Archive | September, 2011

Sometimes I Sits and Thinks and Sometimes I Just Sits

29 Sep

by Jeff Flodin

I subscribe to the notion that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% what I do about it.When what happens to me is bad, I can think like a victim, feel like a victim and act like a victim.  A victim has  no choices. A victim isstuck on the pity pot.

Learning that I have choices, and acting on these choices, brings the power I need to change.I can choose to engage rather than isolate, become active  rather than passive, and show self-respect instead of self-pity.  Change can liberate me from the trappings of victimhood, of thinking that my reality is everything that happens to me rather than what I create and nurture from my spirit.

Here’s what happened to me in March, 1986.I was thirty-five years old.  I was one month shy of being married.  I was diagnosed with RP.  I was told I will go blind.  For the what I did about it part, I went into shock.  I thought the world was ending.  Whatever I felt about blindness, I wanted to feel something different.  The only thing
I wanted to change was my eyesight, my diagnosis and my prognosis.

RP has no treatment and no cure.  So, for years I waged war on vision loss.  My arsenal included denial, anger, resistance, isolation and alcohol.  With these weapons, I was ill-equipped for the 90% part of this process.  I don’t
know what changed the course of my war.  Maybe it was giving up the fight.
Surrender can be a dirty word in wartime, but I really had to get honest that I was fighting something I could not control.  Surrender came in the guise of acceptance.  Surrender means joining the winning side.

Acceptance was neither in my vocabulary nor in my emotional repertoire.  But I found that until I accepted my vision loss, I could not be happy.  I don’t have to like being blind.  I can even say, on rare occasion, that I hate my blindness and not have that mean that I hate myself because I am blind.  Saying I hate my blindness is a wake-up call that the amount of control I seek to employ is beyond my ability to control.

Acceptance is a word that gets thrown around a lot when thereis loss.  Early on, I misinterpreted acceptance as being a place one achieves and, once there,  where one dwellsin a state of grace forever.  I find that acceptance is more
transitory, more situational.  When I get down, I assume I’m not doing such a hot job accepting blindness.  If I were, I wouldn’t get down, right?  Here’s the trick.  Gradually, I’m learning  to accept that now and then I will not accept my blindness automatically.  Blindness will win a battle here and there. Occasionally, playing the hand I’m dealt means playing a lesser hand.

I am learning that neither blindness nor acceptance is absolute.Even as I hate blindness, I seek to react creatively and constructively.  I try to look at vision loss as an opportunity to learn, to become a more patient and tolerant person.  Life is often a question of balance, of recognizing that good and bad exist in my mind, where I have the option  to choose what I wish to plant and to nurture.

Jeff Flodin is a writer.  He has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa for 30 years.   Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog.  Read more of Jeff’s essays at Jalapenos in the Oatmeal.

The Can Can Sale

27 Sep

by Nancy Scott

Without Braille’s tact,
I can’t tell corn from carrots
from peas from peaches if they’re canned.
Fruit might be in big, fat
cans, but it’s just unidentified fruit.
I would know mushrooms, stems and pieces,
but not if I also bought mandarin oranges.
Soups all look the same–
the smaller cans needing
water, or is it milk?

 

Once or twice a year,
we go to the Can-Can
sale. You can
read the flyer, I can
make the list. You can
read signs and labels, I can
help push the filling carts, you can
bag and organize, I can pay.

 

You can lift and stack, I can too
but slowly, you can
put more than 100 cans
in their right rows, I can
put magnetic Braille labels
in front of those rows.
You can see
if we’ve missed anything.
I can now tell corn from carrots
from peas from peaches.
I can. 
 
Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is an essayist and poet.  Her over-500 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries.  Her third chapbook, co-authored  with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.”

Special Quotation This Week

26 Sep

“Ask not what a blind man sees, ask what a sighted man does not see.” Darragh the Poet

Darragh the Poet has contributed to this blog from early on and his poem “The Lesson” (see August archives) will published in the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders, a website for writers with disabilities.  Congradulations, Darragh!

Creative Person of the Week

24 Sep

Dr. Taha Hussein (November 14, 1889—October 28, 1973) (nicknamed  “Dean of Arabic Literature”)was one of the most influential 20th century Egyptian writers and intellectuals.

Taha was born in the village of Izbet el Kilo in in central upper Egypt. He was educated in religion and Arabic literature. Hussein was the seventh  of thirteen children, living in a lower-middle class family. He became blind at the age of three due to a faulty treatment by an unskilled practitioner and was dealt with a great deal of anguish throughout his entire life.

Hussein met and married Suzanne Bresseau while attending the University of Montpellier in France. She was referred to as “sweet voice”. This name came from her ability to read to him as he was trying to improve his grasp of the French language. Suzanne became his wife, best friend, mother of his two children and mentor throughout his life.

When the secular Cairo University was founded in 1908, he was keen to enter, and despite being blind and poor he earned a place. In 1914, he became the first graduate to receive a Ph.D. with a thesis on the skeptic poet and philosopher Abu-Alala’ Al-Ma’ari. He went on to become a professor of Arabic literature there. In 1919, he was appointed a professor of history at the Cairo University. Additionally, he was founding Rector of the University of Alexandria. He wrote many novels and essays, though in the West he is best
known for his autobiography, which was published in English as An Egyptian
Childhood
(1932) and The Stream of Days (1943).

(Excerpt taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taha_Hussein#Biography)

Braille in Public Places

22 Sep

by Paul Hostovsky

Touch me, I know you want to.
What would you say if I told you
I’ve never been touched in my life
by anyone who understood me?
And even if they were having
their convention here in this building,
squeezing into this elevator,
looking around for this restroom,
bumping gently up against each other like
a queue of balloons at this
ATM—do you think they would
see me, or even think to look?
I hate my life. I should have been
a poem by Li Po with a pond
and a frog, a soft rain and a pebble
the size of a braille dot thrown in.
At least I’d have something to do
with myself for eternity. I have
nothing to do with anyone. I am
someone holding up a sign
in an airport terminal, waiting
for a look of recognition to come
from among the arrivals who never
arrive. And it never comes. What
would it look like, that look? Would I
even recognize it? Is it round like
a smile? Is it pointed like a greeting
or a touch? Would I mistake it for
love? All of my life I have waited
to be touched by someone who could
touch me like that. I have given myself
goose bumps, look, just imagining it.

 

Paul Hostovsky is a sighted Braille instructor in Boston. He is also the  author of three books of poetry, Bending the Notes (2008), Dear Truth (2009), and A Little in Love a Lot (2011). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. To read more of his work, visit his website at www.paulhostovsky.com .

Blueberries

20 Sep

by Sarah Martin

A story

Tell a story

Feel the words

The fumbling

Know the sunshine

Wear it like the dress

With the pink button

Folded into the yellow

And orange pleats

Is the child

Who danced

And glided in the air

Holding out little hands

She still cups her hands

Towards the sky

Given away dreams

As the stars fall

From the neatly draped

Night

Burning the child in the soul

The rich earth

Her heart remains nestled

Beside the longing spirit

Her love endless

Even when the darkness falls

She will remain

Sarah Martin is 32 years old and lives in Melbourne Australia.  She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 16.  Since that time, she has been on a journey of light and dark.  The one thing that has become clear over the
past few years is Sarah’s passion and joy in poetry and exploring her world
through words.

Quotation of the Week

19 Sep

The closer you look, the less you see.

(David Copperfield during an interview on The Colbert Report, Sept., 2011.)