It’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye in.
Blessed are the weird people, for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.
— Jacob Nordby
It’s a great line. The only way we can see things in a new way is when we see them through someone else’s eyes. We don’t end up seeing things just like them, though, we see things in our own way but with slightly different vision.
When that new insight just expands what we can see in the world, it’s fun. We all like a bit of novelty and better acuity.
But when that new vision changes the way we see what we used to see in the world, letting us see the limitations of our choices and the limitations of the choices of people we are connected to, well, that’s when things get uncomfortable.
My father drove past the point he should have been driving, at least according to one of the women who threw me out of a caregiver’s support group. In those last years, I had to be a co-driver while stuffed in the back seat of the Subaru, as my mother needed the passenger seat. I would twist and bend to shove my head between the seat restraints and offer a continuous coaching experience of driving, cuing turns, pointing out hazards and doing the tongue click thing to signal my father to slow down, a coded sound rather than words to process, a trick borrowed from ox-cart drivers.
To do this, I had to know his mind and only feed him what he needed in a simple way because between the limits of aspergers and aging, asking him to process too much information would just slow down response time.
My mother didn’t understand this process. It was her big gasp that got him to break short at a light about to change which got us rammed in the rear by a heavy truck that could not stop short.
Once I started driving, I knew I needed to manage my mother. I would scan the roads ahead using standard defensive driving habits, but as did, I would offer a play-by-play of what I saw. I would call out what I was seeing, what I was anticipating and so forth.
This had two goals. The first was to calm my mother down so she would trust my driving, but the second was to engage her endless curiosity, keeping mind active and agile even as she aged.
I recently learned from my sister that when she would drive my mother in those last years, my mother would often speak up from the passenger seat. “If your [sibling] was driving, [they] would say that the guy in the blue car is about to pull out. . .”
I apologized to my sister for creating that behaviour, but she had just been amused by it.
“You taught her to see the world in a different, active and involved way that made her less jumpy and more connected,” she told me. “It was a good technique you used to take care of our mother. Thank you.”
As an empathic shaman, one of my special talents is quickly seeing through the eyes of others. I can often then offer language to communicate and share their point of view, language that they don’t have for themselves because their vision isn’t considered, just habitual.
I have often had the experience where someone wants to understand a phenomenon in the world, so they ask me to tell them how I see something. For example, I had a sales guy who loved to hear my analysis of other companies marketing campaigns because they let him see the strengths and the weaknesses of their choices, revealed the intent and the crocks.
When I analyzed one of his campaigns, though, that was all different. He didn’t want anyone seeing through his choices. He had done the best he could and that was enough.
If seeing through my eyes gives you what you think helps you, that’s a great thing.
But if seeing through my eyes gives you what you feel challenges you beyond your comfort zone, beyond your limits, well, that’s not so great.
It’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye in and sees illuminated what they are not yet ready to engage, what they fear might require them to disconnect from habit and comfortable connections.
Mr. Nordby is correct. We grow when we see the world through different eyes. When seeing through different eyes leads us to feel too much stress, though, then blindness is often preferable, so we reject the gifts that others offer to us because the truths attached to them are too strong for the moment.
I know how to see through the eyes of others. It’s the way I have learned to survive in the world.
That doesn’t mean that I always act on them quickly. As a teenager, one of my regular comebacks was “That may well be true, but you certainly don’t expect me to admit it, do you?”
When I share what I see through my weird eyes — my queer eyes, as I would say — I know that I have to be very careful about their comfort level. If I don’t modulate what I share, they will shut me down, will shut me off, finding reasons to remove my standing to share and dismiss what I offer as just too whatever.
It’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye in and sees something that unsettles their current comfort level.
That’s when it gets really weird and gets really unsafe.