Sharper Focus

Many people dream of seeing the world. Ask vision-challenged globetrotter Amy Bovaird, and she will settle for seeing it in a little sharper focus. Follow Amy--but not too closely--on adventures foreign and domestic as she recounts tales of trips and travel.

Stepping Into Independence

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…

baby steps.

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!”

Where oh where is all the furniture?

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)

My response?

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.

I asked myself, "Is independence, strangely enough, achieved by knowing when and how to ask for help?"

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.

Without fear.

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.

14 Responses to “Stepping Into Independence”

  • Gosh what a moving story. You’re so brave!

    • Amy:

      Hi Sophie,
      Ha ha! Traveling does offer its own challenges. Always a lesson learned. =)
      Thanks for taking time to read my story!
      Amy

  • I really enjoyed reading that. You are so right, no matter who we are we need to realize that asking for help isn’t weakness it’s strength and that knowing when to ask is vital. Thank you!

    • Amy:

      Sedruola,
      Life is so full of challenges, isn’t it? But so full of rewards as well, especially when we realize how much progress we’re making! =) Hope you check back to my blog soon for more of my stories!
      Take care,
      Amy

  • Nick:

    Really good stuff!

  • David Rosenkoetter:

    The independence thing for us who are blind seems to come at different stages and in different ways. Sometimes, we just don’t understand its timing or how we’ll react. When I was at Concordia-Seward, Ne for my undergrad, I tried learning the campus by my feet and counting steps so that I didn’t have to use the cane…Thought it would help my general perception with other students. Yeah, right! I don’t think so. After stepping off the sidewalk and into a couple drainage ditches over the period of a couple days, the cane rested once more in left hand and tapped in its familiar two-point touch arc ahead of my long strides.

    • Amy:

      Hi David,
      Oh my goodness! You make such a good point! It does come at different times and in different ways. Sometimes we push our way through that fear and other times, it happens on its own. No, actually it doesn’t! Or at least in my case, I’ve always had to push through. What a chance you took giving up your cane for those few days on your new campus! But think of it this way, you were just like all the other college students–testing your limits, right? I love how you described your return to your mobility cane: “The cane rested once more in left hand and tapped in its familiar two-point arc ahead of my long strides.” Safety!
      Thanks for weighing in on this subject, David!
      Amy

  • We all need help at some point. Yours might be to find your way to a chair. Mine might be to find my way back to God. But we need others to help us, to encourage us and to keep us in hope. Thanks for being honest.

    • Amy:

      RJ,
      That’s right. Isn’t it marvelous how when we grapple with a difficulty, someone lays it out so plainly that we can’t miss knowing what we need to do? It might take us awhile to get over that hump, but we know our course and eventually will be able to accomplish it! I love these life lessons that I learn from my mistakes. Life is full of hope when we look for it, isn’t it? God is faithful! And so are you in your support!
      Amy

  • Lynn:

    Well said. Fear stops us from many things. It takes courage and modesty to ask for help and, everybody needs help at one time or another!

    • Amy:

      Hi Lynn,
      That is absolutely true! Another one of my friends put it this way: asking for help is part of being independent, knowing when to ask and having the courage to do so takes practice. It seems opposite, doesn’t it? But I love that being independent means involves a certain amount of dependency!
      Miss you! Hope you are well!
      It’s finally almost spring!
      Amy

  • Very good job, Amy! As a person who now has only light perception, you sure are bringing back many memories. Oh, the fight to independence all seem to strive for in this life when God asks us to be totally dependent on Him and interdepen

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