I love observing. There are many things that I have learnt as life skills from having deaf parents, many that have taken years to understand. The skill of observation is one of them. As a deaf person, observation is a crucial life skill. It is a key way that you grasp what is happening in the world around you and having keen observational skills contributes towards the many things that you do not know because you do not hear them. Often observation is also all that you can do, because to really participate is not made possible for you as a deaf person because the people involved will not make the space necessary nor do the actions involved for you to fully participate.
This is the world I grew up in and, despite not being deaf, this is how I learnt to function. I did not need this life skill in the way a deaf person does but I still learnt the skill - it's bread and butter to my parents, how could I not learn it?!
I've thought about this a fair bit over the years, especially when a professional supervisor I had during my Clinical Pastoral Education raised my tendency to observe rather than participate. I now recognise the strengths that this skill brings, and I am aware of how it can hold me back from fully embracing life, from fully participating in the ways that I can, from contributing the many things that I have to contribute. It can be a method of not choosing vulnerability, of self-protection. It can also be a path of contentment, of enjoying observing others, of knowing a positive sense of life in that. Often it also means that I have information that feeds in a life-enhancing way into a project that I'm involved in. Over time I'm learning to accept all of these as part of the picture and to embrace the parts that are life-giving and to choose to not hide and give power to the ways in which it's self-protective and using a life skill that is unnecessary for me as a hearing person.
With this background, I was fascinated by this post by Alison Sampson. Some friends will be aware that I love watching board games. Some of this is about the positive sense of enjoyment I gain from observing, but I wonder how much has been about self-protection. How much has been not wanting to risk, not wanting to throw myself into life? Certainly this has shifted and I reflect that this has been different over recent years but it has me pondering.
Reflecting on this topic also has me pondering the connection this all has to a conversation I had with another friend recently who was sharing her view with me that people are always better for our presence. I wasn't convinced. The conversation was coming from a different place, but I wonder on the connection with this line of thinking. Do I hold back because I do not believe that my contribution is valuable enough? Do I not believe that people will be better off because of my participation and contribution?