A Short-Sighted Approach to Life
I dallied with sharp vision but believe me, blurry is best
I once mistook a red tractor for a flowering shrub. “Look! A rhododendron in the middle of all that corn!” I shrieked happily to my friends. “Nature is so amazing!”
Their understandable response was to suggest I had my eyes tested.
Seeing clearly was helpful. But it also made life less blurrily beautiful. Freed of its task of turning indistinct trashcans, stones and shopping carts into fairies, magical objects and random flowers my brain started delivering life as it really was, with all its sharp angles and hard edges.
Fantasy Versus Reality
I hated my glasses with a vengeance. I still do. In my opinion they are only attractive on librarians in movies, who suddenly take off their specs, release their mane of unexpectedly wild curls and gaze seductively (if short-sightedly) at some entranced physics professor returning a book.
Also, while I am on the subject of fantasy versus real life: on makeover shows why do the madeover people never wear their glasses? “You can look now!” says the host. The drab bespectacled “before” turns to confront her dazzling glasses-free “after” in the mirror. Her eyes fill with tears. This is not emotion. She is trying to create a temporary, watery lens to make sense of the shimmering blob in front of her. I have done this. If you blink enough times, or stare hard enough, you can get enough tears to be able to see clearly for about a millisecond. This avoids unattractive squinting or getting so close you smack into your reflection, neither of which work well in a reveal.
Putting Things in Your Eyes
I wore hard contact lenses for a number of years and treated them in a very cavalier fashion. I would spit on them if I ran out of lubricating drops, I slept in them after parties and mad nights out. I often lost them and the irony of a semi-blind person trying to find the microscopic object that helps them see was never lost on me. Yet somehow I managed to retrieve the tiny plastic discs from floors, beds, cat baskets or drains and jam them back in my poor sore eyes. I was very lucky indeed not to get some horrible infection or worse.
I switched to soft lenses at some point but detested them, with all their wanton bendiness. They’re much bigger than hard lenses and seem to operate on suction. Taking them out involves rather gruesome pinching and pulling to release the vacuum. Sometimes I couldn’t get one out of my eye. I scared myself witless, imagining it would stay there for ever and merge with my eyeball.
Being vain, I persevered, with the help of eye drops and different lens types, convincing myself that puffy red eyes were better than glasses. But eventually I succumbed and now wear my glasses all the time.
An Upside of Not Seeing
Like many glasses wearers I whip them off for photos and important occasions. When I got married three years ago, I was most definitely not walking down the aisle wearing specs. As my eyes refused to tolerate contact lenses even for 30 minutes, the only solution was to do without any form of visual support.
This leads me to a welcome and unexpected side effect of abandoning sharp vision. The minute I “went commando”, spectacle-wise, all wedding day nerves completely vanished. I glided blindly down the aisle, grateful for the arm of my brother-in-law and the fact my groom was wearing army uniform so was relatively easy to spot at the business end of the church. But I felt incredibly relaxed in my blurry bubble. Repetitions of this experiment on other potentially nerve-wracking occasions that don’t require good vision has confirmed this technique works, for me anyway.
The (Short) Quest for Perfect Vision
I would never consider laser surgery as I don’t want to meddle with bits of me that are healthy but flawed. I was therefore a perfect customer for courses and books promising perfect vision naturally by doing special exercises and eating certain foods and herbs.
I was entranced by stories of people who had thrown away their bottle-top specs after following these exercises, their lives reverting to crisp focus as nature intended. I cheered as they blazed their way through optometrist’s charts with confidence, as opposed to my default approach: squinting, guessing and lying. “Sorry, I wasn’t ready. No, I know it’s definitely a ‘J’. I got some soap in my eye when I showered morning.”
I bought one of these miracle books, quite a few years ago now and embraced the weird exercises with a vengeance. I tried “cupping”- sitting with cupped hands over your eyes, the idea being that total blackness relaxes your over-tense muscles. The book said half an hour and I think I managed about 10 very long minutes, during which time I was thinking that glasses weren’t that bad really.
I stood in the garden and looked at far off objects then close-up ones in quick succession to retrain my eyes in near and distant vision. It made me slightly seasick and a bit discouraged as the close-up object (a clover leaf held in front of my nose) was always 100 percent clearer than the something (eagle? plane? UFO?) in the distance.
I loved one of the concepts in the book: that I could see perfectly, I just didn’t realise that I could. Maybe there was a childhood trauma I “didn’t want to see”. Ah ha! I ranged tirelessly through my childhood memories but the only one I could come up with was not getting a pony.
Fortunately, all was not lost. I could retrain my brain to see. Good! The exercise was deceptively simple. All I had to do was “re-remember” the details of the object I was looking at and tell my brain to put them in. I wasn’t quite sure how to remember details when I couldn’t see them, but I faithfully told myself “you can see perfectly, you can see perfectly,” as I gazed blindly at an amorphous mass of woozy shapes and willed them into a high resolution flock of soaring starlings, each feather shimmering in the sunlight.
That didn’t work either.
I know I gave up too soon. An afternoon probably wasn’t enough time to re-engineer my eyesight. But there was a basic problem with the method. The book recommended that you go cold turkey and do without glasses for 30 days. I can understand the logic of this, you get used to relying on a prop, you need to make your eyes work again.
However, what happens when you have to drive to work, give a presentation, greet a customer across a crowded room? The method, as far as I could see, (or not see) would work only if you had a long period of uninterrupted time to try it out.
When does that ever happen?
Fast forward several years.
There are many disadvantages to lockdown, but it could also be the perfect opportunity to give the book another go, to throw caution and glasses to the winds.
So, I am going to cup and cover, fling my focus hither and thither until I have the eyesight of a falcon. I will create a mental image of the ten-year-old me cantering off into the (sharply-in-focus) sunset on a pony I had forgotten I had.
I will no longer think staring at four walls is boring, because, through willpower and chanting, those walls will be revealed to me in a new light with all their miraculous bumps, lumps, cracks and crevices.
Once lockdown ends, I will emerge blinking, slightly bruised (through bumping into furniture whose details I didn’t imagine clearly enough), but with renewed hope and vision.
See you on the other side!