“Avoid the computer.” This is the edict from my ophthalmologist who’s diagnosed dry-eye syndrome.
Despite spilling the intimacies of my life to the pages, I’ve been reluctant to reveal in an article this problem, because I have friends whose conditions are life threatening. My malady is an uncomfortable nuisance but it does affect quality of life and quality of life for me includes writing. So, I’m noncompliant. I’ll interrupt this piece often to rest my peepers though. If I don’t, they’ll become parched, bloodshot, so much so that I want to gouge them out, place them in a container to bob in ice water, and reinsert them in their sockets later.
If you have dry-eye syndrome, you understand.
While common after eye surgery and usually temporary or intermittent, the condition can be chronic, especially if it’s caused by allergies. Like mine.
Okay, for some time, and I’ve told you this, I’ve said to the Sisterhood, “We’ve lived much longer than we have left. Let’s do something interesting with our lives.” Another move? Erma has dry-eye syndrome too, allergies, and we talk daily about what we’ll do, where we’ll go.
Here’s the plan: I’m listing the condo. Want to be untethered from ownership. I’m getting rid of the things that have been familiar comforts but no longer seem essential and hoping to remain resolute about this decision.
When I was in Brooklyn for almost two weeks with Mr. Poop-adore, my eyes were better, moist. Didn’t have to use artificial tears or the gel at night. (Applying it’s like laying a bead of caulk inside the lower lid.) So, I’ll conduct a study in which I’m the participant. Venture out, stay in some location, sublet for several months, maybe a year, and test—test to see if allergens collide and rumble with my immune system. This means I’m volunteering to be the nomad (Erma calls me the no-pad), researching climates for some location amenable to my sensitivities and, hopefully, Erma’s.
I won’t fill the prescription for Restasis, an expensive medication that has these side effects—you know, same complications the concoction’s supposed to treat. Plus, using it could compromise the experiment.
At night as I snuggle with my pillow, I question the strategy. Detachment isn’t easy. Mornings, I’m excited, thinking of options. When I ran early today, I thought about this, the letting go of STUFF, but soon I drifted to what I can’t release: the hideousness of U.S. Empire. More troops to Iraq, the possibility of sending heavy weaponry to Eastern Europe, ratcheting up the aggressive rhetoric with Putin. And China.
I thought about people I know who claim antiwar status, as long as we don’t talk about Israel. I thought about friends who support Hillary for president because her victory would be historic, just as it was historic when Obama was elected, the first black president—the man whose foreign and domestic policies have been even more oppressive than George W. Bush’s.
And then this: George W. Bush honored along with two others by The National Father’s Day Council as father of the year. WTF? My heart breaks for the children whose fathers have been killed by Bush’s decisions and the children whose fathers have returned from combat with traumatic head injuries, PTSD, missing limbs, disfiguring burns. And my heart breaks for Iraqi and Afghan children whose fathers have been killed, the children who have PTSD, the children who have witnessed our country’s turning theirs into hellhole wastelands.
Bush merits the honor of father of the year as much as Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.
So, back to ownership: purchase and own—a condo, house, acre of land, furniture, clothing, accompanied by a deed, title, a receipt. Still, these can be forfeited. What I can’t relinquish, something for which I forever bear responsibility, is the inhumanity committed by the U.S. government in my name. And despite the dry-eye syndrome, I can cry. In shame.
Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org