I have no regrets about my choice.

There have been other things that I have tried and failed at that have stopped me from trying them again. Most notably, longboarding. I had one good summer of longboarding and then the next year, I went out for my first time of the year and tore up my hamstring to shreds. It took me years to recover from that injury. While it lead me to yoga, it left me with a great fear of trying to get back onto a longboard ever again.

Fear kept me from trying new things for a long time. By putting aside my fear of trying surfing again, I learned something very important in relation to skateboarding, I was using the wrong foot on the forward part of the board. Once I figure that out, I was no longer scared to try longboarding again and I will likely try it again now that I know what I was doing wrong.

There have been other fears that have put me in a state of static failure due to inaction. Remember what I said about practice and getting better at an instrument. I am fool for failing to practice my love of music. I love playing music, singing, and getting together with others to play and perform music. I love the thrill of performing, the joy of sitting down to create new music, and the challenge of learning to record music. I am the worst at following through with practice. I fear making a fool of myself in front of others during practice. I choke when it comes time to perform alone. I also fear that I am too old. I know that most of these are totally irrational fears that are only in my mind, fear is the mind killer after all (Dune reference, read it if you have not). I can make all of the excuses I want about not having enough time, I am not talented enough, I am too old, I am not good enough but at the end of the day, these are all just excuses to talk myself out of sitting my ass down and getting to work and doing the daily practices.

In my yoga training, we learn that energy goes where energy flows. Meaning, what you put your time and energy into, that’s what you gain out of it. If you don’t practices yoga, you don’t reap the benefits of it. Being an adult, I am responsible for my own time. If I can make time in my life to get myself to work, I can damn well make time to practice the things that I love. I can turn off the TV, put the distraction of the internet away, and just sit down to do the work. What I lack is motivation. As a child and teenager, I had school as the motivator to get better and practice my music but now as an adult, I don’t have any consequences for failing to practice. There is no one to tell me that if I don’t do it, there will be consequences but there is a consequence, it’s call regret.

Fear and regret are the two most terrible feelings that leave you feeling more anxious about your choices. With anxiety disorders on the rise in our society, it’s no wonder we are turning to the escape of the internet as a way to validate our existence. What kind of a legacy can we leave in this world that is more memorable than that of what we leave on the internet? It’s the only place we currently perceive as immortality. I would like to think that is true but after nine years of working in the internet technology industry, I know that nothing lasts forever, not even on the internet. I myself, have been going through my old accounts and removing information that no longer serves me. Facebook has this memories thing and each day, I go through and remove the last eleven years posts from my Facebook account. It’s a tedious task but one that leaves me feeling less bogged down by my mistakes of the past. It leaves me with the question, why not just delete the whole thing and start over? Now that’s a thought!

During my vacation, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what to do next in my life. I kept coming back to that dream of making music and recording. I don’t know if I will never be one of those people who can just pick up and go off and tour while playing music but I can learn to be a better guitarist, a better pianist, a better bassist, and a better songwriter. Those skills don’t require me to travel, they don’t require others to help, they don’t cause me to fear making mistakes in front of others. They won’t cost me any money, I already have all the tools and instruments I need to make significant moves forward. I just need to give myself the time and space to practice. I think that I can be kind enough to myself to do that. I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to learn and enjoy that process of learning.

I will keep you up to date with my movements in this. I don’t know how it will go but if I am able to start writing music again, you will see it shared here.

~Clara D. Munro

On the Edge of Exiting Seventeen

This past week, I have been reflecting on the events of the past year. All the plans that I had made for 2017, none of them happened the way I had hoped they would and some things went better than I had expected. So much changed in my life between January 1 and December 31. I went from being happy and in love to watching my relationship fall completely apart. I watched my friends of the last decade grow distant from me while I grew closer with my newer friends. I went from hating my job to loving it again. I went from struggling as a new yoga teacher to growing into an experienced one.

I think the biggest event of 2017 for me was my break up with my former partner. Between January and May, we just could not get along. I felt trapped in the relationship and used by my partner as a domestic servant. We were more like roommates than lovers as the end. I hit my breaking point at the end of May and I finally asked him to leave. The moment he stepped out the door, I felt nothing but relief because it was finally over. I have since cut all ties with him, his family, and his friends and I haven’t looked back.

After that, I was able to start living my life my way again. I had an incredible summer filled with travel, friends, and summer fun. Yeah, it was a hot, smokey, dry summer but I loved every moment of it. I spent a great deal of time focusing on my spiritual path and yoga practice. I made a decision to return to school to become a teacher.

My fall was spent getting my finances in order and saving up for a trip to Hawaii with my family in January of 2018. I have been getting excited for this trip since we started planning it in June. We are going to be there for sixteen days, half of the time will be spent in Kona and the other half in Pahoa. We have plans to go see the volcano, the waterfalls, snorkel in the ocean, take surfing lessons, and otherwise just chill by the ocean in the heat. I was looking at the estimated temperatures for this week and they are in the high 20s and low 30s.

So far, I don’t have any major plans for 2018 other than my trip to Hawaii, a concert in February to see Black Veil Brides, pay off a chunk of my car, and save up for school. I want to keep my next year simple and not make any big plans. If you follow my spiritual path blog, you can read a little more about my plans for developing more of my spiritual path. If you follow my yoga teacher page, you can read a bit more about my plans for developing more in that path.

Tonight, I am starting the New Year doing something different. I am spending it with the friends who have been there with me through my hardest times this year. We are going to dress up and head out to our favorite hang out place and party the night away to good food, good drinks, and good music. I haven’t’ been this excited for New Years in a long, long time.

Here’s to 2018 and a leaving 2017 in my dust!

~Clara D. Munro

Authenticity

Have you ever had a moment where you caught yourself in a reflection and didn’t recognize the person on the other side? It’s likely the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s not like I was disassociating and I didn’t know who I was anymore, it’s just that I didn’t like who I was at the time.

There’s a lot about who was the last two years that I didn’t like. In yoga, we talk a lot about being your truest self but when you have forgotten who that is, it’s hard to be that person. There’s a lot of expectations put on people to be something they are not. Whether you are in high school, university, or a company office, there’s an expectation that you conform to the culture of the environment that you are in.

For those of us who live with an inner black sheep, we find it the most difficult to conform to what other people want us to be. It can be as simple as the language you use to communicate, your moral standards, your personal ethics, or your appearance. Remember when having tattoos and piercing were taboo? I remember a time when you couldn’t have these and expect to get a job. Now, even the top producers at my company have full sleeve tattoos. My generation has done wonders for acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

Not that I have always been someone who walks the alternative lifestyle but I definitely like to play around with my appearance and fashion sense. I think it’s important for people to change things up for themselves. It’s hard to be yourself when you are being influenced by society, media culture, and social networks. We all have that one person on Facebook who appears to have perfect pictures of domestic bliss. Unless you are close with that person (I mean you see them everyday or at least once and awhile) we have no idea what’s going on in their lives. We don’t know what obstacles they are having to overcome, what battles they are fighting, or what anxieties they face.

As a writer, I often have to censor my thoughts to make sure that I don’t offend someone or compromise my work. This means that my writing is only partially authentic. If I were to say what I think and feel all the time, I am sure that I would have to deal with more flak than I think it is worth.

I think that the desire to live authentically is a great one. It’s likely one of the best motivators I have ever had. Being authentic is not to be confused with being positive all the time. Authentic means that you embrace all of your sides, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are not pretty creatures all of the time and we have our dark sides. Total rejection of your dark side can only lead to a complete and utter breakdown of your person when you are faced with a situation that you have not learned to deal with.

~Clara D. Munro