Sunday, May 31, 2009

Oh, Say--Can You See?

How do you like the new header on my blog? This photo of my favorite hangout is compliments of my daughter, Amy, and was taken during their visit last weekend. Thanks, Amy!!

It was on this particular porch that I just wrapped up a Sunday afternoon discussion with a good friend on the blind spots we all have in our lives. I still remember a sermon I heard years ago of a preacher who took his son to a place the child vaguely recalled visiting when he was younger. The boy ran ahead of his dad on the path exclaiming, "I know this place like the back of my own head!" Today our friend pointed out that the back of his own head is one part of himself he's never even seen, though it is quite familiar to the rest of us who study it every Sunday in church!

I deal with literal blind spots every day. Looking at any scene--whether a group of people, a flower bed, or a movie screen--is like looking at an unfinished puzzle with pieces missing. I compensate with this vision loss in my mind--often unconsciously--turning my head this way and that, closing and opening one eye, scanning my eyes up and down, right and left. I get more of the whole picture that way. So it should come as no surprise to me that there are a lot of details I miss.

This past year, I have become increasingly aware of the fact that colors sometimes appear distorted to me, due to damaged cells in my retinas. I confuse green and blue or, incredibly, pink and yellow. I got into an argument with my daughter the other day over the color of our house before I realized she was teasing. "Don't mess with me," I growled at her in exasperation. "You know I can't see color the way you do!"

I am learning to depend on the vision of others to see what I don't: "What's that? I'm about to eat a hair? THANK you!" And, "What do you mean I've slopped food on my shirt? Where? Oh, there..."

Sometimes, my blindness extends to include the people closest to me. The other day, my daughter, Stephanie, was getting ready for a job interview. She came to meet me at work beforehand and asked about the appropriateness of the outfit she was wearing. (I am no fashion guru--she should have known this was a mistake.) I considered her white skirt, striped shirt, and cardigan and said, "I think you look lovely." Then, pulling in a passerby for reassurance I queried, "Nancy, don't you think Stephie looks ready for a job interview?" fully expecting her concurrence. After all, that would be the polite thing to do. Nancy didn't DO the polite thing. She did the honest thing. She said, "No, I don't.".

I laughed nervously and clutched Stephie closer to me--I would stick by my child during this bad joke. "Oh, Nancy's kidding," I laughed, searching Nancy's face to see if she, in fact, was.

"No, I'm not," she insisted. "That outfit makes her look much too young." Nancy went on to give Stephie tips on shirts with collars and closed-toe shoes while I stood by, obliviously. Stephie dashed home and changed into a pair of gray dress slacks and a black turtleneck top. Who helped my daughter more for her interview that day? Her adoring mother...or an objective stranger?

It is humbling to admit that we don't have 20/20 vision in our own affairs. Can I learn to be more accepting when others point out what isn't obvious to me? Will you tuck in the tag on the back of my shirt, brush the stray hair off my shoulders and tell me when I have spinach in my teeth? When you see me put my foot in my mouth, will you kindly help me extract it and try again? Will you love me enough to want me to put the best me forward? And will I have the courage to do the same for you?

BTW, how does the back of my head look?


  1. I'd have been honest like Nancy and I'll always tell you if you have spinach in your teeth and will knock the plate containing the hair out of your hands before you eat it! You can count on me to be honest. I'd have given Stephie good advice on what to wear for an interview. For an interview, no matter what the job, it's always good to dress conservatively and better to be overdressed than under. When will she hear on the job BTW?

  2. Wow, what great questions! How confident we often feel in our own view of things! Like, I always fix my hair so it looks good in the mirror and was recently appalled when I saw the back of my head in a picture. Times like these I ask my husband, "Why didn't you TELL me??"

    So, ok, I'll pick the stray hairs off you if you tell me when I have spit-up on my shirt. Thanks. :)

    p.s. I bet Stephie looked darling. Of course, some of these things are a manner of taste.