Open Eyes

Do you know how kittens are born with their eyes closed and then they gradually open them?

In a way, that happened to me.

When I was born, the diagnosis was ptosis (the “p” is silent). I was born with one eye closed. My right eye was normal but the eyelid did not open. I have a unilateral ptosis in my right eyelid, a dropped eyelid.

It’s not that my right eye is lazy. It’s just that the other one is so hard-working. (Haha.)

But let’s not call it a lazy eye.

I began regular trips to the (world-famous) ophthalmologist who recommended a small operation before kindergarten.

So in the summer before I started school, I went under the knife.

My eyelid was cut and the scar from the pinched skin holds my eye open enough to let in some light. Being mostly closed for over four years, the right eye was very weak. For a few hours every day, I wore an eyepatch over my good eye to strengthen my opened eye. And new glasses.

Since then I literally sleep with one eye open and blinking isn’t exactly automatic.

My new view didn’t come with an instruction manual. In fact, I didn’t realize I was blinking with one eye until a few classmates asked why I was winking at them.

Winking? Was I winking? I thought I was blinking like regular people.

I went home and practiced blinking in front of a mirror, forcing both eyes closed. Sounds easy for most people but not if your eye has been surgically opened.

My third grade class was screened for colorblindness and some other basic eye exams. They found colorblindness in my ptosis eye! With my left eye closed, the ptosis eye saw a diminished blue color.

I spent hours looking at picture books alternating between my two lenses. Outdoors I could swap the vivid blue sky to grayish and back again.

Then it changed.

By my early 20s I couldn’t find the difference. I didn’t notice the gradual recovery of colors and the colorblindness was resolved.

My right eye still sees differently than my normal left and for several years I was farsighted with one and nearsighted with the other.

In junior high I transferred to a new school where I was bullied and called names. The Cyclops, Popeye, Lazy Eye, Squinty, Blinky, etc.

I still get surprised every once in a while and it takes me back to seventh grade.

A few years ago one of my nonprofit clients yelled “Lazy Eye,” laughing at me from across a waiting room. Out of the blue.

I’d guess half of the people I meet tell me they never noticed and the other half say, “It was the first thing I noticed about you.”

The ptosis gets noticed when I’m tired and gets worse at the end of a long day.

Blinking practice became eyelid adjustment and matching my eyelids by relaxing my good eyelid to drop it down to the level of the corrected one.

Sometimes it works, but one of my friends thought I had a glass eye and was too polite to ask. He told his family that my eye was fake too.

Recently I met a someone and the first thing she asked me was how long I’d had mine.

“Forever,” I said, shrugging. I thought ptosis was a birth defect.

But it can happen at any time. She’d developed her ptosis when she was 39. After bearing her fallen eyelid for a couple years, she was desperate to correct it.

I described how I’d met someone after college who had a ptosis and three operations. There were no visible scars but there was a blank space around his eye that was not quite right.

I said I was grateful not to have an overeager plastic surgeon who wanted to operate again and again. I cautioned her to be wary of too much work and I then told her my joke about it.

“I don’t have a lazy eye. It’s just that the other one…”  

Ha ha.

But there have been some silver linings along the way.

My eyes were opened to new ways of seeing and I am grateful for my different vision even when it’s outside than the norm.

I know how to change my point of view.

I have seen things from unique perspectives. From the dark, I saw changing colors bloom and grow with a sort of double vision.

I am sometimes able to disarm bullies with a sense of humor.

I love writing, proofreading, taking photos, shooting video, interviewing people, and editing.

I love finding angles and spotting shots from new perspectives. With a zoom lens and some space to set up, you can do some cool things.

I love sequencing things (making plans, organizing processes, structuring narratives, writing scripts, and creating lists of things).

I’m told I have a good eye. But please don’t discount the bad one either.