What is that old saying we all used to say in elementary school? “Sticks and stones may break my bones but….” I don’t think I have to finish it, do I?
Last week I heard two words that broke me – a little. Okay, maybe break is a bit excessive but these two words jarred my current reality in an alarming way. My recent trip to the eye doctor was an eye-opening experience in more ways than one.
Habits Are Hard To Break:
“Not sure how it is for you all, but I hate re-inventing anything.”
When I moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 21 years ago, my then-husband found us an optometrist. For those not entirely clear on the difference, an optometrist is not an ophthalmologist. The latter has gone to actual medical school. Still, for many, an optometrist is their primary eye-care specialist and their services typically cover general eye-care needs. Well — until they don’t.
Not sure how it is for you all, but I hate re-inventing anything. So, once that yearly optometrist appointment was set in motion, I stopped actively thinking about it. A mindless routine was established: Wait until I reach the last few pairs of daily contact lenses, squeeze in an eye-doc visit for a fresh script, and round it up by a re-order off Contacts Direct with overnight delivery. See? No thought required, minimum inconvenience. Plus, the last-minute, dire circumstances of potentially being left sightless for a few days deliver quite a dollop of dopamine.
The Voice Inside My Head:
“every time I left his office, I thought I probably need to see a real doctor at some point”
Except. For years, every time I left his office, I thought I probably should see a real doctor at some point. Maybe I should find an ophthalmologist for next year. But the tried-and-true mindless routine would take over instead. And since I had, as usual, procrastinated to the point of leaving myself blind and unable to navigate my environment by waiting until I am out of eye-seeing products, I left myself no wiggle room to find and potentially wait for an appointment with a new practitioner.
Thankfully the Universe knew I needed extra supervision and interceded on my behalf. The cycle was finally broken when my partner informed me he could not make his upcoming ophthalmologist appointment due to a work travel conflict. Yes, I am easily trapped in the ease of a pre-existing, ongoing cycle of behavior. But I am also capable of noticing and taking advantage of new opportunities that are presented. My partner gifted me his appointment time and I still had an entire month’s worth of contact lenses strewn about my bathroom cabinet’s drawer. The signs aligned. It was time to break free of the mindless cycle.
So, I went to my first appointment at a medical doctor’s practice. I was curious as to how different the experience would be. Suffice it to say, the entire encounter was novel to me. Her technology alone was heads and shoulders above anything I had undergone over the last two decades. Immediately, I knew I had made the right move
Cataracts On The Horizon:
“What a way to get me to my 70s – emotionally – lickety-split.”
Early in the exam, I mentioned the notion of Lasik eye surgery. And here’s where she threw her first punch. “You are not a candidate for that surgery because it is clear you will have Cataracts in your 70s.” Ouch. What a way to get me to my 70s — emotionally — lickety-split. Not going to lie, that word penetrated my psyche. It shook me and my typical “I identify as much younger” mindset. No matter how hard I try I cannot get that word to fit my delusional attitude.
But wait, it gets better. Or worse in this case.
A few days later, I discovered a missed phone call, an unheard voicemail, and an in-your-face-we-need-to-reach-you text. My iPhone is configured to dump all calls to SPAM if the number still needs to be added to my contact database. For the most part, I find this to be a feature I enjoy. However, every now and again, it makes it near impossible to reach me when I want to be reached.
I phoned back. Upon hearing the doctor’s voice, I quipped; “Okay, what’s wrong? I know you are not calling me to be my very best friend because you found me so delightful in your office.” She giggled and gently laid out the news — and with it came the second swing. “I’d like to do further testing on your optic nerve. I want to rule out … glaucoma.”
Old People Words – Cataracts. Glaucoma.
“These words left me feeling weak and vulnerable.”
Those are old-people words, aren’t they? Why are those words swirling around in conversations directed at me? Well, if cataracts is an old-people word, glaucoma is its flipping a-hole partner. This new eye doctor is really wrecking my deranged perception of my age.
I pushed back. “What happens if we just leave it alone and see what happens?” I asked naively. “Well, if left unattended, you will go blind,” came back the unaffected response. Apparently, glaucoma can be prevented or managed but it cannot be undone. Really makes cataracts shine, doesn’t it?
I will tell you that, these slurs directed at me hurt way more than many of the actual physical blows I gladly received and gave during my martial arts training days. Those blows made me feel strong, empowered, young, and resilient. These words left me feeling weak and vulnerable.
But like everything in life, time helps us process and heal. As I sit now and ruminate on the reality that my eyes are not the age I wish them to be, I am ready to accept and be grateful. Yes, grateful. Grateful that the Universe intervened and got me to a doctor. Grateful she was thorough. And, most of all, grateful that there is something I can do to help myself. How empowering is that?
And not to be sour grapes… but she did say that if I did Lasik I would still need reading glasses all the time. So phooey on you, cataracts! So, phooey on you, Lasik! You’re not so awesome, after all!