It was in my toolbox. It had been sitting there for the last seven years and I had used it periodically. I resisted using it, but with a very confronting issue on my plate, it was time to open the toolbox and get back to it. That is, meditation.
At the same time, this terrible pandemic has caused so many people to die. A high proportion of people have experienced mental health issues and are isolated, thousands are suffering financially, and nobody really knows the long-term impact on children. Now we find ourselves in the sixth lockdown. How will COVID-19 end?
When I took out my tool, I was at a major crossroad in my life. Meditation was my saviour. It felt so beautiful to return to a familiar place. Meditation immediately gave me a sense of calmness and clarity. I asked myself over and over why I avoided doing it for so long? It’s so easy to close your eyes and relax.
Since I was eight years old, I battled with a sick and painful eye that had been attacked by a terrible auto immune disease. Over 40 years, the eye became almost blind and extremely painful. My family and I visited so many specialists across the world, hoping to find a way to prevent damage and slow down the vision loss. No doctor ever told us that there was no future for this useless organ. I suppose they can’t do that. Three years ago, with the help of my husband Adam, I arrived at the decision to have it removed.
I was so nervous when I went on a second date with Adam. How could I reveal that I had this ‘minor’ health issue? I took a punt and went with honesty. He saw my optimism, strength and courage and decided he would pursue the relationship. Our world now extends to three gorgeous children. They are aware of my medical issues, but I am a present, involved mum. My illness doesn’t define me.
The question I was confronting wasn’t whether I was brave enough to have my eye removed. I had already experienced gruelling surgery three years ago and I expected the story to be over. Nobody had to know I even had the removal because the ocularist (the skilled person who made the prosthesis) is an artist and the prosthesis is almost indistinguishable from an eye. I thought I would have a better quality of life. Adam would give anything for me to live pain free.
I am like a complex case on the American TV series, House. After one year of wearing the prostheses, my eyelid became inflamed, and I could no longer wear the prosthesis. I was staggered. The devastation unimaginable. I never thought that this would happen to me. I tried my hardest to persevere and ignore the pain, but I knew deep down that for some bizarre reason I felt best with nothing in the orbit. Perhaps my brain was telling me that it was enough. After all the trauma it had gone through, it just wanted to have a break.
Do I finally draw a line in the sand? The surgeon confirmed there was nothing else that could be done. I made a choice that I would prefer to wear a patch and be in less pain. As hard as it is, I was giving up the long fight. I would stop looking for answers, reasons, new procedures or wait for something to change. I couldn’t think about being old with a patch. Even five years from now. To arrive at acceptance, the only thing I could do was take it one day at a time.
Ironically, when wearing a patch in front of people I felt laid bare. Especially the first time they saw it. A statement that I lost my eye; in the past I could hide behind the prosthesis. A story that I hadn’t shared with everyone in my network of friends, colleagues and school community.
For months I had been hiding behind a white make up pad, because I wanted people to think I had a procedure or a temporary issue. Even then I wondered if people were questioning what was wrong when I walked in and out of my daughter’s school. I was waiting on another prosthesis from Europe, but unfortunately it fell through. Nothing worked. I am complex, remember?
What sort of patch was I going to wear that my three children aged five, eleven and twelve would find ‘acceptable’? The youngest has this unconditional love but the older ones are at an age where appearance means so much. I included them in the new design and subtly told them why I needed to make the change.
I met a fashion designer in my living room one Saturday afternoon. She came over with her daughter who happens to be friends with my youngest at school. When I shared my story, she generously offered to design a special patch for me. The patch fits perfectly with my bright pink, funky, glasses and thankfully my kids are happy with the end product. A variety of colours to pair with different outfits.
When I pass a mirror fleetingly and see myself with a patch, I still can’t believe that after everything I have gone through, this is my reality. I am a positive person, but this is one of the hardest challenges I have faced. The only way is to have gratitude. One day at a time. It is what it is. Back to the toolbox now. I will take out my tool, my meditation, which assists me in so many positive ways with the journey of life.