05 March 2009

Eyes Wide Shut


sleep
Originally uploaded by Nancy Allen
I noticed as I was coming out of the grocery store the other day that I shut my eyes a lot when I walk. Once I've cleared the area where cars might run me down and I know how many steps there are left to the car, I close my eyes and walk a few of them in darkness. I don't know why I do that, but I've always done it. When I'm going up the stairs at the old house, for instance, I close my eyes and one-two-three-four-five...all the way to number 15 at the top where I open them again.

I think we spend a lot of time with our eyes closed, both figuratively and literally. Not sleeping, mind you, just closed. We shut out things that are too bright, too colorful, too painful or even too joyous for a minute or two so that we can get a grip on them before we have to see them again. We close our eyes to concentrate, on a math problem or to find just the right words in a conversation. I close my eyes when I feel tears coming on, which has been often lately, so that I can somehow quell the tide before they stream down my cheeks, possibly making me seem weak in the eyes of whatever or whomever has brought me to that point.

What am I blocking out that I need to see? What am I missing in those moments that I shut my eyes, whether walking in the parking lot or sitting at a coffee shop with friends? Am I missing things on purpose? Things that I can't or don't want to see?

Lately I've been trying to keep my eyes open more...to memorize what I see around me. When I come back to the US to visit, things will look different to me, and I want to remember how they look now. Eyes wide open, taking in Greenville and Cleveland and Atlanta and all my friends and family...at least for the next three weeks. I might even keep them open for once as the plane takes off.

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