As an elder and a fat aging woman in a culture that often seems to lean toward the younger (not youngest!) generations, the slender, and men (white ones more than others), I’ve come to appreciate some experiences more than others. On the downside, the assumption of medical professionals that I’m in poor health (have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and/or type 2 diabetes) because I’m older and fat annoys me, particularly when I have to remind them several times that I don’t have any of those conditions, though I can feel my BP elevating as we chat! The assumption of adults from younger generations that I’m feeble-minded, ignorant about technology, and incapable of understanding modern life likewise frustrates me. However, I’m in the midst of a lovely and eye-opening experience I’d like to share.
Many months ago, my optometrist informed me that the mild cataracts I had developed over the last few years had worsened and suggested connecting with an ophthalmologist for an assessment for cataract removal surgery. She assured me the experience would provide great insights and, most importantly, make certain I could see well enough to continue to drive. That point hit home because the safety of my grandsons, the most precious “cargo” I transport daily to/from school, matters so much to me. Endangering their lives because 20/20 vision eluded me? What a poor choice!
The surgery itself didn’t go quite as well as hoped for the first eye, but my vision definitely changed/improved. I still need contact lenses or glasses to get the 20/20 view of the world, but indoors with slight nearsightedness I can safely wander without corrective lenses, bake banana bread or cakes, watch movies on my laptop, and play board games with the grandkids.
If you’re not familiar with cataracts, they’re most typical among older folks. I’m younger than the average age for surgery but the description I liked best comes from the Mayo Clinic: “A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. For people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend’s face.”[i]
My experience disagrees a bit with the “frosty” window idea in that the cataracts turned my world a golden color. Looking at a striped pumpkin-orange and snow-white pattern, I saw a darker-orange and light beige. Very light-skinned folks appeared tan and darker-skinned folks had a golden glow. Honestly, I liked the rustic feel of the softer colors. Pre-surgery, without my glasses or contacts, the larger world looked very much like an impressionist painting: swirls of color and general impressions of people and objects with softer edges.
From only being able to clearly see what was literally right in front of my nose, the world opened up for me at age 12 or 13 when I got my first glasses. I began to understand why I tripped on objects (with my severe myopia I couldn’t see them!) and fell so often. With corrective lenses I also became more aware of the broader world, and it sometimes frightened me because the dangers, as well as the beauty, became more apparent. What I quickly realized: what we let in, notice, and focus upon has an impact on us beyond the superficial.
Life seemed to tell me it was time to pay more attention to ways different actions I take impact my overall well-being. Curious, I decided to try a few different approaches and to truly appreciate and enjoy my new perspective. Changes I’ve made:
+Thanks to a tip from The Social Dilemma[ii] and their disruptors, I turned off notifications for most apps and started taking 24-hour breaks from social media, news, and email once a week. During the breaks, I do respond to texts from family/friends and gladly speak to others on the phone. I receive emergency notices through FEMA and local emergency services apps, so know I’ll get notices that keep me safe. I recommend the healthy break, though it did take a couple of weeks to move beyond feeling a bit twitchy without Twitter, Facebook (where friends and family visit), Instagram (where I follow those I admire), YouTube, and news apps. I let go of Pinterest and Reddit long ago – big time sucks for me – and deleted TikTok (frankly, mostly boring to me and the best videos pop up on other feeds).
+Meditation keeps me grounded. A timer helps me but I started with Headspace and Calm apps – both are grand and my health insurance provider offered them free! Check your insurance details under headings like Extras or Special Offers or give the customer service number a call.
+Writing helps me imagine and explore options.
+Lifelong learning is a commitment I made decades ago. There are a lot of options for free training in valuable subjects. Curious about racism and ready to work toward a better world? The Anti-Racist Table has a free 30-day course that will change your life.[iii] Ever wonder how to respond if you witness racial, ethnic, or religious harassment? Enjoy a free Bystander Intervention Training that’s quick and definitely gave me some good ideas and a needed confidence boost[iv]. Learn a language (Lirica is so much fun and free![v]). Try coding (there are some free apps!). The possibilities are (nearly) endless!
+Encourage peace. Pray, chant, visualize all of us uplifting one another. One option I appreciated: the book HeartMath Solution. Also enjoyed visiting HeartMath[vi] online. They have some free info/trainings, too, as well as tools and virtual gatherings for folks to send healing vibes into the world.
My Suggestion is to make these a priority: taking time for yourself, doing things you love, and for acts of intentional self-care. Chances are, by doing so, you will make the world a better place and see it through gentler and more loving eyes.
May you and yours be happy, healthy, strong, safe, and enjoy lives of ease.
Last words: Please remember that neither my opinions/experiences nor resources I mention are meant as cures or treatment. This is intended to uplift and educate, not as counseling or professional advice. If you are in a moment in your life when most efforts feel huge, consider finding a mental health professional to support you.[vii] If you’re considering ending your life or if you are in crisis, please reach out to emergency services (9-1-1) or a crisis hotline[viii] to connect with someone who will have your best interests at heart. Your tender heart deserves respect. Copyright 2021 D.R. deLuis
[i] Check out more info at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353790.
[viii] To speak with someone, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the website to text/chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.If you’re not comfortable speaking with someone, try reaching out to the Crisis Text Line. In the US and Canada text “HOME” to 741741; in the UK text 85258; in Ireland text 2050808.