As I improved my vision, it took a while for my visual confidence to improve too. I was used to not being able to see, and not expecting to see well most of the time. When I dropped something small, like an earring or a vitamin pill, I’d have a moment of panic, sure it was lost forever because my vision was too weak to locate it. When I drop a small item today and spot it right away, I make sure to congratulate myself, reinforcing that positive mindset that I can see well enough to do what I need to do.
One place the visual confidence issue shows up in a big way for me is with driving, especially in poor visibility conditions. Several years ago, after I retired from my corporate job and started working from home with my own business, I gave up glasses completely. However, I could only see comfortably to drive in clear weather, and often stayed home if it was raining, worried I wouldn’t be able to see. Fog or mist was even worse, and I live in a river valley where a clear dry day is the exception.
Yesterday I wanted to go to the local grocery store first thing in the morning, when it was misty and foggy, a great day for sleeping in, or at least curling up with a good book! It was not ideal for venturing out when it was so difficult to see clearly. I reminded myself, as I always do in this kind of weather, that the average person isn’t used to dealing with a lot of visual blur, and even someone with perfect eyesight can’t see through fog, so to “watch out for the other guy!” as my mother often warned me.
If I hadn’t known the route so well, I would have been more worried about seeing. Yes, I still needed to watch out for the unexpected and go more slowly than usual, but at least I didn’t need to read the street signs or be surprised by an unanticipated sharp curve or traffic light. My eyes felt rested from a good night’s sleep, and I was a little surprised to realize I was looking forward to the short trip as an adventure, a small challenge I was sure to overcome, rather than seeing it as a big scary problem.
Before I left the driveway I made sure my windshield and headlights were clean. The traffic seemed lighter than usual this time of day, and I wondered if everyone else was waiting for the fog to lift. As I drove down a tree-lined street into town I found I was narrowing my vision since it was so dim, so I relaxed and allowed my periphery to open up. I didn’t want to miss anyone walking along the shoulder, or a child on a bike darting out from the side. The few other cars I did see often had the driver hunched over the steering wheel peering into the fog, obviously anxious, so I sent each of them calming thoughts.
Inside the grocery store, I noticed the signs at the end of each aisle, which are high overhead and usually blurry for me, were surprisingly easy to read. Dr. Bates was right once again that difficult visual conditions (like fog and misty rain) are an aid to clear sight, as long as you’re not straining to see. Speaking of that, I was pleased to realize I felt unusually calm. In the past, I would have been anxious even on a clear day, knowing I still had to negotiate the drive home. This time I was fully present, able to relax and see what I needed to see without effort.
The fog hadn’t cleared much as I headed home and the traffic was a bit heavier, so I took my time. There was no need to rush, and rushing often makes me nervous which I don’t need — I’ve written about that here. I smiled to myself, remembering an older woman walking into the grocery store as I was leaving, who gave me a weary look. I had said “Good morning! It’s a lovely day.” cheerfully, to which she responded, brightening up, “Every day is a lovely day.”
Getting home with the rest of my day in front of me, I felt a sense of accomplishment at my achievement, not letting the weather keep me from doing what I wanted. And I wasn’t in a high state of tension the whole time I was driving, which I have been in the past. Driving peacefully in the fog might not be big for a lot of people, but it was big for me and I was happy about it. Please be sure to celebrate you own seemingly small accomplishments, with your vision or otherwise. This will help you to have a lovely day yourself, every single day.
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