About three years back, now, I opened my eyes to a brand new world.
I’d been the glasses-toting kid for most of my childhood, the shy little dork who was unaware his vision had gone south until one (lovely) teacher yelled at him for not being able to read the blackboard from the back of the classroom. I donned a set of frames at that point and kept them until high school, when I made the switch over to hard contacts and gradually adjusted to wanting to claw out my eyes on a daily basis. Blurry vision, bloodshot eyes, and an intense scratchiness quickly became new additions to my routine.
My eyes, you might say, have been a sore point.
Come college, though, I was given an incredible gift: a chance to have LASIK surgery performed on my big, stupid eyes, and a chance to drop the glasses and contacts for the first time in years. (This is, coincidentally, one of those cases where I’ll happily call technology a gift like no other). I took it.
I sat in the chair, waited patiently while they shot lasers into my eyes, and exited the office about an hour later with some sort of delightful pain medication coursing through my veins. The healing process took weeks, but the improvement was immediate: I sat in the car on the long ride back and stared quietly out the window, seeing — and not quite believing — the same streets I’d passed just a few hours before in a whole new way.
I followed every crack in the pavement, every sharp angle in the geometry. There was some early fuzziness, sure, that would heal over the following weeks, but the change was real — I could see again, and for the length of drive back that was enough. I didn’t say a word, and I think my parents understood why.
But this article isn’t about technology, mind you, nor my personal struggles with rigid gas permeable contact lenses (a barrel of fun, as the name suggests). It’s about reframing: about seeing things in a new light, as I did, and realizing something interesting along the way.
When I stepped out of the surgery that day, the world hadn’t changed. I had. The world was the same as it ever was — impossible blue when I glanced up, warm concrete when I looked down — but my corrected vision had afforded me something incredible: a new perspective on the old, a way to reframe the world without my frames, and a chance to really recognize what had been around me from the start.
It gave me the opportunity to be grateful, too, for something I’d long since taken for granted. I think that’s a realization worth talking about.
The Problem with Change
But this is how we work, right?
We encounter a new stimuli and it’s exciting and different and revolutionary, but in the course of just a few weeks it becomes the norm. We accept it into our lives, grow accustomed to its presence, and that initial excitement starts evaporating. Call it thrill-seeking, I guess, but we start searching for another, questing for the next big thing to captivate our wandering attention.
In the same way, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing. When I step outside, now, a clear sky rarely hits me as hard as it did during those first few weeks post-surgery. I’ve grown comfortable with seeing the world in full, and I’ve likewise almost forgotten how it felt to spend hours each day battling blurry vision and bloodshot eyes. That’s a sensation I’m happy to leave behind, honestly, but it comes with a price.
I’ve forgotten, in so many ways, how wonderful it is to see.
I’ve forgotten, now, how I felt about a week after the surgery, when I opened my eyes one morning and could see — fully see, with no blurriness or fuzziness — the morning sunlight sneaking through the blinds. I wanted to cry. My experience with contacts, I know, can’t compare in any way to the real challenges some people face with their vision, but in the context of my life that was a pretty damn big deal.
That’s a feeling I want to recapture. That’s a sensation I want to carry with me, since it allows an appreciation for the world around me that’s otherwise too easy to miss.
And that, at long last, is why I’ve been experimenting with reframing.
The Art of Reframing
I want you to try something.
Step away from the computer, now, and walk outside. When the door closes behind you, do three things:
1. Take a long, deep breath. Feel your chest rise, feel the air enter your lungs, and hold on to every scent hiding in the air around you.
2. Cross your arms against your chest. Feel the muscles contract as you move, feel the warmth spread through your arms, and focus on how the fabric of your clothing falls against your skin.
3. Look. Look up into the sky and see. Study the clouds, if you have any, or just admire what’s above you — this broad vault of color hanging overhead and offering so much to appreciate.
That’s it. Stand outside for a few moments and try to let everything else slip away — your stresses, your concerns, and everything that normally keeps you awake at night. At the risk of sounding so new-agey, just be. Just be someone who is breathing, now, and studying the sky.
That’s a lot to be happy about. But it doesn’t seem like it, does it?
We’ve grown used to these things. We’ve been breathing, moving, and seeing since the day we were born, and accordingly they’ve become the norm — nothing worth spending a lot of thought on, and nothing all that special in the context of our lives.
These basic abilities — privileges, in so many ways — don’t ask for your attention. They don’t ask, at any point, that you be grateful for them, that you take a single minute from your day and say thanks. But I think you’ll benefit, now, if you try.
Because that’s the art of reframing, isn’t it? It’s the practice of gratitude, the ability we all possess to be thankful for every incredible thing this world offers.
This doesn’t need to be complicated. There doesn’t need to be a six-step program, either, nor any exhaustive guide. You just have to do a few things:
1. Take something in you’re life that you’ve grown used to.
2. Look at it. Listen to it, smell it, do what you need to do — but for the span of just a few minutes, pay attention to it like you haven’t done in years.
3. Realize, now, how lucky you are to have it. Realize what it has given you, and think for a bit on how your life has improved since its inclusion.
4. Realize, lastly, that new feeling you’re experiencing: gratitude.
A Lot to Be Thankful For
I stepped outside this morning and couldn’t help but smile. This is one of those blue skies that Texas likes to surprise you with: impossibly wide, impossibly clear, and overwhelming in the best possible sense.
I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful I can see it, in all of its glory, and I’m grateful that the world all around me offers so much worth seeing in the first place. I’m grateful that I no longer need glasses or contacts, and I’m grateful that the experience of having them taught me just how beautiful this world can be.
Give it a try. Reframe the world around you in a different way: the way of someone who is lucky to be alive, someone who is lucky to live in it, and someone who wants to appreciate it all like never before. Be grateful for these basic gifts that we too often take for granted, and try and spend a few minutes each day admiring everything this world offers.
That’s all it takes. Don’t forget that. And if you’re stuck for ideas, now, on what to admire, try these on for size:
1. The warmth of the sun on your skin.
2. The scent of a coffee shop, each bold roast mingling with the steam curling up from your cup.
3. The sensation of a strong breeze running through the trees and through your hair.
4. The body you’ve been given, and the body you’ve taken steps to make as healthy/pretty as possible.
5. Your name.
6. The slow-rolling pleasure of a long stretch and the feeling of contentment that spreads through your limbs.
7. The subtle flavor of a tall glass of tea.
8. The smooth, rich voice of Marvin Gaye, whose songs are always dance-worthy.
9. On a deeper level, the simple ability to hear — to be able to smile, listen, and tap along with music.
10. Your friends, your family, and every smiling face that can carry you higher and higher.
What are you grateful for? When you reframe the world around you, what do you see?