Post Title: Going from ‘Yellow to Green’.

The date had finally arrived for Erie County: June 26, 2020. Not many would forget it. Businesses could re-open. We were the last district in Pennsylvania to open. Residents, deeply critical of the governor’s stance on the ‘stay-at-home’ ruling thought him out of touch with what it took to run a business and make a living. Others voiced fear about what the future would bring. They said, “It’ll never be the same.”

I totally understood their feelings. The trepidation of the future felt much like what I faced in 2008 in taking up my white cane. I didn’t choose to use a mobility cane voluntarily. It was foisted on me by my progressive vision condition. Retinitis Pigmentosa.

When I picked up that white cane for the first time, I feared my life would change forever. People would see me differently. Underestimate my abilities. I knew I had no choice. To move forward, I needed to adapt to my life in a completely different and unfamiliar way. But instead of a mask and gloves, I had a long, white cane and a GPS on my phone. In lieu of learning how to sanitize my environment, I had to familiarize myself with my environment by using a number of different cane techniques.

People with progressive sight loss come to the realization they need orientation and mobility training at different points. Not everyone handles the challenges in the same way. In fact, some never come to terms with it. We are individuals, after all. I didn’t use my cane all the time after I first learned how to safely orient myself. I was rebellious, and conveniently “forgot” it. It took time for me to recognize the need to use a cane would keep me safe.

I will also never forget the words of my Orientation and mobility instructor, “You’ve experienced your life with your physical vision. Now you’re coming to understand that the world can be met visually, at those times when you can see, and non-visually, at those times when you can’t.

Seeing a Life Parallel.

There was a parallel here for all of us in adjusting to new aids and habits … to wearing masks, to sanitizing, to social distancing, to living our lives. We did have to ‘step out’ into a new way of seeing our environment and yes, our lives would be different.

“The most important aspect of ‘going green’ ~ we have to adapt to ‘a new normal’ to move forward safely.”

For many, it ‘felt’ weird to be seen and move about in public with physical masks and to take on the new behaviors deemed necessary for precaution. Just as it felt weird to be out with my white cane. Some people felt comfort in numbers.

That phrase, “We’re all in the same boat,” seemed to encourage some, and turn others off because there were as many differences as similarities. As I mentioned, Individuals facing blindness also ran the gamut when they reached the crossroads where orientation and mobility was the better of two options. Some accepted the course and others rejected it. Similarly, the response to Covid-19 varied extensively. “It’s my life. I will decide how to live it,” seemed to prevail. That was the equivalent to me conveniently forgetting my cane and facing the consequences.

Choices. We long for them.

Let me go back to my wise orientation and mobility trainer. He knew accepting my cane wouldn’t come all at once, so he trusted me to know when I felt safer with it than without. The training enabled me to use the skills when necessary.

The way I viewed our situation, in facing our new Covid-19 environment, masks (and other ‘tools’) were not necessary all the time. if we used common sense, we didn’t need masks outdoors, or exercising. But we did need them if we planned to be in close contact with others. We needed them to different degrees, just as those who had different vision limitations needed their canes to different degrees.

On the other hand, total disregard for masks seemed as irresponsible as getting behind the wheel of a car with faulty and unpredictable sight. The vision-impaired driver could obviously become a danger to unsuspecting individuals in his or her path.

So, like everything else, there needed to be a balance. I suppose what that boiled down to differed for each individual.

The governor of Pennsylvania emphasized caution in anticipation of our change in status from the yellow phase to green. We heard phrases like ‘tentatively open our economy’ and ‘with new measures in place.’ He warned us of the consequences of moving too fast. He seemed wise, like my orientation and mobility instructor.

Armed with my new philosophy, I burst out of my four-month Covid-19 cocoon to become the adaptable butterfly I envisioned myself to be.

Where are you in your acceptance of the new measures? Are you still in lockdown? Has your area gone from the yellow phase to the green? Share your thoughts in the comments below.