by Jeff Flodin
I subscribe to the notion that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% what I do about it.When what happens to me is bad, I can think like a victim, feel like a victim and act like a victim. A victim has no choices. A victim isstuck on the pity pot.
Learning that I have choices, and acting on these choices, brings the power I need to change.I can choose to engage rather than isolate, become active rather than passive, and show self-respect instead of self-pity. Change can liberate me from the trappings of victimhood, of thinking that my reality is everything that happens to me rather than what I create and nurture from my spirit.
Here’s what happened to me in March, 1986.I was thirty-five years old. I was one month shy of being married. I was diagnosed with RP. I was told I will go blind. For the what I did about it part, I went into shock. I thought the world was ending. Whatever I felt about blindness, I wanted to feel something different. The only thing
I wanted to change was my eyesight, my diagnosis and my prognosis.
RP has no treatment and no cure. So, for years I waged war on vision loss. My arsenal included denial, anger, resistance, isolation and alcohol. With these weapons, I was ill-equipped for the 90% part of this process. I don’t
know what changed the course of my war. Maybe it was giving up the fight.
Surrender can be a dirty word in wartime, but I really had to get honest that I was fighting something I could not control. Surrender came in the guise of acceptance. Surrender means joining the winning side.
Acceptance was neither in my vocabulary nor in my emotional repertoire. But I found that until I accepted my vision loss, I could not be happy. I don’t have to like being blind. I can even say, on rare occasion, that I hate my blindness and not have that mean that I hate myself because I am blind. Saying I hate my blindness is a wake-up call that the amount of control I seek to employ is beyond my ability to control.
Acceptance is a word that gets thrown around a lot when thereis loss. Early on, I misinterpreted acceptance as being a place one achieves and, once there, where one dwellsin a state of grace forever. I find that acceptance is more
transitory, more situational. When I get down, I assume I’m not doing such a hot job accepting blindness. If I were, I wouldn’t get down, right? Here’s the trick. Gradually, I’m learning to accept that now and then I will not accept my blindness automatically. Blindness will win a battle here and there. Occasionally, playing the hand I’m dealt means playing a lesser hand.
I am learning that neither blindness nor acceptance is absolute.Even as I hate blindness, I seek to react creatively and constructively. I try to look at vision loss as an opportunity to learn, to become a more patient and tolerant person. Life is often a question of balance, of recognizing that good and bad exist in my mind, where I have the option to choose what I wish to plant and to nurture.
Jeff Flodin is a writer. He has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa for 30 years. Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog. Read more of Jeff’s essays at Jalapenos in the Oatmeal.