I haven't driven a car in four years.
It was the summer of 2009 I first was made aware of my vision condition and learned how little I could see. It would be impossible to sum up in a few sentences the roller coaster that has been my life ever since I was told I have retinitis pigmentosa (RP); those moments of deep-rooted anguish that only one who has experienced true grief could understand. Today I regain approximately 25 degrees of vision. Practically speaking, my peripheral vision is all but gone. Picture a dog with a very narrow cone on its head. The healing journey that has unfolded these past four years has brought deeper trenches of depression than I ever knew a human could experience, conjoined with resolute reliance on God... the One who saves, the One who loves, the One who heals. While I am not (yet) legally blind and forced to forego my driver's license, I still decided to give up driving years ago. As I said in my book Believing is Seeing:
Driving was out of the question as soon as we realized how little vision I had left. I gave it up completely. While this decision yielded a major loss of independence, it was an obvious one to make. I did not want to put other people’s lives in danger, no matter how inconvenienced I felt.
Without a doubt, the loss of independence and freedom and just simply feeling normal that came about through not driving has been more difficult to deal with than the implications stemming from the disease itself. Yes I'm going blind but I trust God, both for healing and a cure in my lifetime. In the meantime I will allow Him to sculpt my heart for Him and learn how to trust Him with everything - seriously, this disease has challenged my faith more than anything ever has. All that to say, being a visually impaired artist is difficult to be sure, but doesn't compare to foregoing my car keys at the age of 22. My 97-year-old great grandmother still drives herself to the grocery store while I'm learning bus routes and putting taxi driver's numbers in my cell phone.
I hope this doesn't come across as self-pitying. It is an unfortunate and very real part of my story, one that has given me a much broader perspective on the world and our need for Jesus. It truly took me a few years to let go of the hurt and bitterness and pain I felt. I wrote all these inspirational blog posts about how I was getting by and learning to have hope, but for the most part it was all pretty fake. A big part in my healing journey has been my move to Seattle last summer. I felt stagnant in California, tired of living in suburbia where not having a car just simply isn't an option. I wanted to be in a culturally relevant place, with radical Christians living for Jesus, and most importantly, I wanted a good public transportation system.
Seattle isn't New York City or Boston or Europe, I've learned. For some reason the west coast just doesn't have public transportation dialed. Seattle's bus lines exist but they're not amazing. Note: if you live in a large city like Seattle and rely on the bus, get the HopStop app if you don't have it already. Best public transport app I've ever found. Anyway, what I've really needed all this time is a bicycle.
Over the weekend Nick and I picked out a bike for me: a vintage 1980's Schwinn Sprint road bike. I am in love. The drop handlebars and thin tires are taking some time to get used to, as I previously owned a mountain bike that was too heavy to use as a commuter. My legs are dotted with scrapes and bruises, but get this you guys: I am able, for the first time in years, to get myself around my city at my own pace and timing, not having to rely on a bus schedule or a friend. It is a simple thing, but aren't the simplest things what we take for granted most? Going on an 18 mile bike ride around Seattle with my husband the other day fed an incredibly deep part of my soul that hasn't been nourished in far too long. Not only was I able to circumnavigate and get to know this city in a totally different way, but my heart felt free again. Sure, riding a bike doesn't offer the same scope of freedom and transportation that a car provides, but I never enjoyed or appreciated driving to this degree.
Struggling with RP has taught me many things, but perhaps one of the biggest lessons I've learned is to take nothing for granted. I challenge you today: find joy in the simple things.