• Steph VanderMeulen

Where's the (Real) Magic?

Life is at that point now when I'm wearing one pair of glasses, another pair is hanging from my shirt neck, and there's yet another pair sitting by the TV.


One pair sees all, but not very well. Another sees very well in the middle distance and pretty well up close, and the other sees distance well. I have to switch them up constantly.


Anyone who knows me well has heard my lamentations about my eyes, how bad they are, how no one seems to have the solution I want, and how my best feature is hidden and now I'm hideous. They know my obsession with getting a pair of frames that doesn't make me look like Stephen King or Roy Scheider in Jaws.


I have crappy vision and it's gotten worse as I've aged. But I also have to have prisms in my glasses because I have a wonk eye that, like me, otherwise loves to go rogue on a regular basis. I'm not above vanity in this case: I feel sorry for myself as well as frustrated and angry.


As a result of the thick lenses, frames in the store may look great but once I put those bad boy lenses in, chunks of my face get cut out, and I alarm friends who behold me. Suddenly, those frames are the worst I could have chosen, and the biggest, and I'm thinking everyone who works in the glasses industry just wants my money and to see how much fun they can have selling frames to a woman who can't see what she looks like when she's trying them on. This is how I ended up with sunglasses so big the case looks like a lunch container.


(I'm thinking of selling all the frames. They're brand name, weren't cheap, and the lenses are now useless to me. It used to be that you could donate old glasses to less fortunate people, and I mean, I could do this—but with the caveat that when you put on these glasses, you will be transported to another dimension. Best to pop out the lenses: ask anyone who's tried on my glasses after saying they don't look that bad.)


I have to admit, getting older was never really on my radar until maybe 43. Every birthday I had past, say, 30, I laughed. It seems ridiculous to me to be another year older, my life getting progressively shorter, when I don't feel emotionally or mentally caught up, when I don't feel like I've even got started living.


But now I'm 46. Suddenly I look in the mirror and think, hold up. Where's the face that looked okay? Where the hell did all these white, wiry hairs come from? Suddenly I have dark circles under my somewhat puffy eyes. And are those... am I starting to get jowls? Everything looks soft and things are getting wacky and breakouts are a thing, and the doctor is saying, hey, it is about that time, and this hormonal stuff can last years.


And now I'm looking at the rest of my life, seeing that the coronavirus hasn't made a dent in it, most obviously because I'm a freelancer (a copy editor). But there are other reasons my life is the way it is—to me, small, limited, and rather boring. I've made choices, I see that. But now I'm asking, Hey. What happened, life? I'm only 25! (I mean, 46?)



Expecto Patronum


Last year, I was seeing a naturopath who, after listening to my everyday, said, "But where is the joy?" And these days, working from home on my couch, I've been staring out the window lately wondering, Indeed, where is it? And even more: where is the magic?


I grew up reading. My favourite books were about magic and the paranormal. I also grew up Catholic, and the supernatural, specifically demons and angels, were very real parts of everyday belief. I prayed to my guardian angel. I also dreamed I had magic and could do and have anything I wanted. I was and still am ridiculously romantic when it comes to fairy tales and fairy godmothers and wishing upon stars. I love serendipitous stories and good, unlikely things happening. I want to be unlimited, extraordinary, and strong.


As it turns out, though, I'm not a rock star or a famous actress (these were real dreams, you guys, and not of a five-year-old), and I don't live on a ranch where I have an animal sanctuary. I can't say "accio coffee!" and actually have the satisfaction of that mug hitting my palm while I sit on the couch.


I still am not kayaking on the bay and I can't teleport anywhere. Skincare creams and tonics and serums are doing nothing they promise even after professing to be magic, and I still have panic attacks and take anti-depressant medication and see double. I am sitting here missing my dog who died two years ago, missing my yoga practice and strong, fit body, and most of all my discipline, and also just trying not to nap.


In a world in which, for a plethora of reasons, most of us aren't making bloopers on set or marrying the hottest actor or actress and making cute kids, where we don't have hugely popular blogs and dream opportunities, where we're not singing our hearts out on stages in front of fans we make happy or shooting to the stars in rocket ships; in a world where coronaviruses and poverty and hunger and cruelty and exploitation and abuse and murder and madmen making horrifying decisions abound, it's damn hard to find the magic.


Apparently, we're supposed to be keeping our eyes out for it. We're supposed to be making it ourselves. We're supposed to be finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, the sacred in the mundane. The magic is in the mess, they say.


(But honestly, doesn't that sometimes just make you want to throat-punch whoever throws that cup of cold reality in your face?)


Sometimes, I watch the squirrels and birds outside our window and I think, that's pretty damn magical, that we get to share our lives with creatures (even the two budgies who are currently chewing up our closet door, and—no joke—the squirrel that just walked into our live trap in the laundry room). The sun feels magical, too. So do the trees, and really, all of nature feels magical if you watch it unfold and feel its power. But I want more.


We little humans, no matter where we are in life, we all long for something. Maybe it's God, or the universe's graces, or peace, motivation, health and wellness, meaning and purpose, space, beauty, or simply to be pointed in the right direction. Maybe it's confidence we long for, or love, or to be able to trust; maybe it's or solitude or connection. Maybe it's the message from a celeb who sees us, maybe the call to ask us to model, the notification that we won the lottery. Maybe, we wish for the "real" magic: the doorway to Oz, the wardrobe to Narnia, the wand that works. We wish for the impossible.


Whatever kind of magic we wish for, there are people out there who long for the same, who already have it and will give it, who can lead us to finding it ourselves.


Look, I actually don't have it bad. I have love with a good, handsome man, a house with all I need (until we run out of tp), lots of things I want. I have a family and friends I love. There is a lot I'm grateful for. But... you know? But.


Honestly, I don't know exactly what to do about the magic I want. Maybe it's really just about becoming who I wish I was, and thus creating the magic. And I guess some of it, I already have, and I just need to see it again. Some of it, I need to watch for. And some, I guess, will just have to stay... hidden. Acceptance isn't my strong suit, but I can appreciate that why I want that hidden magic is, well, complicated. I'm human, after all.


(image by Niilo Isotalo)

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