In the mid-1900s MAD Magazine was born, a satirical comic-book-like publication which made fun of politicians and all things Establishment. Its goofy-looking cartoon mascot was Alfred E. Neuman, whose signature phrase was “What, me worry?”.
A roommate introduced me to MAD Magazine in college, when I was working hard at both my studies and my part-time jobs, paying all my own bills, determined not to fall behind. Dismissing worrying as pointless seemed frivolous and irresponsible to me back then. There was work to do! I had to study in every spare minute, please my employers, keep gas in my little VW bug so I could get to work, etc. There was plenty of reason to worry!
Firmly wedded then to my -10 hard contacts (with a -1.75 astigmatism correction too), I didn’t think about my eyes or my vision much. If I did, I would worry. As a child, my glasses got stronger and thicker every year, so my logical child brain concluded I’d be blind by the time I grew up. I practiced walking around my house with my eyes closed, memorizing the location of the furniture and doorways, to prepare myself.
My mother was an expert worrier. I believe I soaked up this attitude and made it my own too, before I could even talk. She would regularly worry aloud about “Nancy’s bad eyes” when I was young, a phrase which still makes my heart sink. I remember Mom calling me up in my 20s to tell me about some trip my younger sister was taking, ending with “Nancy, I want you to help me worry.”! What?! I told her she didn’t need any help, then started looking at the pattern in myself. How much of this Worry Habit had I absorbed?
Years later I started vision improvement, which brought my unhelpful worry habit right to the surface and in my face, so I couldn’t avoid it. At my first visit to the behavioral optometrist, after a thorough exam, he told me I had no serious visual problems like glaucoma or cataract, but that there was a lot of tension in my visual system. My eyes and visual brain were constantly worrying “Can I see that, or not?”.
As soon as I started reading Dr. Bates’ work, the natural vision pioneer of over a century ago, I encountered the idea that all vision difficulties arise initially from straining. If I had “a lot of tension in my visual system”, was I straining to see all the time? If so, no wonder my prescription was so strong!
My early attempts to stop straining to see, or at least to strain less, were frustrating, to say the least. It was deep in my personality to try hard at everything. People had always told me “Nancy, you’re so intense! Lighten up!”, and I didn’t know what they meant. I took a few yoga classes which were unsatisfying to me. I preferred my weight training and running where I could really push myself. I started getting regular massage, since I carried a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders.
I gradually lowered my glasses prescription, abandoning contacts since it was tedious to take them off and put them back in, and did a few things with no correction at all. I was starting to worry less about my vision. I could tell it was improving, which years ago I would have never predicted. The best I could have hoped for was that it wouldn’t get worse. I could feel the relaxation in my face now and see the new softness in my gaze.
Today I keep my physical, emotional, and visual tension at a low level with regular practices like meditation, exercise, journalling, energy work like EFT (“tapping”), and time with close friends. I don’t worry about my vision any longer. I don’t need to wear glasses, and can see everything I need to see.
I’ve concluded that my naturally nervous bookish personality was ripe for eyeglasses, which didn’t help me relax but instead locked in the tension. It took me decades to release those shackles, and that associated worry habit, and to re-learn to see in a natural easy receptive way. Maybe Alfred E. Neuman had a point after all. Worrying doesn’t help!