Looking & Seeing
by Jody Klaire
You know, I remember being really confused why light switches in the UK had to be half way down the wall. As a slightly taller than average person, they were at a really awkward angle that often meant I had to turn all the way around (I know, such a chore,) to hit it properly.
Then a couple of years later, I often stared up at the switch trying to figure out if I should try a wheelchair version of a slam dunk or just wheel around in the dark by memory. You’ll be pleased to know that I can reach now. Whether my arms have grown or my house is getting shorter, who knows… but my point is that tall or less tall it’s still the same light switch. It’s never changed but my way of seeing and interacting with it has.
The same goes for people. Before I knew what it was like to be in a chair, I didn’t really comprehend that the people in them were just that, people. It took that experience for me to stop looking and see. To coin a phrase of Aeron’s (my protagonist) Unless you walk in somebody’s shoes, you ain’t sure if you’ll get the same blisters.
We all see others colored with our own emotions and perspectives. I explored that in Blind Trust (Book II) because it fascinated me as a police officer how differently people can witness an incident. Their emotional states often effected how they perceived what had happened. Things like cognitive blindness came into play so they could miss something glaringly obvious to the next witness. It’s a fascinating subject to me at least and I hoped it produced an enjoyable story.
Untrained Eye (Book III) looks at how we see the people close to us. When you know someone, it’s sometimes hard to change your view of them.
People who knew me as a sporty, full of energy person find it harder to adjust to me now than those who’ve never met me before. Without meaning to, they often demand I shake it off and get on with things like a normal person. You know, like I used to. When I explain that I can’t, that morphs into me not being able to do anything. They speak to me as if I’m a lot deafer or lacking in intelligence. They speak very slowly and loudly often while leaning over and peering down at me. I’m not sure why they do because if I was as profoundly deaf as they think, shouting at me wouldn’t really help much.
It’s like that phrase often uttered by parents when their child explains they aren’t the label on everyone else’s tin. “They don’t feel like they know you anymore.”
Whether it’s me in my awesome speedy chair or that courageous child, we’re no different on the inside, we’ve just got an extra layer. Knowing a person strips away the need for labels. Really knowing them means you stop seeing the bits you don’t understand as a problem.
The other day I was at the hospital,(I should get hospital miles,) and passed an amputee attempting to maneuver his tank of a chair. People walked by with worried expressions. It was clear that they didn’t know how to look at him. They didn’t know how to communicate and he had no leg so they hurried on.
Uh oh, two wheelies congregating in one place.
He was struggling and sighed then mumbled to me, “Haven’t quite got the hang of it yet.” It was like he was apologizing for himself. “Not as fast as you.”
I grinned at him because I knew the glint in his eyes. I didn’t know why he was where he was, but it didn’t matter. I’d been there, I’ve driven into walls, people, dogs…
“Yeah but think, you’ll have biceps of steel in no time.” I grinned again hoping it would be a non-verbal high-five. “Takes a while to learn how to drive the things.”
He stopped huffing for a second,(they’re really heavy chairs… really heavy,) and grinned back.
Yup, I’d talked to him. I didn’t want to fix him or change him, I couldn’t grow back his leg anymore than he could make me better. Then he chuckled and wheeled his way down the corridor. My own experience maybe helped me lift that guy because to me, he’d wheeled a tank through a busy corridor and not knocked anyone over. It’s the equivalent to a new learner driver taking over a lorry/bus and driving it down a busy street without taking anything out.
I hoped I gave him the boost he needed. I stopped looking and saw inside because my perspective of how I see everything has changed. I feel blessed for that. I hope one day he will too.
Untrained Eye has many themes. Aeron, Renee and Frei have come through a lot and it’s changed them. The way they look at each other has changed.
Like that child with its parents or others like me—well actually anytime life changes the goalposts on us—there’s a period of readjustment while both sides try to figure out where they stand and most importantly how to communicate with each other.
If it’s done with love and real effort, the result is a stronger relationship. A relationship which has been rebuilt on seeing the person inside.
Jody Klaire is an author and a massive tennis fan. At the grand old age of thirty-two, she has been everything from a serving police officer, to recording artist/composer and musician, until finding her home in writing. She lives in sunny South Wales in the UK with a lively golden retriever called Fergus and other furry friends.
Oh, and she has a slight affection for cake…
“Fields of Gold” (short story) in Stories For Homes anthology for Shelter.
The Empath [Book I – Above and Beyond Series] – Runner up Rainbow Awards 2014 (honourable mention) Finalist GCLS Goldie awards 2015.
Blind Trust [Book II – Above and Beyond Series] – Runner up Rainbow Awards 2015 (honourable mention.)
La Vie en Bleu – A romantic comedy.
Untrained Eye [Book III – Above and Beyond Series.]