You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

This is a super hard topic for me to write about. It’s been in the back of my mind for months – but I really hate talking about it, so I keep resisting. Since we all know that what you resists, persists – I’m going to just get it out there, and out of the back of my mind.

In 1996 I had eye surgery to correct Strabismus in both of my eyes. Strabismus = lazy eyes.

That’s right, I said eyes. Like BOTH of my eyes. They took turns wandering off in different directions. Never bothering to let me know which one was going to stay put.

The problem started when I was 5 or 6, and my parents immediately took me to an eye doctor. He slapped some glasses on my face, told me to do some eye exercises and left it at that. It didn’t help.

Fast forward to me at age 12 – still struggling with lazy eyes, still no solution. And trust me when I say that it is not easy to go through life with eyes that don’t appear to be looking at the person you are talking to. Kids have no social filter, so they just say what’s on their mind – and flat out ask you what’s wrong with you.

At 14, a boy actually told me he thought I was really pretty, but my eyes were just too “weird.” Ouch. Doctors continued to tell me to do the exercises. “It will get better,” they said.

Age 17: I was convinced that I just needed to keep my face in a book. If I didn’t talk to anyone, no one would notice my eyes. Eyes still wandering.

In 1995 I went off to college. My eyes were still a problem, but I decided to stop pretending to be a wallflower. I’m not, nor have I ever been a quiet, reserved person – and pretending to be one was really, really hard for me. This was when I met my husband. He didn’t care about my eyes. He seriously thought I was pretty anyway. SHOCKING.

In 1996 I decided I’d had enough. The exercises were not helping. My eyes were still a mess. And I was drifting back toward just not talking to anyone.

The summer after my freshman year at college, I asked my parents to take me to one more place. This doctor admitted he didn’t have an answer either, but he knew someone who would.

Off to Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH. Dr. Mary Lou McGregor (my hero) saw me and told me in the first five minutes of our visit that she would make it all go away. She knew, immediately, what the problem was – and how to fix it.

I spent 14+ years doing exercises and wearing glasses; and the facts were that those things were making the situation worse.

That’s right. Worse.

The only way to fix my eyes was to adjust the muscles. My eye muscles were simply too strong, and I was flexing them all over the place trying to make it better. With two quick surgeries, Dr. McGregor erased all my troubles. She fixed me.

With 15 years of straight eyes under my belt, I still don’t have “binocular” vision. My eyes don’t really work together – but they don’t wander anymore either.

The biggest lesson for me in all of this is to question “authority.” Sometimes, getting imaginative is just what the doctor ordered.

I knew deep inside myself that eye exercises were not the answer. But I kept doing them. I blindly followed the “rules” and it literally got me nowhere.

When I pushed the envelope, asked for one more chance, I got the answer I’d been looking for.

This reminds me of the way we entrepreneurs handle our businesses. We spend years and years doing what the “experts” say to do. We copycat; we mimic; we do what we are told without questioning anything.

And then we wonder why it doesn’t work for us.

Sometimes you have to dig deeper. You have to keep looking until you find what does work for you. And you have to stop listening to every guru who comes along. What worked for them may not work for you. In fact, it probably won’t.

There is value in learning from the people who have gone before, but like my Dr. McGregor – make sure your mentor knows what they are talking about. Blanket statements and a “this-is-how-I-did-it-so-it’s-the-only-way” attitude is a sure indicator that you need to keep looking for your guru.

Anyone out there have a story to share about getting your imagination in focus and how it moved your forward?

12 Responses to You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

  1. Wow. This is an excellent post and such a personal story to drive home such a poignant insight. I’m not sure if I have a story that aligns under my belt just yet, I think it’s in progress. My entire life I did what I “should” — married the nice boy right out of college, went off and worked for a nonprofit “saving children”, was a good upstanding citizen, waited to responsibly have a child, paid my taxes, stayed out of debt, put everyone else first. It got me know where but miserable (minus the child part: she rocks!) … and then after 18 years, I woke up. I imagined something bigger for myself even though my imagination wasn’t vibrant enough yet to envision how it would even look. i just new it was different and … out there somewhere. And now I’m 18 months into re-imagining what’s possible for my life. I feel brand new and that is scary at 38 yrs old. But it feels honest. My creativity is waking up. I’m so excited to see what it will create. : )

    • Since I have a special insight into what is coming for you Cris, I can say that you are on an amazing track. And it is AWESOME. Glad you are letting your creativity run wild.

  2. Hey lady…I love and appreciate that you shared this with us. I love the lesson about business and authority, but I also love another message in here, which is don’t give up and don’t take no for an answer. Something inside you KNEW it could be different. Had you not kept on searching, you wouldn’t have ever found what you were looking for. This is inspiring and thanks for sharing.

    Xo,
    Sally

  3. This hits so close to home for me. I grew up with the same issue except only in one eye. The exercises were a joke, glasses help but I still wish my parents had taken me for the surgery. Now that I’m old enough to know what it involves I’m too scared to do it.

    • Seriously, Cat – do it! It really didn’t hurt that much. My first surgery didn’t hurt AT ALL – but the white parts of my eyes were red from blood that seeped under my lens during the surgery, for like a month. Small price to pay, though. Second one hurt for about 24 hours, but that was it.

      You can so totally do it.

  4. Oh wow Amanda we could share such stories on this such as the day I almost leapt over the desk and pulled the eye consultant up to my nose by his tie (i didn’t thankfully). We’d been seeing him for my son’s ‘lazy eye’ (bit different to yours) when he turned around and told me he wasn’t in fact a paediatric opthamologist as I had thought but an expert in glaucoma (other end of the age spectrum) and like you the wrong treatment meant we had passed the age at which we coudl really do anythgin about his vision. So he is now effectively blind in one eye. I don’t know whether I was more angry at him for the poor treatment or myself for going along with it! Huge congratulations for your surgery and your ‘coming out’ about it. I’m you are even more beautiful now!

    Cathy

    • Aw, Cathy – I’m SO sorry! That is rough.

      My youngest son has eyes that cross in, and I first noticed it at 18 months old. After my ordeal, I didn’t mess around at all – I took him right to my fave doc in Columbus. She assured me that his problem was not like mine, and that it was just vision related. He’s been in glasses ever since, and hopefully will be out of them by the time he turns 10…

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Amanda. And I love what you learned from it. I was so busy following the rules that I was 34 before I realized I’m a lesbian. The good part is that I married at 19 and had 2 wonderful daughters, but I spent most of those 19 years feeling like a failure as a wife and mother. It would be a very different world if we all paid more attention to what our bodies and souls are telling us than what we think we are “supposed” to do and be. Thank you for a beautiful post.

    • Why thank you Verna. I’m so glad you waited till you were 34 to figure that out – otherwise we wouldn’t have your lovely daughter… but I’m also glad for you that you DID figure it out eventually. :-)

  6. Hey Amanda!

    I worked for a behavioral optometrist (non-surgical doctor) for a couple of years. Before she recommended surgery for anyone at a young age, unless it was extreme cases, was to exercise the eye muscles. SOOO many kids were brought in. Although you couldn’t always visibly “see” their eyes wandering, they may have had slight or “minor” muscle issues that caused words to move on the page OR the inability to hit a ball with a bat because it wasn’t in the exact spot that they “saw” it at. Just because one or both eye muscles weren’t working perfectly together. They would favor using one eye by leaning on their hand (kinda blocking one eye) without necessarily consciously realizing they were doing it. Anyhoo…..

    It’s hard to believe that you did “eye physical therapy” for that long!

    You raise such a valid point on mimicking others to get results that they promise us & sticking with it even though we KNOW it’s not working.

    Thanks for sharing such a personal story & turning it into an awesome business lesson.

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