What is An Astigmatism?
During my recent vision screening, I was told I have an astigmatism. "What is an astigmatism?" I asked, sheepishly. The doctor replied that it is a condition in which the curvature of the cornea of the eye is uneven, causing a blurring of vision. Very scary!
My doctor then told me that I actually have two astigmatisms in my eyes - one is a positive 125 and the other a negative 125, and that they, in essence, cancel each other out, allowing me to see clearly. He seemed as surprised as I was.
Relieved that my eyes are healthy and my vision is clear, I started to think about the unique way my eyes seem to be functioning - "seeing" things from two perspectives and bringing them into focus to see clearly. It occurred to me that perhaps if we viewed things with two astigmatisms, we might also see clearly.
One way we "see" is through our heads, through how our brains process what our senses take in. The second way we "see" is through our hearts, as emotion comes from the heart. It's important that we consider both "visions" as we navigate life.
Sometimes our heads "see" first, and then our hearts react with appropriate emotion--a new baby brings happiness; the death of a loved one brings sadness; a kind gesture brings delight; an affront brings anger; receiving something brings gratitude; having less brings envy. Other times, our hearts "see" first, and then our heads react--being gloomy causes one to become bitter at the death of a loved one; being content allows one to see the death of a loved one as cause for celebration of a life well-lived; being cross causes one to become revengeful with an affront; being compassionate allows one to want to help the offender, recognizing the affront as perhaps the offender's way of dealing with their own unfortunate situation; being envious may cause one to wish ill on one who seemingly has more; being grateful allows one to recognize that while we may not have as much as others, we have what we need.
It is important to "see" things with both the head and the heart, for each can offer perspective the other cannot. The mind's fear of the unknown can be overcome by the heart's sense of trust to allow us to move forward. The mind's sense of danger can overcome the heart's sense of adventure to save us from hurting ourselves. The anger felt in one's heart, which may lead one to want to harm others, can be overcome by the head's knowing it isn't right to harm others. The pain of losing a loved one to death can be overcome by a heart's joy.
As I contemplate the events of the Florida school shooting, I feel, along with the friends and families of the victims, the intense sorrow resulting from what we have "seen," with our heads and our hearts. I sincerely hope we all will be able to focus our "vision" on the good in it all--the fond memories of those lost; the admiration for those who put their lives at risk to save others; the gratitude for what we have; the hope that we will take action to prevent this from ever happening again. It will not be easy. It will take time.
I know nothing of the shooter's life, but it seems clear that his head and heart were not able to conjure the focus to know this was not the way to deal with whatever they were "seeing." Sadly, we see this more than ever. It is my sincere hope that we may all work to help those who "see" only the negative, and to help them focus on the positive.
"Seeing" with both our minds and our hearts--living with an astigmatism--may be a key to a joyful existence.
Why Valentine's Day?
Today, on Valentine's Day, I sent messages to friends, wishing them a 'Happy Valentine's Day,' telling them I love them. It made me happy, and judging by the replies, it made them happy, too.
I decided to research the origin of Valentine's Day, expecting (hoping) to discover a beautiful story of true love. Not so. There are several possible roots of the day devoted to Valentin, or St. Valentine, or the idea of sending love, not all beautiful, nor having to do with true love. Some, but not all.
I came away rather disappointed, having believed that the holiday we celebrate today, honoring love, was borne of the same sentiment. Then I came across this, by Lisa Bitel, Professor of History and Religion, USC, referring to the Valentine's Day history she uncovered:
"It seems that the erstwhile saint behind the holiday of love remains as elusive as love itself. Still, as St. Augustine, the great fifth-century theologian and philosopher argued in his treatise on “Faith in Invisible Things,” someone does not have to be standing before our eyes for us to love them.
And much like love itself, St. Valentine and his reputation as the patron saint of love are not matters of verifiable history, but of faith."
Love is not a matter of history, but of faith in something invisible--past, present, and future. It requires only that we feel it.
Go forward, feeling and sharing love, today and every day, no matter the origin of Valentine's Day.
"Who's the fairest of them all?" is never the question I ask my mirror . . . I couldn't bear the response.
The truth is I don't look into the mirror frequently, unless I'm applying mascara and the like. However, today I find myself staring into the proverbial mirror of self-reflection. And I find myself not asking, "Who's the fairest of them all?" Again, because I know the answer.
Sadly, I find myself feeling the weight of my inadequacy as a fellow human being, as I reflect upon my failure to be the good person I want to be - as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, co-worker, neighbor, citizen. We actually have a word for this: guilt.
Guilt is weighty. Guilt brings one down. Guilt imprisons one in the past. Guilt has the power to prevent one from seeing things as they are. Guilt restrains one from living freely. Guilt is the antithesis of joy.
The interesting thing about guilt is that it's a two-way street. Generally, guilt is thrust upon us by the person we've harmed. Guilt forces to see our actions (or inactions) for the harm they have done, and it doesn't generally feel good. Yet, it is important for us to be reminded of the "wrongs" we have committed, in order that we might feel remorse, offer an apology and/or retribution, and learn. These things help us to grow and be better.
In order to grow and be better, it is important to let go of guilt once it has served its purpose. When a heart-felt apology has been offered, and one has had time to reflect on his/her actions and learn from them to be better going forward, guilt should be released by the offender.
As important is the letting go of guilt by the person who was hurt by the actions (or inaction) of the offender. Not only for the offender's sake, but also for the sake of the person harmed. Forgiveness frees the offender and the harmed equally to move forward in a meaningful relationship.
Imparting lasting guilt, and holding onto guilt, both interfere with our hearts' ability to experience joy and meaningful relationships. Mirror, Mirror on the wall . . . reflect guilt when it's appropriate, and replace it with joy when its purpose has been fulfilled.
author of "JOY"