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Photo courtesy of Tom Alisier  

A little over two months ago, I did something I swore I'd never do.   Growing up, I never needed glasses.  This was something I took for granted as all those who grew up never wearing glasses did.  Watching some of my friends who wore contacts was a morbid fascination.  I couldn't imagine poking something in my eyes as I would watch them pop their contacts in and out with seemingly no effort at all.  It always made me cringe.

In my early 40's, the newspaper print suddenly developed a mind of its own and decided to shrink before my very eyes.  "Oh, it's just an aging thing", an annoying friend tried to reassure.  I reluctantly purchased the much-needed magnifying glasses disguised as fun fashion statements and over the subsequent years I acquired enough glasses of various shapes, colors and sizes to start a small franchise.  

But the glasses would get lost or forgotten and there was nothing that frustrated me more than ending up somewhere with an inability to read.  Yes, my weakening vision  was normal and before I knew it, my long distance decided to play hide and seek as well.  

My life started revolving around eyeglasses...glasses with different strengths strewn throughout my car, office and every room in my home.  

Which gets me back to what I did a little over two months ago that I swore I'd never do.   I swore I would never do any kind of anything that involved messing with my eyes.

But I'd gotten desperate.   I was tired of the blurry vision, the utter dependence on the glasses and of  wearing two pairs  on the top of my head at the same time and wandering around the house asking, "Where are my glasses?"

So I took a trip to the eye doc who specialized in miracles.  Before I knew it, I was signing on the dotted line and one week later had Monovision Lasik surgery to give me back the vision that had been robbed from me by the cruel hands of time.

The results were instantaneous, especially the near vision.  It was like going from the old black and white TV screen to NBC in living color with a bold stroke of HD peacock feathers thrown in.  It was amazing!  I felt like I’d gained several new dimensions and no need for reading glasses, I could read the fine print on a prescription bottle.  It was stunning.

And then the unexpected happened.  I went to my favorite local coffee shop and stood in a long line waiting for my daily dose of caffeine.  I looked at the others around me and I could feel my jaw drop.  Forget the coffee.  I was suddenly like a kid in a candy shop.

The faces!  The details!  The expressions!  The contours!  The shapes! The beauty marks!  The moles!  The cheekbones!  The burrowed foreheads! The eyes half shut and eyes wide open!  And lines!  

Fine lines!  Fine delicate gorgeous spectacular lines!

Everyone was so beautiful!  I'm afraid I creeped a few people out that early morning so focused and entranced was I in staring at those faces, so unique, so telling, so individual and so revealing.  I felt like I was reading dozens of mesmerizing memoirs all at once.

I went home with coffee in hand and treasures in my mind.  I bolted through the door to the house and proclaimed to my husband how beautiful every face was at the coffee shop.  He was mildly amused until I stepped up to him.  His face was like a treasure map.  He hadn't shaved in several days and I could see every whisker, every hair in different colors... gold, black, brown, and fiery copper red.  I was like Helen Keller who had just learned to speak and needed to run her desperate fingers over the face of her mentor Ann Sullivan.

I raced up the stairs to look at myself in the bathroom mirror.  Out of breath and all in a dither, I anxiously peered at my reflection.  "UGH!" I screamed.  Who was that older woman in the mirror?  Oh my god, I had been living in la la land and had been in complete and total age denial.  Look at all those lines!

I felt my face burn bright red with embarassment.  I was horrified by my lines and if I’m going to be totally honest, I was downright ashamed.  

And then I wondered why I didn't find my lines beautiful.  Why didn't I find them fascinating and magical and awe inspiring as I did with the strangers at the coffee shop and in the handsome and rugged face of my husband?  Why wasn't I proud of my lines, the lines that reflected sorrows deep, lifetimes lived, love expressed and joys expansive?  

Why was I always so damn hard on myself?  Who was this harsh judge who loved to scream its accusations and criticisms of me?  Damn beauty myths.

Then I wondered:  

—Does anyone like the sound of their own voice?

—The look of their image in the mirror?

—The candid snaphot taken sight unseen?

Why is it so much easier to see the beauty in others and not in ourselves?  

That eye procedure gave me a lot more than clearer vision and a moratorium on reading glasses.

It gave me a true appreciation for the finer things in life, including my own face.  The exquisite bold and artistic creases, the previously unnoticed offerings from unseen gods who delight in details minute and features both rare and universal.

And I'm learning to be more than fine, lines and all.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cathie Beck wrote Jun 1, 2010
    • Oh Mary... you really hooked me and reeled me in with this one! Beautifully written amd I
      thank you for sharing. I haven’t had Lasik surgery yet but I have the magnifying reading glasses along with a magnifying mirror. And I’ve been so critical of my fine lines and the
      few deeper ones. I’m 61 yrs old, I’m proud of reaching this age so why was I embarrassed
      I didn’t look 40 still?  

      I’ll be thinking about your post and thanks for sharing your thoughts.  


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lisa Brown wrote Jun 2, 2010
    • I agree with Cathie, beautifully written and I was reading like a novel waiting for each word.  And I agree with you I find I am always my worst critic...

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Denise Critcher wrote Jun 2, 2010
    • I am totally with you Mary, I too didn’t have to wear glasses until I was in my forty’s and the thought of contacts ugg. The sad part is that you feel young in your mind and then you look in the mirror and say to yourself where did all those years go.  

      As a child you think your never going to grow up and when you do you regret ever saying that! But with age comes wisdom and I would change my fine line for the experiences I have had in my life. Not always good put insightful.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote Jun 4, 2010
    • I am my own worst critic and since I’m too chicken to have eye surgery (the glaucoma test is a struggle as it is) I will continue to live in my own rose colored world.

      I did however enjoy your description of everything!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Susan Haley wrote Jun 5, 2010
    • Hi Mary

      I, too, love your columns. You have a special gift for wrapping sometimes hard truths in humor. I’ve been reading them since I came here as a columnist myself. I love truth and I love humor and satire. You are an artist at blending the three. My kudos. If we must be slapped with hard facts on occasion, I much prefer to have them wrapped in a smile.
      Keep on keepin’ on!

      Susan Haley

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