Seeing Me, Seeing You

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”?
A disability?
A label?
A stranger?
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.
I wonder.
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.

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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.

Tags

challenge, child, compassion, daughter, disability, handicap, human, intellectual, learn, life, look, love, mental, see, soul, spirit

Comments

  • helene ruiz
    helene ruizabout 4 years ago

    wonderful!

  • thank you Helene…..I appreciate you xx

    – Wendy Slee

  • Dawn B Davies-McIninch
    Dawn B Davies-...about 4 years ago

    beautifully written and so moving,dawnx

  • hugs, thank you Dawn xx

    – Wendy Slee

  • Marion  Cullen
    Marion Cullenabout 4 years ago

    Oh Wendy, I feel every word and every emotion so deeply expressed here.
    I want to tell you I understand, but of course how could I really?
    I fear oneday our grandson Noah will also face such prejudices and rejection in the future. He is too young still to comprehend any such bias in the world, and I believe others think he may never do so – but who are we to assume how anyone with an intellectual disability sees or feels, and how then does that give us a right to treat them so very differently, with any less kindness or respect? It is inhumane and demeaning.
    Your daughter is a wonderful and exceptional human being, because despite her many challenges she is still capable of recognising and finding joy in the things that really matter…something many so called intellectually able people can not and never will.
    It is a wonderful thing too that she has a strong voice through you.

  • OH Marion, thank you for such a heartfelt response. These issues touch us all, in so many ways…..I feel for your grandson, because I know it is a hard world out there, but like any child really, the best we can do is show them they are loved, and do our best to show the outside world that these “kids” are incredibly special…..most of all, teach them that they are special.

    But, I won’t lie, it is so darn difficult, and at times, I too “forget” to be compassionate and fall into all those human behaviours and judgments I should not. I am no saint either and the above was written to also remind ME to always try harder to have an open heart. …The best we can do is try, and to realize that these special people are there for good reason and perhaps that reason is for our own wellbeing and growth! I am so grateful for kind, open hearted people like you, because it makes my walk through life a lot easier, knowing that there is a balance “out there”…… for those like my daughter…. thank you Marion xxx

    – Wendy Slee

  • Virginia McGowan
    Virginia McGowanabout 4 years ago

    Exceptional talented writing.

  • thank you Gini…xx

    – Wendy Slee

  • flame7
    flame7about 4 years ago

    My dear Wendy, nothing I could possibly say could convey my true feelings about your write…. I will attempt it never the less. Having met you and your 3 other children. And as yet not been able to meet your daughter you speak of (which I hope to some day). I know the words you have written are so very very true and hold so much meaning and also so much pain for you. I know what you have been through and god knows you have the strength of a thousand men (equivalent to 10,000 women lol) and have needed to have that strength to not only survive but to fight for your daughter! Your love for her shines through in your passionate write clearly. As you know I personally do not judge in any form. But there are some people that do as you have written and I cannot imagine how your daughter must feel faced with this challenge every day. Yea the world is getting better at acceptance of others, who are not quite like themselves but TOTAL acceptance couldn’t come quicker if you ask me! You are spot on in your write, and when we see people less fortunate than ourselves, ie homeless, without the use of limbs, sight, hearing, or intlectually challenged, and who are happy! We say to ourselves that we should be thankful fir what we have. And that’s the beauty of these very special people, like your daughter, it reminds people to be greatful and to have acceptance. So for every person that your daughter comes in contact with she will have touched them in some way, and that is truly a gift. One that able bodied/minded people cannot usually claim. People can be selfish and take things for granted, but still bitch and moan about their lot in life. One saying comes to kind here …. “walk a mile in my shoes”… and your daughter walks that mile every day. And brings something special to those she meets. I personnally can’t wait to meet her!! Just like a baby humans need 3 things, love, nurturing, food, and a roof over their heads. And your daughter has all if that. But as adults we also need understanding, and to be ourselves. If she is allowed to be herself and accepted for that she will be ok. Awareness is growing, and we can be thankfull it is not 30 years ago! And she is lucky that she has you for her mum.
    Your a beautiful person Wendy xoxo

  • I am so glad I know you kelly…..and knowing that there are people like you out there provides a real balance when at times life seems so cruel. I wrote the above in response to a recent ugly situation with, believe it or not, family that shocked me – the hypocrisy is really sad on every level. But it was not limited to these individuals, they simply inspired me to think and write about it on a life level.
    The irony here is that I confess I am no better. I am not always kind and compassionate either and at times I am no different to those who judge, or who “look away” or won’t talk. oh yes… I have been that person way too often and it shames me. But at least I am aware and I try to be kinder, more compassionate.
    Like my daughter, every day is a new day to try harder, be better, shine more, and appreciate how special life is. And to spread a little more kindness.
    Yes Kelly, I wrote the above more for me than for anyone….. having a special needs daughter means I meet so many amazing, inspiring people whose hearts are so open and loving and who give so much without judgment. I thank Laura every day for bringing these type of people to my life, and for her teaching me to strive to BE that kind of person.
    I still fall down on a regular basis and forget, but I get back up and keep trying to give more.
    Thank you Kelly for your heartfelt words here….. I cried when I saw what everyone had written as part of me felt I should not put this up on the net…….. but now I am so grateful I did….. bless you xxx

    – Wendy Slee

  • Keith Reesor
    Keith Reesorabout 4 years ago

    Wendy, Oh so powerful and moving!! You’ve really touched me and for that I say
    “THANK YOU!!”!! :)

  • Keith – I am humbled by your kind response….. thank you so much (hugs)….
    and thank you for “seeing” both “me” and my daughter…x

    – Wendy Slee

  • ear-ear
    ear-earabout 4 years ago

    Poigniant and very moving writing Wendy..thought provoking and beautifully portayed.
    xxxxxx

  • thank you dear Cynthia….I am so blessed to have special people like yourself here to share with, as without you, I would feel very alone at times……
    Plus I am grateful for the fact that so many people ARE compassionate and non judgmental…..It is a reminder to me that life is still a great place and world IS full of good people……. big hugs xx

    – Wendy Slee

  • Crowmanic
    Crowmanicabout 4 years ago

    Well written dear Wendy … don’t be so hooked-up on the “other’s” — most are just simulacrum and “reptiles” these days … as long as you know what’s your truth and essential qualities, and that of the one’s you care for and/or love :)

  • Sometimes it is hard to stand in the light of your truth when so many step on it or overshadow it! Especially when they are the people you have in your life that should be the understanding compassionate ones! hah! I have decided to move away from my home for this reason, but have no idea yet how this can be done. But you are right of course. Still, being a parent is not easy when you care so much, and feel the pain of injustice, not just for your children, but for all who are downtrodden or harshly treated in this world. I

    – Wendy Slee

  • never quite finished what I was saying, but never mind….thanks Crowman for your understanding and for “seeing”……

    – Wendy Slee

  • Sean Farragher
    Sean Farragherabout 4 years ago

    i drive a bus that collects people that are branded as been intellectually challenged, but its like going out each morning to collect friends,,the fun we have at simple things is unreal,,,,they could show people how to care for others

  • Sean – you got it!!!!!!!!! Absolutely! I love seeing my daughter with her peers…. they are all so inspirational. At times I am sad, because I would LOVE to work with these young people, but am so burdened and weary by the care of my own daughter and other children, that I have no time or energy to give to others. BUt the fact that people such as yourself “see” what I see, means the world to me! Bless you!

    – Wendy Slee

  • LindaR
    LindaRabout 4 years ago

    where to begin to understand what it is to be different in a world that is seeking sameness, fears difference ~ your writing puts us in the seat, the heart and being of those who are different ~ and makes us feel and ask the questions you pose from inside their shoes/hearts… which is too seldom asked or begun to even be considered.
    I feel every word, thought and am raw in the reading, because I wonder where I have been in moments when I have not given consideration to others at times in my life. This should be published and read everywhere by everyone…lest we remain asleep and unaware, uncomfortably numb…and miss out on the gifts of love that could be shared…xxx

  • Bless you dear Linda…I got more tears reading your words. Of all people, you are NOT someone who needs to be reminded…..ironically, the lovely people who would read this are the very ones who DO have open, compassionate hearts…… I was compelled to write this for my daughter after she was mistreated (yet again) by people close to us….. who should KNOW BETTER. But I have to confess that I am no saint either. It is not easy to be kind and considerate and patient all the time, and I also have been guilty of looking away, or trying to avoid another confrontation or conversation when I am tired, but at least I know I have an awareness and willingness to try harder, and I have my daughter to thank for that lesson! Without her, I fear I might have been one of those people who do not “see”…..
    Thank you so much Linda, for your caring response…. hugs xxx

    – Wendy Slee

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