Courage, Heroism, and Other Delusions

Blindness is scary for anyone who hasn’t experienced it. Blindness is, for some people at least, the ultimate worst-case scenario. People have told me, to my face, that they’d rather be anything else—deaf, paralyzed, depressed—than blind. I always marvel at this shortsightedness (pun intended) but I understand it, too. If I went totally deaf tomorrow, I’d feel frightened and desperate. The thought makes me shiver, though I’d never presume that deaf people’s lives are abysses of misery. Even if I did, I’d never say it to their faces, because it’s one of the most insensitive ideas I can imagine.

Perhaps the worst thing to hear, though, is “I could never manage a life without sight…how do you do it?”

How indeed. As we all know by now, most blind people live successful, productive lives. Those who don’t usually have other factors to contend with; blindness, by itself, does not guarantee a hopeless existence. Certainly, it can be a struggle. I’m not going to gloss that over. I’ve spent the past year blogging about all the ways it can be difficult. I confess I’ve sometimes indulged in a little self-pity. Eventually, though, I just go back to my life, because what else am I going to do? I can’t wallow forever.

So, how do I do it? How do I live with this disability (or indeed my less visible ones)? I am going to tell you my secret. I am going to reveal to you the cornerstone of my continuous courage in the face of adversity. I can even tell it to you in four words. Ready? Here goes.
“I have no choice.”

Yup, that’s all there is, folks. I was born this way, and I’m going to stay this way indefinitely. I deal with blindness because it’s my constant companion. I surmount blindness-related obstacles because I have no alternative. I keep my head up because the only other option is to put it down and never lift it again. To not “deal with this” is to not exist at all, and that’s definitely not a viable solution. I mean, what would you do if you went blind tomorrow? What would you do if you had no other choice but to be the way you are? What would you do, kill yourself?

Actually, yes. Some people have admitted that they would at least consider it: “God, if I were blind, I’d be suicidal. I could never have your life. It’d be too hard. I’m not brave enough, or heroic enough, or strong enough. I’d give up completely.”

First, ouch! You think my life—or a life like mine—is so full of despair that I’d be better off dead? Second, how can you say this with any conviction until you’ve experienced it? Third … you think I’m brave? Heroic? Strong?

I hate to disappoint you, but I’m none of those things, at least in relation to my disabilities. There’s nothing like necessity to spur you on. There’s nothing like adversity to force flexibility. When enough pressure is exerted, you either bend or you break. I’ve managed to bend, that’s all. There’s nothing mystical or herculean about that.

I’m not brave because I cross the street without looking at the traffic. I’m not heroic because I advocate for my right to equitable treatment. I’m not strong because I haven’t folded yet. The human spirit is surprisingly supple—it can adapt to just about any situation. People carry far heavier burdens with more grace than I carry mine. Just because I seem brave, or strong, or heroic doesn’t mean I am. It just means I’m getting on with things.

So many people shoulder things that seem impossible to bear. They don’t do so because they want to display their courage. They do it because it happens to be what life has thrown at them, and now they’re making it work as best they can. And, if you had to do the same, I can just about promise that you’d make it work, too. There is no point telling someone how brave you think they are, and further telling them that you could never handle it. They’re not handling it out of a desire to draw attention to their mettle. They’re handling it because it’s the only way.

I’m not here to be an inspiration for others, and I’m not here to prove to myself that I’m a brave soul. I’m here because humanity went forth and multiplied, and I’ve been dealt an imperfect hand, just like everyone else. If that makes me heroic, then we’re all heroes—each and every one.

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4 thoughts on “Courage, Heroism, and Other Delusions

  1. Yes! This so much. I was at a wedding last month, my dads actually, and someone came up to me and started telling me how inspirational I am. Honestly it made me really uncomfortable because all I do is study and basically live a typical student life…which isn’t terribly inspirational. And so the only reason she felt that way is because I’m blind. It’s kind of insulting really, because people are assuming, on some level, that blind people wouldn’t normally do those things. So when someone does they are an inspiration.

    I know people don’t mean to be rude, but they also don’t think about what they are implying when they talk to me, or you, or any other person with a disability that way.

    • It’s always awkward, especially in a setting where you can’t really explain in detail. It’s worth noting that people get this in all kinds of situations: disability, illness, etc. Even the loved ones of those with disabilities and illnesses get it. I think it’s something so many of us can relate to.

      • i think we’ve all indulged in self pity at some time in our lives i’ll confess even I have too we don’t have to be blind to wollow in self pity though but nobody’s ever perfect. we’re all human and one blogger in Australia said that to call a person with a disability is considered inspirational porn instead of wollowing in self-pity I actually joke about my blindness and for the fact it’s not a tragedy our eyes may not work but that doesn’t mean that we can’t live as normal life as is possible but wait what is the meaning of normal? I don’t really think there is one though I’ve never had the short sighted comments pun intended about how people I meet wouldn’t be able to manage if they ever went blind I do get people who ask if I’ve ever wished to be able to see I’ve said if I’ve been blind all my life why change something I don’t miss I know no different. that for you may be hard to hear but that’s how I see it and the only reason I went through an extended period of wollowing in self-pity was due to the fact I had long standing health issues which effectively lasted for at least 11 years. I had a kidney transplant when I was 10 years old which didn’t work from the outset as I caught every cold and stomach bug going around and often ended up in hospital. then when I lost this kidney to cancer I was on kidney dialysis for 7 and a half years and the environment I was in wasn’t all that appropriate for a child or young adult particularly when the patients around me who were much older and had other health issues to contend with sometimes even withdrawing from treatment completely as they were too ill to carry on for a while there I wished I hadn’t lost that kidney but time and time again I was reminded had I not lost the kidney I’d have been dead so I suppose for some of us it’s easy to say get over it and move on but when you’re dealing with death a lot and restrictions on what you can and can’t do due to being on dialysis or other medical treatment it is depressing. Now I’ve had a second chance at life and am taking the opportunities that come with both hands and enjoying life

  2. Pingback: Chicken Soup For The Nondisabled Soul (And Why You Won’t Find It Here) | Where's Your Dog?

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