O&M lesson #4, still within the comfort of the Braille Institute; I am not quite ready to start working outside with Tamar and Zelda, and anyway it is bloody hot here in Los Angeles, so the more time in the a/c, the better.
As usual, the lesson began with Tamar and I having a chat. I am incredibly grateful for this time she gives me to check in about my feelings and my progress. I told her about my one day of practice (refer to previous post) and my feelings surrounding that day. She told me that it is important that I give myself a chance to mourn; that if I don’t, the emotional stuff will keep owning the process and I will never get truly down to the practical work that is going to make my life more manageable. One of the most difficult things about RP is that you mourn over and over again; each time you loose more vision or your vision loss dictates changes in your life. It isn’t a constant state of mourning, but every time I grieve, the process breaks off pieces of myself that I can never get back.
I have been feeling down for weeks and pushing away the reality of why, telling myself that I have no reason to feel depressed; Tamar helped me get to a place where I can acknowledge the depression and the validity of it. I am mourning the loss of my life before Zelda, when I could walk in the shadows quietly and tell only those I chose to tell that I am going blind. I am mourning the vision I have lost over the past year. I am mourning the loss of my secret and the power I had to keep it.
It may sound crazy that I believed I had a secret; I write this blog and have done for years. I share my story with whoever wants to read it. But, I still felt clandestine in my everyday life; I held onto the power of how or when or even if I revealed my blindness to those who touch my physical world. Perhaps it was my way of hiding from my own disease or of avoiding having to get down to the bones of the grief. Now, I give gravity and respect to my feelings and I finally understand how doing so will help me move on with Zelda in hand.
Of course, Tamar and I did more than just chat, but the talk helped me immensely; it is strange how, although I am the one who is blind, she seems to know more about it than I do.
After our talk, we returned to the dreaded stairs. We worked on the short flight for a while and I definitely got more confident, but the stairs up to my apartment are very different; a lot more of them in a narrower area. So, Tamar took me into the stairwell. It was an area of Braille that I had never seen before, so I had no visual frame of reference and no idea what to expect. I closed my eyes, Tamar pointed me in the right direction and Z and I were off.
We got to the top of the first landing and Tamar instructed me how to use the cane and then also my hands to feel along the wall, around to the right and to the next flight of stairs. We went up three more flights and then turned around to come back down again. It was disconcerting and I was nervous, but it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. I relied on Z during that exercise more than I ever had, which means I was relying on myself in a whole new way.
At the end of the lesson, I felt better about the stairs and better about my feelings and much more ready to continue this process in exactly the way I need to. If it means I isolate for a while and put the majority of my effort into this new adventure, then that is what I will do, without apology or excuse. Because this blind thing, this RP thing, this white cane thing….it is a big deal.