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Independence? Interdependence?

Part of the reason I went into a creative slump was my procrastination. I had several pieces I wanted to write and hadn't yet because I didn't feel I could do them justice (I might write on procrastination later.) The other part was that for safety reasons, I didn't want to reveal what I'd been doing. See, my parents went on a mission trip for ten days or so, so I was home alone for much of that time. And while I'm not aware of any creeps reading my blog, I don't think a creap would exactly make him/herself known.

So, even though I wanted to write about handling things as independently as possible, I didn't do it. Now, though, Mom and Dad are back, so I feel safe writing about this experience.

I didn't really think I'd gained enough skills after a year away to succeed in the home environment. For one thing, our home is very different from a dorm. It's quieter, for one, and there aren't people living less than ten feet away to ask for visual help. Add to that that there's no cafeteria where I can get dinner prepared and I was afraid. But I didn't want to have a babysitter, and I couldn't go to some of the normal places I'd go since it's a challenge to get up and down stairs. So, we arranged for someone to hang out at our place for a few nights, I went to friends' for two other nights and the rest was me on my own. Since it's still challenging to walk with Julio (balancing a walker and dog is challenging), and we have stairs covered by a ramp that helps, but is challenging to navigate safely with a walker, dog and visual impairment, we got yet another friend to come relieve Julio. Mom and I bought frozen meals for when I was home alone, and I learned to use a microwave and toaster from a wheelchair in a pretty inaccessible kitchen.

I, of course, knew who to call if I needed any help, and thankfully, just checking in with the friend who relieved Julio when she came was sufficient to answer questions I might have. Surprisingly to me, it wasn't that bad. The worst was trying to navigate with the walker or wheelchair, but I think I learned a lot about spacial orientation.

Mom helped me by labeling meals and writing directions for the meals so that I could cook them without guessing. This worked well, and I'm proud to say that I never went hungry. I got good at organizing myself, and didn't have any health crises. The worst thing that happened was a small burn when the inside of my forearm came into contact with the toaster.

This confirmed several things to me. First, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how perfectly or horribly you complete a task, as long as you complete it to the best of your ability and you find a way to complete it ethically. It didn't matter that I used frozen meals and leftovers to feed myself, nor did it matter that I had to practice backing up and re-entering just to get into the kitchen. In the end, I ate well enough to make it through the day without getting more hungry than normal and I still got into the kitchen. I also had it reenforced to me that it is okay to ask for help. Having help to relieve Julio was not the end of the world. If I'd tried to prove thatI could do it, it would have been foolish, dangerous and possibly resulted in a trip to the emergency room.

This isn't to say that I didn't get frustrated or experience cabin feaver. Given the choice, I would have preferred spending the week on both feet and in a house or apartment in a city with a bus line near by. And I wish I were a better cook. But truthfully, everyone experiences these frustrations. Not all college students can cook wonderfully. People who can see sometimes don't have all of the tools they'd like to have at their disposal. Most importantly, everyone needs help. It was most important that I remain safe, not try to prove that I can do everything under the sun.

It may sound like I'm saying independence isn't a good thing. It is, and I strongly advocate for it. But how independent would I be if I'd fallen and gotten hurt or chosen to attempt cooking and failed. Either could land me in the hospital. Using frozen dinners is not a sign of failure. Choosing not to use the tools that are out there would be much more difficult. Also, by asking for the help I needed in a polite way, it opened doors that may not have been opened. I got to spend time talking to friends in new ways. I got to stretch myself and see just what I'm capable of. I got to try new things.

I'm really grateful this was such a positive experience. I'm glad I got to try this and see that I could, indeed, transfer the skills I learned at college this past year to our house. I'm glad I have parents who are willing to let me try. I'm glad I didn't clam up, but instead gave it a try. It ended up working better than I expected.

If you want, feel free to use the comments to tell me about a time when you stetched yourself, or write about it on your blog and tell me you did. I'd love to hear about it!


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(Deleted comment)
Jul. 26th, 2006 08:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Independence
I hadn't seen your latest entry, but as you've probably figured out, I just got to read it. I'm glad this entry helped you. Believe me, this is here as a reminder for myself mostly. I tend to forget this stuff easily.
Jul. 26th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
I'm going through this right now, as you probably have read in my journal.

First, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how perfectly or horribly you complete a task, as long as you complete it to the best of your ability and you find a way to complete it ethically.

Amen. You don't have to do everything just right. My word, there's absolutely nothing of mundane status that is perfect! Great job!
Jul. 26th, 2006 09:02 pm (UTC)
I think you're doing a great job going through all of this. I haven't been reading for very long, but it sounds like you're really taking control of your destiny and like you're thinking things through. Thank you for your encouragement.
Jul. 26th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
You're doing great!
As we talked about the other day on the phone you're doing great! I'm proud of you. I never wanted to admit it but I was always afraid of crashing and burning in the big city. But I didn't and I would love to live here or in a larger city. Just keep doing what you're doing!
Love ya Kiddo!
Jul. 26th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Re: You're doing great!
Isn't it exciting when you get to stretch yourself and try new things! Thanks for your encouragement! It really means a lot!
Jul. 27th, 2006 02:40 am (UTC)
Re: You're doing great!
I loved this entry. It's something that I've really needed lately. I'm dealing with a lot of health related things, and my independence has gone down dramatically. I can't do anything like I used to...I have to ask for help in everything I do and it's really getting down on me. Any advice would be great...thanks girl:)
Jul. 27th, 2006 05:54 pm (UTC)
Re: You're doing great!
I'm glad to help with whatever advice I can give you. First, you're already taking control and trying to be independent by seaking out advice. One of the most impoortant things you can do is learn to use your resources. You're already doing that by journaling and commenting and asking me for advice.

When you ask for what you need (for example, after my surgery I had to ask for help with bathing), if you do it in a specific kind way, you're already thinking for yourself and making choices of how and when you want help independently.
It's also something that comes with practice, and there's not an easy answer (I wish there were some days).

When you need help, think of what my best friend told me. She said "Independence is doing what you can yourself and knowing how to have help gracefully."

I'm sorry I can't be more specific. If you want to ask anything more specific, please feel free!
Jul. 27th, 2006 03:07 am (UTC)
Hi there! First time visiting your blog (you were at mine earlier.) You have a terrific attitude! I am a home schooling mom and a writer. I recently read a book to my 2 little girls, called Follow My Leader. It was about a boy who lost his sight when a firecracker blows up in his face. The book is about how he learns to do things on his own and how he goes to school and gets a guide dog. I was surprised at how much my girls loved the story. They want to learn all about guide dogs now, so I think we'll do a whole unit on Braille, blindness, guide dogs, etc. When we were reading the book, one day I blindfolded the girls and told them to do various things, like go to the bathroom and wash your hands, or go to your closet and get your red sweater and put it on. The tasks were harder than they thought! Anyway, nice to meet you. I like your writing. You have a great "voice."
Jul. 27th, 2006 03:11 am (UTC)
Oh, by the way, I have 2 black labs-- only 10 months old-- Hunter and Murphy. They are great.
Jul. 27th, 2006 06:05 pm (UTC)
Hi Janet!

Thank you for your very kind words! I haven't read that particular book, but I'm glad your kids liked it. Just to let you know, the Guide Dog school I got Julio from makes a guide designed for teachers to help with activity ideas. I think there's a link to it on www.guidedogs.com. It's toward the bottom of the page, I believe.

The activities you did sound like good ones to get them thinking. They're very fortunate to have a Mom who wants to help them learn about how others interact with their environment.

Please give your pups a pat from me, and thank you for visiting!
Jul. 28th, 2006 02:25 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tip! I'll check out the web site. God bless you.
Jul. 27th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
"Independence is doing what you can yourself and knowing how to have help gracefully."

That is so true! That simple quote summarizes my most recent struggle. I just went back to work, and I was suprised how many household things I now have to leave to others. After spending spoons to shower, change, and work, I don't have enough left over to casually cook lunch.

But in the long run, I know it is worth it. I just have to accept the changes.
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