Sometimes, I forget I am not like the most of the world. Sometimes, I forget just how much our reality shapes our vision.
A few vignettes:
My sister Sharalyn recently reminded me of this story. We were young. I was perhaps 7, she would have been 4. By that time she was already taller than me. Our Dad is a truck driver, and there were always trailers parked in our yard. I would run underneath the front of the flat-bed trailers, instead of going around them, to get out to the mailbox by the road. This one day, Sharalyn followed me. Unfortunately, she was met with a big surprise.
Underneath the front of the trailer is a little metal rod called the kingpin. It was what hooks the trailer up to the truck. These are lubed with grease so they can turn. It sticks down about six inches or so below the rest of the trailer.
I was short enough to go right underneath. It didn’t occur to either me or my sister, at that age, that she could not. She ended up getting grease all over in her hair and went inside really unhappy. She recalls it as the first time it really clicked to her that she and I were different.
This morning, I was watching the latest Mormon Messages video on Youtube. I was still in bed myself, still hooked up to my dialysis machine. As I watched the mother in this video needing to get out of bed to go take care of her children, my natural thought was, “well, she needs to get unhooked first, before she can get up!” Of course, immediately, I realized that I was projecting my circumstance onto her. It was like having to all over again realize, hey, I’m different.
I remember a year or so ago watching a movie. Again, someone was just waking up and ready to get out of bed. They sat up and turned to the side of their bed. I remember thinking it was so odd that their feet touched the ground. My experience has always been no matter how high something is that I’m sitting on, my feet don’t reach the ground. In my mind, I took for granted the fact that not everyone is like this.
One last slightly different story. I was still at university, probably about 24-25. I was walking across campus by one of those buildings that was all glass. I glanced over as I was walking, and got a glimpse of my whole self. I remember doing a double-take. Was this really me? It was like I didn’t identify with the body I had lived my whole life in.
I’ve always teetered the thin line between recognizing how myself or my life is different than most or thinking I’m just like everyone else (or they are just like me). As a child, I think I knew I wasn’t like my brother or sister. But, looking back, I don’t think it really clicked I was different. My experience this morning of projecting my normalcy of my dialysis procedure onto this women in the video shows how that continues. We each live in our reality, and it colors the way we see the world. A friend wrote on Facebook this morning how her life was so different from many of her friends, as they were writing about potty training or helping their children with homework, and she is single and her biggest worries are related to her responsibilities at work or news of the world.
Sometimes, whether it is a difference like being single instead of married and a parent, or dealing with chronic illness or not, or being a different race, or religion, or gender or whatever, you might constantly have to realize that difference in experience all over again. And, sometimes, that reminder carries with it a judgment (whether perceived or real) on the value of the difference.
I know that my experience is not like everyone else’s. Sometimes, perhaps there’s a twinge of sadness when I am reminded of that. And I know that sometimes others may experience something similar. A conversation may remind them of something they lack that they desire. Or how simply they are different. I know I have to be sensitive to others. And to remember, my views are through the lens of my experience, no matter how “normal” or “non-normal” it is.