Have you heard the story of the man who glanced at a coiled rope, assumed it was a snake and jumped back in a panic?

Susan Young, MSEd, MSC, lives happily in retirement and hopes to see more of her grandkids in 2022.

Or the tale of a monk who lived for decades in a cave and, for years, created a picture of a floor-to-ceiling tiger with bold stripes and wiry whiskers on the walls? After the monk put the final touches on the wild cat’s intense eye, he stood back to admire his fine art. Then, fearful that the bloodthirsty carnivore might eat him, the man screamed and bolted from the cave.

We humans tend to glimpse things a certain way and react as if our thoughts are true with what Einstein called “a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.” So, Marcel Proust no doubt spoke the truth when he said, “The voyage of discovery is not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

My journey with new eyes began with my first pair of glasses in third grade. My ophthalmologist said I had to also wear a patch on my right eye until my left eye strengthened. He said my left eye was “lazy” because it rolled inward. The right eye needed to be covered to force muscular effort in the left.

With a lazy eye, with left eye sleepy, and before glasses, when I’d look straight at other kids, they’d goad, “Hey, cross-eyed, are you looking at me?” They’d zig-zag their eyeballs and sing-song, “Cross-eyed, cross-eyed.”

I’d stare at the ground. My gut would tighten. I’d choke up and curl up small. They teased me and I saw a terrifying tiger. They taunted me and I believed I was not worthy to play with them. It’s hard to make friends if we perceive people as scary snakes.


So I wore my new glasses and patch with hope. Now things would change on the playground. Again, they mocked me: “four eyes,” and with the patch, “three eyes.” Yet I had somehow grown into envisioning four eyes as a chance to see well, to uncross my eyes. I fancied my blue and silver frames chic. And because I also had adopted a new mental frame of glasses/patch/vison correction, their jeers didn’t bother me. Funny how perception works, how beliefs craft our reality.

For over 60 years, my glasses have symbolized a metaphor and have taught me to ask, “What are my delusions of consciousness? How might I sharpen my worldview? Can I focus more skillfully?”

How do we gaze into our lives? Do we look upon pain, setbacks, defeats, illnesses and new diagnoses as snakes and tigers? Or can we transform our optical delusions and patch up our perceptions? Could they offer us new ways to envision life’s struggles, to see chances for growth?

Recently, someone stole my bifocal sunglasses. Maybe they liked the shiny case. They won’t like what they can’t see through my prescription. The thieves will suffer from blurriness. Will they see their folly? Feel guilty? Feel sad at their lack of clear vision? And for us, when in emotional pain, when we wither in woes, when we feel stuck, can we ask, “What am I not seeing?” (maybe the sunlight, the spring buds, the smiles of children, someone else’s point of view, the support of loved ones or a needed behavior change).

Today when I feel blind, blinded or blindsided, I try to remember to envision a new outlook, to change the view, because the lens through which we assess the world clarifies whether we see crisis myopically as a danger or also as an opportunity.

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