by Audrey Demmitt
My husband is a wise, clever and loving man. He once told me to “lower the standard” and it was one of the most loving things he has ever said to me! Over the years, this loving suggestion has freed me from the tyranny of perfection and saved me from my over-achieving, over-striving self, time and time again.
One of the hardest things to accept as you lose your vision is the reality of new limitations. Vision loss slows you down and it is impossible to be as efficient and productive as you were when fully sighted. In the early years of learning to live with low vision, my days were filled with frustration, set-backs, and mishaps. One no-good terrible day, I decided to clean the refrigerator. I knocked a carton of milk off the shelf. As a white river began to flow across the floor, I leaned down to clean it and bumped into another shelf which sent a jar of bright, red maraschino cherries and dill pickles crashing to the floor. The dogs sidled up to lick at the colorful, sticky mess. Hurriedly, I shooed them away and felt around for the broken jars and shards, cutting my finger. Angry now, I threw the pieces in the sink and broke a glass pie dish. One step forward, five steps back…not an atypical day! Many days were punctuated by a succession of searches for lost items-glasses, magnifier, dropped earrings or ice cubes that skitter just beyond my vision but in clear view! I rarely seemed to be able to get everything done on my ambitious to-do list and would end the day tired, defeated, and feeling guilty. During this time, I was juggling the demands of work and meeting the needs of my family. I struggled to figure out which things were most important and what things I had to let go. True to my nature, I wanted to get everything done and do it well.
One day, upon arriving home from work, my husband found me haggard and the house in chaos. Tearful, I apologized that I did not do a better job of “holding down the fort” and he quietly said “Lower the standard honey…it won’t kill us to eat on paper plates tonight.” This was revolutionary to me! I do not mean to suggest that blind or visually impaired people cannot be efficient, productive and organized. Nor do I suggest that there should be a lesser standard for the blind. That would be offensive. Through the process of vision rehabilitation, we become quite skilled, resourceful and competent in managing our lives. We learn to adapt and adjust the pace of life to match our skills, goals and priorities. Some become the “super-blind” and the “uber independent”. I myself have had to fight this temptation because it is often accomplished at great personal cost. Most of us just want to live normal lives and keep up with the demands and responsibilities of the lives we have carved out for ourselves.
Now in my fifth decade, I better understand what is most important in this life: relationships. That is where I choose to invest my time and efforts. It matters not that the house is spotless or that I am caught up with the laundry. There are many things that can wait until tomorrow. What is important to me is that I make the time to nurture family, friends and myself.
Maybe “live by your own standard” more clearly states the concept. What is important to you? Be realistic about what can be accomplished in a day and stick to the important stuff. Give yourself a break, lighten up, have some fun, learn to relax, recreate and give these gifts to others as well. Keep it simple, remember to breathe, and eat off paper plates once in a while.
Audrey Demmitt was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 25 and has been legally blind since 1994. She has used a guide dog for the last three years. She is a retired school nurse. Audrey lives in Georgia with her husband and three adult children. See more from Audrey at her blog: Seeing Possibilities, http://seeingpossibilities.com/