Some people view losing their eyesight as the end of the world. Others claim low vision is a mere inconvenience. The authors of the National Low Vision Awareness website write, “People with low vision have difficulty seeing…which makes everyday tasks difficult to do.”
This elegantly simple, emotionally neutral description distills what stinks about low vision into one word: difficult. But difficult means more than difficult. From my perspective as a blind person, “difficult” is a euphemism for “pain in the ass.” Difficult is lipstick on a pig. Ask a woman about her “difficult” marriage and she’ll say it’s a living hell. Tell me that the “difficult” neighbor kid is coming to visit and I bar the door.
I propose three synonyms for “difficult.” The first is “annoying.” I get annoyed by blindness. Here’s an example, a dialogue with me as blind handyman:
Me: “To fix that faucet will take me four…”
My wife: “…eight…”
Me: “…hours. And cost fifty…”
My wife: “…one hundred…”
And the most annoying thing is, my wife is always right.
The second synonym for “difficult” is “distressing.” I find the consequences of blindness distressing. I figure I have lost over $1 million in earnings because of blindness. Yup, a million bucks, plus all the quarters I dropped and couldn’t find.
The third synonym for “difficult” is “frustrating.” Nowhere is my threshold for frustration lower than technology. My part in this is that I consider myself logical and linear when I am not. Therefore, I get frustrated when technology fails to translate my tangential and circuitous intentions into a straight-line, binary code it can understand.
But I am not going to whine. Difficulties bring rewards. By necessity, I have become a more resourceful problem-solver. I believe I am also more patient and tolerant. A very wise guy, Malcolm Gladwell, asserts that difficult tasks result in deeper, more lasting learning because they require more energy and focus. This belief keeps me plodding through the annoying, distressing and frustrating process. To use a food metaphor, these multiple rewards are the big bowl of ice cream you get after the interminable, insufferably difficult plate of force-fed vegetables.