About a month ago, I had a sub retinal hemorrhage in my one good eye which created a blind spot in the part of my vision that focuses on reading and writing. Peripheral vision remains OK most of the time, although changes in light and numbers of moving objects in my field of vision can severely effect what I can and can’t see.
Thanks to my doctor, wife, and a handy neighbor, I now have a handheld device that allows me to read and a large computer monitor that allows me to write in an exaggerated font that can later be adjusted down to an ordinary size for printing or publishing.
Open space outdoors has become my favorite place to feel like sight is more or less normal. I can take in the panorama without having to focus on a particular spot.
Whether my condition is temporary or permanent is yet to be known, but the likelihood tends toward permanency. As a result, these last few weeks have forced lessons on me about patience and anxiety.
Patience may be the hardest. Before this incident, like others who go about with mobile phones, tablets and laptops, I filled vacant time with whatever diversion the electronic world had to offer. Keeping up with the news, reading long articles, or wasting time with Facebook and Twitter could fill hours. Now I find so-called vacant time consumed with sitting and thinking. Time dedicated to tasks is greater than it used to be. Hurrying is not an option. It takes a long time to do the things that have been my daily routine. Morning Prayer cannot be skimmed through. Reading the news from a dozen or more sites is out of the question. I have to choose two or three articles and skim the rest by listening to radio. Reading email has become a matter of deleting anything to which I’m unwilling to devote five or ten minutes. The usual assortment of everyday household tasks has been pared back to the essentials that can be done well enough without seeing details.
I’ve become dependent on my wife for a lot things that have to be worked into her schedule, which is already filled with the important matters of her own life. A feeling of greater dependence and less contribution is frustrating, requiring a more robust discipline of patience than I’ve been known to possess; it means learning to be more patient. Patience, for me, has to do with time management and the illusion that I am its master. I am no longer that master. I have to wait for the time it takes for things to happen. Being punctual and not wasting time was a sign to myself that I was a more effective user of time than the average person. Now I have less control over my time. The use I want to make of it has to be accommodated by time being managed by others, and by the tasks themselves. For instance, my new electronic reading device makes it possible to read, albeit slowly, but not to read all things. It takes more time to find things in plain sight. Putting toothpaste on a toothbrush takes extra time. Preparing a meal from a recipe takes a lot of time. The god of time is being deposed as the ruler of my life. That’s not said as an excuse for sloth, or disrespect for intruding on the time of others. It’s recognition that patience is not one of the virtues of which I can be proud, but I’m learning.
For me, patience is related to anxiety. Not having control over time makes the near future less predictable, and raises anxiety over what will happen next. There’s anxiety about whether I’ll lose yet more of my sight. Familiar things have become strange, even unavailable, and that creates more anxiety. A few days ago I was dropped off at a restaurant for my first “unsupervised” outing with a group of retired men from church. It was a little like a first day of school. Would I recognize anyone? How would I order lunch? Would someone give me a ride home? It went well, no need to have wasted energy on anxiety.
Being visually impaired is not blindness, but the distorted and somewhat veiled field of vision creates an odd new reality for me. Too many moving images competing for attention feels like an assault on my senses and gives me a tinge of vertigo – its own sort of anxiety.
So the cure for vision induced anxiety is for me to spend time in quiet reflective prayer, mentally composing new things to write, and rehearsing lectures I may or may not ever give.
Well, this isn’t what I started out to write, but it’s what has come out. Leaving it here, I plan to return to more normal subjects next week.