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.
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.