How to Keep Your Balance
This week, we are pleased to share with you another Honorable Mention from our writing contest.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."
To keep moving is not always an easy thing for blind people to do. While we may want to stay active, may even seek it out, our vision oftentimes interferes and spoils our best-laid plans.
I discovered this firsthand after central vision loss left me legally blind in my mid-thirties. Along with giving up driving a car, I also resigned as proofreader for the local newspaper. Then I cancelled my gym membership.
The result? Frustration and anger over my many losses.
Out of Balance
I soon realized that not doing aerobics at the gym affected my emotional AND physical health. Depression set in.
I tried riding a stationary bike at home, but lost interest when I realized I wasn't going anywhere fast. (Or slow, for that matter.)
Part of the joy of bike riding for me meant taking in the surrounding sounds and smells, noticing the feel of bike tires on pavement and wind on my face. It was the pleasure of movement. Experiencing different things.
I remembered the freedom that bike riding afforded as a child. First bikes give us our first taste of independence. We get to decide important things: where to go, how to get there, when to pedal, when to stand up or sit down, and when to apply the brakes. Maybe even when to let go of the handlebars. Why not?
"Oh, the places you'll go!" said Dr. Seuss.
Yes, bike riding equalled freedom. But with low vision, I doubted that freedom could be mine again.
However, because my vision loss occurred gradually over a period of three years, I became used to adapting to less and less sight. For example, I drove a car on the strength of one eye still being 20/20. I read with that eye, then started experimenting with magnifiers.
But when my "good" eye lost vision, too, adapting on a much larger scale became necessary.
The first spring after I became legally blind, I tried riding my bike in a neighborhood park where there is little traffic. I had to be more cautious, to be sure, but it was do-able thanks to my remaining side vision. I couldn't see far into the distance, but since I was not going fast, it didn't matter.
A sweet gift of independence returned!
I could once again roll along on the pavement catching the smell of someone's dinner over a charcoal grill. I could hear the doves calling to each other or a train whistle off in the distance. And the wind messed up my hair.
Before I made this discovery, my husband mentioned getting a bicycle built for two—and someday we might—but for now, I can still master my own wheels. The only catch: I must be careful where I ride.
For instance, I would never attempt a busy street. Paved bike trails, often found in state parks, work best for me. I don't have to worry about car traffic, and other traffic (from bikes or pedestrians) is usually light.
Sometimes my husband will wear a bright yellow shirt and go ahead of me on the trail. The color stands out and gives me a familiar "target" to follow. Then after I've been on the trail a couple of times, I remember landmarks.
Here comes a wooden bridge.
Beach up ahead.
There's a parking lot to my right.
Thankfully, my sense of direction remains good despite vision loss.
A Balanced Workout
Riding a bike is more than just fun—it's healthy! While mind and spirit benefit from the stress relief of being outdoors, the body benefits as well. Cardiovascular systems get a workout as do muscles and bones. And biking is easy on joints while preservingcartilage. Throw in reduced body fat, and you have a balanced workout suitable for all ages.
I sometimes wish I lived closer to the many bike trails our country offers. But for now, I'm content to get there when I can.
My northern climate only allows for biking about half the year, but I keep a walking schedule year-round as well. Taking the dogs outside, regardless of weather, makes everyone behave better.
As I've discovered over time, vision loss doesn't mean an end to activity. It simply means we need to adjust, experiment, and keep moving!
Beckie Horter is a Christian blogger and devotions editor for Proverbs 31 Ministries. While she finds educating the public on vision loss a necessary part of being legally blind, Beckie also finds humor a necessary part. She writes—albeit slowly— with wit, honesty, and insight about her faith journey at www.thisabidingwalk.com. Beckie has also been published in several national magazines including Dialogue and Light.