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Friday, January 25, 2013

Vision, Discrimination, and Different Identities

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”
William Shakespeare

I've been thinking a lot about how hard it has always been with Oli because so often I feel helpless.

This week when I took her into the doctor and found out that she had a ruptured ear drum, I had another one of those moments.  A moment when I look into the eyes of my girl who cannot look back at me and then listen for her words and remember that my girl cannot speak to me.

I have a hard time if I dwell on these things too long because I look at her and I just don't understand.  I don't understand why she has a voice, but cannot tell me when something hurts.  I don't understand what it is like to live in a world of darkness and have to completely depend upon someone else to bring the world to me.

When I talked before about wanting to change her so I can know her better, I guess its not so much that I absolutely want to change her per say.  I want to understand her.  Really understand what it is like to live in her world.  She has an identity that I absolutely cannot identify with myself. Asking me to relate to my daughter amounts to essentially asking me to relate to a person who is of another race or someone growing up in another country. I absolutely have no frame of reference for experiencing her day to day life. As much as I would like to better understand and relate, I just will never be able to. 

It is even more difficult because my girl can't explain to me what it is like.  I dream of the day that I can kneel down next to Oli as she explores an object and say "Describe for mommy what you 'see' when you touch that" and she responds to my question with an articulation that paints a vivid picture in my mind.

I dream big. What can I say?

More realistically, I dream about the day that she tells me she has to poop or that the dinner I made tastes like crap.

When I talk about wanting vision for my daughter who has never seen anything, most of this is just a selfish attempt to have my daughters life become easier. Even if to her, that makes no sense. To her this is just the way life is, the same way my life has included having sight.

Mourning over the fact that I will never be a millionaire probably makes just as much sense as a blind person mourning over the fact that they will never see the sun.  Its fairly ludicrous if you think about it.  My open sadness displayed in front of her will do nothing but teach her how to feel sorry for herself and cause more feelings of helplessness.

However, despite knowing that some blind children and adults say that they do not see blindness as a disability nor would they wish for sight, as her mother I don't think I'll ever stop feeling sad about something that is outside of the norm.  Because in our society anything outside of the majority is usually met with resistance, discrimination, or looked down upon simply for the reason that I mentioned. People are just unable to identify with it and that in turn creates prejudice.  Or because it is different they feel sadness and pity. 

I have to remember to not feel sorry for her and it is really a true test of acceptance.

I have to be able to move past my own loss and learn to understand something I can't identify with. If I look at it in much the same way I look at someone from another race or country I am better able to put the whole thing in perspective.  I would never look at them and pity them. I would never think "oh too bad you're not white or American" solely based on the fact that I don't know what their life is like because whose to say my life is better?  So why do I do that to my daughter? 

At some point I have to move on and stop thinking about what might have been and simply accept what is. No better. No worse.  Just different than myself.  I will never understand what it is like to be Oli.  It still makes me sad because she is my daughter, but I don't want to feel sorry for her just because she is different.  That isn't fair to her.  She deserves everything I have to offer, but she doesn't deserve my pity.

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