Life Lenses

Something happened a couple weeks ago that I’ve been telling a lot of people about because I thought it was incredulous and funny.  Yesterday something else happened that wasn’t so funny, but it really made me take notice of the two incidents in conjunction and puzzle over what they meant.

Three weeks ago, my dear friend and sister-of-the-heart moved away.  Not just to the next town, but cross country.  She sold me her car, and I’d been driving it for about a week before I noticed that I had never moved my magnetic clip-on sunglasses from my old car (which my son is now driving).  I was already on the road when I realized how sunny it was and how I really wished I’d thought of transferring my sunglasses and the magnetic clip holder into my new car.  Then I remembered I kept a spare pair in my purse in a little case.  While I was driving, I rummaged around in the bottom of my purse until I felt the case.  I managed to get the sunglasses out and clip them on.  All was well.

I pulled into a parking space at my destination and unclipped the sunglasses…and there was only one lens in them.  And I hadn’t even noticed!  Not only had I not noticed when pulling them out of my purse and putting them on, but I did not even notice the whole while I was driving that only my left eye was being shielded from the sun!

The lens was not lost.  I found it lolling around in the bottom of my purse.  The frame of the sunglasses had broken, and the tiny crack had allowed the lens to fall out.  It was nothing a dab of superglue would not fix.  In fact, a lot of long-time broken items waiting for superglue got fixed that day: my fairy got her right wing back, my whirling dervish got his left hand back, and my favorite coffee mug got its liner back.  (You hate to open a superglue tube unless you have enough to warrant it, because as we all know, once you’re finished, it superglues itself shut and you never get another use out of it.  Helpful note:  I discovered they make tiny, single-use superglue tubes.)

Anyway, all was well with my sunglasses and I had a funny story to tell.

Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch talking on the phone to a friend.  I was curled up in a blanket and had not moved in about 45 minutes.  We had just been talking about how rigid some people are about “rules” and how others just go with the flow of the moment with a pure intention.  Suddenly, I felt the sensation that something had fallen down the front of my chest – – like an earring had fallen out.  But before I could even investigate, my whole world tipped askew.  I couldn’t see.  Everything was blurry; I was disoriented, surprised, and confused.  I felt around on my chest for the “earring” and came up with the right lens of my glasses.

How strange that this would happen while I was sitting perfectly still for so long.    I took the glasses off and discovered the tiny screw holding the lens in place had fallen out.  I immediately told my friend I had to hang up and not move; I had to find that tiny screw, even though I could barely see, so I could fix my glasses.  If I moved, the screw would disappear forever, and fixing the glasses would take a lot more time and effort, not to mention I would need to enlist the help of someone to drive me to an eyeglass store (because I can’t see to drive without my glasses).

It was strange how disabling it was with only one lens missing.  In theory, I still had one perfectly good eye.  But the blurriness I was seeing from my right eye was so disorienting and noticeable that it completely overtook everything.  I could close my right eye and see OK, but without depth perception.  It’s also exhausting to try to keep only one eye closed for any length of time.  I had a new appreciation for the invention of the pirate patch.

The miniscule screw was sitting safely on the blanket over my lap; I found it immediately.  Only when I had it safe in hand did I dare move, get up and search for the tiny screwdriver that would put my world back together again.

It was then that I thought of the sunglasses incident from last week.  Both the lenses involved had been the right lenses.  In one case, the absence of the lens was unnoticeable to me – – I went about my business, oblivious that anything was amiss.  In the other case, the absence of the lens was immediately noticed and disabling.

Certainly these two events must hold some profound meaning or message.  One of my mom’s favorite quotes that she had taped by the phone was “Coincidence is a small, everyday miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”

My friend, with whom I’d been on the phone when the lens fell out, thought it might have something to do with perspective – – that I needed to see things with the “right” perspective.  Maybe there was something in my life I’ve been looking at the wrong way.

It is no secret to those who know me well that I have been grieving over the cross-country move of my friend who sold me her car.  I have been grieving for months before she even left.   Sometimes I am surprised by the grief which grips me at odd times and practically strangles the breath out of me – – sometimes for days in which I cannot carry out my normal daily activities.  Other times I was surprised at how I could set the grief aside and get shit done, like helping her rid herself of many of her possessions (including very emotional ones), pack dozens of boxes, make trips to the dump and the hazardous waste disposal site, take her to the emergency room after a scary fall and head injury, and cleaning her house one final time for the new tenants.

We had a speaker at church on Sunday who spoke about getting “stuck” in places emotionally, and how to work through that and flip the negative emotion into a positive message for outlook/action.  Incidentally, the friend who moved teaches this same process, of which I have been audience to more than once.  Obviously I needed a refresher.

The speaker on Sunday talked about her work with prisoners at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution.  Once a week she holds a meditation and mindfulness group, during which there is also time for sharing and deep listening.  She has gotten to know some of these men on a deep emotional level, and she sees their value as human beings.  Normally, the conversations are about what is happening now in their lives and issues they might be dealing with.  It is rare that the subject of the crime they committed to land them in prison comes up.

However, in the week prior, two of the men’s crimes came up, and she learned what had happened, what the situation had been, and the sentencing they had received.  In both cases, both men received a much harsher sentence than was typical for that crime.  One man was African-American; the other was Korean.

She found herself very angry, frustrated, and sad about this, even though the prisoners themselves were at peace with themselves and their situations.  She had been confronted first-hand with the unfairness of sentencing in our society based on one’s race.  She walked around with that ball of rage and blame in her being, knowing there was nothing she could do to reverse what had been done to these men, nor what these men had done to others that had got them in prison.  It did not feel good.  It was not a good space to be in.  She realized she was “stuck.”

So, she sat with her grief, her anger, her sadness.  She acknowledged them.  She gave herself permission and time to feel them.  She didn’t close one eye and try to walk around flat only seeing the positive.  She asked herself, “What do these feelings say about me and who I am?”

The answer:  “I deeply value equality.”

This woman is one who is awake and consciously lives her values every day.  Knowing now how deeply important equality is to her, she could then move forward through her negative emotions and find ways to live equality.  To speak out against inequality.  To fight for equality.  To BE equality.

This message resonated deeply with me.  The previous week I’d felt “stuck” in my grief over the loss of my friend.  All I could think about was how I couldn’t see her every week, or go out for ice cream or Broasted chicken, or go to Lake Michigan together and look for stones, or help her unpack and get her new house set up, or just hang out not saying anything.  About how everywhere I turned I was reminded of the loss: from the moment I woke up in the morning under the blanket she had given me, to opening my eyes to the room she helped me arrange as my own, to when I got dressed in some clothes she had given me, to putting on a necklace that she had made for me, to sitting at the table eating breakfast and looking at the stones we had painted together – – or a mandala I had drawn in one of her classes – – to opening up Facebook and interacting with all the friends I had met through her, to stepping out the door and into the car in which we had gone on so many adventures together.  She was everywhere; yet, she was not here.  I was overwhelmingly sad.

So, what do these feelings say about me and who I am?

Clearly, I deeply value a friendship in which I can completely be myself at all times, whether I’m being silly or serious, sacred or secular, philosophical or practical, laughing or crying, or just quiet.  Where I don’t have to watch what comes out of my mouth, because it’s never misinterpreted.  Where there is no drama.  Where I am respected and admired and loved for just being me.  A friendship like this is rare and precious.  How lucky and blessed I am to have it!  Because yes, even though she is miles away, we still have the friendship.  It is taking a different shape and form, but it is still ours to nurture and treasure and celebrate.

Because I now understand how important this type of friendship is to me, I can move forward through the sadness and find ways to re-shape this friendship, to forge new friendships in this manner, and BE that friend.

This is a pattern that has plagued me for a good part of my life.  I can be overtaken by such a deep, soul-filling sorrow.  Sometimes I can name a cause of it and other times I cannot.  Intellectually I know I have things to be happy about, that my life is full of blessings, that I am a strong woman, creative and funny and goofy, I have good contributions to make, people love and appreciate me.  But it’s like when one lens fell out of my glasses: all I can focus on is the fact that I cannot focus, life is blurry…and if I try to ignore it and walk around with one eye closed, it is exhausting and flat, and I’m likely to bump into things and hurt myself or somebody else.  I just need to sit quietly for a while and know that it will pass – – that I always find that tiny screw and am able to put my world into right focus again.  Tomorrow half my world might be dark, but I might drive around just fine and not even notice.

The lenses through which we experience the world are always changing; check your prescription often.






2 thoughts on “Life Lenses

  1. Beautifully written, Jean. Your voice is so real, true, and inviting. You embody the friendship of which you speak. This blog post feels like a spacious, messy, loving, fun friend. Thanks for pointing me here. I’m glad my talk was helpful, but know this: you were listening to your own inner wisdom. Hugs!


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