There was never a time when I didn’t know I was adopted. There was no big sit down conversation about where I came from. One of my older brothers is also adopted so in my immediate family, being adopted isn’t even that special. When my brother and I were younger we’d compare our stories. I’d say, “Well at least you know who your father is.” To which he’d reply, “Well at least you’ve met your little sister.” We’d usually end up laughing at the end of this while our non adopted siblings looked on in confusion. With my parents and I there was always a disconnect around this issue. While my dad didn’t mind talking about it, he took the stand in our lives of if he didn’t need to know information, he didn’t. He always told me that the details surrounding my birth family wern’t known to him. From the time that I was very young my mom would get upset if I asked any questions about my birth mother. So as I got older I learned not to ask. The things I do know, that she was a teenager, an addict, a general wreck of a girl with a 2 year old daughter already when I was born i picked up by listening to the conversations of the adults and my older siblings. As a teenager I had a lot of anger for a woman who would give her baby away and not look back. I couldn’t understand how any drug or issue could be more important than your daughter. I couldn’t understand how she could have just walked away. As an adult I understand that 19 isn’t all that grown up. And that addictions can be very strong indeed. I understand that she did what she felt was best for her, and me. And I couldn’t see my life any other way. I couldn’t imagine a life with out my siblings and parents. I couldn’t imagine being anyone but who I am today and I owe my birth mother a thank you for making the choice she made for me 24 years ago. Accepting all of this for what it is, there is still this feeling I get every year around my birthday. I read a book once that theorized that children who are given up at birth equate their birthdays with their first sence of loss. I don’t know if I believe that, but I do know that I get this intense heartache feeling in the days leading up to my birthday. And my birth mother and little sister are constantly on my mind. I decided last year that I don’t have an interest in finding my birth mother. I don’t want answers, I’m not angry, I don’t want a new mom. And as curious as I am about my little sister, I’m not curious enough to actively look for her. Most of the time there is peace in having made all of these decisions. But for about a week every March there is just a lot of pain. The part of my heart that is still very much a little girl is just sad. She wonders how life turned out for those people she never new. She wonders too sometimes, if their ever wondering about her.
A couple of instances have occurred in the last week that have bothered me quite a lot. As a general rule people don’t speak to me directly. They address their questions or comments to whoever I happen to be with. People act as if my blindness has rendered me incapable of doing something as simple as ordering a coffee. Although this annoys me a great deal, most of the time I don’t go through the effort of correcting them. The exception to this is when I’m alone with my step_children. I’ve spent the last year trying to teach these kids that my blindness doesn’t have to keep me from living a productive, full and happy life. Letting people overlook me and speak to my 15 year old feels like accepting a kind of defeat. And in doing that, I would be showing her that I’m less of a person than I actually am. This weekend my stepdaughter and I went shopping for my wedding dress. The saleswoman who was helping us was one of the most frustrating people I’ve dealt with in a long while. Not only did she not speak to me directly, but according to my stepdaughter, she didn’t even look at me once during our hour and a half of working together. Every time she asked my stepdaughter a question about what style or color of dress I was looking for I’d jump in with my answer. Some people take this hint and stop the behavior and start talking to me as though I am an actual person who can talk and think just like they do. This woman however, was not one of those people who could be taught. When we finally left my stepdaughter was absolutely annoyed and I was incredibly frustrated with the way the experience had gone. This incident came to my mind immediately the next day when I opened the door to the pizza delivery guy. Now I should explain that the pizza delivery guy and I have a long term relationship. This particular delivery guy has been delivering pizza to my house at least twice a month since October. He is fully aware of my blindness. Every time he delivers my pizza he asks me to sign the receipt. I do sign it, just in my own way. I have been blind my entire life so I don’t know how to write many print letters. I learned how to write a somewhat messy H and thats what I use as my signature. For some reason the pizza delivery guy chose this weekend to become unsatisfied with my signature. After I opened the door and said hello he looked over my shoulder and asked my stepdaughter if she could sign the receipt for me. I may have slightly overreacted to this because of my frustration with the saleswoman the day before, but I didn’t feel like it was appropriate for him to address my daughter when I was standing right in front of him. He has seen me sign receipts at least 12 times. There was no reason for him to ask someone else to do it. The fact that he asked a child to do it seemed even more disrespectful to me. I less than politely told him that I could sign it and sent my stepdaughter to get her brother ready for dinner. I signed the receipt and forgot about the whole thing until tonight. I ordered pizza for dinner and the same delivery guy brought it. He handed me the pizza and left without even asking for a signature. After I closed the door I stood in the middle of my living room and laughed. These 2 episodes have made me realize something. As a blind person I have the responsibility of demanding the respect that sighted women my age are given without question. I have the responsibility to make people treat me the way I deserve to be treated. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t reasonable, but it’s absolutely true. If I don’t demand respect, I will be treated like a passive child. I won’t accept that in my life. I won’t teach my children that it’s okay to treat someone as though they don’t exist because they are different. I will continue to push the people I interact with to see me as a person with all of the same rights, opinions, and thoughts as them. If you encounter a person with a disability, try to remember that they are a person first. No matter how different the disability may make them look or even act, they deserve a certain level of respect just for being a member of the human race.
I’ve spent most of the last year and a half learning an acceptance for my body I’d never known before. I’ve let go of damaging patterns of behavior and negative self talk, to replace them with a confidence in who I am and how I look. In the process I’ve gained 40 pounds and 4 jean sizes. I’ve also gained the strength to not let that become a bad thing. I realized that I’m more content with myself at 160lbs than I ever was at 120lbs. I have never dieted like a normal person. There was never a time in my life when I looked at eating as simply a necessary part of being a human. Food was good or bad. If I ate food that I loved, which of course was all bad, then I was weak. I spent 14 years denying myself the foods I wanted and beating myself up when I would eat them. When I would exercise it was never purely so that I could feel healthier. I always had my weight in mind. When I decided to let all of this go, I did it completely. If I wanted pizza I’d eat an entire pizza. If I wanted chips I’d eat the whole bag. I ate what I wanted when I wanted and I didn’t feel guilty for it. While I know eating a whole pizza is in no way healthy, I absolutely believe it is better than starving and hating myself for eating. In the past few weeks though I’ve been wondering if I’m ready to find the middle ground. I decided that I’m finally ready to define healthy eating and exercising for myself. Last month I left my nanny job to work with my boyfriend working nights running a paper route. This means hours sitting in a car every night followed by a whole day of sleeping. As a result of this, my physical activity has decreased. I thought at first that my weight would shoot up. To my surprise this didn’t happen. I haven’t gained any weight at all. I have felt myself becoming more lethargic and lazy though. I’ve realized that I want to move my body more than I do. I want to exercise because I want to feel better. I want my body to feel stronger and more energized. This week I took the first step in my fitness journey. I ordered my very first workout CD from Blind Alive. This company makes accessible workout materials for blind people. I love this because it means I can truly be in control of this part of my healthy lifestyle. When I want to exercise I can just get up and do it. I don’t have to wait for someone to go to the gym with me. I don’t have to follow anyone else’s schedule. While preparing myself to start exercising in a healthy way I’ve also been more mindful of what I eat. I haven’t been restricting my diet, I’ve just been noticing what I’m eating and how much of it. I’ve been eating because i’m hungry instead of just because I’m bored. My definition of healthy may not look anything like anyone else’s. Maybe instead of a whole pizza I have 2 slices for dinner. I won’t feel like I failed if I have cinnamon toast crunch for breakfast. I don’t have to count calories or hit a certain number on the scale to feel like I’m doing well with my health. I’m very much looking forward to starting this new phase in my life. Thinking of food as fuel and exercise as a way to make my body strong is an entirely new idea to me, but it is one that I’m ready to imbrace fully.
Sometimes I realize how much I’ve grown as a person based on what I don’t want or need anymore. Maybe this is something Everyone experiences as they grow up and I’m just stoping to notice it in myself. Or maybe its just that I’m finally comfortable enough in who I am to admit that I no longer find peace in pain. I know there were times in my life when I craved pain, in any form I could find. There were nights with sharp things pressed into my skin, blood running down my legs. There were days upon days spent starving, shaking, aching cold from hunger because I refused to just shut the hell up and eat something. There were months of crying myself to sleep because of some nameless sadness. Anyone who knows me at all knows my favorite band is Blue October. They have been my favorite band for over 10 years now. I still listen to them most everyday. The first song I heard by them was called Hate Me. When I hear this song now, I can’t say why it called to me so strongly when I was a teenager. The song is about alcohol abuse and a relationship ending. At 13 i had never had a drink in my life. I had never shared so much as a kiss with a boy, let alone an actual breakup. Nothing about this song should have pulled me in the way it did. Over the last few weeks i’ve been trying to put my finger on whatever it was that made me love that song above all others, for years. Blue October has other songs That had much more to do with my life at that time. Songs about very real depression and loneliness, things that absolutely did touch my life at 13. Those songs aren’t the ones that I clung to for years though. It was Hate Me that I held so close for so long. This morning the answer finally hit me as i was looking for a new book to read. There is a website where you can input titles of books you enjoy and it will generate a list of suggested books based on your previous reads. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve visited this website. Because of this, the suggested books took me by surprise. There were lists entirely devoted to books about anorexia. There were lists of books all about girls who sliced their skin open over and over again. Books about sick, sad, broken girls. Reading through these book titles made something finally click into place in my head. I was drawn to the damage. I was swimming in the drama. I made myself a tight, close, cozy world of pain. I loved any story I could find that made me feel more normal. I wanted to read about people who were more broken than I was. I wanted to scream out lyrics about damage. All I wanted was more pain. Looking through those books today the difference between who I was and who I am became overwhelmingly clear. Those books full of the struggles of girls who haven’t figured it out have no pull on my mind anymore. When I hear Hate Me today, all I feel is sympathy for the little girl who needed that song so badly. I’m grateful beyond words that I’m not her anymore. I’m so blessed that pain is no longer a security blanket for me. I love that the laughter of my stepson and stepdaughter is the magnet that draws me in now. I love that quiet moments with my boyfriend are what creates my peace. I love that spending time in worship and prayer is where I feel at home now. Pain is attractive when you’re broken. It’s a safe place to go when you’re afraid to be who you really are. But pain is empty. Living in a world of pain only calls more pain. Living in a world of peace is just the same. Peace calls to more peace. Contentment pulls more contentment into your life. I’ve never felt more blessed than I do tonight that I am better.
I laid down in bed this morning with a sense of dread. My boyfriend and I are working an incredibly hectic schedule that has us running nonstop from friday afternoon to sunday night. I don’t mean nonstop like we won’t have time to watch the latest episode of some show, or see the latest score of some sports game. I mean we usually don’t have time to so much as sleep between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. This week has been one of our busier weeks, so it’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those sweet, relaxing days where there’s no where to go and nothing that needs taken care of. This morning I planned to lay down and read some of the mindless science fiction novel I’m currently wrapped up in until I fell asleep. I knew I’d be exhausted even after I woke up. because of course, I only had a few hours until I had to get up for work. I actually laid down expecting the rest of my day to pretty much suck, with maybe a couple of good moments, if I was really lucky. As I was opening my book app to start reading I had an overwhelmingly strong feeling that i should have been doing my bible study instead of reading more stories that I’m just using to waste time I don’t have to be wasting in the first place. In one of my finer moments I listened to that feeling and opened my bible study book instead. The chapter was on being refreshed. The scriptures were all about how God is there to offer strength to those who feel weak. How God is there to offer refreshment to those who are exhausted. I read this chapter and I put on a worship station on my phone. After a few minutes I was praying like I haven’t in way to long. It became one of those times I just spill my heart open to God completely. As I started to give thanks for the things in my life that are undoubtedly blessings, something in my heart opened up. Without planning to I started thanking God for the things in my life that don’t feel like blessings right now. I thanked God for those people who can drive me the craziest. I thanked God for the times I am exhausted. I thanked God for all of the things I have absolutely no control over. I thanked God that I don’t need to have that control. I thanked God that I don’t have to understand how he will use all of those things to put me exactly where I need to be, I simply asked for the faith to believe that he will. When everything in my head and heart had been spoken out loud to God and I was just laying in bed humming one of my favorite worship songs I noticed that I felt more awake than I had in days. It wasn’t physical rest and surrender I needed to find today. It was most certainly spiritual rest I was in need of. I have done versions of this exact same thing since I was a teenager. I let other, louder, more demanding things come before my need to pause and just be with God. I say a quick prayer before dinner and call that good for me and God time that day. I get all proud of myself because I managed to listen to 1 worship song in my music mix any given day. I forget that truly coming to God with my heart open isn’t another obligation I have to meet before I get to relax. Rather these moments are the most real peace there is in this life. These moments of true connection with God are a reward, not an inconvenience in my oh so busy and important schedule. In this clarity today I see that I’m remarkably blessed and I am so grateful. This is my promise today. I will put God above all else. I will put my trust in God above all else. I will put my faith in God above all else. And I will thank God for every single blessing, and every single thing I don’t yet know how to see as a blessing.
I’ve heard the word “can’t” a lot in my life. When I was 12 and in Girl Scouts it was I couldn’t go on the camping trip because I couldn’t see. When I was 18 it was my mother saying I couldn’t travel across the country on a plane by myself because I was blind. This past year when I started looking for a job it was I couldn’t possibly watch children, because how could I do that if I can’t see? Until recently, I thought the general public’s idea that blind people are not capable of doing ordinary things was a learned assumption. I thought it was something Society top people over time. That if you can’t see, if you’re different, you can’t possibly do the things everybody else does. The last few weeks though have shown me otherwise. My stepson is four years old. He is a very smart very thoughtful little boy. He’ll spend a lot of time thinking about things before he’ll ask you about them. For the last few months his dad and I thought that he didn’t understand that I was blind. We figured he thought I was just a really inattentive adult, who he had to show things to over and over again before I realized he was talking to me. But a few weeks ago on his way to pick me up from work with his dad he said, “so Harmony sees like she always has her eyes closed all the time, right? That’s how it is?” His dad and I were both very impressed by how easily he summed it up. We told him that was exactly right and then he didn’t say anything about it for the next few hours. That night when we got home he was playing a game where he had to put these large colored circles together using small connector pieces. He stood there holding his circles and connector pieces and said “I guess I have to do this because you can’t help me.” I asked him to show me what he was talking about and he brought me the circles and the connector pieces. He said, “you can’t help me with this, because you can’t see. So I guess I just have to do it.” It was the first time in my life that I realized people’s instinctive response to my blindness is that I can’t do it. Whatever it might be. I put my musings on this aside and showed him that I could connect the circles for him but then we talked about how I couldn’t see the colors so he had to help me with that. We worked as a team, him choosing the right colors and handing them to me and me connecting them. Little things like this have popped up over and over again the last few weeks. How I can’t see the Pokémon on his game so he has to tell me about them instead. How I can’t see where the car door is but I can still open it and put him in and do his seatbelt up. He has started looking at me with the same wonder that his big sister did a year ago. “Harmony, how do you know where my drink is? “Or, “Harmony, how can you know what Pokémon this is if you can’t see it?” I love these questions and do my best to explain it. When I’m absolutely stumped as to how to explain something I tell him to close his eyes and see if he can do it with his eyes closed. This only works sometimes like in the case of how I knew the Pokémon he was holding had ears if I couldn’t see them, other times he still looks at me like I’m crazy and does not understand how I can possibly do whatever it is we’re trying to do. But slowly he’s learning that I can do most everything he wants to do. We even turn voiceover on his iPad so I could start a show he wanted to watch. There are a few things that I can’t do. When those come up we just explain that I can’t do that. In the case of his dad’s computer which doesn’t have voiceover, I just tell him I can’t do that one because it doesn’t talk like our phones and iPads do. I’ve told him that when there are things he wants me to know about that I can’t see he has to tell me about them if they’re on the TV or the iPad, or let me feel them if they are a toy. This line is blurry for kids so a lot of the time he’s putting my hand on the iPad to show me things. The last thing he said can’t about was his birthday party. We were talking about what kind of decorations and cake he wants and planning it all out. He was very very excited and very much looking forward to getting things and decorating the house. He stopped in the middle of this conversation and said, “wait! You can’t put up decorations and stuff. Daddy will have to do it!” When I asked why he said, “you can’t see where to put everything! So how can you know?” I told him that he would have to show me where he wanted things and then we could put them there. He got excited again and said that was a good idea! These conversations have led to discussions about other disabilities, “if someone can’t hear what’s that called?” “If someone can’t walk what can they do?” We have talked about sign language and wheelchairs, even using his sisters American girl doll wheelchair as an example. And all of our conversations his dad and I try to emphasize the point that no matter how different it might look, or how impossible it might seem, just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do it! This is made me wonder how much different my life could have been if some parents had just taken the time to educate their children. If some adults just took the time to become educated themselves. It’s not difficult to teach your children that everyone is capable of doing things. It’s not enough to just teach your children to be kind to those who are different from themselves, they need more than that. They need to be taught that different does not mean incapable. They need to be taught that different does not mean impossible. Take the time when the opportunity comes up with young children to teach them these things. Don’t just look at the girl in the wheelchair, or the blind girl, or the deaf girl, or the girl who is mentally retarded, and say “be nice to her because she’s different.” Teach your children that these people all have value, even though they don’t look or act the same as you do.
My boyfriend and I are studying “With My Eyes Wide Open” the latest book from Brian Welch. We’re only on chapter 5 at this point but there is one thing that has stuck in my head so far. This guy was the guitar player for KoRN, one of the number one bands at the time. He walked away from a life of drugs and rock to follow Jesus. Anyone can say that’s cool. I mean really. Who wants to be a drugged up mess? But this guy also walked away from a contract worth millions of dollars because he knew it wasn’t what God wanted for his life at that point. He said no to everything the world had to offer on faith alone. That’s what’s smacked me hardest at this moment. Has your faith ever been that strong? So strong that you looked at what the visible world had for you and you said no. That’s not enough. I want more than this for my life. I don’t think there are many people who have done something like that. This morning I started my day off with my Christian music playlist, the first time I’ve opened it in months. I heard a song that took me back to when I was a little girl and living my everyday in the most real depression. I remember standing in church absolutely alone and singing this song. I remember crying real tears, not because I was sad, but because that was the only time in the world that I didn’t feel empty. I remember I’d stop going to church, I’d stop talking to God, and I’d always feel that same feeling of peace and love when I’d finally go back. This morning in my bed, not a church, I had that feeling again. Not because of the song, but because I prayed when I started the playlist. Asked God to be here while I worshiped. At the start of this book my boyfriend made a joke that’s stuck with me. He said, “we check our bank accounts everyday. When was the last time we checked our faith accounts?” It made me laugh when he said it, but it’s completely true. I’m sure you have a million things to do today. You’ve got kids. You’ve got work. If you’re me you’ve got kids, work, a school paper, and a dog that needs food too. God easily gets bumped to the background because he isn’t going to cry for your attention like your 4 year old or your hungry dog. But I can honestly say at this moment, having started my day with worship, I’m more peaceful than I’ve been in a long time. Studying this book has gotten my boyfriend and I talking about faith more in the last 5 days than we have in the last year. If you give God your time, you’re the one who wins. I’m making a commitment here today to start my days off with God in worship. Start my day in this world right.