The other day, I put the kettle on for tea. As the water boiled, I peeked out of the living room window to see what the dogs were up to in the back yard. Once the kettle started to whistle, I grabbed it off the stove and took it to the counter where mugs were waiting.
I poured water into the cups, watched as it flowed over the tea bags, noticed how the leaves slowly released color into the water… and was nearly brought to tears. The kettle. The dogs. The tea. I never thought I’d be unable to see such simple things. And I definitely NEVER expected to be grateful to notice my ability to see such simple things.
It had been MONTHS since I was able to see those things. I would regularly overflow mugs, unable to judge the height of the clear water, then experience a combination of frustration and worry about failing at such a basic task.
Talk about a gut check. I can’t even freaking pour water…
Leading up to the day I was hospitalized, I was living in fear because of all the things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t see well enough to get around. I couldn’t see my students’ faces from the lectern. I couldn’t see steps if there wasn’t enough light. I couldn’t see Jelaine’s face across the kitchen table. I couldn’t work on projects. It was scary and limiting, and, looking back, I was operating from a deficit that was both physical and mental.
Life felt lackluster because of all the couldn’ts. Even though I was starting the career I’ve been chasing and in a loving relationship, something was still missing. I was missing out on taking joy in life, mostly because I couldn’t see it and because I couldn’t DO a lot of the things I wanted (even effectively pour water for tea).
But, without realizing it, I had been learning to focus on what I could do to make it by. Being unable to determine much of what was going on outside of me, I focused on what I could do to from my end Before my poor vision made driving dangerous, I got glare-reducing sunglasses. I’d take the train wherever I could. I was sure to be extra-expressive and communicate with people, mainly because I couldn’t judge their reactions by looking, but I could pay more attention to verbal cues and make myself unmistakably understood. And when all else failed, I could just smile and engage and roll with the punches (looking at you, server at Chuy’s – thanks for the burrito suggestion, bc I SURE couldn’t see the menu).
The problem, I see now, was that I was doing what I could in a defensive way. I was just trying to make it, to not fail. I was putting on a front in order to keep up appearances and delay facing a harsh truth. What I was doing was preventative. I was starting at a deficit and breaking even, not moving ahead.
But, since I’ve gotten on the road to healing, Life has brightened drastically.
On top of the relief I feel at having a diagnosis, regaining sight, and a doctor doing real work to help me get a handle on things, I have a new take on Life in a metaphysical sense…
Before, I was asking, “What can I do?” out of desperation. Out of total panic: “What can I do??”
It was a frantic question that I HAD to answer in order to keep going, keep living, keep working, keep from dealing with reality. However, now that I’ve seen how resilient I am and how much power comes from focusing on what I am able to do, I wonder:
What CAN I do?
It’s no longer a defensive question. There is no fear behind it, no apprehension.
I am looking at Life to find possibilities. I am looking at my self and my gifts and my passions, and asking what I can do with them.
It’s not uncommon for me now to point out things that I can see, usually in a playful manner – “You know how I know? Because I saw it,” followed by a big grin. That’s how this started: I noticed and was grateful for the things I could see. Then, without feeling handcuffed by limited vision, my world opened up again and I started to understand what it means to create a life that reflects what’s inside of me – this is where the action joined the thought, “What can I DO?” And then it all circled around, deeper into my psyche, and allowed me to examine my mind and what I give “emotional” and mental energy. At the end of the day, it’s all on me. What can I do?
People love to talk about only being concerned with the only thing we each control: ourselves. My experiences have given me a new & deeper personal understanding of what that tired cliche means.
My life is the manifestation of what I actively bring to it.
I could seek medical help. So I did. I can follow medical advice, and I am. Because of doing what i can, things have started improving with my body.
I was grateful for what I could see, and then grateful for what I could do. I can take time to appreciate what I had, and I did. The small things became big things, a new perspective opened up, and my mindset improved.
I can choose to pay attention to and take responsibility for what I eat. I can give my energy to what matters to me and tune the rest out. I can be loving before I am hard. I can choose quality. I can monitor how much television I watch. I can see opportunity instead of obstacle. I can choose to be proactive or lazy. I can bring all the good inside me to life.
By asking and answering, “What can I do?” I can manifest the proactivity and creativity and goodness inside me to create solutions and abundance and send what positivity I possess into the world.
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