Some people believe there are no such thing as limits, others that there are limits but they can be pushed through and past. And there are those who believe in and allow limits to keep them stuck. I have been wondering about the fine line between empowering ourselves and knowing our limits.
Last November I returned to air travel after five years, my first experience above the clouds since a virus attacked my optic nerves. My best friend and I were headed to Germany, with a connecting flight in London. When we arrived at Heathrow it was a great challenge to two seasoned travelers from a size and inadequate signage standpoint. We made it to our gate with not much time to spare before boarding began for the final leg to Hamburg.
A week later, we exited the plane in the U.K. and stopped at the top of the jetway to speak with an airline representative about exactly what it was going to take to get to our connecting gate. Neither one of us wanted a repeat of seven days before. Looking up our reservations to find out where we were headed, the gate agent saw the entry in my record that I am legally blind. We had asked for this to be noted when we booked our tickets as a precautionary measure. Should there be any issues during the flights, we wanted the crew to know I may need assistance. The gentleman took a few steps to his right to where two wheelchairs sat. He gestured for me to take a seat, as I looked at my friend with what I am sure was pure panic. I didn’t need a wheelchair, I was perfectly capable of walking to the gate just as I had done in Philadelphia and London on our way to Germany. It had been a difficult trek in Heathrow, maneuvering through crowds and confusing logistics but I had done it. Seeing my discomfort, my friend advised that she thought I should get in the chair and I knew she was right. So I did.
When and how do we make the decision to power through versus taking an easier route (not to be confused with taking the easy way out)? Obviously when yours or someone else’s safety is at risk is no time to be proud or stubborn. I will not be getting behind the wheel of a car nor will I attempt a down escalator. I am sure there are visually challenged folks who do the latter but I don’t need to prove anything when it comes to moving steps with teeth at the top of a hill. I,have mastered going up and for now that is enough.
But what about the non-dangerous activities? When my husband is home I will often take something to him to read for me rather than using one of my magnifiers. When I’m alone I do it myself but when he is around it’s faster and easier to use his eyes. It is a minor thing but as we all know, minor things become major very easily as a result of frequency and duration.
And maybe that is the answer. As long as you consistently try and persist you most certainly should give your yourself a break from time to time, especially when circumstances call for it. And often when we make a choice we are in effect pushing limits. I didn’t get in that wheelchair because it was the easy thing to do although that’s how even I interpreted it in the moment. That’s why it bothered me so much. I felt as though I was giving in to my compromised sight, that I was letting it win. But now I know it was quite the opposite. Getting in that wheelchair was honestly one of the most difficult things I’ve done since the morning I woke up blind. Mentally and emotionally it was an experience I still have not processed. But it was the right choice and it was mine.
We all have our limits. But we alone get to decide what they are. Not our family, our friends nor our doctors. And certainly not our optic nerves.