As anyone who has spent any time around me can attest, I tend to be an introvert. I’m just as happy sitting in silence during my meal as others may be when enjoying an in-depth conversation during theirs. My comfort zone is to sit quietly, ponder my day, and observe the happenings in my surroundings. This is no way a reflection on the company I keep, nor is it due to some innate social awkwardness (at least I hope not), it’s just how I’m wired. Anyone familiar with the basis of an Italian-Catholic upbringing (as in my case), is probably thinking that excessive talking and obnoxious language should be like second nature – and you’re right. Somehow that gene skipped me. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch My Cousin Vinny, then it will make sense. Understanding this about myself, along with an unwavering desire to always improve, has helped me adapt and even learn how to use this quality to my advantage. That journey has been long, but it has been an incredible one. For instance, one of my favorite past-times is ‘people watching’. Partly because of my silly sense of humor, and part of it because there is no interaction required. I get to keep my distance and become amused, intrigued, saddened, or enlightened all based on a stranger’s behavior. These powers of observation also work well in another environment – the VT room. It’s only when I’m in the company of good friends – check that, great friends – that my tendency to be talkative, and maybe a little obnoxious, comes out. As an adult, I’ve deliberately pushed myself out of my own comfort zone in an effort to grow. Vision Therapy, teaching other therapists, presenting to parents, even having dinner among relative strangers, all in their own way push my envelope in one way or another.
Now you know the ‘why?’.
Let me tell you the ‘what’.
Someone asked me in an email today of the biggest compliment anyone could ever give me professionally, and after thinking about it for a few minutes (yes, I tend to over-think things too), I answered with this:
“You know when a patient comes to the office for Vision Therapy and during their first visit they are angry at the world, want nothing to do with VT or the therapist, and do everything they can to make the session as difficult as possible? Well, when that same kid cries on their last visit because they don’t want to leave because they’ve made great changes, had fun doing it, and feel successful . Those tears are the best compliment ever.”
No, I’m not into making kids cry. Let me explain.
I’ve learned that part of working with people, especially people who are struggling, is listening to what they say but remembering to also ‘hear’ what they don’t say. If we’re mindful of the big picture, we might consider that expressing those emotions with language would only minimize their value. It’s why those unspoken words mean so much to me, and why in the case of my VT room, I know those tears are really just saying “thank you”. Thank you for all the hard work, thank you for helping me, thank you for putting up with me, thank you for not giving up on me, and thank you for changing my life. For my money, that’s the best compliment you’ll ever receive.
I push myself very hard to always improve, to take risks, to put myself out there, and try new things – even when the outcome is relatively unknown or my comfort level is not where I’d like it to be. Starting and continuing this blog for the last three years is evidence of that. It’s not easy to always push yourself and to face your own inadequacies, and I promise you, there are still days I’d much rather be a homebody than be in company. This is why I have such respect for the patients taking similar risks by way of Vision Therapy. Although some of them are angry at first, they put themselves out there and they are trusting in us to help them with changes. They want to improve themselves, and they want your help.
So you see, those tears are special to me because crying when their Vision Therapy program is over really can only mean one thing…
That’s the best compliment I could ever receive. 🙂