Let's face it. We all have times where we get embarrassed. From those times when we slip and fall on the ice to when we forget to zip our fly, embarrassment can hit us all. It's unavoidable. At best, we simply laugh at ourselves and move on. And, at worst, we run over this event in our heads like a military strategist, wondering how it all could have gone differently. For us visually impaired people, embarrassment can happen in a wide variety of ways and in many different settings. Regardless of how many times it has happened, how long it has been since we lost our sight or how much positive feedback we get, it can still leave us as awkward as a 13 year old on the first day of middle school.
News & Updates
At the Tennessee School for the Blind, students are taking part in a competition where they use their braille reading skills. They proofread, interpret charts and graphs and write down answers with braille keyboards. With braille literacy on the decline, they hope these kinds of things can help ramp up the braille learning.
I LOVE the theater! I have been in a variety of shows and played a variety of roles. It is such a passion of mine. I saw this article recently and totally identified with it. The young man that provides the tips in this article is a man after my own heart. He suggest tings such as being your own advocate and remembering that you aren't defined by your sight loss. Not too long, but a great read!
A recent ruling by the High Court in Ireland is allowing for blind people to vote in secret. A man took a suit against the government to stand up for the blind community to have access to secret ballots. Currently, they have to have a trust friend or someone at the polling center fill out their ballot. This has been described as an “outstanding achievement” for those who are visually impaired.
High Times of Embarrassment
There are many places, situations and events that can cause us embarrassment. The following is certainly not an exhaustive list. I just thought I would share a few things that have happened to me in the hopes of not only explaining to sighted folks how it feels, but to let other VIPs know that they are not alone. Join me as we take a stroll down memory lane, won't you?
1. Slipping on the Ice
Ok, I'm going to start with one prior to losing my sight. That way, you know that it isn't just the sight loss that causes embarrassing moments.
When i was in middle school, there was a girl I sat next to that I really liked. Well, when we made it to high school, I actually had the opportunity to start “talking” to her. (I put that word talking in quotes because back then, that is the word we used when we were in the pre dating phase.) I really liked this girl and wanted to make a good impression on her. I did whatever I could to do just that.
One such opportunity came when we were all going to go to church together. One of our mutual friends' family picked this girl up and then came to get me. I was decked out in a suit, trechcoat and fancy shoes. My porch had three steps down. Little did I know that at the bottom was a patch of ice. Almost in slow motion, I remember hitting this ice, my feet going up into the air and face planting on the ground. All while my crush looked on and laughed. I laid there hoping to wake up from the nightmare, but no such luck.
I assumed that was it. But, I guess it turned out ok, as that girl is now the mother of my children and we have been married for nearly 14 years. Guess slipping and falling isn't all that bad. (But it sure was in the moment…)
2. The Bowling Alley
Not long after I lost my sight, a few of us decided to go bowling. Now, I was never a college level bowler, but I could hold my own. However, I believe this was one of the first times I had been bowling post sight loss. I was with friends, so I was looking forward to a good time.
When it was my turn, I grabbed my ball and hurled it down the lane. Being the cool bowler that I was, I grabbed someone else's ball just to show how versatile my skills were. I then hurled that ball down he lane. And, it smacked square into that arm that comes down to sweep the pins away. Clang!! My friends laughed that laugh that suggests they are trying hard not to laugh but they just can't help it. I shrugged it off and gave a cheesy grin. But, gosh, that one was hard.
I now wait a long time before taking my next roll. And, I stick with my own ball.
3. The Evil Staircase
This one doesn't seem too bad. Pretty common for people actually. I was working at a church there was a very old building. We're talking pre-1900's. It had an upper room that we would go into from time to time. My friend that worked with me and I were walking down the stairs after wasting time up there doing what, I can't remember. For some reason, this stair case was always hard to navigate at the bottom. It wasn't like it had odd shaped stories or a deep drop off. I would simply think I was at the bottom when I was not. This day, I felt that way and missed the last step, slipping and hitting my butt. My friend, who had been in front of me, turned to see if I was alright. I said yes, then we both laughed. Him more than me, but still we both did.
From that moment, I started counting steps and slowing down towards the bottom. Fool me once…
4. Guide Dogs and Cafeterias
When I was in college, I had a guide dog. He was the sweetest, most loyal dog you would ever meet. But, he was nonetheless a dog. At this school, we would go through the cafeteria line to get our food. This meant that we would have a tray to carry our plate, drink and so forth. Well, one evening, when I decided to venture out (this was early on in my sight loss) I had a friend invite me to eat. We walked around getting our food and stacking our trays. I ended up having to carry the tray with both hands, therefore I draped the leash over my wrist. Apparently, there was some leftover food that my dog felt the need to clean up for the staff. He took a sharp dive towards the floor and so did my tray. I dropped my plate, my drink and whatever else was o the tray. I just stood there at a loss for words. It was queue upsetting.
Needless to say, I didn't eat there very much again…
5. Airport Bathroom
About 6 or 7 years after I lost my sight, my wife and I took a trip with our friends to Las Vegas. While in the airport preparing to leave, I needed to use the restroom. We found one and I walked in, alone. I had my cane with me so everyone knew I was blind. I walked up to the white urinal, set my cane up against the wall and begin to…well..you know. Little did I know that this urinal was out of order. The cleaner had place a white trash bag over the white urinal to indicate this. Not great ofr me though. After I was completely done (because I apparently couldn't feel when I was peeing on myself) I stepped back to realize it wouldn't flush. Then, I realized the worst. I had actually, as an adult male, urinated on myself. My pants were soaked. There i was, well past the age of accidents having had an accident.
Because our bags were already checked, I had no clothes to change into, we had to purchase random swimming trunks from some shop in the airport for me to change into. I had to walk back into the infamous bathroom to change my clothes. It was not the best start to the trip.
My friends did they “Awe…poor thing” laugh. My wife was most likely more upset than I as she could tell this was horrible ofr me. I know carefully check when I use a public restroom. Very carefully…
What's the Big Deal?
Now, you might ask why this is all a big deal. Everyone gets embarrassed. So, why am I sharing these things? They are just funny stories, right? Well, now let's take a peek behind the curtain to see what is going on internally with these situations.
When I fell in front of my crush, I knew my chances were over. They weren't, obviously. But, the anxiety that hit me felt very bad.
When my bowling ball hit that arm and people started laughing, I felt 2 inches tall. And, worst of all, there was nothing I could do about it. I was blind and made a mistake. It sucked.
When I fell down the steps, I felt powerless. It was soul crushing to think I couldn't even walk down stairs.
When my dog caused my tray to fall, it was heartbreaking. Here I was, in a situation where I needed a guide dog. And, the thing that reminded me that my life was forever changed had just caused m to be in the middle of a busy cafeteria with everyone staring at me.
And, (and this one was the worst) when I literally peed on myself, I was extremely defeated. It was moments like that in which I once again realized my blindness caused me to be helpless. I was afraid to be on my own. I was angry no one bothered to mentioned it was our of order when I stepped up to it. I was extremely sad that my wife had to see my like that. I was, as I said, defeated.
You see, it's not the thing that happens outwardly. It's what goes on internally. It can be so devastating to have these moments. Even the slightest thing can set it off. And, it can last a long time. Your mind is a master when it comes to replaying these moments and helping you to relive the horrible feelings you felt.
What to Do
There's not much to do in these situations. After all, some of them are caused by you being visually imapired. And, until medicine catches up, that most likely won't magically change over night. So, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. It happens to everyone
Realize first and foremost that embarrassing moments happen to everyone. No matter your age, race, religion or creed, you will experience a moment of being embarrassed at some point.
2. It isn't as bad in reality as it is in your head
We are all our own worst critics. So, it is important to remember that the moment most likely wasn't as bad as the movie reel in your head. I assume my wife has forgotten about most of these moments. That just goes to show that they probably weren't as bad outwardly as they were inwardly.
3. Feel what you feel and move forward
While we'd all love to go back and erase these moments, we can't. So, just take the time to feel whatever it is you are feeling and then move forward. Whether that be sadness, humiliation, anger or a number of other things, just feel it fully. Then, you will most likely be able to move forward much easier. (unless you pee on yourself…that one is hard to come back from! lol…)
Real Life Retweet
The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. -Douglas Engelbart
Question: Do you have an embarrassing story? How did it make you feel? Come on…let's here it! Share in the comments or on Facebook!