My first pair of glasses seemed transformational to me when I began to wear them. It wasn’t so much the improvement in vision that struck me. Instead, it seemed I was creating a character of self –perhaps helped along by the new haircut and color I got at around the same time. I was a teenager, and in many moments was more concerned about my own appearance and presentation than with the accuracy of my senses. I’ve had a few more pairs since then, and while the style is still a point of interest for me, my vision has declined enough to make the real purpose and meaning of eyeglasses a matter of function. As a kid I routinely scored well on vision tests, but at some point my eyes began to lose their precision, and today my sight is bad enough to make getting around without glasses pretty much impossible.
For a few years I worried about the seemingly steady loss of focus and clarity. I imagined futures in which I’d end up completely blind, or relegated to perceiving only blocks of color and size without any detailed features. In truth, the thought of such a future still comes to mind from time to time, but I’m not particularly worried about it. There’s a different sort of declining sight that seems much more threatening. Throughout my life, I’ve more or less known what I wanted. Goals and objectives have changed, for sure, but it’s been a rare occurrence in which I’ve had to put much effort into making a big, directional decision. It’s been easy. Maybe because of my youth or maybe because of a lack of quality introspection, I took this ease for granted, as a natural and right and normal thing.
Now, confronting uncertainty and doubt, I recognize the blessing for what it was. Conviction may not be everything, but certainly, it helps a great deal. I’ve been mulling and hmming and hawwing these past months more than I ever remember doing before, the questions and confusion sometimes lurking in the background and sometimes demanding attention that’s unfortunately required elsewhere. Not having a convenient algorithm with which to choose, I’ve been like a buoy on the waves, floating aimlessly in constant yet unimpressive movement, pitched ridiculously by my immediate circumstances. I know I’d rather steam over the ocean in a smooth steel ship, but where? Where.
On the one hand, there may be nothing particularly wrong with this bout of questioning and uncertainty. Though it makes me more than a little nuts to imagine I’m wasting precious time, I acknowledge the need to give important decisions their due consideration, and to give myself whatever’s needed to consider well and fully. On the other hand, the mental and emotional exhaustion of the buoy dance seems to have the effect of at least temporarily blinding me to the importance and meaning of the present. There’s little question that I could ever lose sight of the future without making a deliberate effort. Yet losing sight of today and of the vague notion of “now” is a real risk.
Whether moving towards a goal or fumbling through the pages of that great goal catalog, I think taking stock and really seeing well are too often demoted in the list of priorities. It’s not necessarily a slowing down that’s called for, but an honest thread of attention, one that can identify accomplishments, interesting patterns, and deep meanings rather than impatiently skittering over the surface in order to get through a seemingly uninteresting step towards the next. What I mean to convey, of course, is further from new than the words I’m using to convey it; under the guises of “mindfulness” and various other collected theories and dictates, the need to “be here now” has been pointed out by countless others. In fact, shortly after I got that first pair of glasses, I also got a book of that very title, and laid on the grass at lunch and imagined that one day I’d be worldly and mature and would understand what it all meant.
Today I completed my work well. I cooked for myself –something healthy and delicious. I made attempts to meet certain challenges and felt disappointed by the lack of quick gratification. I watched Marilyn Monroe do her thing and felt certain I could change myself. I felt great love, and great duty, and humility. I am here –and I am grateful.