Welcome Lambda Literary Fellow Belo Cipriani to the blog. He stopped by to let us know that it is okay to unplug once in awhile. And for those of you who have not read his heart-wrenching memoir yet, I highly recommend it. ~B.
Sometimes, I forget that I cannot see. The mere thought of dismissing such a grand part of my physicality cracks up people. “How is that possible?” they ask. Initially, my replies dealt with aspects of my rehabilitation. I reasoned then that learning to do everything the blind way had me back to coasting independently in society, thus allowing my vision loss to feel less prominent. Although I do not rule out this notion completely, I now believe that unplugging during times of frustration has proven to be key.
Learning something new is always daunting–especially when it stands in the way of things we desire. There was an era of frustration during the months when I was learning to use a computer with the help of software for the blind. Growling at the keyboard, I longed for days of surfing the web, chatting, and bargain shopping online; however, I was told that it could take months and even years to master the screen reader technology. I always had the option of not learning the software like many of my blind peers who quit the class and now depend on others to do computer tasks for them, yet I knew that relying on others would not work for me either.
One morning, at the blind center’s gym, I walked on my hands across the stretching mat in the back of the room. Handstands are part of my regular workout routine, but one of the center’s mobility teachers spotted me upside-down for the first time. Clapping, she praised my balance and agility. As I explained to her that I had done Capoeira and gymnastics for years, I recalled struggling with handstands when I first started my martial art training. I left the gym and headed home realizing that I had conquered other challenging tasks in my life before. Ultimately, I needed to gain authority of the computer situation so it would not control me.
Extra computer classes and tutorials on a CD helped in acquiring the skills needed to navigate the computer through sound, yet unplugging turned out to be the best solution. Unplugging helped me deal with my irritation and restored my hope. When I was first trying to lift my body with my arms and tumbled over, my Capoeira master was the one who told me to take five and resume later. Now, it is up to me to unplug when focusing becomes too challenging. We live in a society of instant gratification and we are easily bothered when we are asked to step back and wait, yet Waiting is what helps us heal and grow. For me, taking a ten minute break to listen to music, stretch, or call a friend helped to gain clarity and trudge forward with the adaptive technology training. It has been six-years since my best friends blinded me in San Francisco. Now, I do not just use my laptop efficiently, but I often find myself teaching others how to troubleshoot their computers. Perhaps, I do not forget that I am blind; I just remember to take a step back and recharge.
Belo Miguel Cipriani is a freelance writer, speaker, and author of Blind: A Memoir. Belo was the keynote speaker for the 2011 Americans with Disabilities Act celebration in San Francisco and was a guest lecturer at both Yale University and the University of San Francisco. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him at belocipriani.com or on Twitter and Google+.
If you are a LGBTQ author, musician, or filmmaker and would like to chat, please feel free to contact me.