Some verbal expressions, I’m sure, are universal. Wherever you go in the world, I’m convinced, in whatever language the people there speak, there’ll be words that succinctly translate to, for example, “little by little”: In my own travel experience, this expression in French is “petit a petit”; in Spanish, “poco a poco”; and in Bambara, the language of most of Mali, West Africa, “doni-doni.”
Another example is the expression in English, “we’ll see.” In French it’s “on va voir” and in Spanish it’s “vamos a ver.” Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I knew that when my mother said “we’ll see” – which she said frequently in response to a childish question about the future — it meant, “maybe, but, then again, maybe not; don’t get your hopes up.”
Deep down, most of us small, frail humans clomping along on this dizzying planet yearn to know what the future for us holds. (Astrologers understand this yearning.) We long to look into a crystal ball and see that future ahead of its time. This, it seems to me, is just human nature. So wise ones in every culture have coined simple little phrases encouraging a go-slow approach, like “Time will tell,” “Little by little,” “We shall see…”
In my own most recent experience, what I wanted to see in that crystal ball was whether or not I would soon see better.
To back up: My eyesight, always a weak link in my life, was beginning to fail rapidly, especially after cataract surgery in New Mexico in the summer of 2012. I chalked this deterioration up to age. I was terrified of going through another costly surgery that might only make things worse. I tried (not altogether successfully) to be stoical and relinquish gracefully some of the things I loved to do, such as sew my own clothes, drive my own car, and edit other people’s manuscripts as part of my livelihood, because my eyes would no longer let me.
I waited until I’d settled here in Mexico last month to work up the courage to take positive action against my admitted passivity. On the recommendation of several friends here, I saw a young woman eye doctor at a highly regarded clinic in the sprawling city of Queretaro, capital of the nearby state of Queretaro, and believed to be one of the fastest growing cities in the northern hemisphere. After my exam, she told me that in a small percentage of cataract cases, the patient’s eyes grow (what I understood to be) errant cells that slowly creep over the new, plastic lenses and blur the person’s vision. I was one of that small percentage of people.
She recommended laser surgery. “Quick and painless,” she said; and, at 4,000 pesos altogether, for both eyes (a total of $235.29 U.S., at today’s exchange rate), blessedly affordable for me.
We scheduled the surgery for January 14, after her family’s Christmas holiday in Acapulco, which gave me time to worry — one of the things I do best. I ached to know the future of my post-laser-surgery eyesight. I berated myself for my wobbly faith. I repeated to myself, “We’ll see, we’ll see…”
It could be that the days since that surgery last Thursday have been particularly beautiful here in San Miguel de Allende, more brilliant and vivid and clear than I’ve ever seen. Or it could be that my eyesight is now suddenly brilliant and vivid and clear. (Or both!) I find I’m no longer looking through gauze. I’m no longer living inside of an Impressionist painting.
The sight of the pointy, pink Parroquia church’s spires clearly etched against the dazzlingly clear azure blue sky now stops me in my tracks. I want to get all weepy and sentimental and sing words from the old hymn, “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see!” Well, I wasn’t totally lost or completely blind, but I certainly feared these worsts.
I ask myself what lesson I might draw from this experience, but nothing new or profound comes to me. I’ve always known there’s no crystal ball. There’s only those old standbys faith and hope and, today especially, unspeakable thankfulness that I can now see clearly.