There is nothing like watching the bright lights overhead flash by while being wheeled into an operating room on a gurney to put your life into perspective.
I have been fortunate in my life to experience relatively good health, barring this eye disease which began with an attack by a common virus on my cornea fifteen years ago. In those ensuing years the disease in my eye has waxed and waned, with this summer proving to be one of the most challenging during that time. This past week I spent several days in Edmonton under the care of a veritable army of ophthalmologists, residents, nurses and corneal specialists as they fought to save my eye from a corneal perforation, a rare occurrence considered to be a true ophthalmic emergency and a potential threat to both vision and general health. On Tuesday after a quick check by a renowned corneal specialist I found myself being admitted to hospital for a procedure to seal the perforation with glue (the same substance as crazy glue, if you are wondering, but of medical grade). It was a sobering experience on many levels.
As I lay in the OR with my new corneal specialist hovering above me and doing things to my eye that I would rather not know about I thought a lot about my life. I thought a lot about what mattered - the Intrepid Junior Blogger, of course, my sisters and my friends who have become family. I thought about the Triple M Zoo as we have begun to call our house, the menagerie of creatures who share our lives. And I thought about writing and my work, because all those things are part of me, too.
I am not the same person who started this blog in April of 2011. I suppose I started it with a certain degree of naivete, never thinking about the concept of success or failure because those had never even occurred to me. I never thought about what the journey would be or where it would take me. Along the way I have made so many friends, found so many things I loved, and yet I have found myself in recent months giving far too much space in my head to people who hadn't paid the rent to be there - the anonymous ones who sent hate mail, the ones who questioned not only the value of my work but my value as a person, the ones who I had considered friends but who for reasons that seemed inexplicable to me turned their back on me. I thought about the disappointments, the politicians I had believed in who had proved unworthy of my faith, the machinations and games that individuals who had entered my life played with me and with each other, the complexities of a world that had seemed so simple when I first began this blog.
I had become so jaded and tired, I think. Notoriety of any sort comes with detractors, and I had attracted a few who took every opportunity to remind me of my imperfections (reminders that were unnecessary as I am quite cognizant of how many there are). Just a few weeks ago I told a close friend that I was considering ending the blog because I found myself struggling to find the joy in it I had once found. I found myself spending far too much time weighing whether a new post would draw hate mail or people threatening me in vague ways. I found myself weighed under doubt and uncertainty about whether this blog had value because I was beginning to believe those who said it didn't. I would open the blog and stare at the blank screen and close it again, no post written that day because I couldn't find the words to say.
But then as I lay in the OR and the surgeon dropped glue into my eye I thought about some other things, too. I thought about how I went to the first press conference I have ever attended where Claude Giroux came out dressed as Gene Simmons, and how I am now the person who plans those press conferences, ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings. I thought about all the conversations over the past 3 plus years, the ones that forged connections between me and others in ways that created unbreakable bonds, and how some of those individuals have become so close I consider them family. I thought about all the opportunities I have had to make a difference, to contribute to this community but also to contribute to the life of my own IJB. I thought about all the moments of happiness, and then I remembered how I felt when all this began in 2011.
My recovery process will be long. Writing this single blog post will undoubtedly leave me with a nauseating headache as my brain is adjusting to the almost entire lack of vision in my left eye, which was always clouded but is now virtually gone and which is uncertain to return. Simple chores exhaust me right now and I deal with a throbbing pain in my eye as it adjusts to being home to a dot of glue meant to save it. My journey is not over, as this is a temporary fix and there is a corneal transplant in my future (so please don't be offended when I ask if you have signed up to be an organ donor, because that cause just became very, very personal) which will entail another long recovery and new adjustments. And I know there are those who will read this post and think nasty thoughts about me, about how this blog is all about me and what a narcissist I must be and how what I do has no value - but while my vision is cloudy my perspective has now become very clear.
Yes, this blog is about me. It always was and always will be, because it was always about my life in Fort McMurray. It was never meant to be the narrative of everyone here, and if it resonated with others I have always been deeply touched that it did so as it meant I was not alone in my experience. I won't stop writing this blog, and I have decided to stop giving rental space in my head to those who have not earned it, because they don't deserve to live there. But most importantly I have realized I need to keep coming back to the roots of this blog, the desire to share my story of my life in this community and what it means to live here. Over time it is easy to lose those roots and drift away from your initial path, but a short trip to the OR helped me to re-align my course.
On Thursday I asked my corneal specialist if I could go home. He asked why I needed to be home right away and I gave him three reasons: the Intrepid Junior Blogger's fifteenth birthday, a groundbreaking for a facility which has been part of my professional life since my first day on my job and which I had a significant role in planning (although it was executed by my amazing team of colleagues, who came together in my absence to make sure the event was a tremendous success) and a farewell party for someone who was not only my boss but someone who had been part of my life since this blog began as a friend. I needed to get back to my life, I told him - and he laughed and said it sounded like a good life, and to go home and enjoy it.
And that, dear friends, is exactly what I intend to do, and continue to share it right here in the blog that has become as much a part of me as my eye, clouded in vision but clear in perspective.