It has been one year since I had cataract surgery and so much has happened in this time with the communications between my brain and my eyes that I felt the need to write about it — I hope you all find it as intriguing as I did.
I know that eyes and brains are intimately hooked up. I took a neuropsychology course in graduate school and I’m sure I learned about brains and vision in high school and college.
I know the basics of how my brain and my eyes work together. And I know it’s complicated!
But – knowing this and going through a relearning process post-cataract surgery are two different phenomena. My brain was not ready for the onslaught of new information that it was getting.
[I contemplate the workings of my brain a lot — so I found it fascinating to be aware of what was going on.]
A bit of my eye background….
I am astigmatic — oops change that — I WAS astigmatic. I am also far-sighted. At one forgotten point in my life, my astigmatism was bad enough that I needed glasses most all of the time because my astigmatism issues were fixable with glasses.
At another also now forgotten point in life, my driver’s license got marked with “needs corrective lenses” which didn’t surprise me because I was wearing glasses every minute of being awake.
I did not like wearing glasses all the time and tried contact lenses, but mostly they didn’t work or they fell out or they were annoying — but I liked the idea of not having glasses on so I kept trying different contacts and finally gave up on those because the annoyance factor won out.
Then I developed cataracts which happens to many as we age. Of course, the cataracts got worse as they are prone to do, and those, along with my astigmatism made it very difficult to drive at night. I’m a good driver and I did not wish to create problems for me or anyone else so I stopped driving at night and decided it was time for cataract surgery.
[That in itself is yet another issue..why insurers balk at cataract surgery baffles me.]
Back to my brain and eyes….
Over years of driving – back and forth across the USA, across Canada, driving day and night in snow, sleet, rain, and all sorts of weather and driving conditions, my brain learned how to deal with changes in light, changes in weather, and frequently, a quick change in any or all of these things. My brain and eyes were perfectly in sync.
For example, if I got to a tunnel my brain knew that it was going to take a nanosecond to adapt from light to dark and it knew how to do that, and I knew it knew how to do that and we were safe while going into tunnels. Ditto when skiing in bright sun bouncing off the snow and then going into a ski lodge — my brain and eyes figured it out and it never was an issue.
Then came the cataract surgery — YEA — and pre-surgery, I decided that the lens that also corrected astigmatism would be best for me and my eyes!
My weaker eye [left] got done first, and the subsequent difference between my left and right was very discombobulating — even with my now one lens glasses on for the right eye — it was no fun to do much of anything. Two weeks later I had the right eye done and suddenly both eyes were perfect — and balanced.
I was binocular, bionic — I could see. It was a fascinating experience and I was in constant amazement that I could see very far, further than I remembered I used to be able to do. It was one of those “I forgot how good my eyes used to be because I got so used to them not being too good” kind of moment!
Every. Time. I. Looked. Anywhere.
Then I started driving. It was weird, especially as I have been driving forever! This is when I really noticed that my brain had a lot of work to do and I was fascinated by the interchanges between my eyes, my conscious brain, and my subconscious brain. They were putting together a new reality.
At first, I only did daytime driving because I quickly recognized that I needed time for the brain and eyes to adjust to the new norm. It was pretty quick learning as I was driving on very familiar roads and did not make any “road trips.”
Then came a time where I again drove through a tunnel. A very short tunnel, one I have been through a lot — but still — a tunnel. The brain went: “Get ready for dark. Get ready for dark adaptation” — followed instantaneously by: “Wow — nothing happened, everything is fine.”
By the third or fourth time through that tunnel that I realized there was no longer any “discussion” going on between my eyes and my brain about that situation.
It was when I started driving distances, and at night , that I realized the brain and eyes were still trying to figure something out. The first night-time drive, where I was also in traffic, with headlights coming at me and behind me — the brain was like “Wow the eyes can see everything again. I have nothing to do.” No issues at all. And my subconscious brain registered that fact.
The conscious brain, though, was still asking itself questions and waiting for answers!
Because I live in the Northwest we have rain — not a lot when I was newly driving again, but enough with some added oddball Spring weather — like thunderstorms, drizzle, and weather that puts you on alert that traffic, lighting, and road conditions might change — and the brain and eyes were coordinating easily about this — the conscious brain was still going: “We got to get ready for this” but it was then an immediate: “Nope, we don’t have to do anything.”
After weeks of driving under different circumstances, my conscious brain began to relax and not be in the “we have to get ready for something” mode anymore. It had had many many years of dealing with astigmatism, eyeglasses, and the issues that came with both and now it no longer had those issues to contend with and was finally exiting learning mode.
Over Spring, Summer, Fall and now Winter, my eyes, brain and I have driven in many different conditions. Fog, heavy rain, heavy traffic, highway traffic, traffic circles, road construction, to places I had never been, etc. I saw that we are fine! We are cool! We are coordinated! We are good to go!
My brain had obviously been going back and retrieving what it used to know from pre-glasses and early-glasses learnings — those memories are still there in spite of years of inaction or not needing to be accessed.
Most of the time we don’t pay attention to the connection between our eyes and brain. I certainly never did. And then: WOW did I pay attention!!
It has been fun! It has certainly has been interesting! And – it has been very educational!
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Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.
But a better question for me is....
During the last several years, when doing activities with friends, I’ve found myself wondering aloud like this:
[Skiing with a friend on the glacier at Timberline [Mt. Hood] and gazing out at the great view....]
Me: “Do you think we’ll still be doing this when we’re old?” [She’s my age]
Her [while laughing:] “Lynn – most people think we are already old.”
Even though we no longer live near each other, we ski, bike, hike, kayak, play squash, etc. when she visits her son.
Just like we have been doing for decades.
Why should time have changed anything?
Over my professional career I have written and taught about myths, biases, and stereotypes in our understanding of human development. But until recently I'd never given much thought to my own biases or ideas of when and what is "old age."
We can't escape biases as they are part and parcel of our culture[s] - but we can be aware of them and not act on them as if they were "truth" for all peoples. Not going into this here as it's a whole other topic [as I am prone to say.]
I've also lamented over my teaching/research career, that we need better ways to categorize age groups.
Groupings are a sort of necessity as we do research, write, and teach about the human lifespan because we want to talk of clusters or groups of persons, not individuals.
Breaking the lifespan into researchable units is a good idea - but labeling each of them with what I see as an "indelible marker" or "permanent ink" leads to more stereotyping and biases which then seem never to go away.
Like "old age."
Lately it seems that people are more obsessed with knowing everyone's and anyone's age. If you go over to Quora you will see questions like "How old are you? How old is X personality. When did first see yourself as old? Is 21 old?
Hmm – and so I began to think about my own ideas or stereotypes of “old" and "old age."
Physical activity in any animal, including humans, has always been of interest to me. I love watching and doing many sports. While watching Tom Brady play football I came to the conclusion that, for me, “old” means when your physical abilities decline. [Brady's obviously have not!]
I’m not sure how much mine or anyone’s physical abilities have to decline to be considered “old” but it became clear to me that my measurement of old is almost purely physical. Like the skiing example.It's usually the thought behind my own "when I'm old" kind of thoughts.
But this is probably not the case for everyone.....
This is now a question I will keep pondering:
What are your thoughts about "when are you old?" Thank you for your ideas....
In the interim, I'm developing a course on aging...and if you want to know more go the Aging Course page at my online school.
Or you can sign up below for more info on healthier aging.
Sometimes I think I've become one of those stereotypical cranky senior citizens* because I just really hate when I hear phrases like "80 is the new 60."
[*Except that I have been talking about this - well - since a long long time ago!]
I also dislike this one: "Wow - you're 75? You look so much younger."
And then we have those questions and statements online and in the media about how much more desirable it is to look younger than one's age, or see/hear the stereotypes we have of "old" people - i.e. those over 50!
When you tell people they don't look their age - you are being sexist and ageist!
Sexist? Why? Because we rarely say this to men. We tend only to make statements about looks and age to women - and women over 40ish.
Ageist? Why? Stop and ask yourself why you are saying this and ask what are your ideas of a 60, 70, 80-year-old person?
You must have some serious ideas of "80-year-oldness" that do not match the 80-year-old you are facing.
TV shows over the years have generally mocked older people, showing them as silly, forgetful, in need of medications, in wheelchairs, sitting around doing nothing "important" or carping at neighbors, especially neighborhood kids. "Hey kid! Get off my lawn" is a classic example of what "old" people say.
We seem never to be happy with a person's "real" or biological age. We tell young children, wow you look older because we think kids want to seem older.
You're 4? WOW you look at least 5 [or 6] and they giggle.
No wonder few are happy with their age - or anyone else's. We start telling young kids they don't look their age and we continue this line of statements until death!
And the media perpetuates the idea that youth and looking youthful is the epitome of coolness - women in TV media often start getting plastic surgery as they age. Younger and younger girls, boys, men and women are getting plastic surgery of all sorts to look more "attractive." And get more attention, and/or more "dates."
We are living longer, or least least we were living longer. [Our lifespans are now decreasing due to increased drug overdoses and suicide. This newer sad trend is lowering the average length we live.] But for those not impacted by those current issues, life is longer. We have healthy humans living and thriving into their 80's, 90's, and even well over 100!
Instead of celebrating the biological age of these people, we get headlines about how young they look "for their age."
And we "celebrate" youthfulness [whatever that concept is] through clothing, make up, hair styles, lifestyles, and more.....We don't "celebrate" aging and development in the same ways. Just take a look at current ads for most anything - even if they don't come out and say "youth" - the actors are all youthful - just to give you the idea that the "product" will make you look and act the same.
I've been trying to finish up this post for a long time, too long ... but I have so much to say as I usually do...I've also been saying that I want to create a course on aging, and i've been saying that for a long item as well....
To make a long post shorter than it could be, and to stop overthinking the aging course - I AM taking a lot what I'd say here, and putting it there. The course will have me on video and I can then talk about these topics like I would in person!!
The aging course!!
Since I am in the field of human development [Ph.D. and all] I offer information about healthy aging, from my point of view and from research.
AND - after much procrastination, I am currently developing a course about healthy aging.
The working title of the course is: Aging: it beats the alternative.....
I have a quirky sense of humor so if you're not liking my humor you're probably not going want to take my courses. I have fun when I teach because people learn better when they enjoy what they're doing, when they giggle, laugh, and have fun while learning.
I've been like that since I got out of college and I first started teaching. Of course in those days I taught kindergarten - but even when later teaching college or teaching skiing my mantra has been have fun when you're learning and have fun when you're teaching.
And I love to play with images, graphics, and all things digital.....who only wants words when you can have more?
Fo more information about aging, see the course basic info page and sign up there for more info:
As I have gotten older, especially since I turned 65, I have been inundated with mail that goes into a category that I now call.......
The mail is about falling, tripping, funerals, cremation, or selling me insurance so my family can pay for the funeral or cremation expenses.
But I get nothing that ever tells me how to enjoy the rest of my life. It's all about "you're going to die so do something about it."
One of the mail pieces I laugh at is from an insurer who thinks I am about to fall - so I am told I need to keep my floor free of things I might trip over.
But I seem not able to get my dog and cat to pick up after themselves, and so my floor has an array of balls, chew toys, and other roundish objects all over the place.
All this is in addtion to my having cords to and from charging phones and computers - as well as the fact that keeping my house clear of clutter is lower than lowest on my priority list.
Comments? Thoughts? Thank you!
I'm curious about aging....I'd like more info
The wallet above is more than 20 years old. It has a history and I've had it for so long, I keep forgetting its history.
I bought the wallet on April 19, 1995 at Potomac Mills Mall in Virginia. Why do I remember the exact date? Because it was the day of the Oklahoma City bombing - but I did not know about the bombing until I was driving home from Potomac Mills.
My son and I went to that mall more often than I'd liked because, in
While walking throughout the mall [which is large,] I saw the occasional television set in store windows showing a bombing. I didn't think anything of it other than all of the TVs were showing the same movie. On the way home in the car we heard about the bombing and that's the first my son and I knew of it. [And that's why I remember the exact date I got the wallet.]
Since that time, the wallet has led a long life in my pocket, in my backpack, in my fanny pack. or in whatever. In those 20+ years, the wallet has been drenched in the Connecticut River, been dampened by Atlantic and Pacific sea air, been dampened by New England and mid-Atlantic snow and thunderstorms and by the Pacific North West rains and Cascade snow.
It's been part of my life through many moves, lots of mileage in cars, lots of ski trips and lots of
And here it is. A black wallet! My very first thought on opening the wallet was wow - I forgot how good Velcro can be when it is new. And I saw on the tag that it's made by the original Swiss Army Knife makers. I think it might outlive me and it will have its own history to tell at some point.