First Impressions

I’m rather late to write today. I wasn’t sure what to write about, if anything, for all of today. Then I came across
Fandango’s provocative question for this week. This definitely inspires me. Fandango asks what impression you think you make when people first meet you?

Well, let me start by saying it depends. The factor that makes the difference is largely whether I’m using my white cane. When I am, that’s obviously the first thing people notice. Then most people will immediately know that I’m blind and their further impressions of me will be as much based on me as on their views and prejudices about the blind.

When I’m not using my white cane, people will usually still immediately notice that I am disabled, but be unable to tell what my disability is. This surprised me for a long time, as I always thought the fact that I’m blind is obvious from the way my eyes look. Apparently not, at least not since my cataract surgery in 2013.

In fact, I didn’t know that it’s not obvious somehow until I attended my second online cerebral palsy meeting. In the first, I had mentioned my additional disabilities immediately, but I had no reason to the second time around. Midway through the meeting, I got to mention it and the people who hadn’t attended the previous time all said they hadn’t known.

Generally speaking, I allow strangers and near-strangers to make their own judgments about me and my disabilities based on the first impression, be it that I’m blind or that there’s something “wrong” but they cannot be sure what. Sometimes I correct them, but less and less so. I mean, I could correct taxi drivers that it’s not obvious that all blind people live in care facilities, but why should I? I don’t think I have an obligation to justify why I need 24-hour care and people who are just blind don’t. I honestly don’t feel it’s my responsibility to set an example of competence that I cannot live up to just so that others won’t stereotype other blind people.

I once was approached by a police officer, because I had been wandering the neighborhood without my white cane. That policeman assumed I was either high on drugs or intellectually disabled, as he asked me whether I’d used or had eloped from the local institution. At the time (when I was around eighteen), I had virtually no understanding of the impressions I made on people and I initially corrected him. My father thought the police officer was stupid for assuming I had used drugs or belonged in the intellectual disability facility. I think my father’s preconceived judgments about me and anyone interacting with me, were farther off than that police officer’s.

Vaccinated!

Today, Fandango’s provocative question (#FPQ) is all about the COVID-19 vaccine. Fandango asks: have you gotten vaccinated for COVID-19 yet? If not, are you planning to? If you have, or are planning to, how do you think your life will change afterwards? If you’re not planning to get vaccinated, why not?

First, yes, I did get the COVID vaccine. I got the Pfizer one and got the first shot in early february and the second just shy of two weeks ago. I never doubted whether to get the vaccine or not. I, after all, have always been pro-vaccine and especially with the coronavirus. I mean, I’m not worried that I’ll get very sick with COVID, but I do worry for those I live with. I also think that, the more people get vaccinated, the more likely we are to return to some semblance of normal. I’m not naive though: I know COVID will likely never fully go away. My hope is though that we can control the worst effects of the pandemic.

As for how I think things will change now, not likely anything will within the near future. Our staff have all gotten the letter to ask them to make a vaccination appointment, but they’re due to get the AstraZeneca one. With that requiring eleven to twelve weeks between the first and second shot, they won’t likely be protected against COVID until sometime in May or June. That is, if the Netherlands starts using the AstraZeneca vaccine again. The government has currently suspended it for now because of “concerns”.

Well, let me be very clear: even if one in 100,000 people do get thrombosis after being vaccinated, and it’s actually the vaccine that’s to blame, I’d still have taken the risk had I been offered this vaccine rather than the Pfizer one.

That’s not to say there are no side effects. I had none from the Pfizer vaccine and even worried I hadn’t gotten the shot right. Many of my staff got some immune reactions like fevers or a sore arm due to the first AstraZeneca shot. Those are short-term though and, to most people I know, are outweighed by the long-term benefits of the vaccine.

Ultimately, I hope that, once my staff are all vaccinated, the day center will reopen. I think that’s the first positive thing that will come out of the vaccination campaign. Other than that, I’m not sure. I rarely attend concerts or other large events, so I won’t need my vaccine report for those.

Speaking of which, I’m not 100% decided on the topic of vaccination reports. In the voting guide for today’s election, I did say that I do think venues should be allowed to ask for a vaccine report before allowing people in. I do feel that, if you’re able to be vaccinated, it’s really a kind of moral obligation that you are, but there are also people who aren’t able to.

What do you think?

Pandemic Positives

Today, Fandango asks in his weekly provocative question wehther the need to quarantine as a result of COVID-19 has made you a better person.

Lockdown here started in the middle of March with restaurants acutely closing their doors, school closures and, a week later, a no-visitors policy in nursing homes and care facilities. I couldn’t see my husband for nearly three months. Then we could see each other, but we had to keep our distance as much as possible.

Life more or less returned to some sembleance of normal at the end of June. Still, people are scared. I, not so much, though I do take COVID-19 seriously. There are still certain restrictions, most of which don’t affect me too much.

The main thing affecting me was not being able to see my husband. This certainly made me appreciate our very special relationship even more than I appreciated it already. I mean, I chose to go into long-term care last year, of course not knowing that this would mean not seeing my husband for a few months. However, I doubt most marriages would survive even that decision, let alone the consequences. I attribute the success of our marriage mostly to my husband’s everlasting love, but I do deserve some credit for it too.

In general, too, the pandemic has made me more appreciative of what I do have. I am physically healthy and so are my loved ones. In April, a man at the home below me died of coronavirus. Though he was in his 70s, this shocked me a little. My father is in his 70s too, so I’m all the more grateful to still have him.

Other than gratitude, I think the pandemic taught me some level of creativity. Before the lockdown, I found it hard to connect to my husband when I didn’t see him. Now we call each other multiple times a week and text multiple times a day. Of course, I could’ve done that before too, but out of need grew the solution.

I also read somewhere that some people are particularly happier now than they were before the pandemic. I have to say so am I. The reasons may not be related to the pandemic at all, as I’ve also finally settled into the care facility and such.

In general though, I think the pandemic has had and continues to have negative effects on the world, of course. However, if it affected me personally at all, it’s positively. By this I don’t mean my economic, social or health status, of course. Though I’m still financially secure and healthy, no-one knows whether this will remain this way given the huge economic costs of the pandemic. I’ve just become a more positive (or should I say less negative?) person.

Weird Dreams

It’s already Thursday here, so I’m technically a day late to join in on Fandango’s Provocative Question. I’ve never joined in on this meme before, but I really liked this week’s question. It is to share the strangest, weirdest dream you can remember.

I already shared about the dream that got me to quit putting sugar in my coffee some months ago. That wasn’t as weird a dream, considering that refined sugar is by some people considered pure poison indeed.

Another weird dream that had an impact on my later life is one I had when I was about seven-years-old. I dreamt that there was a big soccer match between Ajax and Feijenoord, the two main rivaling clubs in the Netherlands and the only ones I’d heard of at the time. I apparently was an Ajax fan and they won. So far, nothing weird, except that I knew nothing about soccer and certainly wasn’t a fan of any club. The weird bit comes now: someone gave me some pills that made me cry, so that everyone would think I was sad and hence supported the “right” club.

As a side note, I lived in Rotterdam at the time, so indeed Feijenoord would’ve been the club to support. I became a wannabe Ajax fan as soon as I learned anything about soccer at all, as my friends at the school for the blind were Ajax fans. This was probably after our move to Apeldoorn though.

Like I said, the dream had an impact on my later life. Indeed, when I went to the school for the blind at age nine, I got a phys ed teacher who looked a lot like the man who’d given me those pills in my dream. I took an instant dislike to him and even though I knew why, I couldn’t help it. He was a pretty strict teacher, so I may’ve disliked him anyway.

What was one of the weirdest dreams you can remember?