We’ve all heard it before, there are so many things in life we take for granted, but it seems even when we go out of our way to experience the joy of little things, it still hurts immensely when they are taken away.
I like to believe I’ve always had an eye for the little things, never wanting to miss the beauty of the simple and mundane, and giving fierce attentiveness to that which often goes unnoticed – not wanting to take one little thing for granted. My vision was never good, needing glasses at 6 years old and the prescription was only made stronger each year since. With the help of corrective lenses, all those little things have continually come to life. There’s something magical about getting a new prescription and once again being invited back into a world of magnificent subtle detail. The trees that I barely noticed the day before now have my full attention with their thousand little dancing leaves moving singularly and yet as one glorious entity in the wind. I could stare for hours at the long shadows that the late summer sun throws across the ground behind tiny little pebbles that have scattered on the road. It’s hard to take that beauty for granted when it is so often presented to you how easily it could be taken away.
I’ve become a very visual person over the years, moving me to study art therapy and help others to find the freedom to express themselves visually and wholly. So much can be said in pictures that is too difficult in words. And on my own hard days I turn to the drawing table, or a notebook and pen, or more recently, instagram with the challenge of capturing a world of beauty in a little square snapshot. Being drawn into details slows me down to notice the world, experience the incredible complicated magnificence that lies within a simple inch of space.
The same that is true of that pebbled inch of road, is true for all people as well. Although taking up much more space than a square inch, a person is still often overlooked or misunderstood because we don’t take the time to notice, to be with, to listen, and see. There is so much to be gained from one inch of time that can connect you to an understanding of another being, if you only slow down to be in that present moment rather than stepping over it to move on to the next, hopefully less awkward moment. We very often take people for granted due to that same fault of our hurriedness. But we are more likely to eventually realize our mistake of not taking the time to spend with that important person than we are to regret not taking more time with those pebbles scattered on the road.
I assure you, you don’t want to take those pebbles for granted either.
My visual acuity has been taken from me again, this time not by an old prescription needing updating, but by blindspots in the center of both of my eyes. Now it takes me a full minute to differentiate a speck of dirt from a flea, and the middle of each written word is missing when I look directly at it. I can’t tell you when it happened, it’s been a gradual change that I’ve been adapting to overtime, and quite honestly denying the rest of the time. We all do it, the pain in your back, the limp in your step, we ignore it until it demands our attention and we are forced to face the reality that this is not going to go away, this is real and we should have taken care of it yesterday. But then again, maybe that wouldn’t have made any difference, and ignorance is bliss?
I’ve told myself I haven’t been sharing because I wanted the peace to come to terms with this myself first. I wanted answers before I let others in. I wanted to go to church without breaking down in tears every time someone asked me about it.
If I’m honest with myself, I think I haven’t been sharing because that doesn’t allow me to go on living in denial. But I need to shed this so that I can move on in acceptance. I even kept it from myself for a year, thinking it’s no big deal, it’ll go away, and sometimes telling myself that it was my own fault, I probably looked at the sun too many times and now it’s my own burden to bear. When I finally had to face the reality of it a couple of months ago when it either worsened or was magnified by another problem that made me painfully aware, I still didn’t tell my husband for a few days. If I had to pick a day, the day I told my husband was the day that it all became unabashadly real. Acknowledging this myself is one thing, but there is something about experiencing the reaction of another person that makes it so much more real. I can convince myself that it’s really not that bad, but when I have to face the emotional and intellectual responses of others (who are not so bent on living in denial), emotion grabs me by the shoulders and shoves me down into the mucky mud pit of truth, staining my denial with tears once again. And again. And again. Each time I tell of it, it’s like another shove into reality. As long as I keep my problem hidden, I can pretend it’s not there. Now I want to acknowledge it, so I can live with it, adjust with it as a part of who I am, rather than trying to go on living as though it’s not a problem and then continually be knocked in the mud with each reminder: “I can’t read that.” “Is this picture clear enough to share publicly?” “You say the television is blurry?” “Is that our friend ___? I can see his body but not his face from this distance.”
The truth is, I am adjusting, and it’s easy to forget at times that my vision isn’t normal, as long as I don’t try to do anything that would require any visual acuity. But visual acuity has been my life for so long, and here I am smack dab in the middle of my life, not ready to give it up yet. But I have to. So the things that used to bring me joy, now bring me much grievance and I am looking for new ways to discover simple joys in this life. My adjustment over the last two months has me encouraged. I can read with more ease now. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks. I have stopped relying on my visual acuity for the understanding of things and have come to understand the world through a more gestalt lens – seeing the whole of things, the generalization rather than the minute details. Will I create art again? Absolutely. Will I draw again? I hope to, I intend to. But it will take some time, as what had become so natural will take some re-training of my eye and brain.
Meanwhile, I am undoubtedly experiencing some bouts of grieving, depression, and anxiety, but not without the reciprocating hope and expectation for this new chapter in my life to take hold. I view this change as a limit that God has set on me to change my focus so to speak, onto new things and new directions, and only good will come of this. There is something waiting in the wings, and I am anxiously anticipating it’s unfolding.
“As the hard frosts in winter bring on the flowers in the spring; and as the night ushers in the morning star: so the evils of affliction produce much good to those that love God. A sick bed often teaches more than a sermon. Affliction teaches us to know ourselves. In prosperity, we are for the most part strangers to ourselves. God makes us know affliction, that we may better know ourselves.” Thomas Watson
You might ask, how do I see now? I see well enough, probably better than you might think. Although there is missing information at the center of my vision, my left eye, the better of the two, is doing most of the work. The rest of the work is done by my brain, using what has been explained in the psychology realm as the Gestalt Law of Closure, which states that the mind will fill in missing information to create a cohesive and understandable whole. The fun part is, sometimes the information my mind fills in is correct, and sometimes it is not. My brain is getting better at using context to fill in the missing pieces, and mistakes are happening less often as I adjust. For instance, the word I see visually as “p|__|t” might be registered to me as “plant” when in actuality the word is “print” if the context doesn’t give me enough information to quickly fill it in. I simply go back to the word when I find it doesn’t make sense, and spending more time with it allows me to fill in the blanks visually instead of intellectually. The brain is really an amazing thing, but without the full use of the five senses, perceptions of the world are drastically changed.
I don’t know how long it will take me to find my way through this. Perhaps it will be a continual learning. I might even come across more change again, for the better or the worse. For now, I know that my vision hasn’t improved as some doctors had hoped, and it also hasn’t gotten worse, though the doctors also say that a change might give a clue to the cause. Please be patient with me, as I learn to be patient with myself. Life looks so different to me now, and I am hoping I can hold onto excitement for a new point of view.