I don’t know how many times I say to my partner Sam “Did you see….” or “Did you notice…” The answer about 90% of the time is “What….?”
It has in the past frustrated me at times. How could he not have noticed? It was so obvious, everyone saw it! Or so I tell myself.
After what felt like the umpteenth time of Sam simply not noticing, I decide I would try and find out why. But how do I do this? It would be simple I realized, I would observe him!
Fast forward to yesterday. We took Sam’s parents up to the Dandenong hills, about 1 hour drive east of Melbourne City. I love these hills and dream of living there someday very very soon. The hills are covered in thick ferny rainforest, with plenty of cockatoos, rosellas, kookaburra’s and many other birds. Sometimes you can spot the occasional wallaby, or wombat too.
We found ourselves at Grant’s Park in Kallista, part of the Sherbrooke Forest. Grant’s Park attracts tourists from all over the world because of it’s birds. There is a little souvenir shop at Grant’s Park, and inside you can buy birdseed. After you have paid $4.00 for your tray of bird seed, you can go into a slightly enclosed area where the cockatoos and rosellas land on your tray, on your shoulder or arm to nibble on your bird seed.
I find this fascinating as cockatoos and rosellas usually don’t land on you to eat while you are walking or sitting in any other park. At least not that I have observed.
So we are in the bird feeding area and I decide to take this as an opportunity to observe Sam. He is holding the tray of bird seed. A rosella has landed on the tray and is contently eating. Another Rosella lands on Sam’s shoulder. He stands still for a very long time peacefully watching the bird eat with a calm focus. He doesn’t move at all nor does he look away. Sam stayed so focused on the task at hand, that I’ll admit I got bored. It didn’t help that alot of people came and I found my eyes darting around at all the action happening all around me. All the stories taking place right before my eyes.
There was a cute little German boy in a light blue t-shirt so determined to feed a bird that he would run at the bird the second he saw one and subsequently scare it away. His mother kept trying to get him to slow down, but he was just too excited. His face lit up like firecrackers the second he saw a stationary bird.
There was an older Chinese man in a brown half suit who kept staying still so that the cockatoo would come closer and closer and then he would quickly reach out and try and touch it. All the while a Chinese woman who was with him kept saying “Ec-cuse me” as she tried to shoo people blocking the way of her camera aimed at the man attempting to touch a bird.
There was an Indian family that came in, a girl of about 7 in a pretty red dress and a boy of 5 in an action cartoon charactered t-shirt. The boy had alot of aggressive energy in the way he moved and talked, and I wondered why. I turned at one point and saw him trying to kick a bird, and that got me wondering about the boy for a good 5 minutes.
There was a tall man with a grey bushy beard and round glasses whose wife in a long plain baby blue dress was timid and stayed back as he stuck out his tray to some cockatoos. When a rosella landed on her shoulder she went into quiet disbelieving shock while he fumbled to get out his camera. In the process a cheeky cockatoo seized the opportunity to knock over the tray of food.
I could continue to enlighten you with all the many stories, but I will spare you the details. 🙂 I think you get my drift. I’m an observer. I see stories everywhere.
Back to Sam for a minute. There he sat, watching the bird eat, that same rosella with the ruffled and faded red feathers on his head, as if he had a few run in’s with something hard. Sam probably didn’t move for what felt like an hour, and neither did that bird.
When a tour bus of Mainland Chinese pulled up, I nudged Sam and his parents away. The place was about to get very crowded.
Later I asked Sam if he noticed the boy who was kicking, or the man with the beard, or the older Chinese man, or the little boy running at birds. He saw none of it. In my frustration of wanting to share all the stories with him, I asked him what did he actually see? I had my sneaking suspicion after observing him that all he saw was the rosella on his tray and not much else, He told me he just stood there watching and observing the Rosella on his tray eating and that was about it. He was so focused on that bird that it soaked up all his attention. I realized this is why it “feels” like I see everything and Sam sees so little, when in reality this is not the case. Sam is the kind of person that focuses on what’s in front of him, and gives that his entire energy and attention. I suppose this is why he can focus on a task for hours on end without stopping, without changing, whereas my attention loves to jump, especially when there are a few things happening. Can you believe that after more than two years together I only really truly got that about him this weekend? And yet a part of me knew it all along. Sometimes I think I’m so observant I miss what’s right in front of me. Hee hee hee
As with all things I like to find a learning in my experiences as I believe this planet and all that occupies it has plenty to teach us. I had some beautiful realizations with my little exercise and I’d like to share them with you.
I realized that so often we humans want so badly for another human, especially one that we love dearly to relate to us, to get us, to understand us, that when people can’t, or don’t, we get frustrated. But there will never be the “perfect” human, the kind that sees everything we see, experiences everything we do thus being able to completely relate to us fully and completely. We are all different, yet we all share fundamental similarities. We each walk a path, but the steps and directions that we take are all different. Paths cross, similarities and common occurrences can be found, but we can never truly walk in another person’s shoes for a day.
So what does all this mean for me? This means first of all, I need to stop asking Sam “Did you see…?” And start asking him what he observed, what he focused on, and stop assuming he just gets me (and as a result just saw that cool thing that I just saw). But not just Sam, all humans. For we all see the world differently, yet we all see the same world. It’s our differences in observations, in perspectives, in opinions that makes this world so interesting, enticing, and keeps me distracted with all those wonderful stories. We all have a story to tell, and yet we don’t always stop to hear each others.
Next time you can’t believe someone didn’t see what you just saw, ask them what they did see. What were they feeling, experiencing in that moment as they observed? You might learn that they saw something you completely missed. 🙂