imagination, and other coping mechanisms

It was the middle of the afternoon when I noticed.  A figure.  A spot.  A shadow, hovering in front of my eye, disappearing whenever I tried to focus on it.  Reappearing.  Disappearing.  Reappearing.  My hands clasped over my eyes tight.  Opening them again, I did what any sensible adult would do.  I called my mother.

Minutes later, I was googling blindness.  My hand was, at this point, jammed into my eye, desperately trying to rub out my imminent doom. Mom J. found me hunched over this way, stabbing at my keyboard.  She ushered me to the car.  Driving, she could barely suppress her instinctive dread – that this was bad, that this was very, very bad.

When I was a kid, bat-like eyesight was just one of several handicaps that made my childhood extra humbling.  Obviously the  enormous pink and gold-engraved glasses were not a plus.  But these were dim maladies compared to my dwarfish height, my oshkosh b’gosh wardrobe, my debilitating shyness, to name a few.  I could blame my mother for most of these, those ridiculous, purple and green giraffe print overalls especially…. but at ten, to compensate, I often retreated to my greatest alibi – to my sparkling hopes and dreams.

I realize we all have hopes.  We all have dreams.  What I cannot explain is why so many of my childhood dreams involved dancing like Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2, or singing like Mariah Carey.  I can’t explain what either of these have to do with poor eyesight, but it’s true.  Whenever my eyesight would raise a negative power, somehow my imaginative dance skills would increase in greatness, as would the appreciative audience watching me.  Whenever I was teased for being too short, or my glasses were unapologetically smashed into my face by a stray ball (a.k.a. a jerk classmate), I would shrug it off, because these fools had obviously never heard the angelic register my voice could hit, in my head.

Yes, I bet everyone feels bad for doubting my awesomeness in this picture.

Hilariously, my delusions only became more elaborate, more defensive the older I got.  By 14, my amazing dance skills would inevitably win the affection and devotion of a hot foreign exchange student, from Italy, who would be providentially visiting the school that day.  He was just looking for the restroom when he heard someone singing a sad, beautiful song in a vacant hallway.  He would later ask himself in disbelief, whether or not he really saw the girl he found there moonwalk.

I’ve since discerned that the key word here is ‘defensive.’  My enormous ego bruises too easily, it always has.  So, as a kid, pathetic daydreams dramatized my self-worth.  As an adult, I often catch myself elaborating, making sure I look especially winsome in unappealing situations, however inconsequential.  Most importantly is that I am trying to stop this.  I am trying not to explain so much.  Which brings us back to our original story…

Arriving at the eye office, I stumbled out of the car.  My hand rose and fell from my eye, indecisively.  The eye doctor that I visit is a gregarious Italian man, who has always made me feel okay about having the worst vision he has ever seen.  A family man.  Three daughters.  He also has a random penchant for picking only absurdly beautiful interns and receptionists to work for him.  Of course, on this fateful day, ten minutes past their closing hour, the latter were the only people left to see me.

They were crowded around the desk.  I think they emitted light, all of them.  Their concerned, model faces were rapt as my mother and I swept into the room.  I opened my mouth to apologize for keeping them.  But my mother spoke first. “Oh, she gasped, “thank God!  I thank God for all of you!  She was crying.  Crying!”  My heart dropped.  My mind started racing to my rescue.

But I was too late.  The receptionists melted into a chorus of pitying “Oh”s.  A handsome, bearded intern stroked his chin with concern.  The young doctor in charge that day – who kind of looks like Superman – made a sweeping gesture towards the treatment rooms.  His face said quite plainly, “Your oshkosh b’gosh suspenders are too sweet.”  How I wanted to defend myself!  How I wanted to go into a diatribe against poor vision, and the Internet, to make him believe me, that I was not crying, not really.

In the end, I sighed, smiled and nodded.  While my pupils dilated, I sang ‘Always Be My Baby,’ pitch-perfect, in my head.


p.s. you should know, I officially know how to read a newspaper.  Cover-to-cover, just like my Lolo D.  Kind of anti-climactic, this one.  But you can cross it off the list, in case you’re keeping track.  Will probably take a break from reading it whole for a while.  Am terrified of running into anything remotely related to Floridian face-eating.

p.p.s. Forgot to mention, the eye-ghost was a floater.  Annoying, but harmless.  Le sigh!


4 thoughts on “imagination, and other coping mechanisms

  1. Fascinating – I also use imagination as a coping mechanism. I’m an only child and whenever I was lonely I imagined I had 4 older brothers… and one of their friends had a little brother a year older than me who was super cute and really liked me, but was too much of an introvert to do anything about it, so we always hung out as friends 🙂
    Not to mention that I sometimes still cope in the work world by pretending I’m the programmer / navigator for a Space Ship in the distant future 🙂 While I am a programmer in real life, the stuff I program is usually not intellectually challenging enough [read boring].
    Glad to see I’m not the only using my imagination.

    • Well, I think you’re quite cool for being a programmer in both dreams AND real life. And, interestingly enough — I am an only child too! Must be stronger in our type, imagining ;).

      Thanks so much for sharing your awesome imaginings. Those are the best ones, with cute boys in them! Would love to stop by your blog if you have one!


  2. i have a question. i am an only child but i would have been a triplet: Martha and Emma would have been their names. i always feel them near me or something that includes them. anyway, i never knew them (obviously), my mom had me when she was 48, i am 14 now, and i am a strong believer in the supernatural. my mom has been in an out of the hospital a few times ( a while ago). i love to pretend that what ever show or movie or favorite celebrity is my parent, and i like to act out and talk to “them” and i pretend i can see them and i just act out what i think our lives would be like. this is not because i dont love my mom or wish i had another. because i do love my mom and my dad very much. but is this a coping mechanism with what i have dealt with in my past? by the way i have never known my cousins, aunts (very well) or my grandparents and i have not had that many friends. please reply,

    • Hi Leela! Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Now, before I respond, I have to preface that this isn’t a professional opinion by any means. It’s only the reflection of a fellow only-child like yourself, musing on imagination. That said, what you’re saying is relatable! It’s not strange at all to imagine yourself in different circumstances. They are fun to indulge in when we need a break from reality. And in the context of coping – since “coping” means to “effectively deal with something difficult” – these dreams and escapes are meant to comfort us, to give us hope and relief.

      Of course, these dreams can be difficult to balance with real life. I remember being 14 – and it isn’t always easy to find friends with similar interests or perspectives. Everyone is too busy growing up, to really notice each other. But you sound really thoughtful and imaginative, and I think your sensitivities will work in your favor as you grow. You may not have met many kindred spirits yet, but they are out there! Promise! Keep reading, writing, watching, imagining, and growing, and someday you will find a proper audience.

      Anyway, I am rooting for you!

some sugar

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