alt=an older woman does a warrior pose in front of a tv showing a gymnast doing a similar move on a balance beam.

Accepting the Limits of Macular Degeneration

“When you are ready, the teacher will come.” I first heard that almost 50 years ago from a former college professor. It has sneaked into my consciousness at irregular intervals ever since.

A reminder

This morning it poured into my inbox. “Know your limits,” the universe seemed to say. First Simone Biles to drop out of an Olympic gymnastics event because she was not mentally ready; the dreaded “twisties” had made it impossible to do things she could have done a month ago.

Add to that the defeat of Naomi Osaka, the world’s second-ranked woman tennis player in the country she represents. Finally, an email newsletter with an article on “Knowing Your Limits.”

I would like to think that my age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has not affected how I live my life; that it has not restricted my choices or reduced my limits. I have always prided myself on being a strong, independent person and I am. My only limits were self-imposed, or so I believed.

The limits of AMD

The reality is that AMD does set new limits on those of us with the diagnosis. It is a chronic condition. Until medical science comes up with a miracle cure we will have it until we die.

From the need for new vitamins and a more serious focus on diet and exercise to regular injections and restrictions on our driving, our lives are limited in small and large ways.

I’m working on being grateful that I can figure out how to deal with these limitations. Too many beloved friends and family my age are not here to share complaints about aches and pains. Others are facing shortened lifespans because of cardiovascular disease.

What we can and can't do

The people competing in the Olympic games are a screaming demonstration of limits.

“How do they do that?” my husband bellows as one male gymnast after another does things that he can’t do on dry land. And never could.

“Sweetie, they’ve been practicing this for years,” I calmly reply. “They’ve trained their bodies to do things that are beyond the limits of 99 percent of us. But I bet that you can do things some of them can’t.”

We all have our limits. I know that I’ll never do some things. Or perhaps, I think I’ll never do some things. Or, maybe I just don’t want to do them badly enough.

Prioritizing what we can do

I really don’t care about rock climbing. I do care about my balance, my strength, and my heart health. While I’ll never do gymnastics I’ll keep working at some yoga poses, take regular walks, and do tai chi. Reading is important, so I’m working with an occupational therapist to use my peripheral vision to compensate for the loss of acuity.

Getting enough sleep, eating all those healthful foods, doing meditation regularly, and keeping up with friends means that my limits won’t shrink just because my vision does.

I’ll never stick a landing off the balance beam, but I sure can work on keeping a healthy balance in my life.

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