One Hundred and One Dots

Samuel hands

I pull the book a tad bit closer, at first. Then, instinctually, I extend my arm out to its full length and tilt the book towards the light. I repeat this process with as much subtlety as possible but the truth is evident.

My eyes are struggling.

I am no longer able to read, hour after hour. When I look up from a focused task to gaze out the window, it takes a few moments for my eyes to focus on the distant view. Sometimes, it never fully does.

Many times I think I can see more than I really do. As a general rule, I drive the same streets and know each route by heart. Much of my daily routine is so rote that it is a rare thing, indeed, when I must stop to read instructions.

The last time I stopped by a coffee shop, I squinted and squirmed and strained in order to clearly make out the drink choices printed on the wall and place my order with confidence. In the end, I went with an Americano with an extra shot. It’s what I knew.

This is all so strange and new to me. I used to pride myself on my ability to see clearly and without assistance, as if it was some great wonder to still be able to see clearly and effectively with my own eyes, alone. As if perfect vision was a reflection of something greater in me.

But here’s the thing. It’s not just the words in books or on street signs or across back-lit café menus that are shrinking and morphing and eluding me. Many days, it feels like everything is.

My ability to look ahead and catch a vision for dreams or creative endeavors often feels muddied and thick. If an idea does manage to surface, it is quickly lost to the clutches of everyday demands and subjugated to its rightful place below the surface.

I often struggle with the way my mothering mantle has morphed since having a surprise baby at 41. The subsequent ways my presumed trajectory has splintered and spun in the wake of that miracle continues to vex me.

Many days, I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.

I suppose that’s not exactly true. I stay home with my kids and we homeschool so each of my days has the requisite tasks and expectations—there are meals to prepare and dishes to wash and dogs to walk and books to read and conversations to be had. My days are a mélange of needs and wants and must dos, yes. But I have signed up for the task. I have chosen this reality.

It’s more the in-between stuff that feels blurred—navigating my desires for reading and writing regularly, deepening friendships, investing in my marriage, thinking about the future and ways in which I want to grow and stretch, advocating for others, engaging in the great conversations that aim to address injustice and offer solutions—all of these good and vital and important things. I don’t know what to do with all of this that feels just outside my field of, already blurred, vision.

It’s hard to admit that I don’t see well beyond the hand in front of my face.

I’ve had to stop pretending I see more than I do. I finally bought my first pair of reading glasses from the drug store.

I still only wear them at home and it still feels awkward. I have to practice wearing them.

But here’s the thing—I see what is at hand now. These little readers? They don’t make the whole world clear and distinct but they help me better see my toddler’s deliciously soft and chubby little hands.

My African violet and spider plant and jade tree? I now see that they are dusty and thirsty but they are also flowering and green and waxy smooth.

My two older boys? One of them has a shadow of peach fuzz splayed across his upper lip and his eyes almost meet mine. And the other’s hair has darkened and has the same wild swirl of hurricane hair in the back, just like his dad.

I think that, sometimes, it is necessary to better see what’s right there on my lap or cupped in my hands before I can see beyond.  Often, it is the micro that informs the macro. All of that beautiful and terrible world that sometimes feels elusive is simply a collection of all the little things gathered at hand.

I am getting closer to the bigger picture I desire to see sketched out by connecting the hundred and one dots on the page at my fingertips.

Holly Grantham

Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of three boys, snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace.
After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country. She is an editor and monthly contributor at SheLoves Magazine.

Latest posts by Holly Grantham (see all)

  • So beautiful this hurts, Holly. All that in-between stuff you mention…every. last. thing It feels so fuzzy for me, too. It’s so hard fight the battle between the big and important and the small and pressing, beautiful, and often overlooked things of this life. I think this is especially true of us mothers. Thank you for lending your eyes to those of us that are struggling to see the small in all of the things grappling for our attention.

    • Holly

      Nicole, it is so reassuring to know that I am not alone. Thank you for grappling alongside of me.

  • I always love your writing Holly. Thank you for offering it to the Mudroom. It is so easy to get lost in the details, the minutiae of motherhood. (In fact I was just talking to two other SAHM’s yesterday at school pick-up about it). Thank you so much for this.

    • Holly

      Thank you so very much, Ashley. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my words here and to know that there are others who understand my struggle to see.

  • Holly, I like the way you understand and convey what is near, what is beyond our field of vision. But not everything is metaphor. The drug store glasses are not good enough. You owe it to yourself and to your sweet ones to get a thorough eye exam from an ophthalmologist. Wearing glasses is no longer a stigma. (Visually limited) Mary Ellen

    • Holly

      Mary Ellen, thank you for the admonishment. I will heed your words and get my eyes checked! I feel cared for by your concern.

  • Grrr . . . my least favorite part of the aging process is the vision thing — having to hold a page at just the right distance, just the right angle, grouching about the light in the room (that’s always a good tactic!). It is my earnest hope, however, that what I’m losing in visual acuity is a measure — in reverse proportion — to my training process in “fixing my eyes on what is unseen.”
    As usual, your words are glorious, and they were a blessing to me today.

    • Holly

      Ah, Michele, yes, the aging process! It humbles us in so many ways. But, I, too, hope that it helps to focus my attention on what really matters. Thank you for your kind words.

  • This metaphor is so juicy and rich. I too struggle to accept the place I am in just now, and to see it clearly when it’s fuzzy and unfocused. Lovely.

    • Holly

      Thank you, Heather. That acceptance can be so very hard. Thank you for reassuring me that it is not just me.

  • Lauren Smothers

    I will dust your mantle any day sister. This was beautiful. And thank you always, for blindly being there to listen, and give me advice.

  • “I think that, sometimes, it is necessary to better see what’s right there on my lap or cupped in my hands before I can see beyond.” This is so true and so hard to learn sometimes. I’m with you on the seeing thing. I’m pretty lost without my glasses, but I’m also very thankful for them. “It’s more the in-between stuff that feels blurred—navigating my desires for reading and writing regularly, deepening friendships, investing in my marriage…” I’m with you here, too. Sometimes it’s hard to see just exactly what we’re supposed to do in all these areas. They can be overwhelming, but I think it goes back to the idea of seeing what’s right in front of us.