Recently, I underwent surgery for cataract removal. Although the process requires time for complete healing, the change in vision is comparatively quick and striking. Suddenly, there is clarity. Vision is precise, and sharp. Light is bright instead of cloudy. The clarity is wonderful after having peered through cataract clouded vision; it is also disquieting. The new light is piercing, as an assault on the eyes. The new sharpness is cutting, triggering a certain recoil. The temptation is to close the eyes. The brain needs time to adjust, both to the change of stimuli, and to the vision, possibly, of what has until now not been required to come to the attention. I have been reminded of other times when there has been clarity, but not necessarily comfort in the process.
Clarity is something we all say we want (who wouldn’t?), yet for those to whom clarity is granted on an issue, an unexpected discomfort often accompanies the gift. Unanticipated though it is, perhaps the discomfort itself is an additional gift, showing what, until now, has prevented the perception of clarity.
I can remember when my parents sold the house in which I had spent my adolescence. They moved to a newer house in a different state, one suited to their new status as empty nesters. Even though I had flown the nest some time ago, it was still a shock that “home” was no longer there. That was not a logical thing. I had been on my own, with no plan for moving back in with my parents. Nevertheless, it was disquieting. It gave me clarity of what was obvious and assumed, but not necessarily acknowledged and released. Home could no longer be where my parents were. It also provided clarity that there was no safety net to fall back on, that whatever and wherever I made my life was entirely not only my choice, but also my responsibility, along with any consequences that might ensue. The clarity was a gift; so was the discomfort which required me to acknowledge not only my emancipation, but also my responsibility.
Clarity can come at any moment on any issue. I know people who found their eighteenth birthday to be a time of piercing clarity. They rejoiced at the knowledge that their decisions were henceforth their own; they felt apprehension, sometimes intense fear at the clarity that their parents could no longer shield them from the consequences of any mistaken actions in which they might engage. Some felt clarity first in school, recognizing with surety from a book or a class or a teacher the path they wanted their life to follow. Although this clarity removed the burden of indecision or unawareness, giving them a new maturity, it was also accompanied by an awareness of the work required to achieve their goal, and an intimation of what they might have to let go of in pursuit of that goal.
Others that I know have experienced clarity in and through their relationships, as, for example, the “waking up” that occurs when the honeymoon phase of a marriage is over and the work begins, or the realization that an old friendship is no longer viable, or, in some cases, even toxic. Still others experience clarity as a moment of spiritual enlightenment. For some, this is conversion to a specific religious group and format. For others, it can be the moment in which they realize their connection to the Divine, along with the knowledge that no matter how they might find that moment difficult to recall in day to day life, they are no longer able to return to a state of ignorance because it is that awakened connection which sustains them.
I know of many who wish for clarity, for insight into which path to follow next in their lives or for indication of what choice to make at the fork in the path of their existence. Although none of them has asked for discomfort, inevitably the gift of discomfort has accompanied any clarity they might achieve. My point is that perhaps it is the accompanying discomfort that is the true gift of clarity; it is the uncovering of things that have heretofore held us back, shielding us from the perception of the goals we want or of the ability to achieve those goals, once they are perceived. These are the things we need to look at and transform within ourselves. These are the things we have not wanted to look at, because they are disquieting or uncomfortable. Yet in the light of the clarity for which we ask, these things can no longer remain hidden. They present themselves to us for healing.
I wish for all of us the courage to open to clarity, and to be with the healing discomfort. I wish for all of us to experience the liberating growth that comes from actively participating in the process. I believe this process is like a spiral, repeating itself at different levels throughout our lives, each time liberating us from the hindrances that went before. May we all welcome our clarity when it comes, holding ourselves open to the insight and the healing.