As a shaman, magician and spirit worker, animism is a vital part of my spiritual belief system. There are objects that I think of as having “soul,” my VW Beetle certainly did. So does the motorcycle that I ride, my first athame, the milling machine in our shop, the list goes on.
An extension of this way of looking at the world is that some objects do not have soul of there own, but instead become part of a person. The wedding ring that is never removed for instance. There are several things in my life that fit this later category, my ring is one, as is my tactical flashlight which never leaves my side, the same with my 45ACP sidearm (although to a lesser extent), but most strongly of all would be my glasses. I feel especially bound to them as without corrective lenses I am completely helpless visually. As I look over the rim of my frames at the computer screen I cannot make out a singe word no matter how hard I squint my eyes, that is how dependent I am.
However, this past year I have been dependent on my glasses for more than just vision correction. As I have written about previously, just over a year ago now my husband left our triad after eight years together. I still believe that there were good times in the three of ours life together, but there were some very challenging times as well, and especially in the last year before he announced he was leaving my ex told me often and in great detail that I was unattractive and undesirable. I often felt it was my fault that I could not be the person I needed to be to make him happy and my lack of physical attractiveness to him was a frequent subject of our conversations.
After he left I decided I needed to make some major changes. Not, it should be noted because I truly believed that he was right. Even by that point I had started to realize that my ex-husband was hurting emotionally and lashing out at the people close to him because he did not know what else to do. But just because a bear strikes you out of fear rather than rage does has no bearing on that fact that you are still badly wounded.
So I went on a diet and determined to loose weight. I redid my wardrobe. I began making attempts to be more social when at events. And, as an overarching symbol of new beginnings, I bought a fabulous and somewhat insane pair of glasses.
They were J.F. Rey model 2285’s in matte black metal. Designer specs out of France and bought at a little boutique shop in Nashua. I’d never dreamed of spending so much on a pair of glasses. We had just received the last check we would get from our company’s big project and this was my last indulgence. It was a way to radically change how I would present myself to the world. These were not glasses that blended in at all. They made a statement, one I knew I was not yet ready to make. I was not a J.F. Rey kind of guy, but gods I wanted to be.
My ex had placed rather strict limits on my self expression. I was not to be too flamboyant, too forthright or direct, too obvious. I needed to blend, and not make any more of a spectacle than a barking guy makes by virtue of being himself. Giving up drag, even on Halloween was a condition of our relationship.
Make no mistake, I did not want our triad to end so completely. I still wish it had not, that we could have talked and compromised and found ways to each be ourselves and be happy without as extreme a solution as was found. However, if he was going to leave my life, I was going to try to find out who I was now free to be, and these glasses were going to be a symbol of my commitment to myself and a very real push to do so.
That was about nine months ago. I am a more complete and self confident person now in many ways than I have been in a long time. I became the person I was pushing myself towards when I choose a new pair of glasses, and somewhere along the line, those frames became a touchstone, and physical symbol of a new beginning in my sense of self and the course of my life.
I know that this view was dangerous. In truth I knew that even before today, when they were irrevocably destroyed.
Because of the highly unusual shape of the ear pieces, the 2285s did not fit well under my motorcycle helmet. The bike I ride now does not have a glove box, but it does have saddle bags. There being few good days to ride left I decided to take the bike to work and the Reys went into the saddle bags inside their metal case. The left saddle bag came loose and came to rest on the exhaust pipe which burned through the tough leather and rubber and melted everything inside, including my camera, night visor, and of course my glasses. Their metal frame is largely undamaged to the naked eye, but the paint chips off at the lightest touch. The plastic pieces puddled, and the lenses warped and scorched beyond salvage.
I cried. A piece of myself, destroyed. Even now, hours later I am crying just remembering the sight that met me when I pried opened the case, the heat warming my hand even through heavy winter riding gloves.
I feel lost, and that is Bad. I know now that I had invested too much energy into the J.F. Rey glasses, had allowed an external object, and a fragile one at that, to embody too much of what should be an internal journey.
Worse still, as I mentioned I am truly helpless without a pair of glasses. I only owned two pair, my beloved Rey’s and my older pair, the ones I wore through the divorce. I generally think of those as my “riding glasses” since they fit fine under my helmet so I use them when I take out a motorcycle. However, now they are all I have. If the loss of the glasses I had invested so much of my sense of self worth in has been a bad blow, seeing my face in the mirror wearing the glasses I associate with messages of unattractiveness and undesirableness from one of the most important people in my life (at the time) is certainly making the situation more challenging.
Plus there is the tiny detail that the prescription is wrong so my vision is not clear, which is not thrilling either.
Intellectually, I know that they were just a pair of glasses and can be replaced (although the model is discontinued). My mother has expressed a willingness to help me find something else I will enjoy, but I know how costly designer glasses are, calling them an indulgence was not hyperbole.
No matter what happens, even if I find fabulous glasses that say exactly what I want them to, it will not be the same. Those glasses changed my life, and I feel that I owed them a better run and a better end than they got.
I know that I am in a difficult emotional period of my own right now, even without this particular unpleasantness, but I find myself worrying that the strides I have made, image I have built, the person I have become, may have gone up in smoke along with the symbol that to me, had come to represent all those new beginnings.
One thought on “Requiem for a Symbol”
>Glasses are a funny thing. I've been wearing glasses for about 20 years now, and each pair I have becomes a part of me in a way I can't always explain. I've noticed that people who don't wear glasses, or people who don't rely on them the way I do (I'm essentially blind without them as well), but they become your face and you in a way that I haven't seen any other object I wear become. I am always the person I am regardless of if I wear my scarf or not, wear my pentacle (or whatever piece of jewelry I get attached to at the time) or not. But with out my glasses, I don't recognize myself. With the wrong glasses, or a pair that doesn't suit or that I don't choose myself, I don't feel right. I don't even feel right wearing my old pairs, regardless of what heavy emotions might be attached to them.(Though now that I think about it, the only pair of glasses I ever threw away rather than donate were the pair I wore when I was assaulted, and I had gotten a new pair within a few months of that happening because I couldn't tolerate the old pair.)And I've found that finding new glasses can be a wonderful experience and an chance for great change if you choose them consciously, as you did getting the pair that broke – you chose them for a purpose.Plus, I've found that you can find fabulous frames that suit for decent prices if you shop around. I've worked in high end glasses stores, and the mark up on designer frames is nuts!