Independence Versus Interdependence

Independence May Be Overrated

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series of posts on independence. We are launching this post the week of July 4, a date which has special significance to people in the U.S. who are celebrating Independence Day.

I used to be a fiercely independent type. When I received my diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa and the possibility of blindness registered, I panicked. What would life be like if I could not do “my own thing” on “my own schedule” in “my own way”?

Lessons on Independence

Little did I know at the time. Gradually, as my vision receded, so did my confidence, my out-going spirit, my freedom and my independence. There is so much to learn in order to be “independent” as a visually impaired person: how to use technology, how to use a white cane, how to use public transportation, how to cook safely, how to use a dog guide, how to ask for help…it takes courage and motivation and gumption to restore a level of independence in the face of vision loss. But there is more to the equation.

Learning About Interdependence

In the process of learning to be independent once again, I learned surprising lessons on interdependence. Once I bemoaned to my husband that I was losing “my independence” and he would be stuck taking care of me. He remarked that there was not much place for independence in marriage anyway and that the best arrangement was “interdependence.”

Audrey and husband at Ft. Funston Beach

“Interdependence” is defined as mutual dependence between people or entities. By nature, it involves collaboration, reciprocity and mutual benefit. All living organisms are interdependent. World economies are interdependent. Communities are interdependent. That is to say, we are all connected to each other and we need each other to reach our goals in life. We are undeniably linked to our families, communities, and the world at large. We need certain things from others and they need certain things from us. We really do need each other and once we learn this, life can be richer and fuller.

Independence is nice, but it can be lonely and burdensome. Interdependence defines our place in the world and gives us purpose and meaning. It anchors us and connects us to others. None of us are completely independent.

Economy of Mutual Benefit

So while learning to maintain a level of independence once again, I also learned how to ask for help and find ways to offer help to others in this dance we call life. This economy of “mutual benefit” has been a wonderful experience. So often I find that people really want to assist me and there is a blessing in it for them. And just as often, it is a blessing to me to find a way to reciprocate. Asking for help can be difficult and humbling, but it connects you to others in unique ways which can enrich your life. Even sighted people need a helping hand once in a while.

Originally posted on January 30, 2014 by Audrey Demmitt on her Seeing Possibilities blog.

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