Category Archives: Journal

Be Patient Toward all that is Unsolved in your Heart

Credit: svklimkin | morguefile.com

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms or books that are written in a foreign tongue. The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live your way some distant day into the answers.

Rainer Maria Rilke

In the Eye of the Beholder

Credit: Lightfoot | morguefile.com

I’ve had cataract surgery recently, and I am amazed at the results.  Cataract surgery could be the poster child for Western medicine.  It so perfectly exemplifies what we’re good at . . . upgrading the body’s mechanics.  There’s not much in an old lady’s operating system that can be improved, but my vision is now better than it has ever been in my life.

It’s been a curious experience.  The amber film had grown over my eyes so gradually, so subtly that I never knew it was there.  In the past year I came to be aware of a rainbow halo around streetlights and around the moon, too, but the vivid colors were rather enchanting.  Nothing to complain of, certainly.

I came, however, to be enormously grateful for electronic readers that allow me to adjust both the light and the size of print.  I wouldn’t have minded finding such a device to read street signs.  And night driving grew more difficult, especially in rain with lights glaring off the pavement.

So when told it was time, I went in for the surgery gratefully.

The results were startling.  First eye, 20/20.  Second eye the same.  That’s distance vision, but I can, without reading glasses, still read a newspaper with relative ease. I will, as soon as the new eyes have settled enough for another exam to be reliable, go back to my comfortable bifocals with no correction for distance.  Keeping track of readers is a nuisance.  Besides, it will be a comfort to put glasses on again and leave them in place.  My face feels naked without them.

But the most curious result of this fix, more surprising than my suddenly improved vision, is the change in the quality of light.  The world is suddenly brighter, whiter.  I’ve been in the house I’m in for about six years, and I’ve always turned on daytime lights because wide eaves and big trees make the house dark.  Or at least they used to make the house dark.

Suddenly with my new eyes, I need few lights in the daytime.

Most curious, though, is my bedroom wall.  A couple of years ago I painted one long wall a rich gold to match the gold in the Vermont quilt I keep on my bed.  And I have been utterly satisfied with my color choice, both for quilt and wall.  The gold is so warm.

Now I walk into my bedroom and stop.  Stop cold.  Is that the color I chose?  That arresting gold?  In quilt and wall, too?  The gold is so bright!

Which brings me to the end of a long and very personal meander, no use to anyone unless you happen to be anticipating cataract surgery and are curious about what to expect.

I’m left, though, with one final thought.  The gold paint on my bedroom wall.  I find myself questioning it again and again and again.  And wondering.

Is there anything in the world we don’t see through the fog of our own personal cataract?  And yet I have always thought my vision uniquely true.

Perhaps, it occurs to me at this ripe age, my eye isn’t the only test.

If I check the gold of my vision against the gold of yours, I might even find a reality that encompasses both.

A Big Juicy Creative Life

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction and aim for that. Shoot the moon.

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Annie Lamott,

Precious suffering?

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It is not suffering that is precious, but the concentric pearlescence with which we contain it. The raw grit of anguish will never be in short supply. There is enough of it in the happiest life to serve these instructive purposes, and there always will be. We are more sympathetic to Holocaust survivors than to malcontent children of privilege, but we all have our darkness, and the trick is making something exalted of it.

Andrew Solomon

Accept Sorrow

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Accept sorrow—for who cannot be profoundly sorrowful at the state of our nation, the world and our ecosystem—but know that in resistance there is a balm that leads to wisdom and, if not joy, a strange, transcendent happiness. Know that if we resist we keep hope alive.

Chris Hedges