A few months ago, I was talking to my father on the phone. He asked me how I was doing and as I am programmed to do, I said, “I’m fine.” But he knew I was NOT fine and he pushed a little harder and asked me why I seemed so distracted and not like myself. Because apparently, I am usually a fine tuned and effervescent bubbly thing.
And so I told him about some things that were bothering me. Some uncertainties that had crept into my life which had made me doubt myself. I wouldn’t say that I was having a pity party for myself, but … ok, I actually WAS. It was pitiful how much self-pitying was happening at this really not fun party. To which I had invited nobody but myself. It felt only right to finally extend an invitation to my father.
I expected my father to tell me to snap out of it. At times like this, he likes to talk about God and believing in God’s plan, and as someone who is not very religious, he will usually lose me here as my eyes glaze over and I listen to how I am supposed to put my faith and trust in G to the O to the D.
But that’s not my belief system and so at times like this, I usually find little comfort in my father’s words.
But on this day, my father surprised me. He didn’t talk about God. He didn’t ask me to pray. He didn’t even tell me to meditate, which is another one of his favorite solutions for my problems. On this day, he shared with me one of his own stories of feeling grave uncertainty in his life.
I have written before on my blog that my father is nearly blind. Most likely as a result of the intense malnourishment he suffered as a child, he developed several cataracts, glaucoma and an illness called Retinitis Pigmentosa at a very young age, before he was even 40. The cataracts and glaucoma were bad enough but Retinitis Pigmentosa is a degenerative disease which basically starts on the outsides of your eyes – think your peripheral vision – and slowly starts to work its way inward until you become fully blind.
My dad didn’t know how long he had until the Retinitis worked its way completely into his eyes. He knew he had to stop driving though, because he was losing vision at such a rapid pace that it was frightening.
At the same time, my father was scared. He had to earn a living and he had to support his family in America and help those he could in India.
As things turned out, it was during this time that my father learned that he was laid off from his job after several staff cuts. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Not only was being unemployed a challenge, but he now had this handicap that could prevent him from being able to find a job. In addition, he didn’t know how long he had until he lost his eyesight.
I think about how scary this time must have been for my father. I think about the uncertainty that he was living with everyday and am amazed at how positive he remained, for I recall him during this time and had no idea of the burden that he was bearing on his shoulders. He did not share his fears with me as a child, and I am grateful because I don’t know if I could have handled seeing that fear.
My father ultimately found a job – one in NYC which he could commute to by public transportation. He had to make some compromises to make it work, but he did what he had to do with the situation he had been dealt.
My father shared this story with me to remind me that we all go through times where things look bleak or our options feel limited. That everybody has to go through some uncertainty in life. Sometimes there are no clear answers or solutions waiting for us on the other side of our uncertainty.
But there is a way. There always is a way.
On that day when I was talking to my dad, I wasn’t ready to embrace the positive or hopeful that could be around the bend which I couldn’t see or touch. Instead, I was focused on the negative which seemed so much more real in that moment. Hearing my father tell me his story made me realize how different things would have been had my father only chosen to embrace the negative, which he was getting pounded by. How different would his life be if he had let himself be defeated by a diagnosis that assured him he would be robbed of sight before I graduated from high school? (FYI – he can still see today. It’s limited, but he can see more than any of the doctors anticipated).
My father may be nearly blind, but he was able to see the possibility in the positive, something which many people with sight, myself included, often overlook. And I am so grateful. So freaking grateful that he did.