When quarantine began, I felt as if the pandemic had thrust us into an an intense, but short-lived, Camino-like experience. Rather, the ongoing pandemic feels like a continuous Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson which poses these questions:
How much freedom, ease or possibility can be found amidst the constraints we are living under?
Which habits no longer serve us in this moment?
Not long ago it became obvious to me that I needed to see an eye doctor. That I am spending a lot of time on Zoom either hastened the decline of my vision or made me more acutely aware of it. Given limitations on my energy, I tried to find an eye doctor within a short drive that accepted my insurance. Several of the nearest offices were closed and couldn’t tell me when they would reopen. With no local choices, I found an eye care center further afield that had started seeing patients. That their website advertised a “beautiful full service optical dispensary” seemed promising, plus they had good reviews. I made an appointment, not knowing which of their three doctors I’d be seeing. Before my visit, I looked for my old prescription. Instead, I found the receipt from the last time I’d seen an optometrist. That had been in 2013, when I lived in Boulder and before I discovered the Feldenkrais Method. During my training, which I began the following year, my vision had improved so much that, for the most part, I stopped wearing prescription lenses. Doing Feldenkrais eye lessons and wearing yellow-tinted reading glasses for computer time had helped reduce my need for visual aids.
At this new eye care center, an energetic woman in her 20s wearing a mask and a hijab took my temperature with a forehead scanner. Having passed that test (a new one for me!), another masked and fresh-faced technician, a transplant from Utah, escorted me from the waiting area to a darkened room for my preliminary exam. The optometrist, also a woman, calibrated my new prescription. When I returned to the front of the office, the first employee I’d met showed me the women’s frame section. I remembered that, back in 2013, I’d gone on a quest to find the perfect frames for what had been my first pair of glasses. I wanted to honor the rite of passage by investing my attention and time so I could feel satisfied with my choice. And, seeking, comparing and evaluating are some of my long-held, ritualistic and often compulsive habits, especially when spending a chunk of money at once. It’s as if certain dollar amounts act like stop signs, interrupting spontaneity and forcing a retreat into analysis. While research can be valuable at times, if I’m not careful fear and self-doubt can become loud backseat drivers, shouting over my desires and distorting or delaying decision making. At times I’ve tried to leapfrog over fear and doubt by circumventing or shortcutting these intensive rituals. Yet doing that can feel destabilizing, as if I am no longer myself. Being as present as possible is often the only way to find a path forward.
As I glanced at the women’s choices, few called to me. It’s as if many of the American brands and designers had mimicked each other, each presenting variations of similar styles. If I could have waved a magic wand to produce my own frames, they would be bright red orange. As I tried on and rejected frame after frame, which I placed in a black tray so they could be sanitized, I considered looking elsewhere. Given that we’re in a pandemic, my energy is low and trying on glasses while wearing a mask takes away much of the fun of exploring new looks, seeking my dream glasses felt more like torture than adventure. I had to remind myself that I hoped COVID-19 would kill perfectionism. Besides, I wanted to get the glasses quickly to prevent further strain on my eyes, which could be exacerbating my exhaustion. As I stood there feeling dispirited, it occurred to me that I was in a real-life Feldenkrais lesson:
Could I find satisfaction and pleasure in what was available now, not some fantasy frame?
Could I drop longstanding habits to meet current circumstances?
Could I cease seeking, even if for this moment?
Surrendering to these questions allowed me to be more present. In my calmer state, I slowly approached a group of frames that, in my hunt for bold colors, I had overlooked. One pair, a soothing teal with rectangular lenses, caught my attention. I asked if they were designed for women. They turned out to be unisex. The employee explained that they were made by Silhouette, an Austrian company specializing in ultra lightweight eyewear. Indeed, I could barely sense the glasses on my face. The temples, those long sections connecting the frame to the ears, were flexible rather than stiff. Wearing this delicate, nearly weightless pair reminded me of the Feldenkrais experience of being well-organized: feeling light as a feather and free to move in any direction. It’s a state that is possible yet elusive to those who chase it or insist upon it. Of course the price tag reflected the thoughtful European engineering and quality craftsmanship. I could feel a young, frightened part of me recoil at the number, as if she wasn’t allowed to have them. Rather than put the frames back on the shelf, I bought them.