There are a couple things I don’t often share with people: One, my vision is awful and, two, my income from my creative work is less than what some panhandlers make. Wait, no, there’s three things: I also hate my glasses.
How awful is my vision? From an early age, eye doctors have looked at my prescription and said clever things like, “Wow, that’s quite the correction!” My eyes are so out of whack it’s hard to fully match my needs, making eye strain my status quo.
And that eye strain is only made worse since I’ve been nutty enough to choose a career that requires me to stare at computer screens or pieces of paper for several hours a day. But I write and even though my books aren’t flying up the charts and my bank account isn’t bursting with royalties, I keep at it. It’s what I do.
Then there’s the glasses. There’s been no good fit between my eyes and contacts for at least a couple decades, so glasses are stuck on my face for a good portion of the day. And with that lovely correction, these aren’t cute glasses that add a touch of mystery or pizzazz to my appearance. No. Until “bug-eyed” becomes a fashion trend, my glasses will never be in style. (But when it does, me and Mr. Magoo will be working that catwalk like nobody’s business.)
So when I recently learned I was a candidate for laser eye surgery (which I’ll just call “zapping” from here on out because it’s more fun to type), I was all over that like greasy batter on a Twinkie at the Texas State Fair. Me, the person who detests going to the eye doctor was grabbing the phone and taking the first appointment available.
Basic check for eye health, quick consultation, and I was cleared for zapping.
I was ecstatic. I was running around the house saying, “Zap me now!”
Wait, hold the ray gun. There’s one more exam.
This exam was so in-depth I think it might have also counted as a pap smear. For this final exam, the (evil) eye doctor had to put some drops in my eyes. Drops that prevent the eye from being able to focus. Supposedly these drops are so the doctor can get a really accurate reading of your prescription, but I think they were invented just to give eye doctors a good laugh.
Supposedly the effects of the drops wear off within 24 hours.
Somewhere around the 12-hour mark, I was sort of able to see well enough to do some stuff around the house, but reading and writing ended up being completely off the table.
I was not happy. I had a novel begging to be read. I had my latest short story begging to be revised. I had pathetic book sale stats begging to be checked. But all I could manage was to scare the cats with the vacuum.
After 36 long hours, the rain was gone and I could see clearly now (yes, I just worked in a Johnny Nash reference, points to me!). It was time to go over the paperwork for the zapping, including a long list of potential side effects, a detailed study from the FDA regarding the relatively new technology I’d be zapped with, and a waiver stating I had no recourse if things went wrong.
Up to this point, I’d been excited enough to say “Pshaw!” to the potential side effects. But, despite being unable to see during them, those 36 hours brought the reality of the zapping into focus. I needed to take this seriously. These side effects included my dry eye issue getting worse (ow!), trouble with night vision (there go my dreams of being Catwoman), and the chance that my overall vision could end up worse.
Surely these were just possibilities, right? Not things to actually worry about, right?
It was time to delve into the pamphlet from the FDA. This was a tri-fold brochure with all the benefits written in big, bold, colorful lettering. The actual study and its results was tucked away in the back in teeny-tiny black and white print.
The FDA emphasized and confirmed the dry eye thing and the night vision issue occurring in more than half the patients. It also showed that my type of correction — which would be pushing this new technology to the very edge of what it could do — had the highest chance of ending up with double vision and/or decreased vision.
Stephen King would be jealous about how many chills went through me upon reading the results of this study.
I had to ask myself some hard questions. I desperately wanted zapped, but that desire put at risk the very things I love to do.
I thought of those 36 hours of not being able to see properly, of not being able to read, of not being able to write. I had tried to ignore my dry eye symptoms getting worse and possibly not being able to drive at night.
But the FDA data couldn’t be ignored. Double vision and computer work? Nope. An uncorrectable worsening of vision and proofreading 200 pages in a day? Nope.
There’s little motivation for why I should continue writing. I’m not getting rich. I’m not gaining fame. I’ll likely never be a bestselling author. But the very idea of giving it up, or of having it taken from me, stirred something in me. And that something surprised me beyond measure.
Because while I may hate my glasses, while I may hate my poor vision, I can put up with them. But there’s no way I could put up with giving up on my writing life no matter how slowly it limps along.
(And really, how would I find all these memes if I couldn’t see straight?)
How about you? Ever undergone any zapping? What would you put up with to pursue your goals? If you care to share, zip down to the comment box below and tell me all about it.
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