Truly Seeing What’s Before You

Jane couldn’t find the Chai Latte mix this morning. They had purchased some at the grocery store the day before. She came to our bedroom to ask her daddy where it was. When he told her it was in the big pantry, she said she had looked and it wasn’t there.

He clarified by telling her there were three boxes on the top shelf in the big pantry. She left to check again. When she returned, she insisted that there was no Chai Latte in the big pantry. Her dad said “I’m sorry” in that tone that I recognize to mean It’s not my fault you can’t see it. It’s there and if you can’t find it, then it’s your own problem. As usual, she took it to mean not an indictment on her search skills but an indication that her father didn’t care if she starved to death.

“What am I supposed to have for breakfast then?!”

“There’s boiled egss and cereal and milk and toast…” She left the room in irritation as I rattled off the list of breakfast choices.

The specificity of his description of the location intrigued me. He obviously knew exactly where he had put it, so why couldn’t she see it? Who was right? I dragged myself out of the warm bed to go investigate. I glanced up at the end of the top shelf as I walked into the laundry room, where the shelves we refer to as “the big pantry” are. There was nothing there. I turned the corner to face the shelves and scanned the top one. I immediately spotted the three boxes on the lefthand side and took one of them down.

Jane was standing on the porch, watching the dog use the bathroom. I opened the door just enough to show her the box and comment that she should be careful who she gets mad at – they were exactly where Daddy said they would be.

I’m assuming that Jane had developed tunnel vision, looking for that distinctive logo on the front of the carton. They were turned such that their unmarked sides were facing out. They were still obviously the Chai Latte boxes, but she couldn’t see them. If instead of scanning for the logo, she had deliberately looked at each item on the shelf and identified it in her mind, she would have found them.

When I returned to the bedroom, I remarked to my husband, “You know, if people would look at what is in front of them instead of for what they want, I bet they’d find what they are looking for.”

I meant it as a statement about people’s search skills when they can’t find an object. It seems that people frequently fail to see what they are looking for even though it’s in plain sight. I think it’s because they have an image in their heads and are blindly comparing the objects in front of them to that image without actually seeing the objects themselves. I soon realized that it was also a metaphor for much more significant things: jobs, friends, lovers, homes, life.

How often are people looking for that perfect mate they’ve envisioned, discarding everyone they come across, instead of taking a good look at what’s right in front of them? I’m not talking about settling for a poor match. I’m talking about actually taking the time to see the people around you instead of moving on when they don’t match the template in your mind.

How many men are looked over because they are too short? Women because they are too fat? Too dumb? Too poorly dressed? Too quiet? Too loud? Too tall? Too athletic? Too bookish? Too boring? Too plain?

Do we even see these people before we dismiss them as not matching that ideal image of the person we think we want to be with? Wouldn’t we be more successful if we started with getting to know the person and then examining the quality of the match instead of the other way around?

Maybe we should take a good look at that box of Chai Latte mix before we move on, claiming it was nowhere to be found.

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