“If I can climb that mountain what else can I do in my life?” ~Becky Andrews
Daring To Own Your Story is a challenging annual women’s retreat created by my friend Becky Andrews. Recently Becky shared her passion to take more blind women on this empowering adventure in her Holman Prize video submission. Take a listen to her 90-second video as she talks about her annual retreat.
Every year, the Holman Prizeawards three blind or legally blind individuals from around the world up to $25000 to carry out a dream project.¹
Becky, seated and talking directly to the camera opens the video. She has dark shoulder length hair with bangs and is wearing a chambray shirt with a navy and yellow fruit print pull-over sweater. Interspersed throughout the video are images of Becky and her guide dog Georgie. Some of the other photos include women on an obstacle course, rock climbing, and hiking.
Daring To Own Your Story Featured Image Description:
This outdoor photo is a group shot of attendees at the 2017 Daring To Own Your Story Retreat. Eight women, (some with white canes) are standing, two are kneeling. Also included in the shot are two guide dogs.
“A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless we fail to make the turn” ~Helen Keller
A Resilient Spirit
As I began to lose my eyesight from Retinitis Pigmentosa, the Helen Keller quote became a mantra. Blindness was not going to stop me from being active and engaged in life. At first, I didn’t know how but knew a resilient spirit and so many encouraging family and friends would help me stay active and engaged in life.
It isn’t always easy yet being willing to be open to those new, at times challenging turns in the road was so important in my resilient journey. I recall early on in my vision loss, my vocational rehabilitation counselor, Marianne, left me a sweet message saying “now Becky I’m paraphrasing from the quote … remember when one door closes another door opens but we can’t longingly look back at the closed doors. You can do this.”
There was time for feelings of loss and then a time to look up and move forward. I reflect on the decisions to begin mobility training, choosing the guide dog lifestyle, tandem cycling, running with a guide and tether and so many other turns in the road that expanded my world in new ways.
Resilience In Practice
After completing my master’s degree in counseling and gaining experience in several agencies, I began to dream about having my own private practice. I knew it needed the word Resilient in it. As Steve, my incredible husband of 32 years, and I brainstormed, the name Resilient Solutions resonated as a name for an individual, marriage, and family therapy practice. Today, eleven years later our practice has grown to 15 therapists. Truly it warms my heart when someone says, this feels like such a safe place to heal.
It is a privilege to work with clients to create their own resilient plan as they face life challenges and navigate the turns in their road. As we begin this journey, it may seem like coping is the best we can do. Soon we transition to thriving in the journey. As a woman in Chicago shared when I was presenting on Coping with Vision Loss, “I don’t want to just cope I want to thrive!” Indeed! The remainder of my presentation transitioned to thriving. We can thrive in the journey.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, somehumor andsome style.” ~Maya Angelou
We do have the ability to bounce back and thrive under adverse or challenging circumstances. We can rebound from life’s difficulties and challenges in a healthy, transformative way. For me, vision loss has become an incredible teacher and helped me transform, thrive and give back in so many ways.
After completing the Brene Brown Daring Way Traininga couple of years ago I knew I wanted to bring a group of women who were also experiencing blindness to come together. Last year 20 women, all blind or experiencing a degenerative eye condition, came together for two retreats. They came to Utah from various parts of the country. My heart is full of gratitude for these remarkable women and the opportunity to share in this journey together of Daring to Own Your Story. This summer we will expand this program with two more retreats. Details are at www.oasiscenterforhope.com/retreats.
As a business owner, licensed clinical mental health counselor, motivational speaker wife, mother, avid marathon runner, cyclist, hiker, traveler, friend, and now author: Look up, move forward; who happens to be blind, my life is full of abundance. I am grateful for my vocational rehabilitation counselor many years ago and so many others who encouraged me to find new doors and gain the adaptive tools to do what I wanted to do.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Brené Brown, from The Gifts of Imperfection
I shared the following after reaching my goal to run the Boston Marathon:
Throughout my life, there have been many challenges much bigger than the work of qualifying for or running the Boston Marathon. However, running has become an incredible teacher and a great analogy for other aspects in my life. When I dream big when I am persistent and don’t give up, when I tackle challenges with grit, accept help and lend a hand to others with gratitude for all that is around me, I create a life that’s rich, peaceful and full of joy. It’s exactly the sort of life I’ve always wanted. Page, 207 Look up, move forward.
Photo of Becky and her guide dog Georgie. Becky is seated in a chair and Georgie is sitting on the floor next to her.
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 every day, as they run in their Bountiful neighborhood. Friday, July 23, 2015.
Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Becky Andrews with her third guide dog, named Georgie, in downtown Salt Lake City, Wednesday, August 12, 2015.
LCMHC, FT, Positive Psychology Life Coach, EMDR Therapy Provider at Resilient Solutions, Inc.
Author of Look up, move forward
Director of the Oasis Center for Hope, a nonprofit with the mission to support, educate and empower individuals, families, and communities experiencing a loss.
A few months ago I published a guide dog post featuring Georgie. Today I am pleased to introduce you to Georgie’s handler, Becky Andrews, a phenomenal woman with an important message for everyday and especially useful during the holiday season.
I am grateful to be a part of the Bold, Blind, Beautiful Community. Join us in a conversation of Self-Compassion.
What? In a time of giving – do we really have time to show self-compassion?
Yes! When we come from a space of authenticity and kindness to ourselves we are able to more wholeheartedly extend that love, kindness and compassion to others.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self–compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others. Christopher Germer.
It is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.
Kristin Neff has defined self–compassion as being composed of three main components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Self-compassion is a personality trait, like optimism or extroversion, but it’s also a trainable mental skill with big benefits. According to numerous psychological studies, research subjects who entertained self-compassion thoughts experienced greater emotional resiliency and psychological well-being. They were measurably happier, wiser, more capable, and curious. They felt greater life satisfaction and social connectedness, and they took more personal initiative and responsibility. On the flip side, they were generally less depressed and anxious. They ruminated less, thought fewer self-critical thoughts, and were less afraid of failure. Jean Fai, LICSW, The Self-Compassion Diet
Let me give you a personal example of a planned self-compassion experience: the annual visit to the ophthalmologist retinal specialist. Often this appointment can take several hours with various testing. This is an example of how I may practice the three components of self-compassion on the day of my retina appointment.
Self-Kindness – I am kind to myself and make the daily schedule as simple as possible. Generally I take the day off work so that I am not concerned about the time or feel in a rush.
Common Humanity – As I enter the waiting area I sense common humanity as I know there are many in the waiting area experiencing a challenging appointment. As we feel this common humanity – I am not alone – it helps us to feel compassion and connection not only to ourselves but to those around us.
Mindfulness – A mindful activity for me on this day may be simply taking a few moments outside of the beautiful Moran Eye Center to breathe and be fully present, sharing lunch with someone whom I feel a strong connection, or simply coming home and being aware of how I am feeling in the moment.
I invite clients to begin to write letters of self-compassion to themselves. They may say – you want me to do what? I want you to take a few moments and write a letter to yourself. Look at yourself and your struggles from a place of empathy and self-compassion and see what comes. I am amazed at the wisdom, love, and encouraging words that come from our heart to ourselves when we stop to listen and love.
One day I invited a teen client to do this exercise. She was dealing with a lot of anxiety and was beating herself up for missing some days of school during this time. I invited her to write a letter of self-compassion.
As I returned to the room, she had written a letter quite harsh to herself. Some of the phrases that stood out were: “I can’t believe you’ve missed so much school” “you are going to get way behind” “quit being so lazy” “you need to try harder.”
I gently explained the concept of self-compassion again. I invited her to try again. This time, she understood and wrote an encouraging letter to herself – acknowledging her pain, her efforts to get to school, others also experienced anxiety and she could do it.
I asked her which letter was going to help her be motivated to get to school tomorrow with a lot of enthusiasm she said,the self-compassion letter. We tore the negative, beat self up letter. She kept the compassionate letter to encourage her to keep trying and moving forward with self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Write a letter of self-compassion to yourself. Find a nice quiet place where you can be uninterrupted as you take a few moments to reflect on what you are experiencing. Then, take out the pen and start … Dear ________. As I have done this with clients I am inspired by the human spirit and what is in our heart. On a deep level we want to cheer ourselves on and believe in ourselves. We also have kindness and compassion for ourselves.
Nurture a talent or skill. When we take time for ourselves to invest in something we want to learn, our self-worth increases. We also light our divine spark and gain energy. This not only helps us in our journey but those around us.
Savor moments. Take time to really cherish the moment.
Find healthy and positive ways to assert yourself each day.
Help someone else. As we authentically give we bless lives and feel better about ourselves in the process.
Change your critical self-talk. Take some time to notice what you are saying to yourself. Make an active effort to soften the self-critical voice with compassion not self-judgment. When we are critical to ourselves we are causing ourselves unnecessary pain. Reframe the observations made by your inner critic in a kind, friendly positive way.
Visual and then create a Nurturing Basket. What would you put in your basket of nurturing activities for yourself?
Two of my favorite books on this topic are:
Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, Christopher Germer, Ph.D.
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of being kind to yourself, Kristen Neff, Ph.D.
Becky Andrews, is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Author, and Motivational Speaker. She recently qualified for the second time to run the Boston Marathon. When she is not working or running, you’ll often find her on the back of the tandem bike with her husband, Steve. Becky is blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa and is with her third guide dog, Georgina. You can reach Becky at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.resilientsolutionsinc.com/look-up-move-forward and Facebook Becky Andrews.
So today I planned to publish the following post this morning but my youngest son came in for a surprise visit from out-of-state. He’s been gone for a couple of months doing commercial roofing in Texas and Arizona so I was thrilled to see him.
We scooped up my grandson, went to lunch and then hung out for a bit—not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon. But I’m back home now, got my head in the game and want to share some wise words from, Georgie, today’s feature guide dog.
I am such a happy dog. I love living a balanced life of both work and play. When the harness comes out, I come running; excited to serve and help Becky. This work of serving and helping gives my life such meaning and purpose. When I am home and other times, the harness is off and I love to hike, run and play. Georgie (Guide to Becky Andrews)
Image: Photos & text are arranged in a 6 panel collage. Quoted text is white in 3 teal squares. Photos 1) top left – Georgie laying on her back with a toy in her mouth; 2) top right – Georgie sitting playing tug of war with toy rings; 3) bottom center – Georgie in her harness sitting next to her handler, Becky.