When you look at me, what do you see?
Do you see a human being like yourself, a real flesh and blood person with feelings and thoughts and hopes and dreams?
Or do you see an “other”?
Do you see your own discomfort or embarrassment?
Do you see someone who is not like you, not worthy of your time or consideration, someone you would never want to spend time with, or get to know?
Do you see a special person working their way through life just like you? Do you see someone struggling to overcome all the same demons you do, but with twice as many challenges? Or do you just see the lack of all that you think you are? And then shudder at being reminded to be grateful for what you do have?
Why won’t you look at me? Your eyes never meet mine. You just look the other way and mumble something not really caring what you say to me. IF you even speak. You hurry to leave my presence. You do not want my company. Communication fails to exist, yet body language says so much and actions speak louder than words. Eye contact is a rare and isolated gift. You do not see me, do you?
When I look at you, I see someone who has so much. I see someone who can do all the things I never will. I see your abilities and your potential. I see someone I would love to be like, and yet, if truth be known, someone who has a long way to go to be anything like me, for reasons that neither of us will ever understand. Yet I do not resent you for all that you are.
I see someone who can work, earn money, go out, have fun, play sport, have parties, go to events, own pets, drive a car, travel, visit friends, make choices, go places on your own, have relationships, plan a family, guide and direct your own life with so few limits. I see someone who has it all in the palm of their hand.
I long to be like you. I wish I could, but I will never have most of those options. I try to talk to you but you never listen because you think I am not worthy of your time and regard. I try to be friendly but my advances are clumsy and childish, and you ignore me and won’t allow me to get too close. Are you afraid of me? Does my difference scare you?
What do you see when you look at me? Do you see a strange person with ungainly limbs, unattractive body shape and clumsy movement? Do you see the bad haircuts, the drab, unfashionable clothes, your own definition of ugliness? Am I someone that you would rather avoid than to be seen with? Do you see the angry outbursts and rude words I erupt with when my frustration gets too much to hold in? Do you see me throw things and lash out when I cannot explain the feelings inside that hurt me as much as your own do? Do you understand my inability to talk like you, think like you and have conversations like you? And yet, I still FEEL like you. Do you see the sadness and pain I feel at being left out, ostracized, criticized and laughed at? Do you see how trapped I am in this body with the brain that does not work the same way yours does, through no fault of my own? Do you see the painful reality of my thought processes that do not flow like yours do, but twist and bend and dam up or stop completely, so that I cannot follow or comply with social expectations or obligations or even understand their existence?
I won’t welcome your pity, but do you feel any sympathy for me? Do you feel any sadness or understanding for my situation? Do you even spare a thought? Are you glad you are not me?
Would it be too much to hope for, that one day you chose to spend some time with me, to get to know who I am?
When I look at you, I see you looking the other way. I watch you not listening to the words I say. Your condescension is a blanket you throw over any contact we have. I see someone who does not have the time in their busy life for the likes of me and I know only too well what it feels like to be considered a nuisance. I see your shoulder as it turns, your eyes as they cast downwards and away, the shutters being drawn to anything I have to show you. Everything about you recoils from everything in me.
When you look at me, do you see my special gifts? Do you see my ability to always make the most of every situation? To always see the best in people? To find the joy in small things that no one else would notice? Do you see how I live in the moment and struggle to make every day “the best day of my life”? Do you notice that I never go back and talk about bad stuff, but only remember the good in everyone and everything? Do you see that I forgive and forget? Can you?
When I look at you, I see someone I would like to be my friend. When you look at me you see someone you would never consider as a friend. Time after time I try to show you I like you and want to talk to you, but you reject or ignore my approaches. Sometimes when the rejection gets too much, and I can’t understand why you are so cruel, I retaliate with antisocial behaviours that originate from my pain. If you direct negativity at me, you will eventually get it back. Within the depths of me is one almighty mirror.
When I look at you I see someone who can also be angry and rude, and who blames and shames and judges. I see someone who often forgets their manners, disregards simple kindness, and overlooks the importance of personal integrity but believes it is their right to do so. I see all of this and yet I do not judge or see you as anyone other than who you are. I see your lack of compassion and understanding for others who are different and wonder if you will ever change. I see that your moods or skill or superior knowledge can allow you to hurt, punish or destroy others, and still walk away with your head held high. But I don’t say anything or analyse. Yet you judge me for my moods or actions that are far less than yours. Really? More often than not, my moods and behaviours are beyond my control. What is your excuse?
When you look at me, do you see that I have a deep love for all living things? The natural world is so dear to my heart. Do you see my affinity and love of whales and dolphins? Or animals and birds? Do you see how their beauty still touches me every single day of my life, no matter how tough things may be for me? Do you see my ability to be inspired constantly by the magic of nature and small things? Do you see how my anger or sadness can be dissolved by a simple act of kindness or a single glimpse of natural beauty?
When I look at you, I see a person with a name and a unique set of traits…I see colour, form, sound, and movement – I see a life. I see the many things that you are, that I am not.
Do you see any such things in me – the uniqueness and the special qualities I have that so many others do not? Qualities that perhaps even you lack? Do you see that every day I overcome so much more pain and hardship than you could possibly know? Have you ever seen my tears? Have you felt what it is like to be crushed, shunned, denied, and pitied, time after time after time? Have you ever felt your heart move or your mind question, when considering me? Do you see the potential I present to you to be a bigger, better, more compassionate person? Do you see the things in you that might open, grow and change, if you were to only see me?
If you were to look at me, what would you see?
Would you see yourself?
Is that why you won’t look at me? Are you afraid that to look into my eyes, you might just feel the eyes of God gazing back at you.
Again I say, I am but a mirror…
A mirror of all that life shows to me.
Perhaps if you did look at me, the most confronting thing you might see, would be your own reflection and the realization of who you are.
I have an intellectually handicapped daughter.
She battles every day with how people see and react to her, and consequently I battle with all manner of these issues relating to how the world sees and treats my daughter.
I watch constantly while others do everything but look at her, or see who she really is.
Even I have, at times, struggled with “seeing” her.
Yet she is one of my greatest teachers.
I know that if I did not have her in my life, perhaps I too would be the sort of person who looks away and does not see.
If we could all just drop our judgments and conditioned responses, and truly see one another, especially those who are not like us, we might just SEE, and learn, a whole lot more about them, about life, and of ourselves.