The other night after pole class, one of my classmates said to me, “I’m just doing my part to remind you that you are not a burden.” That same person has said this to me once before, and to be honest, I can’t remember the exact context of either situation. I imagine both had to do with the logistics of all of us students crowded around the cubbies by the door, collecting our shoes and street clothes in a tangle. Everyone is in everyone’s way. I always feel like I am in everyone’s way the worst, since i can’t see where anyone is, and most people are pretty quiet because this is Seattle, city of introverts.
The first time my classmate said this to me, it felt good to hear but I quickly forgot about it. The second time, her words stuck with me. I felt very tender towards her in that moment. I felt that she could really see the most fragile part of me.
Last night, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen for about six months. She was excited to hear about my life, and so I had to disappoint her by saying that I was still struggling with the exact same thing I had been struggling with half a year ago: I continue to find it extremely difficult to form meaningful friendships with people in Seattle, the city of introverts. I feel for the most part that I do a lot of work for very little reciprocity. I explained to my friend that I’ve started worrying about what’s wrong with me, what makes people not want to be friends with me. It might not be an attractive thing to admit, this insecurity, but I wanted to be vulnerable with her. She let me talk for a while and then said, “You know, at the beginning of this conversation you put yourself downs lot. Like you thought you were burdening me with this conversation. I’m not saying there aren’t a ton of other factors here, but that might be one of them.”
As much as I appreciated her candor, hard truths are hard to hear. I thanked her for telling me though. Of course, this isn’t anything new, this burden thing. It’s a huge reason I have a therapist. I have felt burdensome for as long as I can remember. As a blind person, I am the one who must be accommodated for. I’m the one who might be a little slower, a little strange-looking, a little demanding, a little angry. I many circumstances, society sees me as a burden. I have spent a dizzying amount of my life trying to fix myself for people, trying to fit for other’s benefit and comfort. I can’t do it any more. I can’t.
I have never been one for mantras or affirmations, but maybe I should change that. I have spent today building a soft corner of my mind where the only thing I repeat is, “”You are not a burden. You are not a burden. You are not a burden.” Other mean thoughts intrude, and I gently let them go. “Sweet pea,” I say to myself, “you are not a burden. Just doing my part to remind you, you are not a burden.”
I will say this until it lives in my body, becoming a part of my stride, settling into my smile for the long haul. I will say it until I can’t forget.