I am going …what?

I am going … what?

It’s hard to fill in the blank in that statement, ‘I’m going …’. The shock of hearing that you have a degenerative eye disease is enough to make you think you are dreaming.  Thoughts waft through your semi- conscious brain saying, “This is not happening to me“; “this only happens to people I don’t know “ or “I will wake up tomorrow and find out it was just a bad dream”. That word ‘Blind’ is terrifying to a sighted person.  And so begins the first stage of grieving – denial.  I love denial. It is like having permission to live in the cuckoo land of unreality. It works so well … at least for a while.

I was in denial for years as I pretended and found tricks and clever ways to disguise the fact that I couldn’t see well at all (understatement!), and I let the submerged fear out by running and running and running some more .  In our own time we all go through the grieving process as anger comes short on the heels of denial (thumbs up to all loved ones who stand by us through that!).This is generally followed by fits of bargaining with ourselves and God or both – a good time to take up a contact sport.

I found myself faced with questions about the value of my life that no ten-year-old should have to ask.  Now that I think of it, no one did ask for blindness – that treacherous ocean between sight and no sight that all VIP’s (visually impaired people) are forced to navigate. You have no choice about being there and as much as people are with you, they cannot extract you from the reality. It can be a lonely and also selfish time. The currents of depression, disappointment and self-pity threaten to suck you under and pull you along paths you don’t want to go, but eventually the acceptance spits you out and you can finally take a deep breath of relief and joy as you recognise that you are still you and will always be you!  You realise that you are okay, and when you wipe the salt out of your eyes you see, or rather, hear a whole community of thriving survivors cheering you on and suddenly you know you are not alone and it is not a shame to get help… it is actually fun.

Find something that makes you tick and get involved, whether it is using your talents for fundraising for cures, awareness for prevention of blindness, support groups, sports, writing or motivational speaking. Your life itself can be a motivation and an eye-opener to others. If you have a degenerative disease you will go through more grieving, but there are plenty of people and great organisations to help you thrive.

Let’s do this together.

 

…teh wood for the trees

can't see teh wood for the trees

You are probably very familiar with the full saying, “You can’t see the wood for the trees”, where you are so busy looking for the solution everywhere else that you are blind to the fact that it is right under your nose… like looking for your sun glasses and all the while they are on top of your head, or in your top pocket.

Well, I was looking everywhere for a magnifier App that could be used to zoom in on a piece of paper and lock on the page… so I could write on the line without the camera focusing on your hand or the pen.  I have spent hours searching , downloading ,and  at times buying Apps only to find out that it has been in my hand all this time…. built in on  my iPhone. If the magnifier was alive it may have bitten me on the nose.I am so excited about the journey of discovery. I would love to meet the clever person or team at Apple who created this awesome technology and left it in a treasure box so some unsuspecting visually impaired person would come across it and think it is a miracle sent from heaven!

Being a teacher at heart I now need to increase my skill on this function and then lay it out simply so that it can be taught to others looking for specific help with magnifiers.

….forget the trees, I have found the wood!

 

Where’s Wally?

WallyThis is a brilliant read for young kids and parents to bond over. If you have never read a ‘Where’s Wally?’ you have a missing link in your education. It is this little guy in a red and white striped top who is hidden in plain sight amongst people and objects of similar colours and shapes.  It is a lot of fun in a book, but not a concept that transfers meaningfully into the real life of someone with little or no central vision especially when it is inadvertently left unedited in your pathway.

I am talking about hidden levels and camouflaged steps accidentally abandoned in public spaces and even in modern constructions.

There are three buildings I have been in quite often lately and all of them are specifically for children, the sick or the elderly- two hospitals and an education centre.  I love the modern sleek designs, the gentle greys and muted stone hues that are earthy and relaxing. ..except on the stairs! When you intend to go on a trip , this is not really the kind you meant.  And, the ‘landing’ between stair cases, I don’t think was named implying a safe foundation where something generally considered  dangerous comes to an end…like an airport runway or the mat at the other side of the gymnastics vault. A stairwell landing should provide maximum safety for ascent and descent. In all these cases there is either no contrast colour for the edge of the step or a dull grey that is the same colour as the shadows on the steps, making it confusing even for the sighted.  (In one case the stairs double as the fire escape route, not making for a quick safe escape.)

When you think of having an access friendly building, one usually thinks of a ramp and a wheelchair friendly bathroom and occasional braille bumps on the lift buttons.  It is very seldom that the needs of a vision impaired person, or a short sighted senior , are taken into consideration. Colour contrasts, clear lighting and tastefully bold signage can easily be incorporated into the theme of the build.

When these aspects are short-sightedly (excuse the pun) excluded at the design phase , the afterthought can land up being a thick yellow or white  stripe sloshed on the edge of the step that looks unsightly and out of place and frankly ugly! And then, it is sometimes blamed on the unfortunate needs of the disabled.  I feel sorry for some of these beautiful, elegant   buildings as they nervously await an unavoidable desecration. Some steps are clear at only certain times of the day when there is a shadow on them.

There are so many attractively clear stairwells where the light catches the minimalistic shine at the edge because it was planned with high visibility in mind.

I think Wally would agree with me as he too wears  a large pair of black- rimmed spectacles, but  I get so passionate about this; I may need to watch my step!

Wally stairs

Love, loss and Levi jeans

jeans

There is nothing more relaxing and calming than putting on your comfiest jeans. They are usually the oldest and softest, bearing rips, patches, paint and other scars that hold memories and reminders that life is an adventurous journey. They are best worn with slippers and accompanied by a good book and a warm drink. We seldom wear these in public, especially if we are meeting people   for the first time. First impressions are important, but are only a glimpse of a person’s whole life journey. They can be misleading at times. So, my spaghetti brain (every thought touches every other thought) related this to how relaxing it is to be with people who don’t appear perfect.  Perfection has its place in the beauty of music, fashion, sports and mathematics, but it is a bit unhelpful in relationships.  This got me thinking about the strength of being real with our weaknesses.

“My power is made perfect in your weakness”- God himself.

Just as love conquers strife and forgiveness is sweeter than revenge, so is vulnerability a key to strength.
I have learned that being open with my weaknesses allows an opportunity for others to feel strong and, asking for appropriate help empowers me. No matter how hard, I tried to be independent; it was only when I admitted my need for help and got the skills to cope with my vision struggles, than I found real independence. Thanks to the professionals, at Helen Keller Low vision services, I got the freedom to move around independently even on public transport.

Asking for help takes courage as it can seem that we have failed. I know that family members can feel frustrated when they see us struggling, as they know that if we just asked for help then everyone is happier. I get that we need to be determined and persevering, but, if we don’t acknowledge our weakness, the frustration can easily become anger (at ourselves) or even aggression. Asking for help is not a failure. Being honest with our pain is helpful for everyone.

It cannot be easy to live with a person who appears to have ‘no need for help –no weaknesses‘. Hats off to all friends and relations of super- strong, perfect people. If a person is so independent and self –sufficient, without a gap, then how do you love them?  Softness can triumph over perfection as it opens an opportunity to value others and transact with humility, kindness and appreciation.

In the process of embracing my blips and blemishes and it is no easy process (especially for an A type personality), I have become less stressed and, in a way, more able. I am more comfortable in the worn jeans of my inability which opens up opportunity to ask for help and make someone else feel trusted and valuable. It’s a bit like letting an acquaintance come into your house through the back door and asking them to turn the kettle on. It makes them feel like family.

chair 2

For me, old jeans are an allegory of a life of loss, laughter and love… far more satisfying than clean-cut lines of pristine perfection. I love them so much that I restored an old wing back chair with the family’s old jeans and it is my favourite place to sit with a cup of tea, snuggled by the life journeys of my loved ones …and the scratchings of our naughty kitty!

‘Let the weak say I am strong’

(Thanks to Botha and Budler editors)

About time

clock reflectionThis morning I was late for a commitment. I was meant to be there at 7.45am. I was up early and thought that I was on time, so when my husband said, “It’s 7:35 I realised I needed to shower, wash and dry my hair, dress and be there in 10 minutes …. not going to happen.

Being a teacher at heart I was pondering my mistake whilst brushing my teeth at breakneck speed. It was then that I realised I was gauging my routine by my husband’s normal schedule. . He usually leaves at 7.25 and this morning his responsibilities were different and so his routine was not usual.

In the seconds between brushing and rinsing my mouth I realised that I hardly ever look at a clock. I judge time by other indicators.

I love revelatory thoughts, but they seem to pop up in the most inopportune times. Whilst multi-tasking the rest of my own beautifications at high speed I thought about the time clues that lurk in the backyard of my brain.

The geyser turned on …it’s half past four.

The Cape Robin is performing his entire repertoire of songs…the sun is rising soon.

The bus turned down our Street…it’s ten past seven. #

Our   neighbour is reversing out of his garage …it’s 7.30

I hear builders next door …it’s 7.45

The dog’s next door are going nuts…the children have just left for school …it’s 7.50 am

I can hear children playing in a playground…it is 10.15am

On Thursday the domestic service has arrived next door…it’s nearly lunchtime

The cat is meandering around my feet …its 5 pm.

On Tuesday nights the crowds at the sports club stop shouting…it’s 9.30

Using other people’s routines to keep my own appointments is not really the most accurate indicator of time. It is quite alarming

…I should have set mine!

Laughing at life

thinking

After eating lunch I was looking for the red lid of the Bovril and inadvertently started to pick up the last slice of red tomato you have to laugh!

I cannot decide if it is heart breaking or humorous to take a jibe at our weaknesses.  Sometimes the silly side is really refreshing.

So…

What is worse than a blind joke?
A lame one

What did they call the silo  filled with  eye balls?
The eye full tower

Why did the blind teacher resign?
He had no pupils

A blind man walked into a bar? What did he order?
Cane

A blind man walked into a bar ….ouch!

Why was the blind comedian rewarded?
His jokes were cornea.

What apparatus depicts the highs and lows of losing your vision?
A see sore

New technology for eye protection?
The iPad

What did the ophthalmic surgeons use to remove the eyeball?
A socket spanner

Why was the eyelid scolded for bad language?
He couldn’t blinkety – blink sit still.

I am legally blind… I didn’t know it could be illegal!!?

Advice for a low vision sufferer: “ it is hard to recognise people at first ….
but you’ll get a feel for it”

What source of energy do short sighted people use?
a magni-fire

Sight loss is never funny, but we might as well laugh … and occasionally  find a safe place to cry.