I clearly remember the experience of getting my very first pair of eyeglasses. My parents had finally realized that (at the age of 11 i think), my vision had started to deteriorate enough to need glasses. I went with my dad to get my eyes checked and next thing you know I was looking through magical pieces of glass at what seemed like EVERYTHING! I could read ALL the signs. It was a moment of re-discovery. On our drive home, I annoyed my dad, unintentionally of course, by reading every single sign, billboard, graffiti, everything. It was a heady experience, one I thought it would be hard to ever replicate or beat. I guess along the way I had slowly accommodated for my deteriorating vision and didn’t realize just how little I was seeing clearly. I was so grateful for the glasses, for the genius who figured out how to correct myopia, for my dad, for my eye doctor. I brimmed with joy and gratitude.
Fast forward 30 or so years and I had a far more gratifying experience but this time without the gift of sight, yet the experience itself was a gift of unparalleled proportions. Having gone beyond the small worries of elementary school, moving countries, rearing children, fighting off illnesses and so on, life was feeling a bit more complex than when I was eleven. My mind was full on this particular day, I felt ragged, overwhelmed. My husband was driving us somewhere and I was wearing glasses. My myopia has steadily worsened many degrees since I was 11 and without glasses I can only see silhouettes, vague colours and shadows where details of people and objects would clearly be visible when looking 7-8 feet out. Sitting in the passenger seat I took of my glasses to rub my tired eyes, closed them to rest a minute and heaved a sigh just to get a proper breath in my lungs. The next thing that happened put a perma-smile on my face, one that a child naturally breaks into when they’ve caught sight of a surprise ice cream cone being handed to them. With my glasses still in my hands, I opened my eyes and what I beheld was a scenery that I couldn’t make out, it was bright but fuzzy. There were hues of various colours and some darker areas of shadows signalling objects or people in the distance but I couldn’t make out any of it clearly. When I tell you that visual stimulus produces a reaction in our brain, I’m merely stating a fact I recognized on this particular -otherwise forgettable drive. I realized in that moment that my joy arose from NOT being able to see clearly what I was looking at head on. I couldn’t see people frowning or smiling or scowling; I couldn’t see the dirt on the road, the litter on the sides of the street, the long lines at the gas pump, the road raging people fighting over parking spots, red or green lights…the absence of it all in my newfound fuzzy world made it all suddenly bearable. In fact, it made everything joyful.
So much of what we’re feeling in any given moment stems from our reaction to things, people, their expression, society at its business. If there is no stimulus being absorbed, there is no reaction being created. It leaves our brains with so much more time and space. With less junk to process, our brains are less occupied and more open to absorb and digest that which we have already consumed in stimulus or experience. While I had vowed to remember from that moment on to take regular breaks from “seeing”, I have promptly forgotten that because of too much else crowding it out. As empowering as it was to be able to see clearly over 3 decades ago, it was just as freeing to abandon that gift of sight for a short while in my forties. It allowed me to have perspective. It allowed my anxieties to melt away just like that.
You may just have the power to unsee too. See if you get out of it what I did. You will have found another tool in your toolbox to temporarily gain perspective and feel free. Go ahead and give it a try. What do you have to lose? 😉