When I was in grade one I got my first pair of glasses. It was over Christmas break and the teacher, Mrs Turner, gave me a Cinderella coloring book and crayons in an effort to make me feel ok about them when we got back from the break. I can still remember going to my desk with the chair turned upside down on top, and seeing the blue coloring book sitting on the bottom of the chair. It hurt to look at each coloring page and see Cinderella looking beautiful in rags and gowns but never in glasses. The book made me feel like only the ugly stepsisters had glasses, beautiful girls had perfect eyesight and therefore beautiful faces. I remember fighting the urge to cry and knowing I should be grateful and say thank you to Mrs Turner for going out of her way and giving me the coloring book. I did thank her, even though I thought it would have been better if she'd found a book with nice people wearing glasses instead.
And then my world became a scary place.
I have been mulling over the idea that I grew up in fear but didn't know why. My childhood wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst either. My parents did the best they could with the resources they had at the time. So where did the fear come in? I think part of it may have been from being plunged into a world I wasn't ready for and didn't know how to adjust to.
When I got my new glasses my dad put me on his hip and showed me that with my glasses I could see every telephone pole (remember telephone lines above ground? sigh...things change), even the far away ones. Then he showed me that without my glasses everything was fuzzy and I couldn't see the telephone poles at all. I understood what he was talking about but I couldn't explain to him why I hated it and would rather have a fuzzy world than a clear world. You see, I have absolutely no memories of seeing the world clearly before glasses. The world I knew was close, safe, and enclosed in a fuzzy shroud. I only dealt with what I could see at the time, there was no need to look into the horizon and see what's coming. I was insulated and grew to be used to living in my own head with minimal distractions. Then the glasses arrived. My world expanded and I felt exposed, so I tried to make myself invisible. I was terrified of everything and everyone. I didn't want them to be a part of my world and I didn't know how to block them out or not invite them in. I felt like I was overloaded with information to process and I didn't know how to deal with it all.
Even now I find myself not looking at the horizon much, just focusing on what's in the small radius around me. I have become accustomed to noticing the world, but I shut myself off from it frequently. It is usually an effort to look up and notice the world in the distance. Learning to drive was an experience in information overload but I managed to figure it out. I still have to fight the urge to 'fuzz out' the external world when driving, I remind myself to pay attention pretty much every time I'm in the car. Shutting the world out is probably what leads me to not really see what's going on all the time or understand how people behave in society. I can watch them, but it isn't instinctual how to behave like others. I didn't see them while my brain was forming in those first six years of my life so I didn't develop the nuances to appropriate behaviour. Therefore, sometimes I am clueless.
Interestingly, now that I've had glasses for 33 years I find the fuzzy world a bit scary. I am rated to see 10 cm in front of my face clearly, everything after that is some degree of fuzz. But at a certain distance I see...nothing. Nothing at all. And that has become scary. Blindness is the most frightening scenario in my life. I now feel safe when I can see the whole world when I want to.