Becoming Unbalanced

Son Dryden is a steadying influence, photo below:

In public elementary school, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my classmates and I underwent quick, painless screenings for visual acuity and “lazy eye.” Also referred to as “squint,” or “amblyopia,” or somewhat harshly, “cross-eye”. In my case there was an extremely small degree of amblyopia, undetected by the school nurse, certainty not noticeable by the average observer. Information from each eye reached my brain by the usual pathways, but the images didn’t exactly match up. I guess my brain had to choose what information it preferred. It selected the left eye to be dominant, gave input from the right eye minimal attention.

This caused absolutely no problems in my youth. Routine visits to the ophthalmologist revealed that the vision in my right eye could not be corrected to 20/20, but 20/30 with glasses was certainly close enough. What should have been a portent of difficulties to come was my lack of success at target practice. As it turned out, I held the gun in my right hand, aimed with my left eye.  I not only never hit a bull’s eye, but also, I never even hit the target.

The globe of the eye is turned this way and that by six separate muscles. Who knew. But as I attained middle age, one of these muscles slacked off a bit (similar to some of the other muscles in my body), and bringing things into focus became more and more difficult. Depth perception declined steeply. Yikes. There goes my golf game.

Descending stairs without railings was to be avoided at all costs. Driving at night was completely abandoned, as the more tired whatever muscle got, double vision ensued. A pair of approaching headlights looked like two pairs of approaching headlights. Yikes again. I was finally referred to a pediatric (!) ophthalmologist who totally saved the day. (Sidebar: Modern screening techniques pick up lazy eye in babies and young children, very few adults suffer from amblyopia these days). I sat in his waiting room filled with munchkins and their parents, seated in a very small chair with my knees right under my chin. Cartoons blared from the waiting room TV. I was a wreck.

To make a long story short (too late for that?) I underwent eye muscle surgery by this wonderful genius who tightened the appropriate muscle a bit.  That took all of fifteen minutes and I was “cured.” Knowing which muscle to tighten and how much to shorten it probably took ten years of postgraduate training. But Mother Nature was not through with me yet. Advancing age brought yet another challenge. Now my balance was deteriorating. Seriously? My initial self-diagnosis was that of a brain tumor. But age-related balance difficulties are much more common than brain tumors.

I embarked on a series of exercises to sharpen my balancing skills. Many fitness trainers yammer about core strength. Although I’ve never been quite sure where one’s core is, mine must be deficient. One instructor of years ago had our class doing “planks.” I stretched out tremulously, as my body formed not a straight line, but more of a quivering “L.” I told the instructor that I was too tall to do a plank. She was not impressed.

I found an article that listed exercises for improving balance, and “plank” was not mentioned. Good. These exercises included squats, lunges, balancing on one foot, “tightrope” walking, and walking in a very straight line. I can do all of those things, with varying degrees of correctness. I’ve been very diligently practicing for about ten days, and I think I see some improvement.  One-foot balancing seems to be most compromised by wobbly ankles rather than wobbly core. Combat boots might stabilize ankles, and are very fashionable these days.

I count squats among my greatest successes. Lunges are the most difficult to do in correct form. One must watch a video to see that what you thought was a correct lunge was not. If you are not incredibly sore (especially quadriceps) the day after 20 lunges, you have not been doing them correctly. I am determined to persevere! This might be very important if walking a straight line is still part of a field sobriety test? As always, pray for me.

Public service announcement: Remember to get a flu shot.

5 thoughts on “Becoming Unbalanced

  1. Thanks for another enjoyable read, and for sharing your sense of humor. As “they” say – getting older isn’t for sissies (I wonder if that word is still politically correct- if it ever was).

    Sent from my iPhone

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