Good Knock on the Head

I am going to just prattle here for a while. I seem to be at loose ends. Cannot really get motivation to do much of anything….so I will spout nonsense to you!

Not a bad day. I was in Zumba and then yoga this morning. One of my ‘gym buddies’ and I were talking about cycling season being here soon. Being stubborn and set in my ways, I don’t wear a bike helmet.

She suggested a good knock on the head would put my eyes to right. When I told her there was not much left to put to right, she got upset and started talking about fairness.

Fairness has nothing to do with it. Except for some blood pressure issues that are hereditary, I have good health and no bad lifestyle choices that would have led to AMD. Deserve it ? No, unless you consider AMD the result of bad karma or some such thing. AMD is not a punishment. Good vision is not some sort of reward for a virtuous life. To be trite and use cliches, shit happens and it is what it is. Dwelling on what you did to deserve a progressive eye condition is counterproductive.

Still, people often want to tell me I got a bum deal. I guess I should take it in the spirit in which it was intended. They could be telling me I deserve all the bad luck I can get!

After the gym, today was errand day. Off to the drug store! My husband worships convenience and thinks I should change drug stores. Mine is close to the office but not the house. I like my pharmacist and I am not changing. Some losses are inevitable with AMD. Many are not. I am keeping my drug store.

I do try to insert variety where I can, though. Too much same old, same old drives me crazy! Lunch was chicken and snow peas. I like them and don’t often get them. There are little ways to shake things up.

Then off to get a haircut. I have become very trusting of the stylists. I have discovered you cannot micromanage people when you cannot see what is happening.

I just assume they have done a good job because I cannot see myself in their mirrors. If any of them were really perverse, I would be in trouble!

Since I have my haircut at Walmart, I hunted up the box and put two, old pairs of glasses in it. Did not actually take a lot of hunting. It was right there in front of the desk. Made me feel good to be striking a blow against preventable vision impairment. Walk the walk as well as talk the talk; ya know.

That was pretty much my day. Like I said, I have had a heck of a time getting motivated today. Played a lot of Panda Pop on my iPad.

Tomorrow the new washer comes. The piles of dirty laundry are getting a little high. As my mother used to say, we seem to be either the cleanest people there are or the dirtiest. I haven’t had a washer for a week but the piles look like they should be for a month. That should give you some idea of how I am spending tomorrow, motivated or not. I have laundry to do.

Continue reading “Good Knock on the Head”

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This Mortal Coil

Good natured teasing, I have always believed, is a sign of affection. Therefore I did not get upset when people in yoga laughed and said I want to keep up with the 20 year olds in class. Besides, it was true. I do want to keep up with the 20 year olds! (Actually, I can outperform some of the 20 year olds, but in those cases, it is their issues and not my ‘talent’ that are causing the situation. I find that very sad.)

I am not sure if I have ever acted my age. I know that right now, at 63, I don’t want to act my age. I don’t want to act my age, or perhaps more precisely act like a 63-year-old woman with a visual impairment, because I don’t like the stereotype. The stereotype says we are a bunch of stick-in-the-muds who have no fun! Also, we are helpless and lacking in many skill areas.

Seriously. Think of what people think older folks can do. Then think about what people believe the visually impaired can do. Not much, right? I do not want to be limited like that. Time to bash some stereotypes.

Not only does thinking you have to be the ‘proper’ senior with vision loss interfere with living, it also interferes with LIVING, as in how long you shuffle around this mortal coil (The Bard again in Hamlet should you be curious). Younger thinking people live longer.

Really. University College, London ran a study that showed more people who thought they were three or more years younger than their ages were alive after a few years than people who thought they were older than their age were.

Now, granted, the article did not say why people may feel older than their years. It may be there were diseases making them feel older. I am assuming since University College is a respected institution they know how to run a study and control for such confounding variables. I am going to assume it was a well-designed study and take their findings at face value. Why? Because they serve my purposes, of course!

Dr. Sharon Horesh-Bergquist has done a study that found internalizing ‘ageism’ notions is bad for your health. The way you think of aging will influence how you age. If you believe all those stereotypes about old folks, you will age poorly.

In another study, people in Ohio who were proud of their ages and thought they were useful and happy lived 7.5 years longer than their pessimistic peers. I would take that. Better than the alternative.

So there really is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to aging, disability and, yes, even death. Believe you are no longer competent and able to engage in life and that is exactly what will happen.

Which brings us to the thought questions: how have you changed since your vision loss? What have you given up since your vision loss? What do you no longer do ? And now the kicker: what have you given up solely because old, low vision people don’t do things like that?

Continue reading “This Mortal Coil”

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Let The Good Times Roll!

Laissez les bon temps roulez! Today in real-time was Mardi Gras and everyone in America was an honorary Cajun. [Lin/Linda here: for those of us who don’t speak French, the first sentence is a Cajun French phrase that is literally translated from the English expression “Let the good times roll.”]

Elementary school had its traditional luncheon, paid for by the money made by the soda machines. There was no real, Cajun food served but we still enjoyed it.

Good cake. In the past we had a King Cake, complete with a little, plastic baby Jesus baked inside. Whoever came up with the idea of BAKING the Christ Child? Is it a sin to swallow the baby Jesus doll? Mid Atlantic state Methodist here. I have no clue.

Just the same, no plastic Jesus this year because he would have doubled the cost of the cake. Guess we did not need to worry about swallowing it although we remembered the year someone almost did just that!

Be that as it may, we have had the tradition of decorating the teachers’ lounge and wishing we were all in New Orleans for a number of years now. (High school has a couple of pots of jambalaya brought in. I probably should eat over there!) Groups form traditions and traditions are a good thing.

Vision loss and isolation (such filthy language I use!) tend to get us away from traditions. This is not a good thing. Ten Benefits of Family Traditions (and, yes, school is a family) lists the benefits of maintaining them.

Traditions help us maintain a shared identity and feelings of belonging. They generate wonderful memories that we can share and increase that feeling of belonging. “Exactly who was that who almost choked on baby Jesus?….That’s right!”

Traditions organize our world, give us a sense of structure and help us navigate change. They prove comfort and security through the familiar in contrast to that change. In that way they can help us deal with loss and even trauma.

Traditions give us the opportunity to work together to solve problems. They teach us practical skills (like the Heimlich maneuver when somebody chokes on said plastic baby Jesus?…. Ouch! Don’t hit me!) and impart values, beliefs, culture and heritage. All told not a half bad return on our soda machine profits.

So the next question becomes how can you maintain traditions in your lives? Doesn’t have to be big or elaborate. We have lots for the kids. For example, March 2 is Theodore Geisel’s birthday. You know him better as Dr. Seuss. The menu that day? All together now…GREEN EGGS AND HAM. Everyone also reads The Cat in the Hat. Almost mandatory.

After that we are all Irish for the day on March 17th. Wearin’ of the green and “Kiss me. I’m Irish.” even if the other 364 days of the year we are Asian or Black or Heinz 57 Varieties.

And the 11th reason to maintain traditions is they are often just plain fun. Don’t have to be elaborate. Don’t have to be involved. Traditions are what you make. Go make some. Continue reading “Let The Good Times Roll!”

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Special Favors

This evening I am staying home. It is normally a Zumba night. Did I want to go? Absolutely! Still I turned down a ride. Why? Because she would have had to make a special trip to get me.

I am really struggling with this. Every fiber of my being wanted to go to class. My ride volunteered, but she was already at the gym and would have had to leave, pick me up and go back there. So I turned her down.

Some people don’t have a problem with asking for and taking special favors. My ride home from school is a club advisor. Tonight we took a student home. Five miles in the wrong direction. Wasn’t the first time. My friend felt used. I don’t want people to feel used.

So where is the line between a doable favor and a burden? Where is the line over which people feel used? I looked online and found page after page of sites telling you how not to be used. How about a site that tells you what is an acceptable request and what is going over the line? How about a site that tells you how not to be a user?

With rides I try very hard to make sure they are going my way to begin with. My usual rides home from school both live within a mile of our house. To me that is not excessive. Is it?

I try not to lean on any, one person too much. My maximum burden for anyone is three trips a week. Most of those three times include a there and back combination. Is that too much?

Where is the etiquette book on this????? Etiquette says to do as much as you can to ease the burden. I try. I am always ready on time. I wait at the bottom of the driveway. It says to consider your task and the person you are asking. How is that match? Usually good because they are going to the same place.

I am thinking I need something a whole lot firmer that what I have. People are fantastic and I want them to keep being fantastic. Yes, there is self-interest here, but I also want them to not be inconvenienced either. Neither of those things will happen if I over use people or take advantage of their generosity.

‘Tis a dilemma, so I am throwing it out for discussion. What is too big of a favor? When should you not ask? When should you refuse an offer? What are the rules on this???????? Continue reading “Special Favors”

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Our Mission

Just got a comment via email. It was enough to make me blush and puff with pride…then wonder how the hell I am going to live up to all that!!! My heavens! Thank you!

Then I started wondering about ‘mission’. Ever been part of a committee writing a mission statement? Don’t be! They are killers. Still, every endeavor should have some goals; right?

Today I was waiting for sixth grade to come in from recess. One of ‘my’ kids, a lovely young lady, stopped to tell me she had seen me in my glasses. She meant the telescopic ones I use to do classroom observations.

I started to think what my being in school was doing for – or maybe to! – our kids. What I came up with is I am helping them to be comfortable with the visually impaired. I am helping them to normalize vision loss.

In sociology normalization process theory relates to the social processes by which new ways of thinking, working and organizing become routinely incorporated in everyday life. In my case it does not mean to make the different into ‘normal’ people (in my case, I believe that may not be possible!😵) but instead to allow others to see us as just part of normal life.

I get a kick out of the acceptance and ‘ownership’ the students have of my vision loss. The other week a new student asked if I had virtual reality glasses! Not hardly. I stopped to give him the Cliff Notes version of the talk on my assistive technology. A couple of his classmates joined in and helped me explain the situation! For them, it is pretty routine.

If I had to define our ‘mission’ here, I would have to say part of it needs to be normalization of vision loss. Acceptance. Not complacency with avoidable blindness or an attitude of throwing up your hands in the face of unavoidable blindness. We cannot stop fighting vision loss and say it is inevitable. Instead I would like to see us work towards a more generalized acceptance and understanding that there are millions of us and we can and should be part of the community. The more we get out there, the more we will be part of the social landscape. As we adjust to our vision loss within our society, society can adjust to us.

So that is my thought on one destination for this journey we are on. Normalization of low vision in a community. How can we get low vision out of the closet?

The person who wrote that lovely email talked about being more open with people about her vision loss. She also talked about starting a local support group! I am thrilled! One person can make a difference.

And if one person can make a difference, what can an online community – physically spread out across the globe (I still find that a wild concept to wrap my head around!) – do together/separately?

What is your mission? Continue reading “Our Mission”

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The Cowardly Lion

My yogini generally starts class asking everyone to set an intention for the class. Pretty standard stuff in yoga classes.

Saturday she started class by asking what we would want to ’embody’ on and perhaps even off the mat. That got my head going. After wondering if I should channel Wonder Woman or Supergirl, I started thinking about the virtues.

Which virtue would I want to embody? Which one would suit not only my personality but also serve me the best?

To begin with, I wasn’t even sure what is considered a virtue. I went to Virtues for Life and found a list of 78 of them. (I think. I lost count. Twice.) That was a lot more than I thought there would be. Which made me wonder what the definition of virtue might be. After all, a whole lot of things seem to qualify.

According to the online dictionary a virtue is “a behavior showing high moral standards.” It could also be “the seventh highest order of the nine-fold celestial hierarchy”, but I have no idea what that means. We will therefore stick with definition number 1.

Virtues run the alphabet from acceptance to wonder. They also go from determination to flexibility and detachment to enthusiasm. Hmmmm. Maybe it has to do with how well the virtue matches the situation? If it doesn’t match and ‘work’ then the virtue is not a virtue? Yes/no/maybe?

Anyway, leaving the really heavy philosophical lifting behind, which of those 78 virtues do you think you would need to embody to get through the day? Which ones do you lack but you think it would be helpful to have?

I know I am obstinate, stubborn and pig-headed. Dressed up to look pretty, that is determination. I use that a fair amount.

I could probably use more of the flip side of determination. Especially now that I am older and have low vision, I could probably use more flexibility and acceptance. In the words of those wise philosophers, The Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometime, you just might just find, you get what you need.” Being open to other possibilities and trusting the Universe to provide good alternatives is not a bad thing. Sometimes it just takes a little courage.

And speaking of courage….Experiencing vision loss, I believe we all have embodied courage. We just may not recognize it. Being courageous is not an all or nothing thing. Sometimes we express it and sometimes we don’t but it is always there. Think the Cowardly Lion. He needed a medal to recognize it, but his courage was there all the time.

Going back to speaking personally, I have a tendency to be pretty confidence. Go ahead and read arrogant there if you wish. I am self-aware enough to know that. After 63 years, it comes as no surprise.

However, what also comes as no surprise is life teaching the lessons I need to grow just at the time I need them. Humility? You folks are (trying 😎) to teach me humility. AMD limiting my abilities just makes me mad. Then I feel ‘noble’ fighting it (See? Arrogant.) Hearing your stories, what you are going through and the kind comments you make? Those are humbling.

So back to the question: which virtues do you think you need to embody to get through? Make yourself a ‘medal’ and pin it to your underwear. You just might find you have had that virtue the whole time!

Continue reading “The Cowardly Lion”

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No Mud, No Lotus

 

No mud, no lotus
Yesterday the theme for our yoga practice (and remember it is yoga practice not yoga perfect. There is nothing in life we ever truly perfect. We are all seekers and strivers) was “no mud; no lotus”. Cool. A page topic.

 

 

Traveling in the yoga and therapy circles I am in, I have heard that saying a thousand times. It makes a great poster. Lovely, white lotus flower growing out of a bog. Beautiful. What does it mean?

Literally it means exactly what it says. The lotus, sacred plant of India, is aquatic. It roots in the mud and makes its way to bloom on the surface. Without having its roots in the mud, the plant would perish. (Or perhaps not. Fun facts: Wikipedia reported the oldest living lotus known is over 1,000 years old and Kew Gardens reported the oldest, germinating lotus seeds were 1,288 +/- 250 years old!)

Metaphorically, no mud, no lotus is about rebirth and emerging from darkness and a ‘bad’ place (BuddhaNet). It symbolizes rising above the defilement and suffering in life. It is a way to represent hope and victory over bad circumstances.

Please note the ‘bad’ circumstances are still there. No one drained the swamp. There would be no lotus if the swamp were drained. The ‘bad circumstances’ of the swamp are necessary for the lotus just like the conflict is necessary for the victory. No conflict, no victory. Got it? We need adversity in order to prevail.

And THAT is one of the moral of the story. We don’t grow because of the ease in our lives but because of the challenges.

I looked up no mud, no lotus and found some intriguing references to a book by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. BARD does not list it or I would have downloaded it. According to other sources Thich – or should I say Hanh? – sees acceptance of suffering as the first step to happiness. It is not possible to fully experience one thing without knowing it’s opposite. Ying and yang. You can only appreciate the light if you have known the darkness. And that is the Zen take on the saying. Pretty profound in its simplicity.

I leave it to you to decide how no mud, no lotus might apply to your life. Has your AMD made you grow in any way? Are you more appreciative of your vision or of things you are still able to do because you have glimpsed a future without good vision? Has anything good come of your having AMD?

And if the answers to every one of those questions is no, I am going to ask why not. Perhaps now is the time to embrace your condition and make it work for you. No mud, no lotus. Continue reading “No Mud, No Lotus”

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