Seeing is believing

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”–Henry David Thoreau

We received a note from the school nurse last week, letting us know our boy was having trouble seeing in the classroom. Both my husband and I were waiting for this to happen. I was 6 years old when I got my first pair of glasses, whereas my husband was in high school. Nearly every adult family member has glasses or had eye surgery, yet apparently our boy was still hoping he was immune.

When I made the appointment to see his optometrist, I warned my son that he would probably have to start wearing glasses. I wanted him to prepare himself if that was indeed the outcome. The kid flat out refused to even think about it. He told me to “Stop saying that!” in a freaked out and “oh my god the world is ending” kind of tone. So I didn’t mention it again.

I picked him up today for his appointment and he was in a great mood. It’s always nice to be picked up early from school, even if it is for a doctor’s appointment. We got to the doctor’s office, waited for less than two minutes and then the various testing began. My boy was polite, funny, and just all around wonderful. I was with him when the doc had him read some of the eye chart, and since he could only read the 2nd line without help, I knew what was coming.

The doctor told my boy that yes, he needed glasses. His vision was not horrible by any means, but with glasses, everything would be that much clearer. He let my son know that he didn’t have to wear glasses when playing sports, but at some point he might find that it could improve his performance. We thanked the doctor, but as soon as he left the room, my boy’s face fell. He was absolutely devastated. He quickly became angry and I just hugged him to me and told him it was ok.

He disagreed. Vehemently.

We walked to a different part of the building to pick up some paperwork and I hugged my boy again. He was fuming but let me hug him. “Honey, this doesn’t change anything. You’re fine. You’re still you.” But between tight lips he spat, “This. Changes. Everything.”

I sighed, but didn’t argue. For just a second I put myself in his place and tried to remember what it was like to put on glasses for the first time. To know that this would be part of my life forever, and everyone would be able to see the change. It wasn’t something you could hide from. “You’re right, Bri. You’re right. This does change things, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing and it’s not a big deal. Honest.”

He didn’t talk to me again until we got into the car. He always sits just behind me and as I started the car, I looked in my review mirror. His head was down so I couldn’t see his face. As I started to turn around in my seat, I could hear my boy gasping for breath as he sobbed. I rubbed his leg and started to cry, too. I asked him if I could get out and give him a hug and he agreed. I got out, opened his car door, and crushed him to me as he cried and cried into my shoulder. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him that I loved him.

After we left the optometrist’s office, I stopped to get gas while my boy ran across the street to get a donut. (I don’t care what anyone says. Anytime we have a doctor’s appointment, we treat ourselves afterwards. Not always to food, but sometimes that’s the easiest and cheapest thing to do. It seemed appropriate today.) As I was pumping gas, I had an “A-ha” moment. Although getting glasses is a little scary and new, my son’s reaction still surprised me. He was really, really upset. And had been since the first mention of glasses last week. It’s not like he doesn’t know anyone who has glasses, but he knows very few kids that do. There are a few, though, including a girl in his class who he’s friends with. BUT, my “a-ha” moment was when I really put myself in my boy’s shoes. My kid–who has tics, who is over five feet tall at the age of eight, who wears shoes bigger than some adults–will now have one more thing to make him different, one more thing to make him stand out in a crowd, one more target on his back for the asshole on the bus to shoot at. THAT was why my kid was crying in the back seat of my car, and I don’t blame him.


This was taken two years ago when he liked wearing fake glasses.

Being a kid is so damned hard. Do you remember? You want to grow up so fast so you can feel like you have control, feel like you have some power in your life. Of course, once you get there you realize that you really don’t have as much control or power as you thought you would, but we don’t want to hear about that part. I want my boy to feel good about being different, about being unique, and that it’s ok, damn it! I don’t want him to feel like the “special snowflake,” as in feeling entitled. That shit just pisses me off. But I want him to feel good about being who he is. Or what he is. Currently he’s a Star Wars-loving giant who blows on his hands when he’s anxious, is a video game-playing rock star, and will soon be wearing glasses.

I know in another year or two (hopefully sooner), my boy won’t think twice about putting on his glasses. It’ll be just another part of him. It really won’t be a big deal. Until then, I’m hoping he’ll find his way to acceptance without too much anxiety. I want to guide him on this journey by showing him how awesome I know he is and how being exceptional can be wonderful. But I don’t want to beat him over the head with it, you know? I need to be patient and just let him find his way. I know he’ll be ok. I just need to sit back and watch it happen.

And that’s the hardest thing to do.



The Damn Pill

Just over 20 years ago, I wrote the following poem after being on the birth control pill for a few months.


Every morning
I place the pill
on my tongue

and think
of the time
when you came

to me and asked,
“What have you
ever done for me?”

This was one of my favorite poems and one of the few I had published (this was in Hammers, No. 12, 1997, a publication of doublestar press).  I liked writing feminist and angry poetry back then. And of the many things I wrote in college and beyond, this one piece always stuck with me. I feel like it’s still relevant to my life now, except the only person asking me to take this damn pill is my gynecologist.

Three months ago, I had a procedure done to make sure my body was working properly and I didn’t have endometrial cancer. Everything turned out ok but my doctor recommended I go on the birth control pill to slow down the endometriosis that was wreaking havoc on my system. I expressed my concerns, telling her how angry I had been when I took the pill in my early 20s. Of course, I think I was angry in general back then. During the 2 years I was on the pill, I fell in love several times, had my heart broken, graduated from college, started graduate school, got engaged, and was bulimic for a large portion of that time. In other words, I was fucked up. I don’t think the pill hurt my situation (I didn’t get pregnant and that was a very good thing), but it didn’t help my moods at all.

Now that it’s 20 years later, my doctor assured me that things had changed and she thought I’d be ok on this pill. I’d only have my period once every 3 months and it shouldn’t intensify my emotions. I was willing to give it a try, at least for a 3-month cycle.

By the end of the first week of taking this pill, my husband *begged* me to stop taking it. I was not only angry and snappy but I was unbelievably sad.  Of course, this was also in February when things are gloomy here in Maine, my back was still messed up so I wasn’t running, and a friend of mine was dying. I know all of these things contributed to my sadness and the moodiness. But having my husband tell me he could watch me go through a wide range of emotions in just a few hours was a bit unsettling. And honestly, it was exhausting. I sometimes could see myself react to a situation with anger when I knew that I shouldn’t. I’d scream at my son or at my husband and I *knew* I was overreacting, but I just couldn’t stop myself. This had happened once or twice before I went on the pill, like my hormones were raging and out of control, but it happened too many times that first month.

At the beginning of the second month, I started bleeding uncontrollably…for 7 days. I was weak, light-headed and scared. I called my doctor and she told me to stop taking the pill for a few days. She started me too soon in my cycle the month before and now my body was trying to make up for the mistake.  It was friggin’ horrible. But maybe my body was trying to tell me, “Hey! You’re *supposed* to bleed once a month, goober, and not every 3 months!”

This third month has been better, though. Sort of. I’ve only had a few days where my emotions flared up into a firestorm, but I cooled down very quickly. And apologized. A lot. And now I’m in the week with the fake pills that I don’t bother to take. My period has been….weird, to say the least. Not horrible but not my normal, either.

But the one thing that has happened over the past 3 months that I haven’t mentioned, is the water weight. Or what I *assume* is water weight. Over the winter, I gained 8 pounds. Fine. Whatever. But I’ve been trying to do something about those 8 pounds for the past 3 months. I’ve counted calories and exercised. I’m now running 4 days week and walking or working with weights 2 other days a week. SO WHY HAVEN’T I LOST ANY WEIGHT?!?

Has my metabolism really changed this much? I know it’s possible, but much of the time I don’t just feel heavy, I feel bloated. Like a sausage being squeezed out of its casing. I just feel so, so FAT. And it’s seriously messing with my head. I don’t care what people think I look like. If they think I look slim or “just perfect” then that’s wonderful. But I don’t think that nor do I feel that. My self-esteem has diminished greatly. I can feel myself slouching more. I’ve been extremely anti-social. I seem to only be able to talk with my friends via email or Facebook. I have phone calls to return but just can’t do it. For 2 months, I’ve put off spending an evening with my closest friends because I just don’t want to be around anyone.

What I need to know is what this extra weight IS. Did the pill cause this or has my metabolism just changed as my body crossed that mysterious boundary into my 40s?

I really want to know the answer. I NEED to know the answer.

But *today* I need to decide if I continue taking this pill for another three months. Yes, it would be nice to not worry about my period or horrendous cramps for nearly the entire summer. But if this extra weight is caused by the pill, what will this do to my mental health? Can I stop worrying about the weight for 90 days? I seriously doubt it. Maybe I can find some comfortable but cool clothes to hide in for the summer and not feel like my fat is oozing out everywhere? Maybe.

Or maybe just stop taking the damn thing and talk to my doctor next month and find some other alternative? Maybe.

I’m having a really hard time deciding. I just don’t know what I should do. I don’t think either choice is fantastic, but I just don’t know which is *right* for me, you know?

For right now though, I’m going to get my butt out of this chair and go for a run. Maybe that will clear my head and help me make a decision.

Anything is possible, right?