It’s that time of year again. I walk into the small examining room, and sit in the dark grey leather, the expansive seat. I take off my glasses from habit. I know this routine. Folding in the frames, right over left, I place them on a small table to my side and then move forward in my seat.
I position my head, feeling the plastic over the bridge of my nose, and adjust my seat again.
Lights off, and all attention goes towards the lit square on the wall; tiny letters in a single row.
To relax until it all comes into focus.
It’s taken years to come to this place.
When I was six years old, the doctors wanted to put me under the knife. They couldn’t guarantee my parents the eye surgery would correct my sight, so the answer was “no”. We were living on base at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas at the time as my father was a fighter pilot in the Air Force.
The following year, we moved overseas to Mons, Belgium, where my father was stationed at the international NATO base, S.H.A.P.E. In between gorging on Belgian waffles, I was taken to the ophthalmologist to pick up the conversation from Kansas that had ended with surgery.
We were referred to Dr. Locascio, who actually specialized in my issue. My eyes would wander, both of them, but the message wouldn’t go to the brain, so I never saw double. Dr. Locascio had trained his eyes to move independently of each other to mimic what his patients went through.
He didn’t believe in surgery. His method was muscular.
This was music to both my ears and my parents. No surgery, and he was promising guaranteed results.
He then prescribed a series of daily exercises, purely to strengthen my muscles. At night, my mother would set the white plastic kitchen timer for 30 minutes, and I would stand in the garage, training my eyes.
I remember holding a string with large beads, in bright colors. I would hold it to my nose and go from seeing two strings to one to two strings to one. It was exhausting.
Sometimes I wondered if the timer would ever go off.
Sometimes all I heard was the constant ticking.
But, a muscle was developing. I was wearing glasses for the first time, and now when my eyes would wander, my mother would look at me and bring her forefinger and thumb together.
This visual was a reminder my eyes had wandered out. The message would go to the brain, and for an instant I would see double, and then bring it in to a singular focus.
The muscle wasn’t just around my eyes, but around discipline and consistency. I was getting a crash course in the effectiveness of repetition, the effectiveness of practice.
Over time, with each move we made, I saw many eye doctors, and none held a candle to Dr. Locascio. He had laid a transformational foundation for me. He prescribed a plan that worked, and had proven to me that change was possible. Many times my mother and I felt like we knew more than the new optometrist staring into my orbs, but my condition was getting better.
My glasses got thinner, and when I finally wore contacts at the age of 20, I was elated.
The muscle was natural now.
As artists we have our craft and we have our performance. We don’t leap to playing Beethoven’s 9th symphony, or reciting Shakespeare.
The path lies in the practice.
But, the key is in HOW we are practicing. Who are we learning from and what is the plan to cultivate our craft?
Repetition doesn’t stand alone, it needs quality content. We could sing the same song every day, but are we growing?
The first question lies in your intention.
I didn’t want to undergo surgery. I did want to improve my eyesight. I was deeply connected to the reason I stood on the concrete in my garage and listened to that ticking timer.
It was a long process, but I was committed. I was actually being taught HOW to commit.
We can view our creativity and our practice as two separate things, but how does that serve us? One doesn’t exist without the other, and they actually nourish our ability to move forward, find our audience, and express ourselves.
I walk up to the desk, to complete my payment after my eye exam, the sounds of Ninth Avenue just beyond the office door. My optometrist hands my prescription to the assistant, remarking on how my eyes will get worse with age and my prescription for reading will go up. Taking it in, I say,
“I feel like I was born blind, and my eye-sight has only gotten better.”
He looks at my chart and admits,
“Well, your sight hasn’t changed since I started seeing you two years ago.”
I smile and think again of the line of letters on the wall.
What is your view?