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The Eyes of Gratitude

As a child, I had a lazy eye and blurred vision, which made it necessary for me to wear glasses from the time I was seven years old. In order to keep my myopia from worsening, I had strict limits on my reading—no reading at night, and any reading only allowed when sitting at a desk with a bright desk lamp and proper posture. Watching television or movies was something that had to be minimized, along with other eye-straining hobbies, such as painting, sewing, and crafts.

I’d watch other children lying on a couch, enjoying a book or happily watching cartoons for hours, and wonder why I had to be so different, while everyone else enjoyed the use of their visual senses without a second thought.

In addition to my sense of isolation, my impaired vision required me to have weekly eye checkups and visual therapy from the time I was eight until I was eighteen. And I had to get new glasses whenever my myopia got worse—which it did regularly. Since to keep my eyesight from worsening I had to keep good reading habits and posture, the deterioration was always cause for increased anxiety and new restrictions. I resented the fact that my life depended on the vicissitudes of my myopia level fluctuations, a process that went on invisibly inside me and that seemed to arbitrarily deteriorate in spite of all my efforts to protect my eyesight.

When my physical growth plateaued, the myopia stabilized. I no longer had to go for weekly visual therapy, though I still had to go for checkups several times a year. Yet when I look back on the struggles my parents and I faced with my eyes, I see that contending with the uncertainty and pain of this affliction taught me to be grateful for such an innate and basic bodily function as eyesight. Each time a checkup revealed that my eyes had remained stable, I was filled with joy and gratitude. As my eyes stabilized and I was allowed to read and paint in moderation, I treasured each time the restrictions on my activities were eased. My impaired eyes have brought anxieties and frustrations into my life that others are spared from, yet they have been the eyes of gratitude that see joy in the experiences that others might take for granted.

Elsa Sichrovsky is a freelance writer. She lives with her family in southern Taiwan.

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