Being invisible has been one of my core defenses since I was very young. If people don’t see you they won’t tease you. Bully you. Ridicule you. If people don’t see you then they won’t know you. If they don’t know you they don’t have any power to hurt you.
In our society there are a lot of ways to become invisible. Being overweight is a good one. I read this article one time of a woman who did an artistic photo journey of her transformation from obesity to normal weight. One of the key things that stood out in her photos was the invisibility of being overweight. We are a society that puts a heavy emphasis on physical beauty and if you don’t fit into that category, you become invisible.
Another way to become invisible which is more universal, is to simply not be young any more. Our books, movies, tv shows, advertisements, all focus on youth. Sure you can still stand out as an older person as long as you still have a youthful body, face, and style.
As a mom I have found surrounding myself with children is a good way to make myself invisible. Everyone’s focus is on the children, Beauty! Youth! Sweet adorableness!
Being overweight is a journey I’m still walking out. Ageing is inevitable. Being surrounded by kids has turned out to be my calling. These are all things that just make me invisible inevitably. Not choices I have particularly made. But the choice for invisibility that I do consciously make is the choice to be silent.
In case you all haven’t noticed, I generally have a lot to say. As a kid in school, I was always the quiet one, but if the teacher asked a question in class, I had my hand raised, ready to answer. I like discussions. I like engaging in talks about ideas. I will gladly skip small talk, but if you open up with a heavy topic, I’m all in.
Over the past months as our lives kind of spiralled out of control for a bit there and the amount of crazy life situations I was having to deal with reached an insane level, I resorted to all the defense mechanisms that always helped me survive in the past. Defense number one: become invisible. Retreat into silence.
Now, I feel lke I am on the other side of the storm. There are some hurts and damage and I’ve got to help my kids walk through the healing process, but it feels like we have reached calm waters again. And I feel like I’m in a different kind of dangerous place. Being silent is comfortable. It feels safe. I sit here in my house, my kids have returned to school, and I have no desire to leave my cocoon. I have no desire to interact with anyone. Even in the relative anonymity of Facebook, I find myself writing and then erasing my comments because I just don’t want to engage. I don’t want to be seen. And while I feel like being invisible was necessary for the particular circumstances we were in, it’s not a place to stay.
I have a great imaginary life in my head. Stories I come back to over and over again. In the past year, I have started analysing these stories. Why do I like these? What draws me to this story? And I have come to realize that the attraction in these stories is that it is someone invisible who becomes seen. Recognized. And through that recognition, given worth. I have a deep longing to be seen. To experience the true intimacy of being known. I know, in my mind, that God sees me. That Jesus’ work on the cross has already given me value. But somehow it feels like my ability to fully walk in that truth is wrapped up in my ability to also walk it out with the people around me.
And so I find myself facing this new year wondering if I have it in me to open my mouth and speak again. To engage with people again. To take the time and energy to truly see the people around me and take the risk of letting myself be seen.