HEALTH & WELLNESS
It was 25 years or so and I was a young mom sitting on our front porch. It was a summer morning and I had just learned Orientation and Mobility Training. Yet this morning, my first thought wasn’t the newfound freedom I had felt with the cane. I was experiencing the grief and needed to take a pause and experience all the feels that went with that.~Becky Andrews
Look up, move forward
Let me introduce myself, my name is Becky Andrews. I am blind as a result of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) diagnosed at age 18. I have been blessed to travel with a guide dog by my side for the past 23 years. As I type this, my third guide dog, Georgie is at my feet. My husband, Steve, and I have been married for 36 years (we are a pretty great team) and we have two adult children. I love living an active life. We love to tandem bike… more on that to come, run with a tether – have run 9 marathons with the tenth to be the NYC Marathon again in November. I also love to hike and travel. I wrote my memoir, Look up, move forward in June 2016. Currently, I am working on completing a workbook: Cultivate Resilience – one of many courses that I teach in my practice.
On a professional level, I am a small business owner – Resilient Solutions, Inc. A licensed clinical mental health counselor myself, the practice is an individual, marriage, and family therapy, business which employs 18. Five years ago, we established a small nonprofit Oasis Center for Hope with its mission to educate, support, and empower individuals, families, and communities experiencing a loss. As a part of this nonprofit, four years ago I fulfilled a dream to establish retreats for women who are blind and low vision — The Daring to Own Your Story™ Retreats. Our 8th Retreat is scheduled to be held this July. These retreats are a combination of adventure, connection, empowerment, and truly owning and celebrating our stories.
When Saying ‘Yes’ To Life Is Suspended
At the time of the pandemic, Steve, and I were into a bucket list goal – cycling across the country on our tandem bike. It began on March 7, we put our back tire in the Pacific Ocean in San Diego and were scheduled to put the front tire in the Atlantic Ocean 52 days later April 27 – the day before Steve’s birthday. We put our careers on hold as much as possible for this endeavor. This time of cycling through the country was anticipated to not only be an amazing physical feat yet also further clarity on where else to put the energy of YESSS in my life.
As we began this journey our tour began to give us updates on what was happening in our world and we continued to take the necessary precautions also very aware as schools, stores, campsites, and hotels were closing around us. On March 17 which was a day of a lot of climbing, almost to the continental divide and 571 miles into the ride, we arrived in Tombstone, Arizona. It was on this evening we learned that our bucket list item was to be suspended. Although we understood, we were so disappointed. The hotel shut its doors after we checked out.
I’ve now had a month to reflect on this disappointment since being home while quickly needing to bring our office up to speed on Telehealth Therapy. Because I wasn’t scheduled to see clients until May 4 with our bike ride, I’ve also had some time to study, learn, ponder, reflect, and offer courses to individuals throughout the country on Cultivating our Resilience.
Getting Through The Pain
This is such a unique time for us all. It is a time of uncertainty, collective grief, ambiguous losses, and anticipatory grief. I am feeling such compassion for those who are suffering at this time and experiencing such grief. As of writing this post, our family is healthy and all employed of which I am so very grateful. I also recognize that this could change. So many are hurting. As I search to find ways to make a difference, I think of the message: Do what you can with what you have where you are.
It is also a powerful time to take a pause and reflect on what is important to us, what we are grateful for and what we want to bring back into our lives after we return to our sense of new normal. I have found myself taking many pauses and reflecting deeply on these questions.
Up to this point, there has been much drive, hard work, perseverance in achieving my dreams as a blind woman. I know firsthand discrimination, access denial, and the extra effort it takes to reach those goals. There have been times where a ride to the office on Lyft may entail access denial with my guide dog leading to a phone call to the corporate office and extra advocacy to follow up before summoning another ride and getting to the office or a follow up later. I also believe my journey that has occurred through RP has been one of growth, learning, resilience and so much joy. It has given me a depth and compassion that I wouldn’t trade. This quote resonates with me and I’m grateful for the beauty that has been added by this journey.
The Power Of Choice
My journey in the past several years has been about movement, growth, reaching for that next goal, some pretty remarkable awards, professional expansions, and many adventures. So very grateful.
However, in the past month since returning home from this bike ride with this significant pause in our lives, my thoughts have turned to another significant day.
It was 25 years or so and I was a young mom sitting on our front porch. It was a summer morning and I had just learned Orientation and Mobility Training. Yet this morning, my first thought wasn’t the newfound freedom I had felt with the cane. I was experiencing the grief and needed to take a pause and experience all the feels that went with that. After some time on the porch doing some reflection and shedding a few tears and reassuring my husband, I would be okay, he could leave for work.
I took that next step that Victor Frankl describes as: “The last of all human freedoms the power to choose one’s own way given any set of circumstances.” I chose to once again feel empowered, to see RP as an opportunity to grow and have new adventures. I got up from the front porch morning of grief and went inside. I told my kids we were going on an adventure on the bus to meet dad for lunch.
Feeling The Feelings
During this past month, as I have returned home and resumed meeting with clients a common theme has emerged: grief and loss yet also gratitude and gains. We are experiencing grief in various ways. My words have been consistent with clients. Give yourself permission to feel. Honor the feelings you are experiencing and give them the space they need to process with self-compassion. Only then can you take that next step to action. As much as we want to we can’t bypass this step in our journey to Look up, move forward.
In this time of pause of feeling, there is much duality of emotions — both loss and such deep gratitude. Both clarity of what matters and missing events that kept me busy. Both simplicity and comfy sweats and missing dressing up and hustling into work. Both intense compassion for those around us and uncertainty for our own situations.
I’m having some clarity of what is next for me as I Look up and move forward. I have loved having the opportunity to speak to large and small groups, that will look different in the months to come. I just accepted my first Conference Presentation by Zoom. I have loved teaching my Cultivate Resilience Courses to people throughout the country by Zoom. Again, a unique, new experience. I dream of doing a podcast and simply asking the question tell me your story. Let’s dare to own it and share it with others. We can learn so much from others. I look forward to continuing to manage our business, expand and plan more retreats as soon as we are once again able to travel, and continue to meet with clients individually. The journey with a client as they navigate life’s losses, traumas, and find their resilience is inspiring.
All in all, my next step, I hope, is to reach back and help someone along their journey. So many have been there for me along my journey. When I was denied a position that was promised to me over the phone when he realized I was blind, a mentor picked me up and helped me navigate the private practice field. When I was denied access to a grocery store because of my guide dog, a mentor helped me navigate and taught me to advocate for myself. Others reminded me I could do it and helped me instill that in myself.
In life, we simply keep looking up and moving forward a step at a time; perhaps a pedal at a time. Sometimes bucket lists are suspended and other insights, lessons learned, come in the pause.
What has happened in my life since that first cover on Bold Blind Beauty Magazine where I was climbing to the top of a challenge course? Oh, so much growth, learning, expansion both externally and internally. So grateful for the power of the stretch and for the opportunities to continue to Look up and move forward.
Connecting With Becky:
- Facebook: @BeckyPetersonAndrews
- Instagram: @Becky_Andrews
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.resilientsolutionsinc.com
- Header Image: Scrabble tiles spelling out the word ‘resiliency.’
- Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune L-R: Suzette Hirst, Becky Andrews, and Brenda Petersen. Hirst and Peterson ran as Becky’s guide in the Boston Marathon, and take turns guiding her, nearly everyday, as they run in their Bountiful neighborhood. Friday, July 23, 2015.
- The Journey Begins: Becky and Steve in matching tops are standing with their tandem with back tire in the Pacific Ocean before a climb to Alpine, CA. Day one 42 miles.
- Climb to Tombstone, AZ: Steve and Becky are on their tandem in their biking gear. A mountain range can be seen in the background.
- Becky is sitting on outdoor steps next to her guide dog, Georgie, a gorgeous yellow lab.