I think I was on a bit of a cloud during my first two sessions with Tamar. I was so proud of myself to have taken such a big step, impressed with her, safe with Joe there at the second lesson and feeling generally positive. That changed. By the third lesson, I began to question why I was learning to use the cane at all and feeling incredibly exhausted and overwhelmed by the whole process. I have an unfortunate tendency to lose hold of the reality of a situation by trying to convince myself that it is all positive, and then, everything that is difficult or challenging about whatever I am trying to do comes crashing around me. I have often just given up. This time, I am not giving up; I can’t.
I sat in the lobby of the Braille Institute with Tamar for a while on Monday, wondering what I was doing there; why do I need to learn to use the cane when I can see my teacher showing me how to use it. But, of course I know why I need to learn; it’s because RP is a total mind fuck. I see and I don’t see; I have no idea what I don’t see, but what I see fools me into thinking I am seeing more than I actually see. Do you see? Total Mind Fuck!!!!!!!!
I watched all the people who had canes and couldn’t see me watching them and I felt like a fraud. This is what RP does and it is really dangerous. I am blind and I do need help and I do need the cane; the sooner I can embrace all of that fully, the sooner I will be able to relax and really let Zelda be a constant companion. I was also nervous because I knew that lesson #3 was going to be entirely with the cane.
I felt better after talking things out with Tamar; a little more justified, a bit calmer and also grateful that I have resources like the Braille Institute. It was time for Zelda to come out of hiding. First, we went into a quieter part of the BI where there is a long hallway and I walked up and down the hallway, using Zelda for safe passage. I learned about more methodical scanning techniques and about different ways to actually use Zelda. I can sweep her back and forth, or tap her from side to side or simply hold her in my left hand, when I am not using her, and allow her to glide in front of me. I am having a tough time getting the 2 to 10 sweep and always end up too far to one side or the other, but I have the footwork down pretty well. The thing is, if I am not maneuvering the cane in front of me in the proper way, I am at risk of missing a lot of what is in front of me, or unintentionally assaulting strangers. I am going to have to practice at home. I suck at homework.
We must have been in the hallway for close to an hour and then it was time for the stairs. I wasn’t blindfolded for the stairs, but I did have to keep my eyes closed while I was practicing the steps Tamar taught me. I won’t give you a detailed list of her instructions, but just know that there are a lot of them and I am not sure I even remember them all. I was anxious and scared and wanting to be a good student.
Going up the stairs isn’t too bad; it does take some practice and there are specific ways to do it safely, but I didn’t feel particularly afraid doing it; just a bit bumbling at times. Going down the stairs is a whole other thing. It is super scary. Have you ever had one of those dreams where you are falling and as you begin to plummet you wake up and your stomach drops? That is what it feels like the first time you find the top step with your cane. The lead up is like the steep climb of a roller coaster, except you have no idea when the drop is coming. The first time I found the step, I started just a few feet from the stairs, but it still took my breath away when Zelda dropped down into nothingness. Then Tamar asked me to find the stairs from farther and farther away; this didn’t alleviate the anxiety, just prolonged it. At one point, she led me around to disorient me, so I would have no idea how far from the stairs I was, and then pointed me in the right direction. I learned that I have an annoying tendency to veer to the right as I am walking because I apparently swing the cane too far to the right. So much for being a graceful dance partner for Z.
We worked on the stairs for over an hour and I don’t think I relaxed for one minute. I was stiff and exhausted and I couldn’t imagine how I would get through three months of this. I can’t explain why, but for some reason, during this third lesson, the shit got real; maybe because it was finally a lesson entirely with the cane or because I experienced a new kind of fear around my blindness. All I can say is that this whole blind thing is really hard; it isn’t impossible and I know during my lessons there will be ups and downs (literally), but it is a typhoon of emotions and experiences that I have no choice but to meet head on. I am sure, however, that I will do it in my classic stubborn way. I keep forgetting to take Z with me when I go out and I haven’t used her once since the lesson on Monday. Perhaps this is my rebel week. I will have to come clean with Tamar next Monday.