Traveling with vision loss can create difficulties because of the unfamiliar and often uncertain situations you find yourself in.
I thought I’d overcome so many hurdles, like I…
- carry a cane now–not literally, mind you because I use it.
- walk with confidence (or at least I like to think I do!)
- don’t even hide my cane immediately when I sit down like I used to
- ask for directions if I lose my way
- smile a lot more to put others at ease
But it’s still hard for me to do one thing.
That is to let people know when I need help.
SinceI haven’t traveled as much after I started using my cane that it puts me smack dab in the middle of an entirely new scenario.
And my response to that is to take…
For example, I traveled out of town with a colleague over the weekend. We were staying at his relative’s home for a night. The home was very, very dark. It was like stepping into a movie theater after the movie started. I saw only one small light, and that was enough to see the faces and clothing of my colleague and new friend–nothing else. The relative–I’ll call her Rita–was on oxygen. So she had a narrow plastic tube trailing behind her.
The first question I wanted to ask was, “Do you keep your house so dark to make it cooler so it’s easier for you to breathe?
But I felt like I was treading on personal ground.
So, I said nothing and felt my way into the bedroom with my cane to set my bag down.
But I had to come out. Sometime. Right?
When I did, I could see absolutely no furniture.
I wanted to scream, “Help! Help! Furniture alert! Invisible! Gone! MIA!”
Instead, I plopped myself down on a large carpet, which sat on top of her living room carpet — the one spot the weak light hit and lit up.
Immediately, Rita exclaimed, “Have a seat in one of the chairs.”
(I assume she meant where the big people sit)
Not “Where is it???”
Not “Gladly if I could only see it!”
Not “Sure. Can you give me the coordinates?”
Nope, instead I said, “I love sitting on the floor. I always have. I’m not picky. In fact, I’m kind of like a gypsy. Give me a good old carpet any day!”
All this because I couldn’t ask for help to find her chairs or any of her furniture. And this was after she saw my cane and slammed the basement door shut with its many steps down.
It’s really quite ridiculous–this pretense! Don’t get me wrong. I like a good carpet as much as the next guy or maybe even more–especially one with butterfly designs, like she had as I found out in the morning sunlight. After all, the gypsy blood is partially true. I roamed the world for several years. With a job, of course.
But I did feel a bit odd seated in the middle of the floor while my two counterparts sat nicely on the the cushions of their respective chairs.
I felt like “The Great Pretender.” And once I declared how much I loved sitting on the floor, practically screaming out my exotic gypsy heritage (of which I have no blood relatives), I felt obligated to continue my charade and love of all places LOW.
The truth was once I was seated on that plush carpet, I was afraid to take a step.
I might trip over Rita’s oxygen cord.
Actually, I did step on it once this morning and she stopped in her tracks. I held my own breath and could have suffocated from the thousands deaths I was mentally dying … until I suddenly remembered to remove my foot and let the air stream flow unrestricted to poor Rita.
So that’s why I said I loved sitting on the floor.
Who says that anyway?!
It cracks me up when I think of that scenario. Especially when Rita handled the stepping-on-the-tube situation fine. She simply pushed me ahead of her and verbally guided me to the restroom this morning. That was it. A simple fear resolved.
Here I am giving travel tips to others when I’m still learning how to follow my own advice. Ironic, huh?
But I bet lots of other people pretend, too. Mostly because so many awkward situations exist that don’t even involve furniture or the layout of a new house! Other people are also in the dark as to handle the situation. Just like me. They don’t want to offend, or admit or share…whatever.
Am I right?
What comforts me the most is when I admit a weakness to my friends with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP for short), they tell me they’ve been there and struggled with that, too.
I am not alone!
I love this advice I got from a vision-impaired friend:
The cane is a huge first step. . . you’ll eventually get to the point where “help me” doesn’t feel like fingernails screeching down the chalkboard. Just remember we are all so, so dependent on each other in this crazy world. I’ve had to accept that independence doesn’t mean I can do everything without asking for help. . . that is certain.
The acceptance and wisdom just wowed me!
It doesn’t matter if we’re sighted or vision-impaired, or why we pretend–because even if we admit to being the Great Pretender only deep down and to ourselves–if we choose to, we can move forward toward honesty, even if that means taking it one step at a time.
We can step beyond.
Off the carpet and into the dark.
What have you pretended to like or do or say? Did you laugh at yourself afterward and wonder why? Or simply feel stressed? Share in the comments below! If you liked this, Like and Share it with your friends. I always love to read your comments!
You have read “Stepping Into Independence.” © Copyright Amy Bovaird April 2014.