It was a beautiful September day in the mountains of North Carolina. At first I thought it was just a smudge on my glasses. As the day progressed I began to notice that the “smudge” appeared to have increased. Taking off my glasses to investigate this “smudge”, it became clear it was, in fact, my eye and not my spectacles. I inspected my eye in the mirror. I asked someone if they could see anything in my eye. I even got a magnifying glass and a flashlight – there was no visible sign of anything in my eye. I hoped that after a day or two, the “smudge” would resolve itself on its own.
It did not resolve itself, however. A quick Google search suggested that my eye might need attention. During a phone consult I was informed that my eye was a medical emergency needing immediate action. The concern, which was quickly confirmed, was that I had a detached retina. Left untreated, this condition can quickly lead to significant, permanent vision loss. I’m happy to report that my retina is reattached, thanks to excellent medical care. I’m now in the midst of recovery which has been a process of going from nearly complete blindness in one eye to greater and greater clarity every day.
The clarity however is not just with my eyesight. This entire experience has, once again, reminded me to have both my assumptions and appreciations in check. The lack of sight in my eye has forced me to pay greater attention to the world around me. My usual assumptions, about how my vision allows me to navigate, were challenged causing me to be both more attentive and more adaptive to using my other senses. Likewise, with each phase of increased clarity in vision I find myself having increased awareness and appreciation for the world around me.
I am deeply grateful for all those who have been involved in my healing process. And I am also grateful for the lifelong lesson to dial-down my assumptions about abilities I take for granted, and dial-up my awareness and appreciation for the good things that, though sighted, I do not fully see.
“Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind…If I had three days to see., this is what I would want to see. On the first day I would want to see the people whose kindness and companionship have made my life worth living. I would call all my friends and look for a long time into their faces. I would also look in to the face of a new baby. I would like to see the many books which have been read to me. The next day I would get up early to see the dawn. I would visit a museum to learn of man’s upward progress in the making of things. I would go to an art museum to probe the human souls by studying paintings and sculptures. The third morning I would again greet the dawn, eager to discover new beauties in nature. I would spend this last day in the haunts of person, where they work. I would stand at a busy street corner, trying to understand something of the daily lives of persons by looking into their faces and reading what is written there. On the last evening I would go to a theater and see a hilariously funny play, so as to appreciate the overtones of human spirit. Yes, by God’s light in Christ, seeing what matters and beholding the extraordinary in the commonplace.” Helen Keller