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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.

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Moving

Waking from a Dream

I have wanted to write, truly, but my groove is buried somewhere between Los Angeles and Ireland and that is a lot of fucking space to cover. I have four projects in stasis, sitting in folders that mock me every time I switch on the computer, but instead of waking them, I go online and shop for things I don’t need. My imposter syndrome is in hyper-drive and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find any ground beneath my feet. Clearly, ghosts travel.

When we first got to Ireland, I only allowed myself to see the positive sides of the move, of which there are many, rather than acknowledging that it was a big deal to leave a place I called home for most of my life. I never loved Los Angeles, never felt that it fit me, but my stories are there, my roots and my blood, and we didn’t get to say goodbye, not properly. The pandemic and an evil landlord prevented us from stepping into this new chapter of our lives fully, with eyes open and hands steady.

It took me a year to finally feel the gravity of moving, in my 50’s, from a home we were being chased out of to a country I had never visited, all during a pandemic. It sounds insane, and perhaps it was a bit, but it also felt exciting and brave, like a dream. I have wanted to come to Ireland for as long as I can remember, to see where my Mom’s ancestors lived and loved, struggled and triumphed. I have wanted a quieter life for years, a life away from the knife edge that Los Angeles has become. I have wanted to see where Joe’s heart has always truly lived. Ireland doesn’t disappoint; it offers a quieter way of life and scenery that takes your breath away each time you step outside, people who see each other rather than just look through each other while reaching for unattainable pedestals, and a sky that is filled with stars, rather than helicopters that shine spotlights on the desperate, the hungry and the violent. We made the right choice when we moved to Clonmel, but the problem is that I have never learned how to travel light.

I dreamed that I left pieces of myself behind, pieces that I have been trying to stitch back together for so long, but in the dream, I believed I could be whole without them. I convinced myself that I had a chance to find a voice, to climb out of the waves and stand on solid ground. I believed I could be who I imagine myself to be when the world rests in darkness. I woke to the familiar sensation of drowning, realising that I must have closed my eyes and stuffed my demons into a suitcase, hoping it would stay closed, but it was too full and the latch broke.

I find myself in a new landscape, but I am still covered in shadows, still facing the same ghosts that have traveled with me my whole life. Maybe this time I can learn to see them differently, to put them back into the suitcase with care and welcome them when they break open the latch, knowing that they aren’t to be feared, that they are the darkness in me, and darkness can be just as beautiful as light.

Sometimes Happiness Holds it’s Breath

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.

Holding onto the Rain (Part 1)

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……….

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