My vision has really deteriorated dramatically in the last year or so. I am almost never without my glasses, which used to be a casual accessory when I was driving or reading a magazine. But these days, when I first awake in the morning, I reach over to my nightstand with one hand to grab my Blackberry and turn off the alarm (I’ve chosen a lovely Asian chime) and then reach for my glasses, so I can face the day clearly.
I know declining eyesight is a predictable outcome of, ahem, aging, but it felt so sudden, this last degeneration. When I was still working at my last job, commuting every day, I still was able to play sudoku on the subway on my Blackberry’s tiny screen. But after I had finished with the honorable duties of helping my parents through their last months—driving back and forth to Philadelphia, no subway rides, no sudoku—and started living fulltime in Brooklyn again, even my sudoku games had changed. First, I made crazy faces to stretch my eyes wide open to bring everything into focus, and then in just a few months, there was no possible contortion of the eye muscles that would allow me to see the numbers clearly.
And oh, how my life always has its poetic echoes: I was losing my vision at the same time I was losing my vision. That is, I was struggling with feeling terribly lost, because of the challenges with not being able to “see” where I was going in my own life. I had spent well more than 30 years of my life looking and working toward a very specific future I had imagined for myself, and with the sudden and simultaneous losses of my parents, my family home, my job, and a huge chunk of my identity, I didn’t have any idea what I should hope for next.
And I knew, deep down, that what I needed to learn was to let go of planning, and instead listen to where I should go next. Sacrifice one sense for another: trade vision for listening; trade in planning for being; substitute certainty about who i am for the more vague (but more true) act of becoming.
And so every day when I put on my glasses, I think about that switch in my life’s focus. (If it’s true, it’s not a pun!) And then I get down to living.
So now that I need to wear glasses every day, I have a sudden new urge to have a “wardrobe of eyeglasses,” as I called it on my Life List, which I drafted over the summer. I wrote the Life List before I went away to the Mighty Summit, where I met amazing women living what I called and-and-and lives. The wardrobe on eyeglasses is not only because I’m a vain, fashion-loving woman (guilty as charged), but also because I think there’s something poetic (see above) about having a different vision every day, of myself and others of me.
Yes, I know, it’s not literally true. But since I tend toward the poetic, I’ll just go with it.
And in the funny way that life works, one of the women at the Summit, the lovely Sarah Bryden-Brown, has helped me with this item on my life list, by making the desired wardrobe of eyeglasses affordable! She introduced me to 1800Specs.com, an internet eyeglass company that makes glasses for such little money, you’d be hard-pressed to believe it’s true. But it’s true! Here’s me in my … wait for it … $27.50 glasses! (Disclosure: 1800Specs gave me this trial pair—the style is called Metro—but they did not pay for the other 4 pair I ordered after I received these, or for my opinion.) My only regret is that I did not order the non-reflective glass (an additional $40), but I wanted my first experiment to be as inexpensive as possible.
And you know what 1800Specs taught me? My eyeglass prescription belongs to ME, not my optician. I was nervous about calling them to get the Rx from them so I could order the glasses, but 1800Specs considers it part of its mission to let everyone know that your Rx legally belongs to you. So I stopped by my local eyeglass shop (where my last purchase cost me $679—designer sunglasses, polarized lenses, anti-reflective glass, protective coating etc etc), and asked for my prescription, and the guy at the counter very cheerfully said, “Sure!” Opened up my file, copied out my Rx on a beautiful Rx form, and didn’t ask me a single question. Wow! My vision really does belong to me!
So for many, many months, my lack of “vision” and my deteriorating vision gave me much anxiety and concern, after many months of trying to calm down and let go, I can honestly say now that my lack of vision has turned into a wonderful experiment in living and being. And yes, well, uh, internet shopping, too. But I’ve always loved fashion and been a little vain (see above), so it’s good to hold on to at least a few things I always knew were true about me, right?