Whiffs of Smoke Taught Me Something About Vision

I woke up in a hotel room in Anaheim, CA.  Coughing, sneezing, eyes burning.  Sick.  At the Podcast Movement conference, I so wanted to be fully present.  Meet people.  Engage in lively conversation.  Learn everything there was to learn.  Instead, I was fighting to stay awake.  Feeling as though my head was floating – like it wasn’t part of my body.  Or it might explode.

(c) AdobeStock Photo

(c) AdobeStock Photo

There was something else too this morning when I woke up.  I saw what looked like puffs of smoke floating around in my left eye.  Like the smoke that wafts from a campfire as it dances on the breeze. And I couldn’t see very well.

What is it?  Is it scratched?  Is it the illness?  I felt a bit of panic rise in my throat.  I’ve never seen this before.  I tried staring straight ahead, moving my eye.  Closing it.  I flushed it out with warm water.  Nothing changed it.  Still the black “smoke” seemed to dance across my eye.  And the vision in my left eye was blurry.

Now when I say blurry, I mean even with my contact lenses in.  You see, I’ve had glasses since I was about 3, and they’re super thick.  I wear hard contact lenses because soft won’t correct my vision.  And once I mistakenly pressed too hard on the lens and turned it inside out – and it didn’t even crack!  Thick I tell you.

So my vision is blurry anyway.  And now it was blurry even with my glasses on – or my lenses in.

It’s amazing how quickly your mind goes to the most awful places.  Like, “Maybe it’s macular degeneration.  A hemorrhage.  Or a brain tumor.”  Nice, right?  And I’m in California, so O can’t just go see my doctor or anything.

It took every ounce of meditation, self-talk, and faith I had to live without focusing on this situation.  I mean, it was my vision, so of course I could see it all day.  It interfered with everything.  It was staring me in the face, so to speak, every time I opened my eyes.  Let’s just say it was really good practice for both being present with what was real and not letting it take on more importance than it deserved.  Not letting it stop me from enjoying the conference.

So, armed with prayer, I set out.  That day and every day after that.  And the smoke swirl continued.

I got home.  Went back to work.  The cold cleared up.  And still I saw smoke in my eye.  (OK, now you’ve got that song in your head, right?)  And reading music is a challenge.

I go to the eye doctor.  “You don’t have glaucoma.”  Whew. “You don’t have any sign of macular degeneration or an injury.” Whew again.  “You have floaters.”

Whoa.  What makes them show up?  –Some kind of protein.  Can I get rid of them?  –According to the eye doctor, no.  I can just learn to ignore them. According to a Google search from some holistic health sites, there may some nutrition and exercise help for floaters.

Reading is more of a challenge, so it’s giving my right eye a workout.  But it’s certainly manageable.

As I thought about this situation, I saw the parallels to our inner vision.  Our ability to see.  How often do we think we see clearly – and we really don’t?  After all, what we see is colored by our attitude.  Our emotional state.  And if we let bitterness take root, it acts like a floater.  Puffs of smoke that interfere with our vision.  Everything looks just a bit off.  Like seeing through a haze.

There have been a lot of people in the western part of the country dealing with smoke from raging fires.  Affecting their breathing.  Burning their eyes.  Making it hard to see.  When the smoke clears, everything looks brighter.  Clearer.

The same is true when we change our emotional state.  Life looks brighter.  Clearer.  More colorful.

Just like there are things I can do to promote eye health – eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables and do exercises to actively rest them, there are things we can do to promote “inner eye” health.  Practice mindfulness.  Pray.  Forgive.  Others and ourselves.

Sometimes we have to clear floaters so we can see clearly.

Do you have anything preventing you from really seeing?  From fully engaging in life?  Relationships?  If so, decide today to change your vision, and share in the comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Ugh, floaters. So annoying. I’ve gained a slew of them since cataract surgery. I remind myself I can still SEE, and I can still read without glasses (quick-shifting gaze from page moves floaters aside). You’re so right about how our attitude makes the difference. And the thought about bitterness acting as a floater? Wow, what a great motivator to practice ongoing forbearance and forgiveness. Thanks, Kathleen!

    • I have no idea so many people had floaters, Laurie. You’re not the only who’s told me this since I mentioned it. Something to see and not focus on, it sounds like, as it’s outside our sphere of control.

  • Yes I really feel for your situation Kathleen and great to make that connection with inner vision. i had deteriorating eyesight right through 2016 that was not being corrected by glasses. Like you I had to handle the unknown as to whether there was something more serious going on and if I was potentially going blind! In the end it was cataracts. After the surgery my eyesight has improved to the point I rarely need glasses. I do have a floater in my right eye and have had to get use to just living with it.