Driving On The Darkest Day

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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?!

darkness

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!


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Nancy
I wore strong glasses, then contact lenses, for most of my life, starting at age 5. While making many mistakes, eventually l learned how to improve the way I use my eyes and to see in a more relaxed, healthy manner. It is my pleasure to coach others to do the same. Visit me at https://NancyLNeff.com.
Nancy

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Nancy

Author: Nancy

I wore strong glasses, then contact lenses, for most of my life, starting at age 5. While making many mistakes, eventually l learned how to improve the way I use my eyes and to see in a more relaxed, healthy manner. It is my pleasure to coach others to do the same. Visit me at https://NancyLNeff.com.

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Gwen Diehn
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Gwen Diehn

Nancy I so respect the way you use yourself as an example. I don’t have fears around seeing at night but I do have equally wacky fears of bright lights and especially midday sun glaring off of car mirrors and shiny surfaces.
I had a thought about a way you might practice relaxing about seeing at night or in twilight. Maybe get some dark sunglasses and drive with them up and down your street a few times at twilight. Then remove them and notice how much more you can see with no sun
glasses. Oh, and remember to tap.
BTW, since our skype session last week my big discovery is that I’m not worrying about my unbalanced eyes. I’m very happy about their teamwork and haven’t bothered to check on whether or not leftie is pulling her share of the load..

Christopher Lane
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Christopher Lane

Another tip for driving. GLARE; stark contrast is debilitating. So being prepared for it requires some practice. Un-dipped headlights are a challenge but focusing between the two head lamps reveals the illuminated road in front of oncoming traffic possible even a kilometer away [central fixing]. Very rapid blinking is also helpful. Wet roads and street lamp glare add to the vision stress. At a cost premium you can now again get clear polarized [sun] glasses. Not the usual UV factor 40 ones. Please keep your windscreen clean inside and out. The practice of checking the brightest and the darkest patch in rapid succession in your full field of view is most useful. {Also relevant for romantic meals in restaurants with candle power} and keeps our irises working dynamically. Note too where you can see the dance of your iris size if you look at your eyes in a mirror as you move your hands acting as blinkers from brighter light. Fears in driving into the sun often get people hooked onto wearing sun glasses – our eyes need 30 minutes daily of sunshine activity vitamin C for free. Window glass has a green tint. Many spectacles and car and office… Read more »

Barbara Sinclair
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Nancy, What I need to tackle and have been avoiding is the fact that my eyesight has significantly declined this year. I really need to put more focus there, pardon the pun! Thanks for the reminder. xoxo Barbara

David
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I feel like that all the time when I’m anticipating a possibly unpleasant conversation with somebody, and I go over it in my head and worry about it. The reality always ends up being way better than I imagined.