Bold Steps

Moving Forward With Orientation and Mobility Training

Crossing a local street in my hometown
Crossing a local street in my hometown

35-Day Author Blog Challenge – Day 20  & Ultimate Blog Challenge – Day 2

As a child growing up, I was timid. I was that little girl who peeked out from behind her mother in photographs.  I obeyed my teachers and went to great lengths to avoid drawing attention to myself. Most of my classmates described me as “quiet.”  I liked reading, drawing and letter-writing. 

I never thought of myself as a leader or bold  until I traveled overseas by myself to teach in South America. That job led to another, and another until nearly twenty years had passed. Somehow I could be bolder away from where I grew up. 

I climbed mountains, traveled alone, learned new languages, met fascinating people, saw the pyramids, rode horses, water buffalo and camels, went paragliding, trekked through the Sinai, snorkeled, swam both in the Red Sea and the  Dead Sea, learned the proper way to put on a kimono, hitchhiked in a war-torn country and led a church mission to a small Kenyan village.  

When I moved back home to live, I reverted back to the same quiet, reserved personality I had thrown off decades earlier. I probably would have continued living that way if my eyesight hadn’t deteriorated so rapidly. 

With Retinitis Pigmentosa,  my vision loss had gotten so bad that people were noticing me – and not in a good way–I realized that I had to do something to protect my reputation in our small town if I wanted to continue living my quiet life as a teacher. I couldn’t have my students’ parents thinking I was drunk when I tripped, knocked over and ran into obstacles I couldn’t see. 

The Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) recommended that I use a white cane to help me retain my independence. It took several months for me to gain the confidence to begin my orientation and mobility training with my white cane.  My trainer taught his pupils how to navigate a white cane wearing sleep shades to simulate darkness. He said, “I would never forgive myself if you lost your vision before you had adequate training to live independently.” 

Both a white cane and wearing sleep shades drew attention to me. Though I wasn’t comfortable with either, I sought to please my mobility trainer.  The funny thing about that was my sense of adventure peeked out–even when I couldn’t see. Or maybe, because of that.  Who knows?

Here is an excerpt from Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith. I become bold once more. 

***

Completely blind, I stepped out into the city traffic. Just a few minutes earlier I had heard the sputtering of a diesel engine, or so I thought. I also caught the sound of squeaky bicycle parts followed by some young boys’ chatter as they passed by. Since all my hearing antennae were fine-tuned, I noticed when several vehicles slowed down, and eventually came to a halt at the traffic light. I could tell by the thrum of engine noise without tire movement—all this coming from the street beside me. When these vehicles moved, I made sure that I moved, too.

I grasped my cane and rapidly made my way across the busy intersection, careful to sweep my cane in wide even arcs in the event I came across the raised bumps, which told me I had safely reached the opposite side of the road. On that occasion, I didn’t sweep across any bumps for the blind. So I continued moving forward until my cane touched cement indicating the opposite curb. There, I held it straight up and down and tapped with the side of my cane until I found the top of the curb. Taking a big step, I found the grass, the sidewalk and finally, the section of raised bumps. That’s when I stopped and waited.

My breath came quickly as if I’d been running, but really my body simply responded to the fight or flight syndrome of crossing the busiest intersection in the heart of downtown Erie while wearing my sleep shades. Laughter spilled out of me.

I couldn’t believe I had crossed State Street and not only that, but I led the way. “How’d I do, Bob?”

***

Can you recall a bold action you have taken or a bold activity you’ve participated in that surprised you?  Can you recall a time when you experienced that fight or flight syndrome? What were you doing? 

You have just read, “Bold Steps,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright October 2, 2015. Please take a moment to leave a comment! Thanks!

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6 thoughts on “Bold Steps

  • October 3, 2015 at 4:05 am
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    oh wow… I always thought of people with seeing problems as being beyond brave… But maybe it is my fear of darkness speaking?

  • October 3, 2015 at 9:52 am
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    Amy, you’re so brave. Even though I can see, I wouldn’t go out on an icy street like you do in your picture. Another form of bravery you show is in being a trailblazer for others who suffer in a similar way as yourself. Bless you.

  • October 3, 2015 at 6:37 pm
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    Hi Emilia,
    Well, I think we can all scare up some courage when options are limited. Mobility training is key to an independent future even if one chooses a guide dog. He or she must have basic but strong mobility skills.
    Thank you for stopping and taking time to comment!
    Amy

  • October 3, 2015 at 6:41 pm
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    Thank you, Francene,
    I like that … a trailblazer! I will print that out and encourage myself when I feel the trail is blazing me!
    Have a wonderful day and thanks for being part of my community!
    Amy

  • October 4, 2015 at 1:50 am
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    I was in Toronto last week and took the bus home. I had soeone coming to meet me when it was time for my bus to leave, to show me where my particular bus was going to be, but when the time came he did not. I waited and waited and nobody came. So I got the feeling that I’d missed it. Fight or flight. I get really nervous and panicky in those situations, but I had to do something. I couldn’t continue sitting there, so I got up and found some help of my own. They felt bad I’d missed my bus. We all have bravery inside, if we need it.

  • October 4, 2015 at 3:09 am
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    Hi Kerry,
    That is scary! It’s an awful feeling! So you missed your bus? I’ve been in similar situations and you just don’t know what to do sometimes. How did you actually resolve it? Did you catch the next bus?
    Yes, we do have it inside us and it comes out when we need it.
    Sending you a big hug,
    Amy

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