I am embarrassed to say that I cannot remember either the title of the novel or the author, but the following passage so struck me that I wrote it down: “Maybe nobody dreams of growing up to be formerly fat, but they sure don’t dream of growing up to be fat! If only because when you walk down the street, it’s all people see: You, big as a house, but in any meaningful way you’re invisible.” While the character’s body might be fat, she knows that her mind is not fat, her soul is not fat and her heart’s desire to be known is not fat! We experience ourselves as “invisible” when we feel that who we are at our core is not known by others. Being known arises out of relationships of all kinds and all degrees… and that can be the rub: to be known we must reveal ourselves and that can be risky! While the other in a relationship can affirm our goodness and our kindness, while the other can celebrate with us the wonder that we exist… they can also be a royal pain in the butt! They ask for things when we’re not in the mood to give. They make us watch movies we’re not interested in. They insist that we try Indian food! In short, they can evoke thoughts and feelings within us that we would rather not acknowledge as being “us” and which can leave us wondering: Who am I?
A person came to me once for counseling who was both puzzled and distressed by the type of individuals who seemed drawn to her. There was the man on the train who groped her. There was the man in the park who propositioned her. There was her own father who had raped her. What she wanted to know was: what was it that they read in her that called them to her? What was that “something” that she could not read in herself? Was it the way that she looked that drew them to her? Was she unconsciously giving off signals that they, within their own perverted language, interpreted as invitation? Did she secretly yearn for the disgusting things that they brought to her? What distressed her most was that she did not know what she did not know about her own heart.
Relationships: we both yearn for them as well as fear them because, after all, once you’re in a relationship you get changed by what it enables you to come to know about yourself. It has been said that you can’t turn a pickle back into a cucumber and you can’t un-ring a bell… unless, of course, you are willing to damage your heart by convincing yourself that you didn’t hear what you heard, and that you don’t know what you have come to know. In some ways the greater problem than being invisible to others is that… to one degree or another… we are invisible to ourselves! It is…. what we don’t know about our own heart that so frightens us, and relationships… for good and for ill… provide the opportunity to come to know what we don’t know about ourselves. My theory is that the degree to which we worry that others do not know the “real” us is indicative of the degree to which we are invisible to ourselves!
Do you want to know yourself? Are you willing to try? Or are you settling for being invisible?