Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Do You See What I See?

I never thought of seeing as being a subjective experience. Perception, yes, but the facts of seeing always seemed to me to be absolute. That is obviously the Grand Canyon, that is the letter A, that is the last piece of pizza. There's nothing hypothetical there. Once again, however, I am wrong and must evolve if I am to survive in the this constantly shifting anthropology of modern motherhood.

Exhibit A:
I left the house on a Sunday night. I'd spent the majority of the day doing laundry for the various humans in my home. I fold laundry, as I do most tasks of tedium, not listening to NPR as most of my neighborhood claims but in front of the TV. After the final load of laundry was put away, I left the empty laundry basket in the living room tucked up against the coffee table; partly because I didn't feel like walking upstairs again, and partly as a test. Yes, General Akbar, it was a trap of sorts. I wanted to see if anyone would bring it upstairs. I left that night to do what I do and I returned Tuesday afternoon to find the laundry basket in the same exact location; untouched by human hands or even toppled by the dog trying to get to whatever crumbs were left temptingly on the coffee table.

I say it was a trap to catch my children and husband in the act of willful laziness, but it was really a trap for good old me. There was a part of me that hoped someone would do what needed to be done, what seemed excruciatingly obvious to me; but most of me knew the basket would be there with its pathetic lonely used dryer sheet still hovering in the corner. And of course I was frustrated. No, I was mad. I actually trapped myself into being mad. My miscalculation came in the assumption that Husband and Teenagers 1 & 2 would walk into the living room from any angle and see the laundry basket. That was, in fact, my fatal flaw Aristotle.

That is when I realized that seeing is subjective.

I walk into the living room and I see:

  • blankets askew and piled in violation of all magazine recommendations
  • empty glasses with juice puddles waiting to be tipped and dripped all over the rug
  • random bottle caps left to find their own way to the trash
  • dirty socks on floors, furniture and draped on the dog
  • jackets fallen from their hooks
  • mail unsorted and neglected
  • clumps of dog hair amassing troops in corners to wage war on my pride
  • An empty laundry basket
In short, I see chaos. Chaos I have contributed to, but chaos nonetheless.

When Husband & Teenagers walk into the living room they see:
  • The TV
  • Places to sit and lie down
  • Blankets to keep them warm
  • a convenient place to find socks
  • remotes
  • a convenient overall location to call out to the kitchen for food and drink
In short, they see comfort.

It is the same with the piles of things on the steps intended to be brought upstairs. Even if I put the new toothpaste box or pile of paid bills, or whatever item belongs on the second floor in the middle of the steps, it is invisible. Until someone actually trips on it and then asks loudly why no one brings things up and just leaves stuff on the stairs, at which point I clench my teeth, roll my eyes and answer them inappropriately in my head.

I want to blame them so badly. I want to point out their insensitivity and laziness and selfishness, but I cannot because I gave them no opportunity to succeed. I tried to enlighten through passive aggression, a ploy universally employed and effective only in the distribution and proliferation of guilt and self-loathing. It really isn't that hard to ask someone to take the laundry basket upstairs. Much easier in fact than trying to elicit gratitude for my efforts by expecting them to read my mind and exhibit compassion the way I want it rather than the way they offer it when I'm too busy generating fury over perceived chaos.

So, I cannot blame or resent them for failing tests they did not know they were taking. I can teach them that a laundry basket is not actually a quirky design choice, I can ask them to help a mother out, and before I expect them to see the world through my eyes, I must remember to look at the world through theirs. Though the lens may be filtered by Call of Duty site scopes and clouded with Doritos residue, I will try to see what they see as I continue to navigate the terrain of this bizarre wilderness.

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