The meaning of these words hit me a couple of months ago when I was in the depths of despair over my eyesight challenges. It came after a trip to San Francisco to try out a new technology that I was convinced would help me navigate my neighborhood. Instead, it was a complete bust and I was handed a white canethe universal symbol for blindness that has traumatized me ever since I was diagnosed with a rare blinding eye disease fifteen years ago.

The white cane represented everything I stood to lose and was so terrifying that I had nightmares over it and vowed I would never get to the point that I would have to touch one.Yet there I was, fumbling through downtown San Francisco with a mobility trainer calling out instructions from behind me, and a long white cane swiping the sidewalk in front of meall while fighting back tears and the urge to smash that cane into whatever obstacle I encountered.

Ive always believed I could create my own destiny and that if I put enough energy and focus into something I wanted, it would materialize. But despite doing everything in my power to save my eyesight, my effortsat least for nowhavent been enough.

I returned from San Francisco so devastated by my current reality it was hard to pull myself off the floor. Losing eyesight isnt fun and it has flattened me plenty of times over the past year. But the white cane made my inability to see the faces of my husband and two daughters seemso final. And the pain that thought generated was so crushing I wasnt sure how to go on. At the same time, I have always been a glass half (or even mostly) full kind of person and somewhere amid my despair, I remembered the words my Dad has always lived by: You never know what you can accomplish as long as you keep on going; As soon as you quit, you have your answer. It hit me that the darknessboth literal and emotional was only final if I allowed it to be. I realized that I, like anyone struggling with adversity, had a choice: I could keep wallowing in my cocktail of grief, fear, anger and loss, or pull myself together, stand back up and harness the enormous amount of energy I was exerting into something powerful.

Thats when I asked my daughter, Sydney, to order a purple mobility cane for mewhite will never be my colorand dubbed it Purple Power. The day after it arrived, I forced myself to hit the streets in my Seattle neighborhood. It took a few blocks to get the hang of it. But between Purple Power and the GPS apps on my iPhone, I was able to walk the mile to the office I share with my husband alone for the first time in months.

I dont want to have to use a cane to navigate my worldeven if it is a hip shade of purple. But I realize that I can let that stick take my energy and power or use it to empower me. And until my eyesight is restored, Im putting it to work.

To me, harnessing adversity means shifting our attention from fear and loss to passion and joy. It means replacing the word weakness with strength. It means shedding limits and thinking big. As my favorite inspirational author, Dr. Joe Dispenza says, Bless our challenges that they initiate us into greatness.

Im still figuring out what all of this means for me because when I think about a world without limits, the opportunities are endless. But I know it starts with using my story to help others.

For the past seven years Ive been using my stories and struggles to help others find healing and empowerment by writing the deeply personal stories they need to tell. Its hit me that this is one of the biggest ways I can harness my adversity and I plan to expand my healing through writing workshops and memoir coaching. I also plan to share my journey with my eyesight struggles as far and wide as possible to raise awareness about the societal prejudices heaped on people with disabilities. I first encountered this myself last fall when I reached out to an organization for assistive technology training so I could get back to work. Instead of offering resources, the staff member spoke to me in a slow, loud voice as though Id lost my IQ and warned that I would now experience stigma and social isolation. When Im at the airport, Im asked if I want a wheelchair and treated like Im helpless. And when Im walking, people whisper about my cane but act as though I dont exist.

We all struggle with something hard in our lives and what we need is to love each other and help each other and realize that underneath it all, we are all the same. The last thing that any of us needs is to be stigmatized and isolatedwhich only adds to the pain. I know personal storytelling is the key to changing perceptions and beliefs and this is another powerful way I am going to harness my adversity. And, of course, Ill continue to do everything in my power to restore my vision and encourage others to keep seeking answers and never give up hope.

I know that we all struggle with something in our lives and that there are times that its going to bring us to our knees. There are still days when Im knocked off my feet. The difference for me now is that when I have those hard days, I remind myself that I am way more powerful than my adversityand that, in fact, it is fueling my power.

If we all flip our adversity on its head, think of the magic we can create.