For the record, I am way too young to be wearing bifocals. When I brought the prescription to the lady who sold me the glasses, she did a double take and said, “Are you sure this is correct?” Unfortunately, it was.
Technically, my glasses are not “bifocals” but “progressive lenses,” which sounds a lot less like I need to apply for an AARP card, but nobody knows what it means. “Do they change colors when you move from sunlight to indoors?” No. Nothing so fancy. They just help me see. The distance prescription is at the top, moving seamlessly toward the close-up prescription at the bottom, gradually changing magnification (or whatever the proper optometric term might be.) The result is that, as long as I don’t try to look at things from crazy angles–say, watching TV while lying flat on the floor–the world remains nicely in focus, just as if I had never left my good old single-vision life behind.
It works, but the transition period is like wandering through a fun house built by Stephen King. I went to the optometrist because of eye strain and headaches; I left with even more eyestrain and full-out migraines, complete with all the trimmings. Re-training one’s brain to see the world in distance-specific segments, then asking it to add them together into a coherent whole, is seriously painful. New synapses don’t come cheap when you’re old enough to need bifocals.
We often forget how dependent we are on that squishy gray stuff upstairs to separate truth from illusion. We have no perception apart from the brain, and the brain is a physical object requiring physical change in order to see things differently. No matter how blurry or false our original perception, there are still migraines that have to happen before a person can accept a new point of view.
Thankfully, the migraines finally subsided, and my eyes stopped going into open rebellion every time I switched to my old single-vision sunglasses. (I couldn’t afford to replace them. This progressive stuff is expensive.) However, for months after chopping vegetables and using a computer became comfortable, the field of vision for reading still appeared to be about the size of a quarter. I couldn’t even get a whole page into focus without moving either my head or the book. Have you ever tried to get lost in a story while constantly fighting your own eyes? I promise, it doesn’t work very well.
This is an old one: no forest for the trees. But, again, if we stop to think about the way our eyes are programmed, we might also find a little insight into our minds. See those things that look like boulders next to this paragraph? They’re really salt and pepper grains under a microscope. When we get too close, our brains tell us that molehills are mountains, and we have no way to combat that daunting perception except to step away.
With enough practice, my reading difficulties were finally resolved, and I have devoured a few rather good novels in recent weeks. Time proved once again that it cures all things.
No matter what kind of multi-focal craziness you attempt to impose on it, your gray matter will eventually cave and start sending you signals that this is the way the world should be. So be careful what you stare at.
Now that I am acclimated to life with bifocals, is everything rosy and crystal clear? Mostly. I am seeing better than I did before, but there are still moments when it is impossible to look at something through the proper part of the lens–when my children climb on me and their faces go all fuzzy, or when I have to reach things in low cabinets or over my head. There is no way to avoid all the crazy angles.
We only view this life but darkly, through a glass. My vision may sometimes seem sharp and perfect, but I hope I can let the blurriness make me grateful, and remind me always to pray for better glasses.