This is a story about how strange being disabled really is. It’s not inspirational. I swear it isn’t gloomy either. Being blind has taught me that the world is just what it is and not what I think about it. I have no idea if you’ll understand me. I get things wrong. I think those sighted people in the airport lounge are staring at me. I imagine they’re thinking how lucky they are to not be blind. But I have it wrong. They’re grieving the loss of their dog and now they come over and ask if they can pet my guide dog, a yellow Labrador named Caitlyn. They know this isn’t ordinarily permitted. Their dog has died. And I understand that I had their story all wrong, that I was foregrounding my own sensitivities. The world is just what it is.
As I get older I find this is the hardest lesson I’ve learned. Hard because I’ve learned this badly, often after great pain or having made serious mistakes. I have misunderstood people. Have imputed bad motives to others when they didn’t have them. I’ve worn my sense of alienation on my sleeve. And so this is the trick: avoiding the brittle insertions of ego and fantasy; the self absorption of it; keeping clear; forgiving myself and others when I have the chance.
If you’re disabled you know there’s a lot of ableism and discrimination. You learn to stick up for yourself and others. You lick your wounds. You’ll face problems in the future. You know you’ve got to be prepared for them. And yet, and yet I don’t want to be broken in spirit. I don’t want this.
It’s raining today. A cold rain. I can hear it on the roof. The world is just what it is. My story doesn’t change this. I’m learning to take comfort in this.