As I tried to dodge the dancing, moving shadows all around me, the people, light poles, and cars out on the road; my heart would pound, my thoughts would race, and my senses would be heightened; until I got where I was going, a heavy load. When I got there I would start to write, a poem or a song, to look at something else, and beauty make, and then my body, mind, and feelings would grow calm, and I felt strong, as this creating would my stress and worries take.
Seeing Through The Shadows
During my high school and early college years, when I still had enough vision to be dangerous, I struggled through the days, just wanting to be normal, and accepted. Determined to reach my goals and dreams, getting through school, establishing a solid career, and creating a loving family; I forced myself to face my fears each day. As I walked along, I mostly saw dynamic shadows, always moving, and splashes of blinding light piercing through the darkness. I saw very little else. I would try to grab tiny pieces of information out of those milliseconds of transition occurring between the light and shadows, information to help me navigate along the sidewalks, across the streets, or down the quad and into whichever building my next class was in. I would try to do this in a way that I thought seemed normal, not wanting to draw attention to myself. But I must have looked pretty tense, because I was always bracing myself for the possibility of running into something, which I sometimes did. And I always felt alone.
Once, during the second of my fourteen years of college, my neighbor Bill and I rode his Kawasaki Ninja 1000 to a Friday happy hour, one with an all-you-can-eat pizza bar and pitchers of icy cold Guiness Extra Stout. I ran into some old acquaintances from high school there, and they joined us. I was sharing with them about my struggles, how I had never felt like I fit in anywhere, and how I always felt alone. They both started laughing uncontrollably. After gulping down a little composure, I asked them why they were laughing at me like that. Terry said, “You were the only one we knew who fit in with every crowd! You hung out with the jocks, the geeks, the stoners, the freaks, the musicians, and even the teachers! And they all liked you. All the girls liked you too. You were an athlete, played in a band, were always giving things to people without expecting anything back, and seemed to have something the rest of us didn’t.” Silence crushed the echoes, and I was speechless for what seemed like hours. After a few coughs, intended to disguise my gasps for breath, and another gulp of composure, I managed a response. It was short and to the point, “Really???”
I suddenly began realizing how much of what I believed was based on my perceptions of situations, rather than the situations themselves. This little experience made a big difference in my life. It was truly a “happy hour.” Knowing that Terry would never have said these things if they were not true, being the competitive guy he is, I believed him, and began changing the way I saw myself. I began accepting myself, and realizing that others accepted me already. The more I accepted myself, the more I realized that others already had. I did not, however, feel any less alone. Although I no longer felt generally rejected by others, I was aware of how different I was from everyone else I had met in life so far. Perhaps this uniqueness was what Terry meant when he said I seemed to have something the rest of them didn’t. And the stress of dealing with my vision loss was an ongoing thing. But that beer and pizza induced revelation changed my life forever. But I digress …
Coping with Creativity
So after struggling through the practical process of going to school; finding my way to the campus, each building, every classroom, and then back home again; finding people to read to me out loud or record my books, articles, and tests; and then trying to study and remember what I read; I discovered that, compared to these practical challenges created by my blindness, learning the material was super easy. The hardest thing for me was finding my way to campus, navigating my way around it, and getting home again without hurting myself. None of the agencies or people who said they would help actually did. I found out the hard way that I was on my own, that I was responsible for my own life. This was an important lesson to learn.
Although I loved the taste of good beer (and still do), and found its influence relaxing, I couldn’t really study after drinking it. While at school, when getting to the waiting areas outside of the lecture halls before classes, I began dictating poetry. I would go into a zone, like a trance, when doing so. This felt safe and beautiful, and always calmed my anxious heart. It helped me cope enough to get through each of those days and then get back home again. While in music school, in between classes, I would also sometimes go to the practice rooms, each of which contained a real piano, and play inspiring, relaxing music, usually in major seven keys. I wrote some of my most entrancing pieces while in college trying to reduce my stress in between classes (e.g. Murmures. And one of the benefits of writing poetry and music to help me cope with the stresses of going to school was that I would have them (the poems and songs) after the stress was gone. So, they helped me cope, and then they remained, as art and beauty, forever after. When I eventually overcame my anxiety and stress altogether, the poetry and music continued on, as a creative expression of my spirit. Writing, like this post, has joined them, now a trio of artists facilitating the open outpouring of my Heart, Throat, Brow, and Crown chakras; together helping me shine the light of the universe, through my spirit, into the material world; to encourage my continued growth, and to help others heal and grow. What was once a coping mechanism is now a flower of higher consciousness.
Photo Credit: Fire Prince Music, BMI