I used to hate my guts.
Not literally, of course, and not metaphorically in the door-slamming, I’m-never-speaking-to-you-again way of teenagers. I’m talking about my refusal to listen to my gut, to heed my instincts, to trust my intuition or the possibility that I know myself best.
Case in point: a recent health event.
About a year ago, I started having issues with my right eye. It would water incessantly upon waking, then blur, sting and otherwise annoy me for the remainder of the day. Some suggested that vanity was the cause. Wasn’t I wearing a new mascara? Hadn’t I tried a different under-eye concealer? Didn’t I use a variety of elixirs and potions to send crow’s feet flying?
Well, yes. I guess so. But this felt different. Almost dangerous. Then I remembered: more than six months earlier, I had gotten rubbing alcohol in my eye on a camping trip. (THAT’S another blog for another day.)
Could the chemical be the cause, lo these many months later and despite the fact I had no previous symptoms?
Confident I was onto something, I visited the ophthalmologist. He listened to my story, gave the standard sympathetic head tilt and nod combo, and told me I had an allergy. I was given eye drops and sent on my way.
Spoiler alert: they didn’t work.
So I went back to the same office a month later, where I saw a different doctor who was on call. He agreed with the allergy assessment and added that I may also have a tear duct problem. Evidently, I don’t cry correctly.
The months crawled by. A new book went to print. I started another. My eye grew worse.
The voices around me told me that I should maintain the doctors’ regimens. They knew best. Yet one voice said they were wrong: my own.
It wasn’t until my best friend echoed that voice and urged me to see a specialist that I finally listened.
I went to a new doctor’s office with an apology on my lips.
It’s probably just an allergy, I said.
I have a tear duct problem, I reported.
I’m sure it’s not the alcohol I’d gotten in my eye 18+ months earlier, I declared.
The doctor examined me, longer and more thoroughly than the others. The diagnosis: corneal erosion.
The caustic chemical that I had gotten in my eye had damaged my cornea’s cell structure so severely that new cells wouldn’t correctly adhere, causing pain and, as it turned out, vision loss.
The good news: the damage and its side effects are likely largely reversible with a prescription ointment applied over the next year.
The other good news: I learned a valuable lesson about listening to myself. (Never mind that it took listening to my friend to get me to do it.)
I’ve gotten a lot of advice over the years, from whether to swaddle my babies to where to go to college to how to write a book. As the years wear on, I’m working on balancing taking in the good, sifting out the bad. Separating wheat from chaff, outside insights from internal understanding.
I find that, save for the eye incident, I’m getting better at it, especially where writing is concerned. I know the stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. In either case, it’s gratifying to know that I have myself to blame. Or thank.
So as 2019 spreads before me, shiny with promise and possibility, I’m keeping my ears open to what I think, what I feel, and what I want.
I’m also making sure that the bottles in our camper are correctly labeled.
How about you, dear friends? Do you know your own mind and follow it? Are you apt to put others’ advice ahead of your own? Or is the whole thing a work in progress as we discern which trails to blaze and which to follow with the guidance of the Siris in our lives?