I read a lot of blogs, and a theme that I’ve noticed working its way through them is what I call the “pithy confession.” It’s when a blogger tries to be coyly confessional, maybe, probably, in an attempt at humor. But, I always find these confessions falsely intimate. It usually starts, “I have a confession”, and then the “confession” is that the author has to use spell check a lot, or she ate 4 extra brownies when no one was looking, or she spent a little too much money on fancy olive oil. I should also mention that I amtotally guilty of the pithy confession. Mine had good intentions behind it, as I’m sure they all do, but I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the privilege of being able to make them.
My confession today is one that’s actually embarrassing, and yet, I hope it also helps us all appreciate and respect one another more mindfully. I’m putting it off, as you can tell. Ok. I’m ready. my confession is that I fell off the side of the Aurora Bridge today.
It sounds way worse than it was. I’m not even sure if I technically fell off the actual bridge. I fell off the slab of cement between the two sides of the highway, because I was trying, again, foolishly, to get back from a bus stop that I should stop trying to figure out without someone with eyes, and I’d missed the memo that there was a drop-off on my right side. The bad part about not being a cane traveler any more is that Kiva covers my left side much better than my right. I don’t have the right-side perspective the cane gives me when I’m using it properly (which, let’s face it, I was very lazy about doing, so it’s hard to say if it would have prevented me from flying off the edge either). Regardless, I fell. It was spectacular. I landed on the heels of my hands and a little on my right hip, smushing groceries and my purse. I’m not sure what it says about me that when I fell, my first paralyzing thought was that my BrailleNote would be crushed or scraped, at the very least. Thankfully, it was okay. I got back up, my hands raw and my jacket dirty, and I thought about the way I must look.
I think I’ve lived a lot of my life wondering how I look in comparison to other (sighted) people. When I was young, I did some little-kid blind-isms like rocking back and forth and swinging my head from side to side. Today, I’m convinced that doing those things told me where I was in the world, gave me equilibrium and motion. Most of my authority figures were very quick to tell me that I needed to kick these habits.
When I worked my first job in a pizza restaurant, customers would come in and, not knowing I was blind, say things like, “What’s wrong with you, are you sleeping?” I realized that I would stand behind the line of pizza toppings, doling out mushrooms and pepperoni with my eyes closed. I didn’t need them, and so my body saw little point in exerting the energy to keep them open. But enough people commented on it that I became self-conscious, and would remind myself whenever I could to open my eyes so that I looked “normal.”
When I danced in show choir, the emphasis seemed to be on making me look like everyone else. I remember working out particular sequences over and over, only to be told, “Well, that doesn’t look the way everyone else does it, but …” That was always hard to hear. Though no particular person was the culprit, the societal message has always been to blend in, to not draw attention, to look like everyone else.
One of my high school friends admitted she didn’t like going to the mall with me because people stare at us. I knew this. I know it. It’s awkward and some days it’s the reason I stay home.
Now, I wonder how it would be if I could completely embrace the fact that I look different and that people look at me because of it. I’m trying. Perhaps the idea is not to attempt to blend in, to do everything the way sighted people do, but to just do it my own way and let other people stare if they want to. It’s not as though it’s affecting me. It only affects me because someone told me about it once and now it’s stuck in my brain. But my brain has enough to think about without that. Why should I keep my eyes open if I don’t need to? Why should I dance in a way that looks like every other dance every other person does? I might as well dance the way I was made to. People don’t have to watch.
I don’t think anyone saw me fall today. But if someone did, I’d love it if they would acknowledge it with me. It was ridiculous, and painful. If someone saw me, I would be amused and grateful if they asked if I was ok and joked with me about it. If we talked about our differences, about how to celebrate the unique things our bodies and minds do, perhaps we could keep the confessions to a minimum.
I’m a realist, though, and I know someone will always be sheepishly bemoaning how many brownies they ate.