Focus

It’s always easier to fault the external world rather than the internal self. It’s harder to accept we’re the problem, and admit it, sometimes it feels good to rage at something unrelated rather than peel away the layers to the root of a problem. Ingrid Ricks opens her short, read-in-one-sitting memoir Focus with a blunt sentence:

“There was something wrong with the machine.”

Denial fosters this impulse to blame anything but perhaps the actual cause. Ricks, with her background in journalism and marketing, neatly puts you in her shoes first at the eye doctor and then around the greater Seattle area as her story unfolds. Initially, it’s easy to agree a tech is flighty or the test is faulty. She reveals the situation, one vivid experience at a time to lead you to the truth she faced: she was losing her vision.

Before her diagnosis, Ricks wasn’t aware of the signs of degenerative eye diseases. She routinely ran into things and thought night blindness was common. Her shared experiences of awkwardness generated from her diminishing sight. She says, “It never crossed my mind that I had an eye problem that no glasses…would fix.” I have to agree when I was less educated about visual impairment, I assumed glasses corrected most issues unless you were totally blind, too.

“The doctor already knew the answer, and at this point I knew it too.” With her acknowledgement, mirrored in any life challenge, things morph and slide to reorganize into an understanding once refused but now illuminated. Yet, Ricks admits to keeping her visual impairment practically a secret for many years, but eventually a person can no longer deny reality without serious consequences.

Book cover shows an image of a blue eye set against a white backgroundRicks tries to march on, ignoring what she doesn’t wish to examine. When she let’s herself think her worst fears and scenarios, it’s as dark as the basement she’s huddled in. As she accepted her loss, Ricks included some life adjustments that must be considered when you acquire a severe visual impairment but still want independence such as the suitability of your neighborhood to your new lifestyle and the importance of nutrition. It’s not like this is taught in school alongside Algebra II and English Lit. The transition can be frustrating and Ricks continued to portray the bumps and the bruises, like her angry reaction to a friend who informs her through e-mail she is no longer allowed to drive his kids around.

Rick’s eloquently shows in her memoir Focus that denial does not mourn a loss, it stifles healing. Denial exists alongside society’s pressure to keep up appearances. Each person struggling with her lot in life must ultimately realize what matters isn’t what happens, but how you react to it. I recommend this quick read for anyone facing a stressful hurdle in her life or who wants to learn about one woman’s experience with visual impairment. It’s a short book, but it’s deep on meaning.

Have you read Focus? If not, are you interested after reading this review? Do you read memoirs? What books keep you turning the pages? Tell me about it.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. floridaborne says:

    It’s hard to get used to a new norm. Once you figure out there’s no going back, then we can go forward. 🙂

  2. Some time ago I worked with a professor who was losing his sight and eventually did. He wrote a terrific book about his experience called Touching the Rock, his name is John Hull. The book is unsentimental and very frank. it is still in print and on Kindle and well worth reading. It also gave those of his sighted coworkers pause for thought at some of our behaviour. What stays with me is his courage in saying that the person with the disability should take responsibility for making their needs known. This attitude to disability seemed quite unusual at the time…30 years ago. If I remember correctly, one example, was that in order to get some idea of the size of a cathedral he would ask a small child to run noisily through the length of it!

    1. Mr. Hull’s book has been on my TBR list for awhile. I’m pleased to hear you worked with him. I listened to a radio interview with him and another man whose name I forgot and he seemed quite interesting. Thanks for telling me those details Bridget.

  3. Joy says:

    I have actually been obsessed with memoirs lately! “Wild” is both an amazing movie and beautifully written book. “Now I See You” by Nicole C. Kear had me laughing out loud, a refreshingly funny take on going blind! And I just finished “Not Fade Away”, which is definitely not one you can read in one sitting, but is very inspiring. I will have to check out “Focus”. Where did you hear about it?

    1. Wild was a captivating read and I want to see the movie–will have to add it to the Netflix queue. I agree about the other two books, Now I See You is more entertaining and Not Fade Away inspirational.
      I heard about Focus because I read an interview with Ingrid Ricks in New York magazine and then looked her up.
      I love memoirs probably more than any other genre, but I’m always up for a good read no matter what type of book.

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