I’ve recently gotten new glasses. Not just new frames, but a whole new prescription. These days, I apparently need help seeing both far away and close up, so for the first time, I’ve switched to progressive lenses (which is a fancy kind of bifocals). The need for close up vision correction is something new (hello, 40s, what delightful new experiences you keep bringing me!), though I’ve been noticing that something is different for at least a year now.

So as I’ve been going through the new glasses process--going to the ophthalmologist, picking out frames, adjusting to wearing the progressive lenses--it has occurred to me (‘cause, you know, writer) that perhaps all this physical vision-related stuff is happening now for a reason, an “as above, so below” kind of reason. In other words, there’s a pretty damn obvious metaphor happening here that I want to call out. Let’s go metaphor diving, shall we?

In general, I’m at a stage in my life where things no longer look quite the same, where what previously seemed like clear assumptions and expectations have become fuzzier and harder to see. And I’ve finally gotten to the point where that fuzziness is no longer acceptable--I’m tired of adjusting, of compensating, of waiting for things to reveal themselves to me. I want to take more ownership of the process and see if I can make things clearer. I think that my recent resolve to finally go and get new glasses has been a physical manifestation of trying to own this process of soul-searching and identity work that I’ve been in the midst of. It’s not like now that I have new glasses I will suddenly “see the light” and know firmly and exactly what it is I’ve been put on this earth to do and be able to start doing it with great ease and satisfaction (and compensation)--but I am at least now taking another step and claiming responsibility for my own clarity.

Over the last nearly two years, I’ve been in a process of trying to look at things differently, change my perspective, and actively invest in seeing things both in the past and in the future in new and hopefully clearer ways. Yet all this time I have had the same glasses, which certainly got me better clarity, but not as much as I could have had. Those glasses helped me see far away, bring some of the big picture into sharper focus, and look farther down the path at the horizon. They were flattering frames, a complimentary color and shape for my face, but they made no particular statement (beyond “I don’t wear contacts”). They made me look professional, vaguely fashionable (I hope), but that’s about it.

My new glasses continue to help me see far away, big-picture stuff, but even yet more clearly. They also now help me to see close up, to look at little details, and more importantly to see things that are really close to me that might have been hard to look at before. The progressive lenses are certainly something I’ve had to get used to; I’ve lost some of my peripheral vision (I have to actually turn my head now to see things clearly--I have to really WANT to look at what’s hovering fuzzily around the edges) but I’ve also made up for that loss by a frankly astonishing new clarity in what is right in front of me. (It’s always the same; you never realize how much you were missing until you finally focus correctly). They’re much more intentional glasses: I can now see whatever I choose to look at much more clearly, but I have to actually choose to look at it directly for best results.

My new glasses not only act different, they look different: the new frames are bigger and bolder (at least one pair--I actually have TWO pairs now, a chunky, colorful plastic everyday pair for when I’m feeling more outrageous and bold, and a thinner, metal, more subtle colored alternate pair for when I want to look more upscale). I really wanted more obvious frames; I want (at least sometimes) to be more obvious about the kind of identity shifts I’m making. The funny thing is, over the last few weeks as I’ve worn the glasses around, almost no one has noticed that I’ve changed frames until I’ve told them. (Or if they have noticed, it hasn’t inspired commentary.) I’m not sure if this has a direct metaphorical application or not...maybe it just means that shifts that I think are obvious and meaningful are only so to me, not to other people, so I really should stop worrying about what other people think. Apparently whatever I’m doing now is sufficiently right and appropriate so that no one is concerned enough to call me on it. Actually the only one that did notice right away was Eli--he looked at me the day I got home with them and said something like “hey, mom, you got new glasses! I don’t mean to say this in a mean way, ‘cause I think they’re cool, but they’re kind of nerdy.” (Which totally made me laugh because a) he’s right on, and b) as I told him, nerdy is something that’s more than ok by me.)

So I’m still adjusting to the new glasses (and to the new me)--sometimes I get headaches or disorientation still, though I’m assured these will pass. But even with the inevitable headaches and disorientation that accompany this process, it’s great to have such an obvious reminder, right there on my face every day, that it’s time for exploring new perspectives now, time to look at things more intentionally and close up. Time to commit to seeing clearly.