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Blurry Vision

One of the many signs that Cricket is aging (she will be fourteen this summer) is the blueing of her eyes from cataracts. It takes her longer to recognize people at a distance, which has made her even more anxious about strangers than before, and prone to long bouts of barking at nothing. She can still see well enough for most of her tasks of daily living, but she has handed over the squirrel chasing to Ellie, content to sniff the grass and wait for larger prey of the human kind, or, you know, shadows. But really, she doesn’t seem to have any angst about it. I don’t think she’s even noticed the change in her vision. She’s pretty sure that it’s the rest of us who’ve changed while she’s stayed the same.

“I’m exactly the same. Always.”

            And then there’s me. I tend to assume that everything is my fault and I’m not trying hard enough to fix it. So when I noticed almost a year ago that my distance vision was blurrier than usual, though only on occasion, I figured I had to have it checked out. I thought, maybe, that allergies could be the cause, though I wasn’t sure why they would have worsened so much, or for so long. And since I have a number of autoimmune disorders, and a lot of extra symptoms that don’t coalesce into a diagnosis, I thought I should check with an ophthalmologist just in case this was a new symptom to worry about.

            But I kept putting it off. Because, Covid, and because I hate going to doctors, especially new ones. Except that the blurry vision was coming up more often and becoming more disruptive, so, finally, when it seemed as if New York had passed the dangerous stage of the winter Covid resurgence, I decided to call and make an appointment (or rather, to ask Mom to crowd source a good ophthalmologist among her friends and then call to make an appointment for me). I wasn’t able to get an appointment until late in May (by which time I was fully vaccinated, so, cool), because everyone else had the same idea about getting back to doctor visits after Covid.

            I have a history of eye problems, and a concomitant history of hating visits to the eye doctor and the dreaded eye drops that sting and then the dreaded eye drops that dilate and make me feel blind. Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive myself home after the visit, and because I was nervous, Mom came with me, but she was asked to sit outside on a bench, because only patients were allowed to sit in the waiting room, so I waited out on the bench with her until it was my turn to go in for my appointment.

“That’s anti-Grandma prejudice!”

            The first part of the visit was the most involved, with a tech taking my history and checking my vision and putting in the dreaded drops. Almost as soon as the drops hit my eyes I felt like I was ten years old again. I had Iritis as a kid and they treated it with steroid drops which I had to take twice a day, and I never got used to them. But there were also endless tests to see what may have caused the Iritis, with all kinds of drops and bright lights in my eyes and then needles shoved under my skin, and security guards holding me down so I wouldn’t run, and what seemed like gallons of vials of blood squeezed from my arms. It all came rushing back.

            After the first part of my ophthalmologist visit was done, the tech guided me down a hallway to wait in a chair for the next tech who would be photographing my eyes for their records, or something. The world was a fuzzy place and I couldn’t really see my phone well enough to distract myself, so I just had to sit there feeling vulnerable and worried. When it was my turn in front of the camera, though, the burning bright lights only lasted a few seconds for each eye, and then I was sent to another exam room to wait for the doctor, and read all of her diplomas on the walls (it’s lucky they use such big type on those things).

            The visit with the doctor was the quickest part of the day – with a look-see at my eyes and at my history and at the results of the previous tests and the photographs. She told me that my eyes were fine, with no sign of Iritis or any other disease, and there was no change in my vision. She suggested a brand of over the counter eye drops to clear up my seemingly allergy-induced blurry vision and sent me on my way.

            I had to put a sort of rolled up version of sunglasses under my regular glasses in order to tolerate the sun, and it took hours for the dilation and sensitivity to pass, but I was relieved that it was over and that I didn’t have a new disease, and didn’t need new glasses (which is just a pain in the ass); but I was also frustrated that I’d forced myself through the whole ordeal of the visit and had learned nothing new about my myriad weird symptoms.

            We stopped off at CVS on the way home, though I couldn’t see much even with the partial sunglass thingies, and they didn’t have the eye drops the doctor had recommended, so I went home and ordered them online. I was hopeful that at least I’d found an answer to the blurry vision, after all that, but when the drops arrived they didn’t help at all. So, my vision is still occasionally blurry and I get annoyed and impatient, but at least there’s no underlying problem to worry about. Maybe.         

“They have chicken treats at CVS, don’t they?”

            Even before I had the Iritis, I had ordinary vision problems. I remember distinctly being in second grade and feeling like an idiot when I couldn’t figure out what the teacher had written on the board. Some part of me understood that my eyes were to blame, but more of me was convinced that it was my brain; that I had become unteachable over the summer and suddenly I was falling behind and struggling to understand what everyone else seemed to pick up easily.

            The relief I felt when a pair of glasses actually fixed the problem was huge, but the realization that my vision could be taken away so easily remained, especially because I kept needing new prescriptions and had to wear my glasses more and more often.

            The metaphor of blurry vision has always resonated for me, though, because I so often feel like I’m not seeing things as clearly as I want to, and have to move slowly out of fear of missing a hole in the ground or a wall coming up out of nowhere. I’ve collected a lot of metaphorical injuries over the years, and a healthy dose of anxiety about all of the hidden dangers along my path. But each time I find my vision clearing on an issue, so that something that used to be fuzzy starts to seem clear, I feel such a sense of relief and calm, even if it took five, ten, or twenty years to get to that clarity. And then, of course, the blurriness comes back, on the same issue and on new ones, and I have to find my way back; it’s a lifelong task.

So I’m jealous of Cricket and her ability to see herself as the center of the universe and let everything else go blurry. She may not be able to see the monsters out in the forest, but she also doesn’t have to worry about them ahead of time. She only has to worry about the monsters right up close, like the mean humans who don’t share their French toast and that other dog who tries to steal all of the attention. That’s more than enough to think about on a daily basis, really. Just ask Cricket.

“Seriously.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

82 responses »

  1. I completely understand that sense of vulnerability that comes when we don’t wear our glasses. It causes me huge anxiety to have to remove my glasses at the DMV and passport office when getting photo taken. I’m glad you don’t have new issues to worry about and hope the blurriness passes soon.

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  2. I used to check my eyesight by how far down the street I could see clearly before the school bus came. My parents got me glasses. And I was not the center of the universe. Darn! Where did I go wrong, Cricket??

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  3. Hard to feel located, let alone comfortable, in the world when vision (literally or metaphorically) is blurry. Good for you for having that curse of not being a self-absorbed human (pets are allowed to do that). Hard task but your faith tradition keeps you honest, I believe. And this is another beautifully written piece. Thank you. My turn to visit the eye doc on Monday. Ugh.

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  4. I relate to the vision issue very well. My reading vision isn’t what it was. It is uncomfortable. We too had a dog who grew old and developed cataract. but the way you take care is just amazing. Hats off

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  5. I worry about my dog’s eyes too. The slightest hint of them looking a bit milky has me worried. I think I’ll ask the vet what she thinks next time we’re in there for a visit.
    I wish Cricket good luck and that what’s left of her vision lasts her a long time.

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  6. I had my annual eye examination yesterday. I need new glasses.

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  7. Margaret Sharp

    I always put off getting my eyes tested. I was able to pass a driver’s licence chart read test a few weeks ago so I guess things aren’t too bad. Your observations resonated with me.

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  8. Were you the meanie that wouldn’t share their French toast? Animals are amazing, they just keep going, lol

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  9. That does seem an ordeal. I don’t want to increase your anxiety, but years ago an ophthalmologist tested my eyes and said there was no change. I replied by asking why, then, could I not see anything out of my left eye. Further testing revealed a cataract.

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  10. So glad your eyes are okay. This made me laugh because it sounds familiar—’ask Mom to crowd source a good ophthalmologist among her friends’.

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  11. I well remember that feeling in school when I couldn’t see the board. It didn’t help that I always sat at the back and was too vain to wear my glasses. I used to ask my friends to tell me what the teacher was writing.
    I’m glad you had no underlying problem with your eyes. I hope you find something that helps with the blurriness.

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  12. We could all learn a lesson from Cricket – that is, to deal with what’s right in front of us and not set ourselves to worry about what everything is out in the distance.

    I’m so glad to know there are no additional vision problems and kudos for making it through the whole appointment process without too much stress! You continue to prove you are stronger than you know!

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  13. The best thing I ever did was have my eyes lazered so now I have great (long and short) vision and don’t need to wear glasses. I love it when younger friends can’t read something but I can. Don’t think though that this would help Cricket.

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  14. I can relate to this, as I was diagnosed with Glaucoma in 2003, and have had regular eye checks at hospital ever since as well as using eye drops daily to reduce the pressure. Three years ago, they found cataracts in both eyes, and one was causing distance vision issues. I hade to have bifocal glasses to wear when driving a car, or lose my licence. Since 2019, I have been waiting for surgery which has been delayed by Covid-19.
    The main problem is that I hate anyone touching my eyes! I will have to be sedated for the operation, and that is increasing the delay.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  15. Rachel, best wishes with Cricket. My mother and grandmother had poodles that looked like Cricket. Bot had blurry vision when they go older. Good luck. I don’t know if it is a breed thing or maybe they are indoor dogs and get a lot of dust kicked up in their eyes. Keith

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  16. I can “see” how your ordeal at the ophthomologist was worse than for most with the history that pops up and insists on causing nervousness and fear. Glad you got through that, and still hope you find out the cause of the blurriness.

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  17. Nothing seems to be hindering Cricket’s willingness to stare into the camera lens.

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  18. Aw, bless her. Dogs adapt so well, it is us who notice. Blurry vision could be too much screen work too. Hubby suffers from dry eye, so has a variety of drops to use throughout the day. No sign of cataracts though.

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    • Now I’m trying to imagine putting drops in Cricket’s eyes; I think I’d have a hard time surviving after she bit my hands off.

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      • haha! We had to put drops in Maggie’s eye once, but she was pretty co-operative and it was only for a week. She was losing her peripheral vision, but the vet said there was no sign of cataracts. Old age affects us all.

  19. I have glaucoma in both eyes (no family history and my first glaucoma attack happened unexpectedly, when I was quite young). As a result, I had laser surgery in both eyes. Painless and effective … but I am also grateful for the eye doctor I see twice a year.

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  20. Pingback: CLARITY | sparksfromacombustiblemind

  21. Two years ago my husband had a detached retina and had to spend almost 3 weeks lying on his side and could only be upright for one hour a day. We split the hour up into 3 twenty minute segments so he could shower and eat etc. After that trial I thought my eyes were pretty good. I am due for a routine eye check and I am sure the ophthalmologist will tell me my short sight is getting worse but I am old and so reading glasses are necessary. I hope you will be able to get clearer vision soon. And we can all take a leaf our of Crickets book I think.

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  22. Yes, your eyesight is so important, and Cricket’s too, though with dogs they rely so much on other senses that they can manage better. I also had a scare a few years back, and it was picked up on an eye test. Had laser surgery and hopefully that’s sorted it.
    I have read your Yeshiva Girl book, very good indeed. I have to admit I had to look up a few of the terms in it, not being very familiar with the Jewish way of life. I did have a Jewish friend at school many years ago, but don’t recall her telling me much about it!

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  23. The thing that annoys me at the eye doctor is when they flip back and forth between different lenses searching for the right prescription. I can’t differentiate between the choices and ask the tech to go back and forth, back and forth, and maybe just one or two times more. They get miffed, I get frustrated and then start to sabotage the process by declaring the big “E” looks like a “K.”

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    • It was a relief when the techs started to say “better, worse, or no difference,” because up until then I always got into shouting matches with them when they didn’t understand my shrugs.

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      • Yes, I can rarely tell the difference. I keep wanting to tell them, “Neither is any good.” I’m due for cataract surgery soon but meanwhile am soldiering on with glasses that don’t work for distance OR close up (have to take them off to read).

  24. Great post, I’m venturing back out to the eye doctor for the first time in over a year next week myself!

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  25. Ironically I had more trouble after my cataract surgery. It turns out I had counted on a lot of things looking fuzzy, preventing me from a lot of overwhelm! That had been true since high school. I have had to adapt to seeing clearly all the time!

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  26. Cricket’s seeming indifference to the aging process represents a powerful plea for us flawed humans to do somewhat the same.

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  27. This hit a nerve with me because I hate when I feel like a medical professional minimizes what’s going on with me, and your experience reminded me of that. I hope it’s nothing serious too.

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  28. Our pets are family. I know. I’ve had several both dogs (two that lived to be 16 yrs old) and cats (one who was 22 when she passed. And there are constant reminders around my house and backyard associated with them. As for my own vision, I was recommended to get glasses when I couldn’t read the date on a dime. Next came distance glasses– for both driving and 12ft distances from the tv. Anyway, good luck with your own vision. I think we all dread having to visit doctors and whatever results they might discover.
    Art

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  29. Awww so cute do u know how old the dog is in dog years

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  30. If u don’t know she is 70!

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  31. I have 2 dogs bichon poodles

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  32. If u ever need encouragement text me

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  33. Wow, your iritis sounds like the nerve tests I went through because I had high arches and always did “toe walking” (I bet it was just a short Achilles tendon, in hindsight) and fell a lot.

    I got recommended drops too last summer, because of dry eyes due to too much screen time. Maybe if you take them more often they will help?

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  34. I wish all the very best for Cricket, She is a beauty, I have been lucky that my eyes have actually strengthened with the years, I wear glasses and have worn them since school day at times switching to contact lenses but today I lay back in be and to read I have to take my glasses off and then I can see clearly to read and any fine print off come the glasses and I can see the print,

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  35. A cataract operation in UK (and surely in N America) is a smooth conveyor belt affair, from one professional to another in a dedicated suite of rooms, and all over in 30 mins. And what a revelation afterwards when the world is so much brighter! Don’t hesitate if you are offered this treatment.

    Reply

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