For the most part, I think that I have faced more new challenges in the past three years than in any other period of my life. Probably my whole life rolled into one period. I have taken the up’s, the down’s, the sideways tilts, the backward flips, the forward thrusts, and with a clutching grab of a sighted guide, or a sweeping smack of my trusty mobility cane, I move on. I have tried to learn what I can from the blind community, I have tried to remember what I have learned, but sometimes, old billy goats tend to wander to and fro with their memories.
I have tried to accept these new paths in my life. Most of the time, I think I do pretty well with it. I manage to get through most days with a positive attitude, and I guess that even though some times I don’t feel positive, from what people have told me, I put out an aire of confidence that tells folks I am doing ok with it all. I remember my mobility instructor Rosemary, telling me that I stood tall and confident when I was out on one of my lessons. I gave the impression that I knew what I was doing, and seemed fearless with it all. Well, let me tell you that on most lessons, I was exactly the opposite inside. I was scared, I was frightened, I was unsure of myself, of my surroundings, and at times it felt like everything around me was ganging up on me to take advantage of my newly acquired handicap. I felt that my blindness left me wide open with complete and controlling vulnerability, not to mention a truck load of anxiety. I felt like a wandering, sightless little nomad, not sure of where I was going, or how to get there. I surely didn’t have a clue what was waiting for me when I finally did arrive there. I was pummeled with a rising tide of oceanic swells, constantly churning and smashing up against my shore, ever altering it and always rolling away from it having changed it’s characteristics completely. I felt very sure that with each step with my cane, I was leaving a part of the old me behind.
As I look back on those intimidating days out there on the streets of Waterville, I now know that I didn’t leave bits and pieces of who I was behind. I now know that all of who I was, is still with me, and along with my old habits and personalized skits, I have added a whole new repertoire of cast members, and each one has had to study their lines over and over again. I have had to develop a completely new set of traits and habits and abilities to go along with an ever changing challenge that has kept me on a different set of toes. I’ve had to run along side of my day, so as to try and witness all of the differences and adapt as I go.
There’s that word again. “Adapt.” I guess without the ability of adaptation, we would trudge through our lives as confused, angry, complacent inhabitants of a truly unique gift.
We are all creatures of change, but my life had been spent mostly as a creature of habit, probably most of all. I lived my routine life knowing where each step was taking me. I knew what was around most of the corners. I knew how to get up, where to sit down, how far to lean to the right, and when to slide to the left. I liked knowing what was in store over the next knoll, and I got very used to the fact that without those annoying variables, it was all familiar and good. I didn’t like being slapped around by reality. I didn’t like having to constantly look up ahead. I didn’t appreciate the confusion that usually went along with change, and I certainly didn’t appreciate anyone who threw a bucket of it at my feet. I was who I thought I had become, and I thought I knew where I was going.
For those who would like to know, I just smiled, shook my head, and chuckled as I wrote that last line. In other words, “Boy, was I unknowingly stuck in a rut or what!”, was what popped into my noggin. I have written a couple of times that losing my vision was sort of a package deal. I firmly believe that as abundantly obtuse as I was with my life’s trajectory, it appears that becoming blind propelled me into a new kind of vision. Losing my sight enabled me to see things differently. When my vision escaped me, I was able to hunt down and capture a whole new world of clear perception, shimmering with a whole new way to look at it. Now, don’t get me wrong, for I am constantly drifting back and forth, from the old to the new, from the past, into the now. I am swiftly snapped back to my ways of old, but twice as fast I am rocketed ahead, back into a today full of new thoughts and feelings and people. It’s like I’m in a tug of war with my old traditions, and somehow, the guy with the cane is standing half a chance.
I could go on and on with catch phrases and woven metaphors, as that’s what I have gotten good at, but the picture still tells the same story, no matter how it’s described. My life has drastically changed, and I am trying to change so as to keep up with it. Some days I feel terribly behind, and some days I gather slight impressions that I am caught up with it, even if for just a moment or so. Those are the best feelings I can muster up these days, feeling like I am where I am because I belong where I am. Those are the good feelings that I like to take to bed with me.
I’m still caught up with those swaying emotions though, the ones that snap me back to attention and quickly remind me that without the vision, everything does feel like it has changed. Almost all of the things I used to do with sight are completely different, and they feel like someone else is living and experiencing them. It’s a strange, new world out there, and having to listen, feel, smack, crack, sweep and tap my way through it still doesn’t feel quite right. It’s like without the vision thrown into the mix, I am constantly missing something. There are times when with the input that I have, it does feel adequate, but, still, if I stand back and analyze the whole picture, it still feels a half bubble from level.
I am able though to gain some new insight with the events that surround my day. I gain new perspectives and learn new lessons, having to think, feel and react as a blind man . I am a blind man, and apparently, I am on a blind man’s mission. The part of my day I enjoy the most is when I am in the middle of doing something, and I completely forget that I can’t see. I forget about thinking that I have to see in order to do things. I forget that I can’t see with my eyes, as I am seeing with my mind. The visions in those moments, are as clear as they have ever been. The colors are real, the shapes and terrain look the same, the faces are all intact, and it all, for that moment, seems perfectly normal. I am able to enjoy more and more of those moments as the days flip past. I seem to be continuously learning and remembering how to exist without my eyes, and live more and more with my heart. The constant beating in my chest reminds me that I am still alive, and I am still learning how to live. It’s a different life that I am learning about these days. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been before, if I had approached it with the same blind attitudes and sightless perceptions as I do today. Would I be the same person that I am today? Would I have the same passions and desires as I do today? Would I feel about family and friends the same as I do today? Would I still be, me?
I will probably live out the rest of my days trying to figure out how to exist in this billy goat skin of mine. I will always be searching for those things that I feel I am lacking. I will always yearn for and crave things that I don’t have, but hopefully, I will be able to be more grateful for the things that I do have. Most of all, I will forever treasure the family I have grown to love, and I will forever be thankful for the folks who have been placed in my life’s path. I learn from what you all give freely from your hearts, and I thank God every day for you all.
It’s what all of us old billy goats tend to do.