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Stories From the Edge of Blindness

In 2002, Retinitis Pigmentosa changed my life. This is my story of a slow approach to darkness.

Category

Blindness

Breath

I can’t believe it is almost July. I think the world is developing a new relationship with time and space, as the definition of daily existence continues to be altered by the power of nature. I personally find myself in a state of confusion most days. Things seem to be piling up at an alarming rate and I haven’t been writing as much as I would like, so I decided to add another poem to my Recorded Poetry Series. The poem is called, “Breath”, and was originally published in The Writing Disorder.

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I hope this finds whoever is reading this safe and well and easing into the changes life is handing all of us now.

“Things My Mother Left Behind” Available for Pre-Order

I am sitting in my very quiet writing space, typing this in a state of simultaneous disbelief and total joy. I am thrilled beyond the sky to announce that my book, “Things My Mother Left Behind”, is available for pre-order, on Amazon. This is a life long dream come true for me, and I will be forever grateful to River Dixon; an amazing writer, publisher extraordinaire and founder of the incredible Potter’s Grove Press.


To pre-order the ebook version of “Things My Mother Left Behind” you can go here. To visit my Amazon Authors Page, you can go here. To explore the beautiful and diverse catalog from Potter’s Grove Press, you can go here.

I am so grateful for all of the love and support I have received from this incredible community over the years; it has given me a sense of courage I never thought I would feel, and helped a life long dream become reality.

Zelda, Persephone and Maud

When I started writing my blog, it was going to be a story solely about blindness, but as the years have progressed, I have discovered that the story of my blindness is the part that weaves itself into the whole, but isn’t the only thread that gives meaning. With this realization my blog has become about a life with blindness, rather than a life of blindness. Blindness makes my life more challenging, but it isn’t all of me; it often decides my fate, but it doesn’t define me.  It leads me to places I never imagined and to the rediscovery of places I had thought forever lost.  Blindness has brought friendships and community into my life in such fulfilling and sustaining ways, and it has allowed me to work through things I believed insurmountable.  But there is one battle I just can’t seem to win, the battle of Zelda. 

If you are acquainted with my blog, then you may remember Zelda, the thorn in my eye who I tried to see as a savior, but let’s just say it was a struggle to get clarity, and continues to be a struggle.  For those of you who don’t know or remember her, Zelda is my white cane.  I wrote a whole series of posts about my early days with Zelda during my O&M lessons, if you are interested in reading a bit about her background.  

So, forward almost three years, and the truth is that Zelda has rarely seen the light of day.  It’s sad really, given that she was supposed to bring some light into my hands and help guide my way over the precarious streets in this city of questionable angels, but I just can’t make peace with her, no matter how many times I trip or fall, no matter how clear it is that I need her.  

I stashed her at the bottom of a bag, which I put in another bag, which I put at the back of a high shelf in my closet,  in an attempt to forget about her, but the bruises seem to fade much more slowly as I get older, sitting on my skin as a reminder that I am not safe. My husband will periodically mention Zelda, ask where she is and if I might try her out again.  I know he worries about me.  I tell him I don’t want to be the blind wife.  I don’t want him to feel ashamed or embarrassed.  I tell him I wish I could be less broken, feel more like a partner and less like a burden.  

I do recognize that I need Zelda, so I started to think about what it is that bothers me about her.  The reasons are many and complicated, but one tangible thing is that I find her to be way too tall.  So, I decided to try out some shorter canes.  I am just over five feet tall, and although my O&M teacher was a fan of a taller cane, I never felt comfortable with Zelda’s height.  So, enter into the picture, Persephone of medium height, and Maud who is short and round, just like me.  I don’t know if the shorter canes will help me feel more comfortable, but I do know that I have to try something.  The thing is, the virus took over just when they arrived, and now we are all at home together for the foreseeable future. When the stay at home order is lifted, I just might go outside and give them a whirl.  

Blind in the Time of the Virus

It seems like ages since I have written about blindness.  It feels so small, so insignificant compared to what the world is facing, but regardless of its weight in a moment or hour or day, blindness is always with me.  Blindness won’t be ignored or cajoled away.  It makes everything I do more challenging, and even in this time of global crisis, blindness refuses to sit quietly. 

There was an incident recently, on the stairs, that I told Joe is a perfect physical manifestation of how my mind works.  I hurt my knee and was walking up the stairs, very slowly, after helping walk the dogs for the first time in a while. I am trying to use my knee to get it back into working shape.  I was close to the top of the stairs when it started to give out, so I grabbed the railing for support.  My arm is also injured, so when I grabbed the railing, the pain shot through my shoulder and down to my wrist so intensely, I started crying and couldn’t hold on.  I was wearing a mask, which is an impediment to my already impaired vision, and breathing heavy with tears, so my sun glasses fogged up and I couldn’t see anything, and then my aging body decided that it was the perfect time for a hot flash.  And oh yeah, there is this virus thing that is killing people all over the planet, so I was trying desperately not to touch anything and get to the hand sanitizer so the virus couldn’t get in the house.  If this is the physical manifestation of how my mind works, no wonder I am nuts.  The truth is that it was painful and terrifying and I felt so incredibly helpless, but it also made me reflect on how lucky I am. 

It has been a challenging time, but regardless of whatever challenges I face, I know that I am lucky.  I am lucky to have a home to shelter in and an incredible husband to shelter with. I am lucky to be cared for and nursed through the injuries that come from being partially sighted, (and sometimes just clumsy and old). I am lucky to have neighbors who rally together during times of crisis.  I am lucky to live in California where our Governor and mayors are doing the work to protect us and stop the spread of the virus.  I am lucky to be able to read and write and feel the support of people around the world. I am lucky that people take the time to read what I write, that I have an actual book coming out into the world.   I am lucky to have family and friends and so much love in my life. So, yes, I am blind and broken, I am the chaos on the stairs, but I am also incredibly fortunate and grateful.   

Wombwell Rainbow Interview

Paul Brookes, the amazing writer and man responsible for the Poetry Ekphrastic Challenge I am participating in for National Poetry Month, also does an interview series. Paul is so incredibly generous with other writers and I am delighted to be a part of this series. If you want, you can read the interview here.

Untethered

I was in the car with my husband yesterday, Thomson Twins jangling in the background, when I started to think of what it means to be untethered.  I am parentless, floating without the anchors that rooted my bones to the earth, my blood to the sky. My identity was already fractured, unstable at best, but now I become the definition of loss each time I open my eyes to inhale the sun, each time I close them again to swallow the moon.  I have been emptied out so many times, turning to the memory of voices that fade with the passing of years.  I became old when I should have been steeped in youth, threw my eyes into the grave, forgot how to look to the sky for solace, for discovery.  I am recognized by the shape of my diseases, ailments that strangle my determination, but I don’t recognize my own face. I am the word on the page that erases itself but never stops searching for sound. I am a war, a need to be invisible and seen, to be silence and noise. Is this what it means to be untethered?

All I Have Right Now is Poetry

It has been a turbulent year. I haven’t done a lot of writing and almost no submitting, but I did have a few poems come out this month. Right now, it is all I have to share.

I already shared the poem in Orange Blossom Review, but if you would like to have another peek, you can do so here. My poem “Wax” appeared in Fresh Air Poetry, a new publication from the former editor of Amaryllis, Stephen Daniels. I also have a poem in this months Burning House Press that you can read here.

From the Quiet comes Poetry

Everything is so quiet and so very loud. Each step I take is labored, heavy and uncertain. I haven’t written much at all this year, or submitted or had much published, but today I opened my email to a lovely surprise. Issue 3 of Orange Blossom Review came out yesterday, and I am honored to have one of my poems in its virtual pages, amongst the work of so many talented writers. If you want to take a peek at the issue, you can so here.

I Am Not Blind When I Close My Eyes

I have been writing about a storm, hiding behind the clamor of the rain. I have been watching my feelings twist into the drain, willing away their texture and weight. It is futile; this hiding, this twisting, this willing away. I am sinking but standing still, static but being torn to pieces. I can no longer see who I was and I can’t remember who I wanted to become. I used to feel the fleeting joy of sparks on my fingertips. Now, it is just a dullness, an ache. All I want to do is run away. The gloom swallows my steps every time I try and escape.

I haven’t wanted to write about my father; maybe because I was afraid that if I wrote about him, I would lose all hope of escape from the grief. But, I know better. There was never any hope of escape. My father has dementia. Every day, I grieve him, a slow grief. He fades the way my vision fades, pieces of his memory growing dark, trapped in shadow. I am consumed by sadness and a constant feeling that I am failing him, because of my limitations, my blindness and my inability to put my emotions aside, to give even the perception that I am not coming unglued.

I wanted to at least start to share this story today, but even tearing away a small piece feels like a betrayal. I am exhausted and haven’t felt the earth of my life in so long. My voice is numb and I feel emptied out, blank. There is no path. No direction. No light. There is only the weight that comes with watching him forget the shape of his life, knowing that he has forgotten my name, and will one day forget who I am.

For 3 years, I have been watching him become someone else. In many ways, I am closer to him now than I was when his brain was crisp and unclouded. I can finally be what he needs. I finally have value. But, I am losing myself. Joe and I are the only ones who are here, living close by and helping. We have been so alone in this and I am afraid of the tole it is taking on Joe. I don’t talk or think about much else; it is as if I have stopped breathing, as if I am disappearing not only from my father’s memory, but from the grasp of my own life. I have abandoned my writing, but I have come to peace with that. I am doing what I have to do, for now.

I am unsteady, unreliable, untethered. But maybe, for just a moment, I can believe that when I close my eyes, I am not blind.

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