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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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zelda the white cane

Across Town

*Note to new readers: When I refer to Zelda, I am not referring to my pet, child or doll, but to my white cane.

Across Town

A few weeks ago, maybe a month, I rescued Zelda from her hiding place on the hat rack and I have been carrying her with me whenever I go out, but she has remained folded up and tucked safely into her case.  I figured that eventually, I would encounter a situation where my anxiety about not being able to see would outweigh the anxiety looming over me about using Zelda.  I have, over the past month, found myself thinking about freeing Z from her case, and even wishing I had due to a few collisions and subsequent bruising, but she stayed put…until yesterday.

Most Tuesdays, I visit my Dad and Stepmom at their house across town, and on the days when my husband can’t drive me, I often feel anxious and start procrastinating when it gets close to the time I have to leave; even more so since Zelda became a part of my life.  I always thought that the anxiety was due to the thought of taking an Uber or Lyft; I see the convenience of both services, but I just don’t feel comfortable being alone in a car with a stranger.  I also thought I was being lazy because the bus is a hassle, but it became clear to me that part of the reason I get anxious is because taking the bus means a greater chance that I will need Zelda.  Yesterday was a gorgeous, cloudy day with chances of rain, and although I love these kind of days, they can play havoc with my vision; even though the clouds darken the sky, if there is any light at all, I need to wear my hat and sunglasses, which makes things even darker.

RP is such a tricky disease.  I have night blindness and trouble seeing in dim light, but sunlight or any kind of bright light also blinds me, and hurts like hell.  So, on cloudy days, I am faced with the choice of my vision being lessened by dark glasses or going without them and suffering from any amount of glare.  I almost always choose the sunglasses, but my nerves get a bit jostled either way.

Yesterday, after far too much time given to agonizing, I decided to take the bus, even though I felt certain that Zelda would have to make an appearance.  I walked out into the deliciously chilly day and travelled the 2 blocks to the bus stop, keeping Z in her case.  I have lived in my neighborhood for a long time and have a, most likely false, sense of security when it comes to knowing the layout of the streets; in any case, I felt like I didn’t need Z to help me to the bus stop and I got their unscathed.

Although there is a bus that gets me within a mile of my Dad’s house,  I usually take 2 busses because of a frightening incident that happened not to long ago; you can read about it here. But, yesterday, I was running late and I knew the traffic would be horrendous, so when the first bus to arrive was the one I don’t need to transfer from, I got on.  My anxiety was now doubled; I was anxious about Zelda and watching everyone who got on the bus to make sure no one was particularly frightening.

Even though it was Halloween, the ride across town was pretty tame, and by the time I got to my stop, I felt confident that no psycho killers were going to follow me off the bus; I got off and started the mile walk to my Dad’s house.  It had started sprinkling while I was on the bus, so the ground was wet and the sky had gotten darker, but still I kept Z safely tucked away.  About 300 feet from the bus stop, I came to an underpass that I had to enter in order to cross the extremely busy street to get to my Dad’s neighborhood.  I hesitated, but only for a few seconds, then reached behind me to get Zelda.

This was exactly the kind of situation I had been waiting for; I looked into the darkness of that underpass and I knew I needed help.  I knew that having Zelda in that moment would alleviate my anxiety, and it did.  I zipped through the underpass, across the busy street, and into my Dad’s neighborhood, with Zelda leading the way.  I felt liberated, but more importantly, I felt confident and safe.

Guilt, Safety and More Blind Lady Stuff

So, I am walking home from the grocery store a few days ago, sans Zelda, and feeling my usual combination of freedom, guilt and anxiety.  I was moving pretty gracefully(I think) over all the Hollywood debris and I came to a small intersection where the light was red, which seriously interrupted my groove.  I am doing my usual scanning of my surroundings thing that RP has helped me become good at, and I see a guy talking to the gate just around the corner.

He is clearly enamored with this gate, and it is pretty nice as gates go – slick black iron with wide, solid and shiny bars- but his feelings are clearly going way beyond admiration. His expression is coy and flirtatious and he is speaking in a whisper;  he and the gate are clearly sharing something intimate.  I try to ignore him, but it is hard not to notice a love like that. His eyes are ablaze with passion, but I can’t see his hands. The light is taking forever to turn green.

Just as I am looking away, he looks up and sees me.  I guess his love for the gate is fleeting because now he is giving me the flirty eyes; at least it isn’t rage this time.  He grins at me and starts to move away from the gate.  He comes around the corner and I realize why I couldn’t see his hands; they are in his pants.  His hands are moving around inside his filthy, tattered, barely covering his ass pants; you get the picture.

He sashays toward me, eyes wild and teeth alight, and then he notices the gate again and walks right past me.  But, I can feel him behind me, looking from me to the gate and back again.  I am sure he thinks I can see him, but I only hear and sense that he is still there. The light turns green and I am out of there, leaving him and the gate in their rapture.

As I walk the two last blocks to my apartment, something new occurs to me regarding Zelda and my safety.  I feel guilty every time I leave the house without Z, and burdened whenever I have her with me, but I have always thought it is safer when I have her; now I am not so sure.  Perhaps, it depends on the neighborhood.  I have had some pretty freaky experiences in my neighborhood and more truly insane people seem to be taking up residence in the past few months; it seems to me that it might be safer if they think I can see them coming rather than knowing I can’t.

Clearly I am still working out the whole Zelda thing and I know my feelings about her will change as my vision changes, but I have to consider my surroundings and what feels safest to me.  For now, I prefer that the residents of the tent towns that are popping up all over the Hollywood sidewalks, don’t know that I am blind.

 

 

 

Part Time Cane

When I first started O&M, I resigned myself to having Zelda with me at all times and using her everywhere I went.  I grew to feel that if I didn’t do this, I was a bad student and an irresponsible blind person.  I felt that if I was taking the time and energy to bring Z into my life and learn how to use her properly, I should use her all of the time.  I started to resent the cane, to see her as a cross I had to bear rather than an aid to my safety.

Pretty much my whole life, my reaction to being told that I have to do something is to say fuck you, and go about not doing it as vigorously as possible.  But, I am no longer 12 and I do have grown up moments, so I found myself in a constant quandary around Zelda.  I wasn’t going to be able to employ my usual all or none way of doing things and, pathetically perhaps, it took me this long to figure out that I don’t have to.

I can use Zelda when I want to and when I feel I need to; I make the rules and I get to decide (and yes, I do realize that sounds a bit 12 years old, but I am who I am).  So far, I feel that it is most beneficial for me (and unsuspecting strangers) to have Z with me and use her when I am on my own.  I feel more confident walking down the street with her, shopping, on the bus etc.  However, when I am out with others, I haven’t really found a need for her.  My husband and my friends are really great about helping me when I need it and I feel like the cane just gets in the way; I usually bring her and she just hangs on the chair waiting for her turn around the block, which never comes.

So, I have decided that, for now, Z will be a part-time cane.  I get to feel good about having her, but not chained to her when I feel that I don’t need her.  I know that there will still be circumstances when I bring Z with me and she may or may not come out of her case.  There are times when it is better to give myself the option; for example, when I am out with the dogs or visiting a neighbor and don’t know if I will be back before it gets dark.  I definitely need Z in the dark and there have been a couple of incidents (pre Zelda) when I have had to call my husband to come and pick me up from just down the street or around the corner because it has gotten dark and I only have my sunglasses with me.  Sometimes I don’t plan to be out after dark, but it happens anyway.

I think that trying to become what I believed a blind person should be, actually put me in a position where I was stripping away parts of myself and adding to my confusion about my own vision.  There is not a right way to be blind; we all have different struggles and feelings and however I feel about or choose to deal with my blindness isn’t static, nothing is.

I am not sure how much vision I will have in a month or a year or 10 and I am sure that my feelings about the cane will change as my vision changes and I begin to recognize new situations in which having her would be beneficial; for now, I realize that Zelda is not a cross to bear, but an aid to utilize as I deem necessary.

Back in my Arms

I picked Zelda up yesterday; I can’t say I was particularly glad to see her, as her absence allowed me a couple of days of pretending that I can see perfectly well, but I also know it wouldn’t have been safe to prolong our reunion.

I spent the afternoon at my Dad’s and I felt like Z was staring at me from the hat rack, pleading with me to take her outside. And yes, I do realize that Zelda isn’t really alive and doesn’t stare, but she does bring the world to life and helps me see things.  Maybe she’s not so bad after all.

I have always been a bit of an escapist; I prefer Harry Potter to Science Monthly and I am always up for a good Super Hero movie or TV show.  I am pretty sure that any aversion I have to Zelda and her (almost constant) presence in my life, is directly related to how she keeps me from imagining that I am escaping my RP.  But, I have also gotten to experience how using Z opens the world up and shows me things I didn’t even realize I was missing.  I know, as using the cane becomes second nature, I  will feel more comfortable being out in the world; with her help, I will find stories that are waiting to be told and I will walk down the street without the weight of the anxiety that comes with limited vision.  And, as my vision deteriorates, I will have her with me to help me over the obstacles.

Life exists, for all of us, on a constant precipice and part of my struggle happens to be blindness; and yes, it sucks, and I wish I had never heard of fucking RP, but it is here to stay, and now I have this amazingly simple and kind of magical tool, in Zelda, that will allow me more freedom. I needed the couple of days away from her; it probably wasn’t an accident that I left her in my Dad’s car, and  I know the process will be slow – I am not a jump in with two feet, take the bull by the horns kind of person – but my pace is perfect for me.

 

#11 On our Own

Two days ago, I was visiting my Dad, and my StepMom got really sick.  So sick, we had to take her to the emergency room. She is totally fine now, but in the chaos of getting her to the ER, I left Zelda in my Dad’s car and haven’t been able to get there to pick her up.

I have to admit, not having Z the past couple of days has felt like a relief.  I got to go out and do errands at my own pace; of course my anxiety level was at an all time high, but I didn’t feel weighed down by the cane and at the time it felt like an o.k. trade off.  I started to feel like I might just retire her to an obscure hook in my closet and hope for the best when I go out walking.  But, then my husband interjected his usual wisdom.

Joe compared my not using Zelda to an insecure person continuing to drive when they know they should stop (which I can, of course, relate to, having had to give up driving at 34).  I think that what he was saying, in basic terms, is: everything is ok until it isn’t.  I may feel like being out with Z is fine because I still have usable vision and most of the time I make it back home unscathed, but that isn’t a guarantee.  I have probably had more close calls than I know about, because I didn’t see the car or person or bicycle etc. that I almost collided with.  Fuck….why is my husband always right?

Tomorrow, I will pick up Zelda.

Speaking of Zelda, today was supposed to be my 11th and last lesson with Tamar, but I cancelled it.  I thought it would be silly for me to show up at the Braille Institute to meet my O&M instructor without my cane, and I wasn’t sure until last night that my Step Mom was completely on the mend.  So, I texted Tamar to cancel and tell her that I thought we didn’t really need to meet again; for our previous meeting, I took her out to lunch and gave her a card and was totally prepared to say goodbye, so maybe I needed to stick to my plan and have that be our last meeting.  I suck at goodbyes and I didn’t want to have to go through it all again.  The problem is, I may have burned an important bridge; Tamar never got back to me and I don’t know if she is just busy or pissed off that I cancelled another lesson and told her I didn’t think I needed any more, in a text.  The text was super nice and filled with honest sentiments of gratitude, but perhaps she would have preferred a phone call, or maybe I just totally screwed up her schedule.  I figured she had taught me all I need for now and it was time for a new student to benefit from her skills and knowledge.  I hope that I didn’t completely piss her off, but in any case, my O&M training is officially over and Zelda and I are on our own.

 

#10 Prolonged

I imagined that the end of my mobility training would have clear and dramatic lines, but the end has been prolonged and is petering rather than exploding.

I took Tamar to lunch on Thursday, to thank her and to say goodbye, but we decided to meet one more time so she could teach me about the logic behind the madness that is the layout of Los Angeles.  That will happen next week, but it still feels as if my time with her has come to an end, and also as if it never has to entirely come to an end.  I know that she will be around and available if ever I need some more lessons.  So, what now?

I am in my air-conditioned apartment, avoiding the heat wave that is suffocating Los Angeles.  I write and try to reflect on the past three months, how my life has changed now that Zelda is in it and how I am still so resistant to that change.  I decided to be kind to myself around the resistance; I am not on a clock; RP has no adherence to time and I can incorporate Zelda into my life in whatever ways I choose.

Right now, I look at Zelda and I feel exhausted, and like a failure. I always imagine myself as so strong, able to go into a situation with fearlessness and embrace whatever fucked up thing I am forced to undertake; but this is my fantasy and, inevitably, I come out the back door, the same chubby, middle-aged, screwed up person who walked through the front door. But, this is just one side of the coin, and although it is pressed pretty flat to the ground at this minute, I know it can be flipped.

On the other side are all the discoveries I have made about how Zelda can change the landscapes I traverse.  I own the moments when the world came to life through sound and touch, and how those things allowed me to shed my anxiety.  I recognize that it takes courage to bring Zelda into my life and to write about it in the most honest way I can.

Next week will be my last official lesson with Tamar and my last O&M post, but I think Zelda and I may still have some adventures to come.

#9 Winding Down

Tamar and I are nearing the end of our time together and soon, she will leave Zelda and I on our own.  I tried to think of ways to keep doing the lessons, but it is clear that she has given me all the tools I need and now it is up to me to implement them.  Today was our second to last lesson

Tamar is at the bottom of the stairs wearing a beautiful sunhat; black with a cherry blossom design across the brim.  She is, as ever, cheerful and warm.  We have a plan to go to the grocery store today and she also wants to practice street crossings, so we get on our way and start walking North toward Sunset.

I am getting the feeling that street crossings are what I should be most diligent about and also be practicing on a daily basis, whether or not I have actual errands to do.  About 3/4 of the way up the block, Tamar asks me to close my eyes and listen for the traffic and what it sounds like as we get closer.  It isn’t only the engines that grow louder as we approach the corner, but the sound of gravel under tires and dips in the road that rattle the underbellies of the cars.  I also feel the air speed up as the force of the cars manipulates the wind.  And then Zelda drops off the curb.

We come to the first street crossing, review scanning techniques and the timing of flagging the cane with scanning.  Tap and look left for the danger car (right hand turner).  Tap and look to the middle for left hand turners.  Tap and look right for any cars in the far lane that may sneak up to turn right  before you get to the other side of the street.  I thought I had this stuff down, I mean it is just logical, but I feel like I haven’t been doing it at all when I am alone.  Why is it so bloody hard to implement things that actually make so much sense?  I feel like an idiot, but I press on and try to get the flow.

We come to the second street and this one actually has a light; I stand on the corner for a while with my eyes closed, getting used to the sound of traffic and identifying my own location based on the sounds.  And then we cross and continue 2 more blocks until we are at the crossing to the grocery store.  Tamar teaches me a new thing here:  Even though I have to cross the street to the left, I proceed forward with my eyes closed until Zelda finds the curb in front of me to the East.  To find the right location for crossing in a northern direction, I follow the curb to the left and swing Z back and forth, always keeping the curb in her range.  I am tempted to just keep Z to the right and follow the curb continuously, but if I don’t swing her to the left, I won’t know when I have come to any obstacles on the left, including the pole that houses the cross walk button.  In the middle of the turn from East to North, the curb becomes flat  and this throws me at first; is Zelda in the street? But, Tamar reminds me of the wheel chair access at most intersections and instructs me to move further onto the sidewalk at this point, while continuing to swing Zelda and maintain an idea of the location of the curb.  When the ground slopes back up and I find the curb again, I am relieved and feel safe.  I swing my cane to the left and make contact with the light pole and Tamar tells me to do it again in the opposite direction.  I do this about 6 more times and then we get to cross the street toward the market.

I have actually been to the market several times with Zelda, so I feel pretty confident that I have it down.  The parking lot is tricky because there is no obvious pedestrian walkway into the store (you have to walk through the parking lot), but there are bumpy yellow grates to indicate when you have come to a place that requires looking out for traffic or that you have cleared the traffic and are safe.  It is just about being diligent, looking in all directions and making the cane visible before crossing over the lane.  I have been super careful about this since I was hit by a reversing car in this exact parking lot.

We make it safely across and go into the store; Tamar stops me in the entrance and tells me that I need to hold Zelda closer to the base of her grip and keep her closer to me when I am in places like the grocery store.  Oops.  I totally haven’t been doing this.  I have been the selfish blind person who has left it all up to the sighted people.  I have been in Ralphs (that is our store), cane fully extended and swinging to my heart’s content.  Tamar shows me that by doing that, I have been blocking isles and really not watching out for other people at all.  I can’t always leave it all up to Zelda, especially at the grocery store where people are always off in their own foodie worlds.  I will be more courteous in the future.

We take a short spin through Ralphs and then head to the pet store and home.  As usual, I was exhausted and happy at the end of our lesson, but also a little sad because I knew that the next would be the last.

Monsters

So far, Zelda and I have encountered mostly courteous and friendly people, some helpful and some indifferent.  I have been using her more frequently and giving myself over to the reality of her place in my life and the confidence she can give me, if I allow it.  My last two bus trips, I had her out and open on the bus; the first time, the bus was almost empty and I took my allotted seat in the “reserved for disabled” section.   Today, the bus was much more crowded.

I got on to find that all of the front seats, those reserved for elderly and disabled passengers, were occupied by screaming, self-indulgent middle school kids.  I walked toward the reserved section, and not one of them moved to get up and offer me a seat.  I had to practically force one of the boys,  taking up an entire double seat just beyond the single reserved seats, to move over and let me sit down.  I was not happy.

It isn’t that I think I deserve a special seat because of my visual impairment; I was pissed off because not one of these 7 kids showed a speck of courtesy or decency.  I don’t have a lot of expectations of 13 year olds, they are often narcissistic little shits, but I do think that parents should teach their kids to be at least a little bit polite and compassionate.  These kids were neither, and as the ride continued, they showed just how monstrous they actually were.

Even more annoying and rude than not offering the blind lady a seat that is technically reserved for her, was the volume at which they chose to speak.  I wouldn’t actually call it speaking, it was more like shrieking and shouting. They were so loud that I couldn’t hear the stop announcements, and I swear they were in fucking competition to see who could be the loudest and most obnoxious.

They kept getting up out of their seats to show each other things on their phones and one kid was standing in the aisle, doing some bizarre contortion dance and crank calling Dominoes pizza.  On one call, he ordered 42 pizzas, on another he ordered a boneless pizza and some power tools and on another he ordered a whole chicken , a box of pens and a lawnmower.  I wasn’t eaves dropping, the whole bus heard this idiot kid, who got louder and louder as his friends screamed at every new crank call he made.

I was in hell and I had no escape.  Twice, I put my hand up in a gesture of disapproval when they got so loud it was hurting my ears, but I never said anything.  I wanted to.  I wanted to tell them to take it down and that they were rude and discourteous to every person on the bus, but I just sat there and waited for them to get off.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps I felt like it wasn’t worth my time or energy; they aren’t my kids and they wouldn’t listen anyway.  Or perhaps my fear of having even more attention drawn to me keeps me silent when I shouldn’t be.  The truth is, I know I should have told them to shut the fuck up.  They believed me to be totally blind – I know this because I heard them talking about it – and still they shrieked and cavorted and didn’t give a thought to the fact that I, and perhaps lots of others on the bus, may need to hear the stops in order to know where the hell we were.

When they finally started getting off, at various stops way too close to where I live, they left with the same level of disregard for other people as they had shown the entire ride.  The kid next to me grunted at me and said,” hey, I need to get off now.” No excuse me, not even an attempt at a polite tone.  Another kid stood at the entrance for about 8 stops, apparently waiting for hers, and didn’t move out of the way for people getting on the bus.  I heard one guy say to her, “excuse me,” politely, and then, “or not”, with biting sarcasm.  I bet he would have said something to all of them had he been privy to their lovely demeanor for the entire ride.

The only consolation at this point was that, as each kid got off the bus, the remaining ones got slowly quieter.  Contortion dance crank call boy was the last one to leave, and he stood there like a guilty wet rag, not saying a word.

#8 Blindfolded

Tamar and I got right to work today.  I had a pretty good week with Zelda and I was running late this morning and screwed up Tamar’s schedule a bit, so no need or time for a therapy session; I also think we were both trying to avoid getting me too anxious about what was to come.

When I saw Tamar coming up my walkway, I noticed she was holding a surgical mask – aka blindfold – and I knew she hadn’t forgotten what she promised the week before; perhaps I was very slightly and secretly wishing she had.  She smiled and asked if I was up to it; she is always respectful and asks how I am feeling, but doesn’t let me get away with backing out of things she knows I can handle.  I was ready.

We walked to the south end of my driveway and she handed me the blindfold.  Before I started walking, we had an exchange that was so subtle, but empowering for me.  I asked her to hold onto my sunglasses while I put on the blindfold and after it was secure, I opened my purse, found my sunglasses case, asked her for my sunglasses and put them away.  I know it sounds insignificant to simply put one’s glasses away, but the fact that Tamar just let me do it without trying to help or take over made me feel competent.  Before I took a step, I had begun to feel confident that I could navigate the world without the use of my eyes.

When the blindfold is on, I always close my eyes; I can see light coming through but no images, and it makes me feel calmer when my eyes are shut.  I surrender myself to the experience, relax into the darkness and try to allow my other senses to tune in.  It is really a sort of meditative process.

After the blindfold is secure and my eyes gently closed, I take a breath and then a step.  Tamar tells me to stop.  We are in-between my driveway and the driveway of the building next door. She asks me to listen.  Do I hear cars?  The garage gate opening? She asks me to feel with my feet.  Do I notice the ground beginning to slope downward?  And of course, to feel with Zelda.  What is to the left and right of me to indicate we have come to a driveway?  The end of a grass line or wall?

I listen.  I hear cars, but they are behind me on Sunset; not close enough to be a danger.  The gate is quiet and there are no cars moving parallel to me.  I feel with my feet.  As I approach the driveway, the ground slopes slightly downward and my ankle pivots to adjust to the change.  I put Z to work, swinging her to the left and to the right.  She alerts me to a low metal wall on the right which I know indicates the north side of the driveway of the building next door.  She also lets me know that the ground level has changed.  I determine it is safe and we move on.

We are taking the same path as the previous week, and of course this is my neighborhood so I have a mental map of the terrain, but without the use of my eyes, the experience is completely different.  Using Zelda, I get a much better feeling for exactly how wide the side-walk is.  I know that there is grass on either side of me as I pass the building next door, but now I feel the contours of how and where the grass lines begin.  In some places, the grass sits above the sidewalk and in others it sits below and creates a subtle drop off; when I am using my eyes, a subtle drop off can have me flat on my face in less than a second.

We continue down the street, past more driveways and buildings.  At one point, I hear someone get out of a car, so I stop and listen to both what the car is doing and in which direction the person is going.  The car drives away and the man ( I know it is a man because I can hear him talking on his phone) crosses my path and proceeds up the stairs on my right.  I know he is walking upstairs because I can hear the change in his footfalls.  It is incredible; most of us have heard people on the stairs, but it is as if I was hearing the stairs themselves; the way they received the weight of the man and the material from which they are made; solid concrete that responds with dull recognition to the mans feet.  We walk on.

We are about two-thirds of the way down my block; I know this because I can hear the cars on Fountain Ave. more distinctly.  We cross more driveways, feeling the dips in the sidewalk and we encounter trash cans that have been left out and a couple of times I veer too close to the street and Z let’s me know by alerting me to a parked car.  We pass a friend’s house with tall hedges in the front and I know we are just one building away from the intersection.  I slow down, considerably, and Tamar tells me to keep going, trust Zelda.  I continue to walk, hearing the cars on Fountain as if they are inches from me, and then Zelda dips down abruptly and I know I have found the curb.

Tamar asks me to listen to the traffic and position myself so the cars are to my right, running parallel to me.  She says I should hear them at my shoulder.  I put myself in the right direction and again head toward the curb.  Zelda let’s me know I am there with no problem and I do my A (anchor) B (staying behind Zelda) C’s (check it out); I find the edge of the curb with my foot and test the depth with Zelda and then I stop again and listen.  I am listening to find out if my parallel cars are moving or stationary,  and for the presence of a possible right turner.  I know the light is green when my parallel cars are moving past me, so I flag my cane and proceed across the street.  Half way across, I hear something I never hear at a moderately busy intersection, or even on a quiet street; I hear a Prius.

When I am out with just my eyes and no Zelda, I am on constant look out for all Prius type cars.  They creep and sneak and barely make a sound; or so I thought.  I heard the Prius today as if it was as loud as any other car. It was such a distinct sound from all of the other traffic, like a voice joining an orchestra with pristine timing.  It turned left and raced over the cross walk in front of me.  I will fear the Prius no more.

Tamar and I continued down a small, narrow stretch of Fountain Avenue.  Zelda alerted me to low walls, telegraph poles, and the curb when I veered too far to the right.  When we got to the next crossing, I got myself positioned, waited for the surge of parallel traffic, flagged my cane and got on my way.  At the other side, Z found the curb where I did my ABC’s, made sure the path ahead was clear of poles, furniture, sleeping men and garbage cans and stepped up onto the curb.  Tamar didn’t have to give me a prompt this time; I listened and positioned myself to make sure the traffic was to my back and knew I was heading North on Martel Ave.

I was feeling in a groove; nervous but happy.  I was actually having fun discovering how amazing all of my other senses can be, and feeling a heightened confidence in Zelda.  Martel is the street with the crazy, colossal mountain of broken, raised and dipping sidewalk (all in one small area), and I knew it was coming up soon.  I wasn’t nervous; I think I may have actually been looking forward to it.  It wasn’t because I had done it the week before, but because the anxiety of having to use my eyes wasn’t there.  I knew that I could trust my feet and my ears and Zelda, so much more than I can trust my eyes.

I made it across the mountain obstacle and up Martel to Sunset Blvd, where I veered to the right at one point, toward the curb and traffic, but Z let me know and I corrected my position and walked on.  I apparently have an unfortunate tendency to veer to the right, but with Zelda to warn me of what’s ahead, I can deal with it.  During all of this, Tamar didn’t once try to pull me out of harms way or shriek in fright as I neared a potentially dangerous area; she just trusted that I could do it and let me do it.  Of course I know that she would never let anything happen to me, but I know that she has faith in my ability to make it through this and that helps me believe it as well.

Tamar asked me how my anxiety level, when I was blindfolded and with Z, compares to being out with just my eyes to assist me.  I realized the difference is astounding; it is as if all the stomach tightening, teeth clenching fear and distress are pulled off my back when my eyes don’t have to be in the picture.  I was nervous and, at times, wary; but not once did I stumble, trip , fall, stub my toes,  injure myself or crash into anything. I think I may be warming up to this white cane thing.

 

 

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