Saturday, December 28, 2013

Becoming Visible

 Awhile back, This American Life did a podcast where they asked people which super power they’d rather have, the ability to fly, or to become invisible. 

I didn’t even have to think about my answer. I wanted to be able to fly. I already know how to be invisible, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

On second thought, maybe it would have been a little different if I was better able to harness this supposed super power, but it always seemed that I had a faulty invisibility cloak. Sometimes I would get unwanted attention in the shape of being made fun of, or called out on something in front of people, or having to defend my beliefs, thoughts, actions or emotions in the moment, and I suddenly felt like I wanted to fade into the wall, but the damn invisibility cloak wouldn’t switch on, no matter how hard I tried. Other times, I would feel like I was standing in front of someone, screaming at them that I was there, I was real, can you see me? and the invisibility would not turn off. I would be left in a corner of a room, feeling insignificant and see through, wanting to insist that I was just as interesting or intelligent or worthwhile as everyone else there, but I had my own invisibility to contend with that made it seem that wasn’t so. If no one could see me, what on earth could I have to offer?

I am sure that this came about as a defense mechanism. I know I am not making it up that I think that, to some extent, women are taught to fade into the wallpaper, and to think the only way they can stand out is by wearing low tops, lots of makeup and pretending that they have less intelligence than a man so as not to scare or intimidate him. On the other hand, I also think that we are all taught to not actually to stand out at all, unless we can stand out as having all our shit together. I thought that I was supposed to be perfect, and therefore would only present the “perfect” parts of myself. This left out the parts of me that were hurting, the parts that truly needed the human interaction, and anything that couldn’t be listed on a resume. If I wanted to be seen, I thought, I would have had to pipe up and mention fluency in two languages, a full ride academic scholarship, two degrees, two cookbooks, 20 countries visited, but if I did that in a room full of people who didn’t know me I would actually alienate myself further -- pretty much guaranteeing the invisibility cloak would turn on with a remote switch from everyone else's blank looks. If I didn’t slowly dole out that information, I would be seen as bragging; trying to show that I was better than someone else, when in reality I simply wanted to show that I was worth more than the shadow on the wall that people seemed to be able to see through.

Without meaning to, I have stumbled onto the answer of my faulty invisibility cloak. It is not to lose it completely; there are people out there that I would much prefer didn’t notice me, either because they’re douche bags, assholes, want to suck the life out of me or simply do not get where I’m coming from. For them, I need that invisibility cloak to work. The rest of the time, however, there’s been something standing in the way of my being seen, and it was me.

The answer is to say it, out loud: what I really think and feel, not what the group is agreeing on. It is to take off the cloak when I feel safe, and let the utter fear of vulnerability wash over me as I show the sensitive, tender hearted person that is afraid to give of herself because it might hurt, but wants to anyway. It is working on leaving the cloak at home sometimes so that I can’t run to a corner and put it on, and it is not trying to ride the invisible/visible line, because it doesn’t work that way for me anymore: I can’t show up and expect others to see me if I’m not actually willing to show myself.

It also has nothing to do with listing my accomplishments. It has more to do with talking about how I feel, what makes me tick, what makes me smile; letting myself laugh out loud. It is disregarding the people who tell me I talk too loud, too much, too often, when in reality I have something to say; a voice that needs to be heard, and a need to state my case. It’s not always pretty. I can’t always do it right. I can’t know how much a situation will hurt by trying to predict any possible outcome and waiting for the perfect moment to show myself. I have to simply show up without the cloak and know that the people who are meant to will see me. Anyone else who doesn’t notice or doesn’t appreciate what I’m offering up – myself, in all my imperfect human glory – is probably best to forget anyway. 

Love and visible kisses,