Post Title:  Celebrating My Mobility Milestone With My White Cane.

Timid, Fearful, Unsettled.

More than a decade ago, I was as unsettled as I could be. I had just started a new job teaching Spanish to high school students and an Asian Studies course at the local college. I was tripping over wayward books, couldn’t see which students were present and which were absent at a glance (it was even more difficult at the college-level class). Though the high school principal knew of my sight loss issues, the college admin and no one else did. I kept it a well-guarded secret, or so I thought.

I was trying to hold it together with two new teaching positions, both filled with new subject matter. My college class required technological proficiency as well. Sometimes the challenges seemed overwhelming.

I met with a Vision Counselor at the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS). She was a kind woman, who gently spoke to me about my choices. She seemed matter of a fact, even when she mentioned how much an Orientation and Mobility (O&M) trainer would help me.

That meeting, while offering some positive take-aways, left me with new fears in addition to my general feeling of inadequacy in my new teaching positions. The images of what blind and white cane meant to me spilled like ink onto my carefully-constructed world of competence. But the BBVS likes those who help themselves, so I felt I needed to at least speak with “Bob,” the O&M Instructor working for them.

Bob met with me, listened to my situation, then calmly suggested I just tell people I was “blind.” I fervently declared I was merely “clumsy.” He not only wanted me to “try out” a cane in my house that day (I remember the ‘eww’ factor), he also wanted me to try it in our next meeting in our neighborhood! At that even more unpopular suggestion, I quickly ushered him out of my house and ended the interview.

Fear. Discomfort. Change. Preconceptions. An out-of-control life.

Bob was completely  blind, and turned out to be a persistent voice in the background, urging me forward with cane use. I didn’t know then how well he understood that out-of-control feeling, and wanted to give me back my self-worth and competence. Why didn’t he give up? Leave me alone? I wasn’t welcoming, hedging his attempts with claims of busyness. Why did he feel a simple fifty-two-inch aluminum piece of equipment would give that to me? Stop already!

Just because he was a hundred percent blind, he was projecting it onto me, too. Over-exaggerating my struggles.  I rebelled inside, didn’t close my eyes for the neighborhood walk and didn’t want to have him help me with O&M at school. No way. Someone might see us. I tried to freeze him out. But his tenacity and optimism thawed me out. I actually liked the guy. It was that long narrow four-letter-word that put me off. Yes. C-A-N-E.

First Step of Trust.

It wasn’t until I put on dark sleep shades my small cozy world reversed, and I was the completely blind one and my trainer, the sighted one (or so it seemed).

You can listen to the narration of that life-changing story in an excerpt from my book in Mobility Matters Stepping, Out in Faith.   Click the Play button to listen to, “It’s The Same World.”

Afterward, my thoughts were jumbled, but in a GOOD way.  That neighborhood walk, where I had to walk without seeing, left me breathless. It was eye-opening. Humbling. It was my first foot forward in trust.

Bob was awesome!

Each time Bob and I went out, more trust followed. And all of a sudden, against my will, this white cane began to EMPOWER me. But that was just “classroom” outdoors stuff. Could I ever learn to use it on my own? Would trust follow when it was ‘up to me’?

While accepting my need for a white cane on an everyday basis took detours, and time, my fear of sharing my sight loss was well on its way to moving forward. In the past, I had only divulged my secret to family, or close friends. But by the end of the year, I shared it with the entire high school student body!

Within a year, I had come to a point of using my cane most of the time, and then, to always using it. Losing my eyesight was a gradual process, and so was finding my peace with a white cane.

But it happened!

Many of the problems I faced, such as hitting my head on open doors, tripping over steps, running into walls, receded to the background. Thanks to Bob, my persistent orientation and mobility trainer, I moved forward physically too.

I will always be grateful to him. He knew what I did not. Blind was only a word. Not a mindset. And with the proper tools, that out-of-control feeling would mostly vanish.

Peace, Resilience, Empowerment.

The feeling of peace and happiness I have now is hard-fought. But the new insights I have learned and the many friendships I have developed constantly propel me forward.

I am still living life on my terms. Though the divide feels real, there is only one world seen from two perspectives.

Bob, I salute your wisdom and mentoring. Happy eleven-year-anniversary of our training. You said I didn’t need a diploma in O&M training. But I do really need one in mindset orientation. I would get an A in effort!

PS In my public talks with the Kiwanis Club and another public group, I encountered Bob’s wife. She proudly pointed out to the other participants how her husband was a central figure in my memoir. I’m glad he knows he motivated me to live more fully and to stop fearing the future.

What change do you fear? What will it take to face it? How can I encourage you?

You have just read “Celebrating My Mobility Milestone With My White Cane” by Amy L. Bovaird. © May 20, 2020. All rights reserved.

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5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader

–An Amazon Reader

5 Stars   “Living in the Power instead of the fear!”

Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.

This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.

Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!

Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation

Michael Benson, Founder, Visual Experience Foundation

4 Stars  “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada

–Kathryn Svendsen

5 Stars  “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah

–Sharon Hannah

5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole

–Andi Nicole

5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series

–Kimberly Rae, Your Content Goes Here

Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.

Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight

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