Pay no attention to the eye doctor, Scott.
Yes, he is going to be holding a needle in his hand. Yes, it will be approaching your eyelid. But we’re not going to think about that, right? We’re just going to lie back and breathe and get nice and relaxed and cozy …
You thought about it. Didn’t you?
One more try. Deep breath. No, steady breath. A deep breath warns your body that something’s wrong, that you’re about to plunge into shark-infested waters. No, we’re calm. We’re calm. See how calm we are? Nothing out of the ordinary, doot-do-doo, oh, look, here comes the nice doctor reaching for my right eye…
Oh, look, there I go making the Olympic high jump team.
“And we’re done,” the doctor said, setting up an appointment for a second try to remove my eyelid cyst – this time, with medication.
And the patented Scott Rochat Whole-Body Eye Defense triumphs again.
Some people have a blink reflex. I am a blink reflex. Ever since the age of 15, I’ve known that my body will intercept threats to the eye faster than Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Mr. Miyagi combined. No conscious thought required: the jumps, squirms and jerks of Eye Fu are completely instinctive, a true union with the Tao … or at least with the “Ow.”
As you might guess, this presents a few problems.
I’ve never worn contact lenses, for obvious reasons.
Theatrical makeup takes three times as long to put on as it should, and sometimes requires a second person to hold me steady.
Even giving me eye drops require catching me off guard – at which point, the chances of success rise to 50-50.
So when I had a head-to-head collision last summer with Blake, the Dog of Steel – well, can you blame me for thinking/hoping/praying that the bump on my eyelid was a bruise? Or at worst, scar tissue?
No such look. I mean, luck.
I suspect most of us have similar weak spots, that one fear or reflex we can’t master, no matter how important it may be. My wife Heather can face the prospect of major surgery with firm resolution, but the approach of a tongue depressor will send her running to the nearest wastebasket as her gag reflex goes into overdrive. A former Denver Post columnist, Mark Obmascik, once wrote about a hiking partner who had such an aversion to needles that the man blacked out during an interjection – and came to in the parking lot, learning that he had punched the nurse and fought his way out of the hospital.
The mind may know better. But it’s not in the driver’s seat anymore.
There’s an irony to writing this so soon after New Year’s. After all, this is the time for grand resolutions, for the conviction that life can be changed for the better and that we’re the ones to do it. That we can control ourselves, take charge of our circumstances, make ourselves into the people we want to be.
That’s not a bad attitude. And it can lead to some great things. But even the best will in the world can hit limits. The spirit is willing, and all that.
And in a weird way, that’s reassuring.
It’s good to be reminded sometimes that I don’t control everything. It’s good to be reminded that I have to make allowances for others, to account for a world with its own drives and imperatives, even to – hardest of all – ask for help. I need to remember that “what I want” isn’t the most important thing in the world, that even my own body is a gift for today that might not answer the wheel tomorrow.
It’s called humility. Not the most common attitude in America these days, I know. But vital.
If it means some frustration at times, so be it. I’ll get through it. My reflexes are real and they have to be accommodated, but accommodation doesn’t mean surrender. This can be done.
Am I sure?