For a long time, I did not think much about what holds my body together. I was assuming that every part of my body naturally falls in place – interconnected in a system that operates as a whole. But very recently my left eye taught me an important lesson: Body parts have lives of their own. They can start their own journey – no matter if I like it or not. And it may take a lot to get them back on track.

It all started a couple of months ago when my left eye decided to rebel against my use of contact lenses. OK I thought, I should give it some rest. Taking my eye’s perspective, I would probably feel the same. What’s this lens blocking my view, and why is this guy touching me all the time to take lenses in and out. I want to be left alone! – I got it.

But then my left eye started playing tricks on me. While responding more peacefully to occasionally wearing lenses, all of a sudden it started burning and stinging while I was sleeping. That’s really unfair. I cannot do anything about it. Every time I woke up, it would rebel against being opened, as if it introduced a new rule: I only allow you to open me when I feel like it. OK I got it. So I started asking my eye in a polite way every morning: May I expose you to daylight? After some practice, I felt we got an agreement on this one. But I was warned: Never take things for granted.

Days passed without much further rebellious behavior until my left eye had a new idea. Why only play with me in the morning? Why not surprise me a little by getting some action going before bedtime? All of a sudden, without any prior notice, my left eye one night decided to completely shut down while I was peacefully preparing for bed. Since that moment it would not give me peace any time soon.

No matter what I tried – laying down, sitting up, opening, closing, half-closing – my left eye simply would not cooperate. Instead it kept burning, stinging and putting pressure on me as if it was planning to take control. I thought what the hell is going on? Why is my eye doing this? What’s the purpose? Isn’t it exhausting for everyone, and what for? Well, I realized all my questions don’t seem to make much sense. My left eye has begun a journey of its own. Communicating to me in new ways – sometimes poking me, sometimes pretending everything is fine before catching me by surprise again. It was me vs. my left eye. It now certainly got my undivided attention.

Then I tried something new: Instead of interacting with my eye directly, I would let it talk to my hand. After closing it I would palm it with my left hand, and I made some important discoveries. First, I realized more than ever how active my eye is without me doing anything. Moving around like crazy in patterns I do not understand. It certainly has its own life. At the same time I found that it would communicate with my hand much more gently than with me. As if my hand sent the right signals: It’s ok, no need to go wild all the time. Give yourself some rest. No harm will be done.

After three days in bed, my left eye finally relaxed. Maybe it realized that playing with me is only fun if I don’t get too exhausted. At least some rationality here! What’s next? Well, after keeping me on my feet for days, my left eye now decided to scare my environment by painting a bloody picture. Now I looked like somebody punched me hard. Great visual effect! Thanks again.

It’s enough for now, I could hear my eye saying. But remember: You need to earn my cooperation. I can do what I want. Don’t think you are in control.

Thanks to my left eye, I will now treat every body part of mine as a precious member of a family. And as in every family, there will be quarrels and miscommunications, but that’s ok. – As long as we stick together.

By Stephan Manning