Saturday, June 7, 2014

Yielding in our Resilience

Two years ago I was running up the steps on our side yard with Cricket, my guide dog at the time.  (She was on leash and not guiding.)  The sprinklers suddenly came on.  In an effort to get out of the way quickly, I became disoriented and ran full force into an electric box on the side of our house!  I hit so hard that it knocked me down and out.  I got up and after sitting there for a few minutes went into the house and told Steve about my latest adventure!  Other than my head felt a little sore, I felt fine so we didn't go into the hospital.  I actually ran the next morning.  I was training for a marathon.  After that I started feeling worse.  However, I went into work.  We were getting ready to go on a big vacation.  I felt I could push through the day.  As the day progressed I began to feel a little, perhaps my colleagues would say a lot, spacey. My colleagues intervened, called Steve, cancelled my appointments for the rest of the day and reminded me it was time to pull back and get to the hospital! I would learn I had a concussion.  I was told no running or anything else that wold raise my blood pressure and lots of rest.  In the days ahead,  I learned about fatigue like I had never  known.  It seemed even having a conversation was draining.  As much as I wanted to push through ... it was time to yield.

Lao Tzu said,  "Water is fluid, soft, and yielding.  But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield.  As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.  This is another paradox.  What is soft is strong."

I love this quote.  One of the lessons learned from my blind resilient journey over and over is to be flexible in riding the ups and downs.  Finding that balance of  pushing with tenacity and grit and also the times we need to let go - surrender - yield.  It isn't easy to yield.  However, I have found so much joy in this process of letting go and yielding to what is.  An authentic journey is about finding that balance, listening to our hearts and bodies, and finding that adaptability to cope with those harsh realities of life.  

During this time of recovery, I had a friend who sent me the sweetest email basically acknowledging that sometimes blindness (could insert whatever challenge we are facing) is hard and to be compassionate to myself.  Her kindness and compassion helped give me the space to yield and heal.  

"When we ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief.  Who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness.  That is the friend who cares." Henri Nourwen

I wouldn't advise anyone running into an electric box.  However, the last two years when I plant the flowers around this electric box, I reflect on the beauty and the lessons learned from this experience.  Even though I reassured Steve this won't happen again he placed padding around the electric box.  This is a reminder of his love and support.  

I returned from our trip and was able to resume training for the marathon.  As I sat out and couldn't run a good friend kept telling me ... your body will remember and catch up.  Indeed it did.  

Becky, Cricket and Georgie (current guide dog) by the electric box and flowers :).   Shady morning sorry not great picture. 
Can you think of a time that an electric box was turned into flowers? Perhaps a more common phrase is lemons turned into lemonade?  A time of pushing became yielding and lessons and beauty learned in the journey?  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our team of support

I recall well the dreaded visit to the retina specialist when he said - its time to quit driving.  I knew and in a way it felt like a sense of relief as it wasn't feeling safe.  We were leaving for Disneyland the following week.  I turned in my driver's license just after we came back from from our trip with our kids and my parents in 1994. I remember well the day.  I was wearing a Mickey Mouse Sweatshirt :) and was playing out various scenarios regarding transportation.  The rest of life without driving at age 29 seemed pretty overwhelming.  When a neighbor came over to pick up her son from playing with my son. I told her today is the day I quit driving. Seriously, she said - what are you going to do.  I smiled and told her -- well, I don't have a choice.  I'll learn to walk a lot of places!   As much as I wanted to continue driving, I couldn't.  My eyesight had declined and it was not safe.   We would take it a day at a time. We had tried to prepare.  We had selected a home that was walking distance to elementary, junior high, grocery store, dentist, bank and the bus stop. This location and the incredible neighbors and friends around us blessed our lives immensely during this transition time.  This area and the people there represent so much love and support to me and my family.  They were on our team.

I now had an opportunity to reach out and ask for help.  Yeah, right.  This was so hard.  I had so many people willing to help.  Picking up that phone and saying - hey can I get a ride to the grocery store was so hard.  I longed to just go hop in my car and not involve others.   I learned to plan ahead. I walked a lot.  I learned flexibility.  When one of my children was in need of getting to an activity, suddenly I had the courage to call and ask for a ride.   

A group of amazing women in my neighborhood arranged a carpool to pick me up from work for the rest of that year each day.  Not only did that physically give me a lift from work - it lifted my spirits immensely.  It helped my family who simply couldn't be there for everything.  At a time when it all felt rather overwhelming, they stepped in and reminded me how support from our friends lifts us.  

Since those early days, there have been many wonderful people who have stepped in and become part of our team.  I am so grateful.  Sometimes it may even be a stranger that says - hey do you need some directions as I am standing getting oriented.  I have learned a lot about Interdependence -- we all need and help each other.  My mom tells me as a little 2 1/2 year old when she offered to help I told her, I can do it on my own!  I appreciate my spunk and determination, however, I also appreciate the growth and connections that have been formed as I've learned the value in having and being a member of a team of support.   We can't do life on our own!    
Just back from a 14 mile run in preparation for an upcoming marathon ... inspired by a team of support helping it be possible.
Although this hasn't been an easy trait to learn, resilient people reach out for help and form a team.  Experiencing such amazing people on my team has often had me reflecting and seeking how to help someone else and be a part of their team.  I've also learned the value in taking life a day at a time. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Coping to Thriving

Years ago I was asked to give a presentation in Chicago at a conference.  The title they requested was: "Coping with Vision Loss."   As I began my presentation and started to share 'tips' on coping with vision loss, an elderly woman stood up and said - I don't see why we need to just cope - why can't we thrive!  I absolutely loved her enthusiasm and determination.  I told her, I totally agree.  My presentation shifted to Thriving with Vision Loss.  A simple word change gave it a different energy!  Coping feels like getting by - making it.  Sometimes in life we are in a place of coping.  There are those temporary times.  However,  I recognized her wisdom in transitioning to thriving as soon as we can! Thriving is living! Thriving is flourishing, growing vigorously, progressing towards a goal despite or because of circumstances. 

Whenever I hear the word cope, my mind often goes back to that sweet moment where I was reminded to THRIVE!  

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.

― Khalil Gibran

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gritty Resilience

Grit "an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization."

Good news today after an appointment with the physical therapist -- foot is healing and the IT Band is manageable.  With some grit, I am on track (with some amazing friends/guides) to run the marathon!  Tomorrow will be a good test as we run 13.  

Running the Top of Utah Marathon

Last year three friends and I completed a marathon together.  Crossing the finish line of a marathon is amazing.   The journey takes training, hard work, discipline, and focus to reach this goal both physically and mentally.  I am blind and run every step with a guide.  I run tethered to another person. For this marathon it was three amazing friends and my husband the last five miles.  We were with each other for the ups, the downs, the aches, and the victory of crossing that finish line!  For four mornings each week for 20 weeks prior, these amazing women would knock on my door ready to not only run but serve as my guide.  Inspiring.  I crossed the finish line with such joy (and yes, fatigue and sore legs to come).  There was a day when I didnt believe this was a possibility.  There was a day after a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa that it felt like many doors were closed in my life. My life is rich with possibilities.   Becky Andrews 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sense of Humor in our Resilience

I remember the first time I could laugh about something funny about my blindness. Steve and I were at the video store - I had wandered off to another isle and then gone back to who I thought was him and was being a little flirty. Only problem was ... it wasn't him! Okay yikes! After I recovered from my embarrassment, found Steve and we got in the car we laughed about this embarrassing now funny experience. Below is one of those other funny embarrassing moments.  I had to think for a few moments to remember what the actual embarrassing experience was as the memory I hold dear is the three of us laughing hysterically.  Let's do it again, girls!
This is a great article on Sense of Humor Tips.  It starts with a smile!  I remember when I started using the cane and felt like people were looking at me.  I decided to simply smile back.  I recognized that it felt great and also was helping my awkwardness be replaced with connecting with others.

I hope you have had a good laugh today - finding something a little funny in your Resilience Journey.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


We all have moments etched in our minds: joyful ones and hard times that become opportunities :).   One of those days for me was a spring afternoon many years ago.  I even remember what I was wearing on this day: khaki pants and a favorite lime green and orange blazer :).  Maybe it would be back in style now!? The time frame was: young wife and mom, working part-time at an elementary school,  still adjusting to loss of my driver's license, in the middle of cane training and my vision was declining. I had recently gone to the retina specialist where I learned I had a secondary complication in my eyes -- Macula Edema (swelling in the macula - which causes further damage to the vision).   I was taking a medication that was a diuretic and was making me very sick.  The previous day I had been in the hospital getting an IV.  They were trying to find the balance of using the drug to be effective with the swelling while not impacting my health in other ways.  On this day I was beginning to experience kidney stones and was exhausted and in pain. I was also feeling discouraged as I knew the doctor would probably need to take me off this medication that was reducing the swelling.  I recall walking up the stairs hoping to have a few minutes to lie down before the kids came home from school and had various after school activities that I wanted to attend.  This simple quote helped me recognize my courage in that day and allowed me to cut myself some slack as well :).    

Does a day of courage come to mind for you?  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Surrendering into Serenity

This is what I am faced with right now in my life's journey. While I'd like it to be different, I must allow myself to face the reality of what is happening -- when you surrender you release attachment to how you feel your life should be and invite yourself to be in the presence of your life exactly as it is. While naturally difficult to do, surrender is an act of courage. Dr. Alan Wolfelt
Picture of the family - all Aggie gradutes now.  
 In the spring after my diagnosis actually around this time,  we travelled to UCLA for a consult with a specialist in Retinitis Pigmentosa.  In the gift shop at the UCLA Medical Center was a magnet with the Serenity Prayer. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.  At the time, it didn't mean a lot.  I was engaged and even though I was sitting in a retina specialist's office, blindness seemed far into the future. The message of Surrender began to come much sooner than I anticipated.  After I turned in my driver's license as a young mom,  I felt a heaviness and a sense of being alone.  I recognized that although I had wonderful support, Retinitis Pigmentosa was mine.  I had the choice on how to respond. The last of all human freedoms, the power to choose one own's way given any set of circumstances.  Victor Frankle  To bounce back and have joy in my life, I would need to surrender to the changes/losses that were happening as my vision continued to decline.  I could learn new ways to complete my education.  I could learn new ways to travel independently.  I could learn new ways to manage my home.  I could learn new ways to enjoy the activities that I loved to do. Although the world was going dark for me physically, I could create so much light in my life.  

Now years later looking back; joy, relationships, experiences, lessons learned have come into my life from surrendering to my life which includes Retinitis Pigmentosa. And yes, there are still days when I miss hopping in that car.

Right now I am experiencing a different surrendering.  I love to run.  I have some amazing friends that through the use of a tether are my guides.  I have run a marathon, many half-marathons and 10Ks.  One of my dreams has been to run the Boston Marathon.  I missed the qualification by 12 minutes at our last marathon.  Last year while training for a Marathon to qualify, I broke my foot.  This year we are six weeks out from a marathon.  I am experiencing IT band issues.  Is it time to surrender into serenity?  Not ready to surrender on this one ... searching to make sure I'm doing all I can in the process while trying to be still and listen to what is best.  Surrendering.  Searching.  Serenity. I'm in the space of sadness on this one.  I'll be there for a bit and then will be ready to surrender if that is what is needed.  My head knows there are many new dreams I can create if this one isn't a possibility. 

What has been your experience with surrendering into serenity?  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Diagnosis Day. Power of Support in our Resilience.

I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (a degenerative eye condition) on a December morning at the age of 18.  I was a freshman at Utah State University at the time feeling like my big challenge was which boy to date on a Friday night :).  After leaving the opthalmologist's office,  a 'good friend' (now my husband :), Steve was one of the first people I shared this new information.  We were at a dance that evening and I said ... I've got Retina something - Pigment or something like that.  I couldn't remember what it was called.  I just knew that my clumsiness, inability to see at night and no peripheral vision now made sense! I hadn't grasped yet that my vision would continue to deteriorate.  It would take a while for the diagnosis to set in.  That night I recognized the power of support and friendship in our challenging times.  He sincerely cared.   

I didn't know anything about navigating blindness and some of the challenging and amazing waters to come.  As I reflect on this day 30 + years later, the ability to reach out to others has blessed my life and helped immensely.  
Steve and I kayaking in beautiful Sausalito, October 2013 - soon to celebrate our 30th anniversary.

I selected the name of our business:  Resilient Solutions, Inc. because I love the concept of Resilience and am inspired each day by the stories of others' ability to bounce back from difficult situations.  Indeed: 

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.  CC Scott

We each have a story.  I will be sharing my story in this blog and also would love to hear your story.  My resilience grew as I heard from others ... their examples, their strength inspired me.  I recall shortly after my diagnosis, my parents took me to California to meet with a therapist - she had Retinitis Pigmentosa.  She had a thriving practice, and I recognized that just maybe that could be me someday.  I am touched and appreciative of my parents' amazing support and  helping me see the value in reaching out to others. 

The power of support/connecting with others is indeed an attribute in our Resilience. Reflecting on the many, many incredible people who have been on my team.    

Supportive people give us the space to grieve and work through our emotions.  They know how to listen and when to offer just enough encouragement without trying to solve all of our problems with their advice.  Good supporters know how to just be with adversity -- calming us rather than frustrating us.  Brad Waters, LCSW

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blind Resilience

Blindness is the inability to see the road ahead. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficulty. So can the two possibly come together? To me, Blind Resilience is the determination to bounce back from life's challenges even when you can't see a way through them.  It's the courage to tether yourself to someone who can help, then leap forward into the darkness with gusto. Blind resilience has become the key to happiness and success, and I love helping others find their own blind resilience. This blog is about Connecting with our Resiliency. I will share my story, others' stories and a few tools along the way that help in the resiliency journey.