THE ONE-EYED MAN IS KING
By: Lauren Anderson
When I was just out of college, I scratched my cornea. Really bad. It wasn’t the first time I had done this to my eye either. But this scratch was extra awful, and a total freak accident. My good friend had made a good joke, and when I threw my head back to laugh at it properly, a piece of ceiling fell down into my eye. WTF!
I went to the doctor. I was losing my vision. And I was scared to death.
They gave me a really thick medical ointment that I had to put on my eyeball 3 times a day. Are you squirming in your chair yet? Because putting something with the consistency of Vaseline on your eyeball ON PURPOSE is a test of wills. But I was determined to save my eye.
I was supposed to rest. Keep my eyes shut as much as I could. And keep my hurt eye out of the light as much as possible. Time and rest were the only real way to heal from an injury like this.
Just about the only perk of of an eye injury on this level, was I had to wear an eye patch. The doctor gave me the choice of black or beige. I chose black, of course. I mean, if you have to wear an eye patch, it’s full Pirate or nothing, right?
When my eye started to heal, and things were getting better, I was given the OK to resume my life. But I had to keep wearing the patch for a full month. So when my friend’s birthday rolled around, and she wanted everyone to meet up at the bar, I had a choice to make; either stay home, or go party in my patch. I chose to party. (In my younger days, I always chose to party.)
I put on make up as best I could, and wore an outfit that was befitting a young gal in a eye patch. All black. I looked like a pirate fresh outta the Matrix, and I was INTO IT. When I got to the bar, everyone looked at me. The bouncer with a hefty scar on his cheek gave me a nod like, “I’ve been there.” and waved the cover charge. I thanked him, and returned my best version of the nod he just gave me, and I went in.
Like out of some classic eighties movie starring John Cusack, I swear the music stopped, and everyone in the bar turned to look at me. I’m sure it was just one of those moments where I happened to enter the bar at the exact time the song changed over. And I’m sure everyone looked my direction because the bar was dark, and the door opening changed the light. But at the time, I thought everyone was staring at me in my eye patch.
In moments like this, I knew I had a choice to make; either duck into the nearest corner and try to find my friends without further attention, or stand there with my shoulders squared, and make a g-damn entrance. I chose to make an entrance. (I always choose to make an entrance.)
When I walked through the shoulder to shoulder crowd, people parted the way to make room for me. It was the weirdest thing. This time I knew I wasn’t making it up. People really were staring at me. People were making room for me. It was so odd. But I didn’t mind it. I could almost feel people wanting to know my back story. Who was this badass? Is she an assassin? Has she come to Kill Bill?
When I found my friends, it was party time as usual. Except, random people kept sending over drinks to “the lady with the eye patch”. I wasn’t drinking because of the meds I was on, but I was delighted by the gesture. What a strange night! What a strange attraction people seemed to have with the lore of an eye patch. I was a mystery they needed to solve, but were too afraid to ask.
As the night progressed, people got drunker and bolder, but I was still stone sober. I never recommend being the only sober person in a crowd of drunks (unless it’s your night to be designated driver. In that case, you’re a champion, and keep up the good work). But otherwise? What a bore. Unless you have an eye patch. People just-drunk-enough started coming up to me and asking me about my eye.
At first, I told them the truth, but they didn’t believe me. They wanted my story to be more painful, more salacious, more movie-worthy. And it became pretty apparent, it didn’t really matter what I said. So I started to make things up. “Motorcycle accident.” “It got caught in a propeller of a fishing boat in Key West.” “I was bitten by my snake.” I was having fun with it.
And my favorite story of the night? After a drunk guy rudely was like, “What happened to your face?” Without looking up, I said, “Let’s just say, the other guy looks worse.” And all he could say was, “Jesus. I think I’m in love.”
Shortly after that, I left the bar. I had had just about all I could take. My eye patch had made me an accidental celebrity. And for as much fun as I was having, I also felt weird about it. I felt like I couldn’t possibly live up to their expectations. Even though I almost went blind, my truth just wasn’t enough.
On my way out, the bouncer was like, “Leaving already? Did you have a good time?” And for some reason, I answered him honestly. “It was okay. But people acted like they’ve never seen a girl in a f-in eye patch before.”
And the bouncer chuckled and wisely said, “Well, In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
I had heard that old adage before, but never was it more fitting, or more adeptly applied. Leave it to a bouncer who’s seen it all, to serve you the real philosophy. I instantly felt better.
* * *
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what that bouncer said to me. I’ve been feeling a little like a one-eyed king. The farther I travel on my journey to total body joy, the more I’m asked to share what I’ve learned along the way. Sometimes with people I’m very close to, sometimes with total strangers.
I love this. I love that people have questions, and want to share their stories with me. I consider it a true gift, and I love being connected to people in this new and deep way.
But a lot of times when I say what I’m doing, and answer honestly, I am met with a certain amount of disbelief. Just like my eye-patch story. It’s like, I can’t possibly be telling them the WHOLE TRUTH. Like, there has to be more. It has to be harder. It has to a crazy amount of work, that no regular person has time or energy for right? RIGHT?!
The only reason it’s working for me is I must be a weirdo, an outlier, or just an out-and-out liar.
When I say, “Yes, it’s hard work. But it’s also fun! And I am enjoying discovering my body in a whole new way!” They say, “Yeah, but I could never do that. That’s just not my style.”
When I say, “It’s not a diet, it’s an education. Followed by daily choices.” They say, “Yeah, but it’s still a diet though, right? I mean, how long do you have to do it?”
When I say, “Food isn’t good or bad, it just is. And the only question I ask is, is it serving me and my needs in that moment.” They say, “Yeah, but what are like, the really BAD foods?”
When I say, “I try and get to the gym 2-3 times a week.” They say, “Yeah, but don’t you like, have to spend your whole LIFE there?”
Or when they say, “Oh my god, I wish I was in better shape. I’m just so [tired/fat/weak/fill in the blank].” And I say, “I wonder what you could do right now, to thank your body for all it does for you already?”
That question almost always stops them in their tracks. Like they didn’t even realize how cruel they were being to themselves, and to their own bodies. I usually notice a quick catch in their breath, followed by an epic eye roll. That’s when I know I’m onto something real. Because that’s how I used to respond.
Sometimes, when I’m talking with people I can almost hear an urgency in their voices. Like they want me to give them evidence that body love is too hard to try. So they can excuse themselves and keep going as they’ve always gone. Even though they wouldn’t even be talking to me about it, if it didn’t interest them in some small way already. Even though they might be unhappy. Even though they might be hurting.
But I can’t give them that. Because one eye has been opened. I can see that body love, body kindness, body joy is REAL. And you don’t have to look or be a certain way to experience it. And I’ll never be blind to it again.
But the truth is, I’ve only just begun. For as much as I’ve learned, and as far as I’ve come, I am NO EXPERT. In fact, far from it! The only difference between me and maybe other people, is that I have started. I have taken the first steps. And that was no small feat. To this day, those steps are among the hardest I’ve ever ventured.
But perspective can change by the inch. So on any path, a few steps in can look wildly different from where you start. And I think that’s where I’m at. At the beginning, I couldn’t see a damn thing. Now, I’m a few steps in, and one eye is opening. And the path is beautiful here.
* * *
Am I daunted by the path ahead of me? Well honestly? Yes. Sometimes. Some days, I am overwhelmed by it. But then I remind myself, that when I go to the beach I don’t need to think about the WHOLE OCEAN. Just the part that I can see. Just the part that I can swim. And that is enough. That is more than enough.
It’s starts by wading in the water, and opening one eye at a time.