Uncharacteristically, I did what someone else told me to do. I didn’t do it right away; I stalled for a couple of years first. Maybe four years. My ophthalmologist has wanted me to sleep wearing an eye patch. Why? Because since I was six years old I’ve slept with one eye open, and it has a tendency to dry out and get irritated. My doctor felt like wearing a patch over the eye would keep me healthy longer. He’s been recommending this every year for at least four years.
I knew he was right, I knew his advice was correct, and he is a good friend and I trust what he says, but I didn’t want to sleep in an eye patch. It just seemed too bizarre. Too old-mannish. Too much Captain Ron.
But several months ago, in a hugely unpredictable move, while I was at Walgreen’s shopping for first aid materials to treat my cycling wound, I added an eye patch to my kit. And the first time Cyndi left for the weekend, I tried wearing it.
And then, I wore it the second night.
And much to my surprise, those were the best two nights of sleep I’d had in, well, maybe ever. I never realized how much energy I was consuming during the night protecting my eye with my hand or my pillow. I was so used to taking care of it – it’s been this way since I was about six years old – I never realized it was causing me trouble.
So Monday afternoon when I went in for my annual checkup and contact lens renewal, I had my eye patch in my pocket to show him how obedient I’d been. And to tell him he was right. The doctor was pleasantly surprised that I had a patch and gracious about the outcome. He didn’t even say, “I told you so.” In fact, it was as if he was more concerned with helping me than he was about being right all along.
Here’s the thing. I am good at following advice I already agree with. I can follow that sort of advice with no effort, almost without listening. It’s much harder to follow advice from anyone else that isn’t like me. Or maybe I should say anyone that isn’t me.
My eye patch experience caused me to wonder how many other things in my life burn up energy and I don’t even notice because I’ve tolerated it so long it feels second nature? How much advice have I ignored because I’m determined to do things my own way, advice from people I know and respect and like, because I don’t want to admit I occasionally need help.
Sometimes I even force myself into the position of hearing from teachers who have different personalities than I do, just to open up my life. To keep it from becoming too small.
For example, in Iron Men this fall we are reading Bob Goff’s book, Love Does. It is the most nonlinear book I have ever taught. And that is why I picked it. I have all the linear reinforcement I need; I wanted to hear advice from a completely different quarter, a completely different pattern, with a completely different result. I don’t know how much Goff will pull me off my straight-line life, but I’m open to thinking about considering some possible changes.
After all, I’ve been wearing this eye patch, and once you start sleeping like a pirate, who knows what will happen next.
QUESTION: What advice is hard for you to follow?
P.S. Let me just confirm the risk I’m taking by writing about this eye patch episode. The last time I wrote about my eye problems, and my hesitation to follow the doctor’s advice, his office put a copy of my journal in MY OFFICIAL FILE. They showed it to me on my next visit just to remind me they were paying attention and that they had me on the record.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32