A Question of Vision

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.

I'm not very good at posing, but you get the idea...

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?

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses. Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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10 Responses to A Question of Vision

  1. Cathy says:

    I like the symbolism. And yeah, that declining eye sight – what a pain. I now have “progressive” lenses – otherwise known as bi-focals.

  2. Ann Brandt says:

    Stacy, My next book, if I write it, is meant precisely for folks in your generation facing down the challenges of aging. Aging, like childbirth, can be fun. Sort of. The trick is to keep your sense of humor and find something uplifting about the “mature years.” I write about these issues in my blog “Another Point of View” which is attached to my website http://www.annkbrandt.com. I’m probably making a lot of mistakes, one of which is spreading my topics also to cancer and Guillain Barre, the two diseases that my husband and I survived and which became the topic of my other two books. I believe in hope as the main ingredient necessary to survive anything.

    • stacy says:

      Totally agree: hope equal dignity, in my mind. We can’t be in control of what happens; we can be in control of how we receive that which comes our way. Huzzah to that!

  3. Lee Cockrum says:

    I have a few concerns with purchasing glasses on the internet. One is the fit and general aesthetics of the frames; sometimes something looks great on the wall and not on my face. Another concern is the lenses themselves. When I buy glasses the optician measures where certain parts of my eye falls within the frames. I think this becomes especially important when you wear any lenses with gradient power. Do you have the same quality of vision with all of your new glasses, regardless of frame shape/size etc? and do you wear single vision, or progressive?

    • stacy says:

      I don’t wear progressive, but I have pretty profound astigmatism, which can make the glasses hard to make. I agree with you about how the frames fit is a key component, but I’ve been buying eyeglasses for so long (and also am a well-practiced internet shopper in general) that I know that (1) I need the widest frames I can find and (2) that I can’t wear small-lensed glasses, either. So then choosing from the site became pretty simple: I loaded all of the largest (I judged by eyesight), widest plastic frames that aren’t round or oval into my favorites, and then from those 8 or so chose the frames that looked the most like other frames I’ve bought, but in different colors. Perfect!

  4. anymommy says:

    I’ve felt that same lost feeling … and I would say that you ARE an “and, and, and” woman.

  5. “My vision belongs to me…”


    I’ve always been a big fan of an assortment of glasses – since my contact lens wearing days are behind me, I have an assortment, though occasionally I find myself searching for them when they are, um… “stored”… dangling from my cleavage.

    While it’s more fun to enlist a friend in that particular search, that isn’t always possible – and multiple glasses allow you to find your missing glasses, besides which – who doesn’t want the benefit of many ways to see and be seen?

  6. My eyesight is terrible too Stacy and I’ve always been secretly jealous of far-sighted people who get to wear all those cute inexpensive reading glasses instead of one super expensive pair of must have or I’ll walk into a tree glasses. I’m definitely going to poke around 1800 specs –thanks for the recommendation. As for real vision though…that’s never cheap, but I’m hoping if I keep making little deposits by giving it my attention every day slowly but surely the blurriness will clear.

  7. Lucy says:

    I love this post. After wearing contacts since the 6th grade, I finally got a pair of glasses I love (with the non-reflective this time!) and my goal is to wear them at least 3 days a week, since I worry about the long term effects of everyday use of contact lenses. Sometimes I’ll take off my glasses and marvel at how blurry the world becomes, wondering if that’s how fate wants me to perceive life. Imperfectly…

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