By: Lonnie Bedwell
I’ve been told, “What you see affects how you feel … and how you feel affects what you see.” I believe, just like changing the lens on a camera, if we refocus our mind, we can see things from another perspective and expand our sense of vision. The vision that allows us to see outside the box we may be stuck in or feel defined by. The vision that allows us to achieve the perceived impossible. This vision is even more important than sight. It’s the vision that gives us the reason to hope and believe, and it instills in us the drive to move forward. This is the vision that turns dreams into reality.
In May of 1997 I lost my eyesight when I was accidentally shot by a buddy of mine while turkey hunting. There were moments during my recovery when I started to question my relevance, value, and purpose. But fortunately, I was blessed with 3 beautiful daughters whose young minds and innocent spirits helped shift how I felt about my abilities and place in the world. They allowed me to see light in the darkness and to know I was still “Daddy”. I could still do everything I used to, just a little differently or with a little help.
Through this experience I learned how much foolish pride, fear, and pity can hold us back. It is within our power to control these destructive emotions. F-E-A-R = False Evidence About Reality. P-I-T-Y = Poor Information To Yourself. With humility, patience, and refocusing our lens, we can let go of those emotions and swallow some of that foolish pride by accepting that we don’t have to go at things alone. More important than what others think of us and our abilities, is what we believe ourselves to be capable of. Once this is recognized, we can face the fear of the unknown and work towards our dreams and goals.
Daring to dream
One of my dreams was to know what it was like to stand on top of Devil’s Tower, a freestanding 867’ rock formation in Wyoming. Even though I had no multi-pitch climbing experience at the time, I reached out to a rock climber friend of mine for help. He instilled in me the power of trust. You are literally putting your life in someone else’s hands when climbing and he gifted me with that honor. The two of us slowly worked our way up each pitch with him teaching me techniques as we went higher. As we stood on the summit, I was in awe of the incredible human connection of mutual trust. This man believed in me and showed me great leadership through problem-solving as a team; he made my 30 year dream a reality. The energy you receive when someone believes in you causes a powerful shift in our “camera lens” perspective. Imagine the positive influence it would have on the world if we could offer this gift of kindness and support to others more freely in our lives.
How the Outdoor Industry Changed Me
Since my accident, I’ve been introduced to several adaptive sports beyond rock climbing including snow skiing, mountaineering, and kayaking to name a few. One of the many inspiring individuals I am grateful to have met on my journey is a wounded veteran who lost both legs above the knee and most of his fingers from an IED (improvised explosive device) blast while in service. Even through all the challenges he has faced, this man has followed his dreams and become a very talented whitewater kayaker. It was a privilege to have him serve as was one of two guides who led me kayaking down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this year. He showed me we can achieve the perceived impossible if we simply don’t quit. He defines his own limits, resets expectations, and works hard (and creatively!) to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to. He proves the unlimited potential in every individual, and that nothing is beyond us when we believe in ourselves and unite towards a common goal.
Rivers remind me so much of life itself. The river’s path is rarely straight, it’s not always calm, and there are forks where you have to choose which path to follow. As you go down the river, you can’t always see around the next bend to know what might be coming. You might be in a calm flatwater area, then all of a sudden, chaos – the river is fast and turbulent with obstacles coming at you. You’ve just been hit by life’s adversity. It might be a bad day at work, an accident or illness, or the loss of a loved one. One thing we know, adversity will find us as sure as a river rises and falls. The question is: now what do you do?
Like paddling a big rapid, you have to break it down. First you acknowledge and accept the difficulty ahead. Even though this can feel overwhelming, once you’ve accepted it, you can face it. Now you can make plans to move forward and commit to taking that first stroke or step. You trust and believe in yourself. You humble yourself and ask for help when needed. Sitting still and telling yourself you’re not good enough, or worrying what others might think, or dwelling on what you’ve lost or lack… none of this propels you forward. Once you start, you will learn a rhythm and flow for the next time a rapid hits. You build confidence and learn route options which can prepare you for future hardships. Focusing your lens on the gifts you do have will change how you feel about - and ultimately how you see - your future.
Expand your Vision
I know blindness is a part of me, but it doesn’t define me. All of us have challenges we face, some that become a permanent part of us. But they don’t determine our relevance, value, or purpose; we can adapt and continue forward. If those foolish pride, fear, and pity thoughts start to creep in and your vision starts to get a little cloudy or dark, I encourage you to take some time to refocus your perspective. Trust you are capable and you will be able to visualize your routes forward towards your goals. Expand your mind, expand your vision, and never quit on your dreams.
Lonnie Bedwell was a speaker at the 2017 America Outdoor Conference in Reno, NV. For more information about our 2018 Conference in Daytona Beach, visit our Conference page !