See — Look — Watch

here's looking at you

Last week I was in a different building with Milo, my new service dog. Early on, he was not a big fan of elevators. When you are a service dog trained to help mitigate mobility and balance issues, this is a serious thing. His trainer worked very hard with him to get him over his fear of “the moving box”. He now enters elevators with a tail wag and is confident and alert. Unless…

… he enters a new elevator. I forget to take things a little slower when we get into a brand new elevator. To Milo, “different” is not good, and should be approached with extreme caution. I suppose that is why when I entered the library elevator on campus, and Milo immediately dropped to the floor trembling, I was taken by surprise. I spoke to him with confidence and calm tones, and he was eventually standing by the time we reached the correct floor. Some students on the elevator with me said, “You are doing such a good job training him! I could never do that though… train a dog only to have to give it up after training”.

The elevator door was opening and everyone was filing out. I didn’t take the time to set the students straight because it wasn’t really important. However, as I walked around trying to find the study room my students were meeting in, I was thinking, “Didn’t they see my cane? Can my bling be any more noticeable? There isn’t any way I can make my invisible conditions any more visible. AAARGH!”

… and yeah. I think in pirate-speak at times.

I have to remind myself that we are all guilty of only SEEING sometimes. We forget to LOOK instead. Worse, we often do not take the time to WATCH.

See — Look — Watch

see-look-watch

So often we go throughout our day only SEEING. I’m guilty of this. I believe SEEING people is the equivalent of saying, “How are you today?” with the expectation of hearing the response, “I’m fine, how are you?” SEEING is going through the motions with our eyes. SEEING is inactive. We SEE, but we are not doing so with deliberation. We are not concentrating. The students in the elevator were seeing me, but they were not looking. Well… that isn’t altogether fair as they were likely LOOKING at Milo, but only seeing me.

LOOKING means you deliberately concentrate… you notice. LOOKING is active. I suppose it is a little bit like being in “search mode”. When we are LOOKING, we ignore distractions, and recognize more than the superficial “window dressing”. My friends Deb and Ruth are photographers. I’m trying to learn to LOOK when taking pictures and not just seeing something pretty.

I love teaching. However, everything I really love about teaching has little to do with the subject I teach. I love teaching because I really feel like I’m making a difference. Somewhere along the line I learned to LOOK at my students instead of SEEING my students. Perhaps I had good role models. Perhaps it is because I have felt invisible myself. Do you know in my head I say, “Here’s LOOKING at you, kid”… with my best Bogart impression? I don’t just SEE you. I’m LOOKING at you.

I remember reading Blume’s book, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” as a kid. I can’t tell you the number of times I have asked God this same thing… only I insert Denise. There have been times I have been angry and added some things like, “Do You even CARE? Do you really see me?” I don’t always deal with my “new normal” in a positive way. I struggle with depression. I get angry–even at God. I need constant reminders that He looks at me. He is watching me; that He does care.

My husband hasn’t been looking at me lately. I don’t mean this as a slam, and I’m not telling you something that I haven’t shared with him. He signed me up to go to a banquet/game night/workshop for Valentine’s day at our church. Many couples and singles will be there. I don’t go to things like this… at least not with people who do not understand disabilities. Three weeks ago I told him I wasn’t going… that he shouldn’t have signed me up. He asked me (nicely) to go… “I rarely ask you step outside your comfort zone“. We argued. I pleaded. Two weeks ago we repeated the conversation. One week ago we practiced redundancy. Yesterday, I said I would go, but I told him, “You aren’t looking at me. You see me, but you aren’t looking at me. If you were, you’d know that I’m suffering from panic attacks. If you were, you’d recognize the sleep walking I’ve been doing as anxiety“. Sometimes we see right through the people we love the most. We aren’t looking at them. (Because I recognize that being a chicken can isolate me from others, I’m trying to find my courage…)

Please know that I understand we cannot have our LOOKING eyes on all the time. That level of concentration is impossible to do during every waking hour. However, I do believe that we can do more LOOKING than SEEING.

Yes. It takes a little more time and perhaps more effort.

No. We don’t burn calories for our trouble (darn it!)

Do you ever WATCH others? It goes beyond looking and does take the sacrifice of time. In a world of “time is money”, few people perceive that they can afford to take the time to WATCH. I believe we cannot afford not to take the time to do some WATCHING. Our very soul depends on it.

WATCHING changes you. WATCHING often changes the world. It is only that level of concentration and taking precious, valuable moments to study what your eyes see, that any connection is made to your heart–where all change is born.

See — Look — Watch

Be deliberate in how you exercise your eye muscles.

Denise Portis

© 2016 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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2 thoughts on “See — Look — Watch

  1. There is a lot going on in this piece, and I thank you for it. You’re right: looking and watching are for many of us cultivated, whereas it’s relatively easy to see, blindly. Such an interesting response from your students! I would not have (to extend the metaphor even more) seen that coming. I appreciate the nod re: photography. For me, and I imagine for Ruth as well, it is a combination of both letting things in and focusing my attention, simultaneously. I think that’s part of the message I get from this piece, that we need to cultivate a way of looking at our world and the people in it that enables us to be open to whatever comes, and focus our attention in the best way. Again, thank you for sharing your words and perspective.

  2. That seems weird to me, that they jumped to you training the dog and not using it for yourself. I wonder if they’ve encountered more “trainers” than “users.”

    At a recent event I “saw” a great dane which is always exciting because… well, you can’t ignore a great dane! I watched the dog for a while without “watching” its owner. Eventually a couple came up and asked if it was alright to pet the dog, to which the owner very politely replied that no, he’d rather they didn’t. It wasn’t until that point that I really “Looked” at the dog and owner together and saw it was a service dog, and his owner was leaning on him heavily.

    Dogs, especially, are easy to look at without “looking at” the owner. Because DOGGIE! ❤ Got to work on that more.

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