Grad School Summer II
Friday, July 24
Our last workshop for week 1 started on an unusual note. One
student was upset, and several others joined in, about life
troubles on the home front. I understand that completely,
especially as a mother. Real life doesn't just stop so you can
attend grad school. Real life isn't always so nice. We are told
to find a balancing point. I'm guessing people who say that have
never had to do it.
The teacher, Ruth, is a spiritual woman who believes highly in
the power of meditation. She put scheduled plans on hold to lead
the class through some breathing and meditation exercises. From
my perspective, it was interesting to observe. I can't make that
kind of thing work for myself when I'm struggling to understand
tactile interpreters through waves of muscle pain. I do like an
instructor who will put the emotional needs of her students
before the big picture. Maybe you wouldn't like that of your
child's math teacher. But in writing, emotional well being is
I've been puzzling over why my left shoulder and neck are hurting
so much. The pain is usually in my right arm and maybe
shoulder/neck. This is from over-using my dominant arm,
especially with braille reading. Yet this week the pain is on the
left side, and the sore area is growing every day. Maybe I was
paying too much attention to the pain and not enough attention to
class. That happens when you have to struggle for every word. I
finally figured it out.
I am right handed, and so are all my interpreters. When you do
tactile sitting face-to-face, the interpreter's right hand is in
your left hand. So my left side is doing far more work. One of my
terps uses a jerky style of signing with much emphasis and extra
movements. I realized my left arm was going all over the place
with her. It's hard for me to speak up, but I did and asked her
to sign more smoothly and with less movement of my shoulder.
I also spoke up with my male interpreter, although I didn't
intend to do so. We use a generic name sign system for students,
teachers and visiting readers -- just shake the letter their name
begins with. So, Ruth is a shaking R in front of one shoulder.
When someone in the class said my name, the terp would shake an
A. This always confused me. I couldn't figure out who he meant.
He did that today when we were discussing one of my poems. I sort
of blurted out, "Do you mean me? That's not me!" It's not because
I have a sign name. If you know sign language, you might
understand. My sign name is the sign for book but made with
a-hand shapes. That movement and hand shape are my name just as
much as "Angie" is my name. What the interpreter was doing was
like calling me by someone else's name. I didn't like it. And I
definitely wasn't as focused on class as I should have been.
This class with Ruth, me and the other four students will be my
Fall online class, known simply as Eng 633. For next week's
workshop, we picked a topic that we'd like to focus on. I chose
"The art of truly seeing." As it turns out, Ruth will be my
teacher again. At least I have the anthology but need to find the
time to read it.
Saturday, July 25th
Is the residency half full or half empty? Is the cup of coffee
half over or half begun? I hate coffee and want to go home. In
one week from now, I will be home. It seems like a lifetime as
the pain and exhaustion keep getting worse.
We had just one class this morning and then a day of rest.
Nothing ever sounded better than 24 hours of no sign language.
It's not as sweet as I hoped. The pain continues, time passes too
quickly, and I still need to read the 10,000 word anthology.
How bad am I hurting? Well, I think I'm growing a golf ball under
my arm pit. That's one trigger point that doesn't respond to my
home massage. If Ashland has a golf course, they could take my
out there... Maybe I could make some money. I'm guessing a few
whacks would put me out of my misery.
How bad? I'm back to using BioFreeze. Swearing off it for life
last less than 48 hours. But I won't apply it before bed and only
if I'm wearing a bra.
What happened to all the great plans I had in mind for pain
relief? I was going to bring a gel pack for the freezer. While
heat is better over all, ice can numb an area for a short period
of time. I was going to bring my microwaveable rice bag that
makes an excellent heat pack. I even planned to bring my old TENS
unit. It's like a home e-stem unit for pain. I haven't used it in
years. I forgot all of it. You don't think of these things until
you need them.
The yo-yo, too, is out of control. I'm back to doing just poetry
because I want to graduate on time. Part of the process for
cross-genre involves reading 50 books in each area of focus. I
can read 50 creative nonfiction books any time. My current new
love, docu-poetics, is, by definition, a combination of
nonfiction and poetry. There's also that little, tiny issues of
the unlikelihood that vocational rehabilitation will be willing
to fund my education if I try to delay graduation. We have more
nonfiction planned for next week. I bet the yo-yo will drop
Sunday, July 26th
Despite being so tired, I couldn't sleep last night. It seems
impossible that anything could keep me up, but I keep having
these bad nights. Before I knew it, my little break was over, and
I felt just as bad, if not worse, than before.
Then what happens?
Monday, July 27th
I got less than an hour of sleep. The stress is building, my
stomach hurts most of the time and I just want to go home... Home
to my own bed, my own world, to my son and cats and no signing 11
hours per days.
We started a new workshop for this second week of the residency.
I have the same teacher. Two of the students were with me last
week. The other two are new to me. The topic is "The Art of Truly
Seeing." We are working more in depth on syntax, structure and
other techniques to add depth to our writing.
While I understand the concepts, I was at a loss on what to say
or write. I couldn't keep up with the fast pace of the
discussion. I've read the poetry but can't refer back to it
because my hands are busy with communication. I can't remember
enough detail about the fourth stanza or how the woman is
described. As little as I contribute, I might as well not be in
the room. Am I just feeling depressed because I'm not getting
enough sleep? I don't think so. It's often like this in group
settings. I'm there but not of any importance... just an
obstacle. Can someone please move that thing out of the way? They
could put me on a stool in the corner with a big dunce hat on my
head. I took the rest of the day off.
What is going on here? I "broke" three more things, although none
are really broken. For example, the braille sign for the restroom
just needs to be found and put back on the wall. I was able to
fix the drawer that fell off the fridge. Don't even ask about the
strap on the bed. Don't know what it is, or why it came off.
And what is it about all these spilled drinks If I wanted to
drown my self, I could visit the university pool.
1. Interpreters coffee on the table in our morning classroom
2. My Pepsi in the cafeteria at lunch
3. My Dr. Pepper in my apartment during dinner.
4. A cup of ice water on an end table in the apartment.
Tuesday, July 28th
I slept like a baby and totally didn't want to get up for class.
The sleep felt good for a little while, but things quickly fell
apart. I still couldn't keep up with the workshop discussion. My
mind blanked during our writing exercise. Every time the teacher
stopped to ask if I wanted to add anything to the discussion, I
said "no." I can't critique poetry in real life. My communication
skills won't allow for it.
I feel so isolated. I know much of this is my own doing. I don't
go to socials, open mic night or hang out around campus. I don't
seek out students to talk to during lunch. I eat dinner alone in
my room. It's not that i'm a snob or that I don't want to be with
people. It's just too much for my body. When I'm not in class, I
need to rest. I spend afternoon breaks taking daily naps. Like
most people who use tactile sign language, I can't eat and
communicate at the same time. I don't like the food they serve at
dinner. Besides, eating in my room gives me more time to rest. I
usually have a snack before the evening reading and eat dinner
I was thinking about Nell today -- the title character in a movie
with Jodie Foster as a sort of feral child who grew up in the
woods with her mother. Nell is in her 20's when her mom dies, and
she's discovered by the boy who brings supplies to their isolated
cabin in the woods. She doesn't speak proper English, although
she has her own way of communicating. She is under the watch of
two scientists, who learn her ways and love her like a
daughter... Love her simple beauty and innocence.
Eventually, Nell is brought to a big city where she can't
function like "regular" people. Doctors and other people who
"know best" want her to be committed to a mental health facility.
In a tear jerking speech, which one of the scientists translates,
Nell tries to explain herself to a judge. What she basically says
You live in a big world with big things. My world is small
with little things. But it is my world, and it works for me. You
may not understand, because it's so different from the life you
know. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't worry about me. I will be
fine if I can stay in my own small world.
All I can say today is that I totally feel like Nell. It's not
that I'm stupid or unworthy or anything like that. I just thrive
best in my small, slow world. I'll be fine once I return to it.
Don't cry for Nell. Don't cry for me.
The interpreter, once again, put his coffee on the small bit of
table where I leave my things. That makes five spills in 24
hours. I don't think I've broken anything today. That's
contact me at Angie.C.Orlando@gmail.com