There’s a funny thing about being invisible. The Invisible Man, Harry Potter and his Invisibility Cloak, One Ring to Rule Them All, The Tempest and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Being invisible has always been a popular item in literature and movies. When asked what superpower a person might like to possess, invisibility is usually high up on the list. But what if you were really invisible? Or what if you’d made yourself as invisible as possible all your life but when you decide you want to toss off the invisibility cloak no one sees you even then.
Growing up, I spend all my time trying to be invisible. I was horribly shy and inwards, mostly because of things that happened and because I’d never not known the feeling of depression. To protect myself, I became invisible, as skill I perfected over the years.
In college, I lived behind the mask of characters, terrified somebody would talk to me, I would freeze and look like an idiot. I didn’t trust anybody. I was afraid of everything and not just in that ‘I’m afraid of spiders’ way. I was drawn so far inward that I couldn’t make connections with the outer world.
And then I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, I was invisible well into adulthood and I liked it that way. It didn’t help that my ex liked me invisible. So, there I was, invisible until I had kids. I couldn’t be invisible with kids. I learned to speak up, defend them, because I didn’t have any other choice. The mother bear will protect her cubs even if she doesn’t want to come out of the den.
It took me years to come to the realization I didn’t have to live the life other people wanted for me. I could live life my way. Visible. I no longer had to be afraid. I was in charge of who I was and who I became. Not my Ex. Not my family. Not friends or acquaintances or bosses or TV or ads or anything else in the Universe.
I. Was. In. Charge. Of. Me.
Apparently, no one else got the memo. I learned quickly that once people lose sight of you, you don’t appear just because you’ve decided to appear again. I’m not talking about people I knew casually, but family. When I finally separated from my ex, they were glad. Why had it taken me so long? When I became my own person, they weren’t happy. I was no longer the person they expected me to be and they didn’t want that. They wanted me to stand on my own two feet but only if I stayed the same person I was before. But I wasn’t the same person. How could I stay the same and change? Not possible.
I’ve had to write the remainder of this post several times. Each former attempt came out bitchy and childish. I don’t mean to be. I like taking the higher road, but sometimes I just need to express myself, bitchy or not. I know what you are going to say. ‘Are you sure it’s all them?’ Probably not. I’ve never claimed I was perfect. I don’t return phone calls in the time frame they expect. Bad? Yes, but I’m not a phone person and when I get overwhelmed by things, I just ‘turtle’ and do nothing. Could I do better? Yes. Try harder? Yes. Do I want to do better? I used to say yes, but now, I’m not so sure.
Three examples (yes there are so many more but that’s where the bitchy comes in). One – I wrote and read a short essay at my mother’s funeral. Except for my Aunt, no one in my family acknowledged I had even spoken. No ‘thank you,’ no ‘I know this must have been hard for you’. Nothing. Friends of the family (and even people I didn’t know) came up to say how touched they had been by my words, wanting a copy. Family. Not a word.
Two – After years of cutting my own hair (not pretty I assure you), I got my hair cut and styled at a salon. Nobody in my family noticed.
Three- I lost a noticeable amount of weight. Did my family notice? Nope. Not a word.
Bitch over (maybe). Truth is I am hurt and angry. I am willing to do anything they need. All they need to do is ask. Do they? No, they don’t and then are angry that I ‘never’ help. To hear them, I am selfish and think of nobody but myself. So sorry for thinking we are all adults and should not expect mind-reading among us.
Perhaps I should accept that I am, and will be, invisible to them. The sad part is I am almost at the point I don’t care. Is it worth fighting invisibility in their eyes when I will never be visible for who I am? How many times am I expected to try to explain who I am and why? It is hard enough to fight depression every day without living up to somebody else’s expectations.
The sad truth is I no longer feel comfortable at family gatherings.
I am the invisible woman.