When I was eight or nine years old, I went to a children’s museum in Utah where they had one exhibit that was neither colorful nor noisy and therefore all but abandoned by most of the kids. Being a curious person, though, I had to check it out.
In the middle of a big room stood a small house. It had all the rooms – a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room – all squeezed down to kid-sized proportions. I can’t tell you what any of it looked like, though, because inside the house it was pitch black. Really, truly, can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face darkness.
This was my first encounter with the world of the blind.
I knew blind people existed, of course, and I had, in my childish attempt to understand their lives, walked around my house with my eyes closed and my arms out zombie-style. It didn’t seem so bad. Stairs were annoying, but I could always cheat slightly by looking down for just the briefest second. I could totally handle being blind, I thought. This is not such a big deal.
That’s what I thought until the day at the museum, that is.
When I tried to navigate through this house, I couldn’t cheat. I couldn’t peek for just a second. I had my eyes wide open, hoping for some kind of light to penetrate the room, but it never did. The only way to get through it was to use the rest of my senses.
It was slow. It was awkward. It was clumsy. And I never thought about blind people and their experience of the world the same way again.
I love my eyes. I love them a lot. Knowing they are possibly temporary and seeing for myself what that would look like made me seriously respect my other senses and diligently hone them from that day forward. Just in case. But I would really love to hang on to my vision as long as I possibly can. It’s for this reason, this respect for my eyes and how much value they add to my life that I have put off today’s events for as long as I have.
This afternoon I am having lasik surgery. I am told that by this time tomorrow I will be able to look out my window and see individual leaves on trees. I can, of course, do this just fine right now with my glasses on, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. But yes, the idea of not looking for dropped contacts on blue tile floors does appeal. As does no longer having face grease impede my vision as it slowly creeps across my glasses during the day.
There are are a lot of great things to look forward to from this surgery, but the surgery itself is not one of them. It is the leaves and blue tile floors and face grease I will try to keep in mind as I allow someone to slice my cornea open with a laser and burn little bits off of it (just typing that made my stomach flip – apologies to any sensitive folk out there). I’m very much not looking forward to those ten minutes of fun. It doesn’t seem like the most respectful way to treat eyes that have worked hard for me for nearly 33 years, but them’s the shakes.
The benefits of seeing the world without the aid of contacts or glasses (or tiny diamonds made between my forefingers and thumbs) sounds pretty spectacular though – as does diving without fear of losing a lens, not carrying a whole bag of solution and cases and lenses and glasses with me on camping trips (or any trips!), not choosing a new pair of frames at the eye clinic (though I’ll miss my red ones!), and not taking off my contacts only to realise I don’t know where my glasses are. Those all sound pretty great. So great that I will face my fear of losing my sight in the hopes of gaining even better vision.
Today’s the day. It’s going to happen whether I’m ready for it or not. Here we go!
I’ll see you on the other side!