The Best and Worst Christmas

Bad news this week.

One of my eyes was removed in March this year. This week, I woke up one morning and found that I could not read. I can still see, but right in the middle of my visual field, there is a blind spot.

I wish I could say that I managed to stay calm and handle this new crisis using the strategy I encourage the readers of my book Embracing Change to use.

I did not. I lost the plot. Impossible to cope with the thought of losing the ability to read (or write!)

Why did this have to happen the week before Christmas?

When my eye doctor is on a no doubt well-deserved holiday? When there is a general strike in France, making travelling any distance complicated and strenuous? When the worst storm in ten years hits the region, bringing howling winds and incessant rain to the already waterlogged soil? Just when I need to get to a hospital urgently, roads are either flooded on obstructed by fallen trees. Why does it happen when the week we are navigating the exhausting intricacies of selling our house and buying another? When I have just come down with a vile bout of bronchitis, the first time in years? When my closest friends are leaving to see their families in other parts of Europe?

Why did this sight-threatening event have to happen at this, the worst possible moment?

I had enormous difficulty finding something to be grateful for facing this threat that brought such a bitter taste to my mouth.

Without a doubt, it was the worst of times for this to happen.

Further tests revealed that to repair my sight (in as much as is possible,) I shall need another operation. If you know me, or have read my books, you will know that I have had more eye operations in the last three years than I care to count, not all of them successful.

I whole-heartedly admit that for a day or two, I went to pieces. I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head. All four of my cats gathered around and cuddled up in sympathy.

On the third day, the need to read, and even more, to write, became unbearable. The need to read to escape my circumstances, admittedly not the best of coping strategies, became overwhelmingly undeniable. The need to process what I was going through by writing about it, became like the gnawing hunger I should have felt to eat, but did not.

I sat up in bed, pulled the covers up to my chest and switched on my laptop. I found a Christmas Carol playlist on Youtube and turned the volume up, loudly enough to drown out the wind. I enlarged the font until I could more or less make out what I was reading. I could see the beginning and the end of each word, but not the centre. My mind very quickly adjusted, offering me an assumption of what each word could mean, sometimes leading to the wrong conclusion, puzzling sentences, lots of rereads and an ever-worsening headache.

But I was like an addict deprived of her drug, so I persisted and finally managed to do some reading, and even some writing, as you can see, if much slower and more strenuously than before.

My plan, before this happened, was to convert my book Embracing Change, available only as an e-book, to a printed book, in time for the Christmas. Since the operation, which I am not entirely sure I want to have, is not scheduled until January, I decided to start working on the conversion. I discovered that I still knew a variety of useful swearwords in several different languages.

Going through the book, the power of the solution I so naively and unknowingly proposed all those months ago, grabbed me by the guts.

I took stock of my situation.

Even though this is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me, it is also one of the best.

I realised that never before, at any time, before any previous operation, have I been as blessed as I am now.

Never before have I had as much caring and committed support as I have now. Somewhere during the last three years, I have learned that sharing pain makes it more bearable, that writing about it makes it easier to accept and that asking for help is not a weakness. I am infinitely blessed to be surrounded by people who care about me and who were as upset about what has now happened to me as I am.

I am not facing this alone. Not this time.

So what if the weather is foul? The storm will blow over, the strike will come to an end (eventually,) the roads will be cleared, my bronchitis will get better, my doctor and my friends will come back after Christmas and we will finally sign the contacts to sell this house and buy a new one this week. The operation is not urgent, it can wait till the beginning of January. In the meantime, I do manage to read and write after a fashion, and paracetamol makes the worst of my headaches less severe.

Despite it all, I have so much to be grateful for.

I wish you a Christmas as blessed as mine. May it be your best Christmas ever, as it will be for me.

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11 Replies to “The Best and Worst Christmas”

  1. Dear Margaretha,

    What an unbelievable run of bad luck.

    Sending you a tight hug and best wishes that you have a nice Christmas despite all that’s going on.


    1. Dankie! Can well believe that you are enjoying the house sitting (or should it be farmsitting?) Wish you a great 2020 and lots more opportunities to house sit in such enjoyable surroundings.

  2. My dear Margaretha, I wish I could reach out and hug you. Yes, you need to embrace change, but you also have to allow time to get angry and grieve. You did that. And then you embraced the change and went about doing what you do best. Writing. Sharing. Teaching. Thank you for being you.

  3. Ek os so jammer om te hoor van jou uiters slegte nuus, maar dankbaar dat daar steeds ‘goeie’ dinge is wat jy raaksien. Mag jy krag kry om hierdie uitdaging wat jy nou moet trotseer, te doen en sterker anderkant uitkom.

  4. Your plight is heartbreaking. I have a subscription to Audio books, Amazon. I enjoy them when I walk. You might enjoy getting a stationary bike and listen to books when you spin I will share my favorites if you like.
    God Bless

    1. I also have a subscription to Audiobooks! and I love walking too, even running, which I still manage on my treadmill. Would love to know what your favourites are, JoAnne, always looking for something new to listen to.

  5. Oh, Margaretha, I’m so sorry. What an awful thing to happen. I know I would be just as devastated in your place if not more. However, I’ve also had a horrible few years, and, yes, life does go on. You either give up (not an option) or you pull up your socks and look for a ray of sunshine. Which I’m glad to see you’re doing. I’m sad I don’t live closer, I’d come over for a gossip. Meanwhile, I’m sending all my best wishes and hopes for a speedy improvement, as well as virtual hugs🌹🌹🌹

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