Friday, January 6, 2012

“Ways? I Have Ways?”

Endearing Though Some May Be,
Others Are Blind Spots

Life Lessons—Check Your Blind Spot
Not the One in the Car

“Check your blind spot” is a driving directive that stuck in my mind from driver’s education class many years ago. Recent reflections on blind spots and rules I learned in driver’s ed have opened my eyes to other blind spots in my life.
Robert Burns said it well in his poem “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church,” especially in the following lines:

                                    O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
                                    To see oursels as ithers see us!
                                                               —Scottish version

                                    And would some Power the small gift give us
                                    To see ourselves as others see us!
                                                               —English version

I don’t have the gift of seeing myself as others see me—I have blind spots, behaviors of which I am unaware. They are the annoying tics that drive those around me mad, sayings I have overused, and reactions that are so “me,” that my kids probably say, “Yeah, she did that—again.” They know what that is, but me? I’m blind to it.
A recent online exchange about a movie I didn’t want to see—The Help—exposed a blind spot. I had no interest in seeing The Help because, unlike millions readers, I was not overjoyed with it, nor did I share the enthusiasm that greeted the movie’s arrival. I expressed that (and more) to a friend when I declined seeing the movie with her.
I didn’t hear from her for several weeks, but was distracted (blind, perhaps) so I was relieved to receive a holiday e-mail, relieved because I worried I had slipped off her friend list due to my comments regarding the book. Her reply did not have the subject “Blind Spot,” but it would have been appropriate:

You are funny, Chris. I just chalked it up to your ways ... :-)
My reply:
My "ways"? I have "ways"? Is this something my family and friends have known for any amount of time? And you finally were the one to tell me? The things we learn from our friends...

I was jesting (kind of). I knew I had ways, but I didn’t know I had “ways.” Rarely has any soul other than one of my children been brave enough to speak of my “ways.” (There was an ex or two, but nothing about ways is fair in marriage and divorce.)
I have an idea about some of my “ways,” but not all of them because they are blind spots. I don’t spend much time contemplating the mirror or my navel, and I spend far too little time in social activities. My freelance work doesn’t lend itself to a great degree of outside contact. This limited contact has allowed what once were spores of blind spots to become giant fungi that perch on my shoulder blades where I cannot see them, yet everyone else can.
Like most adults, I am unaware of the majority of my “ways” because of the limited feedback I receive. I know about a few of them, however.
One of my worst “ways” is what my kids and their friends call “the death look.” I didn’t know I had it (blind spot) until someone told one of my daughters that they had received it. In short work, I woke up to when “the death look” crossed my face and even summoned it on purpose on an occasion or two (perhaps more, but again, blind spot). I haven’t used it recently and aspire to never do so again, but if it continues to be a blind spot—a “way”—I hope someone calls me on it the next time they see it.
I hope to be called on at least a few additional blind spots, but in moderation. I don’t want open season on my psyche wherein everyone I know all of a sudden fills me in on my “ways.” I want to be aware, but not hyperaware. As with bringing any change to one’s life, I think developing an awareness of my blind spots is a process that will work best one step at a time. Life’s epiphanies spark change when we pay attention to them, but a spark must be tended to become a lasting fire. Lasting changes are most often integrated into one’s lifestyle when they are taken in steps.
My objective is not to scrutinize every human interaction I have, but to be aware of those blind spots and to strive toward opening my eyes to them so I can extend my relationships and bring peace, comfort, and joy to everyone, myself included.
Such an awareness of blind spots is a beginning. As when driving, if I didn’t know my car had blind spots, I wouldn’t know to check them. Now that I have received a gentle note that I indeed have “ways,” I think it’s a good time to explore some of those “ways,” and whenever I notice a “way,” to look at it, and figure out whether it is a blind spot. If it is, it is an area that I need to check, and not check as in inspect or scrutinize, but check as in stop, restrain, or repress.

This one's for Lisa--who had the courage to mention my "ways."

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