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What was happening?
I strained to see the letters on the screen as the Optometrist examined my eyes.
My right eye was covered and she asked me to tell her what letters I could read with my left eye.
What letters? Everything was a blur. I could hardly breathe. My heart was racing and I was sure that something was seriously wrong. Was it a brain tumour? Or maybe blindness that had suddenly appeared unannounced? I swallowed and took a breath as I told her that I could not see anything with my left eye.
I had gone in for a “routine” eye exam and was not expecting this! After a series of further tests, I was diagnosed with a cataract in my left eye. The cataract blocked the light entering my eye and prevented images from being projected onto my retina. I was told that the surgery required to repair this is not complex. In fact, there are many cataract surgeries done every day.
What a relief!
I was put on the surgical list and the wait began.
Little did I know how long the wait time would be. Seven months later, my operative date arrived. The morning of the booked surgery, I got a call. “Your surgery is cancelled!” Nursing staff levels were not safe for surgery to be done because of the pandemic and high illness rates.
I was devastated. I felt angry, disappointed, and frustrated. Why did this have to happen to me? I struggled to be calm and I realized I had a choice. I could wallow in bitterness and fume at the medical system that had “let me down.” Or, I could view my situation from a larger perspective. This meant focusing on what I had control over, rather than railing against things I could not change.
I knew that my health would suffer if I remained bitter and angry. I had no idea when the surgery would be done, and I wanted to enjoy my life until that time.
I decided to put to practice some of the principles I have read about and taught over the years. It was time to “Walk My Talk.”
Insights I Discovered While Waiting: A New Perspective
1. There is a question that helped me as I waited: “What am I carrying that is not mine to carry?” Resentment, impatience, and a victim mentality were things I wanted to remove from my life. I also saw that anxiety and worry about the future did nothing to ease my heart. I wanted to release them as well.
2. Another question followed this one: “What is important for me to have in my life to support me now?” I realized that acceptance of my reality was a basic necessity. I was being asked to wait. I had no choice about this, and as I reminded myself of this, I noticed a sense of calm and peace within my heart. Surrendering to the unknown future was integral to this acceptance. I felt relieved when I was able to do this.
3. Asking for help became a necessity. Due to my compromised vision, it was not safe for me to drive in the rain or at night. My husband became my chauffeur, and I practiced receiving.
4. I was not as strong and resilient as usual. I was surprised to notice the wave of exhaustion that flooded me after a visit with our grandchildren, or a Zoom call with friends. My optometrist reminded me that my brain was working overtime to help me see with only one eye, and therefore it was natural for me to be extra tired. It was humbling for me to admit that I was not as capable as I used to be. I felt vulnerable and struggled with feeling inadequate. The insight that I was not as strong or resilient as usual helped to normalize my level of energy and be willing to rest more and be kind to myself.
5. Gratitude is another tool that helped me as I waited. As I caught myself heading down a spiral of worry, I remembered times in the past when I successfully came through a crisis or challenge. I decided to celebrate those moments and trust that I would have the strength to come through this as well. I am grateful for my general health, and I treat my body with respect and appreciation.
6. I am a person who wants to be in control. I get impatient when things don’t go my way, and as a result, I am edgy and irritable with others. When this happens, I tend to be critical of myself and view myself as a failure because of the tensions in my relationships. The gift of forgiving myself and showing love are insights that I valued as the days of waiting continued.
As the days went by, I reframed my experience of waiting for my eye surgery. I was struck by the change in my mood and my outlook as I settled in to look for key ways to support myself, and as I practiced receiving from others. Sooner than I expected, I was booked for surgery.
The insights of the past have prepared me to face the future with renewed calmness and trust. I look forward to celebrating my “new eyes,” as well as the rich learnings that are now part of how I view my life.