I am typing this using speech-to-text. The reason I'm doing so is mostly as a hypothetical exercise - What if I weren't able to use my sight as I'm accustomed to? I'm going in for a minor surgery tomorrow but this story starts about a month ago…
At about the two to three hour mark of some video calls, I would start to notice a bit of blurriness in my right eye. I figured that was probably due to staring at one particular point on my screen for hours at a time, so I'd look elsewhere, rub at my eye a bit, and it would go away pretty quickly after the call. But it was always my right eye. And over the course of a month it started to get a bit worse: happening more frequently and taking longer to recover afterwards. Finally on Monday this week, I called the eye doctor to accelerate the appointment that I'd made and managed to get in that day.
I learned that I had high intraocular pressure - some in my left eye and even more in my right eye. It's a situation that would cause glaucoma type damage over the course of years, but luckily it doesn't seem to have done any damage yet. "You have good timing," said the optometrist. So the laser surgery that I'm getting tomorrow will evidently put small holes near the outer edges of my irises, to avoid a situation where the lens could block liquid flow through the pupil entirely, causing a runaway high pressure kind of scenario. Then, I've started some eye drops to lower the pressure, and we'll see if that needs to become permanent or if things will relax enough on their own to come back down to normal pressure levels.
So there's no real damage right now, and the worst case seems to be that I might have to use eye drops long term. But it's still just a bit sobering. I remember that a grandmother of mine fought with glaucoma, cataracts, or maybe both. With our general dependence on screens right now, and certainly my heavy usage of both phone and computer screens, it's certainly sobering to think about what kind of impact vision loss would have for me.
Side note just for software developers: accessibility matters. Accessibility matters. Accessibility matters! It's great how well this Google speech recognition works compared to the Dragon Engine from 20 years ago, For all of us to benefit, and it's a two-way street how accessibility improvements benefit everyone and improvements for everyone can and should be channeled back into greater accessibility for those with needs. Let's keep pushing that way, as an industry.
So anyways - appreciating what I have, and still have. I find myself noticing my eyes, and how I'm using them, frequently throughout the day. My next birthday will be my 40th, heading into that territory where evolution cares a lot less whether our bodies keep functioning as well as they did in our youth. We're not just brains with sensors attached to them, either. A lot more aware now of the embodied aspects of cognition and emotion and experience. I don't think I have a conclusion here, other than to point back once again towards awareness, and intentionality, and our opportunity to be intentional about the things we notice, think, and value. Everyday is a gift, and every faculty is a privilege.