Oct 5, 2020



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’.

The best things in life

The onset of blindness brought me to my senses and helped me see reality in a new light.

“Eyes blinded by the fog of things cannot see truth. Ears deafened by the din of things cannot hear truth. Brains bewildered by the whirl of things cannot think truth. Hearts deadened by the weight of things cannot feel truth. Throats choked by the dust of things cannot speak truth.” (Harold Bell Wright, The Uncrowned King, 1910). 

I adopted a minimalist philosophy – a way of doing and being – which enhances my optimal functioning. It required a reorganization – of my space and of my time. It was not a project, but an ongoing attentional and intentional process. It meant having a time and place for everything, and doing everything in its time and place.

My life was once filled with things – things to have and things to do. But I came to the realization that ‘the best things in life are not things.’ The best things, the really important things, are love; friendship; positive connections; health; freedom; leisure time; a clean environment; the ability to see, hear, smell, taste, touch; moments of awareness and insight, acts of kindness and beauty. Once I clarified my values, I set about quite deliberately adjusting my lifestyle to reflect these values.  

It was surprising to me, when I stopped to consider it, how much time I spent shopping, admiring, coveting and acquiring stuff, and how much space was taken up by all that stuff: books, files, devices and gadgets, souvenirs, pictures, objets d’art, knickknacks, and other possessions. I gradually divested myself of all the stuff that was weighing me down, keeping only what contributed to my functioning and my comfort. Minimizing my belongings and decluttering my space certainly helped me to perform routine tasks of daily living quickly and efficiently, and to avoid fruitless and frustrating searches, missteps and accidents.

Next, I had to restructure how I spent my time. In the past, I prided myself on being a busy person. My time was full of things to do. Unwittingly, I crammed every minute with activities and accomplishments: rushing from place to place; multitasking whenever and wherever possible; reading that article or book; answering that phone call, email or text message; shopping and doing chores; watching that movie; squeezing in some quality time for family and friends; making myself available to anybody who laid claim to my time and attention. My boundaries were weak, and I often said ‘yes’ when I wanted to say ‘no.’ And I felt scattered, stressed, exhausted, and empty.

I have now reclaimed the time and tranquility I need to focus on the ‘best things in life’ and to make meaningful connections — with people, with nature, with my own body, with my heart, mind, and spirit. 

I have a regular routine which gives structure to my day; provides a sense of balance, harmony, tranquility and purpose; and contributes to my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. The predictability of routine offers comfort in an otherwise unpredictable world. I am careful, however, to avoid getting so stuck in my routines that they cause undue stress, or prevent spontaneity and initiative. And I have learned to set boundaries and say ‘no’ to things that are not in line with my priorities and values. 

There is nothing exotic about my routine. I simply incorporate into my daily and weekly schedule activities that are important to me and are in line with my values. I have a regular eating and sleeping schedule. I engage in exercise and physical activities in the great outdoors with my dog. I do essential chores. I ensure I have time for quality connections with family, friends, and neighbors. I schedule time for aesthetic activities, intellectual pursuits, and fun, alone or with others. And I reserve time for solitude: relaxing and reflecting, and just being – doing nothing at all. 

-Marlene Cust

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