Disability and Attitude: How Both Affect One Man’s Worldview

I am pleased to have social worker and writer Jeff Flodin back as a guest blogger today. Jeff was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 35 and is currently working on a short story collection about vision loss.

by Jeff Flodin

Jeff Flodin with his Seeing Eye dog.

Jeff Flodin with his Seeing Eye dog.

Over the years, I’ve walked almost 2,000 miles to and from work. Most trips are serene, a few stressful. My first step on every walk is to pause and take stock. I check the weather and traffic. I test that Randy’s harness is snug but not too tight. I pat my pockets for keys, iPhone, billfold and dog bags. Then I measure the most important factor I bring to my journey: My attitude.

My attitude determines whether I view the world as full of compassionate helpers or inconsiderate creeps. The constant in this equation is who’s out there; the variable is how I view them. On days I feel at ease with myself, I embrace the stranger. I walk with grace, like I just got out of church. But on days I’m immersed in self-pity, I assume all motives are sadistic. I take every real or imagined slight personally. I look for a fight and, by God, I find one. Attitude, action and reaction — the choice is mine whether I wear my blindness like a loose garment or a straightjacket.

On days I am at ease, I possess the humility to be right-sized in this world. I am a part of, rather than apart from, my fellows. On days of conflict, I carry the delusion of self-importance. I’m sure the driver who crowded me in the crosswalk waited all day and traveled a long way just to stick it to me. I’m certain the kid left his bicycle on the sidewalk so he could watch the blind man trip and fall. I just know the city worker dug up the sidewalk to confuse my guide dog. Oh, I get payback being the victim. Me, me, me becomes even more compelling when the me is wronged.

The riddle goes, “What have you got when you sober up a horse thief?” and the answer is, “A sober horse thief.” Self-pity, anger and grandiosity make me the horse thief, not blindness. For sure, blindness doesn’t help — it exacerbates the flaws I bring into play. I can’t change the blindness but I’m working on changing the flaws. My goal is progress, not perfection. So, I keep walking, keep practicing patience, tolerance and self-restraint. Today, I can greet my wife with, “I had a pretty good walk home from work today, Honey. I only yelled at one driver.” And that’s what I call progress!

A version of this post originally appeared on Jalapeños in the Oatmeal, Jeff Flodin’s blog about digesting vision loss.

Read more posts by Jeff:

How Can We Respect People with Disabilities? Start by Listening.

The fact of the matter is, “I am blind, and blindness takes extra”


 

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