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It took me a long time to get used to the idea of laser eye surgery. I remember when I first heard about it, back in the day, perhaps 15 years ago when it first came out, and thinking “holy shit!”

The idea of some laser machine fixing my eyeballs so that I would never have to wear glasses or contacts again was so amazing. The very idea that something like that could even be a remote possibility was almost too delicious of an idea to really be true. I remember discussing it with my father, and both of us being in awe of the concept. It gave me an almost reverential view of medical technology. I thought, “oh, I’ll give it ten years, and let them work out the kinks”.

So when I ended up in the laser eye center on the date my eyeballs were to be lasered into shape, approximately 15 years after the fact, and the doctor asked me how long I was thinking of getting laser eye surgery, I answered truthfully. He didn’t seem surprised, and he didn’t say much to me, he just squinted down at my file. My file was pages upon pages of beautiful color renditions of my eyeballs. There were rainbows everywhere, representing the many inaccuracies in my vision picked up by some kind of wavefront analyzer. The rainbows must’ve meant something to him, or at least I hoped. At the very least, he was doing a good job of squinting down at the information and had a very good thoughtful doctor expression plastered on his face. He looked up at me, and smiled. “Very good!” he said. “All set.”

For years my eyeballs have been the bane of my existence. I have been so blind, that I cannot even find my glasses without my glasses. You can imagine how this might present a problem in life. I have worn contacts since I was 13, so that would be wearing contacts straight for 18 years since I am now the ripe old age of 31. For 18 years straight, I have been able to pretend that I have 20/20 vision, simply by conducting a twice daily ritual that I used to refer to as “putting in” or “taking out my eyeballs”. At times, this ritual would cause great angst, since the contact lenses did not always cooperate. They were not reliable friends. At these times, I would be reminded that I was indeed quite blind, and unable to see farther then 10 inches from my face. The contact lenses got dirty easily from the myriad of activities that I do that involve copious amounts of dirt, and they stuck to my eyes or felt like sandpaper. Occasionally, they would decide to fall out at inappropriate times, such as driving on the freeway at seventy miles an hour, or when I was away for the weekend at a friend’s house and didn’t have another pair of contacts with me.

Contact lenses became a further hassle when, at the age of 27, I was told I had astigmatism and needed better, differently shaped lenses that also happened to cost twice as much. And my eyes, weary of the struggle of having things put in them each day, began to get annoyed sooner and sooner with the contact lenses. This meant I had to throw them away earlier in their life span, and despite numerous coaching sessions between the eyeballs and the lenses, nobody seemed to like each other anymore.

There were always the glasses. Glasses never had a problem with either of the eyeballs, they tended to be rather easygoing. On with the glasses, wow I can see, off with the glasses, oh shit I’m blind- where are my glasses? The glasses always had to be carefully set directly near me whenever they came off, or else I might not live another day. In fact, in matters of life or death, my struggle with the eyesight ranked high. During my hippie days, I was positive that the world was going to end shortly. Probably, this would entail running and yelling and building forts in the woods, at which point my stash of canned goods and underused backpacking equipment was going to come in great handy. But what was I going to do about the eyesight? During the Armageddon, when my last box of contact lenses ran out, and my last pair of glasses were stepped on during some frenzied stampede, what was I going to do? I would be useless. A burden to someone, or worse, left to flail around helplessly or starve to death while natural selection quickly plucked me out of the gene pool.

So I wasn’t surprised when filling out the initial questionnaire at the laser eye center, to discover that the number 4 checkbox under “Reasons Why You Want to Have LASIK” was indeed “safety in an emergency or other situation where there is no time to find glasses or contacts”. I checked that one with a flourish.

On surgery day, they gave me enough Valium to sink a ship. Well, not to sink a ship, that’s an exaggeration. But enough Valium to allow someone to willingly stick their eyeballs under a huge laser machine, for re-shaping. Because no matter how many times people tell you it’s the best thing that ever happened to them, and no matter how many times you read the statistics that claim 99% satisfaction, there is nothing natural about having laser beams shape your eyes. And even as the Valium set in, and I laid on a chair in the bone chilling temperatures of the “surgical suite”, there was a tiny voice somewhere hollering at me “Nooooooo! What are you doing????? Ruuuuuuuuun! Laser beams + eyeballs = TERRIBLE IDEA!!!!!”

I couldn’t feel much, but everything went gray. This perhaps is the most frightening moment, in a lost gray world, and there is some pressure on your eyeball. It is remarkably unpleasent, but not painful. I definitly wondered if I would ever see again. Soon, the lasers are working, dull orange pulses of blurry light, I try to watch them and hold my eyes steady as they get to work. They tell you it doesn’t matter, that if you move your eyes, the laser beams have a tracking system.

When it was over, in an amazingly quick burst of time, I sit up, and am surprised to see on the clock above the chair that it is 10:30. Before, the clock could’ve been a smoke detector, for all I knew, a white blurry blob. Otherwise, I’m in a Valium dream, and there are doctors shaking my hand and telling me “congratulations” and to “enjoy my new eyes”. I feel like a bionic woman, half woman, half robot, and that the lasers have someone shaped who I am. I stumble out into the waiting room wearing black goggles, and my driver, who also happens to be my boyfriend, collects my things, gathers me up, and gets me to the car somehow, wisely suggesting we take the elevator instead of the stairs on the way down.

Now it is the following day. I have 20/20 vision. I have normal human eyeballs. I’m glad I took the day off, not because I needed it, but because I wanted to wander around the city, and look at the world as if seeing it for the first time. Because it was my eyeballs, by themselves, seeing it. There will never be any stumbling around looking for glasses. There will never be anymore dreading of campfires, because the smoke will ruin my contacts. I can sleep over at anyone’s house I want if I have too much to drink, without paying big bucks for a cab because I don’t have my contact stuff with me. Oh, it will be the little things! And, the big things too, like Armegeddon. Bring it on!

 

 

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Over the years I have tried on numerous occasions to get in shape and lose weight. Each time was a collasal failure due to my tendency to completely overindulge in everything, and my initial overzealousness would end up doing me in right away as I rushed into an intensive boot camp style of exercise combined with overwhelming restrictions on my diet. Often, I would successfully lose 5 pounds and then feel skinny, so I would resume my normal eating habits right away. Then gain 10 pounds. You get the idea.

I would kick off each “diet” the same way. Feeling morose about my appearance, I would head to the grocery store and purchase some kind of glossy fitness magazine. You know, the kind the says “Lose 8 pounds this month!” and “Drop a dress size in 2 weeks!” on the cover. The idea is that simply by purchasing these magazines, you are being proactive about the situation. Then I would fill up my cart with what I perceived to be “health food”: almonds and veggies and brown rice and tofu and organic cheesy poofs. The latter is still cheesy poofs for all intents and purposes, disguised in more subdued packaging and with less Red # 40. Then I would stock my kitchen, eat a measly salad, and head to the gym where I went through the motions on the elliptical trainer for as long as I could possibly stand.

After a few days of this regime I would be extremely weary of being on my “diet”. I would rather hang myself than get on the elliptical trainer, and would head out to the bar, the glossy fitness mag tossed in the recycle bin or stuffed in a corner. Visits to the gym eventually tapered off completely.

Another interesting facet of this process was that I seemed to fail to grasp an important concept- eating in moderation. I assumed incorrectly that since I was eating organic cheesy poofs and almonds, that I could eat as much as possible and it wouldn’t “count”. I also gave myself a free pass to eat whatever I wanted each time I successfully completed a workout. Case in point: yoga class. For nearly a year, I attended a yoga class with my good friend Beth. Immediatly after the class, we would head across the street to a thai restaurant and consume a giant vat of Pad Thai. Then we would move our little party next door to the bar, where I would drink 5 beers. It didn’t matter, because I had “worked out”. Never mind that hatha yoga practically burns the same amount of calories as sleeping! The end result was that I became fatter and more flexible. Awesome.

An especially fond weight loss memory of mine is when I was in my mid 20’s and having just moved to a new city, was spending a lot of evenings drinking beer and socializing with new friends. I must’ve been consuming a ridiculous amount of beer throughout my escapades around town, because when I decided to switch to light beer, I lost 5 pounds within a few months with no other dietary changes. If you think about it, it makes sense, if I drank 5 beers a night, that was a caloric savings of 250 calories/day. Since you need to cut out 3500 to lose a pound- I would lose about a pound every 15 days with this “diet”.

So I’m not really sure what happened. I don’t know what clicked in my brain that suddenly gripped me with the desire to get in shape. I don’t know how I managed to educate myself about portion control. I’m still not sure how all that weight came off and who this person is that I see in the mirror lately. But here I am, thirty years of age and completely addicted to exercise.

I am so addicted to exercise, that I work out six days a week, sometimes seven. I still go to yoga class, but I also go to spin class, strength training class, play on a soccer team, play tennis, swim a mile at least once a week, run, attend pilates at 6:30 in the morning. I still buy the glossy fitness magazines, but now I actually do the suggested workouts listed inside. I can do regular push ups like a man. I can hold side plank for several minutes without collapsing. I will run 5 miles during my lunch break at work, and horseback ride bareback all evening. I treat my body like I am in boot camp. If I am hungover, I force myself to run in the hot sun and sweat out the booze. It’s as if I am a college hockey player caught drinking too much the night before, and I am also my own coach who makes me run the morning after. I answer to myself, and only myself, and somehow myself keeps insisting that I keep up this regimen. And keep it up I have, for nearly 2 years now. I am gripped by a terrifying and irrational fear that if I miss one workout, that will be it for me and all those pounds will return instantly.

I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here, I am just completely amazed by my self discipline. Every now and then it strikes me. I wonder, how long can I possibly keep this up? My new muscles are demanding. They want attention, all the time. And I can’t believe I spent the good part of my 20’s, when my youth was all aglow, overweight and sucking down way too many microbrews. Hey, better late than never.

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