For those of you who know me personally, you might know that my husband, Richie, is losing his vision due to optic atrophy caused by a rare genetic disease.
Since he was diagnosed about a year and a half ago, he has devoured books by people who have lost their eyesight at various points in their lives, usually due to rare conditions like retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt disease.
Recently, he read one by Brad Snyder who lost his eyesight when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near him when he was serving in Afghanistan with the US Navy. His story is incredible—and recently got even more inspiring when he won Gold in last week’s Paralympic Men’s Triathlon.
Snyder’s book is called Fire in my Eyes, and Richie enjoyed it, but didn’t rave about it while he was reading it like he did with some others. But what stuck with him–and me, after he told me about it, was the afterword. In it, Snyder writes about “the delta,” which is the difference between how life used to be and how it is now. And the importance of not dwelling on what you used to be able to do and accepting what you can do now.
Richie blogged about it, and I wanted to amplify it because it’s such an important message for all of us–not just people coping with a new diagnosis.
While there are certain areas where we can expect to constantly improve if we put in the work, there are others where that just might not be possible. Like with aging. My body (especially my feet, hips, and knees) can’t withstand the same abuse it took when I was dancing competitively, and I have to stretch twice as long to bounce back half as quickly. Or swimming: I can’t dive into the deep end to retrieve those rings from the bottom of the pool because of an inner ear injury (from an unfortunate landing when I dove off a cliff–at least it’s a good story).
I think it’s important to grieve The Way Things Used to Be. We should take the time and energy to mourn the things we’ve lost. But when it comes to The Way Things Are Now, there’s no point in comparing ourselves to what we used to be capable of when our limits are simply different. Accepting where we are now allows us to move forward and maybe even improve–even if we can’t reach the same level we left.
If you haven’t already, please check out Richie’s blog here.