I knew long before I was told. I had known for a long time. I was finally compelled to face it, literally. I got my driver license renewal in the mail and made an appointment to go to the DMV and renew. Deep down I wondered if I would manage to pass the test. Not a road test, thank God I don’t have to do that again. And I wasn’t so concerned about the written test either. I figured I could study up on what the speed limit is approaching an unregulated railroad crossing. I know that a pedestrian is second nothing as far as right of way and even though you want to sound your horn and teach them a lesson, that isn’t the correct answer. I figured I would be able to pass the written test. I was concerned about the eye test.
For the past year or so, Prajna has said to me: “You can’t read that?” Well, no I couldn’t. And the thing is I don’t remember when the road signs became a little blurry. But my weakening vision never seemed to be a hindrance. Even driving, Prajna could read the street signs. If I was alone, no-one would be annoyed if I had to pass the sign before reading it and then turn around. And what was a little blurry vision anyway? It wasn’t like I was blind. I could still tell that something was there and wouldn’t hit anything.
My appointment came. At the DMV I was not able to read the top line. I leaned against the viewfinder and looked in like a scientist searching for infinitesimal signs of anything. The letters all looked like fuzzy dots. I raised my eyebrows, frowned, squinted, and finally admitted I couldn’t read it. The lady asked me to read the next one down. I couldn’t read that one either. My right eye was finally able to read a line, but my left eye reached the 5th line before I read, or guessed correctly.
The lady gave me a conditional pass. There wasn’t any actual condition on it. But we both knew what had to happen. I had my picture taken with the same lopsided expression I’ve had for the last three license pictures and did not have to take any written test.
There was no denying anymore that I needed something to correct my vision, eyeglasses. And the thing that’s funny, and a little scary is this: Once I stopped denying that I indeed needed glasses, things got a lot worse. A few days later in a store I realized how much trouble I had with the signs labeling the aisles. If I was looking down at a book and then looked up and tried to see, it was almost disorienting.
So I went to Walmart’s optometrist thinking they took walk-ins. When I was told no and had to make an appointment a week later, I left the store in a haze. Everything looked like something depicted in a cheap sci-fi movie where light speed is achieved, all distant and smeared. The thought that I had to wait another week seemed impossible. My appointment is today. I don’t know how long it will take to get the lenses made. But Prajna helped me pick out some frames.
It is interesting that once I stepped out of denial, the situation did not get better, but more urgent. Denial is like a wonderfully warm comforter that I can wear when it’s freezing outside. But to extend the metaphor, I am wrapped in the comforter and it’s outside, nailed to the frozen ground. The temperature is slowly dropping and the comforter stays warm, but I’m still outside and will surely freeze to death eventually. So I stand up and shake off the comforter. Suddenly the cold hits like an icy ocean wave. Now there is a sense of urgency that I have to do something. And I think I can stretch this metaphor just a little further without compromising it.
I’m standing in the freezing cold next to a blanket that I shook off and I have to get warm. But there is no indoor shelter. The only place there is to go is a group of people who have also shed their blankets and are standing in a huddle close enough to each other that they are keeping one other warm and alive. I have to admit that I have to ask for help and join them if I want to be warm and live.
I don’t know how much of my denial of my failing eyesight was actually life or death. But my denial in the past has kept me from seeking help when I needed it. Denial, no matter how trivial is not healthy for me. So I’m getting eyeglasses.
Longer than Prajna has been asking “You can’t read that?” I have been asking her: “What did they say?” Yes, I have failing hearing too. One issue at a time. It’s scary to come out and admit that on my blog that corrective hearing may be next. I want to deny that too. It’s such a comfortable state of mind that I want to go back and delete this last paragraph. If you’re reading it, I managed not to. For now, if you’re speaking to me, please be clear and aim to my right ear.