Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Small Miracle

For those of you who know me or have followed my blog from the beginning, you know I have experienced difficulty with sleeping, a problem that started soon after my eyesight began to deteriorate. In reality, my battle with sleep deprivation has been far worse than most people are aware of and I would not wish any person to experience what I have endured. From February to the middle of August, I lived on four to six hours of sleep per day. Not great, but better than it used to be. (At one point I averaged 6-8 hours in a 3-4 day period and would sometimes go two or three days with none at all. This lasted about 14 months.) Around the middle of August 2012 my sleep nose-dived to three hours per day. And to make matters worse, it wasn’t even three consecutive hours because I woke up every hour or hour and a half.

I pleaded with God to relieve me of this affliction but the sleep deprivation continued. However, instead of becoming angry at God for not answering my prayers, I asked for the strength to endure and bear my adversity with dignity. (Something I learned from Victor Frankl’s book, Mans Search for Meaning.) I also dealt with sleep loss by going to the gym, sometimes two or three times in one day. But by the middle of September the lack of sleep began to take a toll mentally and physically. Sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture and can induce psychosis. Eventually the mind snaps and/or the body collapses. One night I thought I was on the verge of some sort of a nervous breakdown (I cannot begin to describe how I felt.) and thought I heard voices. (Specifically, the laughter of my youngest son even though I was alone.) On Saturday night through Sunday morning I experienced heart palpatations and realized I needed help and called a good friend. It became clear to me there was a direct correlation between my diminishing eyesight and deteriorating sleep. (Some of you may be saying “Duh!’) I needed medical help for the short term and counseling to deal with the long term problem, becoming blind. Most people think I handle it well, and in some ways I do, but going blind terrifies me.

The next day my doctor gave me prescriptions for two medicines and two herbal remedies. This was nice but I had no money. After my appointment I returned to my apartment and decided to try and take a nap. It was three o’clock. I actually fell asleep and woke up at 7;30 pm. I thought about going to the gym for my cardio workout but decided sleep was more important than the stair-master. Later I woke up at 2:30 am, having slept about 11 hours. But it gets better. For the next eight days, I averaged 8-9 hours of sleep per day, without medication or herbal supplements! Being able to sleep was nothing short of a small miracle for me. I had done everything in my power to make my situation better but it wasn’t enough and my mind and body was on the verge of breaking. I thank God for His help.

P.S. Currently my sleeping is OK but I will get my medication soon and should begin counseling for vision loss in a week or so.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Adventure at Turner Falls

August 11th I attended my first church activity for single adults which took place at a park called Turner Falls. I had an AWESOME time hiking, exploring a small cave and lounging in the warm water of the river. Most of us who decided to hike the trails were from the Dallas/Fort Worth area and so I found myself with strangers who quickly became friends. In addition to having a great time I had several experiences that are unique to someone playing around in the great outdoors while being almost totally blind. I will share one of these.

There is an area of the park where the slow-moving river widens and deepens, creating an ideal location for swimming or floating. One side of this area has two slides built on top of a rocky hill that can only be accessed by those who swim to the ladders built into the rock. A few of us decided to swim across the river to go sliding.

Wearing my swimsuit, bandana, sunglasses, hiking boots and carrying my white cane, I joined my companions but quickly lagged behind and soon had no idea where they were. Keep in mind I am swimming with water-logged hiking boots and limited to using one arm since I needed to grasp my cane. One of the group members who remained behind, saw I was lost and began yelling directions amid the tumult of noise created by scores of people around me. After a few minutes I stopped, listened and headed towards the sound made by swimmers hitting the water as they flew off the slides. Somehow I avoided being smashed by those coming off the slide and made it to the ladder. Even though I am in good physical condition, this one-armed swimming with hiking boos was beginning to wear on me and amid the commotion nobody would have noticed me going under water.

I stood in line and soon it was my turn. I sat down, gripped my cane horizontally between both hands and began my descent. Mid way, I realized the impact would remove my sunglasses and bandana. I accelerated and hit the water faster than I anticipated and momentum pushed me under. I felt my bandana and sunglasses coming off and somehow managed to grab my sunglasses. After surfacing I swam out of the way to avoid collision. (Later I was told I narrowly missed being smashed.) And then it happened. My cane slipped from my grasp. Did you know that fiberglass canes do not float? Special thanks to John who made four dives trying to retrieve my cane. With the use of both hands, swimming became easier but I had no idea where to go.  After a short time one of the group members swam to me and guided me to the shore. But without my cane, I was forced to hold onto the arms of the ladies in my group.

Upon my retrun, I was informed that almost everyone in the area stopped to watch me. At first I wondered why but then realized it is probably unusual to see some crazy blind guy climbing up a ladder, while holding a cane, and then letting gravity hurl him into the river, all the time wearing a bandana, sunglasses and hiking boots. Next time I will bring two canes, just like I did at scout camp!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Power to Inspire

In June I attended scout camp as an "adult" leader for the fourth consecutive year. Scout camp gives one the opportunity to learn from different experiences. One thing I learned is it does not matter what the camp food looks, smells or even tastes like. These considerations are irrelevant because there is nothing else to eat, and since scouts cannot bring firearms to camp, hunting is not an option. So the camper learns to eat whatever "food" is placed before him. Another valuable lesson is to inspect bathrooms and showers before using them. One does not want to discover a tarantula or scorpion in the facility after he has commenced using it. The camper also learns to accept dirt as part of life, just as one would accept the neccessity of breathing. But these are all lessons learned previously and accepted as part of the experience called scout camp. But this time I learned something new, something about myself. I learned I have the ability to inspire.

I occupied most of my free time at the camp’s 45-foot climbing tower. One evening as I scaled the most difficult side, I overheard one of the camp's leaders remark, quite loudly, regarding the blind man climbing the tower. He was apparently talking to another adult leader and was amazed that someone who could not see could climb. Initially his obnoxious manner annoyed me but I didn't let it bother me too much. He was astounded that a blind man could also be in such good physical condition. The next day I heard the same individual, talking loudly again, telling someone about that blind man who could climb the tower so well and was in such good shape. (I suspect the only other blind people he had encountered were those who had become blind from diabetes and probably suffered from poor health.) He went on and on about how amazing it was that a "blind man" could get around and do the things I was doing. Additionally, I heard from the scouts in my troop that many others had noticed me in camp and were impressed that I was even there, much less climbing, swimming and performing the duties of a scout master.

At first, I was annoyed with the man who kept talking about me as if i wasn't even there but after reflection, I imagined myself observing someone with a significant disability and not letting it deter them from participating in camp. I realized out of approximately 1000 scouts, leaders and staff, I was the only one walking around using a cane because I could not see. It's little wonder I was being noticed. The obnoxious sounding man wasn't trying to be derogatory, he was simply impressed that someone who was blind was not only at camp, but doing things that others wouldn't even attempt. My reflections helped me to understand that by overcoming my disability I had the capacity to inspire others.

My point is not self-agrandizement but to illustrate those who have to deal with a significant disability can impact the lives of people in a positive manner by helping them appreciate their own blessings and possibly, inspire them to overcome their own personel challenges. I hope that I will continue to live my life in a manner that inspires, especially my family. I also am inspired by those who overcome adversity even greater than my own. But my situation is not unique because as Victor Frankl said in his book, "Man’s Search for Meaning”, all of us have a unique mission in life that cannot be replaced by someone else. I believe that all of us have the ability to inspire others we come in contact with. Let us all live our lives to inspire!

Friday, August 3, 2012

You Can't Go It Alone

As mentioned in my posting, "Casualties of the War" one of the casualties was my relationship with God.  As I moved from emotional withdrawl from my family to a spiritual withdrawl from God I became angry.  I shut down emotionally and made it almost impossible for Teri to give me the emotional support I desperately needed.  After pleading with God for many months to let me sleep, and not being able too, I began to withdraw from God.  After my sleeping problem abated somewhat I faced another challenge, the difficulty of providing for my family financially.  After my attempts to secure employment as a massage therapist failed, my withdrawl from God turned to anger towards him.  Throughout this whole experience I turned away from those who could help me the most.  I was trying to deal with my challenges alone, and trying to ignore the impending blindness.  In effect, I was "going it alone" and doing so cost me dearly.  When you are facing adversity, please let those around you help you, especially God.  Do not shut out those who want and can help you, especially God.  Do not go it alone.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Thought She Was Sexy

Even the casual reader of this blog understands that blindness can pose some interesting challenges that sighted people do not have to deal with. But that's OK. Remember the blind have special powers that you sighted folks don't have. These powers may include, but are not limited to the following; accentuated smell, taste, touch, and better hearing. (Please refer to my previous posting "What did you say?") Now I have a new challenge to deal with, dating. I'm not talking about perhaps being nervous to ask another woman out, or the logistical difficulties that may arise from not being able to drive.

Recently I met a woman on the local city bus who said she had seen me at the University of Central Oklahoma several times and suggested I visit her where she worked on campus. She was sitting in front of me and had turned her head to converse with me and seemed sexy. Finally I worked up the courage to visit her at work and ask if she would like to go out for an ice cream. I approached the place where she was supposed to be and asked the lady sitting there if Lisa was available. The lady responded saying she would go get her. And so Lisa came to meet me. I had to muster a great deal of self control when I saw her because this was not the attractive woman I thought I saw on the bus. In spite of this I made some small talk and asked her if she would like to go out for an ice cream. She declined stating that she was on a diet and could not eat ice cream. It was obvious that she needed to be on a diet. I am not implying that larger women are unattractive, but this one was. I excused myself as quickly and as gracefully as possible, grateful she declined.

My new challenge, therefore, is figuring out a way to ascertain if the woman is really attractive. One option is to constatnly keep one of my sons with me and have them tell me if she is attractive or not. This approach has some obvious drawbacks and limitations. Another option is to ask her if she would like a free, full body massage. (I am a former licensed massage therapist and have done thousands of massages.) At least this option would allow me to determine if she needed to abstain from ice cream or not. Another possibility is using Facebook but screen reading programs cannot describe pictures and it is my understanding many peoeple, men and women, use out - dated photos or even Photo
Shop to alter the image. The old "bait and switch". I am open for suggestions.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Good to Great

A few months ago my oldest son, Thomas III, recommended reading “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  This book compiles the results of an exhaustive and systematic study of companies who went from good to great and identifies the characteristics and concepts that enabled these 11 companies to significantly outperform their competitors and the market in general.  Initially I read the book with the intention of acquiring useful knowledge for starting my own business venture.  However, I quickly realized the principles could be applied personally.  One such principle that really got me thinking was the “Stockdale Paradox”.  Stockdale was the highest ranking prisoner held at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam war and was a captive for eight years before being released.  During his imprisonment he developed an unwaivering, intrinsic belief that he would not merely survive, but would prevail.  But he also confronted the brutal realities facing him as a prisoner of war, including the possibility of his own death.  He made a choice that no matter what happened to him he would use the experience to grow.  This account of a man facing such unimaginable adversity, including being tortured at least 20 times, caused me to reflect deeply about my own adversity.  I realized I was lacking this determination to prevail and, until recently had not confronted the brutal realities of my own situation.  Now that I am confronting these realities, I must also internalize an unwaivering desire to prevail and go from good to great. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Hat that Wasn't - Natalie Taylor

Wal-Mart is a helpful place but normally I take
One of my 5 kids with me so I make no mistake
Plus what’s the point of having kids if you can’t make them work
They carry all my heavy bags, no need for them to shirk
But one day they were busy and I had to go alone
Not a biggie I’m a man and fairly close to grown
The items on my list were small and easy things to find
So with ease I walked around, not a care upon my mind
But as I walked with head held high I recalled an item wanted
I needed a white baseball cap so my gray hairs won’t be flaunted
I turned a corner and then I saw exactly what I needed
A roguish grin spread across my face, my trip so soon completed
With confidence I grabbed the hat so I could try it on
But with horror I pulled back, the roguish grin now gone
What I had thought to be a hat turned out to be a bra…
Hurriedly I walked away praying viewers had seen my cane
Because men who finger empty bras are probably insane
So take the moral from this story, I’ll laugh at the man who doesn’t
Learn the lesson from the hat, the hat that really wasn’t

Monday, July 9, 2012

Casualties of the War

The greatest battles we fight in life are the one's inside of ourselves. These battles define who we are and the struggle is to percevere, grow and improve.  And thus life, the accumulation and sum of these inner battles, becomes a war.  And in war there are casualties.  The most significant casualty has been my marriage to Teri.  After 20 years we are now divorced.  The other major casualty was my relationship with God.  Until recently, I was angry at God for allowing my poor eyesight to diminish, dealing with chronic sleep deprivation for almost a year and a half and not providing for my family.  In the last two months I have let go the anger I felt towards God and myself and am striving to develop my faith.  I have no anger towards Teri.  How could I?  She is the best person I know.