I knew she was going to ask
she talked incessantly, I nodded absently
both of us waiting for the bus
too late at night, too dark
men yelling at each other across the street because god knows why
or doesn’t
she says they have anger management problems
what a sad world, we should call the police
and I know police won’t care or won’t come
or at least just make it worse
and I also know in that moment she is going to ask me
“Have you been blind all your life?”
The seven most invasive words from a stranger
the words I dread
the words I hope to avoid if I just don’t talk to people
even though I want to talk
they might say them, so I don’t
This time I have steeled myself, I am ready, I wish I didn’t have to be ready
“I’d rather not answer that question.”
Six words I can only hope will work.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“Thank you.”
Hopefully we are done with this.
But no.
“I just know that some people have an accident and some people are born like that.”
“Yup.”
Does she think her incredible knowledge will open me up?
Does she even think of me?
Is there any place in my Midwest Polite where I could tell her that being born “like that” is better than being born unable to take a hint?
Also leave me alone
Also don’t ask any other person you don’t know something like that ever.
Also it is so none of your business and I owe you nothing just because you think you’re being nice to me.
No. There is probably no place for any of that.
Small triumph that I told her no
small triumph that I didn’t feel a need to reassure her with
“I was born like that. Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen to you.”

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You are not a burden

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.

Stating the obvious, I have been very neglectful of this blog the past several months. I can’t really explain why, except to say that writing in general has been slow. I’ve started several posts and set them aside, because they felt like things I had already said here many times before.

It has been strange this New Year not to go to grad school residency in Vermont. It didn’t really hit me until people started asking me what I was doing for New Year’s Eve, and I didn’t have my “oh, I’ll be in Vermont” answer ready to assure them that I indeed would not be a total loser stuck at home at the strike of midnight.

Spending the new year at residencies the last three out of four years gave me automatic New Year’s Eve companions. Built-in friends. Last year, I kissed one of my built-in friends at midnight, a fellow grad student I adored. She was the first woman I’d kissed in years. Not for lack of desire, simply opportunity, and even though I knew it was pretty innocent, and wouldn’t lead to some beautiful queer love affair where we visit each other in our respective cities and show off our favorite restaurants and walking paths and places to eavesdrop, it was still wonderful in itself. It made me feel part of something.

One thing that I have taken away from grad school, besides the actual school part, is the benefits of writing community, of going somewhere new for several days just to write and read, to see new things, to talk to new people. Even, perhaps, to whimsically kiss a person you never would have known if it weren’t for the drive to write and create.

Happy 2019 everyone! May we all make space for a little more spontaneity and creativity this year.

In my recorder ensemble this term, we are playing “Ave Regina Coelorum”, a piece by Isabella Leonarda. Her music is some of the oldest known compositions written by a woman. It’s rich and layered, and when played with soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders, sounds like a choir or an organ. Outside of rehearsals, I’ve been listening to choral arrangements for context on how my part fits into the whole, and it’s gotten me thinking about choral music in general, and why I and so many others are drawn to it, even if we aren’t particularly religious.

My friend Nina and I attended a unitarian church service last summer. It was the same church Nina had grown up attending, and they wanted to see what it was like as an adult. I’ve been searching for a church-ish experience where I can feel like part of an intentional community without a lot of the god stuff: a sort of humanist, nondogmatic atheism based on critical thought, community activism, and kindness and generosity in all things. Even better if I could sing in a choir.

After the service and several rounds of singing, Nina said something like: “I don’t know what it is about that kind of music, it just gets me every time I hear it.”

I agreed. Even with all my ambivalence about institutionalized religion, the singing is still just incredible. I used to feel confused about that: why did I love the act of singing religious music in a group but feel so disconnected from religion itself?

This may not be a revelation for most, but it was for me. When I stopped feeling weird about it, I realized it was the human voice I loved. The sacred is in the sound of voices, trained or otherwise. The rising and falling of voices in a place that is spiritual to so many, and has been for centuries before, will always give me a slightly choked-up feeling.

Same with my “Ave Regina.” If I stop to consider it, it’s staggering to be playing music over a thousand years old. Most amazingly, it is still vital with life, and it will outlive us all.

I started taking pole dance classes almost 5 years ago. I wish I could say I’m amazing at this point, but I am not. For one thing, my commitment has been sporadic at best. For another, I’m pretty uncoordinated in general, and many forms of body movement do not come easily or naturally to me.

Still, I’ve tried many other forms of “fitness”, exercise, and dance, and none have stuck as much as pole has. I like that every time I go to class, even though I’ve been to lots of classes previously, I always learn a new move. There’s always some novel way to hang or climb or spin. Even just sitting on the pole, you can make all kinds of shapes with your limbs and hips and torso. You can be silly or weird or pretty or just a person making anguished faces because you’ve just smashed the top of your foot midkick, AGAIN. It’s great.

If you’ll allow me a little zen indulgence, lately one of the most interesting parallels I’ve seen between poling and real life is the act of letting go. Many polers are afraid of the spin; they fear falling midair so much that they can’t take the initial, required step. I’ve never had this fear. I fling myself at the pole with abandon, because I trust that even if I do the spin all wrong, the strength in my arms will keep me from doing a face plant. I won’t fall because, at the very least, I can hold myself up.

My problem, my fear, is letting my arms go. In specific sits or inversions, it looks fierce if you can let go with one or both hands. Trouble is, I don’t trust my legs to hold me like I do my arms. I convince myself, as I’m slowly lowering myself backwards, that I cannot possibly, possibly take my hands off the pole. Even though I know logically the ground isn’t far, even though I have never fallen before, even though there are people all around me ready to spot me in a flash, I … just … can’t … let … go. Any and all encouragement is drowned out by my mind just saying no, over and over. I will hold on if it kills me. Which is interesting, considering that letting go probably won’t kill me at all.

To bring this terribly on-the-nose metaphor to a close, sometimes I do finally let go. Oops, spoiler alert. And it’s always the same, after I’ve let go, I am never as afraid as I am in the moments leading up to it. I hold my arms outstretched, or behind my head, and I’m relieved. And then I forget, and fight the same battle all over again the next time.

I know I crave control. So many things in my life feel out of my control, and so much of the time I find myself reaching and grasping and holding on for dear life. It never feels good, but I sometimes convince myself it’s all I have. If I could just hold on tighter, grasp harder, maybe then …

Maybe then what? My life will be perfect? I can finally relax? Loneliness and boredom and frustration and fear will disappear?

At the very least, I expect I would feel the relief of my arms flung wide and my palms open to everything.

Content warning: the complete dumpster fire of the Kavanaugh nomination, talk of sexual assault and trauma, no talk of hope or solutions.
I want to say up front that there will be nothing of substance in this post. Nothing new that hasn’t already been said. But since this is my own special-snowflake Millennial platform, here I am to repeat a bunch of things that are better said by others, because I feel that not saying them would be inauthentic and because I almost feel that I cannot move on to writing about other things without plunging through this dirty river first.

You know how we often get caught in cycles where the cliche “doing the same thing while expecting different outcomes” applies? (Hi, welcome to my career, relationships, exercise goals, and life in general.) Well, I feel like this has happened for progressives for at least the last two years: re: our current administration. Two years ago, when “grab them by the pussy” was part of our daily soundbite consciousness, we thought that there was no way that dude could hold the highest elected office in our country. Then, when that indeed came to pass, we thought there was no way any number of other parts of his agenda would make it out of his on-a-different-planet brain: the Muslim ban, the wall, the continuation of his narcissistic tweets and racist rallies. We continue to watch him say appalling things about whatever minority he feels like mocking and squashing at the moment. You know this. I know this. Why summarize it? Why continue to give it air time, which so often, regardless of our intentions, can mistakenly become legitimacy?

Why indeed. I believe my repetition is incredulity. I’m still shocked. I still feel punched in the stomach when I hear the president mock a victim of sexual assault. “I had one beer. Well, when was the party? I don’t remember. How’d you get home? I don’t remember. Was it upstairs, downstairs? I don’t remember. But I had one beer!” I feel dizzy and about to vomit when that mocking gets cheered for and laughed at by a huge crowd of my fellow humans. The wound scabs over and opens again and again. I feel like I can’t breathe, like I will faint, I’m screaming and who will hear me.

(Please note: the quote above is not in order verbatim because I could not actually bring myself to go back and listen to it again. I would apologize for any misquoting or inaccuracies, but frankly I could care less at this point.)

I have been walking around in a fog the last two weeks, which have felt like years, which have felt like a lifetime. A fog of despair and fear and helplessness and bone-deep rage. I’ve heard so many women say this week, “I no longer feel safe in this country.” I nod and think about the generations of marginalized people before us who never had the privilege of feeling safe.

I am thankful for my therapist. And, interestingly, I am thankful that he is a man. I know it’s his job to let me rage and cry in his office for an hour. I know it’s his job to listen to the sexual trauma I have wrestled with and slept with for years, because I felt I would not be heard or believed by those in power if I set it free. But even though it’s his job, I still hear the compassion in his voice, the generosity of his silences, the respect he has for me in the questions he asks. As far as I can tell, he has never not believed me. I am glad he is a support in my life because he reminds me of all the individual men I love, even when my hatred for the men with the most power feels as though it will crush me.

In conclusion. If your name is Brett or Mitch or Lindsey and you are thinking of changing it, I wouldn’t blame you.

In real conclusion, and on the risk of sounding pat, please, please take care of each other right now. Reach out, check in, hold one another, belong with each other. The three seconds it takes you to say, “I’m thinking of you” or “how are you feeling?” or “I believe you” can be the steeliest strength in the armor that helps us keep fighting. For justice, for love, for safety, for survival.

This morning when I stepped outside to water my plants at 6 AM, the air felt like fall. The light was dim, whereas for months it had been full and bright at this time of day. During the night, a spider had spun its web over the leaves of my tomato plant. Summer Lauren had no qualms reaching through the fragrant stems and demolishing those threads, but today I couldn’t bring myself to destroy someone else’s home.

The breeze was chilly and damp. I slithered my bare arms through the tomato leaves to pluck the small bounty of fruit. I was relieved to stand in mist and coolness. I love fall, though its coming sometimes makes me exquisitely sad.

It’s been a strange summer. Without school, I feel anchorless. My writer friend Kate, who whizzed through Seattle to share a meal with me on her way further north to visit her sister, says I’m right on track with the post-grad blues. She’s two years out, about to publish a book, and finally starting to feel grounded.

I’m also unsettled because of our nation’s climate of hate. I know there are well-made arguments about staying and fighting, or even just staying and witnessing, but I am heartsick over what we know is going on and has gone on in this current administration, and I imagine we actually know very little about the whole of it. Just call me a conspiracy theorist. I am, not in jest, trying to think of any viable strategies of getting out of this country and into one where I feel safer, where I feel like my fellow citizens are safer. Maybe not permanently, but for a while. Canada is so close.

As is probably apparent at this point, it turns out I have very little to write about today. But I did want to sweep the cobwebs out of this corner of the Internet and say hello to you, and that I’m alive, and that I’m glad you are, too.