I Can See Clearly Now… (Darn It!)
by Mary Ellen Stepanich
Note: This blog isn’t about writing or publishing, but it is about “seeing yourself as others see you,” which is probably good advice for anyone who hopes to succeed in any venue.
First, a little backstory: I have always hated the idea of being cut open. That’s why I resist surgery proposed by any doctor – no matter how good she is or how much I trust him. I remember putting off my hysterectomy until the fibroid tumor was as big as a grapefruit. I postponed the pacemaker implant until I was being hospitalized every 10 weeks for atrial fibrillation and tachycardia, culminating in a massive stroke (from which I recovered completely, thank God).
I’ve been squinting trying to see clearly for a few years now, because my regular eye doctor said he couldn’t make my glasses any stronger until I had cataract surgery. (Actually, he flat out refused.) I even went to one of those eye-doctors-in-the-mall, hoping to get a set of “bootleg” glasses. Boy, was I surprised when the examining optometrist shooed away the avaricious eyeglass salesman: “She cannot buy new glasses until she has her cataracts removed.”
When my nearsighted eyes could no longer read the labels on medicine bottles, even with magnifying glasses, I decided to succumb to the inevitable. I made an appointment with a cataract surgeon, Dr. Pamela Williams, who came highly recommended by my primary care provider. She was “in the network,” so the cost would be manageable. But I wasn’t sure my anxiety level could be managed. I researched cataract surgery online, and the description of the procedure terrified me. (I won’t share it here, but take my word for it – it sounded barbaric!)
The doctor impressed me at our first visit. She was kind and obviously knowledgeable.
More importantly, she seemed genuinely concerned about me. We talked at length about the various types of implants that she might use and finally decided on a near-focus lens that would mimic the nearsightedness I’ve had all my life. We agreed on a date, and I bowed to the inevitable – she was going to slice my eye open with a knife, suck out the clouded lens, and implant a new one that would allow me to see clearly.
I won’t dwell on the surgery itself. Suffice it to say that the “bark was worse than the bite.” In other words, the waiting caused me more pain and anxiety than the surgery itself. (As a matter of fact, all I saw during the procedure was light, surrounded by abstract color patterns.) Shortly after the surgery, my friend drove me home. Once alone in my bathroom, I carefully removed the protective plastic shield covering my eye and looked at myself in the mirror.
I was astonished at what I saw reflected there!
My face was covered in canyon-deep wrinkles that made me look like a 99-year-old hag in a Disney movie. Worse than that, I had a forest of hairs like a tangled bird’s nest sprouting under my chin. How had my friends and neighbors managed to look at me all this time without gagging and throwing up in disgust?
Yes, I can see clearly now, darn it. Life was easier to handle with a soft scrim covering everything – rather like a Doris Day movie. Now, I have to face life as it really is. Worse yet, others will have to see me as I really am.
Maybe I’ll try a burka.
Dr. Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior. She told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior’s a bit wonky.” Her publications include academic journal articles; stories in Good Old Days magazine; a memoir, D is for Dysfunctional … and Doo-Wop; a novel, The Doo-Wops and the B-Flat Murder; and an award-winning radio play, Voices From the Front. Mary Ellen blogs on her website at MaryEllenStepanich.com, and can be reached via e-mail at DrStep@cox.net.