Helen Keller once wrote a piece about having three days to see. “If I Had Three Days to See” It was published in 1933. That article affected me deeply. I’ve often wondered what I’d do if sight weren’t an issue for three glorious days. I decided to write a third part in this series about keeping options open. I think that it is common for those with disabilities to first see the supposed limitations. It is all about seeing the possibilities that are there for each of us. They are there. Society, in its ignorance, tries to rip them from our lives.
When I was growing up I thought often about the limitations that I faced. I couldn’t do things that sighted people did. I couldn’t play tennis, walk a straight line, thread a needle easily or follow somebody pointing at an object. I wanted to move gracefully and dance. I saw limits. It is easy to get hooked into that cycle. I can’t because….pick a reason. Yet at the same time it didn’t sink in that these thoughts were really limiting in the long-term.
At the same time I knew that there were things that I could do. I could ride a bike, swim, sing, and use my brain intelligently. I could work. Wasn’t it important to explore the options I had? I did have options. The funny thing was before I grew up I felt I had more options and behaved as if I did.
Seeing that glass half full or half empty is a choice. If you can’t see the glass you will need help finding it. Sometimes during childhood and adulthood the glass gets pulled off the table. If you don’t like something you do have options. You can change it. Some of the options that you have might not be pleasant ones but they are there. We exercise options minute by minute and build from that.
When I was 16 and full of youth I began to understand that I had found a profession that interested me. I began to understand what that would entail and that I had to figure out how to make it happen. As I thought about doing this it seemed natural. I worked for and earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree. It was several years later before my Masters was a possibility but I never gave up hope.
Even as I write this I can exercise simple options. I can go eat, surf the net, watch a movie, write some e-mails. I choose. And I choose to take days to post this blog.
As a disabled person it is easy to become trapped in the ditch of disability. In that ditch we live with the “I can’t do that” and “Whatever are you thinking” enemies. We call this maturing and seeing things as they really are? I’m with Robert F. Kennedy “I see things that aren’t and ask WHY NOT” I never liked the stuff in that “ditch” very much. That destructive place is somewhere I’d rather not reside in. I’ve always asked “why not” and struggled with the details of doing whatever it was. Call me whatever you will but giving up having options is not an answer. That doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled.
Depression is something all disabled people must deal with. If I ever meet someone who is disabled who tells me that they’ve never dealt with depression I will want to find out how they’ve managed to avoid that period of their life. It is part of the process that enables us to become who we are and to rise up and gain that inner strength. Once we grapple with feelings of hopelessness and our particular disability, the hurt and pain it has caused us, we can confront the positive options as well.
During the period between my two degrees I also dealt with depression and many issues that needed to be worked through. I crossed over from the hopeful 16 year-old who at first had a thought and a desire to gain an education. I became an adult who knew she could fulfill her goals. It was a journey then and still is a journey now. I climbed out of the ditch and saw that I could make a life. I re-discovered the concept of options in an adult way.
At the age of 31 I returned to school to pursue my Masters. Since that time I’ve married, moved to Europe and faced new and challenging events in my life. I like where I am. Along the way I’ve taken risks, learned from my mistakes and gained new insights. I like adventures. I like having options.
I can’t tell you how to get from A to Z but I can tell you that it can be done. I can help you through the process. I can tell you that there are always options. It involves turning over all of the rocks to find them. The options open up when you ask “how can I do that in a way that accommodates my needs.” “Can I realistically open up to new ways of doing things?” “Given my limitations what can I do to achieve my goals” You are more than what isn’t functioning as it once did. You are more than what has never “worked normally.”
Society might want to tell us that we are destined for very little. I tell society that I’m not going to settle. I don’t see myself as exceptional and will not be put on that type of pedestal. When we allow society to make a big deal out of our achievements we send a message that what we are doing must be abnormal. The fact is that it isn’t abnormal. We are just taking a different path to reach our goals and fulfill our hearts dreams. I try to send that message clearly. I like asking WHY NOT? I like finding a way to make it happen.
I return to thinking about Helen Keller and everything she went through to get where she was in life. That woman had options and she used them.