The Recovering Farmer

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Rest of the Story

“Good LORD, that was one of the most grotesque journeys I have ever chosen to follow to the end. Is it over? I hope it's over. My heart and stomach go out to you.”

I found this comment on my FB page this morning, written by my niece. I have not laughed that hard, at 6:30 in the morning, for a very long time, if ever.

Yesterday I had my follow-up appointment with the doctor. He looked in my eye and seemed pleased with what he saw. Instant relief washed over me as he said that surgery would not be required, all that was required was a touch up with his laser.

I have a hunch that he rather enjoys the “lasering” part of his job. When he started pulling the trigger on his laser it reminded me of my two year old grandson when he plays a video game. Any semblance of shooting certain targets seem to disappear, just hold down the trigger and enjoy. The only thing missing were the sound effects. I did survive and it was better than surgery.

After I posted about my experience, I found myself somewhat puzzled why I would write what I did. Partially it may have been because I felt that others might enjoy the descriptive narrative of my experience. Perhaps it was to find some humour in the pain I was feeling. And maybe, just maybe, I might find some therapeutic value in writing about it.

As I wrote what I did, I also felt that I was putting something out there that was minor compared to the challenges that many others are facing. A family member who is fighting a losing battle with cancer, friends who are experiencing relational challenges, a relative who is dealing with the death of her husband due to Covid 19, friends that have lost jobs for all the wrong reasons, friends who have and are experiencing health issues that have kept them from enjoying life for much longer than the week or two that I am experiencing.

What I did learn from this experience is the importance of supporting others. I truly appreciated the messages of support I received through emails, text messages, comments on FB and phone calls. Although that was not what I was looking for, it helped me get through the last 10 days.

It reminded me to be less consumed with my own issues and more open to supporting others. It reminded me how a few words of encouragement can be so helpful. It reminded me that even if I feel alone, I am not. It reminded me of the importance to check in with others. It also reminded me of how much pain something as small as a needle can cause.

As the gas bubble in my eye slowly dissipates I am looking forward to getting back at it. Yesterday I sent an email to my golfing partners informing them of my imminent return. Although they seemed pleased with my prognosis they appeared hesitant to have me back under the guise of not wanting me to jeopardize my eye. I suspect as long as I am not there they take turns winning and know that when I come back, winning won’t be as easy for them. But I will be back and for that I am grateful. Make it a good one.

“I appreciate people checking up on me. I appreciate a quick message. I appreciate those who ask if I’m okay. I appreciate every single person in my life who has tried to brighten my days. It’s the little things that matter the most.” Unknown⠀

Monday, June 8, 2020

One Eye Blind

I find myself flat on my back at the eye doctor. My eyes are frantically flitting from side to side as the doctor and his assistant prepare for the procedure. I try not to think about what is about to happen to me. But then he reaches across my face and grabs a needle. I see the needle come closer to my eye. I hear him tell me it may sting a little. You think? You’re about to stick a needle in my eye and it may sting?

With some loosening of restrictions, my wife and I went on a ride with our convertible on a warm, sunny Saturday. When we got home that evening I noticed a shadow pop up in my eye every time I blinked. I had a sinking feeling as I realized that I was probably dealing with a detached retina.

12 years ago I experienced a detached retina. As I have done with other challenges in life, including my mental health issues, I kind of jump in to accept the challenge being totally unaware of the consequences. And soon find out that the journey can be quite difficult.

Back then I had surgery on my left eye. Quite frankly, the surgery isn’t that bad. But, then again, I am asleep so don’t really notice. It’s the week or two after that may well have me needing therapy, both physical and mental, for years to come.

After the initial needle, which I found out was “a touch of freezing”, the doctor leaves the room only to come back in a few minutes with a much larger needle. He then asks me to train my eye on his shoulder and try to lie very still as he pushes the larger needle into my eye. He reassures me that it might be a little uncomfortable. Uncomfortable? You think? As the needle enters my eye, the eye moves each time his hand moves, throwing it out of sync with the other eye. Quite literally one eye was looking at him and the other eye was looking for him.

The last step of a retinal detachment surgery is to fill the eye ball with a gas bubble. You then spend the next week or two lying flat on your stomach which, supposedly, keeps the bubble pushing up against the retina as it heals.

If you are still with me I challenge you to go lay on your stomach, facing downward, to see how long you can hold out. It has to be the most uncomfortable position to hold for a few minutes, never mind a week.

I have read enough books and watched enough shows where people get tortured for whatever reason. I think pulling finger nails, waterboarding, electric shock treatments and sundry other methods could be done away with. Strap me to a board, on my stomach, facing downward and I would snap like a dry twig, give up more information than needed within an hour, maximum two.

Numerous decades ago we put a man on the moon, last week we saw the lift off of a rocket headed to the space station, hurtling through space at 25,000 kms/hr. and hooking up with the space station traveling at the same speed, with nary an issue. We have technology like autonomous vehicles, GPS, and computers that can perform tasks no human ever could. But for some strange reason we can’t seem to find a humane way to recover from retinal detachment surgery.

He tells me that the sound will be worse than the pain. I can’t even describe it using proper English without the use of numerous four letter words. The worst is that I can see all of this happening inside of my eye. I see the liquid in my eye start disappearing and being replaced by a blue gas. The sound I hear is similar to the sound of someone trying to slurp the last milkshake out of a glass with a straw. I may never be the same.

The retinal detachment I had 12 years ago came with some complications. It ended up being three surgeries and when all was said and done I had reduced vision in that eye. Through the years I have had cataract surgery, laser surgery, retinal detachment surgery and now have to use eye drops on a daily basis for glaucoma. So I am kind of used to having my eyes poked and prodded. But lying on my stomach? I cannot get used to that.

After he has sucked out the liquid and successfully filled my eye with gas he tells me to come back and see him in three days. With any luck, and he tells me there is a 50/50 chance of this working, the retina will have flattened and then he can spot weld, his words, the rupture with a laser and all will be good. If not we will need to do surgery.

Three days later I find myself in a small room. The sign on the door warns people that there is a laser in use. He plants my face up against a harness and tells me to hold still. He then fixes a magnifying glass between my eyelids, shines a bright light into my eye and calmly says I probably won’t like him much after he is done. He lines up a laser and the fun begins. I see a yellow light flashing and then a noise as he pulls the trigger and pain hits. He asks me if I am okay but all I can do is moan. I guess that tells him I am doing just fine because another jolt hits. Somewhere around the fifth one I lose count.

When he finishes he tells me to go home and keep my head down for another four days. What scares me most is his final words. He may have to do surgery after all. I stare at him in a dumbfounded way. But he is busy, he needs to move on to the next patient. He tells me there is an epidemic of detachments happening. So I am left to wait and wonder. Not sure I am physically or mentally ready for another round of torture. But what do I know.

I do wonder why this couldn’t have happened a few months ago. After all I was isolating at home because of Covid 19. But no, just as restrictions were being lifted, just as I was getting into the swing of things (pun intended) with my golf game, my life changes direction. I know things could be worse but let me, just for a fleeting moment, wallow in a touch of self-pity. I will survive. I will be back on the course soon. As best possible, I am making it a good one.

“It’s okay if you don’t feel grateful in this moment, even if you know you have a lot to be grateful for. Let yourself feel whatever you feel. It will be a lot easier to focus on your blessings after you let the pain run through you.” Lori Deschene

Monday, June 1, 2020

My Rear View Mirror

I had an epiphany this week. In fact I may call it a vision. Perhaps you are thinking I am headed over the abyss, that I have officially lost it. If so, I have some golfing buddies who may well agree with you.

I received an email from someone who was clearly frustrated, feeling hopeless because of life experiences and thinking his life had been a total waste. He felt that as much as he had tried, given his all, it had all been for naught.

I felt somewhat lost as to how I could help. In essence I could listen, normalize and validate his feelings. I could put on my counselling hat and try to help him through his struggles. Another option was to let him know that what he was feeling was not reality and that he needed to buck up, quit feeling sorry for himself, and move on.

But part of me also deeply understood what he was experiencing. In my darkest days I have reflected on my journey and also felt that many years were wasted. Then feelings of regret take over and I play the woulda, shoulda, coulda game.

Shortly after talking with him I came across a quote that provided the epiphany. The quote went as follows; “Don’t stumble over something behind you”. For a fleeting moment I had a vision. Looking back I saw a picture of devastation. It looked messy. But when I looked ahead I saw a clear path, the sun was shining, the grass was green, it looked tranquil.

It passed relatively quickly but it got me thinking, thinking about recovering. I remembered the definition of “recover”. It means to return to a previous state of health, prosperity and equanimity. Sometime ago I had a conversation with a friend and asked her for her definition. (My apologies to her, I am using this without her permission) “I would say that a recovering farmer is someone who worked tirelessly through blood, sweat, and tears to produce nourishment for the world in spite of the fact that neither markets, nor individuals, pay tribute to their toil. To recover from farming is to let go of all one’s losses…..while not forgetting their contributions.”

Although that is in the context of farming I believe it also holds true for other areas of life. I know for myself I particularly appreciate the last part of her definition. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of letting go of losses but never forgetting our contributions.

Let me use another analogy. The rear view mirror on my car is small. How successful are we in moving forward if we only look at that small mirror? Even the warning “objects maybe be closer than they appear” holds some truth. Sometimes the past seems to be sneaking up on us and come close enough to create worry but ultimately need not be a problem, unless we are backing up. However when we look forward we have a significantly larger view through the windshield.

To keep moving forward use the windshield, accept the future for all it has to offer. We may fail and we may think we wasted part or all of our life. Use the understanding and knowledge of the failure to build a foundation from which you can grow and flourish and maintain perspective. The key is not to be spooked by failure but rather to have a willingness to fail again, because if we don’t take risks, if we don’t step outside of our comfort zone, we will not become better. And, most important of all, we must forgive ourselves for our failures. Without forgiveness we will continue to beat ourselves up which inevitably will lead to more failures. Make it a good one.

“Scars remind us of where we have been but don’t have to dictate where we are going.” Joe Mantegna