What the holidays mean to me

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The holiday season is upon us whether you’re getting ready for Christmas, celebrating Hanukkah, no matter your religion or beliefs people all over the world are getting ready for a period of spending time with family and loved ones. The stores will be extra busy and to those of us living with a visual impairment it can be a daunting time. Buying gifts for our loved ones can mean making a choice of ordering online or braving the busy stores. Ordering online is fine for most things but sometimes you need to physically touch feel or see and item to know if it’s right. When I was first diagnosed I’d be inside a shop buying my wife’s Christmas gift whilst she was stood outside waiting for me. I didn’t feel confident to travel in to the city on my own in the early days. Now I will take my cane or my guide dog and just go. I still feel anxious going and I’m definitely ready for a large drink when I’m done but I’ve learned to not let it stop me.

Once the presents are wrapped and you’re done it’s hopefully time to enjoy some quality family time but I’m well aware that not everyone has people they love around them during the holidays. It can be a time where people can experience loneliness. I know this first hand. Years ago, long before I was diagnosed with sight loss when I was in my early twenties I worked in entertainment. I was a singer and used to work seasonal which meant working from March through to November then had the opportunity of working Christmas and new year. My job was to entertain guests who were on vacation by putting on shows, think Dirty dancing and you’re not far off. We’d work every day and night over the holidays making everyone happy and on Christmas Day when the rest of my colleagues were gathered opening their presents from their families I’d make excuses to be somewhere else. You see I didn’t really have a family set up like that. I wasn’t close to them and certainly didn’t get presents to open on Christmas. So when it seemed like the rest of the world were surrounded by loved ones and partying I felt alone. I’d do my best to get through the day sometimes I’d try and pretend that it was just another day because to me it was.

Life has changed so much since back then but it’s taught me two things. First that no matter how dark life can feel you don’t know how much things can change over time anything’s possible and two it’s made sure that even though things are going good for me I have a wife and children, people who rely on me for love and support, I’ll always spare a thought for those that don’t.

So if you are feeling lonely over the holidays and worried about how you’ll cope please know that you are never alone. There is always someone around you can reach out to. A local organisation, one of our amazing lighthouses or you can even reach out to me via social media. I always tell people I don’t just write the words I mean every single one. Wherever you are over the holidays I hope you have a wonderful time. I’ll leave you with this poem I wrote during those early days of my diagnosis. Sometimes it’s good to look back and see how much things have changed.

I’m sure lots of you will relate.

Winter time is here once more,

the darker days begin

Just one more reason I now have,

to let my bad eyes win.

The streets are so much busier,

for Christmas we prepare.

I want to buy my wife her gifts,

but she must take me there.

I never thought of busy crowds,

that I’d be so afraid.

Just one more thing that holds me back,

since vision starts to fade.

I wish that I could weave through town,

I wish that I felt safe.

Reminds me of blind future,

that I fight each day to face.

My friends go out to parties,

as they dance in to the night.

It seems these days all I can do,

is sit down in low light.

Bumping in to strangers,

knocking over countless drinks.

Get tired of the embarrassment,

as fragile heart now sinks.

But I won’t let this spoil things,

once cards and gifts are wrapped.

Be the life and soul of party,

to sightless times adapt.

Won’t find me in the places,

where my broken eyes can’t see.

For I’ll be home still having fun,

with friends and family.