An Evolution of Eyeglasses

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About every4-5 years I buy a new pair of eyeglasses. I have progressive lenses (a trifocal lens without the lines). In the past, I have looked for the smallest lens my prescription would allow. I picked frames that I thought would be the most practical without being completely boring. Guess which pair I just bought recently? If you can’t guess, it is the robin egg blue pair that are larger than the other two pairs combined.

My family doesn’t know who I am anymore. Seriously. When I showed them the glasses for the first time, my husband and daughter stared open mouthed, only to eventually utter a few unintelligible sounds. When they finally found their words, they both admitted independently that they thought the glasses were pretty hip, and that is what was throwing them off.

I wasn’t offended. I knew they had more personality than what I usually pick. My question was, do they have more personality than me? I’m not threatened by that possibility. But I wanted to know what I was up against. The next day I took the question back to the experts. Yes, they assured me, with time I will be able to live up to my glasses. With practice, with more gregarious hand gestures, with a louder volume, I can OWN these glasses.

And so I’m easing into them. I wear them for a few hours at a time. And just in the house. But soon I’ll venture out with them on. I’ll avoid eye contact with others at first so as to not shake my confidence. I’ll pretend like I was born to wear these glasses until eventually I believe it.

I think this is going to be a good experiment. Maybe these glasses are who I am. I just didn’t know it until now.

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The Perfect Dog: an epilogue

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The Perfect Dog struggled to stand up. I helped and held her while she found her footing. She stumbled outside. When I tried to slow her down, she would only move faster, stumbling all the more. We reached the back yard and I sat nearby. She promptly relieved herself. She then walked a few steps and stopped, staring off into nowhere. I wondered if confusion had set back in. I continued to watch. She stayed there for several minutes, not moving. Then it struck me. She wasn’t confused. The Perfect Dog was soaking up her surroundings. The wind was lightly blowing, bringing all kinds of scents to her. I could see her nose twitch like it was tapping out a melody. The trees rustled, as if to suggest birds and other wildlife were just beyond reach. Her ears moved to capture as many of those sounds as she could.  There The Perfect Dog stood. There the Perfect Dog stayed. She was still but alert. Did she know? She must. She stayed until her legs began to wobble. She wagged her tail a few times as if to say thank you, then slowly and happily headed back toward the house. What a moment to experience. My heart was bursting with pain and gratitude to be its witness.

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Days have past since that occurred. I got Lucy inside and settled down, and immediately wrote about what I had just seen. I didn’t know what kind of time I would have with her, but I knew what I had witnessed needed to be remembered. I had never seen her stand that still for that long in such an alert state. I couldn’t help but think she was taking this in – her yard, her life – while she still could.

My Perfect Dog has passed away. She had three days of struggling, some hours where death seemed imminent and some hours where she actually seemed to be feeling better. Part of my sitting with her included reading to her The Perfect Dog, parts 1, 2 and 3. More than once, she would lift her head and look at me as if to say, “Stop blubbering on so.” But I couldn’t help it. I wanted her to know how much I loved her. I couldn’t expect to adequately convey my love for her in words or in such a short period of time. It’s a cumulative thing. But the compulsion was there nonetheless. The compulsion to make sure, to be crystal clear, to avoid any regrets down the road because you recognize that each minute counts.

As difficult as it is, I think it’s a privilege to be with one’s pet for his or her last breath. While I’ve been through this several times, this is the first time I noticed the last physical breath. Maybe it’s because each breath of hers was labored and therefore obvious. But there it was – one breath she was with us, and then she was gone. I held my breath wondering if there would be one more, but I already knew the answer. She would not breathe again.

I still head to the pantry to feed her. I still go to the door to let her out or in. I still look for her, listen for her, wait for her. I imagine that will be the case for awhile. Fourteen years of these habits don’t die as quickly as the ones who inspired the habits do. Yet I find myself grateful for that. I like to think of her as often as I do, even when it makes me cry. I am thankful that for over 14 years she was happy and healthy, and for a mere three days she was not. What a tremendous gift that is. Thank you, Perfect Dog. I love you. To the moon and back and then some.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Later this week I will turn 46. It is not a particularly exciting birthday, but what is note-worthy is having your child turn 21, which also happens this week. How did this guy…

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become this guy?

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I can deny gravity’s impact on my body. I can ignore the aches and pains. I can allow my increasingly faulty vision to blur the crow’s feet around my eyes. But I cannot deny that my little boy will soon be able to legally buy alcohol. And that is a strange feeling. I don’t feel old enough to have a 21 year old, and yet I have watched him grow up. I don’t feel old enough to have a child who is a junior in college, and yet I have seen the tuition bills. I don’t feel old enough to go out with my son for a beer, and yet that is exactly what we will be doing soon to celebrate his birthday.

I used to think of 46 as quite old. I remember in 8th grade discussing the year 2000. It was 1982 and I was 13. I did the math to figure out how old I would be at the momentous occasion. 30? Wow. Life would practically be over, I thought. When I was 18, my mom told me that she and my dad were separating. She was 41 at the time. My thought was, “Why divorce at this stage of your life?” I wondered what she could possibly want that would cause her to make such a radical change. At 18 I was still thinking of people in their 30’s and 40’s as old. Coasting through life. Boring. Maybe even stagnant.

Of course I would learn that those decades are anything but boring. They are ripe with opportunities to learn and grow. My 30’s was a decade of self-discovery. I explored interests and discovered talents I didn’t know I had. I carved out the life I wanted as I raised my children, and I lived it with great pleasure. I became increasingly less interested in what I was supposed to do and instead focused on what I wanted to do. I took on leadership roles in volunteer positions and studied areas of interest including a foreign language. One of the best opportunities was a weekly visit my daughter and I made to my grandparents, who lived about an hour away. The stories I heard while we ran errands, the recipes I learned while we prepared lunches, the affection I received as they faced their mortality, these were priceless gifts. The visits started off as social in nature. As my grandparents aged and their abilities lessened, the visits became a lifeline for them. It was a humbling transition for all of us I think. And it was a time that was rich and full and sacred. Those weekly visits that lasted almost a decade still shape the person I am today.

As I neared 40, I began intensive counseling to understand myself on a deeper level. I wanted to face my demons and battle them. I learned how patterns that had developed early in my life were still impacting the way I handle stress, conflict, and disappointment. I became empowered to be the person I want to be. My demons weren’t nearly as complex as I had assumed. It was hard and sometimes painful work. It wasn’t up to others to change. I could change. And I did change. I strove to be healthier physically. Having always abhorred exercise in the past, I was now playing recreational soccer frequently and I loved it. I was eating better. I was stronger mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt better at 40 than I had at 25.

My 40’s is proving to be a decade of personal accomplishments. I began full time work again. After a few years in a job that was not my passion, I went back to school. Three years of full time schooling followed and I graduated. I don’t typically put much stock in degrees or credentials because, well, let’s be honest, a piece of paper does not guarantee much of anything. I have known people with impressive resumes who turned out to be completely ineffective, and I have known people with virtually no resume at all who amazed and inspired me. But I worked hard for my degree and I am proud of it.

In the midst of these wonderful accomplishments, it should be noted that there has been plenty of shit too. There are days that I seem to forget everything I have learned. There are challenges I don’t feel prepared to face. There are disappointments and hurts and fears. I have days where I don’t want to get out of bed. And I still manage to make plenty of mistakes. But because it’s nearly my birthday, I am celebrating the good today. My life is far from perfect, but it is my life. And I am grateful for all of the years in it thus far. My grandparents lived into their 90’s. Maybe I have recently entered my life’s second half. If that is the case, I still have so much to live, learn, and enjoy. I am still young. And yet I am not.

There are things about aging that I don’t like. I don’t like having wrinkles deepen to the point of where they never fully disappear. I don’t like needing a longer recovery time after my soccer games. I don’t like having to be more intentional about what I eat so that my clothes continue to fit. But I do love how I’ve gotten to know who I am and what I want. I love that I’ve become gentler toward myself and others. I love that I know what I am looking for in relationships. And I love that my streaks of white hair look like “blonde” highlights. To being 46 and to my boy, of whom I couldn’t be more proud, here’s to the both of us – CHEERS!