Ten Lessons from the Blind Side

Here are just a few things I've learned over the last eight years since I lost my sight:

Never Give Up - Never Surrender! I know this quote from "Galaxyquest" is cheesy, but it's my motto. There's something in me that simply refuses to give up the fight. My sister knew I'd live after my near-fatal car wreck, even before I awoke. She said I was just "too stubborn to die," lol! She was right. I didn't stop there, either. If I'd given up, I'd still be sitting in my armchair staring at my TV and letting others do for me as if I were a toddler again. I couldn't do that! When many people (including my own hubby) were saying "can't", something in me rose up and said, "I'll show them!"

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Attitude is Everything I firmly believe my positive, can-do attitude is partly responsible for the progress I've made. Yes, I've had down times, bkp[ut living with joy in your heart and a ready smile is so much more pleasant!

Orientation is Key It's embarrassing to admit I've been lost in my own bedroom more than once early on, lol! But once I memorized the room's layout, navigating was much easier. I quickly extended the principle to my entire house and worked out from there. For example, I easily navigate the main and upper floors at my church. One other orientation-related lesson I learned early on was to make sure there's a chair behind you before you sit. That lesson alone has saved me untold embarrassment.

Adaptability Helps I've had to make a lot of adjustments in these last eight years. Not least of these was changing my basic learning style from visual to audio. It hasn't always been easy, but is definitely doable.

Minimize What's Lost, Maximize What's Left My Orientation-and-Mobility (O and M) specialist taught me not to rely on my residual vision. This went contrary to what the other "specialists" said, but I quickly discovered the wisdom in it. Since I "see" shadows as or more clearly than solid objects, I now rely on other senses to verify what my limited vision tells me. For example, I can usually not only pinpoint where something has been dropped with fair accuracy, I can often tell what was dropped. I can also tell within a couple of bites of dinner, what spices have been used in the dish. You'd be amazed at the amount of information you can gather without using your eyes!

Simplify Your Life Having too many choices confuses me. Having a cluttered environment makes it hard to find what I need and can cause accidents. Recently hubby caught grief from me for absent-mindedly setting his full milk glass on the edge of the counter, where I spilled it reaching for something else. Decluttering isn't always possible, but at least keeping a safe walking path and some relatively clear counter space is vital to any blind person. Even toddlers are old enough to learn to pick up items that present tripping and spillage hazards.

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Question Policy When Necessary The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, instituted in 1990) makes it illegal in many contexts to discriminate against a person on the basis of disability. However, blind people still face overt and covert discrimination every day. Sighted people insist on keeping blind folks in their little "disability box" even when those folks could do well in most circumstances. I commend the Army for permitting Captain Scott Smiley, an officer blinded by an explosion, to continue in his post. That man is a shining light for many wounded warriors just by his presence. Now, why can't more companies have that kind of attitude?

Be Patient With "Normies" I have a friend who uses this term to describe anyone non-disabled who tries a little too hard to "help." It isn't nice, but it is apt. It's frustrating and saddening to realize how low others' expectations are, not just for me, but seemingly for any physically disabled person. I've even had people act very impressed that I'm capable of brushing and braiding my own hair. Good grief, what did they expect? If someone is going to insist even when I don't need help, I usually smile and bear with them in their ignorance. I can and have explained later. It delights me to demonstrate just how much even a relative newbie to the blind community can do. People who've been blind longer can function much better!

Laughter Heals It's been scientifically proven that laughter has multiple positive effects. I know that's true - I laugh at myself often enough! People look at me strangely, but eventually loosen up enough to laugh along. I love that!

Faith Strengthens I won't push my religious views on anyone - it's a very personal choice. I will, however, say my own faith in God has kept me strong in the face of many challenges these past eight years. Faith has given me the strength to try and keep trying. Prayer gives me a much-needed outlet. Sometimes I vent and whine (who doesn't?) Sometimes I crow, lol!

By JustPlainJo from Springfield, OH

January 29, 20110 found this helpful

Two thumbs up Jo.I prefer"challenged"opposed to"disabled"or"handicapped",don't you agree?.Humor is our best medicine and it's free!. I've learned so much from your articles and I thank you once again.

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Anonymous Flag
January 29, 20110 found this helpful

I so love your advice! Thumbs up. :-)

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January 29, 20110 found this helpful

Great attitude. You should be working with the blind to teach what you've learned. I'm betting you could. You put a whole new slant on loss of eyesight.

Very interesting too. Thank you for sharing.

ww

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January 29, 20110 found this helpful

Living next door to a young blind-from-birth woman, I was about 9 years old when one night we were sitting on our front porch. I heard the most beautiful violin music. I got up and followed the sound until I was standing under the window of a next door neighbor's bedroom. The music was coming from inside that bedroom, and the room was in total darkness. I sat down on the ground and just listened. I knew enough about music to realize the person playing that violin was very accomplished, and it couldn't have happened overnight either.

I was taking piano lessons, and doing well enough. I loved it, and I really didn't mind all the finger exercises that went with learning the scales either, but the memory of that person playing the violin so beautifully in total darkness was probably the most inspirational experience I've ever had.

From that night on, I was determined to learn to play my piano the same way, so I'd blindfold myself, and practice. It just about tripled my time at the piano and that was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Music became even more important, and the more I learned, the more I wanted.

It ended up being a great way to make an interesting living too, and served me very well for many years. Funny how just one incident can change so many things inside you and how it'll stay with you all the rest of your life.

I never once thought of that blind lady as being "handicapped". She could play the violin better than anyone I'd ever heard before. She may have been challenged, but she certainly wasn't handicapped in my evaluation of her and what she could do.

I think we are all "challenged" in some way or other. Some people are simply too shy to be anything. Like Jo says though, if we never try, we'll never know if we can do something or not, and when we don't try, that in itself becomes our biggest and hardest to overcome handicap.

Thumbs UP Jo. I've thoroughly enjoyed these "lessons" from you and thank you for taking the time to write them. I love your sense of humor that goes into them too.

Hugs,

Pookarina

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January 30, 20110 found this helpful

Hmm. I never thought to offer to actually work with other blind people. I still feel like such a newbie! I'll keep it in mind, though, and discuss it with my new BSVI Counselor. I know I need to get a "real job."

Thanks so much for the great feedback so far, it's so encouraging. Keep it coming!

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

Your well thought out article should make us remember."Tomorrow is promised to no one" we should be thankful for each day and all our blessings. You have an amazing attitude and this is what has pulled you through, that and your faith. Be well, God bless.

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

Thank you for the wonderful insight into your world; I wish you the very best as you navigate through your future with such a wonderful faith and sense of humor; you're an inspiration to sighted and unsighted folks, and we admire you!

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

I agree that your gift for communicating so clearly about blindness and your experience after losing your sight should be shared even more with others, which you're already doing beautifully here at TF :-) I love that you credit your faith with bringing you through, but always remember that it's really the One we have faith in Who gets all the credit and He's not about to let you down anytime soon. I'm sure you've been a blessing to many and will continue to be an inspiration - thanks so much for taking the time to share!

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

You always seem to have a marvelous approach to things. Best wishes to you always.

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

You go, girlfriend!

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

Good for you, Jo. I am slowly losing my sight due to age-related macular degeneration, and I am taking your lessons and attitude to heart. I appreciate what you have shared with us.

Stay strong!

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

You're all the greatest! You're putting a big goofy grin on my face, even on a cranky day. :D

BMD, I know Whom I have believed. I'm trying not to shove my Apostolic-Pentecostal style of worship down anyone's throats, that's all.

And oh, Pookarina! I forgot to tell you how wonderful your neighbor the blind violinist was to read about. Put it down to a "blind moment," lol! (I'm not quite old enough for senior moments, and my hair is too red to count as blonde even if people call me a strawberry blonde sometimes. I've never been able to figure that one out.)

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January 31, 20110 found this helpful

JoThrive, your comment came through while I was typing mine. Get yourself some training in life skills ASAP! You're in my prayers. And welcome to ThriftyFun, this must be the best group on the internet. It's really more of an online family than anything.

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February 1, 20110 found this helpful

Hi Jo,

Thanks for sharing your story with the ThriftyFun Family! We can all learn something from you today, even if it is not related to eyesight. Just having your attitude and making a few adjustments to our daily life could be a great improvement. May you continue to improve your adjustments for your benefit and may God continue to bless you.

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February 2, 20110 found this helpful

Good for you! I work with college students with disabilities, some who were born into their conditions. Some of them could learn a lesson or two from you!

Blessings to you!

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February 3, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for the encouraging words. Susabelle, I know a guy who was born half-blind but has a lot more vision than I do - and I'm still trying to get him to improve his attitude after almost 30 years of knowing him, lol!

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