Vision Quest

I have a boring job. But it does carry with it a handful of perks, including:

(1) unlimited weak coffee;
(2) awesome coworkers who make every day a joy; and
(3) vision insurance.

Do you know how exotic it feels to have vision insurance? You go to the eye doctor, and they just GIVE you stuff. A whole year’s supply of contact lenses runs me $30. It’s great. And yes, I do have some complex feelings about tripping off to buy contact lenses while so many go without even the most basic of medical care, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, armed with my rockin’ vision insurance, I strolled over to my neighborhood clinic to pick out some new glasses. I already had a pair of thick, black plastic frames, so I decided to try something new. Something daring. Something … fashionable.

After nearly an hour of browsing, I settled on a pair of cute little rimless glasses with sapphire-blue earpieces. I carried them over to the optometry technician and showed her my prize.

The tech raised one eyebrow, but sympathetically, as though I had just told her I was planning to run away and join the Rockettes.

“Those sure are cute,” she said. “Before you decide on rimless frames, why don’t I show you how thick your lenses will be?”

She reached into a case beneath her desk and pulled out a chunk of resin that looked like aquarium glass.

Right. I have the eyesight of a neurologically damaged bat. Unaided, my vision is 20/400. A code on my driver’s license indicates that I can’t drive without corrective lenses, which strikes me as the joke of the century. Without corrective lenses, how would I find my way to the car?

The eyeball tech patiently explained the obvious, which was that paired with my very very heavy lenses, rimless glasses would make me look like a cartoon. I pouted, looked around some more, and finally settled on a pair of thick, black plastic frames. Indistinguishable from my old ones.

So much for fashion.

Two weeks later, I dropped by to pick up my brave new glasses. The optometrist had told me that the new prescription was just a hair stronger than the old. I tried them on, and —


I couldn’t discern any difference. The glasses looked the same. The world looked the same. I hadn’t needed new glasses at all. I had been conned.

Standing there at the bus stop, I put my old glasses on again. Switched back to the new ones.

Back and forth. Back and forth. New, old, new.

After about two minutes — and if you wear strong glasses, this will come as no surprise — I was almost knocked flat by a wave of nausea.


Maybe there was some difference after all.

I sank onto a bench and waited for my reeling stomach to calm. After I regained my balance and my senses, I realized that I had been doing the same thing I always do — not just with new glasses, but every time I expect some shift in perspective, a tangible change in how I see the world.

You know the feeling I’m talking about. Don’t you? You have an epiphany, or you mark a milestone — a baptism, a retreat, a major trip — and you go to bed euphoric, thinking: Gosh! Everything is different now!

From now on, my life will be perfect. I will have superhuman patience. I will always be in the mood to pray. I won’t have road rage and I’ll never skip church. The whole world will look brand-new.

But then you wake up the next morning. You have a euphoria hangover. And the whole world looks, well, a whole lot like it did back when you were wearing your old glasses.

Depressingly, the world is still the same old world, and you’re still the same old you.

I am perenially guilty of this. Every time I go to Communion — conveniently scheduled at the tail end of Mass, so that I can receive it even when I’m late — I walk slowly back to my pew, thinking: Okay. Your flesh is my flesh; your blood is coursing through my veins.

Shouldn’t I FEEL different?

Why doesn’t everything look brand-new?

I’ve been wearing those new glasses for about a month now. They really are just like the old ones; no one has commented on how different I look. The world, too, looks the same as it ever did.

But I know my vision is a little bit clearer than it was before.

For now, I can handle that.

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1 Response to Vision Quest

  1. erathora says:

    Oh, so wise. So true. I’ve definitely had that feeling. “I should be feeling better/acting better/looking better. I don’t? Must not have worked for me.” But even with new glasses it takes awhile to notice your improved vision. The best moments are when one day it hits you. “I can SEE that sign way over there! These glasses are working.” “I didn’t get angry at that ignorant comment–I AM changing.” The best.

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