When I first got glasses at age 16, I rediscovered the world. Trees actually had leaves. Lawns revealed their individual blades of grass. Details that had been fuzzy became laser-sharp.
“Wow,” I wondered. “How long have I been missing all this?”
When I last got glasses about two months ago, I discovered … a line. Floating at the lower edge of my vision. Fuzzy and sharp were now a matter of range, position and minor frustration.
“Wow,” I wondered. “How long will I be fumbling with all this?”
Yes, I’ve officially entered Bifocal Country. And in the process, I’ve decided that Ben Franklin’s greatest achievement wasn’t his stove or his electrical experiments – it was his ability to juggle two visual frames of reference at once without going insane.
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF … Hold on, Madison, I have to re-angle this … the blasted paper’s too large to see all at once …”
Teaching my eyes when to dance over and under the line has not exactly been a graceful tango. But somewhere along the line (pardon the phrase), the music clicked. Reflexes adjusted. And that border between far-lenses and near-lenses that had been so annoying became … well, not exactly invisible. But normal, even sometimes forgettable.
That shouldn’t surprise me, I suppose. People get used to anything if it goes on long enough. That’s helpful in a world of situations, from minor eye annoyances to surviving the London Blitz.
But often as not, it’s one of our major problems, too.
We have an ability to edit that would make Hollywood jealous. And boy, do we. Sometimes it’s just a failure to see the everyday with fresh eyes, mentally blurring out a house or tree we’ve walked past a thousand times before. More often, though, we remove the uncomfortable. Not consciously, but by letting it become “normal.”
It might be someone holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road. Or a school shooting headline. Or one more story about those still vulnerable to the virus and its latest mutations. Things that once might have been a punch to the heart – and now, for many, become a moment’s attention and a shake of the head if they’re acknowledged at all.
I know. We’ve all got to survive and find a way to keep going in an often broken world. But we also have to do it without becoming numb. Pain ignored is only pain deferred – it’s not a solution.
Anyone who’s done home repair knows this. It’s easy to ignore a minor drip, a bit of wear, one of the hundred small warning signs around the house that say “fix me.” It becomes background noise … until the day that all that missed maintenance adds up to big problems and bigger repair bills.
Or take our own bodies. The repeated ache that’s “probably no big deal,” the odd lump that “I should get checked out sometime.” We’re busy and everything basically works, right? Until one day it doesn’t, and something that could have been caught early has life-changing consequences.
A person. A home. A society. All need attention. Not obsession or frantic worry, but awareness. An ability to feel and notice pain and then address the cause.
It isn’t easy, Worthwhile things often aren’t. But if we can look beyond our own moment, we can see what needs doing. Maybe even see our way forward to something better.
It’s a matter of focus.
Because unlike bifocals, some lines shouldn’t be overlooked.