Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tiny Furniture and The Perils of Snorkeling


Decorating Tips From Flatville
Vision therapy has taken me on a deliriously joyful, sometimes bizarre ride this past year. Lately, out of nowhere I will recall something that happened years ago and see it in a different light. Like an 'aha!' moment, it is as if my new vision is informing not only what I see in the present, but also things that happened in the past.

I lived in the same New York City apartment for almost 17 years, until last year when we moved to Connecticut. It was decorated with antiques given to me by my mother and other things bought or found on the streets of Alphabet City.  Friends said that they felt like they were in an old Connecticut home.  I had a very small couch (fit two people shoulders touching), tiny lamps, a small bed with tiny bedside tables.  Even my Chinese rug was small, floating like a doormat in the center of the living room. 

After about 10 years I bought some new furniture...larger furniture. Only by measuring the space did I see it would all fit, and even then I was compelled to measure, re-measure, and measure yet again. I just couldn't see where it would all fit. Unpacking some of the new things and putting them in place, I remember thinking, I wonder why I originally chose such small furniture when all this bigger stuff fits just fine...

I am learning what space is through Vision Therapy, I see now I had no idea I was seeing differently all my life until I saw differently.  Looking back, it makes perfect sense that I did not perceive my apartment being able to contain larger furniture.  I didn't see space, how could I judge filling it?

Objects Appear So Close They Can Scratch You! 
When I was fifteen I was in the British West Indies at a sleep away camp called Antigua Adventure.  My mum had inherited some money from the death of my Grandmother and she sent me to this camp with celebrity off-spring.  One of the day trips they took us on was snorkeling at a coral reef.  I was really looking forward to it.  On the beach, I eagerly put on my mask and fins and waddled down to the water.  Swimming out to the edge of the reef, I looked at all the glorious underwater colors shimmering in the noon day sun.  As I tried to get closer there suddenly appeared to be no space between me and the coral.  I could not swim over it because I was afraid it would cut me.  All the other campers were happily swimming over the reef, I wondered why I was so anxious.  "Objects Appear Closer Than They Really Are" in a diving mask, so I took a deep breath and told myself there was plenty of room and tried to swim over it again, but each time my body got close to the coral, it appeared to be too close. All I could do was swim the periphery of the reef, look across and marvel.  When I finally did swim over it, I had to use my hands to feel for the depth.

For a strabismic the world is flat. A sunken, deflated, movie screen with no space between things. I have enjoyed seeing lots of beautiful things in my life.  Never knowing I was missing anything, I have no regrets I have seen the world as flat for half my life. 

I know that inside my brain is the ability to see depth, but it has been impaired by eyes that can't get the message through.  I imagine this part of my brain unused for all these years, quietly waiting.  I look forward to the next half of my life where I know I will learn to use both eyes.  I already know it's what my brain wants, I just have to work to unlock it. 

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