I didn’t have time for a crisis on that particular Thursday. I had plans: oversee my fifth grader’s holiday party, stop in at my second grader’s holiday party, pick up my little ones from preschool, coordinate a tradeoff with the babysitter, and see a full list of clients at my counseling practice.
But I had a problem. I could see only out of one corner of my right eye. A freak accident a few days before involving my three-year-old and a large toy had led to multiple visits to the eye doctor. I was scheduled for a follow-up later in the week, but when I called and described my vision the doctor told me to come in immediately. The rest of the day was a blur of confusing words and experiences: detached retina, emergency surgery, total bed rest, vision gradually returning.
Losing my vision, even temporarily, has awakened me to how much I take for granted, things like peripheral vision, depth perception, driving, and reading and writing with ease. When our world comes to a screeching halt due to an illness, loss, or traumatic event, the old adage “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” feels less like a cliché and more like a grave prophecy. I wish it didn’t take a crisis to make me appreciate my beautiful, albeit ordinary and messy, life.
Proponents of the practice of mindfulness suggest it can awaken us to our lives without the stimulus of a catastrophic event. Mindfulness can be defined as the “intention to pay attention to each and every moment of our life, non-judgmentally,” in contrast to the mindless way many of us live, as if on autopilot. Our technologically driven, hyper-busy, multitasking, always-plugged-in culture sets us up to function on overdrive. It is a disembodied, task focused, numbed out, distracted, and distracting way of life.1