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Jul 6, 2020

The Way I See It Blog Series: Insights

lady sitting on bench holding white cane

INTRODUCTION

My name is Marlene Cust. I am a senior citizen, and legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In my writing, I want to acknowledge both the challenges I face and the positive coping strategies I have developed over time. Blindness is experienced by individuals in unique and various ways. There is no ‘one size fits all!’ Always there is that hope for a cure sometime in the future. In the meantime, for me, hopefulness lies in acting with courage, competence, confidence, and decisiveness every day.  My blog entries present living with blindness ‘the way I see it’.

Insights

As my vision loss progressed, many activities of daily living – which I had, in the past, accomplished without second thought – now could be challenging or no longer possible. For example: seeing the faces of those around me, making a sandwich, finding and navigating a public washroom, shopping for clothing or groceries, perusing a restaurant menu, reading or writing a handwritten note, checking my appearance in a mirror, looking at photos, matching socks, watching a movie.

I went through a period of time during which I questioned my self-worth, my sense of competency, and my sense of purpose. I held the mindset that the challenges to my vision were rendering me incompetent, dependent, helpless, different, deficient and, therefore, of less value as a human being.

I began to question answers I thought I had found in my earlier years, and to ask myself some new questions: On what did I base my sense of self worth? How could I be most effective in maintaining my independence, meeting my needs, and attaining my goals? What are the beliefs and values that give my life direction and purpose?

As a result of this soul-searching, I finally recognized that my sense of self worth, of self competency, and of purpose were based, to a large degree, on my perceptions of what others thought about me, on my accomplishments, and on my ability to function independently. I came to realize that I had to stop measuring myself on external factors and act according to my own standards, goals, and values.

To quote Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I had to set some goals for myself based on my new insights. I resolved to learn skills that would help me maintain a certain degree of independence. I decided to take better care of my physical health and well-being. I devoted new energy to exploring the assistive technologies that would allow me to pursue my passion for reading and writing, and to carry on many other related activities. I focused on finding joy in small things and maintaining a positive and grateful attitude. I embraced the concept of interdependence, asking for help as needed and looking for ways in which I could use my strengths and skills to help others and give back to the community. I consciously cultivated a compassionate and caring heart, a listening ear, and an open-minded, non-judgmental approach in my interactions with others.

It is an ongoing process. Pursuit of these goals has served to enhance my sense of purpose, competency, and self-worth. And I continue to correct my ableist mindset, reflecting on the shared person-hood of all humans and the needs, wants, thoughts, emotions, and aspirations we all have in common. I have come to admire the diverse and unique ways of being, and to recognize the strengths, talents, qualities, abilities, challenges, and intrinsic worth of each individual.

– Marlene Cust

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