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On Eyesight

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Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash

This is somewhat related to the prompt I posted on Friday. Have a read here. Missed the post? Consider subscribing to my blog so that doesn't happen again.

When I was six years old and started school in Israel, it took about a week for the teacher to figure out I could barely see. I was so nearsighted that the lenses of my glasses—when I got them three months later—were as thick as the bottom of a beer bottle. It was the Nineteen-eighties, as the kids say, and I still remember the little street mall where the optician store was. When we left, I was able to see the bakery across the parking lot with my new glasses. I got a doughnut for cooperating and probably for spotting the bakery.

When I was twenty, I had laser surgery. The little things seemed so big then. Waking up in the middle of the night and being able to tell the time right away. Seeing my toes in the shower (yes, my eyesight was that bad). Two pregnancies (and births) later, my vision is not as bad as it used to be, but I now need glasses again. They’re mostly for outside, and I have to take them off when I read because “I’m getting to that age”, as the optician told me last year.

For years I thought about my near-sightedness as a limitation. As a kid, my eyesight kept me basically grounded. Before I got my glasses, I couldn’t see where the other kids went; after, I couldn’t follow them for fear my (rather expensive) glasses would break. It was something wrong with me that I needed to fix. And why not? Fixes were available and getting easier and cheaper.

But now, I’m not so sure. When I have my glasses on, I notice details. I see little, inconsequential details, like girls who have the same coat as my daughter (I spot about two a week, on average). Or that the bush on the common has 30% more blossoms than last week. That is fine, even an advantage for someone whose job is sometimes to describe things. But we know from research that our brain filters stuff out. It filters out things like who wears which coat so that we don’t get overwhelmed with details.

In her memoir, Tara Westover quotes her mother saying that sometimes we choose our illnesses. I wonder, sometimes, if I had to be nearsighted to give my brain an occasional break from all the details—a chance to focus inward, to block the outside world. Besides, maybe I’m getting to that age when I don’t need to fix everything I am, to square my circle to fit with what’s considered normal. Don’t worry; I still put my glasses on when I drive.


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