An old family friend left a message on my answer machine that went something along the lines of; ” I’ve been to look at your old school…it really is a super retirement complex now … they have everything there…you wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to see….they’ll look after you….I’ve given your number to the sales office and Vicki is going to call you…I’ve told her you can’t see much…there will be lots of people who have problems like yours so you won’t be alone…they even have a mini bus if you wanted to go to the town… honestly everything is there…I don’t think you’d ever need to leave….I’m 86 and it wouldn’t do for me but you’re 55 and I thought it would be perfect for you.”
As my jaw slumped, a tightening knot in my stomach reminded me that life is short. It was 10am and although I had been awake since 5am, because I am 55 now, I was still in bed. I had better get up.
I’ve run a business, raised the Fabulous Son, travelled, run a house, have a social life and friends. I am still actively considering how to change the world and am far from ready to go and live in a retirement complex because my sight is rubbish. What is it then, that makes Old Family Friend think that I am ready to spend the the rest of my life in an institution?
I cannot help but think it is the same thing that made my friend Bless Your Heart (known by this handle because she is always saying it) declare that the growth of cataracts would mean I’d have to stop working. Come to think of it, she’s been telling me about the things I won’t be able to do for the last forty years. By what wisdom does she know this and yet get it repeatedly wrong? I suspect it’s the same attitude that made her snap up a bargain commode while she was still in her forties.
They both see the limitations of sight loss and don’t take into account the complexities and resilience of what it takes to live a good life.
Some people are just constituted with a bunker mentality and some of us are happy to take our chances under the sun. Most of us struggle to integrate the contradictions of an apparently limiting set of circumstances with no imposed self limits. I have no such difficulty.
What’s the critical difference in thinking between those of us who are prepared for the blistering heat and those who bunker down?
“Confidence” is the cry I hear, but it’s not that. Confidence is only a question of faith. Faith has no basis in skill or capability or knowledge. It’s easily shaken. “Resilience” is the common factor in leading the best life possible. It’s the art of developing enough inner resources to cope with, rise to and deal with the inevitable problems, knock backs, challenges and set backs that face us all and which visually impaired people face many fold over.
Do we build enough resilience in our young blind and partially sighted or are we still focussed on confidence? Is having everything at your fingertips, and never even having to board the mini bus the best way to live, or should I keep going until my brain and my knees give out?
Vicki never did call, but a brochure arrived. I put it in an envelope with an anonymous typed note to an old school friend. Life is short. We had better life it to the full if we are not to end up where we started.