Good eyes

If there is one thing more than anything else that I hear from people at craft fairs it’s this:  “Ooh, you must have good eyes”.  Sometimes it’s a slight variation; a “gosh” instead of an “ooh” or even “how do you see to do that?”.  But it’s basically what people say to me.  All.  The.  Time.

So, I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of irony last week when I got diagnosed with glaucoma.  And because I want this blog to be real and honest, I won’t leap straight to the positivity and optimism (feel free to skip to the end though, if you want to find that).  I kind of freaked out.  I cried, many times. I tried to be calm and positive, but my brain weasels kept tormenting me with worst case scenarios and what ifs …….. what if I lost my sight? what if I couldn’t work?  what if I just couldn’t COPE, you know? what if I couldn’t get past it? what if everything *wasn’t* ok? what if the eye drops didn’t work and it progressed quicker than expected?  what if, what if, what if ……….

On Saturday I was at a market and not in a great place with the whole thing and some poor woman came up and gave me the “ooh you must have good eyes”.  I’m afraid to say I fixed her with my best proper grumpy face and replied sarcastically, “you’d think, wouldn’t you?”.  She beat a hasty retreat.

So, anyway, since then I have had a wee bit more time to process, and ended up going back to my somewhat neglected journal.  I sat down with a glass of wine and said journal on Wednesday night, and before I knew it I had filled up 8 pages with a whole load of stuff.  All of my what ifs, everything I was scared of, all of my feelings.  And you know what?  It helped.  A lot.  Seeing all those fears on paper makes them seem less scary.  I even wrote a list of all the things I would still be able to enjoy even if the worst happened and I couldn’t see any more.  (The list included cuddles, massages, walking, playing piano, singing, listening to audiobooks, having bubble baths …. ).  Plenty there.

But really, I realised, the root of my freak out was this.  It was feeling that the rug of my nice safe existence had been pulled out from underneath me.  We all know, don’t we, that life is short, and nothing is guaranteed, and everything is fragile and impermanent.  I say these things a lot, and have been reminded of it more than I would like this year, with two friends dying suddenly and unexpectedly.  But saying it and knowing it is not the same as living it.  It’s not the same as actually acknowledging it day to day.  The glaucoma diagnosis has placed this indisputable fact RIGHT IN MY FACE.  It’s made it harder to pootle along imagining I will enjoy good health for another 40 years and taking life for granted.  Hence the brain weasels in my head, churning my chest with panic and whispering in my ear, “you might lose your sight!”.  Yes, I reply to them now.  I might.  I also might get squashed flat by a logging truck tomorrow.  This has *always* been the case.  It’s always been true that some shitty things might happen to me in the future.  It’s just been easier, before, to pretend that wasn’t the case.  To pretend I was in control, fully prepared and knowing where my life was going.  But we don’t know. We’re not in control.  And now, every day when I take my eye drops, I am reminded of this.

So.  Now we get to the positive and optimistic part.  I am so grateful that this was caught really early on, and at this point I only have a tiny wee bit of damage to the optic nerve in my left eye, and no problems with my vision at all.  It’s very likely that the eye drops will control the progression of the disease and I will enjoy excellent vision for many years to come.  It’s also possible that they won’t, and some bad shit may happen.  But, such is life.  Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. And I don’t want to take it for granted; I want to grab it with both hands and really LIVE it.  And now I have a perfect reminder, every single day when I take my drops, that I cannot take my sight, my health, or anything else for granted.  A reminder every day that life is short, and that I want to live it fully and deeply and mindfully.

So, if you see me at a craft fair and tell me I must have good eyes, I won’t be grumpy or sarcastic to you, I promise.  What I might do is grab you by the hand and say, no I don’t, I have fucking amazing eyes.  And so do you. How lucky are we?  Let’s go use them to see all the beautiful things we have always wanted to see.

11 thoughts on “Good eyes

  1. I wish I could say that I can’t imagine how you feel, but you know that I do. What we obviously both share (once the bollocky bit is out the way), though, is that we’re amazingly positive people, with the capacity to cope with whatever life throws at us. And that positivity is what makes us who we are 🙂 I’m not suggesting that there won’t be times when either of us are feeling less than 100% positive, blimey – I have some glum times, but we each have the love of a wonderfully supportive husband and some really and truly fabulous friends and that will help. It will help a lot. We adapt in spite of everything that is thrown at us and we will, in the words of Gloria Gaynor, survive! Sending massive hugs until I see you again x x

    • Julie, I knew you would know what I was going through! You have been a total inspiration in the way you have dealt with your hip problems. I’m glad you said what you did, as one of my concerns with publishing this post was that people would assume that this was the “end” of the story – I was now totally ok about the whole thing and positive all the time! I’m not! As you say, we have our wobbly, sad, weepy moments too. But overall yes, we are the happy gang 🙂 and why wouldn’t we be? I mean our hips/eyes will still be sucky whatever, we can’t change that, so we might as well be happy while we deal with it. Looking forward to a big Cloud 9 hug soon 🙂 xxx

  2. I identified with your sudden reminder that life is what happens while we are making other plans. While it’s true that I am aging, I guess I expected a more gradual decline. Suddenly I have a knee that is preventing any kind of normal life, and just seems to be getting worse. I find myself reminding everyone not to put off the things they want to do, as they may suddenly not be able to do them.

  3. Well, holy poop Beth, if I haven’t just written a post about embracing our special things! This has, undoubtedly, taken me by surprise (obviously not as much as it has for you), but I admire your tenacity, your amazing outlook, your ability to be honest about your fear but still find the positivity. You will, without a doubt, find yourself at times, “wobbly” and sad about it, but in those times remember this – if your eye sight does fail, you will have LOTS of us around you to guide you through. xxx

  4. And now you have made me cry…. I salute your strength and positivity…. God knows that’s hard at times esp in the deep dark winter (which is when I feel my body complaining about the years of manual, making work I have done and the painful effects that has had on me…) But as you so wonderfully stated, its the little things that we should be grateful for and the fact you/we are still in control of what you make of life… A walk outside on a beautiful day certainly helps to put things into perspective and keep you grounded.
    I will wear my lovely necklace with renewed pride and pleasure… You’re a hugely talented lady😊 xxxiii

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  7. Hi Beth. I came across your story on Twitter. You were mentioned in a tweet by the Glaucoma Association. It’s not nice having Glaucoma at such a young age – I was diagnosed at 39. I can fully relate to your story and the horror of the diagnosis. Unfortunately for me the drops didn’t work so I had surgery 18 months ago. All is well since though. Your optimism is an inspiration to us all! And keep up the mindfulness, if you aren’t living in the past or worrying about what might be then you will have a clear mind. Easy said than done but I’m told it gets easier the more meditation you do. Best of luck for the future.

    • Hi Jason, thanks so much for your comment! I’m really glad your surgery went well. Yes it’s nice to meet other folk diagnosed at a young (ish! lol) age who are managing the condition well. Best of luck! Beth x

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