Last week, I made my annual pilgrimage to visit my ophthalmologist. These appointments are typically at the end of the calendar year and are one of my least favorite holiday traditions. They date back to the fall of 2003 when I suffered a retinal detachment in my left eye.
I typically dread these appointments and for good reason; they are a combination of an FBI interrogation and the world’s worst carnival ride. They begin harmless enough. I’m quizzed about my medical history, asked about current medications, and given a vision test with and without corrective lenses. The penultimate event is a series of eye drops to dilate and numb my eyes, done in preparation for the doctor’s examination. I am asked to sit in a chair that makes me feel like one of the Mercury Astronauts. It tilts backward at a 90-degree angle and my toes point to the sky; the outcome uncertain. My doctor approaches with an incredibly bright light strapped to his forehead while thoughts race through my mind (Will his 15-year-old handiwork still be intact? Will more surgery be required? Why is this holiday decor so dated?). The light is incredibly uncomfortable, painful really. He barks out instructions, “Look left, look right, look down, look up, stop crying… it’s distracting.” I’m dismissed from the examination room squinting at the office lighting, wearing my rather thick “birth control glasses”. I make an appointment for December 2018 and hand over $50.00 to complete the ritual.
I have always anticipated these exams with dread and trepidation, but recently I have noticed a different sensation-gratitude. I’m blessed to have access to medical care and could be blind without the aid of a skilled surgeon. While acute myopia isn’t pleasant, my vision is correctable and it doesn’t impair me from living life on my terms. I get up every day and experience blessings many people long for: going to work, running errands, and shuttling my kids to various events. Make no mistake, the humdrum ordinary routine and rhythm of life is a blessing, and I’m reminded of this every December. We all have crosses to bear. While uncomfortable and even painful, they provide opportunities to juxtapose burdens and blessings. It took a retinal detachment for me to truly see how blessed I am.