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.

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