I’m going to try to maintain a logical flow to the narrative of this post, but bear with me if I follow a couple of tangents. In my mind, a set of somewhat unrelated observations and experiences share common elements.
I lost my glasses last week. It was totally my own fault; the Husband and I took the Boy and five of his buddies to dinner and a movie, and I left my glasses on the table in the restaurant when I got up to talk to one of the moms who came to retrieve her son. I forgot to go back to my seat and put the glasses in my bag, and didn’t realize my mistake until the next morning. Despite three phone calls and two visits, my oh-so-useful glasses, the pair that took four attempts at adjusting the lens strength, the ones with the gorgeous French designer frames, are gone. I was (and still am) quite annoyed with myself.
I’ve been squinting and straining all week. My vision has been a challenge for my entire life. When I was in first grade, I got my first pair of glasses. I still remember my astonishment when I walked out of the doctor’s office wearing them. I could see every leaf on the trees in the parking lot. I could see the texture of the weave in my skirt, and the numbers on the dial of the radio in my mother’s car. In seventh grade, I “graduated” to contact lenses, keeping a pair of glasses on hand only to wear in the evenings or on lazy weekend days. Over the years, my eyesight has become slightly, but progressively, worse. Every time I notice that people’s eyelashes or the petals on flowers are getting a bit blurry, I know it’s time for an adjustment. A few years ago, my opthalmologist shook his head and said in his inimitable gentlemanly way, “perfection cannot be achieved.” We moved on to a compromise contact lens choice, which is adequate for most daily activities, but which requires a highly customized pair of glasses to bring menus, textbooks, nighttime road signs, crossword puzzles, and needlework into focus. Those are the glasses I lost. Those were the glasses for which I didn’t really have a prescription, because the optician and I went through a series of attempts before we found the just-right settings to make everything work.
As it turns out, I was due for an eye exam anyway. The terrific office manager found a way to squeeze me in for an appointment on Friday afternoon, and I walked out of the hospital into the oh-so-bright spring sunshine with my pupils dilated and a new prescription in hand. For the time being, I’ll be wearing glasses to work until I am ready to take on the challenge of a new combo of contacts and supplemental eyeglasses.
Friday’s spectacular spring sunshine brings me to the second thread in this tapestry of a blog post. This season has been amazing in the array of colors we’ve been seeing. The dogwoods, cherry trees, forsythia, daffodils, lupines, crocuses and hyacinths are blossoming with flamboyant abandon. Even the ever-practical Husband had to stop his car the other day so that he could photograph a particularly flashy display of flowering trees. The fleeting brilliance of the blooms makes me almost anxious as I grab my camera and get up close. I don’t want them to fade away before I can preserve them. My macro lens allows me to capture the most intimate features and the delicacy of these days. And, in case you needed the connection to be made explicitly, I can’t help the thrill I feel when I can appreciate those fine details with my sometimes imperfect eyes.
I went to the optical shop yesterday to choose a new pair of glasses. I found a frame I liked, selected the features I wanted (anti-reflective coating, compressed carbon material…) and had my face measured so that the technicians can align the distance and reading portions of the lenses. While I was sitting there, two young women were also shopping. One of them complimented the other on her t-shirt slogan, which I could not see. She then said, “I don’t understand all those people who wear ‘Life is Good’ shirts. I always want to ask them, what’s so good?”
Forgive me, friends, for judging another person here. But, really? What’s so good? The woman who made this comment was wearing beautiful, fashionable, new-looking clothing and shoes and carrying a handbag with a recognizable luxury logo. She appeared to be quite physically fit and healthy. She was out shopping on a Saturday afternoon in an affluent, safe, suburban community. Like most people, she probably has unfulfilled hopes and dreams. It’s entirely possible that she might have suffered painful losses in her life. However, in the three minutes that I observed her, those negative elements were not evident. And her remark didn’t seem to be self-reflective; rather, her tone was incredulous that other people would choose to wear and share a slogan that presented a positive outlook.
I am not a fan of cynicism. It is fatalistic and implies surrender to negativity. It does not allow the possibility of change for the better, or the recognition that people will, and can, do the right thing, even in difficult circumstances. I think cynicism is lazy. Optimism, on the other hand, requires work. It requires a deliberate decision to look for the opportunity in disappointment, the silver lining around a dark cloud, the episodic nature of an experience instead of a global categorization of a condition. Optimism is based on the belief that life is, in fact, good, even when there are bumps along the way. The work of optimism can be challenging, but it is also gratifying and rewarding. Sometimes, you have to look closely and carefully to find the goodness. Sometimes, you need to sharpen your vision. Sometimes, you need a macro lens.