The Viper

We don’t know what we don’t know

We don’t know what we don’t know. AKA the Viper

I’ve had an epiphany over the past few days which I will explain by telling a very old joke that comes from well before social media or the internet.

The joke begins with a young fellow hearing the very fast slamming of doors and a bellowing voice approaching his house: “The Viper is coming! The Viper is coming!”

Terrified now, the poor guy rushes inside and locks his door. His imagination goes crazy. Who or what is this Viper? A snake? A criminal? Dangerous and terrible for sure given the threatening cry.

As he cowers in his entry hall there’s the thud of thick boots on his porch and a thunderous knock. “I am the Viper!” the raspy voice bellows along with the pound of a fist.

Trembling, the protagonist peers out the peephole, only to see a small bearded man in bib overalls, shiny black Wellington boots up to his knees and armed with a ladder and bucket.

“Sir or madam! I am the Viper!” he yells. “Vould you like me to vash your vindows?”

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria B.C.. A house of many windows. Photo courtesy of Neil Dickie.

My epiphany this week after having surgery to remove the cataract is this: A ‘Viper’ I didn’t know existed ‘vashed my vindows’ and nobody could have prepared me for the psychedelic experience or the crystal vision in my right eye that resulted from it.

Colours are brilliant, whites are intense and I have been gifted with clear distant vision. Here’s a ‘normal’ ability I have never had before. Ever. Not even with contact lenses. I was not an abnormal person. I just could not see. Did I even understand I could not see? Nope.

Epiphany number one: disability is a fallacy.

I coped fine, because I had to. I built a successful career and then a second career, raising sons and wrangling my day job and a household. I did this without a ‘typically’ functioning pair of eyes.

Sometimes there’s no ‘choose’ what gets thrown at you. The choice comes in how we adapt and act. This is what we do. We fight battles big and small and they make us stronger as a result.

I don’t ever remember how it was when I was a kid seeing colour. Yes, I saw colour. I even became a visual artist. But. I’ve never seen colours like this during my pre-teens or my adulthood. I have lived my entire life looking through a dull lens (obscured windows) and worked hard not to come across as a dull human being as a result. I have fought through a barrier of corrective lenses and blur only now for the first time knowing I was fighting a constant battle.

My ‘windows’ were dull, not me. This is a revelatory thing—as if a greater power has lifted this burden I didn’t know had and said, ‘you are stronger now because of what went before’.

My viper was a surprise.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and that ignorance of not knowing made me act accordingly. I have been that poor dude with the over-active imagination cowering behind his door.

Epiphany two: There will still be issues of course. The only constant in life is change.

I still have two eyes that don’t work in tandem and my brain is going to have to figure out how to adapt, but my hope is that once the left eye has been scraped and augmented with a clean, clear lens at least the colours will match up. Having six weeks to work on strengthening my right eye, its muscles will be a little stronger and ready to cope with the strain. Whatever comes, I will cope because I’ve learned how to do that.

Epiphany three: There’s not always a solution.

Will I still fear the new ‘vipers’ that come to my door? Of course. Some will be an actual threat. As I said in my previous post, fear is there for a reason. It’s a nudge that says ‘pay attention, something is here and there’s a real possibility it will even be mortal. Look closely and act. Determine the threat, or non threat. Make a choice based on age and circumstance (like the pandemic). Up until now, every choice I made in my life was affected by issues with my vision. My vision has changed and as a result my understanding of the world, my surroundings and even my art will change.

Epiphany four: I now see those of you who struggle with being ‘other’ as warriors, fighting a battle on an emotional level you have no way you can explain. You see through the lens of who you are and you deserve to be who you are, no question. You can’t be who you are not.

You press onward and you fight to be heard, understood and acknowledged. Sometimes knowing it might even be futile. Yet you keep going because that’s what you do. That’s heroism, that’s being there not just for others that fight similar battles. You fight for yourself.

Be proud. Be your own hero for the battles you know you fight and for the struggles that make you who you are. Sometimes the viper arrives and he gives you the gift of awareness that you have done well.

I’d love to hear of the battles you fight and have won. Especially those. Leave a note in the comments.

I’d love to hear from you.

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