Monday, October 22, 2012

In the Midst

There have been studies conducted to better understand why we see only what we are conditioned to see. Say - you're in a room with a bunch of friends, and you are asked to be on the lookout for the friend who enters wearing a red dress. You keep your eyes on the entrance, however failing to notice the man with the red shirt who has taken your purse off the table next to you.
Another example would be listening to great music, waiting for the drum solo to happen, and not paying any attention to the fact that the greatest piano solo ever written is playing right now.
Or the old stand-by - your partner is watching football on television, and when you ask him/her a question, they answer with a nod, not knowing what it was they answered to.
These scenarios are known as "inattentional blindness."

Marketing and advertising companies use a similar term to describe "sign blindness" or, "out of sight, out of mind." If you are accustomed to seeing the same thing, every day, then you do become blind to the ordinary. But if there is a change, then awareness is increased.
For instance, you have broken a leg, are using crutches, and you're surprised at how many folks with broken legs are hobbling around. You have new glasses, and  you notice how many people have glasses similar to yours. You're pregnant and have a 2 year old, and suddenly you are amazed at how many other women at the mall are pregnant and have 2 year old's. Or your mother has cancer, and you begin to notice women who are bald, wear wigs, or wear hats or scarves, and wonder.

My beautiful sister-in-law had a liver transplant 10 years ago. We are conscious of her health, and always aware of those who donate and receive organs, because of the awareness brought on by her story and the gift of a liver to save her life. This merges sign blindness and inattentional blindness. We are constantly aware now - sometimes to the point of ignoring who she is, because of, and in spite of her health battles.

As my family and I become involved in my breast cancer treatment, we are astounded by the number of women who have or have had breast cancer. We are surprised at how many people have loved ones who have had some sort of cancer, and we are surprised at how often breast cancer is in the media.

But, of course, it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or as some call it, Pinktober. I've griped about the commercialism of this ribbon-awareness fiasco, yet I do see the need. If there is not a time dedicated to pushing awareness, will we feel our own tumors, will we acknowledge our sister's survivorship, will we remember Eve and the promise made to her? Just as with any particular holiday - if it is not being celebrated or acknowledged, it is surely out of mind, until once again we are reminded to be looking for it.
So as much as I've whined, this month is that reminder, that red dress we should all be looking for, not at the expense of what may go missing, but because we don't see what we aren't challenged to see. We don't do what we aren't committed (say a contract) to doing. And if that commitment isn't staring us in our face on a daily basis (monthly breast exam written on the first day of each month's calendar), we will move on, forgetting.

The races will finish up, the fund raisers will be over, the month will end, the pink ribbons on the trees will go limp and frumpy (sign blindness), and soon, another ribbon will cover the pink one.
But commit, will you, commit to seeing more, different, out-of-the-box, be dually aware, not just of your world, but the worlds of those you love. I am not breast cancer, I am Ronda Lyn Walker Weaver - I am a teacher, a writer, a folklorist, a chaplain, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend. And when my months are over, and my breast cancer is gone, let me be your reminder, just as with Kristin - there is so much more - watch for it!
(PS, Kristin just stopped by with a beautiful pink and gray minky blanket!)

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