Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunglasses and the Unconscious

I'll tell you how the unconscious works. Yesterday, I bought a pair of sunglasses. In and of itself, there's nothing remarkable about that, people do it almost every day. I've owned clip-ons and the goggle types that fit over regular glasses and they worked fine. But this was the first pair I've had since college intended to be worn by themselves -- or so I thought when I bought them.

Sunglasses have gotten expensive in the past few years. When I was in junior high school I saved the money I earned working part-time in my father's retail western store and saddle shop to buy a pair of Ray-Bans. At twenty dollars, they were a bargain by today's prices, had gold wire rims with large rounded-corner square glass lenses, and I loved them. The world somehow just looked better wearing them.

Since I'm currently living on a medical student's budget, I did some fairly serious research before pulling out my bank card, and right here is where the unconscious comes in. The ones I chose are almost identical to the pair in the photo, taken by a roommate of mine quite some time ago when I was doing doctoral work in theology. I'd completely forgotten about these and I wasn't aware of the similarity, at least consciously, until I reached over to switch on the lamp a few minutes ago and noticed the photo hanging behind it. I can assure you, I wasn't thinking of them yesterday. I can imagine Rod Serling saying, "Picture a man purchasing sunglasses..."

The Labrador is my dog, Babbo, who passed away at nearly fifteen after surviving bone cancer and the amputation of one foreleg. I could write many more than a single post about her and someday I will. For now, I'll say only that she was the most amazing and loving of companions. We went through a great deal more than cancer together and managed to keep each other sane and happy.

My behaviorist colleagues would likely explain all of this by saying I have a fondness for a particular style that persists over time. That's true, but they weren't my first choice. I gave in to the purchase because there was something about them that wouldn't let me go. In my experience this usually means something in the deep dark recesses of my cerebral cortex wants recognition and I do well to pay attention.

What this may be is not exactly clear. I've only been aware of the similarity for about 30 minutes, I guess? My inclination, however, is to think I could be in the process of reclaiming the person I was then and making him a more integral part of who I am now. Or, possibly, I'm in the position of becoming the person I wished I could have become then. I don't really know but I'll keep at it. I don't think it's ever a waste of time for us to take a closer look at things like this. You don't know what might be lurking around, waiting patiently until we've finally gotten to a place it can break through and lead us to who knows where.

(Photo copyright by the author)

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