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Kristin Armstrong’s Love at First Sight

On seeing life, almost as if for the first time

I remember being 42 years old in the ophthalmologist’s office, complaining that my eyesight was going down the tubes due to typing on my tiny Blackberry keyboard before I got my iPhone. The doctor asked me how old I was, then laughed and said it wasn’t my phone’s fault — it was my age. Needless to say, I was not amused.

Fast forward almost a decade and the decline became more noticeable. The text size on my phone grew and grew. I had to pinch-expand every photo to make it big enough to confirm identities or see details, even taking screenshots of small print on product labels so I could zoom in on that too. Dark restaurants required my phone flashlight to see the menu; or else I just went with the waiter’s favorite. I went on a running trek in the Alps, and I had to stop to get my readers out of my pack every time I needed to consult the trail map. I couldn’t see a price tag in any store, which was actually kind of nice until I got my total bill. Makeup could only be done in a 10X makeup mirror. I started stashing readers everywhere. Even in my car cupholder – readers on to see Waze, readers off to see the road (not safe At All). On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. I feared I would soon be an old lady wearing my readers on a chain around my neck, so I could find those too. Probably the worst wake-up call was going scuba diving. You cannot take off your mask to put your readers on to check your oxygen level or depth gauge. Thank God I could trust my dive buddy, or I would be dead. Something had to change.

I’m not a candidate for Lasik, with my close-up vision being my main issue. I tried wearing contacts but that was an impossible feat — I am a manic blinker. It’s so bad that no one can put makeup on me, and I cannot walk in snow. I once was able to get a contact lens in, after several miserable, sweat-soaked hours of practice in the eye doctor’s office. But then I sobbed when I could not get it out and no one could help me. The impatient assistant with the talon acrylic nails kept telling me to “just pinch my eyeball” and proceeded to spear her own as an example. I almost vomited.

On a recent (and very overdue) visit to a new (and much kinder) eye doctor, I confessed my struggles. Oddly enough, this was the first time I ever felt seen in an ophthalmologist’s office. She understood that relying on readers is not a solution for someone who wants to live an active lifestyle. She asked me if I had ever heard of Refractive Lens Exchange (I had not), and set me up with a referral to a respected eye surgeon.

I almost needed a Valium just to go to that initial consultation appointment. I summoned all the courage I could and I went with an open (and hopeful) mind.

Several weeks later, I did one of the bravest and best things I have ever done. In a simple, semi-sedated (thank you God), ten-minute surgery, Dr. Dell did the equivalent of a cataract surgery, except that rather than removing cataracts, he replaced the lens of my left eye. It was painless. The recovery was nil. I had a weirdly dilated pupil for a day or so. But y’all, I am not exaggerating here = I have been reborn.

Tribeza columnist Kristin Armstrong.

I am a new person. Seeing life as if for the first time, in complete awe. I can tell which is shampoo and which is conditioner in the shower. I can read the tiny print on a medicine bottle. My iPhone text size is reset to normal. I could read my boarding pass and find my seat on the airplane. I can simultaneously see street signs, oncoming traffic and consult Waze. I can write notes in sessions with my clients, and look up to see the tiny micro-expressions on their faces, which is an essential part of what I do.

I am looking forward (literally, ha!) to an amazing summer. When I walk down the aisle at our wedding in August, I will see each precious face gathered around us. I will be able to read my vows without pulling readers out of my dress. Actually, I still won’t be able to see them but that will be because of tears rather than blindness. I will see into the depths of my gorgeous husband’s ocean blue eyes, smiling back at me.

I will step clearly, and gratefully, into the rest of my life.

About Kristin Armstrong

Kristin Armstrong is the author of eight books including: Happily Ever After, Strength for the ClimbWork in Progress:  An Unfinished Woman’s Guide to Grace, Heart of my Heart, Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women RunTies that Bind and YES.  She is a regular columnist for Tribeza magazine and a regular contributor to Living Faith.  Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as USA TodayGlamour, O – The Oprah Magazine, ParentsThe Huffington Post, and the Austin American-Statesman.   Her work has led to appearances on Oprah, The Rachel Ray Show, NPR, Good Morning America and The Today Show.  Kristin went back to school alongside her kids and got a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health and started her own company, Kristin Armstrong Consulting, where she specializes in helping people through life transition zones in career, relationships, parenting, and purpose.  Her happy place is helping people find theirs.

Kristin has three amazing grown children and feathers a never-empty-nest in Austin, Texas and Santa Barbara, California.