I won’t draw this post out. I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of my appointment with the cataract surgeon, describe his tie or his demeanour. I won’t write about the drive to the clinic in Waterford or about the battery of tests. I won’t go on and on and on….I will just say this: ON 13, OCTOBER, I BID FAREWELL TO THE FIRST CATARACT!!!!!!!!! Four weeks later, the second will be taken out. I am excited and terrified and will definitely be writing more soon!
Ever since my RP diagnosis, I have shied away from hope. Not a coquettish kind of shy, but a hand in the face, get the hell away from me kind of shy. I didn’t see the point of getting into bed with hope; I was all about getting on with the business of being blind, dealing with what was real and imminent. I saw hope as a tease, a liar, a villain. I refused to be prey to its allure. Until now.
Hope is still a mind fuck, but for the first time, I really want to be fucked. I want to be taken by hope, my thoughts flooded in it, my skin saturated by it. I want to fall into the surrender of hope, run barefoot, fly, forget.
When RP came into my life 19 years ago, cataracts came with it; in those 19 years, I have seen lots of eye doctors who told me that the cataracts couldn’t be taken out.; they were too small, not ripe enough, needed to be watched. I figured they were here to stay, just like RP, and I didn’t let the sexy face of hope tell me different. Then I moved to Ireland.
A couple of months ago, I saw an ophthalmologist in our town who had something different to say about my cataracts. She asked why they hadn’t been removed and told me that she didn’t see any reason why they couldn’t be removed. She said they must be driving me crazy, and gave me the name of a cataract specialist.
The cataracts are right in the centre of my visual field. Everything I see is blurry because of cataracts. They increase my light sensitivity so much, some days I am in tears from the pain. They give me double vision and fuck up my focus so I can’t read regular books. They have stolen colour and texture from the world and I am not ok with them anymore. I want them out.
I want to see all of the vibrant shades of green that cover this country I now call home. I want to turn the pages of a real book, discover what’s inside. I want to go outside without a hat, open the blinds and the windows on a sunny day and not be in pain.
Next week, I see the cataract specialist, who will decide the fate of the quality of my remaining vision. I know he may say what all the retinal specialists before him said, but this time I am bringing hope along for the ride.
I find myself adrift between an old life and a new one, wishing for reinvention and fearing the dark corners of my heart will be discovered, laid bare against the startling landscape. I always manage to sully what is beautiful, slash deceit into that which should be pristine. I long to shed this old cloak, moth eaten and weather worn, but it is so heavy. I am faced again with the reality that no matter which way I turn, or how many masks I carefully construct, it is the same tattered image of myself that lurks in every crevice of the sky. I look to the clouds for comfort, searching for a smattering of memory, my mother’s fingers soft against my cheek, her voice singing me to sleep. I search for an identity that burned brightly, before death and blindness shattered my self confidence.
I can remember a time when I felt, not whole, but able to stand, to inspire and satiate longing. I can remember a time before this shell incapsulated me, when I could look away from the strange curves of my face, forget that I wasn’t what I was supposed to be. I remember a time when feeling different was to feel powerful. I wish I had saved the pieces of the moon that rained down on me when I was vibrant, before I became pastel and mute.
I know that one day I will have to descend from the in-between, that my old cloak will still be with me, firm across my shoulders. But maybe, this time, I will find new threads to stitch the holes, in colours that come from neither memory nor darkness. Perhaps I will find the words to shape new skylines, new textures for what lurks beneath stones and shells and rubble. For now, I remain adrift, not in the shadows, but one of the shadows. For now, I am undetectable.
I am happy, but unsettled. Monumental life changes during a pandemic are, understandably, wrought with complexities; the thought of holding onto moments of happiness feels somehow criminal, undeserved. Covid has left the world in stasis, and although I am living in a new country, I feel I have only seen glimpses of the town I now call home. Beautiful glimpses, but still…. The virus has stitched a shell over the sun, spread a new brand of silence across the sky. Strangers long for each other in unexplored and unexpected ways. I live my contentment in whispers now, hold joy close to my chest, like a secret. Who am I to have these things, when so much has been lost? I know I am lucky.
Do not confuse feeling unsettled with doubt. I have no doubts about the decision to shed a life that was strangled by heat and the kind of violence only a city can offer up as daily garnish. I have no doubts about trading in that life for one that is awash in green and love and more possibility than I could have imagined. I have no doubts about abandoning the noise and taking the quiet gently into my hands. I am unsettled, but I know I have made the right choice.
For now, I live as if in a dream, on the precipice of daring to imagine that one day I will awaken to the sounds of a new world, one no longer trapped under the thumb of fear . I secretly yearn for the backdrop to reveal itself, to show me who I can become in this new place, or what parts of myself I can rediscover. The mist may have descended for a time, but I finally feel certain that it will clear. This, I now realise, is the nature of hope.
And so, perhaps happiness will hold its breath for just a while longer, wait patiently for me to peel back the layers and look clearly into the eyes of this new life I have forged for myself. I am content in this new longing, in this new waiting. I have already waited lifetimes.
I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself, feeling like this post should be epic, an explosive expression of my feelings and the unparalleled beauty of this country I now call home. But, the words are pale and fall from my fingertips in stutters. It seems that writing about joy is not in my wheel house; I have connected with the words that accompany tragedy for so long, I sometimes fear that I am only half a writer. But, life is also filled with vibrancy, and I want to write about all the shades of life, not just the dark shades; I hope even a fraction of the colours of my new home come through.
I have learned a lot about silver linings this year, about what is meaningful and what can been seen through the deepest darkness. The year began, for me, with unyielding physical pain that increased with the months, and then the world was thrust into battle with a virus that continues to run rampant. I stopped sleeping, I started eating more cake and drinking more wine. I became unrecognizable. I was quietly turning old before my time.
But, coins have two sides and one of them is always shinier than the other. Despite the pain and the virus and the weight, life long dreams came true. My book, “Things My Mother Left Behind”, was published by Potter’s Grove Press, and Joe and I moved to a place I have dreamed of living my whole life, even though I had never been here. I feel so incredibly lucky, and true to my nature, I also feel guilty for my good fortune. Perhaps I am a coin as well, always moving back and forth between the two sides of my own heart, never still, never in rhythm.
The story of our move begins with what I am more comfortable writing about, with drama, with shadows. It begins with a villain, a human vulture who bought our apartment building in Los Angeles and began to dismantle it the day he signed the deed……….
It’s been a rough week. Lots of tears. Lots of sun falling out of my mouth, leaving shadows to choke me and change the taste of the landscape. When I feel this way, all I want is to disappear, to blend into the chipped paint, hide beneath the floor boards. I cry while looking at cooking shows. I cry sitting at the computer, washing dishes, riding in the car watching the filthy city shrink under the waves of heat that oppress and burn. I am coming unglued. I have forgotten how to breathe.
In getting ready to move, I sink into the lives of people I have loved, people who have died. I am tearing away scar tissue, leaving wounds vulnerable to the teeth of time. I am awash in memories that leave me desperate for youth, for the feeling of my mother’s arms around me, for the delight in my brother’s boyish laughter, for the scratch of my father’s beard against my cheek. The weight of missing people presses against my eyes and taints the color of the sky. I am coming unglued. I have forgotten how to breathe.
I am tying up the loose ends of my broken body, retrieving my white canes from their hiding places, spending day after day in dental torture chairs, wishing I hadn’t allowed myself to get so fat. My heart has been buried so deep beneath the flesh, I no longer recognize its rhythm against my ribs. The mirror is my punisher, the fist that reminds me I have failed again, that I will never be good enough. I am coming unglued. I have forgotten how to breathe.
My book got a mediocre review. It crushed me. It pissed me off. It left me wanting to quit writing, to burn through the lines on the page, scatter hope into the dirt. I would have preferred a scathing review to the placid temperature of the three star review. Intellectually I get that my writing isn’t for everyone, but between love and hate the color drains away. It is easy to forget that it is only my heart on the page, my stories of coming unglued, of forgetting how to breathe.
But, life is a coin. Tarnished in some places, sparkling in others. It is sadness and joy passed through fingers, dropped and forgotten, discovered and cherished, held tightly against your palm. Life is the shadow and the light, the dream come true and the longing that is shattered. I am not unscathed. I don’t want to be. I sit in the center of what hurts, because I know that is where joy also lives. Sometimes I need to come unglued, so I can remember how to breathe.
To begin with the obvious, this year has been challenging, painful, demoralizing and heartbreaking. It has also been joyful and illuminating, an adventure and a dream come true. Some days, I feel guilty for the good stuff, for feeling true joy as the world breaks into pieces. But, we have to grab onto the good stuff when we can.
For me, this year has been painful, literally, as I have been struggling with frozen shoulder, not sleeping because of the pain, and unable to use my right arm with any regularity. It has been demoralizing and I have spent many nights awake and in tears, but nothing could overshadow the dreams that have blossomed right in front of my eyes.
For as long as I can remember I have dreamed of having a book published. I never imagined I would find someone who wanted to publish my work, who would believe in what I do and put their own time and energy into making my dream a reality. I hope River knows how incredible it is that he has chosen to do this for so many writers who feel lost and uncertain. I will never be able to adequately thank him. He has been an inspiration to me through his writing and his work as publisher extraordinaire. I am so proud to be a part of Potter’s Grove Press. If you want to check out the two readings I did, you can have a peek at my YouTube Channel. If you would like to buy my book, “Things My Mother Left Behind” (Potter’s Grove Press,) you can pick it up on Amazon.
Some other Giant and Joyful news……Joe and I are moving to Ireland, in October. It is another dream come true. I have wanted to live in Ireland since I was a child. It may seem crazy, because I have never been to Ireland, but I always knew it would feel like home. It has been a really painful and trying decade for me and Joe, and this move feels like we are finally getting the chance to step into our life in ways we have long dreamed of. I can’t wait to write my first blog post from Ireland, my first poem, my first story. I can’t wait to feel dreams alive in my eyes and on my tongue. I am ready to fly into the center of the kaleidoscope. Dreams
I never thought I would be so painfully unrecognizable. I never thought I would be so fat that I couldn’t tie my shoes. I never thought I would get old. I never thought my bones would ache. I never thought I would be unable to lift my arm for a year. I never thought I would be so obtrusive and yet so invisible. I never thought I would amount to much. I never thought I would lose my hair. I never thought I could disappear so easily. I never thought I would be blind.