I was talking with a friend recently about vision issues, and I was trying to articulate what it’s like to have lived for as long as I can practically remember with extreme nearsightedness. I’ve needed a correction of more than -10 diopters for my entire adult life, and I was at greater than -3 by middle school. For those of you who are mercifully not nearsighted, -3 diopters of nearsightedness puts you at about 20/400 vision (unable to see even the big E on the top of the chart).
I’m currently at a correction of -15 diopters, which puts my vision at about 20/2,000. But that’s not really accurate, either, because who can see 2,000 feet away?
What’s really relevant here is that I haven’t truly seen the world since I was 8. I mostly see it. But not what it really looks like.
Here’s the best way I can describe it: Think about being inside your house and looking at your yard through the window. Maybe you see trees, grass, flowers, birds. You can see the green of the grass, the individual blades. But then, you open the window and look again. Same trees, grass, flowers, birds, but everything is brighter and sharper. You see the variation in the green, the definition of the blades of grass.
My whole life has been looking at things through glass. Either glasses or contact lenses. Without aid, I can only see between .5 and 1.5 inches in front of my face. And what I do see is magnified. So, I have a vague sense of what I’m missing, but not a clear one (yes, I realize the pun I used there).
On the plus side, I’m a master splinter remover. That comes in handy more than you might think.
But it’s strange to never see the world as it truly is. It’s sometimes disorienting and exhausting. However, I’m grateful for the sight I do have. And I’m grateful for the technology that corrects my vision as much as it does and will someday allow me to see clearly again (my ophthalmologist says cataract surgery will be life-changing for me, so I will be grateful to one day get cataracts, too).
I have a friend who is hearing impaired (since birth) and is now also going blind. Yet, she’s one of the sweetest, kindest, most positive people I know. She could absolutely feel angry and frustrated all the time at the cards life has dealt her. And sometimes she does, but she doesn’t let those feelings consume her. She acknowledges them and then thinks about her loving husband, great kids, supportive friends. She’s the living embodiment of why it’s so important to focus not on what you don’t have but instead on what you do.
With American Thanksgiving approaching, now is the perfect time to focus on what we’re grateful for.
One of those things, for me, is always working in a field that I love. Fiction is a great way to escape what troubles us in the real world, and during challenging times, I’m very grateful for that.
And I’m grateful for the readers, like you, who support our fiction.
So, with my gratitude, I’m giving you a free short story this week to celebrate this time of Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorites.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.