Vision loss has been many things to me. In the darkest times, it became the only thing — my albatross, my scarlet letter. First, I damned the disease, then damned myself for having it.
I defined myself by its limitations. I walked into a door and, therefore, I was dangerous. I lost my job and, therefore, I was worthless. The event, though painful, was less destructive than what I told myself, how I personalized the event.
Zen masters say that every event is neutral. It’s not what happens to you, they say, but what you make of it. But in my circle, nobody greeted my impending blindness with “You’ll be fine. Just go with it.” My people said, “Oh my God, this is awful!” and so did I. Everybody implied, but didn’t dare say, that blindness is a fate just this side of death.
Over the years, I have learned a little about blindness and a lot about myself. Blindness is the event. What I do with that event makes the difference. When my experience is filtered through cultural judgment and personal shame, my view is distorted. I feel miserable. And how’s that working for me? The variable is my attitude, my thinking. I find that my first thought, the default thought, is generally self-blaming, self-defeating. That’s how I’m wired. But I am finding the power to reject that thought, to move on to a neutral place from which to view the event.
Rejecting the first thought, pausing to replace it, is exhilarating but arduous. My ultimate goal is to rewire my thinking, to find a new thought channel that will bypass shame and self-judgment and run on surrender and acceptance. Yet I am incorrigibly myself, and good habits remain transitory. Still, clarity leads to change. There are many goals I have yet to achieve, but I do not consider myself unsuccessful.