Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vision Statement

I have been pondering vision.  This is largely because I got contact lenses a week ago, and because of who I got them from.  There's a vision care office in Taos called RealEyes, which, at my editor's suggestion,  I recently wrote about for my newspaper column.  You can read that here. From the inspiring conversation I had with Dr. Ratzlaff and his wife Fiona, I decided make them my eye care providers.

I wore contact lenses from the age of 14 until I was pregnant with my first child at 23.  Since your eyes change shape when you're pregnant, contacts became too uncomfortable, and I just never went back to them.  But now I'm ready for a change.  I'm tired of glasses, of the weight on my face, of the tiny little field of vision.  (And part of it is vanity, I'll admit, although glasses have sometimes afforded me the "sexy librarian" compliment.)

Dr. Ratzlaff told me things I've never heard from an eye doctor in the 33 years I've been wearing glasses.  One fascinating thing he told me was that with correction my eyes are much better than 20/20, which apparently is pretty unusual.  And then he said that with my current prescription I was actually overcorrected, which is not such a great thing.

So now I have contact lenses, and my prescription is slightly weaker, and it's like living in a different world.  I'm so used to being able to see at great distances that it's strange, for instance, to be driving and not be able to read all the faraway signs.  During my followup appointment, I found out that even with the weaker prescription, I still have 20/15 vision.  I had always thought that 20/20 equaled "perfect," but it turns out there is no such thing as perfect vision.

Because you always end up sacrificing something.

If you can see at great distances, you generally don't see as well close up, and vice versa.  So by having great distance vision with a stronger prescription, I was straining when reading and such, and ultimately weakening and stressing my eyes.

I can tell the difference now.  In the normal range of vision of say, a space the size of an average room, I can see much more clearly and my eyes feel more relaxed.  It's also very nice to not feel like I'm looking at things through a small window.  So in this sense, my world is bigger, more immediate.  (And things that are right in front of me appear almost startlingly larger.  I went shoe shopping the day I got my contacts, and they all looked too huge to possibly fit my feet, but then I'd pick up a pair and they'd be two sizes too small.)  But in terms of the world-at-large - well, it's less large, at least the sharp edges of it.

This is not a complaint.  My point is that it's fascinating to see from yet another perspective, another angle, how relative and subjective the experience of being alive in the world is.  To confirm to myself yet again how on the one hand, the least little shifts in circumstances can have a great effect, and on the other, how it makes no difference at all to how I feel at the deepest level.  Does being able to clearly see my legs while I'm shaving them in the bathtub make my experience of taking a bath better?  Yes and no.

The real question is, does being able to see my body clearly make me inhabit it more fully?  Does clearer vision make me more present?  Does improving my physical vision make my spiritual vision clearer?  I don't necessarily have any articulate answers, but these are the questions I'm holding at the moment.  This is the adventure I'm on.

One of the things that Dr. Ratzlaff eagerly talked about during our interview, and that totally sold me on him, was how the eyes are an extension of the brain.  When he later did my eye exam, he commented on the saying, "The eyes are the window of the soul."  It's true not only on a metaphorical level, but in the sense that when the pupil is dilated and the doctor shines a light into it, he can see the blood vessels in the eye; he's literally seeing into the person.  He pointed out that this is the only time you can look directly at blood vessels without cutting a person open.  I had never thought about it that way.

Because I'm a grant writer, I'm also now thinking about the meaning of a "vision statement."  And because I'm a poet, I'm thinking about how that would apply metaphorically to my life.  Do I have a personal vision statement to make and stick to?

According to Wikipedia, a vision statement "defines the desired or intended future state of an organization or enterprise in terms of its fundamental objective and/or strategic direction. Vision is a long term view, sometimes describing how the organization would like the world in which it operates to be. For example a charity working with the poor might have a vision statement which read "A world without poverty."

My immediate response when I ask myself what my vision statement would be is "To see and love what is."  Which is never about the future.  It's a goal in terms of "distance" of depth, not of time or space.  My "desired or intended future" is to be fully, deeply in the present.  My "fundamental objective" is to not be attached to objectives.  My "strategic direction" is within.  The world in which I'd like to operate could be described as "beautiful, interesting, kind, and intimate."  And when I am fully, deeply present, seeing and loving what is, that is the world I get.  So.

I also need to tell you the green colander story, without which this post would not be complete.  Without further ado:

The Green Colander Story

The colander I had before the green one was, frankly, crap.  It was too big, and it had slots that were too big, so that whenever you drained spaghetti in it, half of the noodles slipped through into the sink.

So I told the universe that I needed a new colander, and found this cute little green one at a thrift store for a dollar.  It was perfect.  And I loved that it was green.

And then one day I went to pull it out of the cabinet to drain some potatoes for mashing, and it was gone.  I looked everywhere for it, even out in the yard, thinking my three-year-old may have absconded with it, but alas, it was nowhere to be found.  For two or three weeks, every time I had to use that other big stupid colander, I'd ask whoever was around, "Are you SURE you didn't do something with that green colander?"  And they'd all say no.  Because why in the world would anyone make off with a colander?

Until one day, while I was searching in the refrigerator for something, I noticed the overripe apples a friend had brought me.  I had rinsed them and put them in the fridge, planning to eventually make applesauce in the crockpot.  And there they still were, right in the middle of the middle shelf of the fridge, two or three weeks later, right where I'd left and totally forgotten about them.  In my beloved green colander.


I doubt there is a need for me to point out the significance of this story.  But you can believe I've been pondering it ever since.  Although I still haven't made applesauce.  


  1. Make applesauce. Another thing that brings peace of mind is closure, y'know.

    Did I tell you I just got glasses? You may imagine how blindsided and pleased I was to read this post, I've had some of the same ponderings (though nowhere near the scale or depth that you have). Apparently my left eye is superior to my right, so the lenses in my glasses have slightly different corrective properties. And my vision is corrected to 20/20, even though I'm only, I don't know, 20/21. I just read too much as a kid (they tell me) and stared at computer screens, so I have a small amount of astigmatism that's making my eyes focus and refocus about 100 times every second.

    So in other words, my "vision statement" would have to do the same, I guess. Focus and refocus. Or love a lot of different things, in other words. I think I'm doing all right there.

    P.S. Our colander is blue. I think I'd like a green one now, all of a sudden. More conducive to philosophy. And applesauce.

  2. I have worn contacts since age 10 (almost 40 years now!) and I wear my glasses at night and early morning. On top of my severe nearsightedness, I also now have age-related farsightedness, so that to read I have to wear reading glasses on top of the contacts. Also, my eyes continue to get worse (slightly) each year on both ends. So I have indeed contemplated the kinds of things you are posing here...and all worth thinking about. I still remember getting my first pair of glasses and marveling that I could see the leaves in the trees and each blade of grass!

    I also prepare grant proposals and vision statements and logic models are often on my mind. What outcomes do I seek? How will I get there? How will I measure success? Getting the vision right is the most important piece, but living the strategies, the tactics everyday~ that's the hard part, eh?



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