Hearth and Home

October 1st, 2011

A Matter of Perception.

We have all had those moments in life, when someone says something that leaves us feeling a little vexed and wondering where their perceived ideas came from.  This happened to me the other day… because of my hands.

Hands that over 50 years have, plucked the fluff out of my cots mattress, fed me crayons, stuck forks in power sockets. They have cleaned and scrubbed clothes by hand, chopped wood, kneaded bread, kept my home clean, dug in the earth, they create ritual, have soothed my children and for 20 years cared for the sick and dying. Once I was embarrassed by the deep lines on my hands, that’s genetic as my father had the same, today though I feel I am fortunate to have hands that show the blessings of my life. Yes, they are tired but they are neither ugly nor disgusting.
So you can imagine how shocked I was when the woman at the post office reached across the counter and grabbed my hands saying “0h my god, look at your hands, look they are all lined and dry, that’s disgusting” I removed my hands from hers and assumed goodwill, it was easier..
However, it got me thinking about perceptions.
Within our society, there are people who feel they have the right to invade our personal space and comment of the facets of our lives.

Expectant mums know all about this, how often do strangers think it is appropriate to come up and touch a baby bump when you’re are out in public minding your own business and body space – or ask when the baby is due? I have had children myself and have experienced this; you sort of smile and accept it somehow. Funny, how it is ok to do this, when a woman is pregnant, but it would never be seen as appropriate if you touched her stomach when she was not.

What about those of us who choose to wear body art? Have you experienced someone coming up and touching the tattoo, or ask ‘did it hurt?’ or ‘that’s pretty can I look at it; and sometimes even ‘why did you do that to yourself?
We often see well meaning people come up and pat our children on the head or stroke tiny faces. Why do some people feel it is ok to do this? Where does this perception come from?
In many cultures and beliefs, it is sac religious to touch the head of a child, or capture a tribesmen’s image with a camera, which hand you eat your food with is decided by your beliefs, shaking hands in some cultures is forcing personal contact, that the other person may not be comfortable with – even smiling in a formal introduction can be a sign of disrespect.

So, how does all of this tie into me as a Pagan?  My home is harmonized to my pagan beliefs and it is sacred space to my family, as a Pagan woman I see my body as sacred; it is connected to the earth and to the Goddess. Those things that I see as sacred should be respected. That includes your home, your body, your spirit and your energy. Are we mindful of the sacredness of other? Do we touch without being asked or asking?  Do we take it for granted that we can touch a stranger’s child, even if we think it is with kindness and love?
One woman, reaching across a counter grabbing my hands, and the discomfort this bought, has led to me questioning my own perceptions on what others see as acceptable.  How do our actions, impact on someone else?

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