Living "independently" is very important to me--it's part of what maintains my emotional health. Lately as my migraines and the associated complex partial seizure-like symptoms have increased in frequency and severity, I have had to think a lot about whether I will be able to maintain the degree of independence that I have had all this time. But blindness is something I don't think about much because I've lived with it all my life and am used to the adaptations I need to make. I'm having to think about it now.
Hurricane Ivan is fluctuating between category 4 and 5, and forecasts seem to lean toward it heading for the same areas already ravaged by Charley and Frances. I have been keeping an eye on it and have decided to move out of Florida. This is supposed to be an unusually active season, and we didn't have big storms like this last year. But having two and possibly three major storms in a month has caused me to take a long look at my need for assistance from people in the community when I live on my own--and the fact that in a disaster situation people very often are in the midst of caring for their own families and aren't able to assist no matter how much they want to.
I've always taken living independently for granted--I can do my own cooking, cleaning, etc. I've had to explain to people that my messy house is the result of laziness and not the fact that a blind person can't clean her own house. But the most important aspect of living on my own is preparedness for the unknown. I'm not talking about stock-piling or even putting up storm shutters or having a first-aid kit ready. Those are very important things. But for a person with disabilities, preparedness also includes knowing how to get oneself and one's belongings and dependents (be they pets or children or disabled/elderly family members) to safety. I have met my match in that regard, and I am finding it necessary to admit that I don't have the resources to live independently in Florida. If I had a job and could establish an emergency fund... But I don't and can't, so it's time to move to a place where I can live safely. I've had this concept of independent living as being able to provide for my own needs, take care of myself in a crisis situation, etc. It's just not an accurate perception. I have natural limitations and areas where I cannot be completely independent. I'll be independent where I can be, but I'm not an island and will never just be able to fend for myself without very significant changes that don't seem to be in the works for me right now.
I have four animals, including my dog guide. In Florida it is against the law to leave pets during an emergency situation--at least, that's what I'm told. And I don't take my pets for granted any more than I would take my children for granted. Evacuation procedures have caused me a lot of stress. There are really no safe places in Florida and especially locally. We have built our society right out onto the water, and that's a big gamble. I don't have the luxury of choosing to drive away somewhere, which is what I would do if I could see. The only evacuation mechanism available to me is flying, and flying non-service animals is very expensive. I can't fly myself in and out over and over, let alone my animals. I took a lot of risks and chose to stay in town with Charley and Frances that I am no longer willing to take. Hurricane preparedness has taken a major toll on my emotional health, and nothing is worth that price to me.
I will be relocating tomorrow, going back to Indiana where I have family, a large church community, and less likelihood of needing to evacuate myself and my animals.