To See, or not To See

I am not “blind as a bat” but it sure sometimes feels close to it.  I can roll over in bed and look towards the clock but I can’t see what time it is.  I can sit up in bed and look towards the door jamb but would not be able to see who was standing in it.  I could sit on the sofa and look towards the television but would only be able to see that it was on, not what was on.  I’ve been on many blind dates, my ridiculously long truck has a serious blind spot, and I have one too many times turned a blind eye…I have many blessings in my life, but the gift of sight is not one of them.

Without my glasses on or contacts in, I have about 11 inches of clarity.  I test myself often, to see just how bad my eyes are, and for example, I am typing here this morning with my coffee at my desk in front of the computer and my head is exactly 21 inches from the screen, yes, I measured, and once I take off my glasses all I can see is that I am in fact sitting in front of my computer and that the screen is illuminated but I can clearly SEE nothing…not a single letter on the keyboard, not a single number of the wall calendar, not the brand name of the phone or the printer on my desk…it’s a very odd sensation to even try to understand, for those of you who SEE, to even imagine what it’s like, to not be able to see anything.

I have many recurring dreams in my life and one of them that wakes me up in a dripping sweat with a rapidly beating heart is the one where I am running in the woods…and I never “know” if I am running towards something or from something, but I am running lightening fast and so skillfully, and the woods are thick and the underbrush is dense and yet I am able to keep my arms out and can sweep away the limbs, and then I stumble, and my glasses go flying, and I can’t reach them or see them or anything…and I get back up in my dream and begin to try to continue on, and am paralyzed with blurry fear, as I cannot see…anything…and then I bolt wide awake…

And so on Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock I left work to go have an eye exam at a new doctor…and now that I have health insurance get one free exam a year, which is splendid since I had not been to my “regular” eye doctor since 2006!  Now, to be clear, that’s a choice in where I spend my money, meaning I certainly could have afforded to go over these last many years if I chose for example to get Chinese take-out ten fewer times over the year, or bought 18 fewer bottles of wine over the year…it’s not that the eye doctor was so overpriced I could not afford to go every year as I am supposed to, it’s that as a single self-employed woman, my income is such that I have to make many choices over the days of the year as to how and where I spend the money I earn, and getting my eyes checked never really wins over take-out food or alcohol…so anyway, the nurse sets the refraction exam machine to my present glasses prescription and then the doctor starts with the exam questions, “which is clearer, one or two?”  and “which is sharper, top or bottom?”  and all those little lens discs she begins clicking in that mask, and I can’t believe as the exam is happening, how amazing it feels to SEE so well, when I say, “A or bottom,”  it’s like a whole new world is just beyond my nose when she changes those lenses to different levels of sharpness, clarity, depth…and I think in awe, “what must it be like to see like this every day?!!?”

I can’t even imagine how exciting it would be to have my granddaughters walk in my house and for me to look up from crocheting and SEE their beautiful faces without having to stop to put my glasses on, or to have dinner with my boyfriend and SEE his smile or his eyes brighten as he tastes his favorite dish I’ve  made, or the dragonflies, hummingbirds, and deer outside my walls every evening…there is so much to SEE every second of the day, and I need help to do it…SO, I got a new prescription for eyeglasses and for contact lenses, all of which are now on order.  It seems I am also now going to be a person with reading glasses strewn around the house, and my truck, and in my purse, as I need one level of magnification “readers” for when I will be wearing my contacts, and then a second level of magnification “readers” for when I am wearing my glasses but have to take them off for close up work or reading…oh lord!!  I am soon going to be one of those women with a pair of glasses on my face, one holding my hair back, and one around my neck hanging on a decorative chain!!

On my drive back to work after my exam I thought, well, I suppose I can keep all my old glasses for when I paint ceilings or pressure wash decks…meaning basically now they can just be trash…and then I had a better thought, no, they should not be trash at all…what about women who are at Providence House??  …homeless with their kids and had to leave their marriages in the middle of the night??  or were taken out of their residences by the police and had to leave their personal things behind?? or lost their glasses in the chaos of a melee and now can’t see?? …and I felt so happy thinking that when my new glasses and new contacts arrive, I’ll be donating 6 pair of clear and 6 pair of sunglasses to Providence House, and maybe the prescription won’t be accurate or perfectly clear, and maybe the shapes of the frames won’t be a style the women would have chosen for themselves if they were at a store, but for these women who can use the glasses, it will be clear to me that I’ll sleep better knowing that those women will be able to see the faces of their children a little bit clearer, and that above all, is really the greatest  sight for sore eyes…

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Blindside

Back when I was a young single mother of a preschooler, and every jacket I owned had shoulder pads, and I bought cans of Aqua-Net  six at a time, and did not leave the house without my makeup and hair “perfect,” I was working at a gallery and going to college at night and on my days off and basking in the delight of young love.  I was in my first “big” relationship since my divorce with a boy who I met at college who lived 30 minutes north of me who  had a big Italian family and big Italian family dinners and we were, I believed, crazy about each other.  We spent all our free time together and he and his family were wonderful to my child.  He took longer to get ‘ready’ to go out than I did and had better clothes than I did and his hair took longer to “do” than mine did and he was something of a “mamma’s boy” and very different from anyone I had ever dated but everything was wonderful, I thought…In the summer I would get my daughter on Sundays after work from my parent’s house and drive north for Sunday dinner (Yes! I liked him and his family THAT much that I would drive north from the shore on a Sunday…for anybody who is reading this who is not familiar with the Jersey shore on a Sunday after five o’clock heading north, you don’t and won’t realize the significance of this journey, but know it HAD to be love and really good cooking!!)  Everything was cooked with skill and care and the house smelled so good and the mom and the aunt and the sister had been working in the kitchen for much of the day, and the table was filled with talk and bowls piled high with amazingly delicious food, course after course, and it was a fun place to spend Sunday night.

One Saturday afternoon in late August, the summer before my daughter was starting kindergarten, my phone rang while I was getting ready to work a night shift.  I was in my robe  to have a shower and had just laid out my clothes on the bed.  I remember the outfit so clearly and in such detail because the next many minutes became seared into my brain;  I stood staring at this outfit laid out on my bed as an unfamiliar voice said to me, “you don’t know me but I have been seeing your boyfriend for over a year and now I am pregnant” and the hot tears flowed so heavily and all of these words were so unexpected and wicked that they took my breath away & that outfit became branded into my eyeballs like a logo on a steer.

You know that scene in The Big Chill, when Glenn Close’s character Sarah cries in the shower and sort of slowly sinks down the wall in sadness?  Well, as dramatic as it might sound, that is how my shower kind of went.  I did not want my daughter to hear me crying and stayed in the shower until I could breathe and think at the same time…it seemed, well no it was, that the facts of the matter were that since my boyfriend lived a half hour from me, and I worked full-time at the gallery and also went to college at night and on my days off, and therefore was often unavailable to BE his girlfriend, he took the opportunity to start dating a girl who worked as a cashier  at a Dunkin Donuts, who lived in his town and was evidently  available to BE his girlfriend all the hours that I was not.  He was able to live this -double life- because he told her everything about me, and told me nothing about her, so he only had to lie to one person not two.

All I ever really learned about this girl was that she lived some sort of low-income housing project and that she didn’t wear makeup.  All I ever really learned about my boyfriend’s family was that they loved their “mamma’s boy” so much they neglected to do the karmically correct thing, and not only allowed the morally reprehensible behavior and deception to occur under their roof and in their presence, they  silently let me be made a fool.   I later found out that sometimes this girl would have spent all of her Sunday with my boyfriend and his family at their house, and then leave when I was on my way for dinner.  I learned that sometimes when there was a family function in Brooklyn or on Long Island on a Saturday, when of course I was working and could not go, she would come along with the family instead.  I learned that people who appear to act like they like you  can look you right in the face and have many  conversations with you over the months of a  year and not once think to mention, ‘by the way, this boy you are so sweet to and so sweet on, our son,  is doing a cruel and disgraceful thing.’  This boy I loved lived with his mother, father, two sisters, and an aunt…not one of them ever thought to do the right thing and tell me of this deception and betrayal???  I really loved that boyfriend.  I never saw it coming.

They say you are blindsided when you are unprepared and attacked from an unexpected position, and the definition really fits; when you find out that you have been lied to and cheated on and deceived by your boyfriend, and also that his family hoodwinked you too, it feels like you have  been kicked or punched in the gut and you cry so much when it first happens that you are sure you might very well go blind.

It has been years since that experience, my grandchildren are older now than my daughter was then…the hurt and pain from being duped is  long gone, I live in my magnificent home with my beautiful family next door and have a job I love and a boyfriend who loves me and who I know, without question, would never ever behave like that other boy did…ah, I know…I know?…or do I think? or do I hope? or do I expect?  you see…that is the magic of healing from blindsidedness…once your vision returns you open yourself up again to the possibility that it could happen, again.  Faith in next times, over and over and over…I have learned that the possibility for next time to be better, or next time to get it right, or next time will be a better fit,  is worth trying for.  You heal, and the good thing about being blindsided is that it clears up your eyes so that you begin to really see what matters.  Being loved and loving someone is worth giving it another shot, always.

I know that my story of a dopey boyfriend when I was in my 20’s pales in comparison to some other women’s stories…to have the father of your children announce shortly after returning home from a family trip to Disney World that he no longer loves you, or to have your husband who has spoiled you and treated you like a princess for ten years announce one afternoon that he is no longer in love and has already signed a lease someplace other than the home you share…those are bigger and sadder stories but blindsided is blindsided whether your story is big or your story is small.  When we are blindsided by somebody we love, whether it’s a boyfriend and his family, or a husband, or a partner, or even a friend, it’s easy at first to think, “never again!” because the hurt is so much more powerful than the hope…but today’s message is for any of you who have been blindsided, do not give up hope, do not give up believing, just dry your eyes and let them heal, and open them wide and see all of the possibilities…