We went to lunch with a friend of mine today. She teaches blind people to navigate through their environments, and she instantly knew that I was an anxious wreck by watching how I was moving.

The conversation we had over the next two hours was much-needed. I told her my deepest, darkest fears of inadequacy; she told me that I need to take more walks and make it a priority to use the bus system.

She has good reasons. Just some of the things that I could do by bus are:

-A local Buddhism group
-A mall
-Various shopping centers
-The movies
-Visit my cousin and her son (two of my favorite people in the whole wide world)
-Visit some friends and family
-Buy new records
-Visit other coffee shops
-Sit in a bookstore
-Go to the library

And I’m sure many, many more things.

My friend showed me how out-of-touch I’ve gotten over the past few years. She’s not wrong. I used to be someone who would take the world by storm. Now I’m someone who just sits there, scared of my own shadow.

I’ll get my bus-pass Wednesday at 11. I’ll also start walking more places. Sadly, there’s not much anymore that I enjoy doing. Hopefully this will ignite some interests in me again.

I just heard someone describe social anxiety as, “I constantly feel like I’m eating with the wrong fork.”

I describe it as feeling as my skin’s on too tight, but that doesn’t totally capture the feeling of shame, idiocy, and social retardation which accompanies it. Feeling like I’m eating with the wrong fork is closer. Which got me thinking…

Is there a way to enjoy eating with the wrong fork? Can you embrace the feeling of not knowing what to do, but doing your own thing, anyway? Maybe the gift of social anxiety is whipping out the chopsticks when everyone else is counting the tines.

I’m on the verge of another breakthrough.

I’ve been moving more. Exercising a lot; eating what I need to eat. I’ve felt great. I even managed to climb a 40 foot rock wall– a goal of mine since I was first diagnosed with diabetes. I tried last year. I failed. I was humiliated, which wasn’t helped by my boss using it as an opportunity to publically insult me and question my efficacy as a teacher. This time, though, I did great.

My impending breakthrough isn’t about weight loss or anything like that. It’s not even really about reclaiming my childhood.

It’s about blindness.

I’ve always held myself to a certain standard as a blind person. Every time I stand up to move, my skills are instantly put to the test. Can I walk down my hallway at full speed and turn without clipping my shoulder on the corner? Can I reach out and grab the handle of a door without groping around? Can I remember where my friend parked so that I don’t have to walk behind them as they move toward their car? Can I walk beside someone at all, or am I going to veer 6 inches to the side and tangle my cane in their legs? Am I going to look like an idiot who doesn’t know how to move?

In other words, what completely understandable mistake is going to make me feel like a total failure in the next 30 seconds?

I’m blind. I can’t see a single thing. I have absolutely no idea what a person’s doing across the room, and unless you speak, I have no clue what you’re feeling. I’m dependent upon people for reading print, for driving, for finding new places, for walking in front of me towards their car…

I don’t know what I look like. I don’t know how anyone else looks, either. I don’t know if I look like a little kid, a pudgey hobbit– nothing. I have no idea if the friend who picks me up from work is dressed like a two-bit hooker. I’m always second-guessing myself and never coming up with anything concrete.

Of course I get overwhelmed by vacuuming my house. Every time I do, no matter how well I scanned the floor with my hands, I always manage to suck up a slip of paper or a rubber band. Vacuuming is a constant series of tiny traumas!

I. Am. Blind.

To some degree or another, I’m always going to be dependent upon others for basic things, and some basic things will be more difficult because I can’t see them. It’ll be more expensive for me to get around, it’ll take longer, I’ll have to do it on other people’s schedules, etc. It’s harder for me to go grocery shopping, it takes longer, I don’t know what else is in the store, etc. It’s harder for me to learn a new way of preparing food, I can’t see videos on youtube, most websites are inaccessible, etc.

Life… life really is harder for me, sometimes. It just is. Less convenient, anyway.

Would I trade it? Not for the world! I love being blind. I love the adventure of it. But… do I? I mean, sometimes… sometimes it can feel like too much.

People treat you differently when you’re blind, too. They’re overly helpful, condescending, stand-offish, and they assume you’re an absolute moron. Which is only confirmed the first time you make a mistake. Or worse, the first time you surprise them by *not* making a mistake. I’ve been told more than once, “Oh my God, you can tie your shoes? That’s just amazing!”

I’m different. Blindness has made me different. Alien. “Other.”

I’m blind, gay, short, fat, diabetic, and Buddhist. I’m constantly finding ways in which the world around me is wrong or untrustworthy. I’m never comfortable, and when I am, I feel unworthy and I’m certain that the other shoe is going to drop at any second.

I… feel… unworthy.

I. FEEL. UNWORTHY.

Unworthy!

I Feel unworthy!

I feel ashamed! I feel embarrassed! I feel alone! I feel angry! I feel like I don’t belong!

I feel like I don’t belong.

I don’t know how to ask for help. I see it as a sign of weakness in myself. Asking for help is the same as letting down myself and those who I represent. Needing help, not being perfect, not being a superhero, being weak, being vaulnerable– *PROVING,* beyond a shadow of a doubt that I *should* feel ashamed and I *should* feel like a failure — It hurts.

It really, really hurts.

And I’ve never let myself feel that pain.

And now… now I don’t know how.

The world needs more spoons.

Earlier today I read that having a mental illness can be measured in spoons. Normal people have a limitless number of spoons available to them at their beck and call. Waking up in the morning– there’s a spoon for that. Making 3 meals a day, plus snacks, plus vacuuming, plus doing the dishes, plus going to the bank, plus putting on real clothes, plus being able to talk on the phone or interact with the UPS guy in a way in which you don’t come off as a raging lunatic (that is, being able to interact with the UPS guy at all,) — there’s a spoon for that.

Then there are people like me. People for whom being able to talk to the UPS guy is laughable. People who can’t go to the grocery store, or return emails, or get out of bed, or see family or friends two days in a row, or more than twice a week. My spoons are not limitless. My spoons are finite.

On any given day, it can be assumed that I have somewhere between three and six spoons available to me for whatever it is that I need to do. Sometimes these things are a trade-off. I might be able to respond to emails, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to get out of bed to do it. I can make lunch, but there’s no chance in hell that I’ll be doing dishes. Or maybe I will do lunch and make the dishes, but then please, for the love of God, don’t expect me to take out the trash or go to the bank or keep that dinner date with my father-in-law. It isn’t going to happen.

Normal people have a hundred spoons delivered to them bright and early every morning.

Me? I have six. Tops.

Does having fewer spoons make me less of a person? Does it make me a loser or a moron? I don’t know. I’d like to think not, but some days… some days I’d be standing right alongside my worst critics, shaking my head and tut-tutting at myself in dirision. “What a fuckup? Get your shit together!”

I prefer to think of it like this: I have a finite number of spoons. that’s true. But the fact is, having fewer spoons has forced me to take stock of my life in a way most people can’t. I really do appreciate the little things. Having tea with a friend is a big deal, because I simply can’t be around people more than a small handful of times a month. Laughter is golden, because some days, I don’t have enough spoons to smile, much less laugh. Some days I’m just squeezing the pieces of my head back together in the hopes that I don’t completely fall apart.

I’m going to start collecting literal, physical spoons for the people I meet. I’ll put a small hole in the handle and string it with a cord, then give them away with a reminder of this post. There may come a time when you don’t have enough energy, or love, or compassion, or joy of your own and you need just a little bit more. A spoonful, perhaps. And you’ll have one in reserve for that very occasion.

I might not have a lot, but I have enough. And I’m willing to share.

I’m so anxious I could puke. No discernable reason. I overate. I didn’t exercise. I had too much of a too sweet brownie. (It was disgusting.)

I’m an asshole to my husband. I lash out in anger because I’m not capable of handling my issues. He’s my best friend. He’s my emotional punching bag. I’m worse to him than he deserves. That needs to stop.

I’ve been wanting to be active. It hasn’t felt like exercise. It’s been fun. Enjoyable. Calming. I bounce on an exercise ball. I lift weights. I go on hour-long walks.

Today I sat there. Motionless.

I talked to my husband’s nieces today. My favorite kids. I felt like an outsider. He’s their uncle. I’m not.

I never know what to do. Everyone else read the manual. My manual is blank.

I could write my own.

Things are very good. There’s no reason to be anxious. Anxiety doesn’t need a reason. Anxiety is the uncaused causer. Anxiety is God.

Anxiety is stupid.

Two weeks ago my husband was hit by a car while crossing a street. He had a massive brain bleed, dozens of fractures in the face and skull, broken teeth, a bruised lung, and his right leg was shattered from the knee down. He had emergency brain surgery and was in a coma for 3 days, breathing through a tube.

You’ve heard these cliche, overdone lines all your life.

“It was a morning like any other…”
“Time stood still…”
“My world was ending…”

Let me just say this: There’s no part of you that’s going to roll your eyes when the hospital calls to tell you that your husband’s been in an accident. Your first thought isn’t going to be of how dramatic the social worker or policeman is when they say, “I’m sorry. He might not make it. You need to get here fast.” And when you finally do get there and the chaplin keeps you in the hallway and asks about last rights, but then tells you that because you’re a same-sex couple, you’re going to need to show a certified copy of the marriage lisence before you have the legal right to see him–

You won’t respond well.

I didn’t.

I’ve never known such fear. I’ve never felt such fury. I said things to that woman that I didn’t think I’d ever say to anyone. Another cliche: “I wasn’t in my right mind.”

The hospital staff and I quickly came to an agreement. They’d “let” me in to see him, they’d “let” me make decisions for him, and I’d “let” them not end up in a bed the next room over. I made no bones about it. “My dear, I’m *going* to see my husband. I’m *going* to make decisions for him. And it’s up to you, right now, whether or not we end up in the news later today, and whether or not I go through you in order to get to him within the next 60 seconds.”

He came out of his coma on Saturday morning. He began breathing on his own. He eventually began speaking, and was inconsistently responding to questions. His lungs and stomach were full of blood that he’d swallowed and breathed in. His right leg had been rebuilt with titanium. He was in excrutiating pain.

I’ve been at his bedside 24 hours a day, with momentary exceptions for a quick shower and shave. Our friends and family have been astoundingly supportive. People have come from all over the country to sit with us. Sangha has been there every step of the way. His doctors and therapists have been top-notch. We’ve been extremely lucky.

Yes. Lucky. Lucky because nobody thought he’d make it through a day, much less a week. If and when he did wake up, he wasn’t expected to breathe or eat on his own anytime soon. Maybe ever. People were talking about spending a month in the ICU, 3 months in in-patient rehab, and years in out-patient. The plan was to have a round-the-clock nurse and for him to be in a wheelchair for the foreseeable future.

He was breathing for himself and speaking in full sentences on day 3. He was standing and pivoting between his bed and an armchair with a walker on day 4. He was taking 2 steps on day 5. On day 7 he was transferred to in-patient rehab. On day 10 he passed every cognition and memory test they could throw at him. By day 14 he was eating full meals, completely off of the feeding tube, walking 300 feet with his walker, administering his own medicines, dressing and showering himself, brushing his own teeth, and approved for unlimited amounts of unthickened water and tea. On day 15– he’s home.

To all those doctors and nurses and therapists and family and friends and Sangha who have made this possible for him, thank you. You saved his life. You gave me back my best friend.

To the few, but the loud, who said I couldn’t see him, or said he wouldn’t make it–

Go fuck yourself.

He’s got this. And if God forbid you ever find yourself hit by a distracted driver, you best be comin’ to his ass for advice. Clearly he knows a thing or two about surviving. I’m married to the god-damned Wolverine.

I woke up at 3am on Sunday bawling my eyes out. This time the revelation was that no matter how much I’d like to hide it, I suffered some pretty ruthless abuce and neglect as a child. I don’t use the word ‘suffered’ lightly. I won’t go into everything here, but suffice it to say that although it could’ve been worse, it was definitely bad enough.

I’d never admitted that to myself before Sunday. Not really. I think of it from time to time, but I’ve never let myself feel anything about it one way or the other. I might’ve even gone so far as to tell you that I *couldn’t* feel anything about it one way or the other. I’d notice it, I shove it down, I move on with my day.

Until Sunday, that is.

One of my unofficial foster fathers was recently released from prison. My biological mother gave him my phone number (without my permission,) and he supposedly left me a voicemail shortly after his release that I truthfully never received. My mother occasionally drops hints like, “You know, he’d really like to talk to you,” or, “Would you like me to give him your number again?”

I’ve always left the room while this guy was around and offered not-so-polite disinterest if I was forced to speak to him. He’s kind of a family friend, so he’s been around even after my biological parents learned of some of the terrible things he did to me. Grandfathered in, if you will.

What’s crazy is that he was so much a part of my landscape that I never realized how messed up it was. Moving back in with my biological parents a few years later also meant having this guy and his beyond disfunctional family lurking on the far edges of my social sphere. The fact that while living with them, he and his wife would lock me in rooms for days on end with little to no food or water… or that I was punished for not feeling well enough to eat dinner by not being allowed to eat anything at all until I’d eaten the food on that night’s plate, even if that meant having to force it down once it was already going bad several days later… Or that the guy thought it was absolutely hilarious to hold me down and force my face into a toilet bowl he’d just used and hadn’t flushed… Or having to go to second grade wearing nothing– nothing– but tennis shoes and denim overall’s because the rest of my clothes were dirty… Or the constant screaming, yelling, fighting, throwing, shattering, hitting, threatening, dehumanizing of my homelife… Or that I was forced every day to lie and pretend that none of this was happening, terrified to go home, intentionally missing my bus stop so that I could have another hour and a half of relative safety in my incredibly unsafe world.

Those are apparently things that as a parent, you can overlook after a while, after the protective anger fades. You can find distance. Rationalize things. Ignore them. Even as a parent, time heals all wounds.

Or, well, makes them easier to avoid.

So, no. No, no I don’t want this man to have my phone number. I don’t want him to know where I live. I don’t want to ever see him again. I don’t want to be in the same room as him. I don’t want to talk about him, think about him, or hear someone talking about him. I don’t want to keep pretending that he didn’t do these things to me, or, for what his wife did when he wasn’t around, what he let be done to me. I don’t want to deal with the fact that my parents didn’t just leave me in this situation once, but several times with their “friends” or make-believe family. I want to put my head back in the sand and go into my blissful, numb ignorance. I don’t want to have been hurt. I don’t want to be looking at the reasons for why I am now. I want to… I don’t know what I want, but it sure isn’t that.

The point is, I never felt safe growing up. This was only one of many environments and relationships which was profoundly unhealthy. My childhood was marked by pain and distress, and my adolescence and adulthood have been more of the same. The place where my happy childhood should be is a bubbling cauldron of hate and rage; self-disgust and sheer terror. I was always afraid. Afraid of the emotional and verbal abuce, afraid of not fitting in, afraid of being bad, afraid of being too good, afraid of not liking the right things, afraid of having the wrong values.

I don’t blame my parents a whole heck of a lot for what happened to me. I’m bothered that they didn’t know better, but then, who knows better? What’s to be known? It’s not like I told them. Now that I think of it, we’ve still never once had a conversation about what really happened during that time. Those are the Lost Years. Frankly, I never plan to bring them up. My parents know a little. That’s enough. Those stories can live and die between me and the people in question. But I am learning.

I’m learning that self-care really does need to be top priority. Just because people didn’t take proper care of me when I was little doesn’t mean that I can’t learn to take proper care of myself as an adult. But more importantly, this was a huge wake-up call that as stupid as it sounds, there really is a vulnerable, wounded, furious little boy inside of me who’s in need of some serious re-parenting. He needs to be shown that someone cares. He needs to be taught how to live. And I’m in the uniquely fortunate position of getting to do just that.

I don’t know how to go about this. I can try talking to myself. I can write myself a letter. I can gently, but firmly correct him when he lashes out in depressive, anxious, rageful confusion, or when he refuses to get out of bed. I can help him with his homework. I can give him routine, structure, and an open-door policy. We can learn to play. We can learn to explore the neighborhood and find physical activity outside.

We can learn to live. But… how?

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