My youngest daughter took this picture of me last week. I was riding to a coffee shop near our home to give her some money, so she could have something to eat and drink with her friends. As it turned out, she was not at the coffee shop and was in a car with a bunch of her friends going in the opposite direction. Her friends spied me, and hollered at me out the window. I couldn't look up as I need to concentrate intently on the road in front of me so I can avoid potholes and hazards in the road. My daughter's friends began asking her how I was able to ride a bike when I couldn't see. Like me, she just passed on another long winded explanation of explaining my degenerative eye condition and the meaning of legal blindness. She has had to explain my legal blindness so many times, I could understand how she was just tired of rehashing the same topic another time. When I got home, she showed me this picture. This is the first time I have seen myself "commuting" since I stopped driving. The picture sparked a lot of emotions.
I stopped driving a little over 4 years ago due to a degenerative eye disease that I have. I stopped driving in an instant. I just knew if was no longer safe for me to drive. It happened in a split second.
A lot of secondary problems surfaced rather quickly. I didn't know how to use public transportation effectively, and I didn't have a plan for how I would get my 3 children to 3 different schools. And then there were the simple things like going to the grocery store, taking the kids to the mountains for weekend camping trips and meeting friends around town. I was overwhelmed with many things at that point in my life, and stopping driving was the "boulder" that broke the camel's back. I spiraled into a deep depression.
I tried taking the bus with my kids several times. We got lost sometimes. Sometimes the bus didn't come as planned. Sometimes it was really hot. And, my kids began to hate taking the bus. In hindsight, I should have perfected taking the bus before asking my kids to accompany me. Many tears would have been saved. Next, I tried to take the train around Denver. I wasn't very good at that either. I just can't see the tiny print for the times and routes. I tried using my phone but the glare in outdoor sun made it extremely difficult to tell when the trains and buses were coming. I ended up a frustrated mess and just wanted to give up and quit.
Next, I decided that I would just run where ever I needed to get to in Denver. This turned out to be a pretty good option. I was getting in really good shape, managing my depression with running and was no longer caged in a house without transportation. At the time I had a girlfriend who lived about 26 miles away. She had been doing a lot of driving since I no longer could. I wanted to try to share the load so I bought an electric bike. I discovered that my electric bike could get me most anywhere in the city, at almost the speed of a car. I was emerging from a feeling of helplessness and being reliant on other people for rides. Honestly, I felt like a kid asking people for rides. And, when somebody wasn't able to give me a ride after I found the courage to ask for a ride, I experienced that situation as severe rejection, almost feeling abandoned.
After a few years of practice, I felt like I had finally figured out how to get around using buses, trains, running, biking, asking for rides and using Uber/Lyft. I did begin getting hit a lot more by cars on my bike and while running. This is still a danger I contend with on a daily basis. However, the alternative is to become a recluse in my home and not venture out - of course, that is not an option.
And all of this brings me back to the picture my daughter took of me last week. How do I feel about that picture? I'm really not sure. Part of me looks at that picture knowing how much I must concentrate on t he tiny tube I see through, so I don't crash my bike. Just yesterday, I was running on a sidewalk and I ran directly into an elderly lady. She must have been just outside of the tube I see through. I could see part of the sidewalk, but she must have been on the part of the sidewalk that was not in my field of vision. When I explained my eye condition she was very understanding. I felt horrible and begged for her forgiveness. She forgave me, but I'm still working on forgiving myself. Another part of me is inspired by the picture my daughter took - I've once again adapted to my degenerative eye disease. Another part of me feels sad that I am losing light perception. And, my deepest ache is that my children must witness me as I go through this process. I never want them to feel sorry for me. I want to be brave as I go blind, but the fact is I am terrified to go blind. It is just another lesson in facing fear I suppose.