Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about How to See Your Blind Spots, Part I and Not Independent.
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Hello and welcome to episode #68 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about How to See Your Blind Spots, Part I and Not Independent.
How to See Your Blind Spots, Part I
As we all know, there is a blind spot where we can’t see something while driving. It could be dangerous if there is something there and you can’t see it. You could get into a car accident. Some people add a small mirror on top of the rearview mirrors to help them see better when driving. While that could be a solution for seeing your blind spots when driving, what about your other blind spots?
Anson, my ex-boyfriend, was habitually late. I told him I didn’t like people who were late and hoped he would be more considerate. But no matter how much I reasoned with him, he did not listen. He said, “You don’t understand; there was traffic.” Another time, he said. “I had to look for parking, and it’s difficult to find parking in your neighborhood.” Anson always had a rationale for being late, and his reasons sounded reasonable.
Anson’s habitual tardiness never changed until something miraculous happened. One day, Anson shared with me that he was at a meeting and someone was late. He said that person had all kinds of reasons for being late, and he went on and on. “He wouldn’t stop with his excuses. I couldn’t believe it; he was on the brink of being ridiculous!” Anson said. I then said, “Does that sound like someone you know?” Suddenly, Anson got an aha moment! Anson gasped, “Ah!” From that day forward, Anson was rarely late.
When he thought he might be five minutes late a few times, he would call and let me know. Other than those few times, he was never late again. I call it a miracle! But it was Anson finally seeing his blind spot. He saw himself through another person. I also learned a lesson that day. Whatever I point out to him, he won’t be able to see himself. So, it was a waste of my breath. The best solution would be to help him see his blind spot. And that was seeing himself through another person.
Heather, my sister, was someone who called on me for advice. Her big problem was a physically and emotionally abusive husband. Though she asked for ideas, she’d knock down every suggestion I had for her. I wondered why I bothered to say anything as it seemed pointless to talk about her problem, which couldn’t seem to be resolved. I finally said, “I have no more suggestions, and I know not how else to help you. The only thing I have left to offer is for you to attend a personal development class I once took.” To my surprise, she listened to my last idea.
After participating in the class, Heather immediately filed for divorce. It was a complicated process, but she was determined and clear that she needed to finalize it. All my hours of giving her a listening ear and giving some suggestions fell on deaf ears. She wouldn’t take in any ideas. Fortunately, the class helped her come to a decision. I asked her what she got out of the course. She said, “It was like one of me watching a movie where I was in the movie. I saw myself getting punched by Jake. The blackeye hurt! I saw Jake dragging me to bed when I didn’t want to go with him. I was sobbing profusely, and he didn’t seem to care. He had to get what he wanted. He called me names; he said I was ugly and fat.” Heather continued, “I didn’t like that movie. I didn’t want to be in that movie.”
Heather saw herself; she saw her life play out before her eyes, and she didn’t like what she saw. How was she able to see it in the class she took? The format allowed people to share aspects of their lives voluntarily. When she heard other people’s stories, she also saw herself in their stories. Suddenly, she saw her blind spots and could not unsee them. They were eye-opening moments that led her to take action to object to abuse and choose divorce swiftly.
I once saw and heard a stranger share her pain about her family’s religion that she disagreed with and didn’t know how to deal with it. The arguments and disagreements gave her much pain. I could hear the agony and ache in her voice. She was on the verge of tears, and I was, too. I didn’t expect to have such a reaction to someone else’s story, but I did. The listener then said, “How much longer are you going to punish yourself?” I gasped, “What?!” I suppose the listener meant to state that the person was making herself wrong for not agreeing with her family. And she desperately wanted to have a connection with her family.
I have no similar story, but I reacted and saw myself somewhere in that story! I was always an outcast or black sheep of my family. I never knew why. I could only surmise that since I grew up in Grandma’s household with different values, I came to be different from my siblings who grew up in Mom’s household. So, when I did see my parents and siblings, I felt distant from them and was treated as different.
Like the stranger, I desperately wanted to connect and bond with my family. I felt her pain as my own. I never considered it as punishing myself, so I was shocked to hear the listener say what she did. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was indeed punishing myself because I felt her pain and my pain. I realized that I had made myself wrong rather than accepting myself and allowing others a chance to accept me, too. I saw myself through the stranger. My emotional reaction connected with her; I saw my blind spot.
We can see our blind spots through others. The visual reflection that bounces on to us can serve to be eye-opening.
Of course, if I look at myself in the mirror, I see nothing special when I smile or smirk. It is just me looking at me. However, one time, as I looked through old family pictures, I saw a photo of me with Dad sitting at a small, white, square table at a restaurant. There was nothing fancy about the restaurant or the table, but I was sitting diagonally with him on one side and me on another side of the square table. We didn’t have many pictures together as I didn’t grow up with him and didn’t see him often. At any rate, I had this picture. “Oh my gosh! I smile and smirk just like Dad!” I said to myself. No one else had the same look, but I had the same facial expression as him. Through Dad, I saw myself. I saw what my smile looked like. It was odd that I couldn’t see it when I looked at myself in the mirror, but I saw it when I saw Dad in the picture.
I also saw Dad’s fair skin. Many have said what beautiful fair skin I had. I never thought much of it other than many people had darker skin than me. It was apparent in photos. However, when I looked at the picture of me with Dad, I saw two fair-skinned faces that looked like two related people. I couldn’t see it until I saw us together in a photo. I was glad to have possessed such a photo because it confirmed that I was my father’s daughter. I sometimes wondered if I were because he didn’t raise or care for me for most of my life. Our similar smiles, eye-opening to me, gave me a satisfying feeling. None of my siblings shared the similarity. It was unique to dad and me. Seeing this blind spot was comforting.
Seeing ourselves through family members, friends, or strangers is one way to see our blind spots. We could because we have more similarities than differences with others. When someone shares their stories or ideas, and you can see yourself somewhere in there, you could discover a blind spot. Through sharing, communicating, and listening, you can see more blind spots. They are worth finding because they are eye-opening.
Looking out the glass wall at an airplane preparing for its next flight, it was curiously funny that I had seen a scene like it many times before. But this was the first time I saw something different from my lenses; something registered differently in my head. It was also the first time I acknowledged something I had an aversion to facing.
After a month as a volunteer teacher in Bhutan, I was waiting for my flight to return home to the United States. As I looked out the window, I saw workers put food trays, trash, and other stuff onto a contraption that would move up to get the items and move down to an attached vehicle at ground level. Another person was refueling the plane. A mechanic was checking the engine and the exterior of the airplane. Yet other workers were putting luggage onto a conveyor belt which moved suitcases and boxes down to vehicles with drivers waiting to load many pieces of luggage to bring inside the terminals. These seemingly mundane tasks appeared boring to watch in the past, but on this day of leaving Bhutan, I saw something entirely different than I expected.
It was like it was the first time I noticed the significant aspects of interdependence. Many people were required to prepare the airplane for the next group of passengers. No single person could get the job done all by themselves. That was obvious, but observing it through the scene was incredible because I neglected to acknowledge the positivity and necessity of interdependence for far too long.
Most of my life was about being independent and able to do everything on my own. It was a must; it was my motto to represent my strength. It was my stance to show the world that I was a fighter and couldn’t be knocked down.
It all began when I was five, and Mom sent me to live with Grandma Sandy. I took it to mean that I was not wanted, so I rebelled by taking the stance that I didn’t need anyone, either. And to show that I didn’t need anyone, I decided that I had to do everything myself.
At age five, I was already on the airplane alone to go to Grandma’s family. I walked to the bus stop by myself at age eight. I became legally emancipated by the time I was seventeen. By the time I was an adult, I had had lots of practice demonstrating my independence. I was determined and worked hard to show that I didn’t need anyone. I became proud of how much I could do on my own. I was defiant to needing anyone to get things done.
I moved from Massachusetts to California by dragging all my luggage one step at a time from one location to another position. I graduated from school, looked in the newspaper, and found an affordable apartment. I did what was necessary to begin my career as a teacher. All this I said I did on my own, and I was proud of it. But in actuality, I did have the help of others. I had a lawyer who helped me find a way to finance my college education. I had the support of professors, and the educational system, to help me get my college degree. Considering all the unknown and known people that helped me along the way to achieve all the things I wanted, I did not do anything alone. But I believed I did. At least, I could say I accomplished many things without the aid of any relatives and with minimal assistance from friends.
With a firm conviction for independence, I was defiant to interdependence, so I didn’t easily see it when there were many examples everywhere. So, how could I suddenly see it while waiting to board a flight out of Bhutan? While in Bhutan, on a spiritual journey and a search for happiness, I observed the people of Bhutan. I was attempting to learn their secret to happiness. Though the population was sparse, I noticed that the locals worked together and helped each other. There didn’t appear to be any competition or comparison between people. Everything was about community. I felt the harmony in their approach to life.
High schoolers volunteered on a Sunday to clean up the trash on the streets. They planted new plants in their neighborhood. People greeted one another at the local outdoor marketplace and were friendly to the merchants.
Schoolchildren showed respect to the teachers by listening to directions and lectures. They smiled and bowed to greet teachers. I enjoyed their appreciation for my service and their gratitude for what they had. I never heard anyone complain about anything. And they had holes in the wooden floors, creaky desks, wobbly chairs, cement-cold walls and hallways, and dimly-lit classrooms. What stood out to me was the camaraderie between students and teachers alike. There would always be someone willing to lend a helping hand. I didn’t need to worry; I was welcomed and could be taken care of by any local.
Observing how they interacted with one another and their sense of community gave me a positive feeling about interdependence. I started to see it everywhere I went. I enjoyed feeling peace and harmony. I didn’t need to be alone. I didn’t need to fight to show my independence. I didn’t need to prove anything; all I had before me was working and caring for others, and happiness was at hand.
Suddenly my aversion to interdependence came to look like a beautiful thing. Interdependence connects to fulfillment. Though it was already there, no matter where I was, I began to see it everywhere. Noticing it all brought joy in seeing this beautiful part of life. It also encouraged me to engage and give more to the community. The dividends received are priceless, as I saw it through the Bhutanese.
Little did I know that upon leaving Bhutan, it gave me a most valuable gift. Looking at all the people doing different tasks to get an airplane ready, I did not see it as a meaningless scene but rather as a picture of interdependence that lends itself to community, harmony, and happiness.
Though it may be challenging to see our blind spots, it is possible. One way to see ourselves is through others.
Though I have worked hard to be fiercely independent and was blind to interdependence, I finally saw the beauty and joy of interdependence during my time in Bhutan.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called How to See Your Blind Spots, Part II and Chemistry vs. No Chemistry. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!