Like you, I am prone to attacks of the Whatifs.
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems swell, and then
The nighttime Whatifs strike again!
– Shel Silverstein, “WHATIF” from A Light in the Attic
My Whatifs used to be things like, “Whatif I forget my lines in the Mother Goose play?” or “Whatif I ruin my marriage?” Then it was, “Whatif my kids hate me?” or worse, “Whatif our kids hate to read?”
Now, though, now there is a Whatif that has burrowed deeper than an earwig, has tunneled through my eardrum and my temporal lobe, and has embedded itself in my anterior insula, the worry spot in my brain: Whatif my eyes fail me in my old age and I can no longer read in bed at night?
I found a funny little meme on Pinterest the other day, “You know you’re a book lover when… you read until your eyes can’t focus.” At first I laughed, and then I wanted to cry. These days it can be as few as five minutes before the words begin to wiggle and my eyes can’t pin them down to read them. All the new aches and pains of my aging body don’t bother me that much, and when my hair grays I’ll just be one of those free-spirit women with long silver hair. But my eyes? I need my eyes for reading.
When we lived in Minnesota, I owned a soap company, and I worked on the computer all day long, editing photographs for my Etsy shop or writing blog posts for my business, and when the time came at night to lay down in bed and read, I couldn’t. Letters multiplied, an “A” becoming “AA,” but overlapping in a way I can’t recreate with my keyboard. I would squint, and blink, and rub my sockets, trying to tame the text and failing. I thought maybe my eyes were tired from working on the computer, so I took time off from the screen. But then I’d lay in bed and my vision would still go blurry, and I couldn’t read my fiction, and it was devastating to me because for all my life I’ve read before I go to bed.
I went to see the eye doctor, and after a suite of tests, after an hour and a half at the opthamologist’s office, I came to find out that my eyes are fine. He recommended that I not buy the reading glasses that I looked at at Barnes & Noble, turning that spinner around, admiring the pink leopard print frames, wondering which lens strength I might need. He said that those could weaken my eye sight if I got them too early, that my eyes would use the readers as a crutch.
“Well then what is wrong?” I asked. “Because my eyes aren’t working right, and it’s not okay with me. I read at night. I have to be able to read at night.”
And he told me, “You are an insufficient blinker.”
“When you blink your eyes, you don’t close them all the way,” he told me. “Also, when you, or me, or anyone, works at the computer, we tend to blink less frequently – we stare wide-eyed at the screen.”
“Sooooo, how does that make my sight blurry at night when I try to read?” Get with it, here, doc.
“Your eyes are drying out,” he said. “You need to blink more.”
“You’ll have to remind yourself to blink, and make sure you blink completely – close your eyes all the way when you blink.” He pulled a small white bottle out of his crisp white pocket. “And you can use these artificial tears.”
Now, around this same time, I closed my soap business and got a job at Barnes & Noble. When I interviewed there, it was obvious they wanted me to get behind the Nook, their e-reader. I pretended I was interested so I could get the job, but really I was one of those people who said, “I want a real book, I like the way they smell, I want to turn the pages.” I was anti-e-reader all the way, but I didn’t tell the manager that.
On my very first shift, when I trained on the Nook, and I saw that you could change the size of the font (ie make it giant for my granny eyes), I saw all my problems solved. I turned to my trainer and said, Holy crap I want one of these.
So I got one. My parents gave me a Nook Color that year for my birthday. And lo and behold, when I read at night, I can enlarge the font and I can SEE without it getting blurry. I don’t have to close one eye to force single vision, I don’t have to use eye drops to read. Angels sang, and my reading and eye problems were solved. For a minute.
The problem is that I still read physical books. Not every book I want to read is available as a digital title from the library, and we’ve already covered the topic of me not buying books, font-adjustable e-book or otherwise. And even with my ability to supersize the e-reader font, I still sometimes struggle with double vision.
So what do I do about my eyes? I know audio books are the latest rage in the book world – all my favorite book podcasts are sponsored by audible.com and audiobooks.com – so there’s that option. I don’t doubt that audio books are a fabulous solution for daytime reading, but at night? Am I really going to lie in bed next to my husband with headphones on, shutting him out, reading a book with my eyes closed? That makes me feel kind of weird.
Fortunately, for now, despite this litany on the failure of my eyesight, my vision is often fine. Even though I obsess about the future of my nighttime reading life, most nights I read without a problem. And when there is trouble? I have started gathering data about the days my eyes flake out. There appear to be two factors that affect them. The first is how late I go to bed: the later I snuggle in, the blurrier the words on the page. That can be easily fixed – we can watch one episode of Scandal instead of two, and I’ll be in bed by 9:30, eyes in fine form.
The second is not so simple. The second is alcohol. That’s a sad choice to have to make, the choice between literature and the zing of gin tingling my tounge. Some days deserve a drink. Some days it’s a tough call. Some days I have to ask myself, will it be The Great Gatsby, or will it be a gin sling? Will I read Papa Hemingway, or will I drink a Papa Doble? Those days I think I’m invincible, I think I can still hang like a 25 year old, and I do them both. And then, after five minutes with my book, the words begin to wiggle and my eyes can’t pin them down to read them, and I worry, Whatif I go blind? Whatif my eyes fail me in my old age and I can no longer read in bed at night?
19 thoughts on “I’m worried about my eyes”
Another “Whatif,” I am prone to glaucoma? Grandma had it, I have it. It’s like high blood pressure in your eyes, except it quietly destroys your optic nerves. Like high blood pressure, it is eminently treatable, either surgically or by using eye drops. I had the laser surgery and my pressure is great.
I downloaded “The Call of the Wild” and “White Fang” as audio files, listened to them nightly on my IPod, but it took me weeks to get through them, as the readers would put me to sleep. Ditto with books on tape when we used to make our marathon drives to the Keys.
So now I am paging through our tattered paperback copy of “Lonesome Dove” for about the fourth time as I make my way through the tetralogy. As I mentioned the other day, it’s great to know you have thousands of pages that you will enjoy reading! It’s difficult to get an emotional attachment to an E-Book, even if the words are identical.
I love you, Dad 🙂
Born with a lazy eye that required two surgeries before the age of two, I always assumed that I would go blind one day. (I don’t assume it anymore, but it could still happen.) I resolved early on that, by God, I would learn braille before I would give up reading books. (Helen Keller was a childhood hero of mine.) Best thing about e-readers? You can make the text so large that even having your pupils dilated can’t stop you from reading. 🙂
I’ve thought about Braille – have you studied it?
Haha! I started learning Braille several years ago so that I could read on buses without getting motion sickness. It’s harder than you might think, but who doesn’t love a good challenge?
Yeah, drinking def causes dbl vision, hahaha! Pot has def been shown to lower ocular nerve pressure, smoke when you drink, haha!
I have astigmatism, wh/ isn’t a great candidate for surgery. Best thing is regular exams, and a solid history of meeting life’s challenges and overcoming them, wh/ you have.
Love to all,
I have asked friends for doc recommendations. It’s been a couple of years since I got them checked. The first time I went to the eye doctor I fainted when he did the glaucoma test. That didn’t bode well for me going for regular visits, but I’ll give it another try.
Answers a lot of questions for me! But, produces a new one: if you read before falling asleep, when do you write in your journal?
Ahhh, you have caught me. I don’t write in my journal regularly. I sometimes jot a few things down while dinner is cooking or while the kids get ready for bed. Never right before my own sleep. That time is for reading.
I think I will start blinking more.
Have you tried it? I’m much more conscious of blinking now, and I can feel how dry my eyes are sometimes. I’m not convinced it helps though. We’ll see what the next eye doctor says.
Hi Andrea, I had blurred vision and the optician found no problem at all, I later found I am vitamin B12 deficient and once treated with injections it corrected itself. Have a look at http://www.b12deficiency.info
I have a magnet that sez: “Growing old ain’t for sissies” and that’s the truth. That said, audiobooks, I thought, would be a great way to spend the time on my drive to KY to visit my dad. I could re-read the classics! Listen to the book club choice! And then … absorbed in my book, I went west instead of east. And then … I read a blog that pointed out that folks who listen to audiobooks while driving are more likely to have traffic accidents. My bifocals *already* make me feel like I’m more at risk for a traffic accident. I shall have to return to belting out my version of pop music, embarrassing my children. The books I’ll never read are piling up. They’ll probably fall over on me and kill me one day.
Uh, I can’t allow that to happen. If you need to shrink your pile, feel free to feed some to me so the swaying stack doesn’t present a danger to you. And I love your magnet – it’s so you :-).
I was caught by your line, “Whatif our kids hate to read?” I was never afraid of this–I think children surrounded by books and avid readers can’t help but love reading–but then I gained a ten-year-old stepdaughter who grew up around non-readers. I actually find her dislike of reading fascinating, because it’s so foreign to me. She loves to kid me about how much I read. But I think it’s pretty clear why she doesn’t like it: she hasn’t had a lot of practice. She reads slowly, and frankly, if I had to read books at that speed, I wouldn’t be very interested in them either. But with a few more years of practice, she may get quick enough to start discovering the joys of the printed word!
What an interesting point. You’re absolutely right that it’s not as much fun to read when it’s slow going. My best friend hated reading when we were growing up, mostly because she didn’t like the material teachers required. As an adult, though, she did find the joy of reading, and she ended up returning to college in her 30s to get a degree in literature.
That’s one of my biggest fears too. I don’t read every night, but I dread my eyes failing on me one day and that I can no longer read whenever I feel like it.
I couldn’t even read during the day yesterday – it was awful. I’m in the process of finding an eye doctor. Crossing my fingers for you that your eyes don’t fail you!
I think the ‘what ifs’ can make us crazy. I have to stop myself when I get into that line of thinking or I swallow myself whole with worry. Instead I try to just take things one at a time as they come and don’t dwell on the future possibilities. Each day definitely has worry enough of it’s own.
I wish I could be “one of those free-spirit women with long silver hair”. I always swore I would. Then I swore I’d just do natural henna mixed with hibiscus. This year with full time caregiving and feeling as if I looked liked one of those comparisons of the before and after pictures of presidents, I caved. I’ve started using semi-permanent dye sometimes.
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