When I told my colleague that I had to get bifocals, he laughed, “Wow, that’s a kick in the teeth.” I wondered, was it really that bad to need bifocals at 44? Why is aging in our culture perceived with such negativity? Shouldn’t we be honoring the experience, wisdom and fullness that comes from aging?
In a culture that focuses so intently on physical beauty, and that spends so much money and effort to keep the outward signs of aging at bay, I shouldn’t really be surprised by my colleague’s joking response to the fact of my failing eyesight. I am not immune to such pressures. After all, I find myself pining for the years when I could run uninjured, when sleep wasn’t really a priority, and when the lines of stress didn’t show quite so formidably on my face.
My eyes are failing perhaps because I am genetically programmed. The again, maybe my need for bifocals is the result of many years of reading, in the dark, in the light, under covers, in tents, in buses and cars, in libraries, pretty much everywhere. Books and stories have enriched my life, so bifocals just make it possible for me to keep on enriching it. Squinting into the sun on many runs might be the culprit, but I wouldn’t give those runs up for anything. The late nights peering into the dark when I could not sleep — did they make my eyes weak? Whatever the cause, my eyes have allowed me to enjoy the smiles on the faces of my beautiful children, the beauty of Paris, the glory of words, words, words and the wonder of teaching and learning. These failing eyes have let me soak in the love from my husband, and the newness of each phase in the lives of my children.
Far from being a kick in the teeth, my bifocals are curing my whanging headaches, making me a more confident driver, and letting me stay up late, writing deep into the night as I peer into my computer screen in a darkened room while the baby sleeps.