So this blog is going to turn into The White Cane Diaries for awhile. You know you wanna read it.
Being partially blind, but having been mainstreamed as a child to rely on my residual vision exclusively for way-finding, has always made me feel liminal. When I was in grad school at OSU, a place of much disability pride, I used the white cane for three years. Not that I didn't have angst, loneliness, etc. But I felt held up by comrades in arms, so to speak, even when they weren't literally with me, so I could do it more easily.
When I moved back to Pittsburgh, I stopped using the cane. Initially, I told myself it was because I knew Pittsburgh well --even though I was moving into a neighborhood which I had never lived in, and it totally flipped my internal map of the city around. A strong underlying reason, which I realized later, was because I didn't have my comrades any more. I spent a long time really mourning them, I think, without realizing that's what I was sad about. I still miss them.
But now that I'm white-caning full time, I might say I have never felt so liminal as I do now. Whip the cane out, I am one person. Put it away, I'm another. Not to myself, but to everyone else who sees me but doesn't know me. And even, I have to say, to some people who do know me.
The transition between non-use and full-time use, while it has happened physically, is still happening in my brain. It's still happening, as A. would say, energetically. I am of two worlds. No, I am my own unique world. But that makes me feel alone, to think that. Which is it? I was never comfortable with grey area.
Sometimes I walk outside and feel so sad and incredibly flawed that I can't look at other people and can't bear them looking at me. This was even when not using the cane.
This sad-flawed feeling would sometimes cause me to respond with anger, either internally or externally, to strangers who tried to talk to me. Often I thought / think : this isn't Peoria. Why do you feel you have to talk to me? Go talk to someone you know. OR. Many times the "talking" was actually guys hassling me. You know what I'm talking about.
[SIDE NOTE: The rest of this blog post concerns strangers who are male. I don't discuss strangers who are female here because our interactions are different. I have extreme social anxiety with strangers of both genders, but this thread here than I'm pursuing is male.]
Pre-cane : The guys who I might actually want to talk to have enough of a functioning superego to refrain from making comments as I pass by, or engage in conversations overtly designed to pick me up and for no other reason.
But now, post-cane : I have actually not been hassled by the guys with the non-functioning superegos yet. I think either it's only been a week; give it time or at last! with an obvious disability I'm too ugly for you to be a jerk to.
Instead I have had several interactions, instead, with guys who do NOT seem completely deranged, unhinged, strung out, or unaware of the basic rules of hygiene. Not that I didn't have these interactions before, but there's a lot of them crowded into a short period of time.
[SIDE NOTE: It occurs to me that people who drive their cars everywhere might not experience this phenomenon. Most of these interactions, bad and good, happen when I am in transit. Sometimes, during one of my sad-flawed days, I am seethingly jealous of people who can drive. The blissful isolation. The power to be alone.]
Anyway, these guys. The things they say. The way they say them.
[At coffee] : Pardon me, if you don't mind my saying, I really love that tattoo. Can I ask where you got it? I wanted one similarly done (exposes his own beautiful tattoo on forearm) but you can see they didn't do the lines like yours...
[On a super-crowded bus, a pale, gaunt, chipped black nail polish hand extends to me out of a crowd] : ma'am, we have arranged a seat for you.
[At my usual bus stop, at the edge of departing my neighborhood. I'm on the sidewalk, guy in car, who does not overtly display the signifiers of crazy or creepy asks] : do you want a ride down?
I have now encountered the challenge of being kind. To male strangers who are being kind to me. Not grabby, pushy, or throwing their weight around.
Guy 1: I'd never previously encountered a guy who asked about my ink in such a kind way, period. I was disarmed enough to have a complete three minute conversation with him.
Guy 2: Internal: WTF, "ma'am?" how old am I now? do you think I'm feeble? External: [Eye contact. Big smile.] That is so sweet; thank you.
Guy 3: Internal: Do you think I'm insane enough to get in the car with you when you might be an axe-murderer or something? Does this cane make you think you have an extra-strong chance at axe-murdering me?! External: [Smile. Wave.] No thanks, I'm good.
I hear N.'s voice in my head : compassion for others starts with compassion for the self. I'm trying.