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I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

#BlogElul 10 - See

Earlier this year, I was afraid that I was going blind. Sorry. Wrong. No. I wasn't afraid. Afraid is for spiders or the dark. Heights (or, in my case, falling, which I think is a much more healthy and realistic fear). Lots of things to merely fear.

I have retinopathy. Proleferative retinopathy, to be exact. In layman's terms, I have bleeding in my eyes. Both of them. Every once in a while, the veins there leak. Blood seeps, forming what I like to call little paramecium branches waving in front of my line of sight, making it difficult to see. I have laser surgery to cauterize the veins, and voila! I can mostly see. One morning, last summer, I woke up and it was as if someone had taken a gob of Vaseline and smeared it across my right eye. I could see color and light. That was it. Shape escaped me, except in some vague, amorphous way.

What I felt wasn't fear, a walk in the park, that get-shivers-in-the-dark-the-test-is-today? kind of thing. This was absolute terror. This was oh-my-God-what-will-I-do-if-I-can't-see? This hits everything. I'm a single mom. I drove to work, drove to visit clients, drove everywhere. My job depended upon hours and hours in front of a computer screen, analyzing data stored in teeny, tiny little Excel cells that were getting harder and harder to see, even when I blew them up. Large. The less contrast there was, the less chance I could see. On grey days, on the gray streets with the silver cars and a fine mist of rain, I was lost. In the dark, almost literally. I grounded myself from driving at night altogether. And did I mention that I'm a single mom? And a writer. What the hell? How could I write - how could I take care of my son if I couldn't see?

Almost a year ago, a friend called, asking if I would chant Torah for one of the intermediate days of Sukkot. Would I chant? Of course I would! I love to chant. I worked long and hard to learn to do it. I find a certain calm majesty in it, and feel a chain of connection, a special bond to those others who have chanted these words since the Masorites first developed the system more than 1,500 years ago. That there are only about four people on the planet who actually know the particular chant that I do? Bonus.

(And yes, I realize there is a certain amount of pride and ego in this. Upon reflection, I'm ok with that. These are not always bad things.)

Back to chanting. I didn't have much time - a few days. But it was only a few verses, so no big deal. I practiced. I studied. I learned. No problem. I sat in the sukkah on a drizzly gray day, wearing a sweatshirt even though it was only mid-September (good thing there's no global climate change happening...).

Somewhere between the morning blessings and the Amidah, I started to panic. Not because I didn't know it. I did. Not because I thought I would mess up. I was pretty comfortable with the verses I was to do. No - I started to panic because, all of a sudden, I realized I might not be able to actually see the words in their crabbed and scratchy and achingly beautiful script in the Torah.

I really thought I was going blind then.

This wasn't the middle-aged my-arms-are-getting-too-short-and-I-need-reading-glasses thing. This was the actual, honest-to-God I-think-I-might-be-going-blind thing. Earlier that summer, I woke up one morning, only to discover that someone had taken a giant gob of Vaseline and smeared it across my right eye, so that I could see color and light, and not much else. Vision in my left eye was marginally better. Where the right was a nightmare landscape by a

I am making this so complicated.

I keep adding strings of words and thoughts and twisting them into some weird tapestry that, in my head is all clean lines and distinct colors: ordered, measured. One could even say, stately and fine. On the screen, it is squiggles of black, with occasional blotches that smudge and hide whatever lines of text it is that keep spilling, end over end, world without end, amen.

Ugh.

Here's the deal: I am terrified that I am going blind, that I will lose the ability to see.

It is a real, though perhaps unlikely, fear. I have a handful of health conditions, all related, all requiring specialists and special attention. And one of those conditions is an eye thing. As a result, I have a retina guy. I have an eye guy. I get lasered and treated and operated on every so often. It is controlled, my condition, but barely. It is progressive, they tell me. It will probably get worse. 

And from there, from here, this simple, solid spot, I spin - a whirlpool of dark and limitless power that sucks and pulls and consumes all of the light, all of the hope...

See? Even when I stop (try to stop) the spilling and spinning, the anguish and the angst - they seep into this simple thing: I am terrified that I am going blind.

How will I see the color red? Or that single line of light that separates the sky from the sea? How will I see the messiness amid the grandeur - for every fiery sunset, For every sky stained scarlet and gold, that makes you breathless with wonder and awe, there is a river choked by sludge, or a village ravaged by war and poverty. 

How will I see my words, put them into their proper order, see their rhythm and flow?

How will I see the words of Torah, painstakingly, lovingly drawn in their regulated sameness, row upon row upon column and page, so that even the mistakes are present and made beautiful, and every single scroll, every single scribe for millennia has infused his own spirit, his soul into those letters? How will I see to chant those words that fill me and still me and baffle me? This is the offering I give- will it be my sacrifice?

How will I see my son's face, watch him grow and change and become all of the things that I can just glimpse now, the strength and compassion and hardness and surety, all of those amazing things that have been germinating and are now just beginning to show? How in the world will I see this beautiful boy become a man if I am blind?

Every morning, we give thanks to God who opens the eyes of the blind. I do not have this faith. I believe in the metaphor of this prayer. I fear though, that I am going blind.