If you’re old enough to remember the rock band Jay and the Americans, this title might remind you of their hit song “Come a Little Bit Closer”. Actually, that’s what myopic folks often want to do to see more clearly, when moving farther back instead and taking time to look in a gentle non-grabbing way would be better for their vision.
Jacob Liberman is an optometrist who wrote the classic vision improvement book “Take Off Your Glasses and See”. He started improving his own eyesight by taking off his glasses and just lazily looking at an eye chart to see what he could see, when he had some time between patients. He was quite surprised to find that the longer he looked, the clearer the letters became!
Jacob started experimenting with seeing without glasses after he noticed what he called a slight “wobble” in his vision, in the fraction of a second after he took his glasses off. He theorized that his natural vision was trying to reassert itself, after being suppressed by the glasses, and he wanted to see if he could encourage this. Most people would have ignored this quick fluctuation, assuming that without glasses they couldn’t see clearly, so not even tried.
It’s a quick-fix culture even more today, with people wanting instant solutions. Everyone is too busy and most people are often rushing. When they find it may take a while to see more clearly without glasses, especially if their poor visual and health habits are long-standing, they may opt for what they see as a faster “solution” like Lasik or cataract surgery to implant a prescription lens. This is unfortunate.
A big part of my own vision improvement has been and continues to be the mindset and behavior of “allowing myself to see”, rather than “making myself see”. I’ve noticed time and time again that if I look in a relaxed way, with no agenda of seeing a portion of the eye chart or something else with a certain level of clarity, the longer I look, the better I see! It’s even more helpful if I haven’t put a deadline on myself (what an awful word!), which I used to do. I thought if the letters didn’t get clearer in 30 seconds or a minute I should go do something else, that this session was unproductive.
It’s quite cold here in NY now, not above freezing for at least a week, so I’m not getting outdoors much to practice looking far. What I’ve been doing instead is looking out my front window every morning, as far down the street as I can see until my view is blocked by houses and the curve of the road. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that several years ago I never looked even 2 houses away, let alone 10! I was thrilled when I did start looking down the street about how much I could actually identify without my glasses.
A key part of this morning “exercise”, which feels more like a game, is just to notice. A moving van or a delivery truck or a utility vehicle are interesting visual food, with colors and corners and textures and guys in uniforms. Just this morning there was a crane on my little street, lifitng a man up 2 stories so he could cut branches from a tree! I felt like a little boy excited about watching a fire truck. I’m realizing I missed a lot when I wasn’t looking around my neighborhood, and I certainly wasn’t having as much fun.
Like Jacob Liberman, I’m finding that the more I look, the more I see. I’m not automatically disheartened if it’s a cloudy overcast day, or if it’s raining or even dark out. There’s still plenty to see if I’m willing to let it in. I don’t think “Oh, there’s nothing going on out there — let me go back to my computer”. I wait long enough for the activity and detail to reveal itself to me, the bird hopping on my snow-covered lawn, that shiny red car across the street, the child in her parka just at the edge of my view throwing snowballs at her brother. Give yourself the gift of taking the time to see what’s in front of you to delight your eyes. It is so worth it!