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I didn’t know she was blind until I walked up to her at the Indian restaraunt we’d agreed to meet at for a late lunch. “Seth?” She asked in reply to my greeting.
It wasn’t just that she stared just past my left shoulder. The labrador retriever with a harness/leash she kept a firm grip on was the real tip-off.
We’d met briefly just a few hours earlier. I had been the hurried guy looking for a client’s office. She was the beautiful woman behind the front desk who gave me detailed directions without even looking at me. I had immediately seen her “cold” response as a challenge and shortly had her phone number and an agreement to grab lunch together.
“Meredith, I didn’t know you were blind.” I blurted out. (Yes, I tend to speak my mind in socially-tense situations when it seems like honesty is the best leg to step on next).
“Oh. I understand. Do you want to leave?” She said, seemingly unperturbed.
“Only if you decided you’d prefer something besides Indian for lunch. Your dog likes curry?” I replied. She laughed. The dog looked up at her. She smiled past my right shoulder.
“I didn’t know where you were headed with that. I’m hungry though.” She finished.
Meredith is an incredibly smart lady who had me choking on my Kulcha more than once with laughter. When I apologized for being such an idiot, her response started me on a train of thought I’ve yet to step off:
“What, Seth, is this the first time you missed a detail about a person you just met?” She looked me straight in the face, her lips curved in a sarcastic challenge. I realized what she was saying. We weren’t just talking about her blindness.
We all interact with others as part of relationships. In the midst of those interactions, there’s a very good chance that you’ll discover something about your partner that radically affects the way they view portions or all of your communication. In Meredith’s case, her blindness is immediately recognizable as a hindrance to communication. What about the emotional and intellectual handicaps that don’t come with a friendly dog to tip you off to their presence?
I’m not talking about mental illnesses, but the parts of a person’s physical and psychological history that affect the way they relate to others and communicate. Most are only revealed in response to trust and occasionally, gentle prodding. It’s worth the effort! My recognition of Meredith’s blindness allowed me to adjust my behavior and manner of communication in a way that made our interactions fulfilling for us both.
If you approach the stumbles, blockades, and hiccups that happen in communication with a spirit of flexibility and a desire to understand, you will see your partner open up for you like never before.
As we said our goodbye and planned to meet again, Meredith reached out for a hug. As we embraced, she whispered “Next time you ask a pretty girl out when you’re in a hurry to get someplace, make sure you ask her what color your shirt is before you get her number.”
I stand corrected, grateful, and delighted at how much my blind love taught me about relating to the rest of the world.
My pain, your gain!
Photo by Zanastardust