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Thursday, January 20, 2011

his old, blind, Aunt Tee

So, I went to the eye doctor a few weeks ago because, well, I need some new glasses. I haven't been in a few years, since I haven't had insurance and I've really noticed my vision getting very, very bad. Especially my night vision, which has always been really bad to begin with. So I'm in there with my pupils dilated, lights being shone in my eyes, and before I know it, three doctors have come in the room, each of them scratching their heads, each with that "ut oh" look, and each concurring that I most definitely needed to go see the retina guys, at the retina place. They would know more about what was going on. It's not the first time the eye doctor has been concerned about my retinas. They've been telling me for years that there was some "degeneration", but never has there been so much concern nor sense of urgency. They mentioned a suspicion of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Retin-what, you say?? Immediately my mind flashes to my dad's story about visiting his great aunts, the sisters, a deaf one and a blind one. His old, blind, Aunt Tee...Holy shit!
So I go to the retina center, and I saw what must be the kindest, most professional physician I have ever encountered. This was the man who would tell me that I do in fact have the dreaded Retinitis Pigmentosa, and that at best, I have 10 years before I'm left with only the ability to recognize light sources and general shapes with my best eye. My left eye will give out and be "legally blind" within 5 years. You know what my first thought was as I sat there in that white, crisp room? I thought, "how'am I gonna paint?" First thought. No shit. I mean, a million others flooded me, and I worried about how The Wifester would handle the news, or how the hell am I going to use my degree and DESIGN, when I can't friggin see?? I keep adjusting the color on my monitors. I even bought new monitors. Still cant get a good, clear image. I finally realized that it's not the hardware. It's me, my hardware. The doctor asked me if I was understanding what he was telling me, and I said to him, "Yeah, so I need to paint all that I can, like now." He gently patted my shoulder and he said to me, "Yes! Make all the art you can every day. Travel. Go everywhere you ever wanted to go just as soon as you possibly can. Don't put it off. Do it now, and enjoy your vision while you have it."
That was not a conversation that I ever thought I would have. I'm still trying to absorb it.
So today, I had to go in for my Visual Field Test. This shows us how much of my peripheral vision is affected. The way I understood it, you are considered "legally blind" when your visual field in your better eye is less than 20%. My best eye has a visual field of 10%. I didn't know I was so blind. I can still see! I can! OK, so you can sneak up on me pretty damned easily. Granted. And sometimes if you toss something my way, it's likely to hit me in the face, sure. I can't deny that...but I really can see...some stuff. Which has me seriously contemplating my art. I mean, I know what it looks like to me, but now I'm questioning how you see it. Holy crapola! I've been so proud of some of these pieces, and have been showing them off and uploading pics of them to facebook...and you know what, I realize now that they probably aren't nearly as good as I thought they were! Maybe I'm NOT a good painter. Maybe my About Me shouldn't boast "artist, blogger, poet, saint". But you know what? Screw that. I love to paint. I love to be creative. Even if every single thing I've ever painted is shit, I have enjoyed doing it, and I'm not going to stop. So if my art gets funky, and crazy abstract, and you are wondering what happened to the Marilyns and Joan Crawfords and mermaids and cityscapes that I've been doing, you'll know now that it's just that I'm going to have to adapt to my ever narrowing visual field. Man! Today sure has been a downer.

4 cookies cracked:

Heather Mae said...

Hmmm. Heavy stuff. I am sorry about your eyes. I am also scared because I have similar stuff going on and now I REALLY don't want to go to the doc. But art is all perception anyway, right? So how AWESOME is your art to people who are more blind than you?? Revisit this issue after you have had more time to absorb this. I will to!

Fortune Cookies said...

Heather - go get your eyes checked. There are other retina problems that can be fixed with surgery, if you go to the doctor soon enough. Mine happens to not be operable, but that doesn't mean that whatever is going on with yours is unfixable too. better to get it checked out sooner than later. best wishes!

Rebekah said...

Eff!!! Quick delurk just to say that. And to say how much I like your art. And also that I just saw an NPR story about a book of 3D art porn for the blind, so there's that to look forward to. Tough times, be good to yourself. Please keep us posted.

Reb said...

I am so sorry that you will lose your sight! I think your art is great and if it changes, well, it will still be great. It is a matter of perception after all. Who knows in ten years they may be able to do a surgery that will help your 'good' eye and maybe restore partial sight to your 'bad' eye. So, drink in all the sights you can and do the work you can while you are able to. Things will work out the way they are supposed to.