Writing Into an Identity

Flowergirlink

Susan’s story is an inspiration. When I discovered her blog, I was immediately struck by her poetry that is beautiful and moving. While I never considered myself a huge poetry fan, I’ve long admired poets because they paint pictures and elicit emotions with an economy of words that is impressive. I was also intrigued, amazed actually, by the presumption that she was totally blind, and could craft such wonderful art. I soon learned that Susan in not completely sightless, but that that doesn’t make what she does any less impressive. I admire her perseverance and tenacity.

If you enjoy poetry, please visit https://floweringink.wordpress.com 

And if you don’t, visit the site anyway. If you’re like me you will be instantly converted.

Thank you Susan.

I discovered Steve’s blog through another blogger, and when I began to read Steve’s posts, I felt through his words a succinct determination, gentle honesty and a real desire to help others.  I find all of this incredibly admirable, and as I read more, I found his humor and strength and an atmosphere of camaraderie.  It was an incredible honor to me when he started to read my blog and then invited me to write a guest post for his.

I can’t deny I am a bit nervous to be a guest here, but more than that I am excited to have been asked.

I am a poet and a writer.  I am married to an Irishman, and we have 2 pugs and 2 cats.  We live in Hollywood, surrounded by an array of interesting characters that often appear in my poems and stories.  I also have a degenerative retinal disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa.  I am going blind.

I grappled with what to write about for this post.  RP seemed an obvious thing, but it doesn’t stand alone.  It isn’t something I hold at arms-length and look at objectively.  It doesn’t define me, but it is part of me. It has become a constant pattern in the fabric of my life, one I didn’t choose and never would have chosen, but one that is indelibly tattooed on my existence.

On the day of my diagnosis, my life changed. RP crept beneath my skin. I couldn’t deny it or shrug it off; it was here to stay and I had a choice to either let it destroy me, or to accept the reality of it and figure out how blindness was going to mesh with my life. It was to be a long and harrowing path littered with obstacles, both literal and figurative.  I felt like my identity had been shattered and I was tasked with finding the pieces and creating something new from them.  I began the journey of learning to become a blind person. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time.

The first 7 years after my diagnosis, I continued to work as a Human Resources Manager, struggling to cope with my disease, while keeping it a secret.  During those 7 years, I came home almost every day, exhausted from over use of my eyes and unable to do anything but lie on the couch, in the dark, because I was in so much pain.  At the time of my diagnosis, I had 50 degrees of peripheral vision (This diagram is a good example of the human visual field), at the end of those 7 years, I had 25 degrees; I had lost half of my remaining vision.  I decided to stop working.

At the time of my retirement (as my husband calls it), I had the grandiose idea that I was going to write full time.  From a very early age, I had a dream of being a writer.  I had always felt like a writer, even declared myself a writer, but the writing itself was inconsistent, at best. I had a few poems published in my early 20’s, but life pulled me under its wheels and my writing voice turned into a whisper. I was a writer who didn’t write. That would remain the case for some years.

When I stopped working, it became clear that I hadn’t really dealt with my RP.  I hadn’t allowed myself the time, and suddenly, I had nothing but time.  I decided I was going to write a book, that writing would be the best way to figure out how to piece together the identity of a visually impaired woman.  Day after day, I sat down at the computer and nothing happened.  I couldn’t feel my voice.  I had no idea who I was.   It was as if everything I had been before RP had gotten demolished by the looming presence of a disease I couldn’t face.

In an attempt to get motivated about the book, I started my blog.  My posts were few and very far between.  I wasn’t looking at myself from a writer’s perspective, I was looking at myself from a blind perspective. I was no longer a writer, I was a blind woman trying to write because I felt I had no purpose; I became weighed down by feeling empty and lost myself in the process. I felt like a failure and a fraud. Then, an old friend of mine made a suggestion that changed my life.  She told me to step away from the blog and go back to what first made me fall in love with writing.  I followed her advice and fell back into the arms of poetry.

I felt my voice return and my passion for language resurface.  I remembered why I had always dreamed of a writing life, why I had fallen in love with words.  I felt my pulse flow onto the page.  I was able to write about RP, to face the reality of it with what felt like a brutally beautiful honesty. I wrote about blindness.  I wrote about my family and my neighborhood and the world around me.  In the return to writing poetry, I rediscovered my passion and it made me feel braver.  I returned to the blog and started posting regularly. I found a writing community that is generous and inspiring. I started sending my poems to journals and magazines and I started getting published again.  It was a true awakening.

It turned out the journey wasn’t one of becoming a blind person, it was one of becoming myself, but I can’t deny that RP played a significant role in leading me back to writing and helping me write into an identity that had been lost.  RP isn’t something that I have and it isn’t something that has me.  Like being a writer, it is simply a part of who I am.

Author: floweringink

I am a writer, going blind in Los Angeles. This blog is my story of a slow approach to darkness as I traverse through the rubble of urban life. It is what I see in the withering spaces of my remaining vision. It is humor and despair and darkness and light. It is what I witness as the world slowly disappears.

10 thoughts on “Writing Into an Identity”

  1. A deeply personal and moving post, Susan. There is no greater gift than finding your way back to what sets your soul on fire, after being lost. You are a warrior and I admire your determination and relentless pursuit to become the best version of yourself. You are a hell of a writer and human being! Proud of you! xo

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I think I speak for us all when I say we owe a debt to your old friend. Whoever you are, thank you for getting Susan back into poetry! And thank you, Susan, for persevering through not only the sting of writer’s block, but all that you’ve had to endure to become a part of our lives. We are all richer for it, and this community we have formed would be empty without you.

    Keep inspiring, lady … and I’m looking forward to that book! ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tom, You Wonderful Man! I am forever grateful, to the stars and back, for your support and your kindness. You are a constant inspiration to me and to be in your writing company is really an honor. Being a part of this community has been life changing for me!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. After reading your post describing your walk outside, I can tell you my dear YOU ARE A WRITER. (I’m sorry, I can’t find it now to reference) but When I was walking in Boston a couple weeks ago, for the first time in my life I actually heard the beeping sound on the “when it’s ok to walk light.” I tried to walk the next block using my other senses, and was overwhelmed…your writing and your story really stuck with me

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Grace, people have said wonderful and supportive things about my writing before, but this is, without question, the most amazing thing anyone has ever said. I read this first last night and started crying and told my husband about it. What you said here, this is why I write. If something I write stays with someone, no matter what it is, then my writing means something. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you told me this and that you experienced what you did in Boston (cool that it was in Boston too – my old stomping grounds). I have been feeling a lot of uncertainty lately about my writing, gotten a lot of rejections; but, rejections don’t matter, you are what matters. I am so grateful and so uplifted. Thank you Grace!!!!!!

      Like

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