During January of 2020 I was visiting my good friend Erica with whom I do a podcast with (Embrace Yourself). I had popped by because we were planning to sit out on her gorgeous patio and record a new episode. I noticed that once I got there I just didn't feel up to it. I wasn't sure if a headache was coming on but something didn't feel right and Erica could notice it as well. She said my eyes seemed a little off. That evening I went home and described what was going on to my husband and he thought too it might be a headache or something. The next day I felt even more "distant from the world around me". It was kind of the feeling when a cloud hides the sun on a very sunny day, but this day there were no clouds. I decided to text a friend of ours who is an opthomologist and run things by him. That afternoon we had plans to cook dinner for our neighbors, with whom we adore, and were excited to visit with them. My husband was arm deep in cooking and chopping away when our friend, Brian, called me back and I described what was going on. He told me that I should drop what we were doing and go to the emergency room. We were kind of both shocked but at the same time, I knew something wasn't right with my vision. My husband, Gregg, was in the "are you sure" mode which I totally understood as he was tackling a feast. Well, off we went to the ER after quickly putting all the cooking on hold. It's always a strange thing to check yourself into the emergency room, kind of like a really weird hotel that your visiting and have no idea what your room will look like. We get ourselves checked in and thankfully it wasn't very busy. Applying wristbands and identifiers is such an odd thing. You soon realize that if you become incapacitated in some way that this little wristband helps them keep track of your body. It's a really odd thing.
They bring me back into the ER bays and we pensively wait. Two of the nicest people join us and start doing all the things and asking all the questions. Then we set me outside the curtain bay so I can see the eye chart on the wall. What immediately felt like the eye exam we've all had a thousand times soon was different. Out of my right eye I couldn't see the chart. A big black moon had started to steal my vision away. The look on Gregg's face was worrisome. The wonderful PA helping me called in the eye surgeon that was on call to come in because I was quickly losing my window to recover. I had a detached retina. All of a sudden I started running back in my mind to anything I had learned about the eye during our 8th grade science dissection. What are the components of the eye and how is this one "failing"! The on-call eye surgeon refused to come in. Probably a blessing, if that's the quality of his/her care. Thankfully the ER PA suggested that he call a really good retina specialist he knew in the area. We got a laugh out of the smallness of where we live as we also knew him. After a phone call this amazing man said to meet us in his office and we were on our way out of the ER and to his very dark office. It is good to know people in all areas of your life.
In the office chair he checked things out and ended up taking some fluid off my eye so he could put in a gas bubble. This is the part where I will tell you, anyone mentions to you they have a gas bubble in their eye, give them a hug. It sucks. Only the experience of having one, not the amazing experts that even know how to do this. My eye anatomy all of a sudden got a boost. The inner lining of my eye ball was coming off like wallpaper and falling into the main space of my eyeball. This was the shadow I was seeing. The gas bubble would expand and hopefully slowly spread the wallpaper (retina) back next to my eyeball inner surface. I surprised myself at how calm I was with a needle getting stuck in my eye, many times. I think I was pretty scared honestly. So home we came and I had to position my bubble "just right" so that it would be in the right place to push the retina back up. For the next day I was propped up in the corner of our sofa trying to keep my head in a certain position. I was scared, really scared of losing my eye sight in one eye. Sitting there I had lots of time to consider how life would be different, I knew I would adjust and be able to see out of my good eye, but then that was a worry too. What if it happened to that eye as well. I reflected on the value of eyesight. Seeing the expressions of those you love, mountains and valleys, beaches and lakes, and flowers of all different shapes and sizes. My gratitude for having had these memories and visions was overflowing. The what if's were a truly life changing fear that worked me down as well. To no longer see my husband's face or my kids lives as they unfolded into amazing things. We all know how thoughts can run wild. Once I calmed down a bit I started to reflect on my yoga tools and to stop my mind from racing out of fear. To bring myself back to a state of calm and gratefulness.
Over the next few weeks the eye doctor was able to re-attach my retina and stitch it up with roughly 480 lazer stitches. It was amazing technology. I was refreshed on how awesome medical advances are. Think of the eye exam you go to where they look into your eyes with a very bright light, now imagine it's a laser and you must hold very still while it "sews up" your inner eyeball. Pretty amazing! This doesn't go without some aches and throbbing in your head and eye sockets. But the healing had begun.
After a few months I was able to get back to teaching yoga. During this time I noticed that it was very hard to see the clock because even though my retina was now stable my vision was very distorted. Cause for more reflection, happy to have my vision even thought it wasn't really great. The stitch scarring was creating a big blurry bend through the center of my field of vision. But again, I was happy.
It was during this experience that I was driven toward all things that bring joy to the world and flowers was certainly once of them. I have been a gardener most of my life but not much of a flowers grower. Yet all I could do was crave beauty and nature. I was thirsty for spaces that stimulated my vision, mind and heart. From this I decided to try growing these amazing flowers I kept seeing pop up everywhere, dahlias! That winter during the cold months and a year out from my event, I ordered some tubers to plant in the spring.
The test garden was truly amazing and I felt that it was my healing space. Where I could just walk through the beauty and reflect on the value of everything that makes up my entire being. I hope to never take it for granted. eyes to see faces, expressions, and the big beautiful world around you. Watching the reaction to the smile you give out every day to fill others hearts with joy. The git of time with loved ones and friends. We rarely realize how quickly this can be taken away, by many things. The scarring had set in and my eye had calmed enough that now I need to have surgery to clean it up, wrap your brain around that one. How does that even happen? I don't really ant to watch the video but I'm sure there is one on YouTube.
As I invited people to visit the flowers and to share in the joy they brought me, I really noticed how much happier the visitors were as well. This! It came to me that my own place of sanctuary and recovery is also a space for others healing from various challenges; covid, depression and lack of time in nature. These spaces can become my little tiny mark on the world to heal. This year, I grew my dahlias into an entirely new field as well as keeping with the original. It has been one of the most amazing years of my life (other than marriage and children) and by creating a space where beauty exists and thrives, I feel that its a little spotlight in a community that has lost sight of connection to others.
Having the help of my wonderful companions; Lisa and Silvan, we created a magical space. Each visitor that walks through the flowers tends to feel better after. They get to be reminded of the nurturing qualities of the outdoors, fresh air and flowers. It even seemed that when we had a fire this year, the flowers created this little bubble over them. I know it might be hard to imagine but I encourage you to seek out nature again, find those spaces were little flowers grow in an unpredictable space and take notice. Today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed.