Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Art of Blinking

"I know this is going to sound stupid," said my optometrist as he inched his flashlight dangerously close to my tensely widened eyeball.

"But you have to remind yourself to blink."

My lids quickly unleashed into an endless fluttering, a conscious effort to expel the halos that gilded my shriveling contact lenses.

It did sound ridiculous:  blinking was often involuntary, automatic and biologically essential.

But somehow, I still needed a reminder.

Once the exam room door opened, a stream of invading sunlight forced my eyes further shut.  I only opened them again at the sound of the doctor's gravelly voice, whose words fell like drips of wet sand.

"The way you see may change in the next few years.  Things right in front of you might become blurry, but those further away might become unusually clear."

"Gotta love aging," I responded, noting the strange resonance of this lesson on bifocals.

I wished I had remembered to blink that morning.

 After frantically fishing out a mud-encrusted cleat from under my son's bed for baseball camp, I found myself tangled in motherhood's familiar net:  the ache for time's suspension and the momentary urge for its quick passage.

I glanced at the microwave clock:  ten long minutes and ten crises until baseball camp:

Blackened waffles.
I can't find my cleat! It's nowhere!
What's wrong with Lil' Wayne? You know nothing about music.
Grout lines streaming with orange juice.
An uncharged phone.
I'll probably strike out again.
Favorite jersey.  Still agitating in the wash.

Ten blurry minutes of nurturing, facilitating, protecting, searching, advising. And mopping.

In my fourteen years as a mother, I have only recently realized my wide-eyed and white-knuckled approach to motherhood.

Those of us who are emotionally wounded as children learn to view the world through shattered glasses, where everything appears kaleidoscopic and suspiciously yellow. When you can't trust what is right in front of you, you learn to keep your eyes wide open where you ache for clarity. For answers. For a secure vision. For a distant someday.

There is no blinking.

 I was five when that last grain of trust slipped through my fingers, bidding farewell to the idea that good things can happen to good people.  In my mind, the "good" often hinged itself on the steepest of emotional cliffs:  always waiting for landslide and never enjoying the view.

I was twenty-eight when my balled up fists reopened, allowing those grains of goodness to again rest comfortably in my hands.

I was twenty-eight when I became a mother.

That swaddled and powdery baby became my new sight.  That jagged, filmy lens through which I once viewed the world somehow sharpened itself, crystallizing unimagined plans and dreams. His first breath became my long-awaited exhale, letting go of insecure thoughts and deflated expectations.

Good things, in fact, do happen to good people.

And there was this:  the distinct silhouette of the hopes I held for him were in fact the hopes that I had rediscovered for myself.

To love and to feel love.
To fall and to be emotionally caught.
To live in the moment while being unafraid of tomorrow.

And yet, despite that realization and two more sons, I still need a nudge to blink.  While the balm of time has helped me to see an unscratched perspective, my eyes should not always be fixed on the distant, unpredictable skies of "what ifs."

Instead, they should look squarely at the grass stains on white baseball pants, the stick figures drawn on dampened diner placemats, the hand of my youngest that still finds its way into mine, the text from my teen that lets me know he is safe.

Because these are the images of palpable grace and everyday love, even if they sometimes seem overwhelming and involve missing mud-encrusted cleats. And superglued chins.

At the optometrist's office, I study the rigid rows of reading glasses while I wait for the doctor to write out my prescription.   I spot a purply, rhinestone-encrusted pair and imagine myself looking more like Dame Edna than a glamorous forty-something.

"Not only do you need to blink to help you clear out your contact lenses," he reminded, "but blinking has been proven to help you refocus your attention on important things, too."

"Thank you," I say, my mind on Lil' Wayne and that jersey still in the wash.

FEAST your EYES on "Mariposa" from Alejandro Ingelmo.  

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