Draw a line on the floor of your mind. How do you shorten the line?

You don’t. You draw a second line. This one longer than the first.

I have a lot to learn from the concept of drawing another line. I’m a naturally aggressive, opinionated person. At least, that’s how aggressive and opinionated people say I am. Gentle, kind people say that I am gentle and kind. That gets me back to being hard with hard people and gentle with gentle people. Which gets me back to cutting lines. Putting the focus on everyone else rather than on myself.

I haven’t been focusing on me this week. I’ve lost myself in the commotion of everyday life. Being busy has my mind wandering. I’m excited for Hippie Boy to be here in a few weeks, I’m doing several projects for school and for work, and I’ve not been putting my energy into the things that make me who I want to be. I’ve been emphasizing what I don’t want rather than what I do. Let this be a reminder to me to curve that behavior now rather than later.

I don’t want to cut the line. I want to draw a second line. A longer line. I want to be better instead of making someone else worse.

Maybe a new tattoo is in order? Or a new necklace? Two parallel bars of different lengths. A symbol of my practice.

It’s currently 2:30 in the morning. I’m going to eat at 5, run at 6, eat again at 7, and meditate until noon. Then I’ll have Russian at 2, Writing at 3:30, Hippie Boy at 5:30, and martial arts from 7 – 9:30. Today will be a long day of longer lines.

Me

I had another epiphany this afternoon.

Years ago I was eyeball-deep in weapons, martial arts, and every other ego-driven practice a person could really be involved in. My friends and I would suit up with our best weapons and our nylon sheathes and holsters and we’d head into the biggest, baddest parts of town and go looking for trouble with the biggest, baddest thugs we could find. I was a 17 year old kid with a chip on my shoulder and excellent knife skills. I thought I was hot shit. I was also impressively unwell.

I’ll skip the heart-warming coming-to-my-senses bit and point out that I ended up putting down the weapons and putting my energy into self-betterment. I didn’t like who I was. I loved the power-rush, but I hated the egoism. I’ve barely touched a weapon in almost three years.

I’m on the verge of getting back into martial arts full-time and maybe picking up a few odds and ends. This time it isn’t for my ego. This time it’s because the complete self-control that it takes to really respect your weapon is something I’d like to give back to myself. Training in hand-to-hand and/or with a high-quality weapon takes time, devotion, and care. You have to treat it like a part of who you are. You have to know that weapon inside and out, and you have to connect with it as naturally as you’re connected to your own flesh.

Weapons ground me. It’s that simple. As do martial arts and my other less-friendly skills. They help me live up to my own expectations of discipline and honor. Two very buddhist beliefs.

So where does the potential for violence fit into Buddhism? Maybe it doesn’t. I’ve wrestled with that question for months. I’ve realistically wrestled with that question for years, although I didn’t have the word ‘Buddhism’ to use as my leverage. I only knew that violence and peace were two seemingly oppositional concepts.

I’m coming to terms with two things. 1) There are times when peace can only be upheld by unrest; and 2) if the potential for violence keeps me peaceful, then the good outweighs the bad.

Violence is a problem when it’s used for egoism and powerplays. But there’s a form of violence which is calm, controlled, and kind. When you’re stopping something horrible from happening by doing something unpleasant. In an extreme case, maybe you’re saving multiple lives by taking one.

I’m coming to terms with being a martial artist and wanting to reclaim my skills. Now that my intentions have changed, the acts themselves should change, too. It’ll no longer be something of anger and fear. Now it’ll be about peace and contentment. Training to give, not training to take.

That makes me feel whole. And I didn’t know how not-whole I’d been feeling until just now. There was that one tiny grain of sand not quite fitting into place.

Now it fits.

Thank you.

My braille goal has been 10 pages a day. I’ve surrounded myself with it. Braille books, braille magazines, braille writing, braille assignments, and a braille computer. Hippie Boy even helped me out by spending three hours reading me a braille cookbook and comparing notes on braille form and reading techniques. My friends in the blindness world are sending me articles every day on reading, writing, specialty coins, novelty items, games for my students, and even braille politics (Braille has politics? Who knew?) And next week I’m investing in a braille watch.

I’m far surpassing my goal and reading a minimum of 25 pages a day rather than my anticipated 10– and I thought 10 was lofty. This takes me HOURS. I know the code, but my speed is low enough that reading 25 pages takes me around 4 hours. Maybe a little less. I will say this: The pros know what they’re talking about. Take it from experienced blind braille readers on how to enter into their ranks. In the words of every great braille reader out there, “Practice, practice, practice!”

Braille is fun. I never thought I’d say those words. I love it! I get so wrapped into what I’m reading that it’s like I can’t stress about anything. It’s a meditative and calming time for me. Every page turned is another feather in my cap for personal accomplishment. It makes me feel good. It makes my students feel good to have a blind teacher reading braille right alongside them. And it makes the world a better place to have more people learning more things that only help and never hurt.

My braille goal is to read 25 pages a day, which translates to about 2 volumes, or a 5th of a Harry Potter book every week. (Note: Braille comes in volumes of about 100 braille pages and there are several volumes to a book. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for instance, is 10 volumes and about 1,000 braille pages.)

Teachers will often tell you that braille is too big, rare, and difficult to be worth teaching. Most of them simply won’t and don’t know how to teach it. Consequently, a maximum of 10% of blind people in America learn braille. Imagine if only 10% of sighted people learned print! How would you do ANYTHING???

Answer: You’d ask someone who could. You’d have things read to you. You’d always look for the easy way out rather than put the time, effort, and energy into learning to read. And learning to read is hard! That’s why we start with children and don’t wait until they’re adults.

But if you do find an adult who can’t read– and almost no blind adults can– then what should you do? You should teach them! You shouldn’t just tell them to sit there and be a passive participant in their own lives!

I’d never fully appreciated the braille crisis until now. I’ve always thought, “Oh, well. I don’t need braille. I can just have my computer read to me.” — And sure, it worked. Sometimes. But a sighted person still needed to scan my materials to get them onto my computer. And a sighted person still had to read anything my computer couldn’t. And if a teacher didn’t have an electronic copy of an assignment, I was stuck being read to by some slow-reading, typically uneducated stranger who was getting in their volunteer hours for a community service project. In short, I was screwed.

I’m learning to love braille. No matter what anyone else says, literacy is absolutely fundamental to a student’s success. If you have a blind relative or if you yourself are blind– LEARN BRAILLE!!! You might hate it now, but you’ll thank yourself later. Putting in the man-hours will actually save your academic and professional careers.

Note: I guarantee that you’ll start out by saying that you don’t have the tactile acuity to learn braille. You’re too old, or too numb, or too average to learn it. You’ll think it requires having some special talent or belonging to some certain demographic. You’ll basically give up before you even try. And to that I say, BULLSHIT!

Who the hell are you to stop before you even give yourself a chance? Quit quitting and give up on giving up. You’re too busy to be lazy.

I issue everyone reading this a personal challenge: If you think you can’t, do. If you think you can, try.

Braille? We got this.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that’s because I’m busy making unprecedentedly AWESOME changes in my life. That’s right. I’m still on the changes kick. Get used to it.

I’ve found a form of running that I don’t hate. I just throw on some good music and do my thing. I’ve never gone running with music before. Since I always have a guide, I’m always in the middle of a conversation.

I haven’t only been running. I’ve also been working with the university rec center to make all of their machines accessible, give them insensitivity training, and change the layout a bit so that it’s more blind-friendly. Not too blind-friendly, but ADA Accessible blind-friendly.

This is why I call it insensitivity training. My number one rule for blindness is to never treat someone like they’re blind. The moment you start seeing me as someone who can’t see you start making assumptions about what I can and can’t do. It might be well-intentioned, but it’s arrogant and wrong.

Plus I’ve been writing two books for school. One on myself and one on Hippie Boy. And no, I’m not giving out more information than that. All I’ll say is that he and I are closer than ever, ant I’m infinitely grateful to him for helping me with my homework.

We almost have an apartment picked out for the end of summer. We’re also working with the golden Retriever Club of America to find a local breeder and begin searching for our first dog. We’re leaning towards getting a puppy, but we’re not closed to the idea of adoption. I’ll be updating everyone as the saga unfolds.

The best news is that… drum roll please? … Hippie Boy will be here in just over a month! We’ve had our meetings with every form of legal council we could think of and everyone agrees– once he’s here, he’s here. Nobody can really do anything about it. We’ve jumped through the necessary hoops and we’ve talked to all the right people. In five weeks there’s a 95% safety rate, in 5 months there’s a 98% safety rate, and the end of summer will mark a 100%, out-of-the-woods, free-and-clear, OH-MY-GOD-WE-DID-IT!!!!!!!!!!!! safety rate.

Excited? You bet your ass we’re excited. this is five years of fighting tooth and nail to get what most people feel is theirs by nature. The right to be together. Nothing more or less than that. Just a quiet, simple togetherness.

Oh? And you know what makes it even better? Librarians. Librarians make everything better.

I talked with the Library of Congress and they’re going to start sending me braille books and magazines for free. You know why? Cause they’re good people, that’s why. The manufacturer of my braille note-taker (braille computer) is being sent in tomorrow, too, so then I’ll get it back all brand spanking new in March.

So. Much. Good. News.

Have a healthy day!

I have twelve pounds to go until I’m officially the thinnest I’ve been since elementary school. My previous lowest weight was 126lbs. Now I’m going to reach 125 in just 8 short weeks.

To celebrate, I made deliciously awful macaroni and cheese. It was whole-grain macaroni, but I’m sure the three types of cheese more than made up for it.

It was an excellent learning opportunity. I found out that if you turn my stove’s burners up all the way, the fire disengages while the gas pumps out at full force. Meaning that circling back around to reignite the flame also causes a small explosion. (Thank God I’m leaving this apartment in six months.)

The thought of Hippie Boy moving in with me has me exploring my skills. Being a vegetarian and mostly a raw vegan, I hardly ever use my stove. I might know how to cook ten things. (MIGHT.) Thus far I’ve been relying on raw fruits and vegetables, cereals, yogurt, and other cold foods. I don’t like cooking for only one person. In high school my friends and I would get together and have baked goods parties. One friend would make soup, another might make salad, and the rest of us would sit down with recipe books and a hundred dollars worth of baking supplies and make anything we felt like. We figured that if other kids were doing drugs, getting drunk, and sexting one another, we may as well be doing something productive on their behalf. The point is, I can bake. But I can’t cook.

Actually, I can. My familial genes have blessed me with a sixth sense about how much of what to intuitively throw into a dish to make it taste like magic. I can spend two hours making a pizza from scratch that only takes twenty minutes to bake. When I do cook, I pour myself into it and end up serving half a dozen people. But with only me around, I never do. There’s no point in learning how to do something and spending hours tweaking it just to sit down and eat it by myself.

Hippie Boy and I came up with a solution. Instead of going out to eat, let’s make the meals ourselves. Then we’ll have complete control of our food while also learning something new. Not to mention that it’s one heck of a way to spend time together.

His moving date was changed. Now he won’t be here for another 7 weeks. But I’m actually okay with that. It means that I get an additional two months to expand my skill set, and we can spend those two months relaxing together rather than being wrapped up in this rat race that it’s been for six months. the lawyers have spoken. the advocates are on our side. Now all we have to do is wait. And for once, waiting doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

So have fun, feed well, and learn something new.

And, as always, let’s do this.

I feel like I belong in my own skin for the first time in three months.

I’m caught up with and doing well in school. I’m looking for supplemental employment. I’m meditating and working out every day. I’m losing weight steadily, safely, and effortlessly. I’m regaining my muscles. I’m keeping a clean house. I’m dating someone who accepts me for who I am and is happy to help me become even better. We’ll be moving in together at the end of summer. We’re financially secure. We’re comfortable and confident. I have a diagnosis from my doctor. I have another job lined up for the Fall. I’ve read every book on my book bucket-list. I have no homework this weekend. I have friends who will let me be quiet, and friends who will be quiet with me.

This is contentment. I’m… myself. And I like it.

Everything feels calm. Peaceful. Content.

And yet I’m softly restless.

I don’t put an enormous amount of time or energy into my blog. I’m not interested in using fancy language or making it an especially mind-blowing read. It’s a journal. Journals aren’t meant to be gripping.

People often praise me for my writing and my speaking abilities. I’m told that everything I say sounds planned. Not so that it sounds fake, but so that it sounds perfectly precise. These same people talk about how great my writing is.

I tend to brush these comments off. I don’t believe them. Even if it’s true, I frankly couldn’t care less. And the more I think about it, the less I like having such a powerful grasp of language.

I won a contest this week that I hadn’t even entered. A writing teacher assigned us to write a short piece from someone else’s perspective. Hippie Boy was happy to help. We talked for a couple of hours and then I wrote something fictional from real events which had happened to him. The teacher then turned it in anonymously to our department bulletin. It was published without my knowing about it. I wasn’t at all offended, but people could tell from how it was written that it came from me. I spent the next several days receiving acalades from total strangers. And now I have a meeting on Monday to do an article with our school magazine.

But as I said, I don’t enjoy my capacity of being a good writer or speaker. I feel like that talent was wasted on me. I don’t have anything to write about. And there isn’t anyone to read it.

I wonder how to reconcile being a quiet and introverted person with being a good wordsmith. Having the abilities that I do means that I should use them, right? With great power comes great responsibility (or something like that.)

I want your ideas. How should I turn my writing and speaking abilities into something useful? Do I write short stories and poems? Do I write longer pieces and intend them to be coming-of-age novels or exploratory pieces?

Your advice would be more than appreciated at this point. And maybe I’ll even post an example or two of writing that isn’t so off-the-cuff for anyone who might be interested.

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