Standing beneath the spotlights on our small church stage, we practiced the songs for service this morning. Looking down, the words on the music stand blurred. No, not blurred, not exactly. It was as if the lights were too bright, the writing too soft, or that they wouldn’t hold still…my eye couldn’t catch them, hold them, make them come into crisp enough focus.
I blinked a lot. I covered my eye with my palm. I fumbled and missed words. I turned and asked Vinnie to look and see if I had forgotten to put my contact in that eye. I hadn’t.
The most frustrating part, is that I don’t know when to just resign myself to this…this state of blur…and when to call the doctor to move up my next appointment. I don’t know what this new normal is just yet.
Today, we had our annual trip to cut down the Christmas tree.
I took these shots of Evaline. One immediately after the other.
And I thought, this. This is it. It comes and goes, just as quickly (and disorienting) as a blink. As the beat between two camera snaps. This is what I see. (Minus the feeling that my brain is struggling to pull into focus what my eye cannot.)
It’s, I am, a blur.
I’ve been shying away from the other side of the camera, not liking seeing a face that doesn’t look quite right. Maybe not to anyone else, but to me. Which stands to reason, we live our lives, seeing ourselves in the mirror as we brush our teeth or pluck our eyebrows, in the rear view while we ride shotgun, in quick glimpses whenever we pass any reflective surface. The face I know best, my own, is suddenly foreign to me. And, in a petty and embarrassing-to-admit way, it feels like a loss.
Typically, when cutting down our tree, I have done selfies with the kids or had them take pictures of Vinnie and I. Today, Evie snuggled up next to me at our diner pit stop. Vinnie took my phone and insisted on taking our picture.
As soon as he handed it to me, I wanted to delete it, just as I’ve wanted to not keep any of the pictures of my face from this moment. It’s not that the person in the picture looks bad or unattractive. It’s a cell phone snap of a happy, albiet tired, looking mom. It’s that it’s not the reflection I’ve known for thirty-eight years, and it’s jarring.
It’s a reminder that no matter how I push forward as though nothing’s wrong… keeping shooting when my eye’s sore, when focusing is a struggle. Singing as best as I can, when the words on the sheet music won’t hold still and it feels like there’s someone poking their fingertip on my eyeball. How I keep running and doing the workouts, when I’m fatigued and anxious and my heart feels like it might literally burst through my skin, even when I’ve slowed my pace and lessened my weights. When it’s 3:00 AM and my body stops sleeping. Just. Stops. But, I still keep a full calendar and plow ahead, because, I do not want to give in. To this.
This, which I see now, in pictures, new me.
It’s this that bothers me most, not out of sheer vanity (of course, there’s some), but because, it’s the one thing I cannot control. I cannot undo the swelling, the wide-eyed stare, the way my eyelid is retracting, how it won’t lower itself easily. I cannot even make my reflection look…like myself. And that’s both an odd loss of self-identity and a completely humbling process of coming to terms with letting go. I cannot will myself, or my body, to make what’s going on, go away.
Which is all particularly hard for me, since I willed myself through just about everything in life. Through getting married when I wanted, getting my MFA (starting just two weeks after having Alex), starting a business, homeschooling from zero to sixty. I’ve even willed my husband to buy the house that I wanted, and to take me on adventures all over the world. I am not used to losing in a battle of wills.
But, maybe that’s what I need to accept. There is no other will here that I’m fighting. And there is no will here that I need to be forcing upon anyone, even myself.
There is only this: life as I know it – with cuddles from silly six year-olds who ordered a side of bacon with her hot dog, with friends who make ordinary nights fun just by coming upstairs in their pj’s and watch Netflix, with a church and a community of awesome people, who are uplifting and encouraging, and clients who fill my heart at every shoot – it’s all still happening.
My vision may blur, but my heart is clear and the only thing I need to worry about controlling, is my focus.