What cruel twist of fate would offer up sight following a catastrophic wounding of my eye, and then take it away? Seven weeks after saving my eye and regaining vision, a shadow began at the upper left corner and ate away at the light, inexorably slipping down and across vision like a total eclipse of the sun.
This can’t be happening, I thought. I’m merely tired, and need to rest. Seven weeks ago I was sightless, but now – or before the eclipse began – I was actually seeing across our beloved river to the mountains beyond, if a bit blurrily. I was grateful. In awe of a body’s ability to heal. Humbled by the enormous outpouring of love and support. Astounded at the technology and skill that saved an eye and gave back the most valued of my five senses. Sight.
But it did happen. Scans of the back of my eye confirmed it. And surgery was scheduled immediately. Again.
I think I might have been about 60% back to stamina when my body took another five hour anesthetic hit, five hour recovery, and ultimate admittance to hospital. I did not come back well, physically. Pain was a roaring, pulsing, churning volcanic cauldron. It was morphine that ultimately brought me back into myself.
With shaky resolve and a pain management plan, we came home and I began the process of being still. We’d done this before. We could do it again. But my mind deserted me with an absence of strategies. And, with the temerity of a persistent child, I was furious to find myself here. Wildly, hysterically, foot-stampingly, ferociously furious. That first day when my eye was pummeled and I instantly lost my sight, I had turned away from my grandboys and roared to the waning sun, “NOOOOOO!” Now, having been teased by sight, I railed against the utter desolation of that loss again. Then pain crashed in, and brought me to my knees.
In front of our nightly fire one evening my eyes produced a worthy monsoon. I could not seem to stop those tears I was not supposed to cry. John got up, knelt beside me and asked, “What wall did you just hit?”
“What cruelty gives hope and jerks it away?”
He gathered me in his arms, told me how sorry he was that I was dealing with any of this, and we wept together. As my caregiver, this is his story too. The fire crackled, we rested in each other, and the tears subsided, but not my despair.
Bombarded by this dealt hand, the pain, the truth that it wasn’t something I’d done, or not done; or the surgeon had or hadn’t done, I yielded. Let go. Gave up. Released my will to a shuttered darkness. I drifted in the inky blackness of hopelessness. I didn’t just yield to the eye challenge, I let it go global. My work, my voice, my belief in light, I let it all drift. John read me messages of support, which had previously given me hope. I heard each one, but instead of igniting motivation in me, or strengthening my grit, I seemed to curl inward, falling. Then, without noticing how or precisely when, I was no longer falling, but found myself floating on the sea of goodwill and the energy provided by others, infinitely connected to theirstrength, if not my own. My warrior woman took five.
In the night, when my husband needed to sleep, and that relief eluded me, I roamed the recesses of my mind, my beliefs about it and life. I wondered, on the continuum of control vs. relinquishing control, how one finds that gossamer thread of balance. Had I not, decades ago, taken control, for the future of my children, for my ultimate psychological health; for choosing truth, for righting wrongs, and then mustering the wherewithal to say it out loud (The Fifth Sister), to save our lives – my children and mine – well, I can’t even imagine. I remain a full time outsider to my family of origin to this day. We are where we are because I purposed change. Exercised will. Changed my brain. And, inexpertly guided our little family out of that history.
When, then, does one relinquish? And how does one appropriately pick up the reins of intention? When to rest in the cocoon of caring, the hammock created by others who lovingly, sturdily, compassionately surround you, and when to rise from that rest to stand on unsteady limbs, take a few tentative steps, breathe deeply, and find – even if just a glimpse – your inner lion.
“Nobody needs to tell you how strong you are. But I’m telling you that our combined strength and dedication to your healing will simply be an undeniable force of nature… Keep roaring, my sister lion.”
In that murky tidal-like dark place of despair, surrounded by healing thoughts, prayers, and the flat out bombardment to heaven of others, flickered moments of illumination. There, rest found a sense of peace in stillness, and in that quietude a soul sought and found her heart.
This morning, when my right eye still worked, before it gave way to fatigue, I viewed my misaligned pupils with wry amusement. They will come into alignment when they are ready. I am in a gathering place. Gathering strength. Gathering remnants of scattered will. Gathering tiny points of light to illuminate hope. It feels precarious, but I am not risk aversive. I suspect the control/relinquish-control continuum is fluid. Dynamic. Balancing on that tightrope will always require steady thoughtful consideration, a level of expertise about oneself, and the freedom to relinquish as a measure of strength or perhaps wisdom, not surrender.