Life Lessons from An Optician
I picked up my new glasses yesterday. Thanks to a “BOGO” sale I purchased two pairs to cover my dual identities: “posh businesswoman” and “sporty grandma on the go”. I’m just one week into my health insurance coverage calendar and I’ve already spent the entire year’s allowance.
It’s my first rodeo with progressive lenses – the kind with a distance prescription in the top, a reading part at the bottom, and an intermediate range between them. The sides are a no-man’s land of distortion so good-bye to peripheral vision.
“It takes some getting used to,” said the young optician, whose trendy specs were either blanks or single vision. This bi-focal stuff is for the over-forty crowd. I assumed her advice comes from customer anecdotes rather than first-hand experience, but her glasses were so alluring that I listened intently. Her style gave her credibility.
“At first you may feel like you can’t see but it will be because you aren’t looking through the right part of the lens. Move your head slightly until you can focus clearly.”
“Ah,” I smiled. “So it is a matter of retraining myself. Well, I have a lot of experience with that.”
I popped on the sporty grandma pair and hopped into my car, eager to start the new experience. I could see the road! I could see the speedometer! I could see the dash! The lights! The trees! Whoops, the crosswalk was a bit blurred, better watch that. I went to the grocery store and delighted in my ability to recognize other shoppers, read product labels, and check my watch while wearing these new glasses.
In the past, a trip to the store meant I would wear my distance glasses (necessary for driving) and then upon arrival I’d have to remove them to be able to read prices or labels, which involved lots of oh-so-attractive squinting. Of course, then I couldn’t see people around me very well, so if a familiar-looking blur approached I’d do the squint thing again until they were close enough to recognize, by which time I’d potentially offended them with my “stink eye” expression and oddly delayed greeting. Awkward interpersonal exchanges were common.
Like so many things in life, the situation had to get uncomfortable enough to require a solution. There are inexpensive reading glasses scattered throughout my house – six pairs at least – yet rarely is one within reach when I need it. Over the past decade I have also accumulated four pairs of pricey prescription distance glasses, which float between my car, kitchen, purse and desk but only occasionally turn up in the right place at the right time in coordination with my ensemble. It was a constant crap-shoot and even when I had the right pair when needed, they still only partly solved the problem.
I even tried monovision contacts, presuming them the answer to my prayers: a reading lens in one eye, a distance lens in the other. After a few days of experiencing a fish-bowl effect, the brain sorts out which eye to use and which one to ignore. That left me only doing the weird squint face for the intermediate range – generally at my computer screen. I loved the freedom of wearing contacts and the constant wonder of my brain’s ability to adapt, but my eyeballs took issue with the intrusion and regularly spit out the lenses.
I was starting to recognize a pattern that echoed my experiences as a person in recovery: this is too complicated; I am a special case; what works for everyone else won’t work for me; I am finding my own ways to manage; I tried adapting and it didn’t work; I don’t really want to change; I reject the ultimate solution.
I am 47 years old and I don’t want to wear glasses all the time. I thought if I just kept them handy and popped them on when I needed them I could get by. And it worked for a while, but my vision worsened and now I need a new solution; one that requires change, adjustment, and a willingness to accept a new version of myself.
As the optician told me, “Just remember, if you aren’t seeing something clearly it is probably not the glasses, it’s how you’re holding your head. Adjust yourself slightly and you’ll be amazed at the difference.”
I smiled at the irony of her earnest advice, words that reflected a profound life lesson that came as a result of overcoming my addiction to alcohol. Be willing to change yourself, and everything else will improve. Bless her heart, I expect this young woman has no awareness of the metaphor.
As for me, I simply love my new world view; figuratively and literally.