An Aha (HahahaWaaah!) Moment

(image courtesy Ms. Blue Sky)

Recently, I have found myself doing something I have no word for. Maybe the word doesn’t exist or maybe I just don’t know it. Perhaps you could help me figure this out.

Example #1:  

I’m at the park with a friend. Our kids are sitting in our laps, eating tangerines. “Can I take your picture?” My friend asks, and I say sure, because I’m feeling pretty good, wearing a pretty blouse and my hair is brushed. So she pulls out her phone and snaps our photo. Of course my kid wants to see it so she hands over the phone and I look and have something sort of like an epiphany.

An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of sudden realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific, religious or philosophical discoveries but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.

I say “sort of like an epiphany” because instead of an aha moment, I’m having an OHMYFUCKINGGODWHATTHEHELLHAPPENEDTOMYFACE moment, not enlightening or positive at all, no. It brings me down, down, down.  The gods are playing a cruel trick on my face and having a little snicker at my expense. See, when I left the house that morning was looking good, I had on lipstick and red sandals, but suddenly it’s not cute at all. It’s the opposite of body dysmorphia: instead of seeing bad when I look in the mirror, I see good, and it’s also not vanity, because I know the good is an illusion.  

What’s the word for that?


Example #2:  

I leave my cute and cozy home to go out into the world.  Where I go or how long I’m gone are irrelevant, but when I come back, it appears as though god has taken a giant crap on my house.  Suddenly it’s dirty, ugly, small, broken down, and it smells funny.  Sometimes I’m afraid to leave the house because I know what’s going to happen.

Is this some kind of twisted optimism or is it fingers-in-the-ears-repeating-la-la-la? What is the word for this?  


Example #3:

I just started editing my novel again after not looking at it for awhile and let me tell you, it’s a bad, sad joke. Again, the gods must be having a good chuckle watching my stunned reaction. I do not remember writing this crap and I apologize to all of you nice people who read it and said kind things. I really don’t have any excuse: I wasn’t drunk (so I can’t claim beer goggles) and I was wearing my reading glasses.

Myopia (Greek: μυωπία, muōpia, “nearsightedness”, “shortsightedness” is a condition of the eye where the light that comes in does not directly focus on the retina but in front of it. This causes the image that one sees when looking at a distant object to be out of focus but in focus when looking at a close object. Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, longsightedness, is a defect of vision causing difficulty focusing on near objects. 

My eyes are fine. I can drive my car, I can tie my shoelaces, and yet somehow, while writing, I manage to be myopic and hyperopic at the same time; I miss awkward phrasing and dissonance and whole paragraphs that don’t fit, I don’t see the large picture and miss elephantine problems in the middle distance, as well. I swear, I’m not blind.  How is this possible?  What is the word for this?


Can you help me find (or make up) the word?  

Do you suffer from _____________, too, or am I the only one? 

About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. I have no idea what the word is but I think it has nothing to do with your eyes and all to do with your mind … it is showing you more tahn one reality so maybe you are a prophet?

  2. The first one? 1) Good self-esteem.

    The second one? 2) Pressing priorities.

    The third one? 3) Revision, revision, revision.

    AF, you crack me up. You are a rare and wonderful creature. And you tell the truth— the wonky, human truth. I like that in a writer— I really do. Thanks for this moment today.

  3. I know what you’re talking about, although I find that it works both ways. Sometimes, I write something, declare it garbage, and bury it under a pile of work papers, only to discover that it isn’t half bad after a week or two. (Or, more likely, that some much better writer came in and rewrote it while I wasn’t looking.) More often, though, I just take a second look at something I was proud of and find that I can’t put a sentence together, remember my own characters’ names, or spell :-). Definitely needs a word.

  4. oh, your just having a bad day, and the camera lighting was bad and we’re never done with our houses .

  5. I might call it faith. You want to believe something (and let’s focus on example number 3 here), that your mind allows you to do so, because to get to where you really want to be, you have to take that first step that faith allows. Later, your intellect takes over and you move forward. Nothing at all to be embarrassed about.

    • I like that, Joe. Now that you mention it, I see that blind faith in beauty has carried me far in life. Far enough to find it, in fact.

    • macdougalstreetbaby

      I agree. I call it hope. I’m not sure if it’s something you can learn or whether you’re just born with it but it has served me well. Even when I look in the mirror and am horrified at my reflection, I always believe I’ll look better tomorrow.

  6. It’s called being normal Anna !!

  7. Have you considered that your body may have been taken over by alien beings and that they are exchanging these earthly vessels of ours between themselves. I know that is what has happened to me; and there is no word for it so stop searching. {They have a word for it but we don’t – – – yet.}

  8. It’s easy to be too critical of ourselves. 1) If you feel cute, you are cute. 2) Everyone has a different standard for their surroundings. Cleanliness, managing clutter, etc., is done day by day, not all at once (well, you can, but it is exhausting!) Live in it the way you are comfortable. and give yourself a little break until you have your “happy place”. 3) Writers go through this. Try to be objective. If you have a critique group, sometimes that helps distance from your self-berating tendencies. I’m going through a love-hate relationship with my first draft of my memoir. Observe and let it be what it is. A little Buddhist attitude might help here 😉 Good luck – Alexa Maxwell

    • I do love my writing group. They help me see the truth. I can’t even imagine how unsettling it must be to write a memoir. No way to escape the reflection in the mirror there.

  9. These same kinds of things have been happening to me for years. When I manage to step back into analytical space (which is hard when what’s left of my hair sticks out in a defiant Statue of Liberty look, and newly weird parts of my body take over photos) I realize that angles and lighting are everything when you freeze something.

    I try to dump the photos that freeze moments I don’t want to acknowlege. I learned from that recent photography session that it’s important to see photos of yourself from better angles and good light so you know that what you see in a bad photo isn’t the only kind of moment of you there is.

    I try to think hard about the moments I freeze into larger written works. Do I not recognize the moment because I’m now reading it like a reader who didn’t have prior knowledge of what I meant? Does that invalidate the moment or merely suggest that a few more words or a sentence is needed to clarify? Sometimes I’m amazed by how much I come to hate something I’ve written before I get to the day when the fix washes over me like a divine wind. And sometimes the fix is smaller than I thought I needed.

    I think it’s all normal like Helen said. But I don’t let people randomly snap my picture anymore if I can help it. I live a little easier when I don’t see photos that preserve Statue of Liberty hair moments, or cheeks clinging to my face that seem to have grown after I left the house.

    • I love what you’re saying. Maybe the light is hitting me right half of the time. Maybe I just need to take more pictures to see it. How was your event, btw?

      • The event went much better than I could have expected. There were a few moments that gave me a lot to chew on. I might try to write about them tomorrow. But my daughter was unexpectedly off from work (having switched off-days with a coworker) so she happily rescued me from solitary thinking. Having a lovely afternoon with her made it a good day.

  10. Optimism. I know it well.

  11. Spmetimes we look at theworld through rose colored glasses and sometimes our glasses are gray and dirty or have a big ole smudge on them. So, take the gray glasses off and put them away. Simple.

  12. Optimism is a good way to look at it. I’m finding that my eyesight is just bad enough to not spot the dirt in the house, but good enough to locate every last wrinkle. It’s an evil plot. Wild, but I’ve found myself in all three of your scenarios.

  13. By the pricking of my thumbs I can let something bad come my way. Or is it the glass splinter that the Ice Queen has lodged in Kai’s eye? I wish they could invent coloured contact lenses that would actually put a more positive spin on the world for the day…

  14. It’s “restitentialism” – and it’s not you, it’s Them, the mirror, the camera, your house, your writing machines – it’s an ongoing war.

    Don’t panic, the Skynet isn’t live yet and we can still get out of this alive.

  15. Anna, a very thought-provoking piece. The Yiddish words for this condition are: Farblunget and Farmisht. 🙂 continue…

  16. I think Mr. Tomosky nailed it! Great comment. Though as far as #3 goes, I think it’s distance that makes us see the faults, and that’s why it’s so hard to edit right after we finish something. It’s like having a beautiful perfect infant that changes into a teenager. As far as pictures, I solved that by ‘just saying no’ and not having my photo taken!

  17. I think it’s “edopia” which would be something like the inability to stop editing. The longer a piece sits, the more editing it needs. Amazing, eh?

  18. when i started reading this post, i was thinking: YES! I know the feeling. i don’t know how or when it happened, but i’ve become a little bit bloated and a little bit middle aged. i was never one to be in pics, mind you. and maybe that’s how it happened, by which i mean, i aged.

    As for the literary lack of self-awareness, that’s something I think most people feel. and if it makes you feel any better, i have a buddy who never reads my blog but who always waxes poetic about your stuff. maybe you’re being a little hard on yourself. you are a talent, my girl. which is probably why you’re hard on yourself.

  19. Pingback: does the D in DIY stand for delusional? « running in circles

  20. aubrey

    I think you’re suffering from sobriety. It’s a terrible parched condition which causes you to be too hard on yourself, even though you are wearing a wonderful hat.

    My birthday party is still going on – come on over, there’s still some champagne and strawberries left.

  21. your wit and honesty is refreshing. I like optimism. (and tequila) !

  22. Anne, I have found the word you search for some time ago… can you hear the trumpets? and the drums? and the oliphants?

    The word is…


    I bet my hat you are going to Google it in the next five seconds, which is why I wrote it in a line of its own.

  23. I had no idea Matthew Bellamy could say it too! Muse is like my favorite band. Do you like them too?

    No Eton here. I’m a high-school drop out.

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