Sometimes we–the vision-impaired–have to let go.

In trying to open a window of understanding to what we go through, I see a need to let the sighted glimpse it in bits and pieces, taking from that experience what they can.

I remember a few years ago when a former–and rather new–boyfriend asked to see my cane. He decided to try it out and swept it back and forth just as he had seen me do. We were outside of a crowded public restaurant. He slowly moved down the walkway and into the parking lot. Then he turned around and returned to the entrance of the restaurant. The whole experience lasted about five minutes.

With an awed smile, he handed my cane back to me. “That was way cool,” he gushed. “Did you see how all those people jumped out of my way. They thought I was blind. That was fun!” He stopped short of saying, Lucky you. But it was probably in his face.

He might have said a lot more. I can’t remember his entire reaction except for the fact that my stick gave him a sense of power over others. His glimpse was one-dimensional. 

What he experienced in five minutes, I had to live with every day of my life. What opened his eyes squeezed mine shut. I didn’t think it was “cool” or “fun” at all. And his remarks belittled the massive struggle I had overcome to pick up my cane and use it just a few years earlier.

Of course, that entire  incident irritated me.

But I merely smiled and took my cane back.  He was a new boyfriend, after all. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  I’m not sure that I handled that situation correctly. Maybe I should have kindly shared how I felt. But I didn’t.

Did it really matter all that much?

Recently, I talked to a vision-impaired friend about our Dinner in the Dark experience. This is an event where many sighted people are blindfolded and eat a meal in darkness to get a feel for what vision-impaired people live with. I had been one of the speakers after the three-course meal.

She said immediately, “I don’t want to go to anything like that. Those people think it’s ‘fun.’ But they can take their masks off and everything is fine again.” She made a face.

I thought of all the people who attended. Yes, that was their reaction. I heard that word a lot afterward and especially from my driver, who had thoroughly enjoyed putting herself in the hot seat during that meal. She had been looking forward to the experience for over a year when she first heard about this kind of event. 

Let me give you a clearer picture of what went on.

"Let them in the dark!"
“Let them into the dark!”

Groups of about 6-8 blindfolded diners are led to their assigned tables by their coach. To ensure their safety, they hold onto the shoulder of the one in front of them. At the table, they sit down  and are given a pep talk. This is when the coach tells them what to expect during the course of the meal and orients them to their table setting in terms of a clock. “Your silverware is at seven o’clock. Your drink will be at twelve o’clock.” 

“Take it easy,” our coach said. “Don’t get overwhelmed. If you feel that is happening, you can take off your sleep shades. It’s not often that one goes from sighted to blind in one fell swoop.” 

Huh? Yes, it does happen. And more than this coach thinks. 

Leave those eye coverings on! 

Throughout the meal, they experienced frustration. How could they see to cut their meat? Their fingers strayed into their plate trying to discern what a specific food was. They wore big plastic lobster bibs, to protect their clothing from spills. My brother peeked a little bit. Others giggled at their mistakes, when they realized they’d put salad dressing on their mashed potatoes instead of gravy. They had a hilarious time of it!

“That was fun! “

“We’ll need to do this again! When’s the next Dinner in the Dark?” 

It’s easy to take umbrage. Until you hear comments like, “How do you do it?” “I couldn’t bear it.” 

This is where understanding begins. And the conversation becomes real.

Our honest communication can shed light on our feelings, the strategies and our frustrations. This is where the depth of our darkness symbolically lifts. 

We are no longer alone. 

They are no longer in the dark.

I didn’t know how to begin this dialogue with my boyfriend even five years ago. But I do now. I think when we let go of the pain and pride, that indignant mindset that screams, “you have no idea!” and share so they do have some idea … life changes for both parties. 

It’s no longer darkness.

let the light of understanding filter into the darkness
Let the light of understanding filter into the darkness

Maybe it’s twilight. 

Maybe it’s dawn.

For me, right now, it feels good. It’s so much nicer to reach out to let a stranger in. When I say, stranger, I mean anyone who has never stepped into my shoes, even family members. I once stuffed my feelings because I lacked the confidence to be real. I love that I’m moving forward. I (and we, collectively) don’t need to keep it a secret, select society with a closed membership. 

Laughter isn’t insulting; it’s healing

I’m learning it’s all in how I choose to perceive it. 

Those of us who face ongoing vision loss go through many emotional stages and I don’t even think that we completely accept it ourselves.We have good and bad vision days, and we have to teach ourselves to develop patience. 

So why not extend the same courtesy to others not experiencing vision loss? 

Sometimes we–the vision-impaired–have to let go. 

What have you gone through that you have been certain others could or would never understand? Or who have you cut off because they haven’t responded in the way you’ve liked? 


Let Go of Our ‘Private’ Darkness
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18 thoughts on “Let Go of Our ‘Private’ Darkness

  • August 14, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Amy, I recall reading something of Joni Eareckson Tada’s. She overheard a woman lamenting a broken fingernail. “A faingernail?” Joni wanted to scream (but didn’t). “I am a paraplegeic! Try that on for size!”

    She went on to say that over time, God brought her to a place of realizing that every person’s crisis is personal. We see through our own lens, and our struggles are paramount–to us. She learned to let go of her judgment of others who were more fortunate, and I see the same in you, Amy. Thank you.

  • August 14, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    How revealing your lesson was today, Amy. I understand your frustration with other people’s blind-sightedness. And yet, at the end, you see that they wear their own blinkers even when they remove their night-shade. We’re all human, and it takes time to learn each new lesson.

  • August 14, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    we watched a movie last night about a teenage football player who went blind, all about his adjustments. It was a true story, very inspiring, reminded me of you. You’re doing great facing your giants daily. thanks for sharing with us. we love you, Amy!

  • August 14, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    If I take off my glasses, my vision is in the realm where, if it couldn’t be corrected, I would be considered legally blind. Have I actually ever done that intentionally (other than at bedtime) meaning “taking off my glasses for a day or a few hours to see what it is like? ” The answer is yes: but for a different reason than “seeing what it is like to be in the dark”. When I was a preteen I was so embarrassed to be seen after school in my glasses I wouldn’t wear them – I would rather walk around in a blur (although my vision then isn’t as bad uncorrected as it is now.) After an incident I might want to blog about one day, I stopped. Did it teach me anything? Yes. It taught me to be grateful every day for the ability to see. Over the years, though, the lesson was forgotten. I take it for granted too much.

  • August 15, 2015 at 12:13 am

    I really appreciate you letting us in. This was really enlightening for me. I’ve never experienced vision loss, nor have I ‘experimented’ with it in any ‘Dinner in the Dark’ type of way. I remember reading a piece once written by the mother of a young child who had passed away. She talked about the infuriating things people would say to her in their efforts to support her. Ultimately she came to view it as people trying their best and unable to not say the wrong thing because, thankfully, they’d never experienced what she was going through. She didn’t wish her experience on anyone, and tried to receive naive insensitivity with grace and gratefulness that they DIDN’T understand what she was feeling. Not sure if you can relate, but your story reminded me of it. Thank you again for sharing your experiences, and life.

  • August 16, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    It must be hard when people are being insensitive about blind-sightedness.

    There are restaurants in London where you are blindfolded and another one where you eat in a darkened room. It’s meant to heighten the senses. I’ve often thought of going, but so far I haven’t. Maybe I should to get a new perspective on life.

  • August 16, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Ha ha! Definitely should, Nick! I don’t think people are purposely insensitive at all. They’d probably be horrified to know how their words came across. My point is to not take people at word value but with a sense of humor, begin real conversation so that others can get a glimpse of what it’s like. 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and comment, Nick!

  • August 16, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    That’s a good point, Laura–all our struggles are paramount to each of us. But then there’s that middle ground between us, which we hesitantly test to see if it’s strong enough to hold us. When we find it is, I imagine a person putting more and more weight on it, then jumping, even turning cartwheels. That’s when real understanding has taken place, I’d guess. 🙂
    Also, thank you for your encouraging words on my vision loss journey, Laura!

  • August 16, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    You are so right, Francene!
    It takes time, but with patience, we have our whole lives to learn!
    Ha! I learned a new word: blindsightedness. Thank you for that!

  • August 16, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Hi Bettie Lou,
    What movie was that? I would like to watch it! I miss you! Call me when you can one day soon.
    Take care and thank you so much for your support!

  • August 16, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Alana,
    Ha! The glimpse into your teenage years made me smile. So typically, teen! That’s a hard period to go through and we are very sensitive.
    Would like to read your blog on the topic that made you stop! I think we all take some things for granted, and need reminders. When my mother woke up today, she said, “It was hard for me to move around. I think I sat too much yesterday.” I think whatever is easy to use, it’s easier to take for granted. If it’s a struggle, we recall those easier moments and cherish them. Gratitude becomes a habit. 🙂
    Thank you so much for reading my post and taking time to respond.

  • August 16, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Sometimes, yes. But usually not on purpose.
    Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

  • August 16, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Brooke,
    Thank you for your thoughtful response.
    Yes, I can relate. 🙂

  • August 16, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    i appreciate the way you put your thoughts. most of the times it is the anger that is caused because we feel others do not understand the point of view. i feel i have to juggle through this phases atleast once in a week when i deal with my colleagues.

  • August 16, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you, Amar. 🙂

  • August 17, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t have the tools to handle that situation with that old boyfriend. There are many things I would like to do over again, just like that, but that’s not how life works, right?
    I don’t know what I think about those dining in the dark type scenarios, but there is a restaurant like that, a permanent one, in Toronto. I have wanted to check it out. It would make an interesting experience to write about I bet.
    I sometimes don’t know, still haven’t quite figured out, how to bring others into my darkness. I hope I can get better at it.

  • August 17, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Hi Kerry,
    Very thoughtful comment. I think everyone grows and figures out ways so share through experience. It’s like for 25 years I was in denial and was too proud to even ask for help from a friend to cross a wildly busy street in Morocco! How crazy is that? So each situation is different. I think you are doing a great job of sharing through your writing. I hope you can travel to the dark restaurant and write both a post and an article (for a Canadian magazine????) on that. Would love to read about your experience!

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