Thursday, April 26, 2018

Away with Words?

Thanks to blogs, reality TV, and reality books, suffering in silence is becoming obsolete.  People like me generally prefer going off alone to a wilderness or down into a cave when we don’t feel like putting on a happy face or stuffing it.  I am sure that you would rather not have heard anything I had to say or write during the past year, a fact my family would readily confirm.

When I finally emerged from under my shell, I noticed books where their authors had also reached the point of living with chronic or terminal illnesses that might require that they cope (my least favorite four-letter word when grief reaches the anger stage).  Just as I discarded the word, “accept,” in “The Serenity Prayer” (see previous post, “God Grant Me the Serenity to Adapt to Those Things I cannot Change”), other writers were throwing out entire sentences, verses, and myths.  Two books in this new genre are Half Truths:  God helps Those who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible doesn’t Say and Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved.

So what is there to do when there are no trite platitudes to fall back on?  I have always followed the advice of Norman Cousins who wrote in Anatomy of an Illness that laughter is the best medicine.  A good sense of humor is especially necessary when The Bible does say that a merry heart has a continual feast, but that feast must be gluten, dairy, soy, and pizza free.

The current solution to all of our living challenges is mindfulness, and major medical centers have workshops, seminars, and private lessons to learn techniques for “staying in the moment.”  I am a perpetual problem solver who is always planning or thinking ahead to make sure all ducks are in a row.  Mindfulness and staying in the moment once achieved was then putting me in a dream state where my creative mind wanted to produce great works of art to sacrifice on the road to rejection known as publishing.  I found, however, my own solution to my consistent mindlessness:  Woody Allen.

Yes, I learned boys and girls, there is a reason why I was forced to read Shakespeare in high school and college and a reason why other people read Woody Allen, and at some time in life we just might need them.  Lady Macbeth’s line, “Out!  Out!  Damn spot!” is a great response to the discovery of a polyp or lump by a doctor.  Woody allen’s books such as Mere Anarchy require extreme diligence moment by moment if you don’t want to sit there gasping, “What did he say?” after just about every word.  Finally, a writer who can really make me sit up and pay attention.

Chris Harris is another writer who has a way with words that is so clever that I have no interest in doing away with them.  In his book, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming, he takes trite “words of wisdom” and turns them into light verse for children of all ages.  In “Tis Better,” he debunks the idea that it is better to give than to receive unless it is the first punch.  “Other titles include Nothing is Impossible,” “Sometimes I don’t Want to Share,” “Fight Fire with Fire,” “Live each day like It’s your Last,” “Good Things" (Come to those who wait), and “The Loser’s Cheer.”  My favorite Harris verse, ”Two Roads,” spoofs Robert Frost’s “The Road not Taken” whhich, if followed, can lead us to some pretty shady medical practitioners, supplements,  business opportunities, and 0% interest credit cards.

I grew up with the words, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.”  I now extend that to “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.”  If you are close, a touch or a hug is comforting.  If you are at a distance, a card via snail mail or e-mail, an email with a link to a beautiful song, digital or real flowers, or gift cards with a simple line, “Thinking of you,” is also likely to produce the warm and fuzzy feelings you want to share.  There are times when silence is not golden as we have been told it is.  Silence feels like rejection and abandonment to people who are living with chronic or terminal illnesses.  Sometimes it seems as if technology is doing away with words and reducing communication to graphics and grunts

Before I end this post, I want to share one more bit of verse to what other writers have deemed nonsense:  “God helps those who help themselves.”  With a bit of fancy punctuation, I turned this into “The Narcissus Prayer.”

The Narcissus Prayer

God, help those who help themselves
So they can take care of me.
When it comes to doing good,
I’m my own charity.
©Susan Bourrie 1985.

As I love what is left while living with low vision, I not only do not want to do away with words, I want to add notes and singing.  Thanks to the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, I am returning to my songwriting activities and taking them up a notch with two audio books that are available on BARD, Key to the Keys for the Visually Handicapped and Singing Success Library Series.

Monday, April 9, 2018

God Grant Me the Serenity to Adapt to Those Things I cannot Change

God Grant Me the Serenity to Adapt to the Things I Cannot Change

 I have lived for over 70 years with glaucoma and almost 30 years with cataracts.  For most of my life, I adhered to the Serenity Prayer and even made a needlepoint picture of it that was framed and hanging in my home for decades.  During the past year when my low vision went much lower, I destroyed that picture and rewrote my Serenity Prayer.  It says, "God grant me the serenity to adapt to the things I cannot change, courage to change those things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  I also have a backup for truly impossible situations that says, “God grant me the serenity to walk away from those things I cannot change, courage to keep right on walking, and the wisdom to never look back.”

Acceptance requires no effort on my part.  It is a passive lack of action.  Adapting, on the other hand, requires a lot from me including patience and discipline.  It takes both to get through the day when doctors say, "There is surgery for you now, but you have to get the rest of your body healthy first."  What made my body sick?  Mostly impatience, biting off more than I could chew, and choking on acceptance.

I am adapting to the reality that a 70 year old woman with a disability faces three categories of discrimination.  I am adapting to the reality that screen-readers used by the blind and visually impaired have never and will never be compatible with computers used for job searches and social media until software engineers and companies make that a priority.  I am adapting to living on Social Security in subsidized housing while spending many hours learning, Braille and how to be self-employed with the help of courses I am taking from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Adapting is not so bad when you are doing what you love.  I am writing again and self-published my children's book, The Misadventures of Mistletoe Mouse, by using Amazon Create Space.  I put the cart before the horse and now must learn about marketing and how to manage a writing business.  I also have to adapt to a new marketplace where books published by Amazon Create Space are not being sold in most independent bookstores or acknowledged for most Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators marketing activities as legitimately published.  I am adapting to this latest obstacle by returning to writing articles, poetry, and song lyrics rather than books until I am able to work with a literary agent.

While a 70 year old woman who is visually impaired faces obstacles when seeking employment, the opportunities for doing volunteer work is always an option where discrimination rarely exists.  Recently I have been appointed to advisory groups at both the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired ( and the Xavier Society for the Blind (

No one ever said loving what is left while living with low vision would be easy, but with patience, discipline, and background music from an Amazon Echo, it can be a lot of fun and very exciting.  My favorite song these days is “Ukulele Anthem” by Amanda Palmer, author of The Art of Asking:  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help