14 February 2010

Hindsight, and 20/20

Dear Reader,

If you missed the last post, check it out. I've fixed the link. It's my Valentine's Day present to you, my Reader. If you wish something for this ragged crow, wish for me a vampire like the one in the video--handsome, smirking, dangerous.

I had LASIK on Friday afternoon. It's Sunday now. I thought about writing on Thursday, dear Reader, but the truth was that I was too scared, and if I've learned anything in these long years it's that I don't write when I'm scared.

The discloure one signs before the procedure is the most frightening thing I've ever signed (with the ready admission that I did not sign for a mortgage during the bubble, which also would have counted). It includes gems like:

"I understand that, in using the microkeratome, instead of making a flap, an entire portion of the central cornea could be cut off, and very rarely could be lost."

"I understand that it is possible a perforation of the cornea could occur, causing devastating complications, including loss of some or all of my vision. This could be caused by internal or external eye infection that could not be controlled with antibiotics or other means."

The risks do not end when the surgery is over. Infection could take my sight. I am, for a year, more susceptible to eye injury, and should avoid things like snowboarding, or base-jumping, or car crashes.

Taken this morning. Here's looking at you, kid.

So here's the bright side. My vision is now 20/15 with both eyes, and 20/20 in each eye individually. A client once called me perspicacious--the highest compliment I ever received from a client (other than being hired away by one, natch). For those Readers who are not walking dictionaries, perspicacious is defined here. I have now completed that prophecy, nearly a decade later.

Because, as many of you know, I've wanted to get LASIK for about a decade. I've waited patiently, and not so patiently, for my prescription to settle down (it is dangerous to do it too soon--its effects can wear off quickly if your eyes are still changing). And in the last few years, as the axis of my astigmatism slowly rotated to a stop, I became increasingly eager.

Besides, I thought, wouldn't it be nice to abandon these glasses I've worn for 20 years? Wouldn't it be nice to part of the pretty crowd at those pool parties, without needing to squint, or put floppy contacts the size of dimes in my eyes? Wouldn't it, I thought, be easier to find that vampire above, if I weren't saddled with these ugly glasses, a kind of boy Ugly Betty in better clothes?

Glasses have become a part of my identity as an adult. Indeed, I've worn them since childhood everyday, from the moment I awake to the moment I sleep. There were only a few times, when I was wearing contacts, that I have ever seen myself clearly in the shower. I couldn't wear sunglasses because it meant having to put contacts in; contacts were difficult because my astigmatism meant that contacts only corrected about 2/3 of the time, and the other 1/3 they were uncomfortable, blurry, and irritating.

A deeper part of me believed, and believes still, that perhaps I'm single on this Valentine's Day because I wear glasses, and guys don't make passes at those who wear glasses. This is a dangerous rabbit hole, Reader. I know. And it's why I didn't want to write about it. This sorry crow wanted to keep his fears to himself, and disguise his aching heart with petty vanity.

The surgery was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, other than coming out. I have a phobia about eyes, and for a week before my surgery, my dreams were stalked by knife-wielding black-shrouded shapes, cutting at my eyes. Once I woke gasping for air, the quiet of my bedroom shaken as if I had just screamed.

I was so stressed, in fact, that I got a cold on Friday, and was sniffling and sneezing. I assure you, dear Reader, that I was abjectly terrified that I would sneeze during the procedure, and cause the laser to remove cornea, as previously disclosed. But let me not shirk from my terror. I will go through the maelstrom, and show you all.

There are two parts of the surgery: the cutting of the corneal flap, and the actual lasering of the prescription onto the surface of the lens. I would like the say that one is worse than the other, but I will say that each carries its own terror. (Actually, as I recount this, my hands are sweaty and cold. I really was genuinely frightened, and even the retelling is facing a fear.)

The scariest part of the flap cutting is the part where you go blind. It's not for long, for but for a terrible moment the lights of that laser go out, and the world is blackness. Every part of me cried out: WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOURSELF, SABLE?! Then the world comes back, blurry and hazy, and you think: "Well, if this is all I can ever see again, that's better than the blackness."

Then the actual lens shaping is a bit better, except for the CRACK CRACK POP POP of the laser (no elegant phaser sounds, no James-Bond-esque blue lasers, this thing is like a lightning maker, as big as a grocery checkout lane). The smell of burning hair is unnerving. The process lasts about 10 seconds, which feel like an eternity. At one point, as I focused on the light above my head, it kept moving around and dancing like mad. "I'm moving your eye," said my Doctor. "Doctor," I replied, "I DON'T WANT TO KNOW."

Now, I had three allies in my journey through blindness and back. First, my good friend Editor In Chief, who held the aforementioned title in High School when we worked on the newspaper together (I was News Editor, and controlled the front page--a mini Rupert Murdoch). She watched the process outside the glass-walled room, on a plasma tv. "Intense," she said. "I could only watch one eye."

I was also given--at my insistence--a stuffed animal. This bear was quite large, and not furry, but rather made of smooth cotton (no fuzz in those open corneal flaps!!). He was pink, and his name was Seymour. Get it? The staff thought that it was hilarious that a grown man was asking for a stuffed animal. And let me tell you, I clutched that little animal like he was the last thing I would ever see.

Lastly, I was comforted by Our Lady Valium of Diazepam. She is kind, and even-tempered, and really quite level-headed. I would not mind encountering her again--she is good company in times of stress.

For those of you interested (or still reading), I was given a DVD of the procedure. I have filed it away, and will consider watching it a year from now. It is, as I often mock, too soon.

So the trauma of this story is done now for you, dear Reader.

But the fallout for me remains, and it is mostly psycho-emotional. I have willingly consented to the rape of my eyes. Through violence and cutting, I have sheared off a part of my identity, and will no longer wear glasses--such a big part of how I've seen myself for two decades. I am deeply wounded by this in a way that I didn't expect. I feel hurt, exposed, and naked. I feel unguarded, as I'm used to seeing the world through windshields. What part of me did those lasers remove? Who am I without my glasses? Who is this terrified, sometimes handsome boy who believes that he can only find love if he lasers away parts of himself? What does this mean for the future? What's next? A nose? A hairline? Where does the boundary between vanity and health lie?

So many of my friends were a little aghast at the idea of LASIK. "You look sexy in glasses," I heard, more often than I'd imagined. I wanted to shake these people (mostly men, some of whom I've loved and been loved by). WHERE WERE YOU? I wanted to ask, when the Valium of the compliment had worn off. And in fact, I ask the question now: WHERE ARE YOU?

For the saddest part of this recovery, dear Reader, is that what Sable Crow wants most right now is a hug. Not a perfunctory, "hello" hug, but a loving, caring hug. One that you stand and breathe into. I want the hug of a lover, or a partner, someone to tell me that it'll be okay. That these crazy bloodshot, cyber eyes of mine are still me, and that I'm still loveable and good. That I was before, and that I am now. Sex is so easy to find in this culture. So easy. There's an app for that, too. But there is no quarter for a loving a hug.

So this is my Valentines Day wish, dear Reader, and my tribute to this godforsaken holiday. If you have a lover, or a partner, or a spouse, then give him or her a hug, and really put your heart into it. That doesn't mean hug harder. That means stand, and be still, and feel that person, and match your breath with theirs. For God's sake don't change your Facebook profile pic to an image of the two of you and advertise how long you've been together. Have some sensitivity, and some class.

I wish I could end this post in a more elegant way. I wish that I could offer you, dear Reader, some hopeful reward for your work at having read this far. You deserve it. Perhaps this is a kind of post-surgery depression. I've heard of that kind of thing.

The good news...I have one extra Valium.



weezermonkey said...

Squawk! Squawk!

You make it sound so terrifying!

Maybe it was easy for me because I just went in totally uninformed. Ignorance is indeed bliss!

Da Fashionista said...

beautiful writing as always. so many thoughts. first that people's fears are never what you think they will be. second that how people see themselves never quite aligns with how others see them. and finally, i challenge you to have some sensitivity and class when it comes to people in relationships. they have the right to live and express their truth just as you do. how other people perceive it is their problem.

p.s. i had eye surgery when I was six and was humiliated that they put a stuffed animal in my hands.