Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the day of the year with the least light here in NY state. Ever since I started vision improvement over 15 years ago, I’ve had to come face to face with my unreasonable fear of the dark. This rises up most when I’m driving — I feel like I won’t be able to see well enough to be safe.
When I first started driving with weaker glasses, then eventually none at all, I used to be sure to be home well before sunset. If I had to go out after dark when I wore -6 contacts, I used -1.5 glasses over the contacts and still felt nervous. When I stopped wearing contacts, I had at least 2 pairs of stronger glasses at the ready when driving during the day in case it got really cloudy and dim, or there was a sudden storm, or it got dark earlier than expected. I was aware of this fear, yet couldn’t seem to control it. What would I do if there was a sudden eclipse?!
In recent years my visual confidence has increased, and only rarely am I afraid I won’t be able to see. I don’t drive at night, when I would probably need glasses, but I’m comfortable walking in the neighborhood after dark. I’ve played a lot of mental games with myself trying to combat this fear, imagining coping strategies like leaving the car and walking home if I feel afraid to drive in the dark.
Yesterday I badly needed some groceries (I had only one egg left), and couldn’t get out of the house until 2PM. The sun sets soon after 4:00 now, and it was a cloudy gray day, so the fear that I wouldn’t get home before dark was front and center for me. What if the pre-Christmas traffic, or the lines in the store, slowed me down even more?
Even though I knew I was being ridiculous, and having to wear weak glasses for the first time in years to see my way to drive home if I had to wouldn’t be a catastrophe, I could still feel myself looking for reasons not to go. I caught myself disaster-izing — what if there was an accident from all the people rushing, which blocked the road?
So I wouldn’t see myself as a total wimp, I washed my windshield and headlights with fresh snow then went to the store, which was more crowded than usual, yes, and the line at the register was long, but I got home well before dark. It was easy to see from all the snow at the side of the road reflecting the light. I was able to “forget about my eyes” as Dr. Bates advised, and my vision was fine. It’s so clear to me that when I’m relaxed I see better!
After I got home I spent some time outdoors chopping at the frozen slush in the driveway, enjoying the exercise and fresh air. I wondered what all the fuss had been. Now that I had my eggs and wasn’t driving in near-dark conditions, I was free to examine why I had been so afraid. Is this just a memory of how I felt when I had those -10 glasses as a child and really couldn’t see much, especially in the dark? If this isn’t a valid fear about the present, can I finally let it go?
My neighborhood is made up of small local streets where the residents usually don’t drive over 20mph, a pleasant place to walk with lots of trees and shrubs. Some time soon I’d like to practice driving here without glasses after dark, even if it’s only out of my garage, up my driveway, around the block, and back home. I will be safe and careful, but I’m thinking this old fear has got to go.
Use me as an example — is there something you’ve been avoiding, and now it’s time to tackle it? If you know why you’re procrastinating, come up with a few strategies to do something about that, and get started moving forward. There’s no time like the present, and your sense of satisfaction as you exceed your former limits will feel great. You can do it!