Oh winter. How I have dealt with you my whole life. First being raised in a Midwestern town with lake effect snow systems always looming—then relocating for years to a whole other country, only to still deal with you over there—I have always had you by my side, for better or for worse. We have gone through a lot together, haven’t we winter?
The time my beat up Ford Taurus couldn’t handle the ice and slid, almost hitting a giant pile of plowed snow in high school. That instance when I threatened my sister as a child and got locked out on the patio, in the frigid cold, nearly naked. Or, I suppose, more recently, the time I was driving to a B-boy event in Michigan and cautiously drove through a downpour of whiteout-condition-inducing snowfall.
Still, as I drove at a measly 15 to 20 miles an hour on a major highway, and tried making out anything that I assumed was in front of me, I took time to think. I squinted, I think that’s a car in front of me.
White out conditions aren’t relegated only to snow storms.
There will always be times in our lives when we face obscurity. And in those times, clarity can be the most elusive, hard to capture piece of comfort.
Even so, I think having clarity is often underrated in our everyday living. We look at the cup of coffee next to us, and we see the rounded edges of the lip. The reflection of the lights above us shimmer on the liquid inside. The picture we see, that our minds are capturing through our eyes, is sharp and understood. It’s nice, sure, to have a clear sight of things, no matter how simple.
I will tell you, from my own personal experience, that being absolutely, horrendously nearsighted is the worst. I was born with a physical sight problem, had surgery as a baby, and for a large portion of my life dealt with one eye—my right eye—having beyond perfect vision, and my other eye having horrendous nearsightedness. Growing up, looking through my right eye was like my bread and butter. Oh wow, look at how cool this picture is. That writing all the way on that wall is pretty funny. Things were delightfully nice to look at in my one eye, so naturally I used it for just about everything.
Then there was the left eye.
If I wanted to do anything with my left eye, I had to literally stick it an inch or less from my face. I would peer down constantly into my textbooks and tests, giving a new meaning to “putting your nose in the books”. When I was on my computer or phone as I got older, I would always get chided because my face was so close to my screen. My left eye became solely—as I referred to it as—my “reading” eye. But if for some reason my right eye was incapacitated, you could kiss any chances of me seeing goodbye.
That picture that I thought was cool before was now just a blur of colors; a hodgepodge of various shades that I couldn’t even recognize. The writing on the wall wasn’t even letters; it was just some black (or whatever color the text was) stuff. And if I was even farther away, it too melted into a pool of unclear nothing. If I were to die, and the writing was on the wall, I literally wouldn’t even be able to read it. Lucky me, huh?
But I learned a lot through those years of having disabling nearsightedness; I learned things that would carry me through life, even though I absolutely abhorred a lack of clear vision. I refused to be defined by one eye and one glaring problem.
When obscurity walks with you every day, you find ways to alter your thinking.
When you can’t read the fine print
Our world is set in defined, outlined guidelines, no doubt about it. And often times those guidelines are written out for us like the most bold-faced, 72 point font we can imagine. Much like our educational textbooks however, there are always tiny little nuances that we can overlook. And things get even more complicated when you can’t even read those little blurbs—the fine print—that could be a major aid to you, or could make or break what you are trying to accomplish. It seems there’s always fine print—always something—that we need to take careful consideration of.
One positive I’ve come to learn however, is that not being able to read that fine print doesn’t cripple you.
In fact, it can induce an obligation to do something better; that is, to get creative. When the subtleties of our lives aren’t clearly defined for us, the best thing we can do is turn on our critical thinking and find creative solutions to our issues, big or small; and we get a wonderful opportunity to tackle the issues on our own terms. When the fine print is set out for us, we take the easiest route and take our sight for granted. Duh, of course that is how I should do it, because everyone else does that. If it’s stated explicitly, and everyone can read it, then it stands to reason that everyone is doing it with you.
Take notice: when everyone fails at the same junctures, or everyone gets the same exact problems, it isn’t because doing what they did is the “thing to do”. It’s because they all read the same fine print, and followed it to a ‘T’.
Sometimes having an immense sense of clarity is just as crippling as blindness. The obvious isn’t always the best, and most right decision.
When you can’t see the road ahead of you
As much as I love driving, when a whiteout snow storm hits like the one I mentioned earlier, I get a bit irritated. It forces you to drive slower, and get super serious about something so nonchalant and instinctual. If all you have to do is drive in a straight line, on a straight road, the drive itself shouldn’t be that difficult. It shouldn’t have to get you hyper sensitive and hyper aware. It shouldn’t scare you a bit while you’re doing it.
I find that a perfect analogy to having an obscure road ahead of us in life, oddly enough. When our roads are fraught with obscurity and no clarity whatsoever, we are forced to alter our habits. And really that’s not a bad thing. We might not like to admit it sometimes, but honestly it can often time be the best thing for us. Altering our habits, our “driving habits”, in the face of an unclear path that we can hardly navigate is necessary.
We need to slow down on our drives. We want to rush to whatever our destination is, without considering consequences or processing our actions. We need to get serious about some of the more instinctual, “easy” things in life, because usually the worst happens when we take things for granted; when we get complacent. We all know life doesn’t work like a straight road, and it never will. And when things do get a bit easy; a bit straighter, it’s okay that obscurity forces us into hyper awareness every once and a while.
We need a bit of fear and hyper sensitivity to our situations to get us ready. We need to prepare ourselves for outcomes that might surprise us and aren’t seen. If not for limiting the damage, then more for having an abundance of confidence when we make it out of the storm.
When you don’t recognize the shapes
The last thing that is absolutely frustrating, for any of us, about a sense of not having any clarity is when we can’t recognize something basic. I know for me, it was always annoying when someone would do that whole, “How many fingers am I holding up” test, but were out of my range of nearsightedness. Well I think it’s two, but I can’t really tell. WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME WHEN YOU KNOW I CAN’T SEE SHAPES OUT THERE!? I was often times just guessing, and completely wrong, and still to this day can’t figure out why people would play that with me if they knew I was nearsighted.
Not seeing the shape of things can be tough. We want to see how something is formed—how the lines merge together—to give us context as to what we are supposed to be looking at. When we can’t see those lines connecting seamlessly, it invokes frustration because we desperately want intimate details. No one wants to see a blob of colors, they want to see a beautiful rendition of the Mona Lisa.
Take this into consideration—what if seeing the finer details mars the bigger picture? What if we are too busy looking at the facial expression of Mona Lisa to notice how there’s a beautiful woman that was painted masterfully and artistically?
If obscurity hinders your ability to see the fine lines, let it give you a chance to see the broader scope! Nitpicking the tiniest of details, more times than not, eclipses our ability to absorb the more important message, or the whole of the issue. And when we miss out on understanding the actual issues, we misinterpret a large chunk of problems for not just ourselves, but those around us. In an age where facts are important and the details make or break a case, sometimes people take more damage and pain simply because the overarching picture was ignored and the details were not placed in proper context.
Obscurity doesn’t make things easier. When clarity eludes us it is infuriating, difficult, and hard to bear.
Don’t let it prevent you from following your path though. God is just forcing you to use your eyes a bit differently, is all.
Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach