Beloved Eyes

Drawbacks, Challenges and Optimism

These days, members of my RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa) Family Support Group on Facebook are sharing photographs of their eyes under #RP Challenge or #RP Eyes to promote awareness of the disease that eventually blinds them. From children to adults all around the world, people are coming forward with their stories and challenges.

No one’s journey is easy and no one has exactly the same challenges–though we have some common symptoms: night blindness, tunnel vision and a host of other difficulties that ultimately lead to blindness. We’re all at different stages of losing our vision. This #RP Eye Challenge actually brings greater unity and even a celebration of honesty among us while it also acts as an outreach to others who don’t know about our hidden disease. With RP, our eyes appear unaffected. I can only speak for myself but sometimes I preferred others to think me as clumsy or an airhead, even drunk if that meant I could remain in denial and hide my vision loss  a little longer. I’m sure others do the same.

I could relate to how one man described his life: “…walking around blind with everyone noticing but me.” He explained that he didn’t need a cane yet but that he can’t function comfortably without it. On occasions when he tries to use a cane, people watch him suspiciously. I felt the drawbacks and especially his loneliness. It’s hard to live in that confusing uncertainty. I know because I lived it, too.

The RP Challenge starts with a hash tag and a description of one’s eyes. Here I go.

my beloved eyes

These are my plain Jane brown #RP eyes. When I lived overseas, my closest expatriate friends had sparkling blue or deep sea-green eyes that the locals gushed over. My nondescript eyes were often overlooked. But once in an apparent gesture of kindness, a South American neighbor lady sweetly added, “And you, you have ojos de caballo.” I had horse eyes? I mulled that over and concluded that, of course, that could only mean I had gentle eyes. Kind eyes. Trusting. Compassionate. I took what I could get back then!

But you know what, I love my eyes! I’m so grateful to have gentle, compassionate eyes that I can see out of, however faulty that vision is. I appreciate these eyes that have laugh lines (maybe that’s just my sneaky way of trying  to glam up my wrinkles and crow’s feet!).I value having eyes that welcome people into my life. I still trust. And have faith. People can see this in my eyes. In eyes that can’t always see out.

It’s been twenty-five years since I found out I would progressively lose my sight. Like everyone who struggles, I’ve had to continually adapt. But for me, it’s been pretty positive with a few off-putting detours. I choose see myself traveling on an adventurous journey, even when I can’t see what’s coming ahead before I bang into it!

This song, Journey On by Ty Herndon, encouraged me. Some of the lyrics really speak to my heart and make me more determined to incorporate them into my life:

Make the most of what you’ve been given
…grab a piece of rubble from the wreckage
…don’t be afraid to ask for new direction.

I hope this song speaks to you with whatever you’re facing as you, too, journey on!

You have just read “Beloved Eyes.” Copyright Amy Bovaird September 2014. If this encouraged you, pass it on to others to help raise awareness and give them a lift in their journey!

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13 thoughts on “Beloved Eyes

  • September 3, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Your song does sing to me. I used to work with someone who was blind as a child, gained vision through a surgery as a young adult, then, when he was around 60, suddenly (and irreversibly) lost his vision. He is very philosophical about what has happened. I don’t know if I could ever be like him. Without glasses, I’ve been legally blind since around the age of 8 and I do fear losing my sight. All I have to do is take my glasses off to be in a world of blur. I fear every annual eye exam, that they will have no greater prescription for me. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I do because I love photography, and I would no longer be able to pursue that art.

  • September 4, 2014 at 3:00 am

    Thank you for the song, I was really needing it. Challenges in life are part of growing up

  • September 4, 2014 at 3:33 am

    Manu, so glad it encouraged you!

  • September 4, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Touching a little close to home. Not that I am blind or anything – in fact, I have been blessed with most of my life a better then 20/20 vision. That being said, I have MS and one thing that scares me about the most is the fairly common symptom of the attack on nerves from the eye to the brain – which can often leave the MS person with blindness overnight. That thought freaks me out probably more than the loss of balance and what that has forced me to give up a LOT more. I think it is the sudden way it occurs sometimes that really gets me – though I guess in some cases site does return after some amount of time as well. Anyway, sorry to have made this all about me, thanks for sharing.

  • September 4, 2014 at 3:45 am

    Hello Alana,
    I’m so glad that you shared your situation with me. It IS unsettling. It’s difficult to feel dependent on glasses or even contacts. I do understand your fears. I learned that I was legally blind at 28 (so many years ago now). But on the positive side, I know of a blind photographer who does an amazing job with her pictures! In fact, I know three vision-impaired / blind individuals who pursue photography on a professional level.It can be done! Take heart!
    And come back to read more of my stories!

  • September 4, 2014 at 4:33 am

    I guess so! I’m so glad that you shared your situation with me. A sudden loss of sight would be incredibly challenging–mentally, emotionally and, of course, physically. MS is difficult enough to cope with. I know a few people who have it. One thing I know is that I never thought I could cope with even using a cane. And I have. We are stronger than we think. God bless you!

  • September 4, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Amy, you have such courage and honesty. I appreciate you sharing about such a sensitive topic for, as you are well aware I’m sure, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Thus, I love how you describe them and see yourself with a gentle, kind, and compassionate nature. If only I can do that more often and I am blue-eyed and though not 20/20, have more eyesight/vision. I just realized too that I read a chronicle of a man’s life in the Vancouver area who wrote about RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa). It was extremely insightful (pardon the pun that just came out, I hope you don’t mind). I ‘see’ however intuitively that you are a wise soul with a great sense of humour and I wish you to continue to bless the world with the way you see the world. 🙂

  • September 4, 2014 at 5:23 am

    …by the way, forgot to mention that I love brown eyes! Maybe ’cause I”m the opposite! 😉

  • September 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you, Elly!
    I would love to read that book if you could tell me the name of it and the author!
    Thank you for coming back to read more!

  • September 4, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you!

  • September 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Ha ha! I just learned something new last night, Elly. Something funny thing about ‘ojos de caballo,’ When my Chicano friend read my take on my explanation, he informed me, ‘Ojos de caballo’ is an idiomatic expression in Spanish that simply means ‘big brown eyes,’ nothing more. I prefer my take on it! =)

  • September 4, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post! Your RP Group sounds great. Maybe I’ll look into a support group of my own when I get out of denial. (Everyone’s noticing but me, I guess. Ha, ha! What an awesome comment from that man.)

    And yes, you do have gentle eyes! Very pretty, I think. Size and color of eyes are less important than what those eyes convey. I like what I see in yours. 🙂

  • September 4, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    It’s always a joy to hear from you!
    Have so much to share when I get a moment and things calm down a little.
    Little things but through them I can see God is answering prayer!
    Stay strong and we’ll talk soon.
    Love to all!

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