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A very good friend of mine invited me to join her and stay at her family’s second home in France. The house is a skillfully renovated cowshed and is located in a remote countryside village. The walls of the house are thick as a castle’s and the frame of the building has probably been there for a hundred years or more. It takes a thirty minute drive to get anywhere and you have to climb the hill to get some decent signal on your phone. There is no public lighting at night and there are no real street signs as only a dozen or so people live there. The postman simply has to know all the inhabitants.
After a couple of very rocky years my socio-economic situation seems to have reached a temporary stalemate and I felt comfortable enough, visually and otherwise, to endure an eight hour car ride to our destination. Hence, I gladly accepted the offer. It was a very good call. The change of company and environment temporarily suspended some of the worries constantly overshadowing the past, present and foreseeable future.
We saw fighter jets fly by at very low altitude in front of our house. There must be an airbase in the region. It was very cool and akin to a private air show. We saw a deer cross the road. We swam in a lake and a mini-swimming pool. Some French folks walked by our house taking the donkey out for a walk. We watched the sun set behind the mountains. And, of course, we ate at a local auberge. La France profonde, quoi.
Nonetheless, we did some interesting visio-motor activities and I couldn’t help paying attention to how my performance hold up compared to people with normal ocular control.
- On the way there, I drove for about an hour before I felt I needed to take a break. After a while I feel my eyes start drifting and my effort to control them increases disproportionately. Then it gets harder to pay attention to the road, to the movements of my feet and arms and how it all keeps together. This creeps up on you and over time this extra effort and eye strain leads to unstable and more tuneled vision. To me it is very impressive that other people can drive eight hours straight after having been awake and at work all day. I’d love that.
- We assembled a 1000 piece New York themed puzzle. I helped and had some good runs. However, some of the same problems occured. After a while it gets so taxing to coordinate both eyes and converge in order to avoid double vision that my attention span, peripheral vision and cognitive abilities decline rapidly. On the outset, my performance might be on par with others but my stamina is much lower. This tells me that, if I can really get my vision to be automated, there is a lot of untapped potential.
- On Tuesday and Wednesday, the 11th and 12th of August respectively, we had very clear weather and were able to watch the Perseid meteor shower at night. The Perseid meteor shower would peak around August 9-13 and given the lack of light pollution at our location, viewing conditions were ideal for us. Watching meteors being scorched by the atmosphere is pretty awesome and is , in fact, an ideal Vision Therapy exercise! You lie down on the ground horizontally and watch the sky as widely as you can. What Vision Therapists call ‘looking soft’. You take in as much of the visual field as you possibly can. As you are pretty much looking into infinity this might be particularly useful for esotropes and people with divergence insufficiency. Although it’s good for everyone to relax their eyes and look into infinity every so often. While you are paying attention to the entire visual field you wait for things to happen. While you are at it, you can figure out the Milky Way and some of the constellations. There are some cool apps to help you with that. Once you see a glowing trail somewhere in your visual field, your eyes move and foveate on the ‘falling star’.
Initially I could diverge my eyes enough to maintain a single view of the stars. Neither was I not particularly bad at spotting shooting stars. It’s a fairly simple exercise and does not require much ocular movement so I keep up. After a while things did start to double though. Others also reported tired eyes and were falling asleep so the doubling was not surprising.
- A friend was so nice to read a book out loud to us. Knowing how hard it is to me, it’s impressive to see her read more than half a book out loud and think about how her eyes have to move, how she has to grasp the meaning and how she has to move her mouth correctly all at once. There’s some proper cognitive loading going on, on top of merely moving your eyes correctly. I’d love to be able to do that in time.
I conclude from all this that ocular movement stamina, speed and range remain very weak points for me. Often times my eyes are tired, even in the morning, even though my mind is wide awake. To me it feels like being locked in and it is immensely frustrating. It’s hard to do any activity and not fixable in an immediate or straightforward manner.
In this different and relaxed holiday setting, it all seemed a little better for a while. I was also thinking about the last four years and what they had yielded. There is undeniably progress but not enough progress to work or live in a meaningful way without crashing or burning out (just like those meteors) from the added visual effort. How much more progress and thus time would it take to get there? It almost makes me want to consider another eye muscle surgery but that would likely complicate things even further and cause more damage. I will be 26 years old in December this year. I think I will be lucky if I acquire enough eye muscle control to live a stable life by the age of 28 if I’m very honest with myself. Not exactly a comforting thought after all these years of working so hard to acquire a basis… At least, if that would be the case, most of the work and time has already been done. I think I can hold out for two more years. The really worrying bit would be if I haven’t even reached the mark at 28. I suppose, at that point, it will be time to give up even more. Before that might happen I should not become despondent or continue to stress out. I guess I have done my best and giving myself a break, even if everything remains precarious, might help most of all.