Losing my vision opened my eyes to gratitude.

#RealTalk vol 11

My earliest memory is of me with a purple tricycle in my grandma Remell’s backyard, I’m wearing a white onesie with a matching hat, or maybe it was light lavender. I can feel the handlebars in my grip, and I can recall feeling unsteady trying to fit my chubby butt on the wide seat. There’s a man with me, one of my mother’s “special” friends. He’s smiling at me, but I don’t feel anything for him other than to acknowledge his presence. The sun is shining in a clear blue sky; at least I’m relatively sure it’s clear. Honestly, the memory and details feel clear, but the image in my mind is fuzzy. 

Are you able to recall your earliest memory with clarity, or is it fuzzy?

The image I carry in my mind of the purple tricycle day resembles a photograph covered in bits of fluffy cotton balls. I can make out details through the silky strands but, I question if what I think I remember is a remnant of seeing an actual photograph from that day rather than a real memory. 

That’s how my vision feels now that I must wear glasses to see clearly. Without glasses, everything I look at gets filtered through cotton balls, and most of the time, I navigate what I see from memory, or I guess. It’s frustrating and annoying, and it makes me sad. 

I was very fond of my nearly perfect vision (20/10 thank you very much), which is how I took my sight for granted. If you wear glasses, was your vision loss gradual, or have you had vision issues your whole life? If age is slowly taking your vision, you know what I’m saying. 

If you’ve never had vision problems, there’s an expectation of delivery every day you wake, and you don’t give it much thought. It’s not like you wake up and say to yourself, “Self, here’s to another day of sight. Of course, I’ll be able to see today, just like yesterday and the day before.” Nope, unless you’re one of those highly enlightened folks (I’m working on it), each waking day is another day to assume your vision will be the same as it was yesterday. It’s easy to take for granted what we fail to give special attention. 

Vision loss later in life doesn’t happen overnight; the process is typically slow-going. Sort of like your body’s decay is meant to give you time to adjust to near bat-like status. I’m sure I saw the signs, but I chose to ignore them, or honestly, I never thought it would happen to me. And I never thought I’d be one of those people to feel invincible, and yet here I am feeling like a mere mortal.

I was in my walk-in closet the first time I realized that my vision was going bye-bye. My phone dinged, informing me I had a text message. 

Me: Wait, what’s this … what’s happened to the font on my phone … why’s it so … small. There must have been an operating system update or something. Hmmpff. Whatevs.

La-di-da off I went without much ado until the Google gods revealed there hadn’t been a recent update at all. The only sensible thing left for me to do was to ... *gulp*... increase the font size on my phone! Oh, the horror. 

When I could admit to myself that my vision was going kaput, I laughed, I laughed out loud for a long time. I laughed at my arrogant self. I laughed until I cried and not the pretty, oh-I-crack-myself up tears either. 

My vision loss was the beginning of midlife for me. Sure, I had aches and pains and gray hair but losing my perfect vision? Yeah, it hit me hard. 

It took weeks after that incident for me to go to an eye doctor because I tried to delay the inevitable with cute Walgreen and Target readers. I masked my vision loss distress with colorful readers in different styles I matched to my wardrobe. You know, so I could treat my new necessity like an accessory I could control. It worked for a while.

When I finally went to the eye doctor, he wasn't very sympathetic. 

Insensitive Eye Dr: Likely, your vision has been declining for some time now, you are getting older after all. You've been in denial, haven't you? *smirk*

I fumed through the whole appointment even as I went through the process of choosing a pair of bifocals. Lawd have mercy on my soul. Bifocals. Transition bifocals no less, the ones that give you vertigo for about six months until you get used to them. I don’t recommend walking down any stairs while wearing bifocal transition lenses. I felt like the stairs were moving the first time I tried - not a fun trip (no pun intended). 

Failing vision wasn't the midlife rite of passage that I wanted. I wanted the option to choose something else of lesser value, like playing my own personal game of Jeopardy.

Me to myself: I'll trade losing my vision for more gray hair, Alex.

Self: Ha! Nice try. Wear the damn bifocals.

Of all the things midlife brings, the one thing that depresses me the most is my declining eyesight. Blurry vision is a casualty of aging and a constant reminder that there are some aspects of midlife I can’t control. Mortality is a bitch.

Granted, if I were forced to choose which of my senses to give up, I’d prefer my vision before hearing or taste and touch. I’m not sure how I would bear life without the sound of music, soft touches, or delighting in good food.  

It’s a shame that it takes losing something to appreciate it fully. Now when I look into my hubs’ amazingly beautiful green eyes, at the veins of a fallen leaf, or into the vast night sky, I try to etch every detail in my mind. I must prepare for a time when I can’t see even with the aid of glasses.   

There is strength in choosing to grab a firm hold of your life, to live on purpose - to be bold, go forth and conquer!

It’s also paramount to appreciate what you have right in front of you. Don’t take your gifts for granted, be it the people in your life, your talents, or your born-given senses. 

As far as we know, we have one life, and some things once they have gone, you don’t get back. If you don’t already, find ways to show appreciation for your gifts every day - write down what you treasure, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. In short, give thanks for what you have before you lose them.  

PS. This post’s title started as "In her eyes," which put the Peter Grabiel song, In Your Eyes on repeat in my brain. I'm now sharing it with you. You're welcome. 😘

PPS. Do you like #RealTalk? Could you do me a favor and recommend it to your social media followers? 🙏 Here, I've even created some sample language for you to use:

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Thanks, I appreciate you!

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