Some Get It - Some Don't: What I Learned From Public Transit

Some get it.  Some don’t.  Granted, learning to navigate the public transit systems around Atlanta can be difficult the first time for a sighted person.  For my newly developed super power known as low vision, said public transit, becomes that much more difficult.  Still, this past week, I had a goal – make it to my eye rehab appointment in Smyrna on public myself.

When you have lived your life with the freedom to get in your car and drive wherever – whenever you want to, having a change in vision can be like getting chained up on a leash.  Suddenly, your freedom is hindered.  It is not that I don’t want to accept help from others, it is about freedom. Public transit systems become a means of reclaiming freedom – independence can be returned.  Some get it.  Some don’t.

It is not whether one has family and friends who can drive you about.  It is a matter of being able to go wherever – whenever you want.  I found that sense of accomplishment on Tuesday.  I “got it” and so  much more.

Along the journey, I was the recipient of acts of kindness and I had the opportunity to return the favor to others.  I saw Jesus in others, in strangers, and the encouragement of friends.  I also got to discover my definition of a crowd had changed.  Where my definition of a crowd used to be a group of people shoulder to shoulder in numbers of the hundreds and thousands, crowds for me can be 10- 20 people!

But transportation was only part of the day.  At Vision Rehabilitation Services, I discovered an incredible group of people committed to helping people like me with low vision and blindness.  It was the most empathetic environment, one that celebrated our victories with us and is there to assist us overcome or cope with the next challenge. 

I got to put my hands on magnifiers and technologies at no charge to determine what might work best.  I had the chance to ask questions, not about treatments, but about everyday; what do I have to look for with my vision?  I learned that my vision does, in fact, fatigue when I read over time even with assistance.  My experiences of stepping on my cat, bumping into door frames and desks, and losing balance on uneven terrain is to be expected.

What I also need is the opportunity to make it on my own.  I have to adapt.  I have to work on new habits that will benefit me long term.  I will welcome your offer to help but I do not need you to assume I need help and step in. Ask me first.  If you have offered, please understand, I am not turning away from help when I choose to do things on my own.  I do it on my own because I can and, for my own self-esteem, I need to do it, I must do it, and I will do it. 

New Insights From Lost Sight

I read today about a legend of a girl who had a hump on her back.  As the story goes, because of this apparent deformity, she was ridiculed, pitied and picked-on.  However, when she died it was discovered the hump hid her angel’s wings.

In an age of platitudes, pithy remarks, and pride, we remain fallen and false in our approach to dealing pain and difficulties.  We are thankful when they don’t impact us but are quick to discern what others ought to do in response to their struggles.  Walking in other people’s shoes is, well, uncomfortable.

Over a year has gone by since ischemic optic neuropathy damaged the vision in my right eye.  It wasn’t so troubling because my left eye was doing just fine.  It was easy to be humorous as I got to wear an eye patch, my driving ability was still fine and it was easy to change the safety on my shotgun from right to left handed.  I could still do all the things I loved.  Over a year later, everything was fine…until the same condition damaged my left eye.

Just like that I began to live in a new world.  Between sight and blindness, I discovered a new term: low vision.  While not legally blind, yet, I have found myself both able and disabled.  I keep finding others like me, some hiding it, others living with it, overcoming day by day.  For me, my emotions and spirit and mind fluctuate day by day as I adapt to my condition and the impact on my life.  I pray and hope that in the end, I too will find this deformity to be “angel’s wings.”

Crowds of people, something I previously enjoyed being a part of, now cause me to be wary for fear of running into people or tripping.  I find myself bumping into doorways and desks as I have lost peripheral vision.  To shake someone’s hand, I have to intentionally look down to be sure.  I don’t see faces across the room.  I sometimes don’t recognize faces right beside me.  Reading, something that was a joy before, is now a chore requiring real effort and work to focus and even then, I can only do it for short periods of time.  I have to magnify screens and text on my computer and phone.  While legally I can still drive, I no longer can drive wherever and whenever – night and rain are especially difficult.

In a way, I see with new eyes.  I “see” what others with disabilities face.  I experience barriers where I used to have freedom.  While some have pointed out that those with disabilities don’t define themselves by that disability, it isn’t always so.  It is also shortsighted to make such statements while one is still grieving and adapting to their loss of abilities.  Having read the blogs and articles of others who have gone through similar situations, I realize my experiences are shared by others.  I need those words. 

I haven’t come to grips with this yet.  Knowing the cycle of grief, I’m certain there are difficulty days ahead.  I know that I will find barriers which can be overcome and some I may not be able to conquer, certainly not on my own.  What I do know is the power of grace to transform but even transformation can be painful; it is quite often, difficult.  But as Norman Shawchuck states so well, “This is the glorious promise of conversion: God is able to make all things work together for good.  What we cannot redeem, God can…”

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