fuzzy edges

A few weeks ago, I went to the doctor for what I thought was an eye infection. She suspected something different and within a couple of days, I was in front of an opthamalogist/eye surgeon who was telling me that I had contracted an upper respiratory infection and transferred it to my eyes, probably while crying so much when mourning my aunt’s passing last month. Anyway, the nasty virus had damaged my eyes pretty seriously. I was ordered out of my contacts and all eye make-up or creams for at least two weeks  (later extended to at least 4 weeks). Steroid eyedrops were prescribed for the searing pain, but I was glumly told that the other symptoms would likely persist for maybe 6 months, possibly up to 2 years.


This is definitely not the news you want to hear. But at the same time, I was enormously relieved and grateful that the damage was not likely permanent, and that the doctor could relieve my pain with his little prescription pad.

I left his office, removed my contact lens, and embarked on a journey into another world.

In this world, nothing is crisp or clear like it was with my contacts for the last 20 years. My vision is good enough that I can almost get away with not wearing my glasses at all, and the prescription is only right for a certain distance (basically the distance from the front seat of my car to a stop sign I’m approaching), so I have been foregoing them quite a bit. (Except when I’m driving. It hardly seems fair to imperil everyone else in town just because I hate my glasses…)

The world without my contacts or glasses is a fuzzy one. Soft edges. Less intense colors. Kind of like one, giant Monet painting. I have trouble discerning facial expressions from more than 3 or 4 feet away, so I’ve turned into something of a “Rainman” character in that I don’t see nor respond to other people’s frustration or grief or anger or humor until they are right upon me. To me, everyone wears the same expression.

My children read signs for me and locate grocery store prices. My colleagues whisper to alert me to whom is waiting for me at the counter so that I don’t inadvertently offend anyone with the wrong name. My boss has grown accustomed to pointing out the mistakes that spellcheck doesn’t catch and I can’t properly see.

I went to yoga last week and fell out of nearly every balancing pose I tried, not having the ability to focus on a point in the distance to hold my balance. Staring at my computer screen is a hit-or-miss proposition. Sometimes – like tonight – I can see the letters fine as I type them. Other times, when my eyes are more tired or the light is too bright, I can’t, and the result is something resembling an ancient Cyrillic language.

Small items or things at a great distance run the high risk of being completely mistaken for something else altogether. I plucked a black widow spider out of my shower the other morning, just as it was making a run for my foot. To me, it looked like black fuzz from the sweater I’d been wearing; I thought it had fallen from my hair into the water and was being washed toward the drain. Only when I dropped the spider in the toilet and saw the distinctive orange marking did I realize what it was.

A few evenings ago, I nearly allowed my little dog to “make friends” with a raccoon I’d mistaken for a fat, fluffy canine, and tonight, while on my villa balcony in Cancun, I saw a man on the plaza below looking up at me with his arm raised. I looked around and saw no one. So I waved back. He held his posture, so I snuck inside, retrieved my glasses, and discovered that I’d just waved at a statue.

Being sight-impaired for the short- to medium-term is something of an inconvenience and, occasionally, funny. But it’s also opened my mind to things I hadn’t seen before. I’ve discovered that I listen better and more clearly. Without being able to read the nuances of facial expressions and body language, I react less quickly and take offense far less. I am slower, more deliberate in everything I do, because it’s awfully hard to rush around when you might crash headlong into something if you do. Nothing is black and white; my entire world is a grey area. There are no absolutes. I am perpetually vulnerable and unable to pretend otherwise. It is a humbling and amazing place to be. A surreal world with fuzzy edges.

The limitations on my ability to read and gauge others’ feelings and thoughts has also caused me to rely more strongly on my own. When you can’t tell if the person sitting across from you is saying something that they don’t really believe just to be nice, you have to take them at their word and decide for yourself what you think. When you have blonde eyelashes but can’t wear a lick of eye make-up, you have to set vanity aside and decide that it’s up to them to see the inner beauty of your happiness. And when you wake-up every morning able to still see your children’s faces, you remember gratitude for what is still clear, rather than cursing what is fuzzy.

My eye damage has been the classic blessing in disguise. I am not sure why the universe chose this particular means of reminding me of so many valuable lessons, but I am grateful for them nonetheless. When my eyes are healed and I return from the land of Mr. Magoo, I will be relieved to have my sight fully restored, but I’ll also miss some of the softness and gentle realness of this world, too.


Filed under general musings, personal growth

8 responses to “fuzzy edges

  1. I guess nothing’s stopping you from having a weekly no-lenses day when things get back to normal?…
    Enjoy Cancun… 🙂

    • Interesting idea, Lady E., but I think part of the humbling nature of this experience stems from the fact that it is completely out of my control. Even with my glasses, the world is funky and out of whack. I have to just surrender to it and muddle along. Definitely outside my normal comfort zone! 🙂

      And thanks — Cancun is wonderful as always!

  2. What an ordeal, but surprising blessing in a way. I love to read your blog, because you always find the silver lining. 🙂
    Enjoy a beautiful, if impressionistic, trip 🙂

    • Oh dear, Cate! I wish that I were worthy of your silver lining comment! Lol. No, my dear, I often have to search far and wide for that silver lining. And sometimes, I have to brush the soot off an old charcoal gray lining and call it good enough.

      But this time, with the help of a friend, I really was able to see it this way.

      I put my contact back in later this week. I wonder what the world will look like…..

  3. Reminds me of that one commercial where she’s trying to get the racoon in the house……… Interesting timing, as always. Eye stuff is scary, for sure. I’m pretty convinced I won’t be surprised to learn mine need to be removed or something weird like that, but it’s always a point to make the best of what we’ve got while we’ve got it.

    I’ve heard statues make great friends, too. They’re the rocks we need them to be, and always available. 😀

    Glad you had a great vacation! 🙂

    • I LOVE that raccoon commercial! Lol!

      Yes, my stony friend was outside my veranda every evening, waving at me. He was clearly besotted with me. Frankly, his constant attention was mildly embarrassing.

  4. I like your reference to Monet. When I was traveling around the USA on business back in 1997 and 1998, I stopped at significant art institutions and looked at paintings. The old masters like Rembrandt and others fascinated me.

    I found myself drawn to many by Monet. At the time, I wrote a column (of the kind that I published to family and friends, long before blogs became practical/common) about painters.

    I opined that the Italian painters of the Renaissance used canvasses that were proportional in size to the sins they had committed. As they seemed to mostly paint female nudes, this seemed possible.

    I also explained that obviously Monet was a great artist but was simply short-sighted, had no glasses, and that’s why his paintings are beautiful but fuzzy. More recently, I discovered that someone has said this is true and not a witty observation! I don’t recall where I read it now, alas.

    Maybe now if the time for you to go to drawing class and do nudes, or start some oil painting. The results might be quite different than you’ll be capable of when you have your full sight back.

    • Hmmmm…. that’s fascinating about Monet. I had no idea.

      I wonder what would happen if I tried art right now… But I suspect that it would be no different, since my near vision is perfect and I’m sure my brain would compensate. What I’d see would be fuzzy, but the drawing on the page would likely be crisp…

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