I assisted another blind person yesterday. I was sitting on a patio at a coffee shop, which has steps leading down to the street. He approached my table and asked how to get back to the street. It took me a minute to realize that he was blind and using a cane. I must admit I almost ignored him because my self-preservation brain kicked in with, “Man. Right next to you, way too close to your face, saying something you can’t make out. Pretend busyness, invisibility, do not engage.” Once I realized what was happening, though, I knew I had been given an opportunity.

Rather than trying to give him verbal directions, I explained to him that he was on a coffee shop patio and offered to accompany him down the stairs. I stood up, in one place, and continued to talk to him until he reached me. I said, “Is it ok if I touch you?”, and when given consent, I put my hand briefly on his shoulder to let him know my proximity. I offered him my elbow and we walked the few paces to the steps together. I asked if he’d like me to accompany him down the steps. He declined, I did not push, I had no agenda here. I assumed he was saying no because he meant no and was perfectly capable of walking down himself. I told him that there were four steps down to 45th Street, and that at the bottom, he would be facing 45th with Midvale Place on the right and Stone Way on the left. He said, “Thank you.” I said, “Of course.” We parted ways. The end.

Why am I relating this in meticulous detail? I don’t consider myself a saint or incredibly woke, nor do I think I made a significant difference in his day. But, I had the privilege to give him a positive interaction receiving assistance from another human: one that I would like to receive, without agenda, desperation to be a do-gooder, or a white knight complex.

I can’t save anyone, least of all myself, from shitty interactions with unaware sighted people. But I hope I can do my part to reverse some of that for others. One positive interaction can, sometimes, renew my faith, reinvigorate my desire to be an ally to others, and rekindle my belief in solidarity. You might think one small two-minute act of good faith and dignity can’t restore a soul, but it can. I know.

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On entering a coffee shop this morning, I was immediately flooded with the unmistakable voice of Neko Case. There are a handful of voices that have a direct link to my tear ducts, and hers is one. I was caught immediately between a sob, a desire to flee, and a desire to stay and listen forever.

The truth is, I am tired. I’ve been tired for a long time. Not to say that there haven’t been moments of joy, a day or two, maybe. And definitely, tiredness and joy can and do exist on the same plane.

But overall. I read the news, enough to keep myself as informed as I can. Not enough to saturate me so much that I can’t continue to pull back my covers in the morning. Still enough to know that I am not doing enough, that I am standing by, that I am helpless and complicit and hope may still be there, somewhere, but my fingertips keep missing it.

My heart aches.

I usually love this time of year and look forward to it with expectation. It’s Solstice, Pride season, my birth month. This year, it’s my master’s graduation. Yet this year I am wary, and I definitely feel I have not learned enough.

I know that I will be ok. I always am, if not happy, then ok. I worry for the world.

I am someone who relishes reinvention, who looks forward to opportunities for change. For that, I’m thankful for the Solstice, because a seasonal time of change is very symbolic to me. I’m grateful that this particular time of learning is about to end. I’m curious about what I will do next. (I have lots of ideas.) Sometimes, transitions bring me the most comfort. If not happiness, if not joy, then comfort. I have a feeling my real work is just beginning.

Meanwhile, I’ll stay and listen to Neko. And try not to cry too much.

Yesterday, I got on a bus and at the next stop, a woman barreled towards where me and my dog were sitting, and screamed, “Ahhhh move I’m getting off!” There was no where for us to move to, we were scrunched as far as possible into a seat; Kiva was well under it at my feet.

Before I could even react, she yelled, “Good thing you’re blind, bitch!” and hightailed it off the bus.

I was left perplexed and pissed, my body instinctively full of adrenaline. The other passengers, in their typical Seattle way, looked everywhere but at me. Their silence held all the desperation of trying to pretend they hadn’t had to witness the last 30 seconds.

Only the bus driver said to me as I was leaving several stops later, “That woman’s been off her rocker for years.”

I nodded in acknowledgement and thanked him for the ride. It took me hours to shake the experience.

I keep wondering what has gone on in her life to make her react that way to me, or to anyone. This incident is similar to others I’ve experienced on transit or walking down the street. I’m always left shaken and wondering why.

I imagine the majority of these incidents are way more about the other person, and about society, than they are about me. This doesn’t hold much comfort in the moment, but it is likely true.

I want some action step, some way to make the life of this woman better. I don’t know how to do that.

This is the thing I tell myself all the time: if I am fortunate enough, some day in my life, to no longer be poor, to not be lonely, to have the community and family I so want to build, to not pay for groceries with EBT, to have health insurance, to not have to compromise for love, to have easy days, I must remember what it was like. I must not be complicit in forgetting, no matter how seductive the thought of forgetting is.

I must remember her, because we are not that different. I must remember, no matter what happens, how struggle feels.

I must never forget compassion.

Things I will do after I Graduate:
• Play lots more music. Private recorder lessons? Finally learn guitar once and for all, so I can sing songs to people? (Only with their consent.)
• Write poetry and not care if it’s bad, cause it will be bad.
• Sleep
• Go on dates
• Or, at least, make an effort to date people
• Long walks. Getting lost. Who cares? I’ll find my way back eventually.
• Figure out how to use my mishmash of skills to get a day job which pays my rent and student loans and allows me to do some fun things? Maybe?
• Get my splits and a decent tree pose
• Perfect my honey lavender ice cream recipe. Candied lavender flowers?
• Sit outside. Read books that are literary embarrassment but make my soul happy.
• Work on my bird listening skills.
• Sleep, more

What else should I do? I’m open to all ideas, I’m going to be so free!

Hi everyone.
So, you all know I’ve been crap at blog updates this year, right? My life is, frankly, in a state of overwhelm. I am now working fulltime, with a 90 minute commute each way. I am writing my creative thesis and lecture to graduate with my MFA in July, finallyfinally!! Last fall, I joined a recorder ensemble and though the music is fairly easy, there’s a lot of it and I’m constantly learning and memorizing new pieces. I’m working on editing a manuscript for a dear friend whose book-length project is way further along than mine. I am trying to do some activism, volunteer at social justice events, etc, whenever it’s possible.
My busy is a very strange kind, because it is quite isolating. Some days, I don’t talk to any humans outside of bus drivers and brief conversations with colleagues. I deeply miss having companionable friendships where we could work on our own things but still be around each other. I haven’t been in seattle long enough, I guess, to cultivate those relationships.
All to say, I think about this blog a lot, and how I’m not writing in it, and then I feel bad for not writing. So, I’m here today to officially put this blog on hiatus until after graduation, after which I will hopefully want to free write again, since I won’t be bogged down in word counts and numbers of pages and how many minutes is this lecture. The best thing about this blog is the freedom it brings, and the connection I feel to those of you who take the time to leave me comments. I promise I read them all and send every one of you gratitude!
So, until midsummer! Love and light to you all

When I was hired by a tech company a few years ago to work on software accessibility, I was thrust into a world of acronyms. It was alarming because every time I asked, “What does that stand for?”, (and believe me, I always asked because I am relentless, people), I’d get some variation of a blank stare and a, “Huh, I’m not sure. Maybe …” Sometimes the person would try to save face: “I used to know, but …” I know every field has their jargon, but it seemed to be nonstop there. And it appalled me how it seemed that my colleagues had literally forgotten that people on the “outside” have no idea what they are saying most of the time.

A few months ago, I got rehired at this company, and I was treated to a new acronym: “PWD.” I saw it first in an e-mail about me: “Lauren is a PWD and you can set up a one-on-one with her.” What the hell is that? I thought. If I’m an acronym, I’d sure like to know what it is that I stand for in Techlandia.

So I sat for a minute and pondered, and suddenly I had it: “person with a disability.” In this e-mail, being introduced to someone I did not know, I wasn’t a screenreader expert, skilled at providing constructive feedback, or knowledgable about accessibility best practices and testing standards because I have a web accessibility certification. Nope. I was merely a person with a disability.

And then, it seemed like “PWD’s” was everywhere. The acronym bounced around my workspace like a little kid with a secret. I have not had occasion to hear it used by another person with a disability, only by able-bodied folks, and I find myself flinching slightly every time it’s uttered.

I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a negative reaction. Certainly, I am a PWD. Presumably, the people using this acronym have good intentions. But it nags at me. I find myself drawing a comparison to the phrase “people of color” and its sometimes abbreviation to “POC.” An abbreviation that I have used on occasion for advocacy purposes, and because my fingers were apparently too lazy to type out all those words.

In the context of the e-mail mentioned above, I believe my chafing has to do with my unmentioned skills. For the most part, I don’t feel that my professional skills are taken seriously. They may be comparatively meager to most people who work in tech, but they still exist. I still add value, not just because of my disability but because of the knowledge I have worked to acquire, simply because of my innate curiosity, I might add, not because of any professional development offered to me. I know that I have value logically, but I do not see it reflected back at me in the world, so it’s hard to remember it day to day. Being summarized simply as a PWD makes me feel one-dimensional and overlooked, and reenforces my general feeling that that is all I was hired for. I wonder if “POC” leaves a similar bad taste for those who are reduced to those three letters, and I feel uncomfortable with that realization. Discomfort is how we learn, so ultimately, that is ok. I’m glad for the opportunity to rethink how we commodify people. My conclusion is that acronyms are simply not cutting it, and will never truly be enough.

Clementines: they’re called mandarinas in Spain, and when I was studying there in the fall of 2006, I picked a glut of the sun-warmed orbs from a tree in the mountains of the Alpujarras. I wore layers of scarves, because even though the sun warmed one side of my face, the wind knifed its way down the back of my neck. I was raised in the Midwest, so had no experience picking anything off a tree but the occasional late-season, squishy apple; so even though I tried to act blase about the whole thing, I eventually plopped down right under the mandarina tree and peeled away the rind of a particularly heavy fruit. The peel came away easily, smelling like a winter flower. I listened to the shriek of an unknown bird as I ate the segments down to nothing.

I am February cranky, sun-starved, craving warmth, looking for spring. It hasn’t been the rainiest Seattle winter I’ve experienced, but by February, even four months of intermittent rain starts to drag on my spirit. So I eat mandarinas and cling to the memories of sunshine of the past. I stand over bubbling vats of lemon marmalade. I water my anemic bamboo and daydream about lush growth. I run my hands over citrus displays at the co-op, forcing whoever is shopping with me to stop and wait while I heft pomelos, too big to fit in my hand. I succumb to buying out-of-season strawberries, and feel a knee-jerk urge to cry when they taste dry and woody and of nothing. Even though I know the outcome will be this way, year after year, I can’t help it.

What do you do to create spring when it seems so far away?