Missing the MEANING

ssing the MEANING

Birthday party in lockdown for five-year-old. Blowing out candles and reactions of everyone else a blur to someone with vision loss.

Now that many states are allowing gatherings you may be invited to family or friend events over the summer. And if people are observing social distancing and wearing masks you will be missing the meaning in conversation even more than before.

You can have a big shock attending a family gathering. You are almost certain to miss much of the attitudes and feelings of people you care about. They are talking – yes, but really using gestures, expressions, and their eyes to indicate their meaning.

Any group of people who see well can make an event distressing and painful for a person with vision loss without realizing it at all. Family and close friends may recognize the hazards of unexpected obstacles, and may even understand   that you can’t see kids or pets do comic or wonderful things. But the social loss you endure in conversation is hidden from your friends and may not be clear to you either.

You can’t watch people’s eyes, faces, and body language to observe their amused, questioning, or a hundred other responses! You notice the void in your social understanding, but don’t know exactly what’s wrong, though it’s obviously about loss of sight. And it’s rare when you first lose sight to have a friend in the same situation. There’s no-one who gets it to talk it over with!

It’s very tough to admit to further losses.  Losses in conversation which is the one area where you’d think a blind person would be fully at home. And so we are! We are often excellent listeners and lively talkers. One-on-one conversations, or three or four people talking together may be fine especially as our hearing   may not be what it was at fifteen. If there’s background noise or loud music we can miss even more of the meaning in tone of voice, emphasis and so on.

You can lessen your distress by calling one or two other guests ahead and fixing a one-on one conversation at the event, or a coffee, dinner or drink together before or after the gathering.There are lots more tips in my new book When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes, especially Chapter   10, ”Soloing Step by Step,and “Going to Large Events.”

The worst difficulty is when a negative or problematic reaction is felt by another person in the group. I will explore adverse reactions you can’t see in Part 2 of Missing the Meaning next month.

When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery, the first How To guide for people losing sight and their families was published in 2019. It is available on Amazon in print, and Google Play Books as an accessible eBook, NLS talking books (#DBC11619) and on Bookshare. Thanks to generous friends and family the eBook is also available free of charge. It can be read in regular or large print or as an audio book. Apply for accessible free copy here.

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