I am really not seeing too clearly right now, literally. And perhaps figuratively. But I’m not even going to try and pursue that thought. I am too damn tired and my usual clarity isn’t there. Perhaps it is just end of year fatigue. Or maybe I’m experiencing some sort of existential crisis, I can’t be sure. Last night I ate blue cheese that had me running all night … it may just be that.
As a side note: food poisoning is a succinct definition of hell.
Back to the literal: I need two different incarnations of glasses to get me through the day. One for close work, the other for driving and TV. It’s exhausting keeping track of both pairs. Apparently my eyes are flattening out – so there is no chance of corrective surgery. They will just deteriorate until I wear glasses full time. I am not thrilled about this development. Being half-blind makes me feel vulnerable. Exposed and uncoordinated. I can’t bear not being able to read on demand. I hate the patting of all pockets to see where my specs are. I torture myself with thoughts of being trapped somewhere sightless. Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with the slaves.
I have resorted to keeping a spare pair in my car. Some of those cheap ones you get at the pharmacy. They have blue suede frames which remind me of German tourists in the nineties. I used to mock them at airports and now they’re me. I bought them in Stellenbosch one afternoon, when I went to a hipster joint for coffee and couldn’t read the menu. My waitress watched as I dug around fruitlessly in my bag (can’t see to look properly), and eventually directed me around the corner. The sales assistant pointed to the cheapie display and offered: “maybe it’s time to get your eyes tested.” Which irritated the shit out of me, so I grabbed the first pair I could at my strength wanting to get away from her twenty-five year old tattooed smugness. “TWO”, she exclaimed. “… tsk tsk tsk, you really must get your eyes tested.” I resisted the urge to whack her across the back of her head (don’t know why – she had it coming), paid my $5 and headed back to the coffee shop. Only to find my glass case, replete with glasses, on the table where I had been sitting. I looked at the waitress: “Oh”, she said “I saved your table for you.” “With my glasses?” I replied. “Yes”, she said happily “… so someone would know you were still sitting here.”
It took me forever to wrap Riley’s birthday presents on Thursday. I realised halfway through that I couldn’t see the end of the sticky tape, so had to go find my glasses which took me five minutes. The end of the sellotape roll was ripped to shreds and even with the glasses, I could figure out how to make it work. After ten minutes of that, I cut a bunch of little pieces and hung them over the counter and they kept curling up on themselves. It was an exercise in frustration – one that shrieked – “you are getting OLD”. It may have been my niece’s birthday – but I was the one ageing. Which even I could see.
Anyhow. Back to now. Everything seems to have moved an inch to the left. I have to concentrate to focus. And there is no reading anything under 2 feet high without the glasses. I have resorted to asking strangers the price of things in the garden centre when I walk Jack. They chuckle: “can’t see anymore, eh.” I smile and nod.
What this sideways shift in focus means is that I need new lenses. Three new pairs. And those are going to cost me around $1300. $1300 I would rather spend doing something fun. But I’m a big fan of trying to identify opportunities for gratitude. So there’s this: not being able to see so well means I address just the broad strokes of how I look. If I don’t have a +25 magnification mirror, it’s all a crap shoot as to where my makeup lands anyway. The one I have now is broken and cracked from being hauled around the world for the past decade. So I prop it up in my bathroom, put on my make-up in the morning, keep it minimal and hope it stays in place during the day.
As I was doing just that this morning it occurred to me: I don’t spend any time scrutinising my skin in the mirror anymore. Which means there is no temptation to interfere with imperfections. As a result, my skin is clearer than it has been in years. And I wondered: is this is a life lesson? Maybe having waning sight is a blessing in disguise. It stops you trying to see everything clearly. It allows you to leave some things undisected. It forces you to let go of perfection. Which in turn creates simplicity and clarity.
Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being. I have spent years agreeing. But I’m not so sure I see it that way anymore.
(Picture of Shark Car by Scott London. See more of his Burning Man Photography here. Other images found uncredited on Facebook.)