Restoring my vision, getting set to test the waters

BY KATE WALTER  |  I was having my tarot cards read in a cafe on Christopher St. by a seer named Roland.

“You’re struggling to find a relationship” he said. “I see somebody but it’s not happening yet. You need a period of rest and rejuvenation.”

Damn. How could I still be in that phase? I’d been single for three years, ever since my female partner of 26 years left me. After suffering through a bad breakup, I changed from a cranky journalist and college teacher into a New Age seeker. I had always been intrigued by spirituality, but my interest was dormant while living with a cynic. Without my ex’s judgment, I felt free to explore mystical areas.

Since then, I’d joined a fantastic church led by a hip black female pastor — a far cry from my conservative Catholic upbringing. I’d become a spiritual and self-help junkie, advanced my yoga practice and started chanting. I’d learned how to nurture myself.

“There are certain blocks you need to remove,” the reader continued.

Roland did more layouts and told me I’d meet a water sign woman. That came up three times. I explained that I was going out and mingling with women but had no luck. I was afraid to be open after what happened.

“The wound from the breakup left you damaged,” he said. “When you decide you are done resting, that person appears. All these cards are so clear.”

Roland stopped and closed his eyes and said, “I’m getting stuff from the other side.” Was he channeling spirit guides? As he analyzed why I was not meeting anyone, he said, “I keep getting this image of blinders over your eyes.”

“Sometimes, I’m too critical when I first meet people. Could that be it?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s a defense mechanism, but she’s out there. The blinders have to come off first. So have experiences — online dating, whatever — that will make you more receptive.”

“Your energy feels good,” he assured me. “But look at this card,” he said, pointing to the Eight of Swords. “This represents you. Her eyes are covered and swords are around her. Swords are energy blocks. Releasing them can be difficult.”

I took comfort that this ominous card appeared in the present position, not the future.

Roland’s words seemed prophetic when, two months later, I saw Dr. Accardi, my eye doctor. After doing his tests he told me, “You have lost so much vision in the right eye in the last 10 months, I suggest you have the cataract removed now.”

That shocked me. I knew I had a cataract in one eye, but the last time I was there he was adamant about me not needing surgery yet. I had no idea things could change so fast. This made me feel old and alone. I thought I’d do this way in the future, like when I was retired or when I had a new girlfriend, who would pick me up at the hospital.

By the time I left his office, I scheduled the surgery for during my semester break. As I went online and looked at the operation, I found the visual of a veil being removed from my eye. I kept thinking about what Roland said about taking off the blinders.

That morning, I had to be in the hospital at 6 a.m. I was anxious and woke up before my alarm rang. I dressed and did three rounds of kapalabhati breathing, also known as the “yogi’s cup of coffee.” I was dying for a real cup of coffee but had orders not to eat or drink anything.

When I left my apartment in the far West Village, it was still dark and super-quiet. All the restaurants and bars and stores were closed. It felt a bit spooky. The only place open was the 24-hour deli. I grabbed a cab, and we shot across 14th St. to the Eye and Ear Infirmary.

After getting admitted, I entered the pre-surgery assembly line: hospital garb from the waist up, then a battery of eye drops that widened my pupil and numbed my eye. As I sat on a gurney in the hallway, waiting to be wheeled into the operating room, I started practicing alternate-nostril breathing, a nerve-calming breath my yoga teacher recommended.

While in the corridor, I met the Filipino nurse and the anesthesiologist with a Russian accent who’d be assisting my surgeon. Dr. Accardi came by to say hello, “Are you anxious?”

“Of course,” I answered, hoping I would not be the rare patient whose retina detached.

“You’ll be fine, ” he said and patted me on the shoulder.

My eye doctor of many years was a kind man and highly rated surgeon. I felt connected because he grew up Catholic in the Italian section of Greenwich Village, near where I live.

The entire process took less than 10 minutes. All I remember was the needle going into my hand and staring into this bright light. I heard Dr. Accardi say three things: “The cataract is out. … This is going swimmingly. … The lens is in.”

I liked the adverb “swimmingly.” When I heard that word, I felt secure. Although I was sedated, I felt very aware. I left the operating room with a clear plastic patch on my eye, but my distance vision was amazing. I felt a mellow high when I left the hospital with my friend who picked me up. When I got back to my building, I was shocked to see the lights in my hallway were bright white, not yellowish. Would having better eyesight help me envision new possibilities?

My doctor’s words made me recall that my grandfather Jack, my mother’s father, had this operation in the early 1960s. I felt grateful the procedure had improved dramatically over the decades. After his surgery Gramp could only see if he wore glasses with thick Coke bottle lenses. Born and raised in a seaport in Ireland, my grandfather loved swimming in the ocean when he visited us at the Jersey Shore. As a kid with a Red Cross junior lifesaving badge, I was assigned the task of swimming with him.

This started after the day Gramp went into the water solo and swam out too far; the lifeguards were whistling and waving at him to turn around; he was having a “grand time” and had no idea they were signaling him. My mother was upset when she met my grandfather at the shoreline and handed him his glasses. From then on, I became his seeing-eye swimming companion.

Two years later, I had the other eye done. I was still single, although I’d met many women online and dated a few more than once. Did I literally need to have the blinders removed from both eyes?

The day after my second surgery, I walked to my doctor’s office for a post-op checkup. As I strolled uptown on a summer morning, I was looking forward to going down the shore and swimming in the Atlantic. I had no need for a guide in the ocean. I could see clearly now. I had finished resting and was ready to meet the water sign woman.

Walter has just finished a memoir, “Looking for a Kiss: A Sapphic Search for Sex and Serenity”

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6 Responses to Restoring my vision, getting set to test the waters

  1. Great essay. Really well written and very enjoyable to read. Glad you got the blinders off. Will be interesting to hear what you find.

    • camille Daunno

      So well written..but then again, didn't expect anything less from you. You are not only a gifted writer, but an ardent storyteller. Enjoyed every word. XO C.

  2. Love this, especially the part about your grandfather.

  3. Terrific essay. I loved all the metaphors about having blinders on literally and figuratively. As someone who had cataract surgery I can relate. I also used to be so blind I couldn't swim in the ocean and find my way back. I hope you find true love Kate.

  4. Really enjoyed this and especially liked the part about your grandfather. Look forward to an essay when you meet that women in your future.

  5. I always enjoy Kate’s hopeful view of her life experiences. There is nothing more entertaining to the human animal than a great storyteller!

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