Recently, a friend of mine chopped her hair shorter. She looks amazing!
After I told her so, she admitted that she totally regretted doing it and she'd gone through a "mini breakdown" for two days after leaving the salon.
I gave her a close look, thinking that she had a problem with the cut itself. She looked beautiful to me.
When I asked her why she wasn't happy with it, she explained that all her life she'd had long, gorgeous hair, but she'd just felt like a change.
She had no idea how cutting off her hair would make her feel. Awful, it turns out. Worse than that, it made her feel old.
Standing there listening to her recount her breakdown, I realized she was describing a milestone moment in a woman's life. It's an emotional cyclone that can't be avoided. The realization your youth is now behind you.
I remember the day it happened to me. In fact I don't think the Costco optometry department will ever forget it.
I've always been the kind of person that celebrates every birthday with extreme enthusiasm. I've lovingly embraced every decade, and never had a problem with the number of candles on my cake. I just felt proud to have made it to another year, and rejoiced in all the great times and accomplishments that had gotten me to that point.
Honestly, it had never entered my mind that I was actually getting older. Maybe that sounds naive, but it's true. Such a concept just hadn't occurred to me. In fact, I'd always found it fascinating when people complained about how old they were, how old they felt, and how they truly hated both of those things. I'd just never felt that way.
Then one day, during a regular checkup at the Costco optometry department, everything changed.
I was about to be hit by a cyclone.
"Well, Heidi, your right eye is a little worse and needs a new prescription, but not to worry, your left eye seems to be the same. However, we do need to discuss adding a progressive lens to your prescription."
"What's a progressive lens?"I asked.
My optometrist explained. I needed reading glasses now, and the progressive lens would allow me to use one pair of glasses for both reading and distance.
Wait. What? Did he honestly just tell me that I needed reading glasses?
No. I heard him wrong. There's no way he just said that.
"I can't possibly need reading glasses," I said.
Then the fateful words were spoken.
In a very clinical manner, he said,
"You do need reading glasses. When you reach your age it's inevitable."
"Excuse me? Reach my age?"
I could see by his startled reaction that he suddenly realized he'd said a bad, bad thing. He tried to backpedal, make it better. It didn't work.
Not amused, I grabbed my prescription and stormed off to order my hateful new glasses.
I could feel my emotions brewing. Within me, blue skies were turning grey, darker and more ominous by the second. A storm was coming.
Waiting to order my glasses, I thought, How did I get here? This couldn't be possible. How could I be someone who needed reading glasses? Only old people needed those....
Then it hit me. A question almost too terrible to ask.
Am I old?
Oh no. The storm was here. The hurricane had made landfall.
In that moment, the salesperson asked,
"Are you ready to order your glasses?"
The poor guy had no idea what was about to hit him.
I handed him my prescription. He asked if this was my first time ordering progressive lenses.
I nodded, barely able to focus on what was happening.
With an inappropriately chipper tone, he explained the different levels of progressive lenses, and asked me which level I wanted to order.
The storm was raging now. Ripping through buildings, tossing cars, flooding streets.
I put my head in my hands and started shaking it back and forth.
"How is this my life right now!?"I said it several times. Loudly.
"Uh...Pardon me?" The sales associate sounded beyond confused.
I looked up at him.
"Do I look like someone who needs reading glasses? How'd I wake up this morning feeling young, and now I'm being told I'm an old person who needs reading glasses? I can't handle this. This can't be happening!"
He just stared at me, dumbstruck. Shocked.
Frantic, I shot up from my seat and started looking across the store for my husband, Mike. When I saw him, predictably browsing the electronics section, I started yelling his name. He could hear the hysteria in my voice. He locked eyes with me and hurried over, looking puzzled.
I started crying, rambling about getting old.
I sounded like a crazy person, out of control, like I'd snapped and there was no coming back.
Mike glanced at the salesperson, who was staring at him with a frightened look that seemed to say, please do something.
As a couple, Mike and I are the complete opposite of each other. As you may be able to tell from this story, I'm maybe just a little bit dramatic, whereas Mike is very cool and laid back. He's always been and definitely was on this day, the calm to my storm.
Right away, Mike seemed to understand that an emotional cyclone had just touched down at Costco, and he needed to rescue me quick.
He got me to sit down. I looked up at him in complete desperation.
He placed his hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes, and calmly said,
"Sweetheart, I completely understand what you're going through and how you feel right now, but I need you to focus and order your glasses."
"I can't," I whimpered.
Mike looked at me with the most understanding eyes and said,
"Yes you can Heidi, because once you've done that, you and I can leave Costco and YOU can be as dramatic as you want for the rest of the day."
I burst out laughing. I could feel the storm clouds clearing, blue sky started to peak through again.
I turned towards the sales associate and ordered my glasses. Then I stood up, hugged Mike, and whispered in his ear,
"I'm going to be really dramatic now."
"I know," he said, stroking my hair.
Mike deserves a medal for that day!
One week later, I picked up my new glasses. I opened the case and stared at them.
I realized the emotional cyclone I experienced was a reaction to losing someone I loved. My younger self.
I placed them on my face and looked around. Suddenly everything was so clear. In so many ways.
My youthful years were over, but I was beginning my next journey.
I was terrified, excited and thrilled to take on this next stage of my life, and I did it the only way I knew how.
With zest, drama, and a spectacular pair of new glasses!
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