(Prepare yourself: This is pretty pathetic.)

Yesterday I woke up early, did several important projects back-to-back, and then literally lay in bed in a depressive funk for 10 hours being miserable and overwhelmed with how much I still had left to do.

Here’s the thing about depression (at least for me,) it doesn’t feel like sadness. It doesn’t feel like fear. Sadness or discomfort feel like an absolute, brain-numbing lack of energy. You can’t move, you can’t think, you can’t do anything but replay the same thoughts of utter fatigue, and you can’t shake the feeling like something’s not quite right, but you can’t place what it is.

Then, after ten hours of lying in bed staring at where my ceiling would be if I had eyeballs, it occurred to me: The solution to lying in bed is just, you know, to get out of bed.

I might still be miserable, but at least I wouldn’t be in bed anymore.

Low and behold, getting out of bed, opening a window, and changing my clothes was all it took to start feeling alive again.

Depression isn’t as easy as just thinking happy thoughts. It really isn’t. But maybe it’s only as hard as changing your relationship to your world. Who knows?

I ended up being happy, being productive, finishing every project for the semester three weeks before finals, acing an EXTREMELY difficult exam, and sleeping for a solid eight hours before doing even better today.

But that doesn’t take away from how hard it was to get there. Because for those ten hours, I felt like nothing. I felt like I was out of place in my own skin and that I didn’t have the energy to move, but there were so many things I needed to do, and why couldn’t I just do them, and I was so tired, but I couldn’t sleep, but I was so tired, and there were so many things I had to do, and why couldn’t I just do them?

I decided to stop taking my medicine close to a month ago. My psychiatrist was the one who suggested it. It’s hard sometimes, but so far, it’s worth it. And I’m learning.

Stressed out of my mind. That’s all for now. Just felt like saying it to someone…

Yesterday I was toying with an idea which was cemented by this morning’s book-find. I picked up a book called “Letting Go of the Person You Used To Be,” by Lama Surya Das, a Tibetan Buddhist. Although I practice Soto-Zen Buddhism, not Tibetan Buddhism, they’re essentially just different fingers on the same hand. I was intrigued by the title seeming such a serendipitous and necessary fit for my life at the moment. I wasn’t disappointed.

The section I’m on now uses an exercise of imagining for a moment that you give up something that you typically think of as vital to your function in this world. Give up your house, your money, your spouse, your children, your friends, your personality—wait, your what?

Your personality?

This one gave me pause. Imagine for a minute that you did away with your personality. Pretend that you sat down, decided who you were, and then you just tossed it into the trash. How would you survive?

Yesterday I toyed with the idea of giving up swearing. Actually, I toyed with the idea of finding something new to give up each and every month for a year. But starting with swearing seemed like a good choice. After all, if I’m so scared of it happening, I might as well explore that fear a little more. Then “Letting Go of the Person You Used To Be” finalized my decision. As of today, no more swearing.

I imagine a world in which my language is simple, respectful, and mindful. I anticipate enjoying the learning curve of finding humor without using curse-words as my road map. I’m curious to explore this uncharted territory. And rather than being scared of the unknown, I finally feel like I have a plan. Or that I no longer need one.

But I didn’t decide to give something up every month. Instead, I’ve decided to replace an unhealthy habit for a healthier one. Removing swear-words from my repertoire avails me of more brain-space for practicing my braille. Or at least that’s what I’ll tell myself.

One more piece of my old self down the drain. Frightening, but exilerating. I wonder what’s next? Stay tuned!

I have no idea who I am anymore.

I’ve spent 22 years being a know-it-all, arrogant, power-hungry, problem-solving, only-happy-when-I’m-miserable, dark-clothes-and-a-scowl kind of person. Now… now I don’t know what the hell is going on with me.

I’m happy. I’m content. I’m a loving, caring, compassionate, awareness-applying Buddhist. I’m breaking away from dark colors. I’m even starting to smile! But worst of all, I’m losing the urge to swear, make crude jokes, and complain.

I have no idea who I am anymore.

I’m losing every ounce of myself that I ever found comfortable. I don’t gossip, I don’t overeat—And I’ve become the kind of person who not only enjoys exercise, but who feels worse without it.

I’m afraid. Very afraid. The only parts of myself I have left are my swearing and my crude humor, and I… I don’t know who I’d be without them. The people who’ve come into my life in the last two years would never know the difference. But Reven? Diana? My parents? I’m honestly afraid that they wouldn’t even talk to me anymore. I love them all so much, (Well, except my parents,) and I’m petrified to imagine a world without them. If I don’t make fun of Reven for being gay (which he’s not) will he even know how to be in the same room as me? Last weekend I almost broke down in tears because I was watching myself be awful to him and I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t know how to not push his buttons just because it was habit. I wanted to hug him, to hold him, to let him be anxious and to make everything all right, and instead I mocked him, made him laugh, and tried to make light of his discomfort.

I have two parts of myself left, and if I’m being honest, I know they’re not long for this world. The old me is dying. And I can’t keep pretending it isn’t.

I’m scared. I’m so indescribably scared. And there’s no one to help me.

Being lonely sucks.

Our wedding was Sunday afternoon. It was perfect. Just. Perfect. I don’t have words, so I won’t even try.

The sad part was that once it was all over, once we were set to go to the mystery B&B arranged for us as a wedding present by our friends, we were stuck in a deep, scary rut. One of fear and isolation. Because the sheer joy of being married was being weighed down by the absolute sorrow of going back to the city in which we live.

We know nobody here. We have no friends, no activities, and just daily life for a blind person in my city consumes everything. Getting to and from the grocery store that’s a mile away from our house takes 3 hours in the winter. Getting to and from the music shop three miles from our house takes 5 hours—and that’s in the summer! You can’t walk anywhere, taxis are $8 a mile, paratransit has to be scheduled a week in advance (and that’s if they have times available,) and you can’t get anywhere in less than an hour and a half by bus, then you still have to find the place you’re trying to find.

It’s horrible.

Revelation #4,667: Of course I’m anxious and depressed—my life is stressful and boring!

Let me be clear. My life is amazing. It’s quite possibly the best life I have ever or will ever have. But damn, it’s boring. A few times a year I go on these wild adventures all over God knows where. I’ve been on television, I’ve been in documentaries, I’ve worked with the largest film crews in the world, I’ve climbed mountains and trees and boulders and I’ve held a kid’s hand as he slid backward down a cliff but we slid together because DAMN IT, NOBODY DIES ALONE! And the good news was that nobody died, but the even better news is that we fell together. Not alone. Together.

Unlike so much of the rest of my life.

See, outside of those adventures taken a few times a year, my life is very much cleaning the house, going to grad school, and until Sunday, planning a wedding. We don’t own a television. We don’t listen to the radio. We don’t have Netflix. We don’t have friends in the area. We don’t go places or do things. And even just meeting our bare-bones obligations take up all of our time. It’s stressful, lonely, and boring.

Of course I’m anxious and depressed!

None of this is to say that life with Boy Romeo is unfulfilling. It’s very fulfilling. But something definitely needs to change.

How do I do this thing? How do I insert more fun and friendship into our world?

I think I’m going to write a list of things that make me anxious/depressed and start eliminating them from our space, then starting a wishlist of things that make me happy.

I’m DONE with this whole anxiety/depression thing. I’m all about feeling your emotions. I’m also all about changing things that bum you out. There’s no need to force yourself to experience unnecessary hardship.

This is me doing my own impossible. Let’s do this.

In trying desperately to destract myself from preparing for my wedding speech, I’ve decided to delve once again into the big scary world of braille literacy.

Sighted people tend to assume that every blind person knows braille. After all, Matt Murdock learned it within like, what, 3 months of going blind? It stands to reason that anyone could do that.

Except… no. Unfortunately, braille is something of a dying art among blind people in America. It’s estimated that approximately 90% of totally blind adults are illiterate. That number is staggering. Imagine for a minute that 90% of sighted adults were illiterate. The world would fall apart! But because blind people face the double-edged sowrd of low-expectations, nobody questions it when blind people use talking computers and audio-books instead of braille. It’s just considered part of a blind person’s life. And on a certain level, who cares? If your choice is to use speech rather than braille– that’s your choice, right?

But what if it’s not a choice? WHat if 95% of braille teachers were sighted, and what if they had only taken braille for, say, 3 hours a week for 14 weeks in college? What if the primary teachers of braille really weren’t fluent in it, and so of course they found it difficult to learn, teach, and to use? What if, just maybe, the death of braille literacy wasn’t in braille, itself, but in the instruction going into braille education?

Not to say that technology doesn’t have its uses. God knows, a talking computer has gotten me through the past ten years just fine. Apart from those times when my talking computer crashed… then I was screwed. Or when I wanted to read something quietly, or when I wanted to read something privately, or when I wanted to read something on a bus, or in a car, or without waiting for my laptop to boot up, or… you get the picture.

Yesterday I sat and listened to a very nice, very qualified professor tell a classroom full of future braille teachers that, “Sorry, people, but the reality is that a fluent braille reader will never read above a hundred words a minute. A print reader will read at about 250 words a minute. A speech user will read at about 300 words a minute. Braille really is an outdated medium for most people.”

I went up to the professor after class and asked her where she got her numbers. She admitted that she got them from a previous professor in the department, and she has no idea where he got them, but she thinks he was just making his best guess.

I explained that according to the numbers I’ve read– you know, in actual research– the numbers are simultaneously more encouraging and painfully discouraging to prospective braille readers than the ones she sited.

On one hand, the maximal braille reading speed for most people seems to be about 300WPM. On the other hand, the average braille reading speed seems to be about 104WPM. Compare that to the average print reading speed of 250WPM and an average electronic speech reading speed of an astounding 800 – 1,000WPM.

Good news: You can definitely reach braille reading speeds of 300WPM.

Bad news: For some reason most people don’t, and either way, using electronic speech is still a hell of a lot faster.

I walked out of there with a new resolve. I decided that I refuse to continue being a statistic. I went blind ten years ago next week, and I still read braille at an all-time-high of 25 – 40 WPM depending upon my familiarity with the material. I hate that about myself. I’ve always wanted a better, faster braille speed, but I’ve always found a reason to abandon my practice after a few days. (Mainly that it takes me 8 hours to read 30 pages.)

That’s crap. I refuse to continue spinning my wheels without traction. I refuse to let that professor be right. I *WILL* improve my braille reading speed. Come hell or high water, I *WILL* do my own impossible.

My commitment to myself is to use braille whenever possible for the duration of my graduate degree. I can use a computer with a braille screen to do my schoolwork. I can read braille books rather than have them read to me. I can type in braille on my iPhone rather than use dictate. (Yes, that’s a thing. Thank you, Apple.)

Even right now, I’m using my braille computer to write this blog post rather than my laptop.

I see it like this: The people who are telling me I’ll never be fluent in Spanish are themselves not fluent in Spanish. They’re beginners at best. But the native speakers out there couldn’t disagree more. So who would you believe?

Lots of people are lots of things. Very few people are very simply “kind.”

Apporia wrote that she couldn’t pull bad words out of her ass for Boy Romeo if she tried. I was giving that some thought. I’ve spent 7 years obsessing over this dude, and the absolute worst thing I could think to say about him is that he’s afraid of taking initiative.

Holy shit. A person who’s afraid of taking initiative? Golly god-damned-gee. If that’s the worst thing you can think to say about a person, that’s pretty incredible.

This is the kind of person who goes out of his way to be kind. Generous. Thoughtful. Polite. He’s quiet so that others can fill the room with their loud. He offers laughter because others offer anger. He’s unapologetically whimsical, but respectfully apologetic. He’s the least egoistic person I’ve ever met. He’s adaptable, adventurous, and he loves nothing more than being with people who are being themselves—no matter what that means to them.

He’s completely at home as an artist, a librarian, a cook, a traveler, a zookeeper, an arborist, a teacher, a student, a meditator, a thinker, a watcher, and a do-er. He shares anything he has, but he never takes more than his share. His favorite thing in the whole wide world is listening to children tell him the most mundane parts of their day, because to him, that’s where the magic is. When people don’t have stories, he helps them make them up. “Today I was abducted by aliens and taken to a land where people ride dragons through the sky and volcanos are sleepy giants with heartburn. But good thing those giants had a big meal, because how sad would it would be if they had to go to bed hungry?”

This boy overflows with love. A perfect, smiling love. He has enough room in his heart for everything that will ever exist. His dreams make light pour from the sky, and I can’t believe that mine are the dreams he’s decided should come true.

Maybe we won’t stay together for the rest of our lives. I have no idea. But what I do know is this: Today—today—I’m lucky enough to know the nicest, gentlest, kindest man in the world. Someone who doesn’t steal, lie, demand, or judge. Somebody who truly believes that all people are perfect, and that everyone has it in them to be happy. Someone who’s willing to put his everything into giving somebody something.

I love this man. I love that he loves the world. I love that he loves, period. And I hope to one day pass on even 1% of that unconditional warmth. What an honor that would be? What a gift?

Boy Romeo read my last blog post the day after I wrote it. That night, he called his father. And he called again, and again, and again, and finally texted him with, “Please call me ASAP. I need your help. It’s important. It’s an emergency.”

His father called. Boy Romeo started with, “I’ve gone six weeks without hearing your voice. I need to know how you are.”

Half an hour later they were laughing. They were nervous— (Who wouldn’t be?) – But they were laughing. And what’s more, they were talking. For the first time in years, possibly forever, they were talking.

A few days later we all went out for lunch. It was perfect. The tention in the room was nothing compared to the love, kindness, and joy emanating from those two like ticklish electricity. I saw a man coming to terms with his son, I saw a son finally having the father he’d been needing. And they’ve been talking every day since.

Boy Romeo sees the world in a way I might never be able to. But I’ll never quite be able to articulate how wonderful it is to watch him do his thing. You’d have to be there. And thank God I am.


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