This morning I lost a contact. This was exacerbated by my having lost a contact a month ago, so I have been dealing with seeing clearly from only one eye while waiting for an appointment with the ophthalmologist (coming up only in another few weeks- he’s apparently a popular guy). Even then he has to send the order off to some lab, so it will be another week or ten days until I can see with both eyes again.
This brought into focus (as it were) many realizations about how dependent upon my contacts I am. Without them I cannot drive. I cannot work the computer (because while I can make some images bigger, and touch type a bit, I cannot see as far as my hands to find the right keys on the keyboard. No computer means no email, no facebook messages, no working on my website or the CTCW website, no painting, except for miniatures (with those and fine illumination I take out my contacts and have my nose almost on the surface as I work), no watching movies, or, in fact, seeing anything across the room, or anything anyone pointed out to me. I couldn’t tell if someone was pointing at something, or get hints about how they felt from facial expression. I wouldn’t see it.
I felt rather helpless. I called in Willow, whose talents luckily include finding and she did, in fact, find it, which is the only reason I’m able to write this. But the two hours it took her (I had dropped it in my bedroom where the path between bed and dresser is narrow, further blocked by stacks of books and probably related to that, not vacuumed in longer than I like to think, I was able to ruminate on how my poor eyesight would effect the whole family. I’d been getting dressed to go to the dump. Until then, Willow would have to do dump runs. She’d have to do all errands, drive me and Kat to any appointments. I wouldn’t be able to go to the library or shopping. I would probably be able to continue cooking, washing dishes and do other domestic chores, but I was going to have to get help to contact the people who’s paintings I was working on to let them know about the issue.
I started thinking about people in history before there were glasses. (Sadly, my prescription is such that if I wear on the nose type glasses I get dizzy and walk into things, so I don’t bother with a back-up pair.) Grandma could still sew if one of the kids was available to thread her needle. Old people ask those with good eyes to tell them what’s going on. Some jobs were not possible. Helpers help, but it comes down to what you can do and what you can’t. Which takes us to the Captain Jack Sparrow’s quote I used as a title: “The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man, or you can’t. … And me, for example, I can let you drown. But I can’t bring this ship into Tortuga all by me oneses, savy?”
He compared two problems, what Will chose to believe, and what he physically could do. It’s easier to look at our physical limitations, although those still are a problem. I think most of my old friends share my occasional confusion when we try something we’ve “done all our lives” and it doesn’t work any more. This may or may not be because we define what we can do by our personal best, as though that should always be possible (and improvable). Intellectually we may accept that our reflexes are a bit slower, we tire more quickly, we forget things we “should” remember, and it hurts when we try to lift something we think is not that heavy. We can blame it on others, “my doctor doesn’t want me to…” “I haven’t recovered since the last time I was sick…” but it’s easier to accept our gains than our losses. So we become experts at working around our disabilities. Carry smaller but more loads, think around the need for strength or speed, medicate the pain or work through it (and maybe be cranky), and as a last resort ask for help.
Thank goodness we have modern technologies to help us! No one thinks twice about glasses and hearing aides these days. We are getting more accepting of prosthetic devices and wheelchairs, but we still have problems when someone trying to do something for themselves requires us to be inconvenienced. We recognize that a wheelchair doesn’t help with stairs, but don’t want to pay to have buildings retrofitted with ramps. People with prosthesis remind us of our own fears of dealing with serious injuries. We appear not to be able to deal with “otherness”, and would rather the people who are trying so hard to just have a life just stayed out of sight so we didn’t have to think about it. Many of us even get cross when we have a hard time understanding the accent of someone who speaks English as well as their own, and possibly several other languages. Why should their “disability” slow our lives down? We need to learn to accept disabilities in ourselves and in others as a part of life.
We have to accept what we can do and what we can’t do. When we figure out what we can do, we can often find work-arounds to do more, to get what we need and what we want done. If we accept that some of us need glasses, and when we wear them, we are good drivers, how far can that be from some of us need medications to keep our blood sugar or moods regulated, and can still do what those around us do. We shouldn’t have to pretend that we don’t need the help we need to be accepted.
Learning to believe something that changes your world view- that may be harder, and if I come up with a good answer for that, I’ll share it. After all, Will did eventually believe that his father was both a pirate and a good man. Some day perhaps we will learn to accept that this is true of people with other beliefs.