During late January and most of February, I left home minus something I rarely am in public without —my glasses. This is because between Phil being in and out of the hospital, my phone crashing, and everything which went wrong during that time period, I lost them. I’m great at losing things, and if they are here at home, they turn up eventually as did my glasses. It got me to thinking about my history with glasses
When attending the school for the blind through sixth grade, I didn’t wear glasses at all. Entering the 7th grade in my small town public school, my parents thought it was a good idea for me to start. One thing among many startling changes was how dark the glasses were. I have very little eye sight, but what I have, I like to use, and wearing sunglasses didn’t allow that to happen. I wore them most of the time through high school. P.E. was one of the few times I was visible without them. It’s hard to be much of a rebel when you depend on your family to take you where you need to go. I raised the occasional objection about not being able to use all of my very little vision, but the response from my dad was always the same, “blind people wear dark glasses.”
During the first week at the Iowa Department for the Blind, I broke my glasses. Instructors quizzed me about why I needed to wear them anyway. This was a place where it was ok to be blind, and glasses might be a way of hiding my blindness. I was under blind fold during the day anyway, and if I had an excuse not to wear my glasses, I was all over it! This continued during college and graduate school, but one conversation stuck with me.
A very good friend of mine was treating me to lunch. She’d been my itinerate teacher from junior high through high school, and somehow glasses came up. She described the way my left eye looked as being without the colored doughnut around most people’s eyes. Her suggestion was getting a pair of glasses to soften that unusual look by making the color eye-catching enough to distract from it.
After marriage I started doing gigs and getting into the music. As I made more public appearances, the conversation came back to me, and in 1999, I picked out the slightly tinted purple glasses I have publicly worn ever since, — recently lost and found. Family members told me they weren’t dark enough, but these glasses allowed me to compromise. I’d wear the glasses, but not sacrifice my vision for other people’s comfort.
During the time I couldn’t find my glasses, I decided there were a few more important things going on besides getting them replaced. I went about my business and didn’t feel uncomfortable without them. As soon as I found them again, I had no trouble going back to wearing them.
Something very similar happened with my hair. As a little kid, apparently my hair had no wave to it whatsoever. I tried for long hair, but I just didn’t have the patience to take care of it. The solution for my mother was curly permanents. I didn’t like them! I thought they made my hair look and feel like an old lady’s! I’d swim, and my hair would have a distinct green tinge due to the perm and the chlorine mix. Because my favorite color was and is still green, I thought that was the only good thing about a permanent.
At the Iowa Department for the blind, a teacher described my hair as “ash blonde” which sounded awful. Ashes to me are colorless things, so I had someone help me dye my hair red. I have since learned that my hair has always had red highlights, as I was born a red head. Even though it’s a little darker now, several beauticians have told me people would love to have my hair color. The perms may have taken some of them out, but this red die was hideously orange apparently and with the curls made me look like little Orphan Annie.
College sophomore year was my hair’s transformation. My R.A. was well-known for cutting hair. Her mother was a beautician, and people told me she did a good job. She asked me if I was ready for something different, and I said a resounding yes! It turned out my hair wasn’t completely flat and actually looked quite good short. It even had wave! That’s the way I still wear it, although I tend to go from a military buzz cut to neck length getting it cut only every five or six months especially in winter. It reaches a certain length, and suddenly I can’t get to the beauty shop fast enough. Bangs especially bother me! No matter what the length is, I just brush it back once wet and once dry, and it seems to look ok.
Those who know me well realize that I’m not one to talk about the way I look for no good reason. I would just as soon not focus on it, as I know I’m no Miss America. Somehow I started thinking about my hair and glasses as a bit like ideas of God and how they evolve. Perhaps this is because I read a blog entry in which someone accused the blogger of not being a Christian anymore, because he didn’t believe in X, Y, Z.
Church and God were not things about which I felt a lot of resentment growing up. It was definitely private for a long time —an area I felt uncomfortable discussing. Maybe this is because my God was like my parents. Do what you’re told, and don’t even think of questioning it. A high school search retreat and college helped me reshape my God into more than just an authority or task master. College is a time when people often lose their faith —a bit like my not wearing glasses at all or dying my hair red. The argument goes, why go to church? I can talk to God right here. God is in everything, not a building. Some would say that people throw the baby out with the bathwater by not participating in church or reading the Bible. I have always found some beauty and challenge in both, but I understand that for some people, these things might be associated with severe psychological pain. If that’s true, I don’t think they can be used as vehicles for getting closer to God. Far too often in trying to “minister” to people, they are instead driven away.
It’s only when people are ready to let these things help them for some reason that things come back to center. Most of the time it’s having kids. For me it was the desire to have people comfortable around me while not sacrificing all of my own needs. I hope and pray my image of God has continued to evolve. Although the Bible and my church have continued to be important tenants of my faith, other readings, interaction with people and even the atmosphere around me can also assist in encountering God. I’ve been accused of not being Catholic anymore because I have decided not to follow certain iron-clad teachings. Some teachings seem like those dark glasses or curly permanents. It’s a group of people prescribing what is right for me. I’ve taken a look at those teachings and decided that although they may have been appropriate in the past; other factors have made them not right for me now. One of my biggest measures is whether applying them hurts people. Even though I have always said I’d get my own meatless supper and never forced Phil to abstain because I believed I had to, my doing this negatively affects him for some reason. My priest confirmed God doesn’t want disharmony between spouses because of a church teaching! It bothers me that so many people believe in a one-size-fits-all idea of God. It seems to me that if the Lord created us, God has some understanding about how individual we are and the different glasses and styles we all use to encounter the Lord.