the blur

POSTCARD#314: Bangkok: My first visit to the eye hospital, unwilling to go, but blurred vision in the both eyes, and still I’m thinking it’s nothing, disregarding the fact that I’m finding it difficult to read, identify coins, and other necessary actions. Making excuses for a long time, and going on like this until I’m stumbling into things too many times; only then am I persuaded I need to go. Even so, still insisting no, I don’t need anyone to come with me. Thank you, I can manage by myself and next thing, I’m squeezing through the crowds at the Skytrain (overhead railway) entrance to get a one-day ticket (because it’s easier than putting the right coins in the slot). Some regret then, that I’d refused the kind offer of someone to come with me, but another part of me insisting I can manage, I’ve done this so many times what could go wrong? Same old situation, I am a foreigner living in someone else’s country, not possible to ask anyone for help, too complicated to explain – therefore there’s that familiar alertness, awake and mindful.

Getting off the train is a challenge, it’s a place I’ve not been to before, and I can read Thai but can’t seem to find the correct exit (the signs are unclear?) So I choose to go with the North/South orientation of the map, knowing that if I face the way the train is travelling as I get off, in this case North, and as I go down the staircases and escalators to street level, I’m always orientated in that same Northerly direction and notice which way the traffic is going so it’ll be easier for the taxi driver. All this because doing a U-turn can be a lengthy process here; somebody said the whole of Bangkok is one large, U-turn…. A pink and white cab is waiting and I tell the driver where I’d like to go – will he take me? He thinks for a bit (doing U-turns in his head), yes, ok. So we’re off.

At the hospital, it’s a long session. I’m lying down and they put some drops in my eyes to enlarge the pupils so their equipment can see inside the eye (this is just so freaky). The doctor asks me if there’s anybody to take me home because the drops in the eyes will make things a bit indistinct for a few hours. I’m in denial, thinking, I’ve been living in an indistinct world for a long time and have managed okay. But when I step outside, it’s raining and the world is a blur, a smear, a sea of colour, yellow, green and pink taxis, red tail lights of vehicles in vivid splashes. No form or definition anywhere, I’ve lost my North/South orientation, having come into the hospital by a different door.

What to do? A motorbike taxi comes along and I tell him where to go and get on – let him to sort it out. We get up to a surprising speed on what I believe to be the wrong side of the road, dodging oncoming traffic, weaving in and out of the other lane, wherever there’s a space.

A great whoosh of hot wet wind, colossal noise and we get to the Skytrain station, with its dynamic staircase insisting on the direction we need to take. After that it’s just a case of getting the North/South thing sorted out, following the crowds up the escalator, on to the train, and into the coolness of the AC carriage, with this wild wind crashing against the window and the strange dark sky. A wind also blowing through the mind; papañca, proliferations arising from the single thought that I have cataracts in both eyes and have to have the operation on the right eye on August 9th. Mindfulness of breathing…

Reflections on an earlier post, necessity of mindfulness

23 thoughts on “the blur

  1. Bangkok one large U-turn. Bingo! Riding on the back of a motorbike taxi against traffic. Not seeing anything clearly. Could the world have an operation? Please?

    I return to CM in one week. We’ll be in touch before August. More in email. Best to you.

    • Thanks Gary, let’s see if we can meet in Ch’mai. I forgot of course you’re the one to know about riding a motorbike in the city, in the rain…

  2. Thank you for sharing what must have been a disorienting, difficult, tender day on so many levels. My best wishes for a successful cataract surgery–my mom had them in both her eyes and she says it changed her life (also allowed her to no longer need to wear glasses for serious nearsightedness, which she had almost her life).
    These eye-drops are a visit into another universe, aren’t they? When I last had those drizzled into my eyes, it took almost 48 hours for my eyes to return to the pre-exam status. I remember leaving the doctor’s office, practically blinded and unable to see what car was my shared-ride taxi. Had to ask a stranger (people are mostly very nice and helpful in NYC, contrary to lore) to look at my phone screen for me to tell me what car to get onto and to help me into it because I could see practically nothing-but-a-blur. It is a humbling experience, that’s for sure. I spent the next two days meditating, listening to music, and revisiting other universes in my head–there was little else I could do, with pupils that did not respond to anything till they decided they were good and ready to.
    Take gentle care!

    • So good to know NY people are nice and helpful! It’s wonderful really to know that when you are unable to do ordinary things suddenly, the world opens out to assist you more often than not. I can imagine how fantastic it must have been to be living in a maze of shape and colour for two days! My eyes recovered overnight and by mid-morning the next day the blur was gone. It’s a mystery indeed, anything to do with the eyes and vision, the intraocular lens implant is remarkable when you think we are seeing the world out there through small blobs of clever plastic. Just the thought of that is a humbling experience…

      • Yes, I think most people, in most places, are nice and helpful, at least once you ask them for help. I find that people in big cities tend to tend to themselves, in part to respect others’ privacy, in part to maintain some sense of privacy in themselves. However, when asked, most will help. As for the miracle of creation and the fantastic nature of our senses–absolutely! I’m partial to mine working as they ought, but when they don’t, it is always a journey to better understanding and an opportunity to no longer take for granted what often might be, yet should not. Have a lovely Sunday! Na’ama

  3. Hi T, wow, what an experience! I can’t imagine how we would cope with that. Especially the motorbike taxi. I’m picturng you riding behind the driver, arms around his waist, but my husband said it’s probably more like a rickshaw with a seat. He had both cataracts done in April, and this week he had laser treatment in each eye to remove a protein film that had developed on the posterior capsule (membrane that holds the implant in place). Fancy name for the procedure is YAG capsulotomy. YAG is a kind of laser, I think. This happens in most cases, but can take years. For him, it developed within days. For me it was over a year. Now we wait until Wednesday for an eye doctor appointment to get his new eyeglasses prescription, take it to the place that makes them, and once we have them in hand, make hotel reservations and drive north. 👓

    Bangkok sounds pretty hectic and scary, so I’m glad Chiang Mai is less so. Best to you in August, and before then as well! Btw, I’m always thrilled to read comments from Na’ama on your blog, my good friend from our days in NYC. Amazing person!

    Hugs, 🙏🌞

    • Hi Shielagh, yes picture me riding the back of a motorbike taxi remembering that I’m taller and bigger than most Thai men, so I have to lean into the driver’s back in order not to be a windbreak and that’s not easy! Interesting to hear about the YAG laser treatment and that the condition happens in most cases. I will need to have a look at that.
      A surprise to find an old friend here in the blogging world. Yes Na’ama always seems to hold my attention with everything she writes.
      Thank you for passing by

      • Wow! I am tall, too. And she and I have ended up following many of the same people here, no big surprise since we share so many interests and values. 🙏

      • This is how it works, it seems. The way something is seen, the particular quality of whatever it is, is shared and understood by like-minded people

  4. Sounds very frightening! Also sounds like a time to have a companion with you. Mostly in the U.S. they tell you to be accompanied or picked up by someone. You were very brave. Having help is not a sign of weakness. Such needs for help are an acquiescence to limitations of the body. Glad all worked out okay for you. Reminds me of a time in my life when I was truly all alone and trying to cross a street despite a narrowness of vision in which I could not fully see oncoming traffic due to side effects from an anti-psychotic medication. Such moments amaze and humble one. And create and attitude of gratitude for surviving and a fear of such situations in the future.

    • Hi Ellen, yes it was reckless not to have a helper with me, in fact I didn’t know or had forgotten that I was warned before going for the appointment. It’s a belief that whatever happens I’ll be able to cope and one day it’s going to let me down so I better wake up to the danger. Acquiescence indeed, this is how I managed to wander solo around Asia for more than 30 years. Many adventures similar to your trying to cross a road with limited vision, and getting through by the skin of the teeth. I hear you when you say gratitude for surviving that.

  5. Enjoyed your post and I admire your gutsiness. The themes of self-confidence and courage are current for me so your post was inspiring. Good luck!

    • Hi Cindy, I’m glad this was an inspiration, there is the fact though, that it could be bravado rather than courage. I’ve been told it was foolishness… these are the kinds of things we reflect on after the event.

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