Sunday, October 28, 2012
The Third Eye
"Mommy, can you play detective with me now?" Grayson asks seconds after I finish mowing the backyard. Which was moments after mowing our front yard and neighbor's too. (Neighbor clipped our grass often when Andy was deployed.)
"Yes, but let me grab a drink and a sit for a minute.
Audible boy sigh...
"Honey? Do you know what it's like to put yourself in someone else's shoes?"
"What do you mean, like trying to put their shoes on?"
"No. Like imagine what it's like to be them. Imagine what it's like to do what they do."
"No. I can't do that. I can't imagine that hard."
"I think you can. You should try it...look outside, do you see that man pushing the heavy mower up the..."
"Mommy? I will wait for you outside, OK?"
Audible mommy sigh...
The truth is, it is hard to imagine what others do and feel. It's not something kids should have to do yet. They should be allowed to frolic, feel happy, and have play mates in the form of their parents. Shame on me for pushing grown up social constructs on innocent egos.
I shouldn't be here trying to convince my 6 year old why I need a quick rest before having a good time with him. I should just shut up, guzzle some H20 and get on with our important detective work.
But something in me doesn't let it go.
Ever since I can remember, I always imagined what it was like to be someone else. What Karen Campbell's hairbrush might look like when she showed up to school with one long sandy braid tightly tucked into place. With even longer red ribbons, marking their territory with a curly wave.
I wanted to know what my teacher ate for lunch in that sad little brown paper bag all alone in her classroom.
I never stopped imagining why Oscar's nose always ran or why he smelled like caramel apples and cigarette smoke.
It felt like I knew too much all the time.
This way of being, The Third Eye my mom called it, kept me being from bored pretty much ever. And it served to help me know whom I could really trust.
All this wondering about how other people live, what they do, how their smiles immediately disappeared or lingered a bit on their face after greeting their "friends" in the hallway. This is how I began to understand the separation between outside and in. How the two are chronically dissonant. Only young young children keep them the same. They haven't learned how to be untrue yet.
We moved around a lot when I was little so I learned quickly how to discern the outside but "hear" the in. The real inside voices, I understood, was something most everyone protected. You had to watch carefully but not even for very long and I did. Because I wanted to. I wanted to cut through the bullshit.
This way of being never stopped for me. I was like the Theresa Caputo of social awareness. This skill, or curse as it sometimes feels, has aged along with me and has revealed people as arm's length or quick bonds within seconds.
The Third Eye sees nuances, reads hand placement, and catches eyebrow lifts like a detective figuring out a crime scene: everything will show itself if you sort through the data categorically.
This paying close attention to the real inside voices has even kept me safe in a few questionable romantic relationships. Once I fell for a guy with shark black eyes. He was a poet with wide shoulders. I ignored all the signs: his inappropriate smile, his shifty hands, and the way he walked next to me without any warmth at all. One minute alone with him and his inside voice came booming loud and clear that it was time to leave. I didn't even look back once. The chill up my spine told me to everything I needed to know.
Now, as a mother this Third Eye is eeking into my children's lives but I'm not sure it has place there yet.
I want my kids to feel child-like for a while longer, before they can't anymore. To dream of cotton candy and playing Tag on the playground instead of reckless wind storms and scary home invasions.
Children have a right to be protected from the real inside voices of people around them when those voices aren't pure or genuine.
It's my hope that the people surrounding them now (trusted family, real friends, young children) are still mostly good, happy, and in harmony with their outside bodies. That there isn't much false advertising going on quite yet.
But there will be. It's just what happens. I doubt it will be long before my children cultivate their own Third Eye and soon they'll be cutting through the bullshit too.