KEEP LOOKING UP

KEEP LOOKING UP

From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Keep Looking Up

I received a free magazine-ette in the mail the other day. It’s one of those little half-sized publications. It came in a protective plastic wrap, as though the contents were precious enough to warrant that extra dose of precaution. The cover hinted at all sorts of health-related topics inside, and since, for some inexplicable reason, I’ve become fascinated with discussions about estrogen and blood pressure and the evils of salt, I decided to sit right down and peruse my new gift. But when I opened the cover, I saw that about every other page was a tear-out advertisement for something or another.

Since I had an opening in my schedule at that exact moment, I took to pulling out those advertisements. I was a little curious to see exactly how small the magazine-ette would become once it was pared down to actual content. Midway through my purging, I came upon an advertisement for Doubleday’s Large Print Book Club. Large Print. I did a double-take, and then I thought, Why would someone send me a magazine with an offer for a book club that catered to those needing large print? It then occurred to me that everything I’d read to that point had been in a comfortable, large print. The table of contents, ads, articles—all had been printed larger than your normal publication.

There has to be a mistake. I’m not old enough for these kinds of offers. Yes, it’s true that I’ve gained a brown spot or two on my hands, and my knees have begun to sing songs, and at least one night a week I wake to the sensation of “a river runs through it.” But aside from those oddities, I’m still young. Surely, I thought, this thing got placed in the wrong mailbox. I found the one-page “You’re invited” sheet that had been stuck inside the protective plastic cover and looked at the address label on the bottom, but even with my arms stuck way out, I couldn’t get the label far enough away to read. Grabbing my reading glasses, I checked again. My name was typed right there in minuscule letters.

I’d been targeted, identified, zeroed-in on. What did this mean? Did it mean that any day now, the girl down at Golden Corral would stop asking if anyone in our party got the senior discount and just give it to me instead?

I wondered if all the forty-four-year-olds on my street got the magazine. Or maybe one of my sisters turned me in. They seem to delight in teasing me about the length of my arms and the lessening of my vision.

Yes, all right, I’ll admit it. Stop badgering. I’m farsighted. I just don’t have the ability any more to focus on objects at the drop of a hat. My children will thrust a note under my nose and expect that I can just see it, just like that, just because it’s there. Instead, I have to ricochet my head back at lightning speed and put a little distance between me and the must-read material. I have reading glasses tucked in my knitting basket,my basket of books, and the basket of magazines in the bathroom. They’re on my nightstand. They’re in my office drawer. They’re in my purse. More often than not, I have a pair straddling the top edge of my shirt.

But faraway objects, now that’s where I excel. I’m not as skilled as my husband, but that’s another story. Dave can read the “Made in Taiwan” label on the bottom of a stranger’s coffee cup from across a baseball stadium. His vision is disgustingly perfect. But my faraway vision isn’t bad. I can sit and look at clouds and mountains all day long, without even breaking a sweat.

He and I were talking over this whole vision issue a few days ago while driving downtown. I happened to be looking at the clouds at that moment.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said to Dave as I gazed out the window up to the heavens, “I’ll take farsightedness over nearsightedness any day. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t see the sky.”

Over the last few years, I’ve learned I can’t get enough of that sight. There’s just something about gazing upward that calms me. Whatever comparatively unworthy thing I’m currently fretting over becomes automatically minimized by the sight of all that billowy beauty drifting overhead.

I see a spiritual lesson in that—and no, “see” was not intended as a pun. If I had to choose, I’d rather have a clear focus on heaven than on the here-and-now. I’d rather set my eyes on eternity than on the temporal. It’s so easy to get spiritually nearsighted and focus our eyes solely on the things we can touch and taste and feel, even those unpleasant experiences like night sweats and creaky knees, while completely forgetting there’s a sky beyond this earth and a heaven waiting to welcome us.

The truth is, growing older is much less painful when you keep forever in your sights.

Shannon Woodward

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