It was Saturday morning, so after a long, stressful week I was looking forward to taking a run around the block. By "run" I mean "mostly walk," but I managed to break into a slow jog a couple of times along the way. (I'm not much of a runner. My theory is that my ancestors were royalty from England, so it is not in my blood to be active or athletic in any way. But I occasionally attempt some sort of physical activity in order to avoid dropping dead of a laziness-induced heart attack.)
As I entered into the home stretch of my walk/run, I started to get these weird blinking lights in front of my eyes. They looked like a couple of sparkling, circular prisms. They would have been kind of pretty if they didn't scare me half to death.
I hurried home, hoping that the flashing lights were just a fluke. When they didn't go away after a few minutes, I started to worry.
My immediate thought was "detached retina." I am severely nearsighted, which puts me at a high risk for retina detachment. My prescription is around -13, which equates to about 20/1300 vision. (I'm a legend in the eye doctor's office. The nurses gush over me when they read my chart. One nurse is always apologizing as if it's her fault I'm blind as a bat!)
So I called the eye doctor, and miraculously the office was open on a Saturday. The nurse told me to come in right away. My husband was working, so I was home alone with the kids. I called my mom, who lives close by, and asked her to come over and watch the kids while I went to the doc.
As I got ready to leave, I explained to the kids what was going on. At this point, I was beginning to panic a bit: What if my retina was detaching and I couldn't get to the doctor in time? What if I went blind? What if I was going to the wrong kind of doctor, and I was actually having a stroke? What if I lost consciousness while I was alone with the children? (This was my biggest fear of all.)
"I'm having some weird flashes of light in my eyes," I told the kids. "Mimi is coming over to watch you while I go to the doctor." I was starting to hyperventilate a bit from the panic, so I was feeling lightheaded. I added, "If something goes wrong before she gets here, I want you to call 911 right away."
My daughter gave me a serious look and nodded her head. I hoped I hadn't scared her. When I walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth, she followed me.
"Yes, sweeetie," I replied, fully prepared to reassure her that I would be OK and not to worry.
"Can I change my earrings?"
"Your earrings? Not right now. Didn't you understand when I told you I'm having some serious problems and have to go to the doctor?"
She started to pout, and then a few minutes later she asked about the earrings again. She just got her ears pierced this summer, so changing her earrings was kind of a big deal. It involved me putting alcohol on her lobes and making sure she could get the earrings in and out smoothly. It was the last thing I gave a crap about at that moment.
At first, I was shocked and irritated at her lack of concern for her poor mother. Didn't she care that I might have to go to the hospital for emergency surgery? Wasn't she afraid that she might have to call the ambulance if I was in fact having a stroke?
Then I realized that she had no earthly idea what the heck was going on. She's never had an emergency in her life. She's never had to take care of herself or anyone else. She has no concept of life or death or even pain. I couldn't be angry with her for not understanding the potential seriousness of the situation. It was outside of her realm of understanding.
So I just repeated that her earrings would have to wait because I had to go to the doctor.
I finally saw the doctor, and it turns out I was having an ocular migraine. My retina was not detaching. The doctor asked me if I was under any stress lately, and I just kind of laughed. My life is one big ball of stress. I was relieved that my eyesight was fine and that I just needed to relax.
Then I realized that my daughter's life is the exact opposite of mine. She has so little stress that she can't even imagine what an emergency would be like. I have so much stress that I can't even imagine being relaxed. Perhaps we can both learn something from each other.