I think it helped that I now have a contact lens in. Everything is gorgeously clear. Things feel even MORE clear with depth, somehow.
It started when I was talking to a workmate who had a cochlear implant installed in 2002. In the middle of his explanation of his fascinating borg-like technological enhancement, his head started to become remarkably round and his hair resembled a tidal wave. It continued as I was talking to another co-worker about my recent visual transformation, then after that, it was ON.
Big as life, really as big as day 1.
Signs loomed near, trees towered far. Branches reached out toward me like beckoning fingers. Buildings seemed taller, exaggerated by their geometric lines. Cars were at a stark relief from the road, and their shapes were more defined, like eggs in a crate as opposed a row of indistinguishable blobby bars.
People seemed to exist in their trajectories, defined as much by the space between them than by their interesting and peculiar bodies. With roundness, bodies take on a quirky feeling, somehow even more human, more blobby. Hair is a mist, a fog of depth tricks. People stand out from the ground with the obviousness of pieces on a chessboard, each one in its place with its specific path. With them arranged in space, I could see my own trajectory among them. I didn't feel compelled to scrutinize each one individually like I used to need to do, I could take in all the pieces on the chessboard and see where each are going. I can plot a course through the objects as I go. This makes it IMMEASURABLY easier to navigate crowded spaces. I feel like part of an environment, as opposed to a driver forcing their car through a rainstorm. That metaphor is more about the effort and attention involved more than the clarity or acuity. Yes, I had the constant distraction of double vision before, but the widescreen life just gives you so much more data in a nicely arranged way. The world feels more organized. The stark relief of objects on the relatively flat surfaces accentuates this.
Based on previous anecdotes I was wondering how a stairwell would feel, and I thought about this as I was descending into the subway (I was going to meet some friends in Davis Square). I hopped down it as normal, and dashed to catch the train. With a moment to look around me, I observed the sensation of the handlebars looming downward, other passengers looming near or arranged far. I could vibe the openings in the crowd and easily saunter among them, now knowing how close I was to colliding with someone. I used to just barrel through a gap with casual abandon, hoping for no collision. Now I really knew where people were standing in space, could be relatively sure of my own position, and felt like Fred Astaire navigating among them. I enjoyed looking down one long narrow side of the train than the other, really getting off on how damn long the subway train looked. I also enjoyed observing peoples' rocking back and forth, and how the arrangement of different sized people resembled an arrangement of flowers, each with their deliberate position and height and quirk. I don't know, more like a wad of Q-tips in someone's hand. They all seemed so individual, each a single cigarette in a partially shaken-out pack.
I'm sorry. I've been really struggling to find the language to describe this experience. People have been asking for more detail, and I want to be able to provide it. All too often I resort to technology metaphors, relating my new vision to IMAX or widescreen, or like a beautifully rendered simulation. Real life is the sweetest Pixar movie yet. I'm trying to change it up and find a different way to describe the sensation, get at that unique feeling of the difference in specific situations. Now that I have a bit more experience with it, I can hopefully describe how depth affects the way one interacts with the world. It really is a subtle but powerful change. I longed my whole life to describe to other people how my vision differed from theirs, but every time I tried, I always ended up saying something like "well, you know! You're the one who has it! Why can you catch a ball and I can't? What's different?" Now, I think I have SEEN and EXPERIENCED the difference, and am still at a loss to put words to the difference. But it's there and it's palpable. It's not really even in the eyes, the experience or sensation of depth. It's in the mind. It's in the gut. It's an abstraction, anyway, the way the brain takes the individual images in from your two eyes and makes some assumptions and provides this additional sensory input to your brain. It feels sensory. The position of something or a person close to me is more something I feel in my gut than my eyes. Though objects up close do feel a little hyper-focused, somehow. It's an instinct more than a visual sensation. I couldn't draw the difference, but I can FEEL it. I had been asked a few times whether I hadn't been noticing the depth because I was just getting used to it. I have thought about this many times, but today I can tell you, I had that difference back and it was unmistakeable.
The contact lens really helped, I think. The brain's ability to build upon its input was helped tremendously by this, and I am really excited to see if it boosts again with the addition of the left lens in a few weeks. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, at this point?
I called Eliza the minute I got off the train. "IT'S BACK, BABY!"
And it still is. It was all night. I could find my way around in a dark place so much easier. Instead of a ruddy Rembrandt knockoff, a dark interior space was just a dimmer version of the spatially-arranged world, and I found I made no accidental contact with no chair or patron, and could comfortably navigate the room to get to and from my table. Gene Kelly, people.
So I spent some time being giddy, and just looking around, and marveling again at what a gift I get to enjoy to observe this drastic and lovely change, to see all the normal mundane things in life imbued with a sense of wonder after so many years. On the way home, I looked down side streets and they seemed to stretch on and on. I can see cars coming from a long way and really tell how far away from me they are.
I wanted to stay for karaoke tonight, but was feeling beat and knew I had to come home and finish taxes. But if I had, this is song I was thinking of doing...
So yeah, I will continue to struggle with the language to describe it, but if I can be a voyeur to a few surgeons interested to know what it's like to come out the other end of their work a changed person, then I'll keep trying.
Rock that z-axis, everybody.