Random Rose: Being Blind-ish

You’re outside a restaurant.  Somewhere in there, your friends are waiting for you.  But you can’t see them.

What can you do? You go to a phone box (yes, this is before the days of mobiles) and you try to ring your best friend’s number.  But you can’t see the buttons on the dial, and you can’t see the numbers in your address book.

You go into the restaurant.  Vague shapes surround you, laughing, vaseline-coated.  Who are these people? You don’t recognise anyone and yet, maybe you should.  Are they laughing at you, as you stand there, blindfolded by your own eyes?  A familiar sense of shame sweeps over you.

You wake up.

This isn’t a story.  This is a dream I’ve had for years, the details always a little different, the gist the same.  I’m in an unfamiliar place and I can’t see and I’m terribly, terribly embarrassed.  Why? I guess because I grew up with cataracts.  I was born with them.  To me, I had the sight that I had, all was as it should be.  Do YOU ever feel inadequate because you don’t have the vision of an eagle? Well, I had the vision of a Rose, and it seemed alright.

Until I went to school.  With eagles.  Who could see what the teacher wrote on the board and copy it out, while I furtively tried to copy them, and failed, and blushed.  Who called me a bat, while I pretended not to hear, and willed myself even more blind so that I couldn’t see what might make me cry.  I remember once, trying to ignore the sneers, I nearly walked into a wall.  There was a long list of subjects I wasn’t much good at: the chemistry teacher said she didn’t have the resources to give me photocopied notes and I still couldn’t read ‘the board’ so I’d better, she advised, give up chemistry.  Physics? I couldn’t see the equipment properly.  Woodwork? Just don’t ask.  It didn’t ruin my life – I don’t think I was cut out to be a scientist or craftsperson anyway.  I took up history big time – a book doesn’t care if you hold it six inches away from your nose!

One day a sister and I went on a trip together.  She drove, I tried to read the map, she fumed.  We stopped at a petrol station.  ‘YOU do it.” she said, handing me the bowser.  ‘But I don’t know how…’.I said, thinking ‘If I try, I’ll look really stupid.  Because you do look stupid, if you don’t know how the bowser slots in and how it comes out and goes back again and where the petrol cap is and… ‘   “Then learn.”  So I did.   Which reminds me of the time I was sitting in a bus next to my eldest sister, and the woman opposite said ‘Push the button will you luv, for the next stop?’.  I was new to the city, and in my home town the buses had cords, not buttons.  So I paused and looked about, confused.  The woman looked at my sister sympathetically. ‘Is she retarded?’.  Don’t get me started on catching buses.  I never could see the bus numbers, so I’d get on and ask the driver ‘Is this going to x?’.  And sometimes, he’d wave at the sign on the front and say ‘Can’t you READ mate?’.  Well, no, I didn’t say.

Or the time I had an off-on affair going with a huge, monobrowed, gorgeously easygoing guy, who was (at the time) clean shaven.  We didn’t see each other for a couple of weeks, then he turned up in the pub unexpectedly and came over to say hi.  I didn’t have the faintest idea who he was.  Well, how would I. He’d grown a BEARD! ‘You don’t know who I am, do you!’ says Mr Monobrow. ‘Ummm…yes?’ I say. Of course.  As you do. We both knew better though.

I could go on and on dredging up humiliations and red-faced moments.  Which needn’t have been.  They were, because I was somehow invested in trying to pretend that I was fully able, when of course I wasn’t.  I would have done better to adopt a feisty ‘yeah that’s right I’m a bat, deal with it!’ attitude.  If only I’d thought of it.

And then I had the operation.  The bandages came off and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  ‘Are those flowers REALLY that yellow?  How come people have HOLES in their skin?’  Suddenly, I too was an eagle – or at least as much of an eagle as I ever would be.  Life got better.  I could now pretend to be able much more convincingly – or so I thought.

So is this one long whinge about being partially blind, when there’s a million other conditions I could have had that would have been SO much worse? Nope, not really.  It’s just an exploratory thing – and a way to say to myself, so THAT’s why I have those dreams.



  1. This was interesting, Rose, I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t know you could be born with cataracts. I actually thought ‘some’ old people just ‘got them’. Wow.

    I have bad distant vision & if I’m not wearing contacts, I have often overlooked people & I think they’ve taken it the wrong way, as if I was self-involved or didn’t think they were worth talking to.

    Your dream is way, way curious. I relate a lot to being outside a place & meeting people within, & just not being able to find them. Wouldn’t it be amazing, just amazing if the dream one day ceased to visit you.

    1. I guess that’d mean I’d properly grown up! I went to special school for a while with a girl who had to feel her way to the taxi that took us all there – now that’s a REAL problem.


      1. Wow, amazing Rose – & then look at the jobs you’ve done (govt). Mercy me!!! You should be danged proud, you’ve made something wearable of the material you were given to sew your life by.

  2. Sometimes people an relate to a (we America s call it) whine! People can get comfort from blogs or stories or posts about things they are afraid to share with others. I’ve focused more on my struggles and my story about my past with bulimia because I want to give people hope. I fear for people who cover up and hide their problem with food. I feel I give people a voice in the matter. Sometimes I don’t “profit” from it, but maybe my voice will resonate with someone, somewhere, and things can get better in some small way with regard to my (what seem to be) rants! xx

    1. Yeah, I think that’s a good reason to talk about your issues. But to me, doing it feels self-indulgent. Like eating chocolate. But..sometimes you feel like it so you do!


      1. WOW, i really disagree with you a lot on this. You are a karma chick. I don’t get why you can’t see that what i write about is what a lot of people go through alone. There are people suffering alone. But, they can read this blog of mine and say, “hey, I am not alone, and Mel got better”.

        HOW IS THAT SELF INDULGENT!? Frankly, I’ve lived this … it’s the past, do your really think i’m getting something out of rehashing my HELL? Fuck no!

        I’ll let you know when i start writing bullshit, and maybe you can catch me then. OK?

        I like your blog, and i like you, but i get really mad when i’m called self indulgent for helping other people.

        Feel free to tell me what you’re talking about, but i’m going to continue telling people they aren’t alone.

      2. I do see that. I think you blogging about bulimia is a good and useful thing, and as you say, people will read it and think, I’m not alone in this, and there’s hope. That’s not self indulgent, that’s important and valuable. But I’m not talking about you here, I’m talking about me, and to me, talking about my (few) pieces of ill luck FEELS self indulgent. I’ve had a great life, heaped with luck and love – who am I to talk about things being hard! You know, in the ten years when my mum was essentially preparing and hoping for death, I’d ask her ‘so how are you?’ and try to get her to unload a bit. But she was very reluctant, because to her, it felt like boring whingeing. On the other hand, the DE did almost nothing BUT talk about his difficulties, and honestly I did get fed up with that. I’m not that ‘good’. I knew he had a pretty good excuse for feeling like shit. I’m just not Jesus. So in conclusion, what I’m getting at here is, I’m not saying you’re self indulgent. I’m talking about my own complex attitudes and feelings around telling other people about my shit. In the end, with me, it always has to end with a joke.

  3. Rose, I’m dyslexic. When at school I was considered dumb; you know, stupid. Took me some years after failing everything in sight, and taking an accounting course in my thirties to realise I wasn’t dumb/stupid after all. It had taken me that long to learn how to spell; progressively improving throughout the years. Reading has always been a problem; I can’t read for long; though much longer now than when I was younger; the words don’t drop from sight anymore, or run into each other, and somehow I’ve managed to keep letters going to the right or to the left depending upon where they are supposed to go.. b’s and d’s – that sort of thing.
    That’s what posts like this one achieve… It allows us to see our own humanity, failings, short-comings, challenges, achievements. Makes us ‘feel’ good, and realise that each of us has some thing that has managed to cause us to feel humiliated.
    Hope that dream stops eventually. I have one where I’m pooing in public. Don’t have it very often these days; just enough to remind me how embarrassed my disability used to make me feel…. 😉

    1. It’s very annoying when people think you’re dumb. Annoying enough that one thinks, I’ll try not to inflict that on anyone else. I think also you finally do get over embarrassment – it’s one of the pluses of getting older. Dyslexia must have been so hard to overcome. We’re all lucky AND unlucky in different ways – for instance, I learned to read pretty effortlessly and was the best speller in the school – but am woefully thick in maths, so much so that I have to ask my son really dumb questions about multiplication.


    1. Well that’s another thing that makes life hard, isn’t it (no pun intended). There’s a guy at work who can’t hear much (he’s very old) and he says it makes social life very difficult – my mum said the same. Maybe you can get a hearing aid of some sort, they’re very discreet, these days. I can’t hear sometimes in group situations – apparently happens as you age. These stupid imperfect bodies of ours!


  4. I make fun of my horrible vision all the time, and thank god it can be corrected, but my heart breaks for those in whom it can’t and for children who suffer from it, especially if not recognized early. It’s easy to see why you’d have that recurring dream (no pun intended).

    1. I think a lot depends on your attitude and the help available. In my case, help really wasn’t available in the public school I went to, and I was quite shy and embarrassed by it, which didn’t help. I’ve met some people with various disablements, minor and major, who just cope tremendously and make a virtue out of necessity. And I’m very conscious that my difficulty was quite tiny in the scheme of Stuff that can Happen – and also that I’m lucky to have been born to middle class parents in Australia, where health care is free (all my operations, performed by the best surgeon in Sydney, were totally free).


  5. Thank heavens – a blog post (unexpectedly) about visual impairment that doesn’t bitch and whine and make out the world is out to get us. Cos, those are the blogs I tend to avoid… As yes, weirdly enough, I was born with cataracts too! Mine are not correctable, but hey ho, such is life at times.
    I recognise so many of the experiences you recount: buses especially! God, how I loathe bus travel… And yes, I’ve got on the wrong one and ended up in the middle of nowhere! Oops. Oh and I’ve also hailed a milkfloat… didn’t get to work, but I could’ve bought a nice pint of semi-skimmed. Or maybe some yoghurt…

    1. Hailed a milkfloat – oh dear! I’ve nearly done that. I HAVe hailed a few tourist coaches in my time. Isn’t that a coincidence, that you also were born with cataracts. It’s quite rare. In my case, I could see, but when they operated, I realised that a lot of light hadn’t been getting through, so it was sort of ‘through a glass darkly’. It does make everyday life difficult in all sorts of ways – I think especially if you take my approach, and brazen it out. So why inoperable?


      1. Well, not totally inoperable – I had surgery as a small child and what I’ve got now is the best it’s going to get. These were the days before lens implants, but still, without surgery at all, I would’ve been completely blind, so I’m glad of what I’ve got – better than nothing at all! 🙂
        Yes, tourist buses…. been there. I understand what you mean about brazening it out as I think I do that to some extent too. It’s a strange kind of middle ground being partially sighted, an unknown quantity that doesn’t fit with “blind” or “sighted”, a glass with a varying amount of wine in it and that can be confusing or people – sometimes it can appear that I can see more than I actually can, so when I walk past an acquaintance in the street without noticing them, it can seem that I’ve blanked them… Quite awkward!
        I think we all have different challenges in life and we all have our own coping strategies to deal with things in our own way. Most of the time I don’t even think about my sight – it’s just the way things are. But other days something will happen that makes me go “Oh! Oh yes, I forgot about that…”

      2. I had surgery and now have interocular lenses. When I tell people about them, they stare into my eyes and say things like ‘oh yes, in a certain light I can see the glint of the silicone..’ and ‘so that’s why you have those scars..’. No wonder I have it in for the beauty industry – definitely sour grapes! I think we do all have our own challenges, yes. And I do subscribe to that mantra that the struggles we go through make us more complex/richer as persons (never mind as soups), although if I’d had a vote as a foetus, I would’ve voted to be less enriched and more sighted. So you’re an English teacher! Lucky class, to get such an accomplished poet as a teacher.


      3. Oh lord no – I couldn’t teach to save my life! The idea of standing up in front of groups of people fills me with horror – especially children! 😉 I’ll take the “accomplished poet” compliment though and polish it and put it on my mantelpiece…

      4. Really? It does me too. Though recently, I’ve found I’m actually not as bad at it as I thought I was. Getting more confident (arrogant) I guess. For some reason I thought you WERE a teacher, though. So what DO you do, if that isn’t nosy?


  6. Now, that really gets you thinking, It really does. How do blind people see in dreams? I once wrote something about how the kind of pornography blind people might use, but yes – how do blind or deaf people experience dreams. Interesting!

    1. I wonder that. Being partially blind, I don’t know. Maybe they dream about feeling and hearing and smelling things. I wish I knew one so I could ask. I actually like the idea of being without sight, sexually – it takes away from the experience, for me, to be able to see (then again, maybe that reflects who I’ve gone to bed with).


  7. I understand your story. Glad you shared it. When I started school, I couldn’t speak English: problem number 1. By the time I reached grade 3, the teacher took a strip off me because I wasn’t reading the blackboard correctly. Turned out I was short-sighted (but no cataracts). I didn’t know someone could be born with them either.

    Love: ‘vaseline-coated’. Powerful description.

  8. I am so sorry your were treated so awfully. People are really stupid in general. I suppose once they know your troubles they can have a little more compassion.

    Bus drivers are usually the least compassionate people around.

    What a nightmare you had in school. No wonder you turned out so strong and amazing … and had MUCH better and LOADS of luck later in life. Karma: Queen. xx

  9. Hello there! I was born with congenital coloboma, Ice syndrome and pressure issues, Now at fifty two, add a few floaters. I am able to drive but I am very near sighted with a very interesting story. I have lived what you dreamed. I am so happy that you surgery was a success! Hopefully now you can help spread the word how us (near sighted folks) have to deal with everyday issues. will be following your blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s