A bit of snow is falling outside, the drive across town took a lot longer than usual. When it’s snowing, extra commute time is not unpredictable – and I’m glad I was up a bit early so I could leave early, take my time, and sit down at Panera with the travel risk behind me. Here I sip a coffee, eat “a normal breakfast”, and give some consideration to what might be my last few hours of nearsightedness.
When I wear my hat, the sides of it push in on the sides of my glasses, and after a while, they start to hurt and I get a nagging headache in my temples. It’s nice to have two pair to switch when one gets annoying, but the second usually comes with some pressure, too. On a day like today, I always walk with my head straight down to try to use my head to block the snow from getting on my glasses and making spots. The snow, of course, is so much easier than rain, though: the snow might bounce off, but the rain is guaranteed to get things wet. Without a perfectly clean cloth at hand somewhere, the rain is guaranteed to dry into splotches on a glass lens, and stay there for the remainder of the day.
I think I got those big round glasses in ninth grade, when I noticed it was harder for me to see the chalkboard, or came home with more-frequent-than-usual headaches. I remember being in Mr. McCracken’s French class, with green boards and white chalk. Chad had gotten glasses, and I recall trying his out one time and noticing a marked difference. Most of the time in class, of course, I was focusing on what funny things Monsieur McCracken might say – or dance – next, or on a certain girl in the back row. There must have been a tipping point where mom took me to get my eyes checked, and I won the prize of getting glasses. Dr. Bruner took care of my eyes back then – his daughter Amanda was in my class (and absolutely lovely to this day, I must add.) To this day, I have a much higher confidence and relaxation during visits with doctors I know. And I remember really wanting to get glasses back then – I think the accessory would make me feel special, make me stand apart.
So my point – before it’s too late: what’s it like to have blurry vision? I understand that mine isn’t as bad at a lot of people’s. It’s interesting to be able to look over the lenses and go from clear to blurry. Things seem to lose their clarity of three-dimensions: it’s not that things are fuzzy just side to side, but back and forth, too. As if they’re moving a little bit, or that they take up more space than they actually do. The edge of something appears to be in two places – one fuzzy line, then one shadowy version of the same offset a little bit, perhaps even in a couple places. When I squint I can make those unclear dimensions move around or converge a bit, and sometimes come into better focus.
I’m a lot better than others who say they can’t see anything at all. Across the parking lot, I can see the edges of a local building, and its colors. Knowing the context, I can make out the building materials with a pretty good guess, but I can seldom read the signs. On a hotel across the lot, I see dark squares that make up the windows, but wouldn’t know that the panels below them are air conditioners – not just part of the window. I can’t make out people. Their shapes and their movements, but little more. I can’t see whether someone is old or young; I can tell whether someone is huge, but not a distinction between thin or medium. It’s hard to tell the difference between a suit and a sweatsuit, but the colors are generally clear.
I’m not legally allowed to drive anymore without corrective lenses. The first time I took the test, I opted not to use my glasses, and was just barely able to score enough points to pass – and therefore didn’t have a restriction on my license. The second time – a couple years later and after my prescription had worsened – I tried the same strategy but with no avail. I read the row of figures they asked me to, and when I finished the DMV lady said “there are no numbers, Mr. Tyler.” Guilty as charged – restriction added. I bet I’d be able to make it home in a pinch without glasses, but with so many moving parts, it’s hard to put them together into a coherent picture of everything going on. It’s one thing to sit still and focus on making sense of my surroundings, but quite another to try to do so while moving, and operating a car, with all its dangers and risks. Against the snowy backdrop, it’s even harder to distinguish between what’s what – and all the more important to be able to see and plan farther ahead.
The moving blurry things make me feel uneasy, maybe a little panicky. I don’t feel grounded, sort of motion sick. I recall an aquathon last summer (a Swim + run race) during a time I was forbidden by Dr. Haferman to wear contacts because of an eye infection: I wore my glasses all day, but without owning prescription goggles, I was in a tough spot for the swim. I set my glasses on top of my shoes in the transition area, and dipped into the water before the race, just to see if I could make do. Naturally, the horizon was evident. Beyond that, there wasn’t much: the huge orange buoy signifying the turn was somewhat evident, but not really at a glance. The dark end of picnic point peninsula was a better general landmark – and I figured I would just swim near the back of the pack, and go where everyone else was going. I headed that way for a couple of strokes, and it seemed good enough, so I relaxed until the race started. It wasn’t but a minute after the gun, though, that I felt it wash over me… uh oh… hot, overwhelmed, stifled, lost… heart rate skyrocketing, nausea. Even though I was going the same place with the same movements as I had done dozens of time before, my brain sent me a panic alert when I tried to do it with one of my senses handicapped. I ended up making it through that swim, but at the very back of the pack. Chalk it up for the experience of not being able to see. The uneasiness can be similarly frustrating in the night, when things are more mysterious anyway. The shadows and the darkness are harder to understand, and if I’m anxious, they can seem to move.
I’ve tried doing yoga without my glasses on – I figure it would be an excellent exercise for me, in patience and connection with a different set of senses. To spend an hour without seeing myself or others, but looking inward. But with my glasses within reach, it’s too hard not to just reach for them – even though they get wet with sweat drops and slip dorkily down my nose. I feel unbalanced and uneasy looking into the blur – probably because I’m so accustomed to relying on my vision and haven’t been able to muster the mental strength to let myself go without it. I laughed with the owner once about just giving her my glasses at the beginning of class and asking her not to give them back to me until I was finished – but didn’t bring myself to actually do it. If my vision becomes constantly clear after this procedure, I suspect I will be a bit resentful that I didn’t accomplish the challenge when I had the opportunity.
I can’t even see my computer screen very well, it’s slow going to read 12-point at 125%. A little bit doable, but not much. There’s one sweet spot about one foot in front of my face where I can see “just right”, but the lenses help everything otherwise.
Contacts are a world nicer than glasses, because they go so easily with me where I want to go. However, they have to come in and out every day, in a process involving my fingers touching my eye. Lake water can live under them, between the lens and my eye, and propagate infection. At times when really clean water isn’t available – say, camping – millions of microscopic bugs and tiny chunks are ready to take up their residence on the surface of my eye. In anything active, there’s always the chance that a blast of wind or water could bump a lens right out of my eye – then what? I had extra lenses in my car, my bags, my transitions, my saddle bag, my office, all over the place! Every trip I took, I evaluated how many extras I’d take to manage my risk to my satisfaction. Most of the time they were a piece of cake, but they required constant maintenance.
Life situations and health care situations change all the time. Flexible Spending makes this kind of thing payable with pre-tax-saved dollars this year. I’m working steadily. I’m playing just as steadily. It’s time.
Next up: Dano's impressions from surgery, complete with cosmic voyages and lasers!
Next up: Dano's impressions from surgery, complete with cosmic voyages and lasers!