Bold Blind Beauty is thrilled to share with you snippets from Becky Andrews’new book “Cultivating our Resilience Workbook/Journal.” Adversity strengthens and builds resilience; Becky will share weekly practices to help us become more resilient. ~Steph
Right now, we are individually and collectively experiencing interesting times with the pandemic. Collective grief, ambiguous losses, anticipatory grief, increased uncertainty are all part of our world each in our own unique ways. It is calling each of us to cultivate our resilience as we keep moving forward and take the pauses necessary that can bring gifts.
In this series, we will talk about some practices that can help us Cultivate our Resilience.
This quote encompasses a key foundation of resilience: to know that challenging times are part of our journey. We will all experience adversity and difficulty in this life. We are not alone. This common humanity and understanding is a foundation of resilience. It leads us to place of surrender and growth while honoring our journey.
What Is Resilience?
It is that capacity to reach down to our core and find hope amongst the difficult times. It is the capacity to navigate those difficult times that stretch us and in time to be transformed and grow from the experience.
To cultivate our resilience means it is an action. It gives us hope to know that we can continue to cultivate – dig, nurture, create further resilience. The picture in the header represents resilience to me. It is a flower in the crack of the pavement. What effort it must take to find roots and nourishment to spring forward and bloom in this condition.
Take a moment to reflect on a difficult time in your life. What strengths inside you got through that difficult time?
What is an example of a resilient person to you? What attributes do you admire about them?
Resilience is a learned ability and we can acquire the skills at any time in our life. Resilient people are beautiful people.
Resilience creates courage, kindness, and wisdom. So, how do we cultivate our resilience? Similar to digging in the dirt and cultivating a garden. We cultivate by focusing in on that aspect, careful attention, devoting time, and thought to the practice. So, cultivating our resilience takes some time, effort, and patience with ourselves in the process.
As we start this series, we are collectively experiencing a challenging time as individuals, families, communities, countries, and our world. This has impacted us all on varying levels with increased anxiety, stress, uncertainties to our health – financial stability, grief, and losses. And, most likely on top of that, you are facing additional challenges in your life.
Take a moment and acknowledge what your specific challenge(s) are that you are experiencing right now. As Mr. Rogers says:
We are going to offer 8 practices in this series, that can help us cultivate our resilience as we navigate those challenging times.
Give yourself permission to feel. Find healthy ways to process your feelings. Start this week to ask yourself how am I feeling? What do I need right now?
This is our first step in this process to honor our feelings without judgment – to notice, name the feeling, accept and then choose a possible action.
This week find a quiet space each day to record your feelings. We will return next week to check-in and share resilient practice two.
Becky is offering her Cultivate your resilience courses via zoom for $25/6 week group. She will cover all the practices in this zoom course. Email her for details on the next course: firstname.lastname@example.org
I was on a Zoom call the other day when I heard this powerful message: “One out of one people has unconscious bias.” While many of us like to believe we have no biases, as uncomfortable as it might be to admit, we all do. Today’s featured Woman On The Move, Tiffany Baylor, very eloquently takes us through how she faced her unconscious biases and emerges victoriously. In addition to her article, here is a supplemental interview that will be uploaded to YouTube with Tiffany and Bold Blind Beauty’s Nasreen Bhutta. ~Steph
I was diagnosed with Glaucoma just before my 30th birthday. I was already operating with only one functioning eye since birth, so as you can imagine, learning that I was going to gradually lose my sight in my second eye was quite unsettling. Although I was accepted into an excellent training program for people with adult-onset sight loss, I emotionally avoided the diagnosis, and literally avoided the Orientation and Mobility instructor who came to pre-assess me for approximately 3 months.
Coincidentally, all of the blindness-related stereotypes that I would later work to dispel were the very stereotypes that triggered my fear and hopelessness. I didn’t want the label, the diagnosis, nor to be seen as one of those “poor, helpless, blind people.” Yet, at the urging of my family, I acquiesced and boarded the little white shuttle that displayed a large, colorful “Braille Institute for the Blind” sign on its side. I took my seat among the other “poor, helpless, blind people,” as the shuttle’s back-up safety beeps advertised the bus’s departure from my neighborhood. My cover was blown. I thought, “Well, now, the whole world knows that I’m broken.”
An Eye-Opening Experience
From the first day that I attended Braille Institute, I met people who dispelled every single stereotype that I had related to living with vision loss. I met people who lived independently, who had hobbies, who wore makeup, who gardened, sewed, cooked, and even played sports! There I was thinking that my diagnosis was the precursor to an ending, when actually it was unlocking a beginning. Creativity was the key needed to unlock that beginning, and I spent the next year training and learning how to use that key.
An Open Mind and Willing Spirit
One day while public speaking at an engagement hosted by the Braille Institute in California, I was asked to participate in the event activities as a show of support for the program. The event was the Braille Institute Youth Olympics. I laced up a pair of borrowed sneakers and took my position on the starting line of the 100-meter dash among an intimidating, powerfully built group of 16 and 17-year-olds. The starter commanded, “Runner’s to your mark . . . get set . . .” As the gun exploded, surprisingly, so did I!” I couldn’t believe that I was actually keeping up with this stampede of strapping teens! Later that afternoon, an official thanked me for coming and said, “You ought to turn your scores in.” I chuckled and thought that he was kidding, or just being polite.
Several weeks later, I received a telephone call from a gentleman who said he was from USABA (pronounced: You-sah’-buh). Assuming he was a telemarketer, I scolded, “I already have a Samsung with High Definition in my family room, and I’m not interested in purchasing a ‘You-sah’-buh!’
The next thing I knew, I was being flown out to South Carolina for training, to compete in an international competition involving 17 countries. I was so awe-inspired by the events. I arrived at my athlete quarters to find an official red, white, and blue uniform with “USA” proudly displayed upon it. I think I shed a tear as I carefully examined the letters with my fingers as if to verify that this was really happening. There were classifications, prelims, heats, staggered starts, and other terminology that seemed like another language. My teammates prayed and encouraged me as I faced a plethora of well-trained opponents. I enjoyed the thrill of competition, the camaraderie of the team, and the opportunity to make life-long friendships with athletes all over the world. The resulting Gold and Bronze Medals were pleasing as well.
After 16 years of competition, 4 International Gold Medals, 2 television appearances, torch-bearing, and being the first blind athlete to compete/and win Gold at the California State Games, residing, and training at 2 Olympic Training Centers, earning an All American National Ranking twice, and earning a Gold Medal at the US Paralympic Track and Field Trials for a slot on the USA 2012 London Paralympic Team, my most prized accomplishment is speaking to people about being bold when creating goals, and noticing that each accomplishment is a gateway to another goal. One must continuously explore which gate the ‘key’ will open next?
The Opened Doors
While competing for the U.S. Track and Field Team, I met people who used guide dogs for mobility. After much research, discussion, and evaluation, I applied for my first Guide dog in 1997. While traveling with the U.S. Team, I realized society’s urgent need for guide dog accessibility education. I became a member of the Guide Dog for the Blind Speakers Bureau in 1999 and began providing guide dog awareness training to community organizations and elementary schools throughout California. I continued promoting guide dog inclusion and acceptance by appearing on KUSI News in San Diego, Wake-up Clackamas County in Oregon, and Facing Florida here in the state of Florida. I presented quarterly lectures for Kaiser University’s Occupational Therapy program, instructing emerging therapists on visual impairments and considerations for service delivery. I have also been a guest lecturer for Florida State University’s course on living with visual loss, and was fortunate to provide in-service training to companies who serve people with disabilities, including a request by Florida’s Secretary of State, Ken Dexter, to provide guide dog accessibility training to his staff.
I believe that the most important gift that I can share with the world is education. I do not mean handing someone a leaflet about blindness and feeling like I’ve done my part. I mean provide people the opportunity to metaphorically walk in my shoes. Stereotypes and biases will not be squashed by someone being able to recite the three most common eye conditions. Instead, opportunities that allow people to experience how seemingly inconsequential aspects of daily living with blindness compels a person to constantly think outside-of-the-box just to participate. This way of educating the public promotes open-minded thinking and brings about true learning. When this type of instruction is combined with a free, non-judgmental forum for attendees to ask questions without the impediment of political correctness, fear of offending, or ridicule, I find that misconceptions evaporate and new foundations are constructed.
This mindset motivated me to create My Pink Cane. My Pink Cane is an Instruction and Advocacy business specializing in training and auxiliary consultation services to businesses, Government Agencies and community groups in the surrounding Capitol region in the areas of Blindness Etiquette, Guide Dog laws, and various accommodations/tools that may be used by people who have blindness or low vision. Rather than simply lecture to the audience, I provide informative, lively, and interactive presentations that include hands-on experiences that are molded to address the specific goals, and possible hard-set misconceptions of the audience.
Clearly, my Glaucoma diagnosis was the key to a new beginning. It has taught me to not ‘dis’ my abilities, but rather to discover, and strengthen my abilities. My blindness has taught me to change my goal setting to be limitless, by keeping creativity and open-mindedness on my virtual tool belt. Most importantly, blindness has motivated me to share my life experiences, and strive to release society from the blindfolds that perpetuate stereotypes, thus allowing society to see with the clarity of creative, open-minded people who are blind.
Tiffany Baylor, TVI, FCCM, MEd Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, TVI Florida Certified Contract Manager, FCCM Masters of Education, MEd
Beyond Sight Magazine Cover – Tiffany’s photo is on the cover, she is dressed professionally in a stylish jacket and her dark hair is pulled back from her smiling face cascading in spiral curls. Her circular silver statement earrings perfectly omplement her jacket. The masthead is teal with “Beyond Sight Magazine” in black text. The dot on the ‘i’ in ‘sight’ is the eye used for our 2020 Year of Vision Campaign (described HERE). There are 3 lines of white text that says “Tiffany Baylor Opening doors with open-mindedness and creativity.” In the bottom right corner is a teal circle with an illustration of Abby rollerblading. She has on a black crop tank top complete with her logo on the front with black shorts, and gray & teal roller blades. And of course, Abby wouldn’t be Abby without her signature explosive hairstyle and “Women On The Move” is in yellow text under the circle.
Hiking Desoto Falls – Tiffany is standing with her guide dog a black lab. In the background is a waterfall surrounded by lush greenery.
Tri-panel gallery -1) Tiffany is standing at a podium cohosting a Dining In The Dark Event with a man. 2) Tiffany is sitting with a child on the floor teaching them braille. 3) Tiffany is at the front of the room leading a public speaking conference as a woman looks on.
USABA Photo – Action photo of Tiffany running rounding the bend on the track, representing Team USA as she competes.
Team USA – Tiffany is among the entire team consisting of 4 rows of people. All are dressed identically in navy and white athletic gear.
7-panel gallery – (clockwise top l to r) 1) Tiffany and her clogging team wearing American flag tops. 2) Tiffany and her guide dog are on the Appalachian trail crossing the Potomac and Shenandoah on a narrow footbridge. 3) Tiffany is all smiles while riding a Cyco Cycle in the parade. She has on a black cowboy hat, red top, boots, and black jeans. Her bedazzled cane is guiding the way. 4) Action shot of Tiffany water skiing in Hot Springs Arkansas. 5) Top of Hill at Harper’s Ferry Tiffany, with her guide dog, is standing with her back to the camera. In the background rooftops and a tree-covered mountain can be seen. 6) Ice Skiing in Vermont Tiffany poses with her skis in hand. She’s wearing a red puffy jacket, black helmet, and bright orange “Blind Skier” vest. 7) Tiffany and her guide dog are at the Appalachian Trail Railroad. Tiffany has a large backpack on her back. Trees and mountains can be seen in the background.
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.
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.
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.