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Monday, March 14, 2011

Hidden Blessings

Every Monday afternoon at the MCBTC during 8th hour, we have Seminar. All the students gather in the dining room and it is led by the Assistant Director or the Director of the Training Center. Sometimes speakers are invited to come and talk to students about various topics of interest or their personal success stories. Sometimes it is a chance for students to ask questions and/or discuss concerns. Other times, like today, a thought provoking question is asked and we share insights. Today the Director posed the question, "What hidden blessings have you discovered through your blindness?" She then explained that a former colleague of hers used to say that his life truly began when he became blind. It led to a career, marriage, and a life he had never imagined (in a very positive way) living. 

What is interesting is that just last night I was talking to mother-in-law about this same topic and it had been on my mind all day. It is so easy to focus on all of the negativity surrounding my illness and subsequent vision loss that blessings become easily forgotten. But they are there, hidden beneath the "I'll nevers" and the "I can'ts."

I've never been a big believer in destiny or that things happen for a reason. The idea that life is predetermined always seemed a little too passive for my tastes. I believe that while there are certainly aspects of life you have little to no control over, you always have a choice. Even if the only choice you have is how you handle a particular situation. I've always kind of pictured life like a giant road map that is created as you go along. The thousands of choices a person makes daily leads to other paths where thousands of other choices await. TA world of endless possibilities exist has always appealed to me. I find it reassuring that even when everything seems decided; a simple decision puts everything into motion once again. It seems kind of fanciful when articulated into words, but most days it works for me. 

With this idea in mind, my biggest challenge of adapting to being legally blind has been choosing a positive attitude and not let the anxiety, uncertainty, and depression swallow me alive. As a result, I spend a large portion of each day forcing myself to focus on the many good aspects of my life; or searching for those hidden blessings, if you will. 

One of these blessings is that I got a stronger sense of how much the love and support of friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers can hold you together during tough times. The support of my family has always been there for me. My parents are amazing and have always bent over backwards to assist me in any way they can. My friends have also supported me in so many ways throughout the years, but the outpouring of generosity and selflessness that people displayed this summer has left me in awe. Hundreds of people, many of them strangers, or mere acquaintances, took us in their hearts, and demonstrated their love through meals, chores, errands, transportation, childcare, gifts, cards, well-wishes, and prayers. The people in my life are absolutely amazing. I will never, be able to accurately demonstrate my gratitude, nor will I ever forget how important kindness is.

Another blessing is the bonds I have formed with my husband’s family. I have always gotten along very well with his family, and truly enjoyed spending time with each and every one of them. I knew they would be willing to help whenever needed, but they were Josh's family and my in-laws. I no longer feel this way. Through the course of my various hospital stays, and the difficulties I've had adjusting to life as a visually-impaired mother they have been by side every step of the way. They’ve found ways to support me, all the while encouraging my independence and boosting my confidence. We've grown a lot closer over the last nine-months and I consider myself so lucky to have such a wonderful family. A family that includes all the members; both by blood and marriage. 

Of course my daughter is a blessing. I've spent quite a bit of time away from her during her short life, but I've also been able to spend time with her that I probably wouldn't have if I had returned to work last fall. This is very hard for me to view as a good thing because I am still having trouble coming to terms with all of the time I "lost" with her while I was sick and all of the moments I didn't get to see. Reconciling my ideas of the role of mother and my reality of it will continue to be a struggle for some time. 

There is one other blessing that I know has come from my blindness. The bond that has developed between my husband and my daughter. Josh was thrown head first into parenthood and not only figured out how to meet a baby's basic needs, but also how to help a baby thrive. Emeline is so well-adjusted. Her flexibility and ability to cope with constant changes of locale nap schedules, and various caretakers are a true testament to the adaptive nature of my husband. I couldn't ask for a better partner or father.

I am certain there are other blessings I have yet to uncover. For just a little over nine months into my journey of vision-loss and adjusting to blindness I am pretty pleased I can identify this many. I am interested in seeing what good that may come out of my vision loss, the choices I make throughout, and the experiences it will lead me to.

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