Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

The eyes have it


So there I am, sat on a Piccadilly Line train on my way home from the airport. A man gets on and sits opposite me. He is wearing dark glasses and, try as I might, I can’t help but feel uneasy.

The tiny incident made me realise just how fundamental our eyes are when it comes to making contact, or even feeling comfortable in others’ company.

I can find it difficult to engage with someone if they are wearing dark specs or are unable to make eye contact. I admit this can even include people who are blind (at least in the first few moments) and who can perhaps only “look” beyond me into the middle distance. This can be compounded by the fact that they may have eyes that appear damaged in some way.

The direct contact is lost or, at least, compromised.

This scares me.

As my own eyesight deteriorates, albeit slowly, I have to admit I dread the day when I may no longer be able to make eye contact with others. Will they feel as uncomfortable as I do? Will they find it too much of a challenge to engage and therefore “not go there”? Will it lead to a greater sense of isolation for me as a result?

I’m already getting a taste of this when I go to social functions where the light is low. My vision in poor light is naff, and I find it increasingly hard to see peoples’ faces clearly – I’m not the world’s greatest fan of ambience! I can find myself speaking into the space where I’m guessing the other person might be. This was the case this Saturday night when chatting to one or two people at a friend’s 50th celebration in a local pub. Whilst I seem to make a connection, I wonder whether there is a part of them that feels uneasy, and would like to slip away.

Then again, perhaps not, I can be great company. Nonetheless that dread of isolation does bubble up for me.

And the ultimate? To be led to the corner of a room at some function or other, sat down by some kindly soul, with a drink and bowl of nibbles in front of me and left there, listening to others engaging around the room.

The guy on the Piccadilly Line was, for whatever reason, choosing to disengage with his eyes and I guess some would have thought he looked cool. When it ain’t a choice though, believe me, it feels anything but cool. In fact,  it can be a bitch.

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For more information on my eye condition – retinitis pigmentosa (RP)- you can go to: http://www.rpfightingblindness.org.uk/

 

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3 Responses to “The eyes have it”

  1. I can really relate to this. What makes the difference is how you you act in those situations. You just have to be confident and make an effort to engage with the other person. I was at the zoo the other day and we went into the nocturnal part of the zoo (in dim lighting). I turned to talk to my friend before stopping mid-sentence after I realised there was no one there. You just have to laugh at situations like that and see the funny side, it can be very embarrassing!

  2. My Dad would be able to relate to this, having macular degeneration. The only way he can look at someone’s face is up close with his magnifying glass, but he can’t do that to just anyone. Last time he did it to me he told me what a lot of wrinkles I’d got, which we all laughed about. If it’s an occasion like a birthday or something, he uses the camcorder and can zoom in on people without being in their face. He gets to see everybody and we also end up with really good records of such times.

    I have to remember to say “dad” before I speak otherwise he doesn’t know that I am talking to him.

    The pub situation is not good at the best of times, with normal vision and normal hearing it can still be difficult with so many people all yabbering away at each other and all trying to chip in to the conversation and sometimes not listening. Chris I can’t imagine anyone wanting to slip away from you, you are such a good communicator and you are good company! If they slip away, that would be their loss.

  3. Bravo for your honesty, interesting post. The gray area of blindness sure can be difficult to navigate, sometimes more for emotional reasons than the actual physical limitations.


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