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WHAT DO I DO WHEN...?

This Trip Pushed My Limits

by Marty Klein, Woodstock, New York

I am an optimist. In fact some friends like to call me the eternal optimist. I've always felt good about my ability to see the positive side of any situation. I've also been a strong believer that blind people need to get out and experience all of life, even if it's more difficult because of the lack of sight.

Blind? So what! I've been encouraging blind people for years to go to the movies, concerts, and sports events, and on trips, cruises, or any adventure that could enrich their lives. The more blind folks out in the world, the more the sighted majority will get used to seeing us around everywhere. And I think that's a good thing.

That's been my philosophy and it still is. However today I find myself questioning things just a little.

I just got back from a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. I could go on about the things I enjoyed and there were a number of them, but I'm writing this article because I found myself in many very challenging situations due to my blindness. I cannot remember a four-day period where I felt so dependent so often.

My friend was an excellent ally--assisting me around to all the meals, walking with me up and down hundreds of flights of stairs, escorting me from one activity to another, helping me get on and off the boat when we docked at different ports and continually weaving us through huge crowds of cruise passengers. I am happy to report that I have no broken bones and no bruises. We walked many miles without incident--a pretty good feat in itself. But I feel physically and emotionally exhausted from the trip and must do some honest evaluating to see if it was all worth it.

Our room was fine, but every time I left the room I instantly found myself in dependent mode. The halls of the boat were narrow so I always had to be behind my friend with her leading the way. Any time I would venture out from behind her I would inevitably bump into a person or something protruding from the walls. Very frustrating! The loud music throughout the cruise ship was annoying but when we were around large crowds of passengers it was downright painful and a bit overwhelming at times. I could barely hear my friend, and I felt totally isolated from the rest of the people on the boat.

Stopping at different islands had its positive moments, but I needed help everywhere I turned. Back on the boat the food was good but getting it was challenging. Most of the waiters and waitresses were from other countries and spoke very little English. They were sweet and friendly but often didn't understand me and most of the time I had no clue what they were saying because of all the noise in the restaurant areas.

I am pretty good at handling tough situations until they pass. They always do. But this trip certainly pushed my limits.

As a blind man I must learn to balance my desire to live life to the fullest with an honest and sober assessment of the danger or difficulties involved with any adventure I am considering. The key word in the prior sentence is "honest." Being such an optimist has made honestly assessing things quite confusing for me. How many times did I tell myself, "it would be no big deal!" But in retrospect it was a very big deal!

Maybe this optimist has a bit of denial mixed in with the positive viewpoint. I don't plan to give up my optimistic attitude, but I think it would be healthier for me to be more realistic about the difficulties involved with any activity in which blindness figures to be a factor. This may very well be a hard lesson for me to accept, but one that may prove to be a blessing in disguise. And that's an optimistic thought.


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