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.