No matter how strong we are (or think we are), or how much perspective we try to bring to our lives and experiences, we all have things that create anxiety, scare us and make us consider the worst-case scenario.
For the record, I know that I have it good, and my problems are nothing compared to those who don’t have enough, who are chronically ill or have suffered acute injury, or those that have been mistreated or abused.
Yet, I’m human, and because of that, I’m imperfect, fallible and sometimes self-absorbed. Sometimes, that cocktail of human traits bubbles up when I have to face a situation regarding my health.
In general, I’m healthy and fit, save for some aches and pains typical of someone my age. I take care of myself, so that prevents or at least mitigates many common – and not so common – ailments. But then there are those things that just “happen” despite eating right and exercising; things I can’t control. For me, the thing that has most frightened me about my health is my eyesight.
Growing up, my eyes were healthy and focused: 20/20 focused. Then, around age 30, I learned I needed corrective lens for reading. No big deal, right?
Then, after a number of years visiting the eye doctor with nothing more critical than minor changes to my prescription, it was suggested I see a specialist, and when I did, they told me I had cataracts and early-stage glaucoma. That scared me, but over time, I realized those things shouldn’t be life-changing as long as I took care of them. And I did.
By 2010, I’d already had my cataracts repaired in both eyes, and we were treating the glaucoma with nightly eyedrops.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2014, the week my son’s baseball team – a team I coached – was scheduled to play in the championship game. On Thursday of that week, I visited my ophthalmologist to have him look at what I thought was a scratch on my eye, simply a minor irritation I might have picked up at the baseball diamond.
At 8:30 a.m., I entered the his office. Thirty minutes later, he was referring me to a specialist for emergency retinal re-attachment surgery. By 8:00 p.m., I was home, the detachment repaired, and I would spend the next week and a half with my head facing the ground, 24/7, as the incisions healed.
That Saturday, two days after my surgery, I sat at home as Will’s team played without me. They lost, but in the scheme of what had transpired, I had already gained some perspective about that game and what I’d been through over the past several days. Eventually, my eye healed and I got back to normal life, my perspective and my eyesight restored.
Fast forward again to 2018. During a routine, semi-annual visit, my ophthalmologist again told me I had a retinal detachment, this time in my left eye. This time, I didn’t even know anything was wrong. Again, emergency surgery was required, and the next day, I found myself in familiar territory, head down, healing and hoping things would be OK.
After more days of staring at the ground, weeks with no lifting or exertion, countless eyedrops and several trips back to the doctor to gauge progress, I was determined “good to go.”
Why do I tell you all this? It’s because those experiences have made me feel vulnerable and anxious about my eyesight, and specifically, the prospect of losing it. While it doesn’t affect me daily, I do sometimes think about what could have happened, and how much worse these situations could have been had we not addressed them when we did.
On the other hand, on those days when it does creep into my brain – like today, when I have an appointment with my retinal surgeon to “check and make sure everything is still on course” -- I don’t think about what could have happened, I think about what could happen next, or what my doctor might find today that might change my vision – and my view of things, my perspective – in the future.
Simply put, these days scare me because right now, I feel like everything is fine, but until later this morning when my doctor examines my eyes, I won't know.
When I get into these mind spaces, I repeat a lyric from “Crawling Back To You” by Tom Petty: “Most things I worry about never happen anyway …” That lyric, I’m guessing, was inspired by the following Mark Twain quote: "I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
However, and from whomever, one decides to ingest this wisdom – a legendary author or a legendary rock star -- it’s true, most of the things I worry about don't actually happen, and I’m hoping today is just another in a long list of times I’ve worried for no reason at all.
But the other thing I need to keep in mind, regardless of what my doctor tells me today, is that in the scope of things, I’m lucky. I have access to what I need to stay healthy. More than that, I have countless things and people in my life to be grateful for, and my challenges and fears – whether rational or not – are nothing compared to what so many people have to endure every day.
I’ll get through this appointment, and with any luck, things will be fine, and I’ll move on with my day, taking a brief moment to kick myself for wasting time worrying. However, if the news isn’t what I want, I’ll suck it up and do what I need to do to get things back to where they need to be.
Because that’s life. And sometimes I have to remind myself, while my life is far from perfect, it's pretty darn good.
© 2021 David R. Haznaw