Thursday, November 27, 2014

Everyday is Thanksgiving Day


I've read somewhere that life is what you make it. You can choose to give up and feel sorry for yourself or you can keep trying to make the most of what you have each and every day.

As I sit here, thinking it's Thanksgiving Day in the United States. What do I have to be thankful for? And honestly? We should be thankful year round, not just on or around Thanksgiving. If we really look hard enough, we can find a lot to be thankful for every day. It's not about the feast or gathering with our family and friends. 

I have a roof over my head. I have two beautiful girls. I have a wonderful guide dog who attracts attention for herself rather than what she can do for me. I get lots of comments like "What a beautiful dog" or "She's so pretty". Almost every time we go somewhere, to the doctor's, to a restuarant, to the dentist, to the store...someone will make a comment about what a good looking dog she is. (I used to fear getting a guide dog for the attention, but this wasn't what I was expecting.) 

I look back on the past few years of my life, especially the past two decades. I went from total denial of having Usher syndrome. I was deaf. Wasn't that enough? Did I have to deal with this blinding disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP) that erodes the peripheral vision, little by little (sometimes even in bigger chunks). I tell myself, "Ok, dI need to look where I am going. I don't have RP. But sooner or later, I knew  I couldn't really can't deny it to myself  anymore. It was real. It was happening. 

It not only affects my life, but those around me. Those I live with or those who know me well. It changes a lot of how I do things. I have to keep changing, adjusting to what I do all the time. 

I thought the hardest thing was giving up driving. I was wrong. On two counts. I thought I lost my independence. I realize now it's the convenience I miss. I miss the privilege to drive and go where I want to go, when I want to go. I have other options. I can take the city bus or get a taxi. Both require planning. I have to be at the bus stop when it comes through. That means I have to at least be a good five minutes early just so I don't miss the bus. In the winter, it's a pain. I have to wait in the cold, walk in icy, snowy conditions. (You'd be surprised at how many people don't shovel or don't do it right a way and it's just "not a walk in the park". After all, how many people would want to walk a couple of blocks in the snow? The most they'd do is walk to the car (if it's not in an attached garage) or have to walk through a parking lot, watching for slippery spots.  As for the taxi, I can call them to pick me
up, but it could be a 20 minute wait. I could get a ride from a friend for family member. I still have to "plan" around their schedule. 

I had more things in store for me. Harder than giving up driving.

Coming out of the proverbial RP closet. I wanted to be "normal". I didn't want people to know I had a vision problem. (I had no problem telling people I didn't hear well, but this was not te same. I grew up with hearing loss. I'm used to it.)
It's another story to admit to the world you have a vision problem, too. I had to reach the point where I knew I had to do this. 

What point was that? Walking into things in public. Glass doors I thought were open...bang. Oops. That was a door. The slippery when wet signs in stores. Either I'd walk into them or I'd push the cart into them. I wouldn't see them. I'd trip or bump into so many things that I thought to myself that I
would rather look like a blind person than to walk around like a klutz. I'd rather get a helpful hand than people staring at me like I should watch where I was going. The final straw was at the local County Fair. we were walking around, with all those thick electrical wires zigzagging all over the place to run those rides. There was a stroller. I stopped myself in time to not walk into that stroller. (OMG.) Instead I crashed into a woman. I mutter a "I'm sorry" and "excuse me". People were
gathering, circling around a guy who was speaking. I don't remember what he was talking about, but he saw me crash into that lady. I barely heard him say "She broadsided you, didn't she?" (OMG. I was so embarrassed.) If I had a cane back then, I'd have pulled it out and gave a reason for that "crash" and shut him up. 

So I got the cane training. I was ready for it, though I still felt awful for using it. There was a difference between mentally ready and emotionally ready. 

It got easier. It's not perfect. I still have days where I just want to "pass for normal". 

So I do have a lot to be thankful for. I have the cane training, I have my guide dog, I have support and options.

Rita's Ramblings

When you get into your car to get to work, remember that you DO have something to be thankful for. You can provide for your own transportation. If you don't, you It have similar options like walking, taking the bus, calling a taxi, or even taking the train if you have one near you. 

If we look hard enough, there's always something to be thankful for. Always.