I started wearing glasses when I was in fifth grade. I still remember squinting at the blackboard, even from my desk in the second row. The teacher’s writing on the board seemed lighter and “fuzzier” than it used to be, and was getting harder and harder for me to read. It was such a gradual change that I didn’t realize I was the one who was changing.

A standard vision test at school alerted my teacher, then my parents, to the problem. A trip to our family eye doctor showed that I was severely near-sighted, and a pair of glasses quickly brought the world back into focus. The blurry writing on the blackboard was now crisp and clear, and I looked around at everything with new appreciation and admiration. I also marveled at the fact that I hadn’t recognized – no pun intended – what was happening to me until a vision test brought it to everyone’s attention.

I have a friend who went through something similar just recently, but with a different sense and in a different way. For a long time it seemed as though she had a cold. Every time I talked to her she sounded congested, and she knew something was wrong, but said it didn’t seem like it was a common cold. Nothing was easing her symptoms, which included losing her sense of smell.

She eventually discovered she had a fairly rare but severe sinus condition that could even have cost her her hearing. She was put on medication, and started to feel better almost immediately.

She and her family came over to my house for dinner one evening, shortly after that. The meal I served is a family favorite that I usually make only on special occasions, since it takes almost an hour to prepare, and then another hour to cook in the oven. It was almost ready by the time my friends arrived.

“That smells good,” my friend said as they sat down at the table. A moment later, the reality struck her and she blurted out, “I can smell again!”

Like my joy at being able to see clearly again when I got glasses in fifth grade, my friend was overjoyed at having her sense of smell functioning again. I told her how glad I was that this happened when I had an appetizing meal in the oven, and not when I was overdue for some housecleaning, or had dirty laundry piled up in the next room. Although we were joking about the whole thing, it was a serious and powerful experience for my friend.

Bad things – accidents, illnesses, a loss of abilities or of faith – can happen to us in one devastating blow. Perhaps even more devastating, though, is when they happen gradually, in ways so subtle that we don’t even notice them at first. When we do, however, and take whatever action is necessary to correct them, our pleasure can be even greater than it was in the first place, since we realize what it was we had, then lost, then regained.

You might even say we finally come to our senses.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on April 2, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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