“All along, I had been lead to believe that this part of my body was unacceptable; that I had to fight against the natural progression. I had been measuring with the wrong stick.”
By Olive Chan
“Cross-eyed! Cross-eyed!” The kids in the schoolyard mercilessly taunted me. This, unfortunately, was one of my earliest memories at school.
I started wearing glasses when I was six years old. In an attempt to cushion the awkwardness of needing corrective lenses, my mom picked out a pair of Minnie Mouse frames for me. The same ones my best friend from church had–except that mine were pink and hers were white. Apparently, having matching glasses with cartoon mice on the arms would make me like wearing them more. It didn’t.
My grandfather was so nearsighted he was legally blind. Clearly, I’d inherited his genes. At every yearly checkup, my prescription would creep higher. I dreaded seeing the optometrist. Oh, she was a very nice lady. But each visit to her office meant a litany of tests, some stinging eye drops that made the world way too bright, a new prescription and eventually, a thicker pair of glasses that warped the floor for half a day.
Wait till you’re 18, they told me. Your eyes should stabilize by then. I clung to that hope.
I felt ashamed of my poor eyesight. If 20/20 was perfect vision, every year I was falling farther and farther from it. I felt like a failure.
My optometrist retired before I reached 18. I had to find another doctor. My mom asked around and got recommendations for a newer office close to us. It was snazzy and sleek. They had all these gadgets and gizmos that my previous doctor hadn’t had. After they ran their tests, someone sat me down, and with a very serious tone of voice, warned me that because of the extent of my nearsightedness, I was at high risk for retinal detachment.
“If you ever see black floating spots, go immediately to the ER. Or else you might go blind,” they said. Excellent. Not only was I failing miserably at seeing clearly, I was also on the brink of losing my sight at any moment. I hate my eyes, I concluded.
In grade 8, I got soft contact lenses. It gave me a small measure of comfort to be able to hide my visual deficiency from the world. I put them on the first thing in the morning and wouldn’t take them off until I went to bed. Then, in my last year of university, my mom heard of a doctor who fitted hard contact lenses that were supposed to reduce your prescription. I tried it. It was a disaster. My eyes were constantly irritated and the doctor seemed to be mostly there for our money. I wanted to switch back to something else–soft lenses, glasses, anything but those hard contacts. But my prescription had been messed with and now it wasn’t clear what power I really needed.
Around that time, I moved across the country and visited my husband’s optometrist. Her diagnosis was that my eyes were overtired and I needed to wear lower prescription glasses for a while. “Let your eye muscles relax and you’ll be able to see better,” she advised. So I walked around for almost three years in a blurry world, waiting for my eyes to “stabilize.” All the while, my frustration mounted. I felt ridiculous whenever I was out in social settings because I never quite knew who to wave to, or who was saying hi to me from a distance. Then I got pregnant, and even though I was told that my prescription could change after I gave birth, I went ahead and bought a pair of new glasses that would let me see clearly. I was sick of fuzzy living.
Ten months after my baby was born, I went for another eye check-up. This time it was with a doctor we’d looked up in our new neighbourhood. “I’m 31 years old,” I said to him, “Why are my eyes still changing? I thought that was supposed to stop 13 years ago!”
His reply surprised me. “You know, it doesn’t matter to me what your prescription is,” he said, “as long as your eyes are healthy. And your eyes look great.” I was floored. Right in that little examination room, grace flooded into my world.
For the first time in my life, someone was telling me my eyes were OK. All along, I had been lead to believe that this part of my body was unacceptable; that I had to fight against the natural progression. I had been measuring with the wrong stick. Now that I understood what was actually important, it seemed ludicrous to me that all my life, I had felt bad about myself for something I really had no control over.
These days I’m no longer ashamed to wear my glasses. I’m more accepting of my eyes now.
I’ve discovered a gentler way of seeing.
Dear SheLoves friends:
- What are you perhaps not seeing about yourself or your circumstances?
- Where do you need fresh perspective?
- Any other thoughts?
Olive is an artsy optimist who grew up in Toronto and spent a couple years in China before settling in Vancouver. Her favourite place in the whole wide world is her home. On Easter weekend of 2008, the love of her life, Tim, proposed with a goat, instead of a diamond ring. These days, she splits her time between writing for www.timandolive.com (they just released their first ebook called, “Fight With Me: How We Learned to be Married”) and caring for their daughter, Alena. A contemplative at heart, she aspires to be a conduit of grace, rest and beauty in this hurried and chaotic world.
Photo credit: Caitlinator