My world has gotten smaller. I picked up a new pair of glasses on Saturday, and they feel surprisingly different from my old ones, although my prescription changed only slightly and just in my right eye. After the optician fitted them I was a little afraid to step out the door and get back on my bike. The ground seemed to curve beneath my every move with a sort of fisheye-lens effect. Being at the grocery store, a few minutes later, was disorienting: cereal boxes looked extra-skinny, and every apple in the produce pyramid looked premature. The apples felt as light as plums in my hand, as if my vision had tricked my other senses into believing they were small. I discovered the optical illusion when I prodded my glasses upward, peered beneath them, and saw the apples plump right up. I flipped the glasses up and down a few more times to be sure, making myself look like some cartoon character who couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

It’s eerie how different my perception of the world becomes when I put on glasses. My aided vision is incredibly crisp, which of course is a much-needed benefit, but it comes at the expense of depth and weight. When everything is drawn with identical sharpness, it is easier for my brain to stitch it all together as a flat panorama than to distinguish varying levels of depth. And when objects appear to be abnormally small and distant, they don’t carry the same heft that I’m accustomed to. A thick wooden chair that sits only a foot away from me looks more like a photograph than a heavy, moveable object. It feels like I’m viewing everything from inside an immaculate glass ball. I’ve made a trade-off between clarity and gravity, and I miss the gravity.

Did I feel this way when I got my previous pair of glasses, three years ago? I don’t remember. Maybe I adapted to them so well that they came to define reality for me. I suppose that’s what will happen again over the next week or two.

Addendum: I’d like to say that after writing this post, I took the glasses in to be re-adjusted, and now the fisheye effect is blissfully gone. Some of this post is still relevant, though.

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