Three days ago I was in a building next to an elevator, talking to a coworker. And then I wasn’t. I was a kid, standing at the elevator in my eye doctor’s office in Bellingham, Washington, waiting with my mom to see Dr. Alan. And then I was back, standing on the 11th floor of a high rise in Chicago. The smell was so specific–I don’t even know what it was–some kind of elevator lubricant?
Smell is one of those weird, powerful things that can be so specifically linked to a memory. I remember walking in a mall once, smelling a perfume that took me to the house of a Bible Study teacher in 6th grade, remembering that she gave us chocolate covered peanuts and had blue toilet water, then flashed back to the moment at hand, walking past the Orange Julius/Wet Seal/Hot Topic mashups.
Today I got an eye exam for the first time in almost 5 years. I’m turning 30 in less than 3 weeks but I still found myself pacing around the office, pretending to peruse frames, trying to hide the fact that I was scared. SCARED. In a doctor’s front office. A shiny, nice, totally open to the outside, good natural lighting, reputable (thank you Google ratings), office.
There’s nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t there for a real reason, just 1) I feel like I need to do doctor-y things at this stage/to close this decade and 2) apparently vision insurance doesn’t roll over and I thought ‘maybe I should see *if* I need glasses.’ Tl;dr: I still have great vision, almost 20/20. Right eye is good, left has a small prescription. Mostly for anti-reflective coating and such.
But at that moment, some weird, repressed prehensile embodiment of my lizard brain was raging in my chest, knocking around violently as the (very nice) assistant blew puffs of air in my eye to check the pressure. I could feel my chin shaking as I tried to rest it in the…cradle? and pushed my forehead against the rest.
I had to actively tell myself “this isn’t some pass/fail test. They are doctors, not SAT proctors.” Multiple times. Again, I’d like to say that this was a reputable, well-lit doctor’s office by my place, everyone was nice, everyone working there was female, no one made me feel stupid but something…something was going on with me, guys.
I talked to the doctor about how I look at screens all day, and how it feels great to softly press on my eyes with a warm washcloth and we did the ‘1 vs 2….how about 3 vs 4….5 vs 6….6 vs 2’ dance with different lenses. I got my eyes dilated, which I truly cannot ever remember doing; its the first time I saw my future as an anime doll was probably not going to happen. Although I think I would make a very cute stuffed owl. MY PUPILS WERE FATHOMLESS OLIVE PITS.
I’ve now spent the rest of the day trying to figure out why I was so freaked out and trying to gently coax myself into relaxing. I took a bubble bath. I did a hair mask. A face mask. I watched 1997’s Cinderella and sang along with Brandi in said bubble bath. I tried, for the first time ever, self-waxing my armpits and was moderately? 60%? successful. And didn’t even scream once…although there was a moment of olive pit dark eye contact with myself in the mirror when I softly whispered “damn” after pulling a particularly vicious strip off.
I ate a fried chicken sandwich at a new restaurant I’d never been to in my neighborhood and tried to hide my ‘playing a demonic extra on a local tv show’ eyes from the waiter. I burned through a whole season of The Office (2) and cleaned out my nightstand, finding 4 different Nando’s punchcards, all with 1 punch.
You know, I just can’t figure it out. I don’t recall ever having a bad experience at Dr. Alan’s office. I honestly don’t even know if it’s Dr. Allen, Alan, Allan (?). I was a kid…I guess I never saw any paperwork. That was just his name. I used to see him twice a year, then once a year and I don’t know that I’ve seen him in…probably over 10 years.
I have zero idea what the actual, medical diagnosis was, but this is what I know:
- My left eye tended to roam when I was tired. If I’m beyond the energy pale now, you might see it, just a little bit. My right eye would steer the ship and my left eye supported the peripheral but was like “don’t put me in, Coach, I prefer to support the team from the bench but still want to wear a jersey.”
- I sometimes had to wear a patch to try and strengthen the bench (left) eye. Also, once I had to have eye drops and I was so bad about getting them that I tried to crawl inside our corner cabinet lazy susan to get away (it was a single cabinet, I don’t know where I thought I was going to make my dramatic Steve McQueen exit) and one of my parents had to sit on me as the other held my eyelid open and I screamed and they had to try and drop EXPENSIVE MEDICINE in my squirmy eyes my god I was a terrible kid why am I telling y’all this, my poor parents deserve a medal.
- I had eye surgery at 2 and at 8 to correct this. Apparently at 8 they cut the muscle so my left eye has a very short leash to roam around at the dog park and can’t make my right eye work so hard. THEY ARE A TEAM WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT.
- I remember laying on our blue/green leather couch and eating saltines. However, this was also the MO for any season of sickness so I might just be remembering the general gig in our house.
- I remember the OR nurse told me to count backwards from 100 and I was trying to tell her about Ellie Mae, our dog—-
- My mom swears that I woke up post-op in recovery, shouting “WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME” (repeatedly, loudly) and she to this day, has never been so embarrassed because, you know, we weren’t the only people in post-op and I am so proud of her because I would have straight up muzzled my kid with surgical tape and defiantly stared at anyone who looked at us.
- My glasses were green and purple and metal and I still have them in a jewelry box at my parents house. They are very round but not like, Harry Potter round. I had a very round face so this was like, circles on circles. But, green is still my favorite color, so that was a cool choice, young me.
- I only remember one person calling me ‘4 eyes’ and that dude was an asshat at the time, but apparently has grown up to be a lovely guy with a family, so I suppose we will forgive him. BUT NOT FORGET.
- Also, my BFF had (and has) glasses so really, her opinion was the only one that mattered.
- Dr. Alan’s office had a fountain outside and my mom would always let me throw a penny in the fountain. I actually really looked forward to my visits because 1) penny fountain wishes are awesome and 2) Dr. Alan was a nice doctor and as a kid that matters when large lenses/machines are in-between your face and his.
- My parents prayed for many, many years that I wouldn’t have to wear glasses and that my eyesight would be healed and not keeping me from pursuing any passions. I played basketball, volleyball and threw implements for Track & Field; I haven’t fallen off the front of a stage (yet) and I’ve never *needed* glasses since 12, so I feel happy to report that those prayers did their work. I’m just not supposed to pass cars on 2-lane roads because depth perception at high speeds is a lot harder than spacing for sports. Also, I feel slightly guilty going into an eye doctor’s office when I don’t *have* to because somehow it feels like I’m voiding prayers.
Are most of y’all’s blogs just you trying to shrink yourself? Because I feel like mine is. Sometimes the moments I feel most alone are when I want to just rest my head on someone else, heartily sigh and watch more of The Office. The days when I hold myself so tightly and professionally together, when I’m scared or I’m challenged or I perform and then come home and I just want someone to take the (again, metaphorical) bags from my hands, guide me to the couch, pull my head on their chest and rub my back and murmur in my ear “you did so good. You held it together so well. I know that was tough for you but damn, you’re doing it so well” and feed me mini Reese’s peanut butter cups.
That’s my tiredness right now. I feel there are so many bags to carry and I just want to set them down and have someone take care of me. Today’s eye exam, literally any kind of doctor stuff, the insurance choices, the rent, the utilities, choosing which way I want Comcast to screw over our bill, the phone carrier, the constantly changing job knowledge, the gym, the gym job, the comedy classes, the performances, the choosing if I want to squeeze myself into 14s or order 16s because I know they’ll be more comfortable, the picking of a tv show in the massive Hulu queue, choosing what type of coffee I’ll buy from the insanely large Jewel selection, what the hell is a 401k should I worry about it, do I get a new computer because mine is almost 5 years old but it’s still working good, do I need this other long underwear because I think this might be the next Snowpocalypse/Chiberia winter, do I wear my hair like this, what is investments/IRAs, do I try to put on makeup today or…it goes on.
AND IT IS EXHAUSTING. I know we all have things. Every one of you who is a mom out there reading this is a champion. Full stop. Every dad. Every comedian, every friend I met overseas, every one I love. There are seasons where we feel more capable of handling the ‘bags.’ I just feel like I’ve been holding mine alone for a long time and am noticing that my fingers are a bit numb. It was my own choice not to share them, but I’m noticing that carrying them alone isn’t going to work out forever.
Long blog post short: I am really excited to see my family in just over 2 weeks. Really really really really really really really really excited. And I hope it’s not too selfish to say that part of the reason is that I want to sit down. Just for 5 minutes. And have someone help me set down those bags, pull me close and murmur that they know. They know.
I just looked up ‘dr alan eye doctor bellingham’ and found Dr. Robert Alan, MD Ophthalmology IS FROM SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! #theofficeFOREVER