Editor’s Note: During Vision Rehabilitation Awareness week, we continue to bring you stories about the importance of the array of vision rehabilitation services that are available to help people new to vision loss.
Isaac Lidsky’s Story
Isaac Lidsky left to get an espresso a few blocks away from his house in residential Washington, DC. He wanted to practice his newly established independence as a blind individual, so with his cane and mobility skills, he went alone and made it to the cafe just fine. On his way home, however, he made one wrong turn in a complicated intersection and could immediately sense that he was lost.
“I was on a quiet empty street, and I realized I had left my phone at home and in an instant, I was just overwhelmed with all of these awful thoughts and fears and anxieties… man, I was a fool to think I would ever be independent again, I’m never going to get home and just all the awful things we tell ourselves,” Lidsky shared about an experience that caused him crippling fear.
In that moment, Lidsky was not thinking through an “Eyes Wide Open” perspective. He was letting his fears get the best of him. Sitting down and taking a few deep breaths, he let the panic run it’s course and then tuned it out. This let him recognize that his fear was something his mind constructed on it’s own; it wasn’t real. In that new mindset, he was able to retrace his steps and direction with clarity and make his way back to that tricky intersection. Once he knocked down all of those self-built barriers of fear, he was able to move forward, and he found his home. “Wow, I’ll tell you, I felt like Indiana Jones. Next stop, Everest.”
This is just one example of finding strength to overcome paralyzing, self-created fears that Isaac Lidsky shares in his recently released New York Times Bestseller, Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly.
Philosophy for Living with Vision Loss
Lidsky’s first moment of clarity, that which inspired his life philosophy, came after many years of living with the pending doom of his degenerative disease, retinitis pigmentosa. He was diagnosed at 12 years old and watched his sight disappear before him gradually. His mind watched his worst nightmare unfold, and he knew how this story ended: the day would come when his world would be dark and that would be it.
“Blindness meant I wasn’t going to be independent; I would cease to achieve. I figured that no woman would truly love or respect me because I wasn’t going to love or respect myself, and I was going to refuse to take love in the form of charity,” Lidsky shared. “I figured I’d be alone and wouldn’t have kids and on and on and on. This was a baseless reality, it was just lies, but it felt like truth, and I didn’t even think about it.”
There’s Life After Vision Loss
When he showed up to a meeting with his Low Vision Rehabilitation Specialist in Boston, however, expecting to talk doom and gloom about that proverbial death sentence on his horizon, he found a welcoming, enthusiastic individual. She started discussing independent mobility training, learning screen reading software for work and school, and how sighted guide would play out in situations of need. She was preparing Isaac Lidsky to be ready to confront his day, and his tomorrow, one step at a time in small, measurable doses. By considering the present moment, she was preparing him for a much different picture of the future than he had created in his own mind.
“And then it hit me—there is no tomorrow, there is no tragic fate, there’s literally just right now and this moment. And I realized at that moment that everything I thought I knew about going blind and being blind was just pure fiction. I was choosing to believe that fiction, and it doesn’t always feel like a choice, but it’s a choice. So in that office that day, I decided to make a different choice.”
Just like we choose to be fearful and assume something is going to be detrimental, we can train our minds to view the world differently, view ourselves differently, view the way others perceive us differently, and that’s what living with “eyes wide open” is all about. It’s an approach that forces us to negate the power of past experiences or predetermined frameworks in society which define love, success, failure, the impossible, and create new ones, in that moment, with our eyes wide open to the possibility. That’s how we can become a world that “sees” better.
“We don’t realize that we are constraining ourselves by the imagination of our own minds—the way we misperceive notions of strength and weakness, confidence and vulnerability, the sort of self-limiting assumptions we make about ourselves and others; the way we misconstrue the force of luck in our lives. We really are in power to be the masters of our own realities.”
Eyes Wide Open
While Lidsky’s story grows out of his experience with his own blindness, his message applies to all men and women, young and old. We each have that thing that keeps us from seeing our potential clearly. Maybe it’s ego; maybe it’s fear; maybe it’s a physical disability, a mental disability, jealousy, insecurity, self-judgement, anything. In his book, he shows us how living with eyes wide open to your own reality will set you free from those handicaps. It’s a learned discipline and a continuous, evolving lifestyle choice.
“For me, living eyes wide open is an ongoing effort, it takes work, it takes practice, it takes discipline, and frankly, some days I’m better at it than others. I’m human. I still have fears; I still have anxieties. But eyes wide open for me is a commitment to awareness and accountability in life.”
When moments of fear or doubt start to creep in, like the time in DC when he took a wrong turn, Lidsky goes to the two questions he knows he can rely on to get himself to safety and clear thinking: he asks, what is the immediate problem here, in it’s most simplified, consolidated form? Second, he asks, what can he, himself, as a human being (not a superhero) do in that immediate moment to solve the problem. This approach limits the brain from creating alternate realities and forces it to focus on the control we have of our immediate situation. This is just one example that he shares in his book about how to learn and practice the discipline, so it may become a lifestyle.
Eyes Wide Open shares the many ways this philosophy applies to aspects in our own lives with an open mind and most importantly, a sense of humor.
As Lidsky says, “If you are not able to laugh at yourself early and often, you are not living eyes wide open. Life is funny; even our challenges, our struggles, our worst moments, there’s humor in everything. For me, humor is pure oxygen; it’s joy, it’s awesome. So I have always tried to find humor in everything.”
Learn More About Isaac
Currently, Isaac Lidsky lives in Windermere, Florida with his wife, Dorothy, and four children; the triplets—Phineas, Thaddeus, Lily Louise—and youngest daughter, Clementine. The book was written with these treasured individuals running around the house inspiring him and holding him accountable to apply his philosophy to everyday life.
You can visit his website to order the new release or buy it on Amazon, IndieBound, or Books-A-Million. It’s available on Audible, e-Book, and paperback. To listen to Isaac tell his story with his own voice, watch his TedTalk.
Resources for Adjusting to Visual Impairment
Reading to Enhance Mental Health and Well-Being