The stress of trying to relax after eye surgery

Posted Feb. 26, 2010, at 7:40 p.m.

It’s a sure sign that you are leading a far-too-busy life when it takes two black eyes to make you stop and find some time for pure relaxation. This was the case for me last week when, after surgery on both eyes, I was told to lie back and close my eyes on life’s usual demands.

And so, with ice packs covering my swollen shiners, I did just that. Unable to drive or to stare at the computer’s glare, I knew that commuting and writing were off-limits. So were bending, lifting, or vigorous exercise. And so I rested.

Or, I tried to rest. Strangely, although I often crave a leisurely interlude when I am keeping up my usual breakneck pace, when the chance to relax actually arrived, I found it surprisingly challenging to settle down. Some of this had to do with wishing I could pursue my favorite leisure activity, reading, a pastime that I could hardly pursue with sore eyes. And some of my restlessness resulted from the mild discomfort that comes with having an icy mass on my eyes and forehead. But, I quickly realized that these were not the whole story.

While I longed to just let go of the mental multitasking and preplanning that make me good at being a worker and a writer, I found that even at home my head was absolutely awhirl with tasks that would await me on my return to the office. My mind was spinning with ideas for writing projects, too. And after I gave myself a talking to, reminding myself that this time away from the usual daily demands was a gift that might not be mine again for years to come, I still chafed at the limitations that sore eyes presented regarding using my at-home time more actively.

My eyes might have been closed to most things, but they could see that something had to be done about using this leisure to advantage. At first, I used the phone to some effect, calling my mother more frequently than usual, and catching up with a few friends. But while this was pleasant, it was still activity.

Still, it was in using the ears as the primary sense, instead of the usually dominant eyes, that I began to see my way to a calmer state. Setting aside the telephone, and shunning musical entertainment, too, I began to simply listen to the afternoon. To be sure, the apparently quiet house, when listened to, turned out to be filled with sounds. The clock ticking, a cat’s meow, the bluster and rattle of winter breezes against the window panes, the rustle of the pillowcase under my head. But none of this was as noisy as the vortex of my busy thoughts had been. The muted sounds that were housed in my home began to instill a sense of quietude at last.

It was then that I saw that this quietude was the gift that closed eyes offered me. I giggled to think that with my two black-and-blue eyes, I was a sight OF sore eyes. And I smiled to reflect that seeing my way to serenity was a sight of sore eyes, too.

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