On the bus ride across town from my Dad’s house to my apartment, I took Zelda out on the bus and kept her in my lap as I listened to a history podcast. As people got on the bus, I watched them look over at the available seats next to me, notice my cane and then head away toward the back of the bus. I didn’t feel like I was being rejected or ridiculed, more like being given space. I think when the seats reserved for elderly and disabled people are actually occupied by the elderly and disabled , other people tend to remember what the seats are actually for. Or, maybe my tattoos make me look intimidating and that is why people steer clear. Flowers and butterflies can be super scary. I am fine with it either way.
About half way home, I decided to keep Z with me when I got off the bus, rather than stowing her away in my backpack. It would be the first time I walked through my own neighborhood with my cane actually in my hand. I kept her folded up and just held her, but even folded up, a white cane is pretty visible. I got off the bus on Sunset and didn’t see anyone I knew in that first half block before turning down my street. I was aware of feeling more attuned to noises around me, more on edge, as if waiting for someone to say something. No one did.
I turned right onto my street and didn’t see anyone out walking besides me; it was a particularly hot day. Then, I came to an alley and saw my neighbor Bernardo walking toward me with his dog Stormy. He got an immediate look of surprise on his face and asked me what I was doing with the cane. I explained a bit about RP and pretty nonchalantly told him that it was all ok, just time to start learning how to use the cane. Most often, I feel like it is my responsibility to help other people feel more comfortable with my blindness. It is partially to make them feel better and partially to avoid too much attention around the whole what is RP and how sad for you thing. Bernardo was a good person to run into during my first Hollywood trial run with Zelda. He listened attentively to my brief explanation, was appropriately sympathetic to my plight, and then we started talking about his family and the dogs and my family; just regular stuff. The whole conversation ended up being more about him than about me or the cane, and that was exactly what I needed.
I feel as if I am on the slowest course imaginable when it comes to Zelda. People may be thinking, just take the fucking cane out already and walk down the street and who gives a crap what people think; but, it isn’t that simple. It isn’t that I am concerned with ridicule or that I care what people think of me; it is more that I am scared of being seen differently by people who know me but don’t know about my RP. I am afraid that I will cease to be the woman they thought they knew and become the blind woman with the big white cane. I am afraid that I will be lost to Zelda or that who I am will be usurped by her presence in my life. So, my steps down this road are slow and small, but I am taking them and I am allowing myself to feel proud of each one.
July 7, 2017 at 12:54 pm
I am sure most people would say such a change should be done in your own time. As long as you take into account the reasons you need Zelda & look after yourself. It’s your journey isn’t it!
July 10, 2017 at 7:49 am
I really like the way you express your feelings and that is what my son, Aravind, felt when he started using the whit cane regularly. Earlier he just used to keep it in his bag. I am reading your posts to him. Thanks.
July 10, 2017 at 10:03 am
I am so touched. I feel your kindness across the continents.
February 9, 2018 at 11:01 am
“So, my steps down this road are slow and small, but I am taking them and I am allowing myself to feel proud of each one.”
That’s the way you SHOULD be handling it. So proud to read those words.
February 9, 2018 at 11:38 am
Zelda changed the face of my blindness; it was so scary. Thank you for these words!
May 7, 2019 at 5:40 pm
One step at a time – literally and figuratively and screw anyone who has an issue with how you handle this.
BTW – Sorry I haven’t kept up. As you know I’ve been absorbed with another matter these past couple weeks.
May 8, 2019 at 7:45 am
You never have anything to apologize for Paulie. It is amazing and so generous that you have read so much of my blog. I totally get that you have been struggling and I am in a similar boat. No judgment and no expectations here. I am so behind on everything, it feels like I am slipping under the sand. One step at a time, I suppose.