“Blind” for a Day, and Found Something

being vs. doing

By writing what follows I’m in no way implying that any kind of blindness, especially the permanent kind, is good, or beneficial. I sort of lost my sight for a day and got my eyes opened, but thankful that it was temporary.

Here’s the story…

5 years ago I was diagnosed with a thing called RA. My immune system will occasionally flare and attack my joints. It’s super painful and can result in permanent disability if it’s not handled rightly. But somehow, about two years into the diagnosis, I convinced myself that if I exercised super hard I could manage this without RA meds, which are super scary.

It “worked” for a couple of years, but last week I started experiencing a burning sensation in my left eye, which got worse day by day. Pretty soon, the only time I could open either eye was in a dark room.

Wife rushed me to the ophthalmologist who said I had an ulcer on my eyeball, most likely caused by the RA which he believed wasn’t being managed well. Can’t tell you how painful it was.

The next day we visited my RA doc who gave me a bunch of dirty looks for not going to the doctor for two years, put me back on meds. Eye’s feeling better, still burns a little – having a hard time writing this morning, but I hope what I learned by not being able to see for day stays with me for awhile.

It’s weird at first, being driven around in cars, not being able to see anything, or sitting in your living room with your eyes closed, nothing to do.

You can’t turn on the TV, read the news, or soak in some social media. I had no idea how much crap was coming into my brain through my eyes. I’m not mature enough to read someone’s rant on Facebook and not let it into my soul, so I’m frequently feasting my eyes on things that take me to the dark side.

I also couldn’t judge anybody, which for me has become a staple of being, a coping mechanism of sorts. I pick on the frailties of others to make myself feel good, which works in the moment, but the bill that comes later is big, and gets paid out of my quality-of-life budget.

But the hardest thing about my temporary loss of sight was that I couldn’t get anything done. I’m a “do-er.” I derive my value and life’s purpose from what I can accomplish – especially if it’s something impressive. That’s why being a stay-at-home-dad has been so difficult. There are no paychecks, no measurables – nothing I can throw out in a conversation to give evidence to my worth as a human.

That’s difficult in a world that worships accomplishment.

For years, sociologists have drawn an interesting distinction between “doing” and “being” cultures. Ours is more of a “doing” culture. We’re busy, tied to the clock, frequently talking in terms of accomplishments and accolades. Things like achievement, awards, education, goals, money, real estate, and other signs of “success” are what we value.

That’s not a bad thing. Every culture needs to have a “doing” aspect to it, or… well… nothing gets done.

Cultures that focus more on “doing” are typically more wealthy and powerful than “being” cultures, which place more weight on things like artistic expression, parties/gatherings, celebrations, friendship, and a general care for one another. Folk in “being” cultures enjoy more intimacy, more interdependence, and far less anxiety, loneliness, and depression than folk in “doing” cultures.

If there was a perfect culture, it would have a healthy amount of “being” and “doing,” and neither would exist at the expense of the other.

But for now, our culture makes it difficult to value people, relationships, etc. We’re too heavy on the “doing” end, and suffering for it.

But when you can’t see, when you have to spend an entire day getting nothing done, all you can do is “be.” Contentment is easier for me when I manage to say no to “do.”

So, I sat in the silence of my living room chair with my eyes closed for hours. For the first time in my life I rode in the car while dad drove, totally un-annoyed by his lack of respect for the lower end of the legal speed limit. Instead of worrying about all the stuff I want to get done, I thought about my wife, thankful that I get to spend the rest of my life with her.

I felt present. I couldn’t think about all the things I was dreaming about, or the list of things needed to make them come true. I never realized how distracting my dreams are, how much they keep me from being present with the people I love, or with the things that are truly beautiful and meaningful that I’m constantly surrounded by. I live, day to day, with huge contentment barriers.

I’m so taken by “what’s coming next” that my life is like a long, steel tunnel. I can see what’s at the end, and it looks great, like nothing else matters, but I can’t see what’s around me – the beauty, the weight. Peace. The things that are most important to me will occasionally poke their hands through the tunnel and try to get me to come out, but that impedes forward motion, and makes me angry.

Not being able to see for a day showed me that I’m too heavy on “doing” at the expense of the “being” that my soul is craving.

So, for now at least, I’m not going to spend the time I usually spend on Sunday AM blogging, and go hang out with the fam.