I love these flowers, I believe they are wildflowers.
Maria has told me 100 times what they are called, and I'm sure a dozen people will be happy to name them on my Facebook Page. But I have no idea what they are called at this moment, and I understand I will never be able to learn the flower's name.
They are just pretty flowers to me, at least today. Tomorrow, they might be sunflowers, or whatever pops into my head.
Over the weekend, I came out as a Dyslexic, someone who has a learning disability called Dyslexia, a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.
I've never written about it before, and it feels good to do. A coming out, a step towards authenticity. I dislike having secrets.
We live in a culture where correcting other people seems to be a way for people to build up some self-esteem and feel good and valuable about themselves, while consciously or unconsciously making someone else feel stupid.
I'm used to this, my teachers did it, my parents did it, and many of my friends and readers still do. It is a natural human trait.
There are a hundred ways in which my Dyslexia shows up in my life and writing, it is often impossible for me to distinguish between certain kinds of objects, words, grammatical constructions, spelling or symbols.
When we first got together, Maria sometimes laughed at my confusion about simple objects and symbols, and since I didn't tell her about my Dyslexia, she didn't know. She figured it out for herself, and she doesn't laugh at me any more. Dyslexia is endearing to some people, they think of absent-minded professors.
When I am misinterpreting something, I often don't see it and can't recognize it. And if get it wrong once, I will do it again. There is no permanent fix for things.
We have all kinds of self-appointed police in our world – animal police, grammar police, garden police, spelling police, political police, identity police – there is no unit for accepting the limitations of other people. And empathy is not a natural condition, especially on social media.
When I started my blog, I understood that someone with Dyslexia who writes as often as I do was going to be challenged, and I made a very conscious decision to be strong and write as often as I wished, and take the consequences. They have not been too bad, my blog is a very big success, perhaps the biggest of my writing life. There are millions of visits a year, and many complaints about my thinking, few about my disorder.
I do live with a steady rain of people telling me I am wrong about things – I misspelled something, mis-labeled something, misread something. Dyslexsics are often made to feel stupid, since people are always telling them they are wrong.."Sorry, Jon, this is not a petunia…", or "Sorry, Jon, I get such a kick out of your grammatical mistakes," or "Sorry Jon, but you got the title of that book wrong…" , or "Sorry, Jon, I'd be happy to proofread for you…"
I don't think they really are sorry, I think they love it, but that may just be the Dyslexic talking. It seems natural for humans to want to feel superior to other humans. I know it's not going to change, because all sorts of new people come stumbling onto the blog all the time, and nothing makes a social media trawler happier than finding a mistake.
A good friend corrected me recently when I go a man's name wrong that we both know on the blog, she said she just can't abide getting people's names spelled wrong, it crossed a line for her. I smiled at her message, and felt badly that she could not abide it, because if she's going to read my blog, she better get used to it. She's a good friend, she will.
If I write about your name 20 times, I will get the spelling wrong about 18, and that is the way Dyslexia works. Words and symbols and structures get scrambled around, even as you look straight at them. I get the names of flowers wrong just about every time I write about them.
If I stopped to look up every word or flower, I would not have a blog or ever have written a book. And I would still get it wrong, because something in my brain is scrambled.
If I had one arm, people would be sympathetic. But when you have Dyslexia, people assume you could get it all right if only you tried. You must be lazy or dumb.
This was at the heart of my lifelong war with teachers and education, and with authority in general, I barely got through public school, which was not a hard place to get through, and I had to drop out of two colleges. Fortunately, I compensated with other skills, and got by.
I have learned to abide myself, and if other people can't, that's their problem, not mine.
Nobody is forced to read what I write. I tell irritated former English teachers that instead of correcting me, they might correct their students less, and try to understand them a bit more. There are probably young Dyslexics in their classes, feeling stupid and low. They don't like to hear it.
To understand how Dyslexia works, you just have to follow my passion for flowers. You can see it unfold before you.
I love flowers, our farm is surrounded by gardens, I water each one of them every day and revel in taking photographs of them, I love the color and light in them, I truly think each one of them is an angel. I've been planting and caring for gardens for many years, and I know just about every flower by sight.
I can't tell you the name of hardly any of them.
And the truth is, I don't care. I call them what I want to call them, or think of calling them at the moment. Otherwise, I would be paralysed.
When I look at a flower, which I have been doing all of my life, I cannot tell one from another by name, although I can by sight and color. The funny thing is I know what flowers are, it is not a cute befuddled trait for people to chuckle over.
The Garden Police, who are as vigilant as the Animal Police, mostly assume I'm just another clueless male dunderhead and they correct me instantly and enthusiastically. They care very much about the correct names of flowers.
But I'm afraid there will be no joy for them in regards to my floral writing.
I just can't interpret their symbols in my head. A Petunia might be a Geranium, a Fuschia might be a Bleeding Heart to me, a Daisy might be a Pansy, although I can usually retain the name of a Pansy, a flower I have always loved. I think I also recognize roses, although they are not a favorite flower of mine. I write what my brain tells me is right, some of the time it even is.
Dyslexia is selective, it doesn't apply to everything, just certain symbols and words and images. i see most of the world clearly, and I've learned to work around the disorder.
It's hard to explain to people that I never could and never get these names of flowers right, even if I was looking at them in a flower book, which I have often done. It's hard to explain to them that this no longer bothers me, a flower is a flower by any name.
I think flowers could be good opportunity for me to help others, especially Dyslexic kids, who live in a world of correction and criticism, and who often suffer for it in terms of their own self-esteem. Dyslexia, I have to say, is a mental disorder, not a character flaw. It is not a sign of character intelligence, one way or the other.
It can not be cured by e-mails.
I love taking photos of flowers and I will keep writing about them and keep making mistakes, because that's the way I am, and the way it has to be, unless I crawl under a rock and hide. I will be corrected for the rest of my days, and I will keep on writing, because I have learned late in life that I am not all that stupid and will not let people chip away at me, however innocently.
I think people reading this know that giving up writing or hiding is not going to happen for me.
I've seen it happen to many of my fellow Dyslexics and I feel for each one, especially the young ones who don't understand why they can't see the things other people can see.
So look for my flower photos, and if you need to correct me, go for it. You should know that it isn't going to change, because I can't really help it. I am so glad I finally wrote about it, every time I am honest, I f eel lighter and stronger.
This is all a great lesson in life for me, and perhaps for you. Life is full of crisis and mystery, and I am grateful for every day of it.