Kaleidoscope of Blindness

Over a few days this week, I spoke to Michael Nye about my experience losing my sight.  Michael Nye is a retired attorney who studies phenomena like mental illness and, now, the perspectives of individuals who are blind.  Documenting my journey from sighted person to blindness, our discussion was audio recorded over eight hours.  A five minute synopsis will be selected and presented in an art exhibition along with a photograph Michael captured over the course of two days.

This experience was different than what I am used to describing for people.  Doctors hypothesize about the flashing iridescences that have over taken my sight.  The doctors are not concerned with the types of flashes, puffs, and pulses that blind me.  I would minimize the details of the electrical fields that seem to pull me down like an undertow as I tried to keep from drowning on my emotions.  I am afraid to burden the people I care about by revealing my reality.

Definitely not therapy or counseling, my perspective was probed and I chose to acknowledge the devastation forced onto me.  Far beyond the passing conversations with friends, feelings of fear, regret, guilt, and vulnerability were brought to the surface.  Again, my emotions welled up without the security of a trained therapist,.  I was left with the need to process the unearthed feelings.  Accomplished with complete respect and warm appreciation, Michael Nye and his assistant, Alexei, provided helpful feedback.  Where I might spend all of one minute with an retina specialist describing the loud optics, these two gentleman actively listened to me emote and focus on the unspoken quilt of experiences that make up the person I am.  For that opportunity, I am eternally grateful.  I became aware of deeply rooted beliefs and unresolved trepidation.
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In February 2011, in a three day period of time, urgent strobe lights descended.  Picture the static displayed on television screens except with a spectrum of colors flashing in dynamic pixels.  Regardless of the dizzying effect and internalized feeling of panic, puffy fluorescents  ripple on top of the monochromes of noise.  Like those spots that would appear on big screen movies as the projector and film show a blip of brilliant white absorbing whatever image the movie was suppose to show, these flickers pop in without any input from my eye lids being open.  The color palate is vivid with cold blues, rusty oranges, fierce reds, deep greens, and a blaze of yellows with white interjecting as the highlights create the sensation of daylight even  in a darkened room.  Exactly like the screen of TV static, no discernible images can be seen.  Upon closer examination, no clear cut pattern emerges yet the vibrance has a sustained illumination.  A periodic flare soars from one side of one eye and bursts into other surges of light.  Each eye has a separate sequence and frequency of pulse and potency of colors. 

I sheltered the ones I love from knowing these visions build to a crescendo with stress.  The sensory over stimulation generates apprehension and cluster phobia.  These flashes dominate my field of vision.  The opalescence is like sitting front row of a movie, bonfire, fireworks display, and laser light show all at once.  Often muted in the morning, the plethora of colors grow with intensity as the day progresses.  While these signals bounce from my retina to my brain, the resulting  emotions can seem like clattering as I interact with people.  Concentrating on their voices and the sounds, I can dampen my focus and hone in the conversation.
Quite the  challenge at the beginning of my blindness.  The anxiety made me irritable, emotionally fragile, and isolated from others.  The visualizations can be overtaken by a monotone of Smurf blue, Sunkist orange, or Barney purple.  Typically a consequence of stress or illness, these symptoms are psychosomatic.  Unlike hallucinations, the piercing strobes never go away and are not a result of any mental disorder.My retinas are communicating with my brain but the signals cannot be decoded.  Towards the onset, the sensations felt like a harsh gibberish.  Given time to adjust, the flashes are a symphony of colors trumpeting out a chaotic tsunami of electricity.  More than an attempt to normalize or reframe my feelings, I have come to cherish the flashes.  The glowing psychedelics are extraordinarily beautiful.  At times, in front of the static, ripples of lightening, and dancing puffs of clouds, specks of color sparkle like a delicate snow.  With a backdrop of moving kaleidoscopes, what I get to experience is a living opal, peppered by bright oranges, lush greens,sharp reds, and  cascades of blue.  The specks trickle down and seem to twinkle in front of the glowing background.  I am truly blessed.  In fact, the entire experience of being blind has brought a rich reverence for being alive and the authentic connection with others.  How many people get to hand over their trust to a dog?  Blindness has shown a spotlight on human nature, the reality of true friendship, and the opportunity to explore the world without sight.  I have a front row seat for the best show in town.

And…ACTION!

Perry, Chad's guide dog with his legs crossed.
Perry, Chad’s guide dog with his legs crossed.

 

“What would my character do?”

It was my first theater audition.  I went to the tryouts without a clue about the process.  I didn’t know the play, either.  I stuttered through my cold read and did not even walk toward the piano to sing yet somehow I got a part.  The production was Babes In Toyland and I was cast as a non-speaking role of a teddy bear that walked with the toy soldiers.
For hours I stood posed. At some part of the play, a floppy eared rabbit and I walk around and wake up the other toys.  The director made a good decision to put me in a role that did not speak or have much of any development.  I didn’t know how to act so I pretended.
 
At the full dress rehearsal, I was put in makeup and a plush bear costume.  I finally felt I could channel Bru, The Bear.  “What would my character do?” I thought.  With lights and music, I stayed frozen in place.  On cue, the rabbit and I followed through on our blocking as we ushered in the parade of toys.  
 
The Opening night performance  had some technical errors. The music hit and we began our blocking but the other actors were no where to be found.  “Improvise!” the director whispered from the side of the stage.  “What would my character do?”  I grabbed the rabbit’s paw, tucked my arm around her, and we tangoed from one side to the other.  It got a great response from the audience of kids and parents.  We tangoed and spun until the toy soldiers finally arrived.  I learned, when in doubt, tango!
 
It is one thing to be a character and it is another to have character.  Character can be molded and formed, but the only true test is when character is put under pressure.  I have been put in a moral dilemma by the state agency charged with the employment assistance of people with disabilities.  I feel ethically compelled to be upfront that I am blind.  The state agency does not want me to discuss my disability and remove any mention on my cover letter.
There are government regulations, statutes, and industry practices in regards to non-discrimination and the reasonable accommodations for the disabled.  The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Education Code oversee workplace and academic assurances of equality.  The laws are only as solid as the person’s choice to respect the legislation.
“You wouldn’t tell them you are in a wheelchair, would you?” friends have presented to me as a counter balance towards being forthcoming about my eye sight.  
 
The argument to remove my carefully articulated paragraph about my blindness is this:  the Human Resources person can discriminate before any consideration for a position.  It is a valid point.  As that point is made, the next logical conclusion is the person that will  discriminate upfront will discriminate at any point during the process.  In other words, if a person is morally bankrupt they will find a way to reject my application and/or me.
 
Social Work is a field where character is paramount.  Any employer may internally wonder, “If Chad didn’t disclose about his disability, what else is he not telling us?”  In a profession where Social Workers must adhere to a Code of Ethics and Core Values, Integrity is the bedrock.  
 
I have control over myself and my code of conduct.  Ethics have been woven into my character as far back as I can remember.  I would rather be unemployed and moral than use justifications to play fast and loose with what I know to be deceptive behavior.  “A person is only as good as their ‘word’ and if you can’t be trusted, your ‘word’ means nothing.”  My father told me those words in middle school.
A year & a half after graduation, I remain unemployed.  The last interviewer had a look of shock, according to my wife’s observation, the interviewer’s mouth dropped and took a moment to recover as Perry & I came forward for the interview.
“What would your character do?”  I have played a number of roles in my life.  I sang and danced as a butcher in Fiddler on the Roof.  I spoke yiddish as a deli owner in the Dilly.  I was penned down and tickled by Craig Brewer as a pirate in To The Edge of the Earth.
Now, I have the lead role in a documentary.  I play a guy rebuilding his life after blindness.   What would my character do?  My character will find meaning in struggles, choose to be known as having integrity, and not give up.  Until I am cast in a full time role as a Social Worker, I know exactly what to do in the meantime:  Tango!

Gaining a New Sense…

“When you lose a sense, your other senses get stronger…” 

The loss of my sight has brought about a survival sense.  The opportunity to allow one’s sense of humor becomes the fertile crescent of laughing at the things said to you, the rich irony of life, and  the resonance between shared experiences.
 
A build up of anticipation soon leads to what  makes a joke funny. The delivery of something unexpected drives through a reality we don’t think is possible. Is it me or my disposition?” My genetic profile might drive the inclination to  dig in deeper for the humor. The same people who say, “When you lose one sense, the other senses get stronger” are the same one’s who say, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything needs a nail.” Perhaps I find humor or the funny could be there already. 
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Laughter is a release. In that release, all of the frustration and disappointment disappear.  It might be momentary.  It could be isolated. If the opportunity presents, I elect to laugh.

While touring Ireland, my wife & I needed to use the facilities. Jennifer brought me to the door of the Men’s room and said, “The door is on the left and stalls are on the right.”
 
A Dubliner walked passed me and asked Jennifer, “Would he be needing a disabled toilet?”
 
I turned towards the man and stated, “No, I need one that works.”
 
Frequently, people will address the person accompanying the individual with a disability. Those of us with the ability and a voice usually retort with some witty repartee.  A person with a disability seems to bring out absurd reactions from the average person and the resulting stories are priceless.   
 
Perry, my guide dog, and I were a newly formed team in the summer of 2013. Still in a “training” mode, Perry treated me like a substitute teacher. “What can I get away with doing?” he must have thought. At the entrance of a big box retailer, Perry cut too closely and walked me into one of those cement barriers before the front door. I asked Jennifer to go ahead as I “worked” with Perry to “watch” and drew attention to the barrier. As she stood by the security person, they observed Perry knock me into the sliding door and the necessary re-training of a guide dog team. 
 
“He’s getting a lesson,” Jennifer explained to the young guy.
 
“What’s the dog for?” he pondered out loud.
 
“Blindness,” Jennifer replied.
 
“Who is blind?” the guard asked.
 
Without hesitation, Jennifer stated, “The dog.”
 
Overcome by astonishment, “Really!?!?! Wow.”
 
Every day scenarios have those humorous elements. In the actual moment I may find the situation heartbreaking but, with some time & perspective, the ridiculousness makes me belly laugh.
 
Universities and colleges have specific offices with trained staff to accommodate students with disabilities. These offices are to higher education as Special Education departments are to public schools. On this particular day, I wore the Blind Guy Uniform which consists of a 56 inch long white cane and dark sunglasses. Dressed for the mission, I had to physically pick up individualized accommodation letters for each of my professors. As I entered the disabilities office, I was greeted by one of the staff . I introduced myself and explained I came to retrieve my accommodation letters. “Okay, you will need to fill out this form so we can log the reason you came in.” the staff detailed.
 
I stood there with no knowledge of what to do or say. With a nervous tone, the staff person slid the form on a clipboard in front of me. I looked in the general direction of the person and I raised my eye brows.
 
“Oh! I am completely sorry.” the person leaned forward. 
 
I thought this person noticed my sunglasses after my eye brow pronunciation and the ginormous white cane beside me helped to connect why I needed letters of accommodation.
 
“I didn’t give you a pen for the form,” the person declared as a pen was placed on the clipboard.
 
People with disabilities have these types of encounters peppered through their lives. One might think an office dedicated to work with individuals with special accommodations would be familiar with the fact blind people can’t see forms. Such experiences would be the standard operating procedure through my degree; therefore, I adopted a playful attitude when asked to perform tasks beyond any blind person’s ability at that office.
 
During this journey, my wife and I have laughed to tears. With the adventures Perry and I get into while on a route, I choose to find the humor. Life is different now. Laughter comes from anywhere and everywhere. Cruising through Half Price Books with Perry, a child whispered “That’s a blind dog!” Wait for it. Wait for it. Pick your funny element. Is it the need for the kid to whisper, Perry is blind, or a blind guy was browsing a Half Price Book store? It is all funny and makes life worth living.
 
Absolutely! I agree that other senses get stronger. Those senses do not become automatically intensified. I have learned to appreciate the smell of freshly bloomed honeysuckle while on our daily exercise routes. I relish the sound of my wife’s laughter as she recounts her day at dinner. I take the time to notice the heat emanating off Perry as he falls asleep on my foot. Nothing is sweeter tasting than victory over depression. I can truly say that learning to laugh at life’s little situations Only Makes Me Stronger. IMG_0267

The Disability Advantage

We arrived early at the testing location and my professional exam reader had not shown up.  In fact, the proctor was twenty minutes late.  During those twenty minutes, I hinged my success or failure on the exam results as direct reflections on my career prospects, my efforts to prepare for each course, my intelligence, and my worth as a person.  My core insecurity was after all the struggles, could I back up the bravado about my abilities.  I took teacher certification and GRE exams but this carried more weight.

The desire to run blindly away or burst into tears was so powerful that the indecision kept me paralyzed.  As the reader showed up, my mood lightened up as the native Texan eased my fears after I heard his clear pronunciation.

During the last two years, every Social Work exam was completed on my computer.  Having a human proctor was nerve racking.  “Would they keep a mental tally of how I am doing? Will they check the correct box?” I lathered into a volley of “What if” questions.
Shuttled off to a private room, the testing center would audio & video the exam along with recording my answers.  The proctor began to read the computer screen.  On top of the profuse number of prayers I had said, I got in one last one as I meekly said, “I’m ready.”

The first five questions went smoothly until I noticed the proctor had switched words.   The first time he read the question with the word “discuss” as part of the sentence.   The second pass morphed to “disclose”.  Had someone been monitoring my hemispheric activity, there were more electric strikes than a Texas thunderstorm.  The entire meaning of the question had shifted.  Knowing I had only answered five out of 170 questions.  Each grain of sand that fell through the hourglass seemed to weigh my hope down.  I had the proctor run through the question a few more times until “disclose” had been repeated the most times.

Rather than read A, B, C, or D, the proctor only said the answers. One answer option was “Transactional” followed by the next option of “Analysis”.  Together, I heard “Transactional Analysis” which is a legitimate answer.  I felt a cold bead of sweat slide from my neck down my back and the contrast made me shutter. “This question only has three answer choices?” I puzzled out loud. The proctor stated there were four choices and said the answers once more.

I attempted to remain calm and role model how I would like the answers read back to me.  “So, ‘A’ is…’B’ is…” The proctor continued to mash the answers together.  Occasionally, I could not tell when the question ended and the answers began.

The proctor could not find what number question we were on.  An increased frequency of word fumbles became common place.  My optimism had all been drained from each pore.

I hit a threshold and my confidence in the answers had drifted.  I pondered, “If the testing center is monitoring, how come they have not come in and replaced this proctor.  Should I stop the test and let them know what has happened thus far?” My insecurities infiltrated my thought patterns and I had tremendous difficulty comprehending the questions.

Reasonably deducting that I had missed more than half, the proctor destroying each question, and the insurmountable number of questions left, I wanted to throw in the towel.  “Since I’ll have to take this again, I might as well hear the rest of the questions,” I decided.

My sense of humor washed over my fears as I started to count how many errors the proctor would make on each question.  This distraction actually served to keep me focused.  I paid attention to what the proctor said and decoded what the question plainly asked.

At the last question, an overwhelming feeling of relief and dread showered me.  My hands burned like I was digging for the last Diet Dr Pepper in a deep cooler of ice water.  I heard my heart pound.  I just knew I missed the mark but I was dying to know by how many questions.

The testing center monitor came in and escorted the proctor and I to the front.  The proctor signed out and stood in front of me.  I asked the testing center staff person if I could find out the results.  As I was handed my results, I asked, “Did I pass?”

“We are not allowed to verbalize if a candidate has passed.  I am sorry.” she said with a genuine tone.
With my persuasive smile and the most pathetic expression I could muster, “Could I waive that right and ask for an accommodation please??

The staff person leaned in and whispered “You passed.”

It was as if my body had just walked outside on an August summer day in Texas.  I felt the rush of blood return to my hands, my face burned red, and I could not stop smiling.

I left the testing center and found a quiet place in a hallway.  I sat on the floor and wept.  I had done it.  The little boy inside of me stood taller.  I had joined the legacy of remarkable role models and agents of change.  In my soul, a flag of victory had been raised up.  In that moment, I became a Social Worker.
I called my wife, Jennifer.  I cried so hard and vapor locked as she answered.  I shared that I passed the licensing exam, “We did it.” Anyone married to a graduate student should earn an honorary degree for the support.  Jennifer played so many roles to keep me focused, motivated, and prepared.

Twenty minutes of breathing deeply and sighing, curiosity swelled and I returned to the testing center.  The staff person saw me opened the door, called out my name, and asked me to stay in the hallway.  “I know what this is about,” she reassured me.  “The testing monitor observed your exam from the beginning and called me over.  She was alarmed by the proctor’s errors and mishandling of the exam.  We are filing a grievance with the Social Work Board.”

“You all knew he was messing things up at the beginning? Why didn’t you stop the test?” I inquired with befuddlement.

As she explained the legal ramifications of halting an exam, once an exam has started, any disruption would nullify the exam.  I would have had to reschedule in 90 days and advocate aggressively to get my fees returned and applied for the new exam.  Luckily the high from my success squelched any feelings of injustice.  The proctor would be banned for the failure to read the exam accurately.  With the knowledge no other candidate would have to endure that lack of competence.  Her reassurance left a sense of validation.

In the days and months that followed, I grew grateful for what I experienced.  I would never want to deal with the confusion over the wording of the questions.  I was forced to decipher the whole question.  I explored the use of each word choice and determined if the proctor had replaced the word subconsciously, or, more accurately, unconsciously.

No client or employer may comprehend what it took to earn my Licensed Master of Social Work.  I will know exactly what I had to do.  One year to the day, it remains the proudest professional achievement.  Personally, it serves to remind me that I am worthwhile.  I do have value.  I would not change a thing.  I am a stronger person without my sight than I was as a sighted person.

May 6, 2014 Expanding our Horizons

In the preparation for the Licensed Master of Social Work exam, I felt as confident as one can about a test they have not a clue what is on it. The 170 question test would be the first exam after I lost my sight.

I had read every website, prep book, and even apps to boost my confidence. 
The day before the exam, I decided to go on a walk with my guide dog, Perry. As we cleared the car in the driveway, I made a decision that would prove disastrous. “LEFT!” I said. Perplexed but equally excited, Perry tugged down a street we had walked but never in reverse. The harness felt like Perry kept pulling me to the left. After numerous tugs, I figured he may need some “park” time. 
An industry term, “park” denotes a polite reference for a “pitstop”. Guide dogs are trained they may not relieve themselves while in harness. Once in harness, Perry is “working” and won’t engage in typical canine behaviors.
I removed his harness and allowed him to spin in his circles of sniffing determination. With five minutes of no “results, I got him to heel and , I snapped his harness around him. We appeared to be at the ramp. We crossed and headed on our way. Usually I could feel the downward slope of the route; however, I had not sensed a difference. Perry turned with the sidewalk. After an abbreviated section, once more Perry turned with the sidewalk.
There is a “sense” one develops upon learning how to navigate a familiar place. The perception of Time & Distance grows stronger. Some blind people count steps while others depend on Time & Distance to indicate approximate locations.
My muscles and Spider Sense told me something was very wrong. The time it should have taken us to turn was much quicker but I recognized a change. I had walked the route in reverse so my Time & Distance could be off. A good principle is to go back to where you may have made the mistake.
I didn’t choose that common sense action. No, I kept walking.  I crossed the streets in various directions in hopes the ground would provide familiarity. I tried to get a reading from Perry. He was refreshed by our adventure and keeping us precisely on the sidewalks. He seemed oblivious to our predicament. Time & Distance told me that we had never walked for that long in a straight line, let me qualify this statement, EVER! We were definitely lost.
My skills to recover and get back home were clouded by anxiety and the Sun’s rays. Our quick fifteen minute route had ballooned into an hour and thirty minute trek. The wind gave me no bearing. Feeling like Gilligan, I was lost without Skipper to bash me in the head with a hat and tell me how to fix this mistake.
Without the option of going back to where I got lost originally, I went into problem solving mode. My iPhone has Siri! I told it to navigate to our address. “Continuing to head Southwest on blah-blah.” I couldn’t understand it and it said the same thing if I turned around and walked twenty feet in the opposite direction. I didn’t know what direction was Southwest. I stop the app and stood there to ponder deeply. I felt Amun Ra’s brightness burning on the side of my face. In that moment, I got oriented to direction because it was morning time and the Sun rises in the East. YAHTZEE We headed North and crossed streets until we reached the entrance of our neighborhood. I knew how to get home from there. 
The peace and serenity I had hoped would be flooding my synapses had become a serotonin drought. For the hour and a half I had radiated anxiety. I had to regain my composure and focus on the exam preparation.
My original intention was to exercise & “work” Perry. The gravy was going to be releasing some nervous energy. An hour and a half was the longest route we had endured. Over thinking, the journey had been the exact distraction I needed.
Upon closer reflection, the experience was a success. I would have preferred to schedule my crises for a less emotionally charged time.
I used the experience to build my confidence that I am able to jump over hurdles and remain calm. I could not have asked for a better guide dog. Perry was focused and ready to navigate where ever I directed.
We don’t plan for these tiny crisis moments. We can practice healthy coping mechanisms and adaptive techniques. Besides don’t try something “new” the day before an important test, the most valuable gem I took away is to persevere and tenacity wins. I had to push beyond my comfort zone and keep moving forward. The next day, my freshly discovered epiphany was put to a real “test”…

Beauty Within…

My pride, like a cheap veneer, covered & protected the softer elements of what I felt inside.
Her name was Tina. In a group of second graders, we loved when Tina could join us at recess or lunch. While Mrs. Glasser taught moral lessons and the core subjects, Tina was in a separate class with students who never played with us. Those students had recess at a different time with the teachers joining in the activities.
A sweet soul, Tina had brown hair draped around her face always adorned with an authentic smile. A contagious laugh would spread to the rest of us as Tina was in the moment. The only distinctive characteristic that identified Tina was a white cane taller than her. She walked along the wall tapping the cane against the ground, the wall, and then the ground. She counted the number of steps or taps.
One day, our classroom door flung open as Tina stood there crying uncontrollably. The condition that contributed to her blindness made her brown eyes appear disturbingly bloodshot. She was lost and feared her teacher’s reaction. A couple of us convinced Mrs. Glasser we would get Tina back to her class safely. As we arrived at her class, the two of us explained we had accidentally messed up Tina’s counting and it was our fault she was late. Successfully shielding Tina, her teacher read us the unabridged version of the Riot Act.  for our careless disruption to Tina’s orientation.
In an effort to bring awareness to the struggles of people with disabilities,  Tina’s teacher asked a blind lady to speak with the students. Lead to the front of the stage, the lady wearing black sunglasses was accompanied by a german shepherd guide dog.  With a microphone in hand, the lady talked for a few minutes.
Mesmerized by the dog, I don’t recall the content of her presentation. Without warning, the woman took a single step forward.  Both fell headlong off the edge of the stage.  They landed face-first in a heap. Everything happened so fast that I’m not sure anyone knew how to react. I remember that her grip on the harness handle is what pulled the dog off the stage, compounding an already bad situation.  With a large knot on her head and the dog reacting anxiously, I remember her trying to make light of the incident by repeating, “It was my fault. My dog tried to tell me and I didn’t listen.
Connected to those jarring images, I recall a visit with my cousin in Texas. At a flea market. My cousin and I were given some cash to spend wisely. I bought a Rangers pendent. My cousin wandered in a different direction. When we met up, he was in tears. He bought a couple of unsharpened pencils. Vapor locked and unable to speak, he pointed to a man with dark sunglasses. The man held out two cups. One cup had pencils with Texas School for the Blind and the other had change with a few dollar bills. It was my first time witnessing charitable giving and sighting of a blind person outside of a school environment.
With a limited exposure, Tina, the lady with the guide dog, and the blind man with the pencils framed the outline of what it meant to be blind. Decades later the reality of my vision  flashed before me, I replayed those vivid memories in my head. I refused any possibility of being like those blind people. My “self-talk” dialogue consisted of being convinced I should never appear lost, clumsy, or in need. The thought of using a cane would put my insecurity on display. My thoughts surrounded how people would judge me before I had a chance to prove myself. My worth as a person would be defined by the awkward swaying of a white stick. Unrealistic expectations and untested fears formed a dysfunctional layer of thoughts and beliefs.
The deeper elements had a protective layer of humor, deflection, and minimizing in order to prevent any acknowledgement. I bought into the lie of what I projected publicly which only served to convince me I could not show my frailty. Like most veneers, the outer layers wear down and the facade becomes visible.
My relationships with people were strained. I lost who I was deep beneath fake confidence and bravado. Below the thin layer I displayed was a newly formed layer of pity, shame, and helplessness.
The process of dealing with an acquired disability stripped me down to the core. Those raw, rough elements saw the light of day. Counseling broke down the self loathing. I had lived so long with negative beliefs, I felt I had nothing to contribute in life or to my fiancee.
Peeling off those artificial sediments, I polished the gnarly features of my “self”. With time & acceptance, the natural luster started to gleam.
Admitting I will have to ask for help lead to  developing a sense of compassion.
I spent years hiding the fragile  soul at my core. With humility, all of us have insecurities we mask with veneers. Some times, it felt like the veneer held everything together.
Acknowledging the self-awareness that  we all have those moments of being like Tina, imperfection is an integral part of the human experience. Truth is all of us fall down from time to time. I learned not every flaw is visible. Flaws, when viewed in certain light, brings out character and beauty. Finding the beauty within one’s self only makes me stronger.