Life sucks. Have you noticed that? I mean, okay, it doesn’t always suck, but a lot of it really sucks. The older I get the more I notice that more of life simply sucks. Just watch the news. Most of it is bad, even deplorable. Think of this. You are beatuiful and energetic when you are young but but you are also hopelessly stupid, naive and inexperienced or else you are so jaded and calloused as to be well, no fun. Then, just when you have life sort of figured out, or more figured out than you ever have, you die. So life sucks.
There is this one aspect of life sucking that I was thinking about today. Life sucks because it is filled with change and often this change is accompanied by loss and grief. Every little change has encapsulated in it some sort of loss. Even if the change is good and positive, there is some loss of the old way, the way things were, the way things have been until this specific change however grand or minute it might be occurs. Even if it means one must part ways with some preferred way of thinking about things, the change can be dramatic and can range from being merely uncomfortable to completely life altering. Today, I experienced one such change which inconsequential as it might seem on the surface refracted shades of larger changes and the dynamic of emotion contained within those changes. Change and transition which happen to us on a small scale each and every day and on a much larger scale, once or twice in a lifetime, can be pivotal points in our lives.
Today, I had to go to my eye doctor and have my eyes checked. Now, my eyes are fine, but I’ve had glasses since I was 17 years old and probably should have had them earlier, based on the number of car accidents I was in before I got corrective lenses. Maybe I’m just a crappy driver, but since the carnage inflicted on the auto industry diminished greatly after I started wearing glasses and my driving did not, I’m thinking I probably needed them long before I was 17. Anyway, since then, about every year or so I have to go to the eye doc to get the peepers examined. Today, was the day for that exam this year.
But the sucky part was that it wasn’t my usual eye doctor anymore. I’ve been going to the same eye doctor for about 15 years now. He’s a great little Greek guy who’s been practicing in my area forever. Certainly, long before my first husband and I moved here in ’93. He’s funny, personable and competent. He also houses his practice in this old two story craftsman style home that has been turned into office space. The place is warm, inviting and quiet when you walk in. Though there are other customers in the place, you don’t know it. There is this feel that you are the only person there and the only one that matters. There are also pictures of Greece taken when my doctor would travel back each year to visit his family. The white of the buildings and the blue of the ocean mesmerized me. I always liked going early and sitting in the lobby and thinking what it would be like to be in that place, Greece. Would the sun be warmer, would I be tanner, thinner? Yes, I was most certain I would be warmer,tanner and thinner if I were there. I really liked those pictures.
My eye doctor is retiring. He will not be practicing anymore after tomorrow. I tried to get in to see him one last time and was unable to. Instead, I had to book an appointment with the new offices that my doctor sold his practice to. This is what sucks. No more warm, cozy, two-story craftsman style home office building with mesmerizing pictures of Greece. I now must drive to the other end of town to go get my eyes checked at a trendy, upscale Eye Center. Ugh. Flourescent lights, office carpeting, a big, huge waiting area that rivaled the Department of Motor Vehicles and pictures depicting the cross section of the eye instead of the coast of Greece. Like I said, life sucks.
So, after filling out my customary mountain of insurance paperwork, which I guarantee is going to create more work for me in clarifying the transitional screwups that always happen when you change service providers, I sat and looked around. I thought about this sucky part of life. My eye doctor was really awesome. I didn’t want a change here. I wanted things to continue just as they always had. I did not want my doctor to retire. I mean, what’s he going to do to keep busy anyway? Go to Greece and take more pictures? Well, he can’t hang them in his office anymore, so what good is that?! In addition, I began to ponder how weird it is to get to know new people in settings like these where everyone is a stranger, in spite of the fact that I’ve lived in this community for 15 years. I looked around and I realized I knew no one. The folks in the other office all knew me by name and greeted me by name. They didn’t need to ask who I was, they just pulled my file when they saw me check in. They knew me. These people didn’t know who I was from Adam. Well, I’m sure they probably figured out I wasn’t Adam, or John or Harold either, but they didn’t know me, not really.
I also didn’t know how this system worked. I mean, go here, fill out this paperwork, return it or don’t, or should I eat it after reading? I had no idea. Whatever, I filled out the paperwork. I had a momentary urge to put some really hysterical off the wall stuff on the form when they asked about family history, alcohol consumption or smoking habits and what sex I was, but I decided to simply stay with the boring straight answers this time. As if the paperwork wasn’t enough of a puzzle, just trying to figure out the layout of the place was a challenge. I wondered if I were to start at the check in desk and someone were to shout go, how long it would take me to dodge down the first hallway and go through the whole place till I found my way back to the starting point. It was a good thing that the assistant came and rescued me from my reverie at this point.
She led me back to the interior of the building, past a little additional waiting room and millions of little examination rooms. This was not feeling comfortable at all. Too sterile, too professional, too impersonal. I was feeling kind of sad by this time. I know my doctor wants to retire, but why did this change have to feel like losing my home on some levels? It reminded me that this town is growing so quickly and there is less and less personal interaction anymore. I do not like this part of life. The part where the people you love and care about leave and move on or, worse, die, really sucks. Sometimes when someone I love leaves my life the pain is so real I feel it on a physical level, right in my chest. It physically hurts. Now, okay, I wasn’t this torn up about the retiring eye doctor, but it did feel like that when my marriages were disintegrating or my parents died.
So, with all this deep, philosophical introspection and musing going on I followed the pretty young lady assistant with a diamond stud in her nose back to the examination room. I put my purse in the place she motioned to and sat in the big blue…or was it red…chair with the eye apparatus near it. As she takes my chart and pulls up my information on the computer screen, we talk and I size up the place. Okay, so far so good, no weird stuff here. I figured out quickly why they hired her though, she could input that data fast! She was also personable and friendly and pretty. Now, in spite of my fairly melancholy and somewhat negative musings, I’m a bit of an adventurer and though I regretted being forced into this particular change in this particular area of my healthcare at this particular juncture of my life, I’m usually up for a bit of adventure and I do like meeting new people and going new places. There’s something about new and different that is good every now and then to change things up a bit. So, before I knew it we were chatting away and she had figured out what my prescription should be and she had me fitted for new contacts. Well, it wasn’t exactly that instantaneous. I was there for three house, but it really didn’t seem that long even though I had to go to the little waiting room, get put in front of the refraction machine and then go back to the little waiting room then back to the original room and all that before I even met my new Eye Doctor. But the assistant and I had a great time. We determined that the monovision correction I’d been using for the last two years, which required I carry a pair of granny glasses around on a chain around my neck in case I should ever need to read a book or a menu while I had my contacts in, was not the most effective method of correcting my distance vision. Duh!!! Instead, she suggested I try this kind of contact lense with multifocal correction in it. It essentially operates like the old bifocal but corrects for distance, mid-distance and near. I looked at her stunned. “This is possible?” I asked. She nodded. I asked about pricing, and it was only slightly more than the contacts I’d been using. I mean, the idea of not having to have a pair of reader glasses in my purse, at my bedside table, at every location in my classroom and in my home where I might need to read something up close will not only save me the extra amount these contacts cost, but just the freedom of not having to pack around granny glasses on a chain around my neck floored me. I was ecstatic. By this time I was beginning to really be glad my eye doc was choosing to retire.
Then they dilated my eyes and I met my new Eye Doctor. She was personable, professional and competent. She looked nice but I had a hard time seeing her since my eyes were dilated and I thought she was kind of cruel to blast my eyes with that bright light thing but other than that she was alright. I mean, I wondered what I was expecting, that she’d be some kind of monster? She wasn’t. I would have much preferred that she be male, attractive, and single and really into me but, hey, I can’t have it all my way can I?
Well, I left the doctor’s office today with my eyes so dilated they hurt. I stumbled, sort of, out to my car and put on my sunglasses and sat and thought for a moment. What things we can learn from the most benign events in our lives if only we pay attention and observe. Four hours ago I was bemoaning the sad but normal changes we all experience in life. Four hours later and I can see perfectly, both distance and close up and I’m not having to reach for my granny reader glasses. Life is funny. It’s downright strange and bizarre. Life does suck. There are parts of it that are so painfully sad that I’d almost rather not live it. (Okay, I’m not suicidal, please, even though when given the option I will usually choose to avoid the pain rather than face it head on…I hate pain so much I could never do myself in…it would simply hurt too much, besides, it’s a fairly permanent solution to what, I’ve found, are mostly temporaray problems.) I hate goodbyes. Having my eye doctor retire, not being able to go to his office in that nice craftsman style home with the pictures of Greece on the walls and where everyone knew me by name felt a bit like what I’d imagine being shoved out of my home as a kid before I was quite ready to go would feel like. It sucked.
But there’s an up side. The up side is this: I now can see clearly and I don’t have to use Granny glasses and I’m not in pain. I’m so going to love that! I mean just the thought of it, let alone the reality of it, is enough to make me feel twenty years younger. In addition, I’m not fumbling around half the time trying to adjust from one visual task to another. And I don’t have a headache. This is the best part of it. I am not experiencing pain like I was before.
Now, silly as it seems, this little routine somewhat undramatic (or maybe a bit overdramatized) change in vision doctors revealed a timely lesson for me. Sometimes the pain, loss and corresponding grief we go through in life are necessary for our greater growth, development, ultimate maturity and improved vision. (If I were writing to a strictly religious Christian audience this is where I’d insert any number of Bible references and there are many which would apply. Those folks will know what they are so I’ll skip that part for now and let them provide them if they are so motivated.) Any one of the maybe eight or ten people following my blog regularly will note that I’ve bemoaned my dating fate of late with folks going silent and perfectly good candidates opting out. True, I haven’t shared the number of times I’ve opted out first, but, be that as it may, the dating life has been sucky and painful just as the eye doctor thing was painful and sucky…at first. But here’s the thing that crystallized for me today. The pain I experience or the sadness or, better, the disappointment I experience, only serves to help me clarify for myself what it is that I’m about in this journey we call life. People opting out, aren’t necessarily a rejection of me, though it does feel that way for a few minutes. It’s life. My eye doctor didn’t retire because he didn’t want to provide services to me anymore. How ludicrous is that thinking? Yet that is exactly the logic behind the woe is me mentality that bends us up into knots when something we thought could really be great or was really great doesn’t work out. Whether it is a dating relationship, a marriage, a career or a healthcare provider, all these things are just other people making choices that impact us. Our value is not determined by their choices. It is painful to lose something that was wonderful, fulfilling, warm, cozy, beneficial and positive. It is painful to lose the familiarity of someone knowing my name and having a cute, cozy office with Greek pictures on the wall. It was wonderful pondering the possibilities that might have transpired had any number of those wonderful men not gone silent. But it was simply not to be and because of it my vision is improved. My vision is improved because I now see more clearly what I’m about in relationship and I see much more accurately the great qualities that I do hope Mr. Right, if he appears, will possess. I also see much more clearly and with less pain and effort physically because I was able to change doctors and benefit from improved technology and service.
I think there are greater lessons to be extrapolated here. Simply put, sometimes we have to wade through some misery to figure out what doesn’t work so that when we come face to face with what does work, we recognize it. One of my Christian friends was talking to me the other day and he said, “Check it out. God gave Adam the task of naming all the animals before He brought Eve into the picture. After looking all the animals over, Adam probably had a really good idea that none of those were a good fit for him and he was better able to recognize/appreciate Eve’s beauty and fit for him because of the process God took him through”. Now, I know, sounds a bit churchy, at points, but the idea still holds. If we pay attention, we learn. We learn what works and what doesn’t. We learn how to be better people. We learn to recognize those things and people that are healthy and positive for us and those who are dangerous and toxic and we are able to make this determination with increasing effectiveness, accuracy and efficiency…but we must experience some pain in order to get there.
That’s the part about life that sucks the most: going through the pain to learn how to avoid it, but, to be honest, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because, guess what, now I can see!!!! In so many ways beyond just my physical vision, I can see! I love the freedom, the confidence and the convenience that this improved vision brings. For example, I’ve been at the computer for hours now and no headaches and I can see perfectly, without taking out my contacts or using Granny glasses. It is worth enduring the suckiness to benefit from the lessons. Of course, I’d never say that while the lesson is being taught. I, like many others, will drown in the misery, but, unlike many others, I’ll be watching, listening, thinking and learning all the while. I’ll be glad when I’ve finally aced the test. So, while life sucks, I guess it isn’t completely for naught. I’ll take the suckiness to gain the vision.
I’m still going to miss those pictures of Greece though.