a whole new light

eyezI blinked. I blinked again. Each time I blinked, searing pain ripped across my right eye.

Something’s not right.

It’d been going on for months. Every morning I’d wake with red, painful eyes—my right eye worse than my left. I’d quit wearing contacts weeks ago, but these days the redness wasn’t clearing up like it used to . . . and drops weren’t helping.

“Something’s wrong,” I told my friend R. We were walking in the the mall at Hang Hau.

“Ya think?” he joked, dodging a woman pushing a stroller.

“I’m serious.” In my pain, I almost bowled into a man with a cane. R pulled me to the side.

“I know. You need to see a doctor.” He looked at me.

I frowned.

R began fussing with his phone and moved over to the railing, out of the main walkway. It was a Friday afternoon and the mall was packed. “Wái . . .” he said, and then started jabbering in Cantonese so that I lost the meaning of his words. A minute later he hung up. “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?”

“The eye doctor. You have an appointment at 4.”

“But . . .”

But R was already on the escalator.


Walking with a cane . . .

That was a year and a half ago while I was teaching in Hong Kong. (I actually wrote about it while I was there. You can read about it here.) It was the scariest experience I’ve had abroad, honestly. The ophthalmologist said I had contact-caused abrasions on both eyes and that, if they didn’t heal properly, my vision could be affected for life. He gave me antibiotic drops and an ointment to put in my eyes at night. Nighttime was the worst because, with my eyes closed, they lacked the oxygen that they needed to heal. I would often wake at 3 or 4 a.m. in excruciating pain and be unable to go back to sleep.

There is little worse than needing sleep but being unable to close your eyes.

All of that to say that, while the wounds on my eyes eventually healed, I have struggled with dry eyes and sleeping ever since. This past week I had a flare-up and ended up in the ophthalmology office yet again. This time it appears I was causing the harm myself by using a nighttime ointment that contained a preservative. Apparently preservatives are a bad, bad thing.

And yet, the incident reminded me of . . .

On our way out, an elderly man was just hobbling in. R held open the door, and I saw that it was the man with the cane I’d nearly run over earlier, and that the cane wasn’t to aid his legs, but his eyes. He was blind.

Suddenly, I saw my own pain in a whole new light.


“Gratitude bestows reverence . . . changing forever how we experience life and the world.” ― John Milton


*A big thanks to R for all of your help so many times!

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37 thoughts

  1. Milton – oh how I love that wise wise man! Thank you!
    Wrote my thesis on Paradise Lost / Freewill vs Predestination (what was I thinking?)
    But this coupled with what I see daily – divine

    • Milton *was* great, wasn’t he? I’m starting to look through some of my old English literature books… I’d like to see that thesis! That’s a TOUGH one!!!

  2. I hope this becomes a thing of the past. Kind of scary too that products that seem safe can have such a dire consequence on our lives when you do not fit into the norm of being 100% healthy. Who would have thought that preservatives would be in eye ointment?

    • Hey Steve. Well… Preservatives are in a lot of stuff. I’m not surprised. But I *was* surprised because at first the ointment worked fine, but after using it for a while, my eyes got tired of it, I guess. Lol. Thanks so much for your concern. I hope it does, too. I’m getting tired of having to use so many drops, etc. just to sleep!

      Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  3. I had a similar but not sso prolongued experience, damaged my eye with a cracked contact that I hadn’t realised, hurt like a bliddy mary, but healed up and I’ve stuck with being a speccy four eyes ever since :) hope yours gets better.

    • Thanks, fragglerock! I’m telling ya, I have never had a more painful experience than those scratched eyes. It’s a pain you can’t get away from… Glad your eyes healed okay! I haven’t worn my contacts in ages, either. Thankfully I’m young enough that my eyes can still accommodate a lot. That will soon change!

      Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  4. I had problem with my sight too but not with contacts of course…but for some reasons (something I can’t even tell someone why) I couldn’t have medication for more than two years and now I’m half blind…and have got this glasses standing on my nose all the time…. I understand how it feels like….you are lucky Jess…!! And good to see that aft going through that experience eventually you ended up with such realization….!!

    • Oh, Kazi. I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s terrible that you couldn’t get the medication you needed. It breaks my heart to hear about medical conditions that could have been prevented if the proper measures had been taken… But I know that that is often the case all around the world… I’ve worn glasses. I’m wearing them now! I’ve worn them since I was a little girl, so I’m used to it… But you are right. Going through hard times, and comparing our own lives with others’, helps us understand better how blessed we are. There is always something to be thankful for.

      Hope you’re having a great weekend, dear friend…

  5. Yes, there is always someone worse off than you. However, eye problems are scary. My wife had similar problems with contacts and preservatives (which are a fairly common eye allergen). She eventually had laser surgery to correct her short-sightedness and that has worked out very well.I hope you find a solution for your eyes very soon.

    • I’m glad to hear your wife’s surgery went well. Vision problems are scary, but I’m grateful at least that I live in a day and age when doctors can know my vision and correct it. I’d have a VERY difficult time reading (which I love!) without contacts or glasses. This current trouble will clear up eventually, I’m sure of it. It has to!

      Thanks for the well wishes! Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  6. Very touching moment at the end, and an excellent use of the Milton quote, so important. You have a great gift with your writing and story telling, and of course the many adventures that you do end up having :-) Keep them coming!

    • Thanks, Randall! I love writing stories. And there are lots more where this came from—I’m just getting started! Thanks again, and I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. :)

    • Thanks, Professor! I know. I almost posted a great quote by Defoe about comparing our blessings to the things we want… Maybe I’ll base a post around that at a later time. Thanks for reading, as always! Your support means so much.

      Hope you’re having a great weekend and not studying too hard!

    • I know, Sam. I’m not meaning to. As I mentioned in a comment above, having scratched eyes was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. It’s a pain you can’t get away from… I guess I’m just trying to see the positives in things. Even when I’m down, I know I’m blessed. There is always something to be thankful for.

      Thanks so much for reading! I’m so glad to know you. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!

      • Just got back from a heavy breakfast, burp! Not easy to be a food blogger. Eat eat eat and then sit sit sit to edit edit edit, getting fat! Hope you have a great weekend too :D

      • Haha. I don’t know how you do it, honestly. I can’t talk food all of the time… It makes me crave it too much! Do you exercise, too, or are you just blessed with petite Asian genes? You are beautiful!

  7. I hope your condition is completely healed soon Jess – but yes – pain is a relative thing I have learned this the hard way… Blessings and Love – wonderful story! x RL

    • Your story astounds me, Robyn. No person should have to go through what you have gone through. You’re amazing! Blessings to you, too… Thanks for reading… jess

  8. i had a similar incident too! one day in cambodia i woke up and my eye was completely infected and swollen, i couldn’t even open it. it was very scary!

    your post reminds me of a quote:
    “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”- Marcel Proust

    • Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that! Once when I was in Italy I got a mosquito bite on my eyelid that made my eye swell up so badly I could barely open it. I was pretty embarrassed… Glad your eye is okay now. You have family in Cambodia, right?

      And I love that quote! Thank you for sharing. There is a lot of truth to that… Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!

  9. I stopped wearing contacts a few years ago. They’re really bad for your eyes.
    I have tried almost all brands and types of contacts but nothing really felt right. Some were more comfortable, some less, and some were horrible. Nowadays I only use 1-day contacts for a few hours (4-6) maybe 5-7 days tops a month.

    Get glasses or perform a Lasik on your eyes rather than using contacts 24/7! Our vision is something that’s usually not fixable if it’s messed up.

    Promise me you’ll take good care of yourself Jessica :)

  10. I wear contacts too and after reading your post, I’m a bit worried about my eyes now! I wear contact lenses all day every day, but so far I haven’t had any problems. Though recently I started putting on eye make-up and sometimes the make-up touches my contacts and it hurts. Take care of yourself, Jess!

    • Ohh, don’t worry about your eyes! I’ve worn contacts for years (since I was 12) and have never had any trouble with contacts either until now. Actually, contacts can protect your eyes sometimes… I plan to start wearing mine again soon. Since I had that flare-up last week, things have gotten better… You take care of yourself, too! :)

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