Rules For Life – Focus on the Virtue
by Ken La Salle
Welcome back to my continuing series of Rules For Life.
A few years ago, my optometrist gave me the kind of news you hear from a doctor that sounds so bad your first impulse is to ignore it, hoping it will go away all by itself. I’m not saying this was the appropriate response; it just felt right at the time.
The news my doctor gave me was that I was slowly going blind in my right eye. Vision problems aren’t new to me; I’ve worn glasses for most of my life. So, I suppose I filed my doctor’s news in the back of my mind as one more vision problem (on top of a mountain that I’d rather not dig through here) I didn’t want to address.
Then, yesterday, the problem began to address me.
My yearly exam showed my vision slipping in my right eye. My doctor told me age had a lot to do with it and that an increased prescription in my glasses would take care of it for now.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that “for now” holds less and less appeal. As my body has started to fall apart – almost immediately after turning 50 – I have learned that “for now” isn’t really a very long time.
And sitting there, in my doctor’s office, I knew that this was only the beginning. Along with AARP membership offers in my mailbox, signs of age surrounded me.
I won’t kid you. I started to feel pretty sorry for myself.
Until a reminder flashed in my mind: I wasn’t unique in this. People are aging all around me. Many of them are worse off than I will probably ever be. But putting this into perspective wasn’t enough. Just as it’s not enough to tell a sick person, “It could be worse,” understanding that I wasn’t alone or as bad off as others did not change the fact that I am going blind.
So, I thought, Okay, then. What would help?
What would take this horrible news and make it easier to bear?
I knew perspective wasn’t the answer, just as I knew I wouldn’t find a “silver lining”. That’s a platitude that’s often thrown around. Take the good with the bad. Behind every grey cloud lies a silver lining.
There’s no good to going blind. Absolutely none.
So, I thought, Okay, maybe there is nothing good about this. No good will come of this. But what if you could find some virtue? There’s certainly no virtue to going blind but what if the situation held some virtue you hadn’t considered.
To be honest, I thought I was kind of an idiot for even thinking it.
But then, I considered what my doctor had told me about my vision loss coming with age. Because something else comes of age, too, if we’re lucky enough to find it. And that is wisdom.
I looked over at the boy sitting in the waiting room with me, who looked to be in his mid-teens, and remembered myself at that age. And I thought about all the stupid mistakes, outright idiocy and nonsense and horrible decisions I made when I was his age and realized that, as much as my own modesty insists this is not possible, I have gained some wisdom as I have gotten older. I share my life with a wonderful woman who I love very much. I live my life engaged in the creation of art. I like to think I’ve left many of my more horrible traits behind as one year passes into the next.
And I realized that there is a virtue. Losing my sight is the price I will pay for these blessings and, you know what, I think I can pay that price.
And so, I advise you this month to look for the virtue in your troubles and focus on those virtues. Focus on the virtue when you are struck by loss or difficulties. If you can find it, that may make the difference between denial and acceptance.
About the Author
Author and Playwright, Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue-collar roots, which have given him a progressive and environmentalist view. As a result, you’ll find many of his stories touching those areas both geographically and philosophically. His plays have been seen in theaters across the country and you can find a growing number of books available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com.