This is an intensely personal post today –but before I get into it, I am going to tell you how I prefer that you respond to it.
First, my preference is that you don’t write me to tell me you feel sorry for me. Frankly, I don’t feel sorry for myself and when people start telling me that they feel sorry for me, it is a bit depressing to be honest. I start wondering if maybe I should feel sorry for myself.
My second preference is that you not give me solutions. That is the default for many of us (including me) but I have learned that giving solutions is not always the best thing to do. I have studied my situation at length and have been to the best professionals available. There are no solutions. Trying to convince people of that though is exhausting. They honestly want to help but they don’t understand the situation and why what worked for a relative will not work for me.
I hope that what I just wrote is gracious but I have to admit that I am being a bit selfish. I am telling you how I prefer you respond if you choose to respond. That is for my own sake.
Over four years ago, I was walking out of a shopping center and suddenly saw what seemed to be ink blots in my left eye. The next day, I went to a doctor who told me that the issue was blood in the eyeball from a detached retina. He recommended emergency surgery and a great retina doctor. The next morning I had surgery.
The surgery went badly. Either the surgeon made a mistake or a fluke problem occurred. Further surgeries followed and things got progressively worse. In the end, I lost practically all vision in that eye and have lived with that problem for going on five years.
I suppose that I think about my eye for some reason every day but the truth is that I have never really seen it as a handicap. Things are not quite the same, of course. I have to be more careful about changing lanes in traffic; and sometimes I miss people standing to my left because I lose about 30 degrees of vision without that eye. I don’t try to play ping pong anymore (while I still have depth of perception, somehow it works slower).
However, for the most part, the loss of that eye has not slowed me down. I have recorded four albums since that happened. Really, there has been no impact on my ability on the piano. I have seen enormous growth in my business. I am physically active; I play football with the boys and play golf regularly. Most people would never guess that I am blind in one eye. I am fairly convinced that almost no one knew at our last church.
To be honest, I see the eye as just a small burden that I have to bear. We all bear burdens and mine is certainly not as bad as burdens others have to carry. I am blessed. There are people that will read this that are blind in both eyes. I know that because you have told me. Others are fighting cancer and/or other life threatening illnesses. I am not minimizing my eye but it would be entirely reasonable for some of you to look at me and tell me that I really don’t know what a real burden is.
Lots of people have told me that they admire my attitude. They see me as some kind of overcomer. My doctors seemed amazed that I brought my laptop to appointments and was back to work right away. I had a music event scheduled for the day after the first botched surgery and I still showed up for it. That sort of blew their mind.
Again, I don’t know that admiration is deserved. I see plenty of people overcoming worse problems better than me. However, I will tell you a few thoughts that have guided me through this.
First of all, I chose not to assign blame. To be honest, it is quite likely the surgeon made a mistake in that first surgery. I will never know because I chose not to sue. Lots of people don’t understand that either. If I had sued, I would have taken money off the table (probably six figures). I decided to leave it on the table and walk away. Here is why: even the best of us make mistakes. I certainly make lots of mistakes and I am glad that I don’t have to shell out money to everyone that gets hurt by my mistakes. Things happen. Good people need to have room to be human too.
Second, I never ever saw any alternative but to keep going. I had just sold Vitabase and was starting to focus on music full time. In my mind, there was a ton to do and I was not going to let losing an eye get in the way of that. I was too busy to even think much about what had happened.
By the way, I am not saying that my busyness was a noble thing. I probably could have rested more to be honest. There are strengths and weaknesses in my personality just like anyone else’s. But the focus on my work helped me a lot.
I am writing this post for a few reasons. First, most of you don’t know that I lost an eye and that is a fairly important part of my life. Second, someone was telling me this week about how they admire my attitude. While I am not sure that is really deserved, I figured I would pass on a few thoughts that might help you or someone close to you.