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When Passion Is Palpable One Must Pursue It

“The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

~Neil Gaiman

Advocacy can occur on many levels from creating a massive movement to a simple blog but it all begins with a passion for positive social change. When I was asked to participate in an upcoming event to bring awareness to the abilities of people with disabilities I couldn’t say no. 

Disability InSIGHTS is a seminar designed to increase awareness of the abilities of people living with disabilities. I will be one of 7 speakers who will share stories of triumphs, obstacles, and breaking down barriers. More on this in a moment.

Typically when we hear stories of people who are on the front lines of social justice the conversation revolves around passion. There is something that ignites the fire within us to create positive change. While it’s true passion has a defining role in our advocacy efforts we seldom talk about another major player—fear.

Working Through Fear

Fear is universal and yet many times when we talk about success fear isn’t a major topic of conversation. I’ve lived a life of fear and a life of overcoming. Losing my eyesight was one of my greatest fears that I never thought I’d be able to accept. However, it was my fear of blindness that in part prompted me to create Bold Blind Beauty. 

Fear was the reason why I declined an all-expense-paid trip to Kansas earlier this year. Even though the opportunity to empower blind & visually impaired youth was seductive I just couldn’t let go of my fear.

The thought of traveling out of state on what would be my first solo flight after my sight loss terrified me. Questions swirled around in my head like:

  • would I know where to go once I was dropped off curbside at the airport?
  • what if the assistance I requested ahead of time wasn’t available?
  • would I have a panic attack because everything I see is indistinguishable?
  • what if I had to use the restroom, would I get lost?
  • would the flight attendants show me to my seat?
  • since my trip connected through another airport what would that be like?
  • what would I do if I encountered problems because people doubted my disability?
  • how would I handle the prospect of being stranded?

With all these questions and more, you’d think I’d be satisfied with declining the trip but I wasn’t. Truth be told I was still unsettled yet I couldn’t articulate why. Thankfully, I was given another chance, this time I said YES! and I went to Kansas.

The Cumulative Effect

The Kansas trip was only the beginning of all the wonderful things to come this year as a result of my work at Bold Blind Beauty. While I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve questioned myself as to whether this is a fruitful effort. Then last year I partnered with advocate extraordinaire, Chelsea Nguyen, and together we founded CAPTIVATING! Magazine, a free, accessible online lifestyle magazine. CAPTIVATING! provides monthly content about culture and style for people of all abilities proving that inclusion is limitless.

As a result of my partnership with Chelsea, and my work with Bold Blind Beauty I’ve enjoyed these amazing experiences:

Next, in the lineup of this year’s events are:

My trips to Kansas and Utah were sublime. CAPTIVATING!’s award from the Texas Rehabilitation Association was a delightful and totally unexpected surprise. Then filming the behind the scenes story of Bold Blind Beauty last week was extraordinary. 

I’m eagerly anticipating the Disability InSIGHTS Seminar where I can share my tips on the path to social entrepreneurship. This event is being held in recognition of International Blindness Awareness Month and National Employment Disability Awareness Month. It will take place on October, 18 from 11 am – 3 pm at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in Erie, PA. 

Seeing The Beauty In People

I believe everyone has value. I also believe our perceptions of people can get in the way of our ability to appreciate their value. For far too long we’ve looked at people who are ‘different’ from ourselves and immediately leap to conclusions without knowing their story, without knowing them. When we add disabilities (visible and invisible) to this equation we become ‘experts’ in determining their worth and it isn’t fair nor is it right. 

We all have moments of insecurity, uncertainty, and fear. I nearly let my fear keep me from life-changing events where I’ve learned so many valuable lessons. None of this means I won’t ever feel uncomfortable or downright scared. However, when I ask myself why inclusion, accessibility, and representation are so important my passion will continue to help me push through my fear.

Courage is contagious and when we share our vulnerabilities it empowers others. How about you? Can you think of a time that fear nearly prevented you from meaningful achievement? 

Disability InSIGHTS Information:

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A closeup view of a blank wooden arrow sign against a bright blue sky dotted with a few puffy white clouds.

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Blind Beauty 78 | Cassie Ingram

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I want to break this stigma that people with disabilities must live a limited life. You can do anything you set your mind to. It might be in a different way than everyone else but keep striving for those goals. Reach for your dreams. And never give up!

~Cassie Ingram

I’ve always been a positive person and when I was younger, I had goals and determination. But after obtaining my Associate’s Degree in Child Development, I transferred to a University and things began to change. I started getting a lot of questions from teachers and students on how I would finish out my degree considering I was legally blind. At the time, I didn’t realize how much I was going to let this affect me. While other things played a part, in the end, I left college.

Then, earlier this year when I started my YouTube Channel, On The Fritz, I became involved in the blind and visually impaired community. Up to this point, I hadn’t realized how much I had let my visual impairment run my life. I had settled. I wasn’t involved in anything. I had no goals. I would tell myself I couldn’t do something because of my vision or not being able to drive. So much negativity for a self-proclaiming, positive person.

It’s really weird how something can be happening to you for years, even staring you down, but you never even see it! Just after a few months, I am now so happy to be returning to my old self again! I have goals! Determination! I am stronger! I want to break this stigma that people with disabilities must live a limited life. You can do anything you set your mind to. It might be in a different way than everyone else but keep striving for those goals. Reach for your dreams. And never give up!

Connecting With Cassie:

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The image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Cassie’s photo is on the cover and she’s stunning with burgundy with pink highlights in her hair and mesmerizing _______eyes. She has a pink flower in her hair above her left ear and her cactus statement earrings add a fun pop of color. Her white lace wrap is over a black tank which she accented with a blue scarf hung loosely around her neck.

Blocks of text superimposed on Cassie’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”

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The Power Of Three On Confidence & Style After Sight Loss

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“When you base your confidence on who you are, instead of what you accomplish, you have created something that no one or no circumstance can ever take away from you.”

~Barbara De Angelis

Today’s Woman On The Move and fashionista, Terese Goran offers her insight on the topic of confidence for those new to sight loss. Terese was featured on Bold Blind Beauty last week, you can check out the article here: Blind Beauty 77 | Terese Goran

Early Love For Fashion & Makeup

I have to confess, when I was asked to write this, I wasn’t sure how to contribute. Personal style and confidence in how we look are so important to our identity. Growing up I really struggled with the way I looked, frequently hearing comments about how my eyes looked funny. Even at the age of 50, there are still some days where I lack confidence in my appearance. When I was growing up, my parents owned and ran a ladies fashion store, and this is where I developed my love for clothes and makeup.

As someone who has been legally blind all my life, I can’t speak to knowing what it’s like to lose my vision, because I never had it to begin with. However, in my career as an Assistive Technology Specialist, I work with a lot of people who are at the beginning of their vision loss. Most of these people are trying to come to grips with their situation. They may still be overwhelmed and not realize that it is still possible to do most things, even without vision. One question that I get asked repeatedly is “How do you get dressed?”. The simple answer is one step at a time.

Easy Answer To A Simple Question

It is such a simple question and a task that many take for granted. But no matter what your vision situation is, looking and feeling confident and put together can be possible. So here’s my advice:

First things first. Be open to learning to do things in a different way than you have done them in the past. There ARE ways to do practically anything you want to, from putting on makeup to matching your clothes, but they will likely be different than how you did them before. You have to be open to learning new ways of doing things.

Secondly, take things one step at a time and be patient with yourself. Learning to do things in new ways will take time and practice. I’ve had to develop my sense of feel over the years to tell where my makeup is applied. I don’t mean by paying attention to what my fingers feel, but how my face feels as I run my fingers over it.  I have to first put it on and then look in the mirror when I’m done to see how it turned out.

When it comes to makeup and clothing, some days things come together better than others. I remember quite a few days that I thought my clothes matched and when I left the house I realized they clearly don’t. To help with this, ask people that you trust for their feedback. I’ve had a lot of help from my family. They aren’t afraid to tell me if I look like a hot mess. Moms, sisters, and nieces are good like that, but if these aren’t available, close friends or even significant others can give helpful feedback. 

Speaking more generally, I’m a big believer in the power of three. Pick your base, sweater and pants or dress, then add 3 pieces to bring the outfit together. This may be shoes, a necklace, and a jacket. It could also be a hat, belt, and earrings. It could even be your eyeglass frames, handbag, and your cane. Whether you’re in work clothes or a t-shirt and jeans the rule can still apply.

I know this world is all about “the look”.  Almost every morning I strive to put myself together. What’s more important is the confidence and belief in yourself. The truth is you can be dressed to the 9’s but if you don’t have the confidence to back it up then that look isn’t going to work. At the end of the day, I just want to be the best me I can be.   

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In this photo of Terese, she is looking very stylish in jeans, a burgundy top, and a long taupe sweater. She paired her outfit with a gold statement necklace and brown peep toe, sandals with a block heel.

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Leaning Into Time & Mindfulness

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Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

~Groucho Marx
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Coming Closer to Ourselves

If I had one word, to sum up, this week it would be the word ‘Time.’ Just this morning I shared the above quote to social media but before doing so I had to read it three times before I ‘got it.’ The first time I read it I was like huh? What does that even mean? The second time I read it I’m like but bananas don’t fly. Thankfully on the third round, it was so ridiculously hilarious to me my reaction was overkill. What made it even funnier is I thoroughly detest fruit flies, like I’m obsessed over their purpose and why they creep me out but I digress.

A few days ago I celebrated my 59th birthday and it was the best one in recent memory. I was feeling so good, I shared a post with a line that said: “Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along.” There goes that word Time again. This line is from the chorus of I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack and I simply wished everyone that given the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. I finished the post with “As long as you’re still on the clock anything is possible.”

Time Spent On My Big Day

My birthday began with the arrival of a small parcel a few days earlier. In my continual effort to make my life simpler by downsizing, I’ve persisted in discouraging gifts so I was pleasantly surprised to find in my small package CDs of Pema Chödrön’s “Coming Closer to Ourselves: Making Everything the Path of Awakening.” What made this gift so special was I dared greatly this summer by showing up and being present which put me on a path to self-discovery. In the past few weeks, I’ve learned more about myself than I have in all my combined years of being on this earth.

Learning about the importance of vulnerability and shame resilience in Brené Brown’s books “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly” were a great segue way to “Coming Closer to Ourselves.” What was even better was the overlap in themes from these books and I couldn’t wait to dive into my newest acquisition.

The second gift was with whom I chose to spend my day. Several weeks prior, a producer/filmmaker from The Grotto Network contacted me to see if I’d be interested in sharing my story about Bold Blind Beauty. After a few email exchanges and a followup video conference meeting with Tony, we agreed to film on my birthday. Tony would fly into Pittsburgh from New York in the morning and we would meet up to begin filming.

I was so excited yet scared-silly to be the focus of a video, my armpits were itching. Even though I’ve been vulnerable for years by sharing my story here on Bold Blind Beauty, for me, this was taking it to another level and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.

Lights Camera Action

From the moment I met Tony in person, he had the sweetest disposition. He even brought me a surprise birthday gift: Kenyan coffee!!

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Java House Coffee

In preparation for the filming, I had a blog post ready to be published some of which was captured and I’m hopeful it makes it into the final cut. It was so gratifying to share my thoughts on the mission of Bold Blind Beauty and most especially how I feel about beauty, empowerment and making the world more inclusive. Sadly, try as I might, I won’t ever be able to remember some of my more powerful comments as my memory is practically nonexistent.

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A couple of topics I do recall had to do with simplification, organization, and perfection. While sight loss is a challenging experience to go through, I know without a doubt that being organized was a huge bonus for me. When you take a systematic approach to life most things fall into place. When your eyesight begins to deteriorate so much of your being is focused on being present. The simplest things like misplaced objects can trigger a panic attack.

Panic attacks arent only reserved for misplaced items. They can be triggered when my senses are overwhelmed like in large, noisy crowds. Or in situations where I’m in a familiar location like a store, mall, etc. and one-second I’m fine only to feel lost and disoriented the next moment.

Creating and sustaining a simple lifestyle by living with less brings me joy. Now that I’ve also begun the process of restructuring how I work I feel even more joyful. Reclaiming My Life by putting boundaries in place is a critical piece to this process.

Letting Go Of Perfection

For a large portion of my life, I strived so hard for perfection it was an obsession. Today, not so much. My recent journey to self-discovery and choosing to live a wholehearted life doesn’t leave any room for perfection—thank goodness!

One of my favorite parts of the filming process was when Tony asked me questions about beauty while I was putting on my makeup. As a youngster, my grandmother instilled in me the idea that real beauty had nothing to do with appearance. When we talk about people and real beauty, for me, its more about substance and authenticity. The problem is we live in a culture where there is so much pretense it seems like people struggle with being themselves. Lord knows I’ve struggled mightily with the whole illusion of perfection and I’ve had enough.

For me, I’m finding it easier to draw back, disconnect, and discover myself by doing those things that are meaningful to me. It may not be the trendy thing to do but I feel like my sanity is returning and I really enjoy my quiet moments. Doing and being my best is enough.

Final Thoughts

Overall, my birthday was fantabulous!! Even though Tony recorded several hours worth of content the final video will only be 2-1/2 minutes in length. I give kudos to all you filmmakers out there because it’s got to be very difficult combing through everything you’ve recorded only to scrap most of it. Thank you, Tony, for sharing my big day with me shooting my story! I’m honored that you chose to spend it with me. While an actress I will never be this was great fun!

I’ve been taking a long look at how I spend my time and as a result, am restructuring how I approach my life/work. Meaningful connection is important to me which is why I’m putting boundaries in place to allow for real engagement. Becoming more mindful of my intentions and subsequent actions will, I hope, be helpful for myself and others. This weekend will be my third without social media and I’m hoping I can continue the practice.

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

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