How hungry are we to achieve what we desire? We want to write – but how much do we want it? Are we so impatient we give up when life doesn’t play ball with us. Do we despair when those goal posts change? Are we willing to re-configure, to retreat before we advance? Are we willing to put on hold for other considerations without ever losing track of the dream?
When I need inspiration, extra determination, a role model to help me, I do not have to look any further than my sister. I have blogged about this quiet hero in my life before. But I will share her calm philosophy with you all again. Because, for whatever dreams we have, someone such as her can serve as a beacon. She is not unique, there are many like her.
My sister as a child was deaf, had speech problems because of this, had to be sent to special needs boarding school at five. I never really got to know her as a child, but during the holidays she was happy and, although shy, popular because of her smile. Deaf? Never mind there are others worse off.
Her deafness was just part of an eye syndrome, which we didn’t know off until she was an adult and her sight began to deteriorate. She was registered blind over 30 years ago, about the time she also needed two hearing aids to hear. She continued to commute into London to work for many years, aided by her long cane, until she was retired on health grounds at 50. That was 20 years ago. Now most ‘blind’ people do actually have varying degrees of sight, just not good.
All her life she has loved walking. Up hill and down dale, exploring highways and byways, unlike me she really enjoys walking. Like me she was brought up to be independent. Now her sight was such she was loosing both these pleasures. She felt increasingly isolated and fearful of walking alone.
Then she trained with her first guide dog. She still had some sight, with the dog she had independence and freedom again, soon she and the dog were traipsing the highways again. Then there was a second guide dog and they too wandered the byways. All the time accepting and adjusting and insisting she was fine and always happy and smiling.
Four years ago she developed another eye condition which robbed her of the rest of her sight. Nothing was left, blackness only.
In the meantime we retired moved to another part of the country. Now she, friendly soul as she is, had always wished to live in a village – me, curmudgeon as I am, prefer the anonymity of a town:) We moved to a medium sized village. I can remain fairly private and she has made friends all over the village.
This new guide dog and her have struggled. What should have taken a month of re-training has turned into a saga lasting 14 months. So how much does a 70 year old hunger for her freedom, independence and the sheer joy of walking? No-one would have blamed her if she had elected to sit at home.
She has faced this new obstacle Life has thrown at her and adjusted yet again. Routes she knew well had to be changed – re-configured – a few have had to be abandoned altogether for safety’s sake. She has been bruised and battered, despondent and frustrated. But always the goal was to be able to stride out on her own and enjoy what she enjoys. She has had to sit and ponder, to work out new ways of achieving that goal. She had to be willing to accept it could only happen sometime in the undetermined future. Still she managed to smile.
A month ago she completed the five routes she had set out to conquer, two take her into the village and three are for leisure. They range from 25 minutes to an hour. She is back striding confidently along our byways and highways.
But, and this is a big but, she did not do this on her own. She needed encouragement, help and advice. Friends stepped in when I couldn’t walk the walk with her. The villagers, from twitchers behind their curtains to local shopkeepers, kept an eye out for her and stepped up to aid and rescue when things went wrong. The community was there, as they say, for her. The goal was hers, the determination was hers but without help it may have overwhelmed.
There is no shame in allowing others to help; we have discovered this. Our upbringing had taught us differently. You did for yourself, kept yourself to yourself, you did not ask for help. We imbibed this with our mother’s milk.
We have learnt, my sister and I, that a caring community is a gift to appreciate. We have found goals are easier to accomplish with the steadying influence of a friendly hand under the elbow. We have learnt that if one is hungry enough the goals can be achieved but that compromise is sometimes required, and is not always a backward step, merely a different route to the end.
So if we have a goal and are prepared for Life to throw obstacles in our way, if we have a goal and are prepared to re-route the path to it. If we have a goal and can accept willing help and encouragement, there is no reason not to achieve. For us here, we have fellow ROWers as well as family and friends. Kait has created, in cyberspace, a community like our village. But for all the help offered we must really want to achieve, Life can throw harder balls than those thrown at my sister, you must be really hungry for it.