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Visibility/Invisibility Click Here To Comment!

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

This summer seems to have a relationship “theme”. Seems most of the people in my life, including me, are wrestling with issues of visibility, of actually being authentically seen by others. Or maybe they aren’t wrestling at all … maybe I’m just noticing.

I had a conversation with a relative of mine a few months ago, trying to get caught up with her. It went something like this:

Me: So, how are things with you?

Her: Great! Bessie (her oldest daughter) and her new husband are in their new house finally and are anticipating pregnancy soon. Gertrude (younger daughter)’s beau has just moved in and they seem very happy so far … Billy-Bob (her husband) is really enjoying retirement and is doing …

It is almost impossible to get an answer from this person on how SHE is. So, when I first noticed this, I thought it was a gender thing. You know, women being trained to fade into the background   in their families. Then, today, I got this e-mail from a male relative:

Things are going OK. Busy as always. Junior #1 – was at Wakefest last week. Off to Fanshawe in Sep. Taking landscaping. Junior #2 – working  in TO. Off to Dal in Sep. Junior # 3 – rowing. Henley (largest regatta in
North America) starts next Tuesday. He’ll be down there all week. Junior #4 – auditioning for Fear Factor today in TO.  Harold – seems to be doing OK…no better/no worse. Wishbone the dog – getting older. Crops – terribly dry.

Once again, the author is not present in this accounting of lives. Since when is it so easy for one’s entire
life to just disappear from one’s own radar?

A few friends of mine feel as though they have been rendered invisible to me by virtue of me being in a new relationship. I want to plead forgiveness based on, well, that thing that happens when you meet someone new. It can get intense at the beginning. But, in truth, there is a deeper flaw in my character that I’m trying to examine this summer. My friendship pattern has always been, since high school, to be involved in many activities, with a wide range of people. This leads to a wide range of friends, happily. I am never sure, except with a handful of key individuals, just how visible I am to them. I’m always surprised, a bit embarrassed
and slightly pleased to find out that I’ve been missed. I need to be better at both seeing, and being seen by, all the wonderful people that I’m lucky to have around me.

In the evolution of the new relationship that I’m in, we’ve both noticed not being accurately “seen” by the other. For example, when she behaves in a certain way that I’ve seen before in previous partners, I tend to respond with the layers of assumptions I still carry from those previous relationships. I don’t check out my assumptions, or ask her to help me understand her particular, unique spin on things. Not surprisingly, she does the same. So, in a way, we are seeing each other through the dirty lenses of previous relationships, like murky ghosts are intruding and clouding our field of vision. This happens so effortlessly … and it is profoundly unfair. It is much harder work to wipe the lenses clean, to blink a few times, breath deeply, make the effort to ask and then to listen carefully to the responses. Much harder. But profoundly
worthwhile.

See and be seen … this is my new motto … 🙂 … pass it on …

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