THE LIE OF THE LIMITLESS PHILOSOPHY — AND WHY LIMITS ARE ACTUALLY A GOOD THING

Whether you prefer to use the term pessimist, realist or glass-half-empty, it amounts to the same thing: I see the world as it is. Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown up disabled, and been subjected to my fair share of pitying stares, condescending questions and ableist attitudes which have made me rather cynical. Or maybe it’s the handful of other trials I’ve faced that have shown me time and time again that life is, and will always be, a challenge.

This isn’t to say that I don’t dream, or have aspirations of greatness or ambition to reach high and achieve. Anyone who knows me in my personal life can tell you so. But I am, and will always be, a realist.

And as a realist, I must make a declaration, or a confession if you will, and one that I rarely hear uttered in the blind community. Pardon me while I take a deep breath.

There Is No Such Thing as Being Limitless

Well, have I done it? Have I just made myself enemies in the very community in which I’ve thrown so much of my time, passion and words into? Maybe, and the only reason I wonder is because, in my experience, this philosophy of limitless potential is one that is rather divisive in the blind community. But maybe, my words don’t have to be fighting words but offer another perspective for you to think about.

I’ve read many a headline, mission statement and mantra which propagate an idea that says that just because we are disabled, does not mean that we are limited. We’re fully capable of achieving anything we desire, and there is nothing that can stop us—especially people who aren’t disabled.

But each time I read the headline, the mission statement or hear the mantra repeated by a fellow disabled person, I inwardly groan. And this is why.

I have limits. So do you. You, my disabled compatriots. You, my able-bodied allies.

We all have limits.

And I believe we do a major disservice to the disabled community and our attempt at societal equality when we promote the limitless philosophy. Because it simply isn’t true. It creates a falsity that, motivating or otherwise, is wrong and will only lead to disappointment and failed expectations.

But We Are All Capable

Now let me be clear: Disabled people, and in particular, disabled children, must be explicitly taught that they are capable. The world does a good enough job instilling doubt in its disabled people, so we must combat that doubt with hope. Blind children can grow up to be teachers, lawyers, artists, performers, politicians, doctors and virtually, any profession they set their sights on. As a child, playfully predicting my future in a game of MASH, my friends and I always put “bus driver” as a possible profession, jokingly of course, since we knew that I could never be one. Ability is not a reflection of determination. For as hard as I may try, I, a fully blind woman, cannot drive a bus.

I have a limitation. There are things I cannot do, like drive, and there are things that are harder for me but still possible with the right adaptations or equipment.

Disabled children who grow up in the knowledge of their own capability, talents, skills and unique abilities can, and will, lead full lives. But what becomes of their dreams if a life without limits is the guiding principle?

Being realistic can have its downsides. But the prevailing positive of being a realist is that expectations can be more easily managed, and one’s limitations can be worked with, not against.

If one can acknowledge their personal limitations and learn to view them not as a drain on their existence but a parameter within which to learn and grow, so much can be done. How can the windows be washed to let the light in if no one acknowledges that they are dirty?

It’s the same with windows as it is for limits: we must know what they are, acknowledge their presence, and live on. Because to live life denying an integral part that influences my every decision is to deprive my life of what it could be if I were to embrace it, fully and completely.

Embracing limitations is not only a discussion for those with disabilities, though. Everyone has limits, so this is a discussion for everyone.

Maybe you don’t consider these limitations, but rather “struggles” or “difficulties.” No matter what you call it, doesn’t it amount to the same thing?

Being limitless is not what drives us to succeed. This philosophy only shelters the reality that, for many disabled people, is cold, inaccessible and an ongoing challenge. In this way, limits are exactly that, limiting, making it so that the person cannot achieve their goals and desires. But I believe that once the limits are acknowledged and not seen as the enemy, then a fuller, more free, success is able to be achieved.

And that success is a more rewarding kind, because it isn’t founded on the idea that we had no limits and could achieve whatever we desired, but that we embraced every part of ourselves and worked together to achieve our dreams. You don’t get more points for living a life free of limits, but you do get a more fulfilling one by working with what you’ve been given and doing your best.

Limitations are only limiting when we use them as excuses not to try. What we perceive as a limitation, like blindness, doesn’t have to limit blind people, but propel us to make a positive change. And this is what I strive for in my life, and what I want to encourage you to do, as well.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your perspective about limitations and how you manage them in your daily life.

I GOT MARRIED! HERE ARE SIX UNEXPECTED AND WONDERFUL THINGS THAT HAPPENED AT OUR WEDDING

I’m BAAACK!

And I’m MARRIED!

It already feels like so long ago, but in actuality, is still only days ago. Anyone else feel this way after their wedding? But in all the planning that went into our special day, it’s nice to sit down and reflect, and I wanted to share some of those reflections with you.

Weddings are a time to celebrate a couple’s love and commitment and the people that got them there, but it can also be a day of (mostly) organized chaos. But with the right people and the right outlook, it can still be beautiful and wonderful and everything you dreamed it would be.

Mine certainly was. Here are six things that happened that made it uniquely ours and totally wonderful.

I. We Changed Locations The Day Before

Third time’s the charm, right? My husband and I were engaged for six months and we had laid claim to our dream venue within the first week. But, sparing you all the back-and-forths, we had to give it up due to our provincial Covid-19 restrictions. So, we changed to an outdoor location, choosing to say our I dos on the lakefront. We knew a mid-April wedding might be cold, or raining, even snowing, but we had no choice.

Except we did.

During the rehearsal at the lake, my fiancé and I were shivering like two baby chihuahuas; it was shaded, windy, and the next day wouldn’t be much better. My Aunt, who officiated the ceremony, pulled us aside and gave us the permission that we weren’t able to give ourselves: we could move locations, and it was OKAY.

But where would we go? Well, both my fiancé and I, my Aunt, and my dad, had all thought to ourselves the previous evening that the AirBnb my parents had rented for my mother’s side of the family would be perfect. It had a large basement where my fiancé could get ready, the upstairs where I could get ready with my parents and my Aunties, and a deck where we could be married in the sunshine (and out of the wind).

So 24 hours before the wedding, we changed our venue … for the third time … And it was perfect. It was so much better than we’d dreamed; yes, it was easier in the practical sense, but emotionally, it gave my fiancé and I that ahhhh… just right feeling that we’d been hoping to have on our wedding day since we got engaged. And it made all the difference for us.

II. My Dress, Uh, Had A Malfunction

As I nervously texted a friend of mine in the days leading up to the wedding, she said that something will not go as planned but that all I needed to do was enjoy it [and that my family/wedding party would handle the rest]. I found that comforting, because yes, something did not go as planned, but her words helped me not to see it as a failure but simply part of the memories.

I was giving my parents hugs before taking my soon-to-be-husband’s arm to walk to the front. I leaned forward to wrap my arms around my mom, and POP! We burst out laughing. The clasp at the back of my dress had busted. The zipper was still intact, but as I discovered later, it isn’t that the clasp just unhooked, but vanished completely. But that wasn’t the last of it. As we made our rounds for goodbye hugs before heading off for our honeymoon, I leaned down to hug my grandma, and POOF! My left strap ripped loose from its front holding. Good thing I had my shawl on!

I laugh about it now, and you know what, I was laughing then, too. Some brides’ worst fear might be a wardrobe malfunction, but to me, it wasn’t worth the stress. I was with my family and friends. I was getting married. And in the last moment with my parents before heading up to stand with my husband, I was a nervous wreck, but the moment of laughter released all the stress. It wasn’t about timing the music for my walk down the aisle anymore. It wasn’t a performance. It was life, and a moment in life shared with people I love. And you know what? Sometimes, life is funny.

III. The Person I’m So Thankful I Invited, But Almost Didn’t

I won’t divulge the details here, but sufficed to say that there is a member of my family that I’ve had a rocky relationship with for several years now. When things first fell apart, I decided that I would not invite them to my wedding—I wanted to enjoy my day and not be focused on the hurt that I felt.

But as soon as my fiancé and I started writing the guest list, I had to make a choice, once and for all. My daddy, who’s always been good at walking me through difficult decisions, said something that stuck with me and made all the difference. He said: “If you don’t invite them to your wedding, it will make building a relationship with them later much harder.”

He was right.

So I sent them an invitation.

And when the wedding day came, I was so overcome with gratitude and love and such joy that they were there. Our hug was our first hug in years, and contrary to all my fears, their presence didn’t detract from my marriage celebration—it enhanced it.

IV. I Giggled All Through The Ceremony

During the reception, I was told many a time by my friends and family that they’d never seen a bride giggle so much. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this remark, but when I asked one friend, they reassured me that it was a good thing.

The joy was bubbling out of me and everyone watching could feel that joy.

I worried that my giggles would be construed as nervousness, and sure, there were some wedding jitters that day, but my giggles were of pure happiness and joy. I giggled when my dress clasp broke. I giggled when we all started crying because my sister-in-law had dubbed it a “sob fest” even at the rehearsal. I giggled while crying through my vows.

All because I was so filled with joy at marrying the love of my life, and believing firmly in what God had started in the two of us.

I’ve always been a smiley, giggly girl, and I didn’t want my giggles to come across as childish or young. But whether they did or not, I’ve decided not to stress about. My giggles were just me, and an outpouring of love and joy. There’s nothing to worry about with that!

V. We Opened Gifts With Our Family

A wedding signifies only the beginning of a life together. My husband and I would have our honeymoon and years after that to be together, but we wouldn’t always have family—particularly our family from far away. They came for one weekend to celebrate with us, so the least we could do is give them our time in return.

After our friends had left and only family remained, we gathered in the living room of the AirBNB to open gifts and cards that our guests had brought. While it may not seem like much, it meant so much to both my husband and I, and I’m hopeful, for those that were with us then, too. It was a way to relax, to unwind, and to say thank you for taking the time to come to our wedding. There was no reason to rush away as fast as possible—the honeymoon would still be there, but our family wouldn’t be. And as our families mean so much to us and have played such significant roles in our lives leading up to this day [and will continue to in the future], we wanted to spend time with them.

We didn’t want the wedding day to focus only on my husband and I. We weren’t the only ones there who mattered. And spending time with them after the festivity had calmed and we could relax, joke, take pictures and just chill, is such a wonderful memory from that day that I know I’ll take forward with me and cherish when I look back.

VI. The Focus Was On The Marriage, Not The Wedding

And, in everything that happened that day, I am so blessed that my wedding day wasn’t simply a production or a timeline of events.

My wedding day represented the covenant that my husband and I made before God. It wasn’t the final destination or an ending, but a beginning. Throughout the celebration, I was so thankful that the focus of the day was kept on what was to come and the lifelong marriage that had just been committed. It wasn’t about dresses or charcuterie boards or photos. It was about much more than that, and when the details of the wedding day have been lost to memory, the meaning of the marriage will last.


Just because my wedding is over and my husband and I are settling into married life and figuring out what our normal will be, doesn’t mean that I’m out of wedding mode.

So please, tell me about your wedding in the comments! I want to hear something that made your wedding uniquely you!

I’M GOING ON HIATUS … AND GETTING MARRIED!

As much as I want to be like the energetic, go-getter writers (and people) that I see on Twitter and in my community who seem to be able to do it all and never need a break, I’m just not. I take afternoon naps most days and have since I was a teenager. Writing one blog post mentally drains me and I can’t write again for a few days while I recharge. I go to bed early and sleep late, not because I’m lazy, but because my body really does need that much rest.

And as much as I want to have blog posts prepped and scheduled twice a week for the next month, the words haven’t materialized and I don’t have the energy, or the mental capacity, to push them out now.

That’s why I’m going on a short-term hiatus.

April will see me married to the love of my life, and moved into a new apartment in a new city. It will see me make final arrangements for the wedding, spend quality time with friends and family that are travelling for the celebration, and organizing and settling into a new routine. Sheesh, even the thought is exhausting!

But I’ve never been more excited, nor felt such a deep joy.

But in the same way that my body needs more rest than many others my age to function at its best, my mind also needs rest. And while writing this blog does invigorate my mind and is intensely satisfying, it takes a great deal of mental energy, and as I tire rather easily, I have to ration my energy appropriately.

And during my marriage celebration, I want to be fully present—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I want to be in every moment, in every conversation, and give the gift of my time and attention to everyone who is blessing me with theirs. I spent years dreaming about this wedding, and now that it’s here, I want to celebrate as best as I’m able.

But as my closest friends know, you can’t get rid of me that easily. I will still be on Twitter, available through the contact form here, and in the comments. I will still be taking requests for freelance writing projects, so please reach out to discuss your ideas with me through any of the above methods.

But until May, there will not be any new posts on the blog. But fear not! Simply because the blog will be on hiatus, does not mean that my mind is not spinning with new content for when I return. Already, I have multiple posts outlined that I cannot wait to finish and post for you all to read.

But for now, I will be taking a break so that I can fully embrace the new and wonderful changes in my life and cherish the people that I love.

Be well, be kind to yourselves and others, and keep reading! I will see you soon!

FINDING MY WHY — WHY I’M A WRITER AND WHY I ALWAYS WILL BE

If you follow me on Twitter (and no, this isn’t a self-promo), then you may have seen this thread that I posted recently:

I just wrote what I intended to be a blog post, but wound up more like a journal entry. It could still be a blog post, but rather than focusing on publishing and posting and traffic and being productive, I think I’ll keep this piece for myself.

Maybe I’ve spent so much time and energy into what will sell, what will bring people to my blog and what content will gain me a place in the #WritingCommunity, that I’ve lost my “why” for the writing altogether. Maybe keeping some of it just for me, for my soul, is the cure.

After all, don’t I write for myself first and everyone else second? So what happens to my writing if I lose myself and I’m not writing with my voice or from my experience and truth?

Maybe I need to learn to write for myself again, and maybe that’s the way back to myself, back to why I started writing in the first place. And maybe then, I can move forward with my goals and ambition, once I realize that even if I don’t achieve them, I didn’t fail.

All right… existential writer crisis over, at least on Twitter. I’m going to reread the blog post that I’ll keep just for me, go eat something, and start to find my “why” again.

That existential writer crisis continued to plague me after I closed my laptop. The question of “why do I write?” had my mind relentlessly spinning. I thought the answer was simple, but was it really?

Turns out it was simpler than I thought, but the journey there was anything but.

I’ve been writing since I was a child. It started with stories about a trickster deer, giraffes on a rescue mission, and Emperor penguins who befriend Orca whales. A little older, and I turned my attention from animal stories to poetry. It was poetry about my first love, first heartbreak, finding out who I was and maybe more importantly, who I wasn’t. (and that’s why those poems will never see the light of day—can you say CRINGE?)

I kept writing. And I was in my mid-twenties when I decided to start blogging. I hadn’t given up on stories or poetry, but my priorities were shifting.

I needed to start using my voice, and I needed a new way to do it. I’d spent long enough wrestling with saying what I thought I was supposed to, particularly about my disabled body, and letting myself get pinned. It was my therapist who, over countless sessions, helped me realize that yes, I had a voice, and then asked me the ultimate question: what would I do with it?

Growing up, all throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was an unhappy disabled person. When I was eighteen, I met a friend who had walked a similar path of blindness and faith, and upon sharing it with me, made a way for me to walk my own with a little less bitterness and a lot more gratitude. But that was only the beginning of my journey to embracing myself, and in particular, my disabled self. But as life journeys often go, it got worse before it got better. That in itself is an entirely different story and today is not the day for it. But all that to say that it was a good five years before that path had lead me to a place where I recognized who I was, embraced it, and wanted to share it.

Enter Not Your Blind Writer. And just like the evening beside the hotel pool, sharing stories with a new lifelong friend at eighteen, this blog isn’t a destination, but a beginning. It’s been wonderful, freeing, empowering, and beyond terrifying.

I began the blog to share myself—my authentic self, and most importantly, my disabled self. Important, because my disability had been the one part of me that I kept the most hidden, yet, it impacted my life in the most obvious ways. To keep it hidden was a disservice to myself and my journey, and to everyone around me. So each time I published a post, the words that it contained were borne from the raw, authentic me.

However, as the weeks and months passed, more posts published and more people followed on social media, the path ahead of me has become a little more gray. Questions of publishing, social media, marketing and more, plagued me, and what I found was that those thoughts choked my creativity.

My writing became less and less of a craft that I loved and wanted to grow, but a climb up the ladder of success. I thought about everything other than putting pen to paper, or, keys to laptop? I created detailed writing calendars and post outlines. I wondered how many followers I could get and felt defeated when no one subscribed to my blog or followed me on social media. I started to see these other things, like Twitter followers, likes and comments as a statement on my value as a writer. But why?

Why was I doing all this?

And that question lead me to a deeper question: Why was I writing at all?

I was getting caught up in the glamour of the writing industry, but I’d forgotten what makes it in the first place—the written word itself. What did any of this matter if my pages were blank? What does thinking of royalties and book deals and book #6 if I haven’t started book #1 yet?

Why did I care about what others thought about my writing if I didn’t write?

I’d lost my why.

And I needed to find it. To do that, I needed to find the seven-year-old me that wrote about a deer that, in her quest for fame, performed shameful acts of trickery. The eight-year-old me who wrote about a giraffe that, in spite of being teased by the other animals, saved them from the pit of quicksand by using her neck as a lifeline. The high schooler crying after gym class over her first break up, even though they hadn’t officially dated.

That girl didn’t write for fame. She didn’t write to be published, or to earn a salary. She wasn’t concerned with formulating interesting tweets (which aren’t all that interesting, by the way) or how best to market her books for the most sales.

She wrote because she loved writing.

It filled her up. It made her smile. Her characters were her friends, and the words were her imagination come alive.

She wrote because she loved writing.

And that’s why I’m still a writer.

I live for the feeling of seeing words spill across the page, the way words can process and wrestle and grow me in ways nothing else can. I cherish the moments when I can fully express a part of myself and know that if nothing else, at least the page understands me. I smile for the moments when I sit in a coffee shop and suddenly, clap my hands like an excited kid and say, “Book idea! Book idea! Book idea!” a little too loudly (Cause… that didn’t happen… last week… at 25 years old).

I write to express myself and to let God do with that what He will. I can’t help but hope that if He’s given me a talent for the written word, then He has a plan for it. And as much as I’ve fretted about what that plan is, that’s not my job. I just need to write the words, and He can handle what happens after.

It’s good to think about publishing, to dream about seeing your name on a book in your favourite bookstore. It’s good to have drive and ambition and reach for the literary stars. But don’t let that steal the reason you started writing in the first place.

And you know what? Rediscovering my why makes me want to write more.

So please, friends: Whether you have dreams of making the bestseller list, writing a blog simply to share your daily life, or whether the only one who reads your writing is your diary, don’t lose your why.

Why do you do this? Why do you love it? Why will you keep going?

I love the written word, and I want to use the gift God has given me. That’s why I write.

Why do you write? Let me know in the comments.

TIME CAN NOT HEAL ALL WOUNDS, BUT THERAPY WILL

Talking to My Therapist and God

I talk to my therapist and God
at the intersections of my subconscious;
intermittent conversations penetrating
my awareness of childhood
trauma and childlike
faith,
where the cancer scar fades but
my skin is still stitched with threads of
chemo and vomit
and echoed laments to healer God for a
chocolate cake with six candles
and no flowers.
Where water is thicker than blood
but neither can quench my soul.

adrift in flashback
cast out in communion

My therapist and God talk to me
about healing.

© Rhianna McGregor

I wish I had a porch swing tonight. As a teenager, I found God’s comfort as I gently swung myself back and forth on the porch swing, staring at the stars and letting myself just feel. I sat on that swing, telling God about my first broken heart, my emerging struggles with traditional, evangelical Christianity, the friendship I ended over Skype… everything.

I wish I had a porch swing tonight.

Or at least, I wish I could talk with my therapist.

But therapy costs money. So does planning a wedding. And moving to a new city. Caring for my guide dog costs money, and trying to feed myself food that isn’t processed in plastic costs money.

And I don’t have much money. That is the simple truth of the matter and I see no point in sugar coating reality. After all, it is a reality lived day after day by many more people than just myself, and there is no shame in it or in seeking help.

But this isn’t a post about the doom and gloom of my financial stress, nor a plea for pity.

It’s merely to sit down with you on my porch swing and talk to you about my life. Will you sit with me for a while?

I have very exciting changes coming in my life. In a matter of weeks, I will become a wife and begin a new adventure with the love of my life. Alongside marriage, I will be moving to a new city with my husband, and will no longer have to travel back and forth and live long-distance. Many of the challenges we face today will be resolved once we say “I do.”

But what will not be resolved are the deeper issues that I pretend I don’t wrestle with, but which plague me on a daily basis.

They say that time heals all wounds. And while I can’t definitively say there is no truth to that, my experiences lead me to believe that time does not heal at all. It merely offers a cozy bed in which to huddle beneath blankets and indulge in a bucket of negativity.

I don’t want to be someone who holds grudges. After all, I’d like to be a person who follows 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” But taking the high road and being that person, not simply spouting the good intention, are two different matters entirely.

I’ve touched on a couple of friendships of mine that have completely evaporated in the last several months. But as time goes on, I find myself falling deeper and deeper into the pit of bitterness and resentment, and farther from healing. Time has made a comfortable place for me to nurture my hurt, anger and deep sadness. There is no room for healing here.

You might think, but Rhianna, give it another try. Reach out. There’s no harm. Since I will not divulge the details of these relationships’ struggles, I can’t expect anyone to understand my position. But I will not, and cannot, rebuild these friendships. As my fiancé said, it’s like pouring water into a cup that leans on an angle—the water can only go one direction. I’ve tried again and again, and all we’ve done is spill more water.

But what’s it going to take to actually begin to heal from these hurts that not only happened in my past, but actively impact my present? A day doesn’t go by where I don’t feel a ball of bitterness sitting in the bottom of my belly, or rising up to my throat as hot, angry tears and screams that I can’t let out. It rears its head in everything I do—my writing and publishing endeavours, my fear, but deep desire, to make new friends, even the physical items around my home that remind me of what happened.

I want to heal. I don’t want to live like this anymore. But what can I do when old wounds continue to bleed, and new wounds puncture my heart, and make moving on next to impossible?

I don’t believe time is the answer.

But I do believe I have the answer. God and my therapist. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their love, support and guidance, and I won’t be the person I want to become without them now.

My therapist may cost money, and I do work to make seeing her a priority. But while I work and save, I’m just thankful that talking to God doesn’t cost anything.

Hey God, you got a minute [or two?]

LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY LEFT HAND

If you were to ask me if I’m right or left-handed, I’ll tell you that I’m both. Not that I’m ambidextrous and have the equal use of both hands, but simply because both of my hands equally share the work.

  • I deal cards with my left hand,
  • and I open doors with my right.
  • I hold Saint’s harness handle with my left hand,
  • but I use my white cane in my right.
  • I read Braille with my left hand,
  • yet I write print with my right hand.

But that being said, I’ve always had a special affection for my left hand. It has many jobs, very important jobs; it holds Saint’s harness handle, it reads books, it bears half my ability to write, it wears my engagement ring, and it explores the world around me.

But as with anything that we hold near and dear, it’s far too easy to take it for granted. So please allow me a moment to issue a public apology to my left hand.

To my left hand:

I’m sorry that I’ve taken you for granted. You do so much for me, and I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked you properly. I’ll do better, I promise.

You can only do better once you know better. That doesn’t make it easy to do, but it does mean that it’s doable. Two weeks ago, I was confronted with this lesson, and even now, as things are returning to normal, I’m working to keep this lesson front and center.

Let me tell you the story:

Two weeks ago, life was running along smoothly—eating, sleeping, pooping, biting hangnails—all was well. But when I awoke the next morning with the fourth finger on my left hand puffy and swollen and virtually useless, all was not well.

I went to work, attempting to sub in my pinkie finger for my ring finger’s responsibilities, but it was slow-going. And by the end of the second day, it was getting worse, and I was worried. I’d had thousands of hangnails, but none had lasted this long nor been this painful.

I felt a little silly walking into the emergency room because of a hangnail during a global pandemic, particularly with the girl behind me in tears. But I didn’t want to take any chances; if left untreated, it can become a serious condition.

So there I sat, with my swollen finger in the ER waiting room. And then in a chair with the numbing cream on my finger. And then in another chair when the doctor stabbed a scalpel into the abscess. And then I sat some more, trying to hold back tears, waiting for the infection to drain. [Apologies to my visually-oriented readers].

And for the next three days, my finger was wrapped up in what I called “finger pantyhose.” I was sent home with antibiotics, a bottle of saline, extra bandages, and two more pairs of pantyhose. My finger was incapable of performing its fingerly duties. I couldn’t type. I had to talk my fiancé through washing my hair in the sink because I couldn’t wet my hand in the shower. Anytime I went to use my left hand as normal, I was sharply reminded that I couldn’t.

It amazed me that something as small as a hangnail could cause a disruption of this magnitude. One little nail, one little nibble, and my finger was out of commission for days. And as I’ve watched my finger heal and return to a semblance of normal, I’ve had a pit of guilt sitting heavy at the bottom of my stomach.

It’s easy to take things like physical and mental health for granted; if you don’t know what it’s like to lose an ability, you can’t fully appreciate how it feels to have it in the first place.

Being sighted until I was six, I know what I’m missing out on as a blind woman. Sunsets, the sea, snow-capped mountains, the faces of my loved ones, and as content as I am with my life, I know there are beautiful things I cannot experience with the same fullness.

And I wonder if people with sight ever think about this, when they’re driving to work, glance out the window and catch a glimpse of the sun glistening off the mountain peak. Do they even notice it when they see it day in and day out?

But aren’t I doing the same thing?

Aren’t I, even after temporarily losing the use of my left ring finger, already returning to “normal” and forgetting how it felt to be without it? Am I forgetting how lost I felt, unable to write and use my left hand as I’d always done without a second thought?

I don’t expect anyone to feel the same way about their left hand as I do about mine. Even other blind and visually impaired people may not hold this deep of affection for this appendage. But there’s the rub: it’s more than a hand to me.

It’s my freedom.

My left hand is a symbol of my independence and freedom. In a world that is speedily losing its freedoms, even in countries which pride themselves on promoting it, my left hand has been my flag. It reads braille and allows me to learn, grow and explore; it holds the harness handle of a dog who helps me feel safe and independent; it wears the ring given to me by my beloved because he saw me for me—disability and all—and said “I love her.”

It’s a reminder, every time I reach for a door, open my Bible or go for a walk with Saint to be thankful. Because even something seemingly small can have a big impact, and I don’t want to live my life taking the small stuff for granted.

Because what my left hand has done for me isn’t small. It’s everything. It’s who I am, who I’m actively becoming, and a part of who God created me to be. And I don’t want to take a gift that God has given me for granted.

Tell me, what experiences have you had that have taught you this lesson? Let me know in the comments.

WHAT A YES-AND-YET LIST IS AND WHY IT’S PART OF MY SELF CARE ROUTINE

What began as a standard, to-do list in the weeks before moving to a new city over a year ago, has now become a means of self-care and a reminder that, yes, I, Rhianna, can do this.

I don’t know if it’s my blindness, my anxiety, or just being an “adult” trying to figure out “life,” but I have a heck of a time giving credit where credit’s due … But only when it comes to myself.

In my brain, success never comes through my own skills and determination, but because of the support I’m given by friends, family and professionals. Somehow, the support I receive invalidates my contributions to succeed, and thus, I can’t take credit for it or feel a sense of accomplishment in my own success.

Short story long? If I get help with a project, I can’t be proud of myself because I didn’t do it independently.

I can’t take any credit.

Y’all know that I love a good list. I make them for everything—grocery shopping, house cleaning, which items are for sale and which are going to the thrift shop, planning blog posts, so it wasn’t a surprise then, that when I decided to move to a new city, I started a list of all the things I needed to get done. Here are a few of the first things that I wrote down:

  • Find somewhere to live on the island
  • Give month’s notice to landlords
  • Apply for dog license
  • Book hair appointment
  • Sign rental agreement and addendum
  • Send damage deposit
  • Send code for door keypad
  • Write 2020 review
  • Make eggplant parmesan quesadillas
  • Return immersion blender

Looking at a physical list of the tasks made me feel organized and ready for the challenge. Now that I knew what needed to get done, it was less overwhelming to do those things. What had felt like an impossible task in my brain—moving to a new city alone—was now doable because it was broken down into little steps. And one by one, I checked them off.

That’s how my Yes-and-Yet list was born.

But it soon became more than that.

As a record-keeping fanatic, I knew I couldn’t simply check off an item, delete it and move on. It would be as though I were deleting the very thing I’d just accomplished. And with this move marking such a significant time in my life, I knew that I’d want to look back and reminisce. But not to pat myself on the back and think, “wow, look how productive you were,” but to realize that even in times of pressure and chaos, I am capable. It was comforting after a day of planning and prep to lie in bed and review the list and know that I would be okay. With every task I checked off, I was proving to myself that I could make it on my own and follow my dream.

So, after settling into my new house, I kept my list going. And a year later, I still add daily to that original list.

Though it began as a list to organize one specific event, the Yes-and-Yet list has become my master list of everything going on in my life. From booking medical appointments to washing my dishes to when I’m expected to receive Amazon packages, anything that requires my attention goes on the list.

But why write a post about my Yes-and-Yet list when to-do lists of all manner are standard in nearly everyone’s daily life?

Here’s why.

Because I have spent years delving the depths of cyberspace to find a system of keeping myself organized so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy, and coming up blank. I’ve downloaded dozens of apps, calendars and planners, hoping that one of them would be “it.”

But it never was.
So I created my own.

My Yes-and-Yet list as my master list because it contains everything from all parts of my life. But one could argue and say that in it being a masterlist, it isn’t organized and overwhelms more than it helps.

But there is one major advantage to the master list and it’s the one reason above all else why I keep it:

Because when I feel like a failure, I get to gaze upon page after page of things that I’ve accomplished, and feel a sense of pride in myself and what I’ve done.

Sure, some of my yets and yeses are basic, daily living tasks like washing dishes (AND putting them away) and vacuuming the living room. But for someone who struggles with mental health, these can often become insurmountable challenges. And on those days, seeing even one task in the Yes column, makes a huge difference in my mental health.

It’s why I write everything down in the Yet column, so that on days when I have very little energy and am unfeeling unproductive, I can sift through the manageable tasks, check off one or two, and feel proud of myself.

It isn’t always easy, though. Living in the society that we do, there’s a constant pressure to be productive and achieve a certain level of success in each passing moment. But the simple truth is that everyone’s definition of productive is different, and that’s okay.

For me, folding and hanging all my clean laundry is a big win, whereas to others, it wouldn’t even make the list. But I’ve always believed in celebrating the little victories, because for someone out there, it’s not little. And every victory is worth celebrating.

All the thoughts spinning around inside my head don’t feel so overwhelming when one by one, I can write them down, and one by one, I can add them to the “Yes” list.

Tell me, what method do you use to keep yourself organized? Let me know in the comments.

THE A-E-I-O-U’S OF ACCESSIBILITY — O IS FOR OPEN

Welcome, friends, to the fourth post in our series, The A-E-I-O-U’s of Accessibility. Today, I want to share some thoughts with you about what I believe is the key to making the accessible, equal and safe world I dream about into a reality. Let’s chat about change.

Change is not easy. Sometimes, it can be downright terrifying. Even positive changes, like going to college, moving to a new city, getting a job, or starting a family, can be scary as well as exciting.

I held onto my childhood pajamas until they were so threadbare and see-through that my parents had to throw them away without my consent. I was so attached to the blanket I’d had since I was three that I wouldn’t go to college overseas without it [and still won’t sleep without it]. I cried when my mother cut her hair in a different style because I was scared to lose the mother I’d been able to see before I became blind.

But I had to make those changes. And do you know what I found out? Those changes weren’t as scary as I thought. They helped me grow into a better person … and my mom was the same, beautiful, loving mom she’d been before.

It’s the same way with growing and changing your perspective. It’s not about losing who you are, but making room for new things to come in and shape you into a better person.

It can be scary. Very scary sometimes.

But it’s worth it.

But no one can change if they aren’t open to change.

Open The Box

I’ll wager that every person reading this post has, at some point in their life, been told to “think outside the box.”

It’s pretty straightforward, right? It means to think creatively, freely, without limitations, to find solutions to problems that are outside the realm of tradition.

But is it really so straightforward?

Before you answer, I have three questions for you to consider when telling, or being told to think outside the box:

  • What box are you in?
  • What else is in the box with you?
  • And what will it take for you to get out?

As hard as it is to reconcile, our pro-equality, pro-rights society has continued to this day to put people with disabilities in a box. This box has been affixed with different labels at different times; “dependent,” “helpless,” “incapable” “burden,” and “inferior” are a few that come to mind that have been taped to my personal box.

When I’m passed over for a job by someone who is less qualified than I am, but isn’t disabled, my box says, inferior.

When I have to ask friends for rides to events outside of public transit areas, I wear the label burden and worry that they’ll resent me for being needy.

When I am forced into accepting help with a task that I am fully capable of doing on my own, my box says, helpless.

It seems that no matter what I do, my box has a label on it that tells the world I’m disabled and here’s what to do with me.

But I believe there’s another group of people who are in a box, too.

Able-bodied people.

Yes. Able-bodied people.

People who are not disabled.

Their box may not wear the same labels as those with disabilities. And it isn’t up to me to write their labels for them.

But I do have my suspicions. And what I suspect is that people put others in a box because they themselves are in one.

Hands up if you’ve heard the expression, “Hurt people hurt people.” It means that when someone is hurt, they may act in a way that hurts others, even people they love. Maybe we could adapt it. How about:

Boxed people box other people.

Remember the three questions I posed earlier? I want to take a moment and go through them, not to give you the answers, but to help you find the answers for yourself.

What Box Are You In?

Everyone’s box is unique, constructed from a combination of familial influence, experience, choices and a host of other factors. The answer to the question of what box you’re in will depend on your upbringing, your personal experiences, and how those experiences have shaped your worldview, and how you choose to live out your life day to day.

What Is In The Box With You?

Is it a need to feel superior? Is it a need for self-preservation?

Is it fear? Are you afraid that your world view and your place in it will be threatened by allying yourself with people who are different from you?

Maybe it’s pride.

Now hear me out before you click over to another blog.
Everyone has pride, and pride in who you are and what you do is a great thing. But it can be our downfall if we’re not careful; sometimes, pride can tell us that we’re above others who have less, do less, or appear less due to individual circumstances. And sometimes that can make us distant, hesitant to associate, or fearful of the results if we do.

What Will It Take For You To Get Out?

This will be up to you and your box.

All I can do is encourage you to explore a means of escape. Therapists and trained professionals are always a recommendation of mine. The therapist I’ve been seeing for five years has held my hands as I’ve struggled out of countless boxes. It may be an option for you, too.

Or maybe you need a friend.

But no matter what path you take out of the box, I believe the key is being open and willing to go.

Let people help you. Let people teach you. Let others take your hand and guide you. Let those who care about you come alongside you and encourage you every step of the way.

I believe that this is the way forward. To create that accessible world that I, and every other disabled person dream of living in, we have to not only think outside the box, but ditch the box altogether.

Open The Dialogue

But Rhianna, how do we do all this? It’s hard enough to get out of the box, let alone get rid of the entire box.

Yes, it is hard. And in no way do I expect you to do this alone, immediately or without mistakes. That isn’t possible, nor is it right of me to put those demands on anyone. So let me offer one, crucial way for you to get started.

Open the dialogue.

Start the conversation.

And see it through.

Talk to people with disabilities and listen to their stories and experiences. Ask them how they feel. If they tell you about the challenges they face, ask what would be helpful, or not helpful? What would they appreciate able-bodied people doing (or not doing) in interactions with them or in situations like employment, relationships, education, etc?

Talk to them. Talk to us.

Disabled people are the only people who know what it’s like to be disabled. Go to the source and get it straight from those who live it day in and day out.

By this time in the series, I may sound like a broken record to you. Ask, explore, include, and now open, they all lead back to the same, founding principle: people with disabilities are people and deserve the equality, rights, and dignity of every human being.

But I’m not just going to let the record play out.

I’m putting it on repeat.

Change is the only way forward. And being open to that change is the crux.

It’s often said that you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped. It’s true: As much as family and friends encouraged me to seek out mental health counseling and medication, I had to come to that decision on my own and in my own time; for years, I didn’t want to be helped and so I couldn’t be.

I was in a box.

And as soon as I realized it, and felt the effects of the claustrophobic space I’d created for myself, I did something about it. I got myself to counseling and began taking antidepressants.

It took a long time, and hundreds of sessions of therapy (yes, really) before I could see the progress I was making. But I had to be willing to take the steps to make that change.

I had conversations, sometimes hard and hurtful conversations, with friends, family and my therapist. I still have these conversations. But because I knew these people loved me and cared for my well being, I pressed on.

And those dialogues changed my life.

And the dialogues we have about disability will change our lives, too.

But it has to start with being open and willing to have those conversations and the change that will result from them. It will hurt. It will be uncomfortable, and may even cause some pain.

But I’d like to think that you’ll believe it’s worth it.


How can you help to open the box, step outside of it, and close it behind you?

Be sure to check back soon for the next installment! See you there.