Requisit Respite

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Not In Your Face

 I have "face blindness," also called prosopagnosia. It's interesting I only found out about this since I moved to Utah.

A few years ago, I was at a writer's conference boot camp. The mentor at my table apologized if she didn't recognize us if she ran into us during the conference. I didn't think anything of it. I knew I wouldn't recognize anyone either. I thought, "Isn't everyone like that?"

She went on to say she had "face blindness." This intrigued me. I spoke with her after our meeting and learned that she had to interact with people many times before she would recognize them again.

I said, "Me, too!" She told me she always apologizes ahead of time so people wouldn't think she was snubbing them.

What a revelation that was to me.

Though my “face blindness” is not extreme, I have a problem unless I have many interactions or have known someone a long time. And if a woman changes her hairdo or hair color, I’m doomed.

I mentioned to my daughter Jewely on Sunday how much easier it was back east to be in a ward where I knew everyone. When someone new came to church it was only one person or family to remember. I told her I have trouble recognizing faces.

There are hundreds of new people to meet in a new ward. That is a challenge for me. When I had been at my job in Utah for four months, I told my friend Bonnie I finally got a handle on who everyone was. That was with seeing my co-workers every day.

I always wondered how people could identify actors so readily in movies. I had an argument with my son Alex about an actor in a TV show. I said, "Look, it's the sidekick from 'National Treasure'."

He said, "No, it's not."

I said, "Yes, it is." Back and forth we went.

He got out his smartphone, tapped on it a few times, and showed me the actor I thought I was talking about. I looked at the TV. I looked at the phone. It looked like him.

"But I recognized his voice, too," I told my son, daunted. Alex said they did sound similar, but it wasn't who I thought. I guess it wasn't facial, but audio recognition that made me think it was the actor in "National Treasure." He had the same hair style, hair color and voice. The face was very different, I had to admit.

Describing eyes, a nose, a mouth or chin to a police sketch artist on TV detective shows always baffled me. And picking someone from a lineup? They all look alike! For me, there’s no way. I would never be able to describe someone. I would say the hair color, hair style, body shape and that would be it. The face would be a blur.

At work, I saw someone familiar in the lobby. I thought it was the cute caterer for Wingers and told her I was just getting ready to call her to place an order for an event. The woman, squinting, graciously said, "Well, let me know how I can help you with that," and gave me a funny, tentative look.

All of a sudden, I realized who she was--the cute young woman in marketing that I have worked with many times, but hadn't seen for awhile. I apologized profusely about my mistake. She must have thought I was losing it. No, lost it!

Today I attended my second meeting of the Employee Advisory Council. At the last meeting I was introduced to the marketing representative in the group who would help me make digital fliers for announcements. I worked with him via about a dozen emails over the last month. I remember thinking to myself today, "Oh, I'll get to see what Mike looks like," even though I had already met him.

Right now, I remember he’s thin, has strawberry blond hair and a beard--and glasses. I don't know if that's enough to recognize him if I see him in the elevator. I wonder now if I've been on an elevator ride with him over the last month. Yikes!

Also, at that first EAC meeting last month, a young brunette woman sat across from me. She smiled at me like she knew me. I had no idea who she was and only vaguely smiled back. We went around the table to introduce ourselves. It turns out, the week before the meeting, I had spent a whole hour, one-on-one, with her in a small, intimate conference room as she went over the nuances of the payroll time clock. (!!!) Only the week before.

Her hair was different; not like I remember.

Now, when I see her, in her cubicle, in her accounting setting and recognize her in that context, I make a big fuss over her in some way--cute shoes, pretty jewelry. I've got to make up for not recognizing her.

At one ANWA chapter meeting, I erroneously introduced one sister as another when she came to my door for her first meeting. She was gracious and politely corrected her name. I thought she was the presenter. (Insert blushing smiley face here.) Thank goodness for Facebook. I am determined now to study our chapter’s page and pictures before the meetings. Please forgive me, new members!

In my ward, I can’t distinguish people unless I’m their visiting teacher or they’re mine. I need to see the bishopric sitting up front each week or Relief Society presidency, or do something together with someone many times.

A thought came to me Sunday morning during Relief Society. I got up and bore my testimony and announced that I have Face Blindness and to “please forgive me if I don't recognize you.”

I compared it to being familiar with Deity. How will we know our Savior if we don’t make him part of our everyday lives through prayer and fasting, reading our scriptures or attending the temple? We won’t be able to distinguish when the Holy Ghost is near unless we have “met” more than once or twice and know His still, small voice.

Through trials I have developed a relationship with the Holy Ghost. His presence is palpable to me. He walks beside me, guiding me, coaching me. And, through trials, I know the Savior loves me and has carried me as I looked back to see one set of footprints. I have a testimony that my Heavenly Father loves me. He knows who I am--by name.

Trials aren’t necessary to know Deity, but we must interact every day in order to be acquainted with the countenances of divine beings.

Perhaps most people are more perceptive at discerning facial features than I am, but I’m sure, without a doubt, I will know the face of Christ when I finally see Him.

Yes, I’m sure of it.