I got my first pair of glasses in the fifth grade, starting off my years of Extreme Ugliness. (I got braces the same year, and although my mother let me pierce my ears as consolation, it didn't do much for my looks.) But the glasses did make a huge difference in my myopic life -- I still remember the shock at putting them on for the first time and seeing threads in the carpet, and individual leaves on trees. Things that I knew were there if you were up close to them, but never knew that people could ordinarily see them. Being fairly stubborn and logical, even as a kid, I had come up with all these explanations for why pictures in books looked a certain way even though the world never looked that way to me: I saw stop lights as three splayed-out starry blobs, not as three perfect discs -- but I figured that was too hard to draw. It never occurred to me (or to anyone else) that I might need to have my vision checked until I was seated at the back of the classroom and didn't even know how many math problems were written on the chalkboard.

So fast forward from age 10 to 39. Over the past few months the natural aging process that affects the focusing muscles in the eyes started kicking in big time. Over the summer, frustrated with how tired my eyes were feeling at the end of every day, I somehow figured out that I could read in bed without wearing my lenses or glasses. The distance from face to knee while half sitting, half lying in bed, while looking at the average font size used in contemporary hardback fiction books, is apparently the perfect focusing distance for my now aging eyes. Other close-distance work (reading other kinds of books, or reading at the desk, or reading on the computer) is a little more awkward. It's not bad enough yet as to need reading glasses on top of my existing contact lenses, as was confirmed at my annual optometry appointment today. We adjusted my Rx a little and I'll do some eye exercises, continue to shift my desk chair a bit, maybe wear my glasses more than my contacts, that sort of thing, for a few more years at least.

But in the frustration of realizing all these sudden changes (which are hard not to see as declines no matter how typical they are) I have to also celebrate the pretty amazing fact that I can now read without any glasses at all, at least some of the time. I'd forgotten what that was even like!