Losing much of my sight was not like me at all

332px-Ulysses_first_edition

Losing most of my sight was not like me at all. Sure, I lost the ability to see in one eye when I was twelve, but I always considered that to be just an accident. I grew up to be an independent woman. I had my own company and I was always full of ideas, unconventional, and optimistic. Then I turned fifty and I noticed that I could not read my three newspapers a day anymore, that I had not read my usual number of fifty novels last year, that I gave up driving a car some time ago, and that I even gave up riding my bike later on. However, I perceived these things as being choices I had made. I was too busy, I could easily walk, and trains are more convenient than cars. I would not let circumstances guide me through life, would I?

Somewhere deep down I knew it wasn’t me who had made those choices and that frightened me. Losing my independence seemed to me like a nightmare. It seemed that with my independence, my personality would vanish as well. I had always been of the opinion that a person is characterised by the things that she does. Not being able to do the things that I want to do, the way I want to do them, would blunt my strong and independent personality. I did not even want to think about being described as ‘weak’ or ‘dependent.’  My family’s love for me was not enough to get me through this. I imagine that they too felt things changing. Would they lose their optimistic partner? Would they lose their strong and independent mother? Of course they were also worried about our futures. However, I think I worked it out. Perhaps, in the end it is not what you do, but who you are that is important. I can be independent in my ideas. I can suggest strong new insights or unconventional paths. I can show the other side of the coin. I can be a story teller.

When I turned thirty I received the annotated version of  James Joyce’s Ulysses for my birthday. It had been on my wish list for a long time, because I thought Ulysses was a book that someone like me should read. In those days I tried to keep up with both Dutch and English literature. The book came with us on a holiday to Spain, where it was stolen from our car near the cathedral in Seville. I never bought another copy during the next twenty years.

Recently I listened to Ulysses on my audio-book listening device, which is smaller than my iPhone. I was right to have wanted to read it twenty years ago. It is the most beautiful book I have ever read. All the same, don’t tell me that there are always beautiful things in store, even if you are in some way impaired. Not just yet. Maybe in a few years.

A blog by Véronique Nas