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”? 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 guide dog, 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.
In the process of learning to be independent once again, I learned surprising lessons on inter-dependence. 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”. 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.