Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's your normal?

Self portrait before my eye exam

Today I want to talk about personal experiences. I wear glasses for distance; I'm wearing contacts in the photo because I was due for a contact lens fitting. I didn't get glasses until the seventh grade, even though I couldn't see well before then. How was I supposed to know? I distinctly remember sitting in church and thinking that nobody could see the priest's face until you came up for communion, like it was some trick of God's. Why would I think anything else? That's how I always saw the world; that was my normal.

One of my goals last year was to read more. I like to read, so it seemed like a simple goal to accomplish. It wasn't. I read slow. When I read articles online, I scan. I attributed that to the fact that people of my generation are bombarded with information and we want to get to the point as quickly as possible.

I've been waiting to start a new book until after the holidays. As I set aside an hour for reading the other night, I was excited. After that hour was up, I'd only read 40 pages, and I thought, isn't that a pathetic number? For something that I really wanted to read, you'd think I'd be 100 pages in, right?
After an hour of reading, I had a pretty bad headache.

Have you ever seen the commercial for 1-800-CONTACTS? The one about the man with the special eyes? Oh here, I'll show you...

A few years ago, at my eye exam, my doctor made the always concerning exclamation, "Hmm!" He did the test a second time. I asked him what was up. He told me, and I quote, "You have one in a million eyes!" When your eye doctor, who happens to have a lovely South African accent, tells you you have one in a million eyes, you take that compliment with a smile. Well, it turns out, my special eyes aren't such a great thing after all.

I see pencils in front of me. All. The. Time.

I have something called convergence insufficiency. Basically, when I'm looking at something close, i.e. a book or a computer screen, my eyes don't know where to focus. They're supposed to turn inward, but mine turn outward. When you have an insufficiency, you usually have an excess. If convergence equals near, divergence equals far. I should have divergence excess, but I don't. I also have divergence insufficiency. When I look at something far away, my eyes turn inward when they should be turning outward.You know me by now, I don't do anything half way. My eyes don't know where to focus when things are far away either. The combination of the two is what makes my eyes as special as they are.

What do you see there? It says there's supposed to be a 3D shark. It could be a narwhal fencing with a unicorn for all I know; I can't see a thing

What does it mean? Apparently, I have horrible depth perception. I'm completely insufficient! My eyes work twice as hard as other people just to keep things in focus. Again, this is something I've never been aware of. Sure, there have been things that have stuck out. The fact that I've never, ever been able to get one of those magic eye things to work. 3D movies cost more money and all I get after watching them is serious eye fatigue while my friends are ducking and screaming as objects fly at them. There's no way for me to show you what I see.

Travel softball picture of me, circa 1997 in Houston, Texas. (Doesn't my coach in the background look like Elvis???)

I'm completely amazed at the fact that I not only played sports, but I was really good at them. Seriously, my eyes can't see what's coming or going, yet I was a talented catcher from the age of 12 on. I shouldn't be able to hit a ball if my eyes can't focus on it far away or as it comes closer, yet I can. I have ridiculously good hand-eye coordination. I have "astonishing" peripheral vision. (Quotes from my eye doctor.) Somehow, my eyes have found a way around all these things.

It's not like I have no concept of spacial relations; I don't walk into walls because I think the door is in front of me when it's five feet to the right. My brain has become very adept at making sense of the skewed information it's receiving from my wonky eyes. Something tells my brain to turn off one set of signals. That's pretty incredible.

I want to break it down in a way I know my readers will understand...

If we were being hunted by velociraptors, you'd want me around. I won't waste time focusing on the raptor we see. My eyes will be on top of those other two, coming from the sides!

Now I'm just waiting for my computer glasses to come in. They aren't reading glasses; old people get reading glasses and I'm not old. Instead of making things less blurry, computer glasses allow my eyes an opportunity to relax and stop trying so hard to stay in focus. The best way for me to describe it is that every time I blink, my eyes have to refocus, which is why line breaks drive me insane. (Have you noticed that I've made my blog layout as wide as I possibly could or that I give a nice line of white space so that your eyes have a chance to rest?) Again, I never knew this wasn't the same as what everyone else saw.

I could go on and on about self realization, but quite frankly, I need to stare at a TV for a while to give my eyes a rest.

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