Not Just Another Auld Lang Syne

New Years Eve 004How does one look back on a year such as mine?  Three years ago, I ventured out into one of the scariest places I think I’ve ever been.  Post divorce, 40-something, straddled with debt that wasn’t all mine, looking forward to fewer years to earn back the losses than I had behind me.  While many would say I look good for my age, the fact that they had to add the phrase “for my age” said it all.  I was divorced, single with more children than most, struggling to avoid bankruptcy, and wondering how I was going to pay the bills and put food on the table.  I was frightened.  I was destitute. I was humiliated and ashamed.  I was alone.  To make things better, I blew an engine on one car, and dropped the rear differential out of another.  I had no credit, no cash, no clue what an engine or a rear differential was, and nowhere to turn.  I was terrified.  I wondered, often, how and if I was going to survive.  I was also 40-something and it was only a matter of time before the aging process we all must eventually succumb to, became no longer disguisable. Further, I still had children at home, lots of them, and would probably retire (if that was still even a possibility for me) with them at home.  Not exactly the formula for finding someone to spend your golden years with before you actually get to your golden years. Continue reading

Looking Good Naked

j0423115At this time of  year, fitness centers typically experience an increase in membership.  If you belong to a club or gym you might find that for the next eight weeks it will be tough to find an open treadmill or elliptical trainer. It seems looking good naked is on everyone’s mind after the holidays.

There is another excellent post over at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy about physical appearance vs. feeling good. She brings up a number of great talking points on the topic of body image issues, being a slave to the scale and our self-esteem and how it connects to our physical appearance.  We often say that our self concept shouldn’t be based on how we look but, for so many of us, it is.  I maintain that for many of us, how we look matters a great deal because how we care for our bodies is often indicative of deeper feelings we have toward ourselves and our value as individuals.  If we want that to change then how we go about changing our physical appearance is the first step in beginning to care about and for ourselves.

Lose the Scale

j0422209Being an ex-competitive swimmer, swim coach and cyclist, and also and ex-aerobics and fitness trainer, I know how ineffective the scale is and how it can really work against one’s efforts at getting healthy. One’s weight can fluctuate a pound or two every day and even more for some women, depending on the time of the month.  In addition, if you are enslaved to the number on the scale, but you are truly about percent body fat rather than weight you might get to a place in your fitness regimen where you actually begin to gain weight while continuing to lose inches.  Those who absolutely use the scale as the sole measuring device in their quest to look good naked run the risk of ignoring some better health indicators. They can become easily discouraged and frustrated.  This is counterproductive to the person who really has the goal in mind of becoming a healthier, more physically fit individual.

Percent of Body Fat is A Better Indicator of Fitness

I prefer to consider percent body fat or Body Mass Index  and inches lost when I work on improving my fitness level (because muscle weighs more than fat and building muscle eats fat).  One can be a size 3 and still be very fat.  I don’t want that for me.  I want the toned look and you can’t get that by merely losing weight on a scale you must transfer fat to muscle somehow.  If you are seriously overweight or out of shape or have never really done any serious training, please do two things:

First, get a physical and a physician’s okay before you begin any exercise program.  Even if you are relatively good health, this is always a smart move. 

Second, seriously consider investing in a personal trainer who will meet with you for an hour once ever two weeks for, at least, the first eight weeks of your program.  Even two sessions with a personal trainer can be incredibly valuable in helping you jumpstart your motivation and your journey back to fitness.

Toward A Healthier Lifestyle…A Personal Journey

While I know a great deal about the right things to do and the right ways to think about my body, its appearance and its health, I like many, many others have become negligent over the last decade. Sure there have been periods of good fitness, but I haven’t really stuck with them.  Of course, I have to cut myself some slack.  I’ve endured a pretty volatile decade personally, have been homeless and battled an emotionally abusive ex.  When survival is priority one, looking good naked gets much lower priority.  Even so, I’ve let go of some really great eating habits, stopped the consistent exercise and weight training program I had going and simply shifted my fitness priorities to the bottom of the list.  I don’t look horrible, but I really don’t look my best.  More importantly and more significantly I don’t feel my best. I find that it is when I don’t feel my best that I am most prone to worrying about my appearance, suffering a loss of confidence and self-esteem and I’m especially prone to really stupid questions like “How hot am I, really?”  I hate being in that place mentally and physically. 

j0402353Big Little Wolf’s post, my own personal journey to date, and experiences like these are crystallizing for me a sense of direction as I consider my own health and levels of fitness.  Note that I did not say weight loss program.  Because for me, though weight loss will inevitably be an outcome I hope to accomplish,, I am not venturing down this road with that goal in mind. In my post, two days ago, I spoke of moving toward a healthier lifestyle.  It’s true, I want to look good naked because that mirror in my bathroom is not exactly gentle in revealing the truth about my physical appearance, but I most certainly and more importantly want to feel good all of the time, not just naked.  I don’t just want to get smaller, I want to get better.  And better, might not necessarily weigh that much less, but it will look better naked.  It will walk further and faster.  It will not get winded. And, since I am the one looking at myself in the mirror, groaning daily with disappointment in myself about the extra pounds I’ve packed on and the muscle tone I’ve lost, and feeling disappointed with what I see (because the disappointment represents not beauty or lack thereof, but a deeper sense of loss) then looking good naked becomes important to no one…else…but me.  I’m the only one that matters.  It is indeed a deeply personal journey, but one with very visible results.

Getting Comfortable

But there is something even more significant at play here for me.  It is that idea of feeling comfortable in my own skin.  It is that idea that it is what it is and it is the best I can do so who cares what anyone else thinks.  Now, realistically I know, I should feel this way no matter what I weigh or what my muscle tone is, but the reality is, this is not the case for me.  Because the big reality is this, how we feel inside our own skin is largely determined by our fitness levels.  Our fitness levels often determine whether or not we look and perform at optimum levels.  All of those things conspire to impact our self image and our confidence in our abilities in other areas. True, self acceptance no matter what, is important.  I’m not suggesting we all have to be stellar examples of fitness and brawn, but when our ability to function at our best each day is implicated, then I suggest that’s the time to really rethink our health and our habits.  Feeling comfortable in our own skin is more about doing the best we can with what we’ve got under the circumstances and I, for one, am not doing the best I can right now.  Not even close.  This bothers me.  It bothers me enough to make a change.  For me, it’s what 2010 is going to be about.

Starting Measurements…The First Steps

j0321131 So, yes, yesterday, I pulled out the tape measure, hopped on the scale and took the front-back-side before pictures in my bikini.  Not because I intend to obsess over every little thing I eat or don’t eat.  Not because I intend to go on a crash starvation diet or crazy workout plan to burn that fat fast.  I’m smarter than that.  And, though I know my body will quickly respond to increased exercise and improved diet due to its past fitness, the reason I am doing it is not to get skinny…it is to change my lifestyle. It is to change my thinking.  It is to become comfortable in my own skin. Taking the measurements now, before I’ve really begun will help me gauge my progress and will motivate me to keep going.  It gives me a starting point.

Fitness is About Character Development and Personal Growth

While this is about looking good naked on one level, it is also about so much more than looking good naked because whenever one begins a journey of this nature there are mental challenges that must be faced and obstacles that must be overcome.  I’d like to suggest that the journey toward improved health for me will be less a journey of fitness than a supreme course in character development.  I will need to test my commitment.  I will be forced to persevere.  I will need to focus and stay focused and that, because I am so easily distracted, will be challenge enough. I will need to flex and adapt to a schedule that changes dramatically twice a year while still keeping up my regimen of good eating and daily activity.  I will need to make some hard choices that won’t be pleasant or instantaneously gratifying (like that second glass of wine or that extra helping of pasta or saying no when I’m just not hungry) if I am to move myself into a place that bodes well for the health and longevity of this physical thing I call my body, not to mention the mind and spirit that it contains.  It won’t “feel” good sometimes at first, at others it will feel better than anything.  It will require me to flex my discipline muscles, tone my determination, and exercise my mental fortitude and push my commitment to my own improvement to the limits. j0402666

But that’s the cost for every one who would accomplish anything of value. 

The Wild Mind

Success is often not a matter of talent, but a matter of tenacity.”  ~Nathaniel Bronner Jr.

How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?  ~Anthony Robbins

Toward A New Year of Healthy Living

New Year’s Day, 2010

photo by nkzs Yesterday’s post spoke about thinking more thematically about New Year’s Resolutions.  To follow up on that, I feel I must give some more concrete examples of really what I mean. To that end, I have only one New Year’s Resolution. More aptly put, I believe this is a New Year’s theme that I hope characterize my year and the years to come. That theme is Healthy Living or Health. 

You see, I could do what I did last year and talk about all the things I want to do, as though life were some sort of checklist to be completed before the end of it. As a product of the American baby boomer culture, I’ve seen life this way more often than not.  I’d make my list, work frantically to accomplish it, come very close (or maybe not at all) and feel miserably unsuccessful or ineffective if I didn’t complete the list. I was what I could accomplish. 

List Fail

The problem with this thinking, at least for me, is that the list can never be completed because something is always being added to it.  You check off one item only to put another objective in its place.  What’s the sense of accomplishment in that?  How does this manner of operating lead to peace and contentment?  Even if you do accomplish something, the effect or result is only temporary, unless the item stays on the list and then, if you think according to the list, even if you’ve made progress, the danger of perceiving that you haven’t completed anything or not as much as you would have hoped exists. Lists are about completion not progress.  I want to focus on progress, process and becoming.

Really, what I am talking about here with this whole New Year’s Theme thing is not giving myself more stuff to do (and more reasons to be disappointed if I fail) but instead I’m dealing with effecting lasting change in my life.  There are areas I am not content with and I need to change.

Time for Change

Perhaps an example from my own life might serve to provide greater understanding of what I’m really driving at here.  Several years ago, nearly a year, maybe almost two before my divorce even started beginning, things (as things in a failing marriage will tend to be) became very chaotic and conflicted.  I was unhappy, he was unhappy, the kids were caught in the middle of that and dealing with the magnitude of kids that we had (11 in our blended situation), tensions were running at an all time high.  We’d been separated and back together more times than I care to consider, and I was at the point where I knew that something had to change.  I was afraid of what that might mean, but I knew I could not continue in the present situation any longer.  My health was failing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before  I experienced a serious and major collapse.

j0386273 I really had to take some time and think about what it was I wanted.  Now, I didn’t take the attitude of it’s all about me.  I took the perspective that I needed to take care of me so that I could take care of those who depend and rely on me.  In that case, my children, my support network, my community in a larger context, but admittedly I wasn’t thinking on that grand a scale back then.  I was simply in survival mode thinking about what was going to be best for my children and I in the short run, but also in the long run.  If you’ve ever been in this place you know what a difficult task that can be.  How do you think about making monumental decisions that will be right for the immediate future and still be the right ones, down the road a piece?  There are ways of doing this, I’ve since learned, but at that time I was floundering around in a state of hopelessness, fear and anxiety. 

Respect and Survival

As I sat there in a school presentation where the speaker was talking about dealing with children respectfully and building a climate of respect in schools and in homes, everything crystallized for me. It all came together for me, not as a list of things I needed to do in a sequential order, but rather as a frame of mind I needed to adopt; as a way of being I needed to pursue.  It became clear to me, in seconds, that what was lacking on so many levels and in so many areas in my life was, quit simply, respect.  I wasn’t being treated respectfully, nor was I extending it to others in most areas of my life. Not only that, material possession, symbolic of someone’s effort, time, life and money were being treated disrespectfully, the world around us was not being treated with any measure of respect either by any of us. This is not how I wanted to live, nor was it the environment I wanted my children to grow up in learning that this manner of living was an accepted option. 

With the theme being respect, I was then able to clearly see that in the current situation I was going to be crippled if not completely detained in my pursuit of a respectful home atmosphere and lifestyle.  I was then able to make the hard and frightening decisions with confidence and assurance that I needed to make at that time to ensure for me and my children a life that involved treating each other with greater respect and infusing our home with respect.  Three years after that day, I can look back and say it was the right way to look at things and, though we haven’t perfectly arrived, because we continue to learn more each day about areas where we can demonstrate greater respect to each other and because, quite frankly old ways of being die hard sometimes, we are in a much better place than we’ve ever been. We would not be here now if I hadn’t taken the necessary steps to start the process.  I couldn’t have taken the necessary steps if I had focused on what I should or shouldn’t do.  Focusing on what I wanted my children and I to be and experience made it possible for me to figure out the rest.

Healthy Living

 j0442586 It seems I’ve come to another place where a theme is stepping up to the forefront and demanding attention.  In the last three years, several themes have developed. First, was the theme of Respect.  The next theme that characterized the first year after the divorce till now was Survival.  The next theme which I believe to be developing in my life is that of Healthy Living or maybe just Health.  It is a theme that encompasses not just the idea of physical fitness and healthy eating, but also the areas of spiritual health, intellectual health (sustenance and growth) and relational health.

These “themes” I am talking of, if that is even an appropriate terminology, are not something I adopt, carry around with me for a while and then discard because they no longer suit the situation.  If you could think of building an onion from the inside out a layer at a time, you might come closer to how this all works for me.  As each theme develops in my life, it becomes part of me with following themes overlaying themselves on pre-existing themes.

So, since the title of this post is about a healthy new year and since I did mention it earlier on in this now rather lengthy post, I suppose I should discuss it just a bit.  Healthier Living, as a theme in my life, for this year, or for whatever amount of time it decides to be the forerunning focus, will help me make decisions daily regarding my time, my activities, my decisions, my focus.  Instead of creating a list that I may or may not accomplish, depending upon my motivation level or my feelings, I will instead operate from the place of asking myself, “Is this the healthiest thing for me right now?”  Or I might consider, “Is this particular choice going to move me closer to the healthy, whole life I see for my children and myself?”  The particular questions help me sort the myriad choices I face each day in order to more closely align my life with the healthful vision I see of myself and for myself and my family (because I don’t just simply think of myself, ever, in isolation; what I choose impacts and affects many others whether I recognize it or not).  So, in brief then, the theme works to direct my efforts, focus my energy and determine my choices.  I am no longer burdened by a list that can never be accomplished. I am simply, moment by moment becoming healthier and these moments will, undoubtedly stack up and create a year that is much healthier than years previous.

j0433106 Enthusiasm, Hope, Confidence, Optimism

Approaching life this way has, over the last three years, been very effective for me in implementing significant and incredibly positive change in my life over a relatively short period of time.  This approach might not work for everyone, but I’ve found it to be incredibly effective for me in determining where to focus my energy, how to prioritize all the conflicting demands that bombard me daily as a single mom, and in helping me keep at it even when things become discouraging and disappointing as they likely will. It is an approach which instead of frustrating and defeating me, fills me with optimism, confidence, enthusiasm and hope. Since I’ve heard those are some of the key ingredients for someone in good mental health, I guess that’s not a bad place to start.

Divorce Transitions or How To Slay a Dragon—Another Year Later

Costumes_Halloween_Lady_Dragons I wrote this last year at about this time of year over on my other blog. It is rather lengthy so I’ve broken it down into a series of several posts.  Those of you who have been through the divorce process and are trying to heal up after it, might have some very significant and quite possibly different perspectives to share.  If so, I hope you’ll leave a comment.  I certainly don’t profess to have the only valid experience.  I only share mine and what was helpful for me.  I love hearing what others found helpful.  I know my readers do too!

I spent most of my childhood growing up in rural eastern Oregon.  My family lived in the same home from the time I was in third grade till after I graduated from college.  We drove the same ’68 Chevy Camaro and never had another car.  My mother had the same job in the same office building across from the county library until she retired many years after I was grown and beginning my own family.  My grandparents lived across the river in Idaho, a mere six miles away.  They owned a department store in town where I spent my pre-school years hiding in the racks peeking out at customers from behind the clothes.  It was a stable, predictable, secure childhood.  Very little ever changed.  It was not the kind of beginning that exactly prepares one to deal with the transitions that come after a marriage ends.  But, if we are fortunate, and I was, we should not be preparing for such sad events.  There just weren’t that many dragons to slay back then…and…I guess that’s a good thing.

clocks-med Change is the only constant.  This is never more true than when going through a divorce, when emotions run high and everyone is running scared at some level.  Everyone, except the attorneys and the dragon.  They are running to the bank.  (Sometimes I think I am definitely in the wrong career.  Hmmmm, is it too late for a law degree?) Even so, I am grateful for a good attorney who helped me see the issues clearly and without emotion.  The dragon is bigger and has the fire-breathing capabilities.  You can easily determine where the dragon fits in your own analogy.  For me, it was a volatile and completely unstable partner who was an incredible con artist and who had everyone believing (including myself) that I was the crazy psychotic problem child.   

Phase 1–Acceptance

This is the first transition and probably the most difficult in divorce:  accepting that the marriage is over.  Accepting that one partner wants out badly enough  to formalize the dissolution legally can be a difficult and heartbreaking reality to grasp.  Whether you are the one initiating the divorce or the one having to accept that your partner is saying, "I’m out!",  the very first step is to accept that no matter what happens, when the dust settles you will in fact be divorced.  Nothing else but this will be certain as you head into the process of negotiating like you’ve probably never in your marriage or maybe your life negotiated before. It is not unlike dodging the fiery blasts of the dragon’s anger as you attempt to defend your kingdom. The finances, the assets, the kids, the child support, the alimony and the acrimony will all be undetermined until the judge raps his gavel or until the two of you sign out of court. Until then, you just don’t know how the dragon will move, twist, or turn.

BooksandGavelA_jpg When I walked in to see my attorney…a good two years before I actually retained her…she told me these words, "Look, I can’t assure you of anything except that by the end of this you will be divorced."  She was right, and despite what is oft said about attorneys, she was honest, direct, a great strategist and she advocated on my behalf.  She helped me negotiate the frightening web of legalities to ensure the best possible outcome for my children and I.  She was there to negotiate some of those transitions for me.

Plan on the transitions.  Expect them, anticipate them, negotiate them and then live them.  My attorney helped me plan and prepare for the first phase of transitions but I had to first face the reality that nothing I could do was going to change the eventual outcome.  Armed with this knowledge I was able to take a more active role in determining and shaping my own post-divorce world.

If you are at this place in your life and the inevitable is going down, I encourage you to begin doing your own research.  Find out what the laws are in your state or county.  Find out how property is usually divided and how the courts generally treat custody and parenting issues arrangements.  Your attorney can be a valuable resource in this area.  You can also do your own homework.  There are many great resources on the internet. 

It helped me to think of life in three categories: the things that were non-negotiable for me, the things that I could easily give up, and the things that fell in between these two extremes. It became a matter of prioritizing.  When it came to negotiating with the ex, I knew clearly what I had to barter with and what wasn’t up for negotiation from my perspective.  This ended up being irrelevant for me as my ex didn’t even show up for the hearing and the judge ruled everything as proposed by my attorney with some added stipulations making it more difficult for the ex should he seek to drag me back to court in the future. This, however, is extremely rare.  Expect a battle and arm yourself intelligently and thoughtfully for it.

 

Life Sucks…But I Can See Clearly Now!

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.