A few weeks ago I posted a piece called “Final Chapter…”
At the time I had every reason to believe that I would need to discontinue my blog, sketching, teaching art, reading for pleasure… most of the activities that had given meaning to my life, all because of a sudden spike in progressive blindness.
I reached out to Future In Sight, the local low vision and blind services agency that works with people experiencing a variety of stages of vision loss. I have been involved with them on and off for the past twenty years since I moved to Concord, and in truth their existence had a lot to do with my choosing this city as my home. Vision loss and emergency eye surgeries have been part of my story since I was 23 years old (context: when Gerald Ford was president.)
As difficult and complicated as my life has been, taking care of my eyes has always been simpler than caring for my spirit. I have felt like damaged goods and carried that into every relationship I ever had. I let fear make most of my decisions, simply because I saw no alternative. I was utterly unaware that rehearsing disasters did nothing to soften their possible blow, and in truth it simply wasted time and energy that were each in short supply. I ended relationships before people had a chance to abandon me. For my twenties and thirties I turned to alcohol- not as a solution, but as a blessed brief respite from the life I had grown to hate.
What I was incapable of seeing was that even when I couldn’t make matters better, I could always, always make them worse, and choosing to refrain from that choice was a powerful option.
During the last six weeks, since that massive Christmas Weekend Hemorrhage occurred, I have been vividly aware of the power of Thought. Every thought I have entices me away from this very moment. Our ability as humans to Make Stuff Up and Then Believe It is astounding. With this one simple awareness, I can take a step back over and over again and see whether I am creating joy or torture for myself. The third option (which I am quite new at) is slowing down that compulsive speed-of-light thinking, bypassing both joy and torture, and just witnessing this moment whenever I can.
Regarding eyesight: I can’t see what I could see in November, but I can still see. I may lose more sight, very likely actually, but fretting is a pointless waste of time. I have all my support systems in order, so all I need to do now is enjoy life until the next spiritual smack up side the head. And deal with that when it comes, not today. For today, I still love saying, “Look at THAT!”
I have gotten rid of my car because I can no longer drive safely. Of course, like everyone who forfeits their driver’s license, it is a blow to my identity as an independent adult as much as it is a serious inconvenience. But the upside is that introverted hermit-hood is no longer a lifestyle option for me. I have to walk, or take the bus, or take a taxi, or ask a friend for help. The good news is that although asking for help may be a blow to my little ol’ ego, it is not a massive burden for my friends. On the contrary, it gives us an excuse to slow down and get together socially in lives that have become way too busy for everyone. The tempo of life slows instantly when you can no longer grab your keys and go.
A friend who got a DWI several years ago referred to losing his license as joining the “State-Mandated Exercise Program.” Yes, it is that as well. Yesterday, because it was a balmy 35°F and sunny with no wind, I decided to walk to my two appointments rather than take the bus. As a result I walked for over an hour straight. I was tired by the end and my legs were a bit wobbly but I was so proud of myself.
Now my mantra is, “Why not?” I can walk, so I walk. I can see, so I draw. I have ten good fingers so I write. I have the beginning of memory loss, so I try to forget resentments and regrets first, to make room for the good stuff that’s left.
As I said at the beginning, giving up doesn’t work.
I tried for decades. Eventually some fool will come along and say something funny and you’ll start to laugh and your whole bubble of self-satisfied negativity will begin to crumble despite your best efforts. We are like plants you know— we are drawn toward the light, toward warmth, toward growth. Perhaps even toward joy. Giving up is like holding your breath; it only works for a little while. Eventually you have to pee, and you get a little hungry. Then you think about what might taste good and your whole plan for chronic misery goes right out the window.
Face it. You prefer pleasure. Welcome to my world.