Coping With a Major Setback In Life

Getting massaged in front of hurrying people? No way!

That was my reaction to blind massage stations at the port terminal.

What if I get ticklish?

After my first reluctant attempt, blind massage has become my favorite detour when I travel. Especially after I met a blind masseur named Elmer, who taught me a lesson on coping with setbacks in life.

Three things I learned from him… 

1. Setbacks are temporary.

2. Setbacks are an opportunity to #resbak.

3. Setbacks make you see beyond what your eyes can see.

“Is the pressure enough with you, sir?” He immediately grabbed my tired shoulders.


“This is moderate hard, sir. But I can go harder if you like,” he offered.

“Oh, this is fine.” It was the hardest pressure I knew I could enjoy. A little more pressure and it would be like torture.

He squeezed every inch of my back as if he was searching for something. Every bit of it was a relief.

“Do you apply lotion, sir?” I just chuckled. How would I respond to that? Should I say thank you? “Your skin is so soft!” he continued as if to confirm. I was turning red.

“How did you learn massage?” I asked trying to change the topic. I prefer to talk about something else other than my soft skin. I believed him, though. I do have baby soft skin!

“I studied it,” he answered with a reassuring voice. “The local government of Mandaue created a school for us.” 

“Wow! Really?” I was surprised. “So, how long have you been doing this? You seem to be really good at it.

He gulped and cleared his throat. “Not long really. In fact, I’m the newest in the group.” He let out a deep breath and went on to massage my back without saying anything.

I probably shouldn’t have asked that question.

“Are you married, sir?” he asked after a long silence. 

“I’m too young for that,” I quickly replied. “But my friends tell me it is fulfilling to have a child.”

“Yes, very fulfilling,” he said proudly. “Whenever I get home, no matter how tired I am, when my little boy jumps on my lap, I’d feel so much joy.”

“You really have a happy life, I could tell.”

“Yes, but you know what, after the doctor said I’d become blind, I felt so devastated.”

Then it hit me. He wasn’t born blind. That was a major setback in his life. How careless of me to remind him of his painful experience.

“I told my wife I wanted to die,” he continued. “But she never gave up on me. She said she would never leave me no matter what!”

The first few months after the incident was so hard. He was miserable. He was ready to give up.

“How would I ever get a job when I’m blind?” he said.

He used to work in a construction as a carpenter. From his work, he went out with friends to play basketball.

“We won by 1 point, I couldn’t forget about that.”

A few minutes later when he arrived home from the game, he collapsed on the floor.

“I was hospitalized for weeks, and then I lost my sight! Since then, everything was changed.”

I was silenced.

I almost forgot that I was in a noisy place.

For a moment he stopped talking to catch some air. Perhaps he was reminiscing the setback experience.

“Yes, it was very difficult at first. But slowly I’ve learned to accept it. But it took me more than a year to realize all the blessings were right in front of me. I took them for granted. I dwelt on my what-ifs and regrets. What if I did not play basketball that day? What if I did not work in construction? What if I finished my studies when I was younger?”

Listening to his narration brought me back to my own what-ifs. What if I went abroad when I had the opportunity? What if I didn’t turn down that offer? What if I chose a different career path? I would probably have a better life now.

“It took me quite a long time to realize that the blessings in front of me are more than my eyesight,” Elmer continued. “I am blessed with a loving wife and a son.”

Elmer eventually embraced his condition not as a hindrance but as a blessing. He claimed that he was healed by the divine love of his wife.

“Though I’m blind now, my vision of life is better than before,” he said.

Whatever setbacks we have in life, like what Elmer did, the best thing we can do is to overcome it. Make the most out of it. Live with it!

Common sense would suggest that having ability, like being smart, inspires confidence. It does, but only while the going is easy. The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People with a growth mindset welcome setback with open arms. Travis Bradberry



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