An incredibly honest sharing from an amazing young man!
I was meandering the aisles of the local supermarket today, pondering what variety of hummus I was craving. Red pepper, lemon coriander, plain…the possibilities were endless (okay, not endless…this is Budgens we’re talking about). And anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE my hummus. I practically live on it. So obviously, this was a very important decision I was making.
Anyways, there I was, two pots of hummus gripped in either hand, grappling with myself over if I wanted reduced fat or olive flavour. As I scanned the packaging of one hummus for caloric information, I noticed the existence of a tiny human to my right. There next to me stood a small child; he must’ve only been three or four years old. He was poised behind his mother in an uncannily adult fashion, tiny hand meagerly pressed into hers, lips bunched together and eyebrows dancing, practically touching…
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A little less than a year ago I started working at a café in a local fitness center. During that time I have served a coworker, LS, maybe a handful of times. Yesterday, she presented me with an opportunity for growth in the form of invisibility. (YES!)
What? You mean, like, pick a superpower & you picked invisibility? Sure – sort of. I didn’t know I picked it, but I must have a long time ago! I’ve been invisible much of my life and I’ve never really understood why.
As a kid, my sisters were 9 and 10 years older than I, so let’s be honest; I was an oops. By the time I came along my parents were kinda “been there, done that.” I was basically an only child because by the time I was 10, both sisters were long gone. My older sister was married & divorced with a baby on the way, long gone. My other sister had a habit of coming home a bit intoxicated, putting a pizza in the oven, passing out, and unintentionally setting pizza fires. (It was the very early 80’s, kids.) With a new baby added to the picture, I’m basically invisible. Not to my fire-starting sister, we were joined at the heart in a way few people get to experience, but after her tragic death when I was 13, we all fell apart – individually and as a family. A few months later my maternal grandma passed away. I could go on and on, but in short, there was a lot of attention “elsewhere” for an established length of time. I was basically invisible.
Fast forward a year, the summer of my first summer camp experience with my “best friend”, who promptly upon arrival announces that everyone can ignore me, all I talk about is “my dead sister.” Gladly wore the invisibility cloak for that never-ending two-week nightmare! More losses, more tragic events, more invisibility, etc.
Back to the growth opportunity! LS came in to try one of our new smoothies the consultant who was hired to revamp our whole system created. She asked questions, had an immunity shot, and got her smoothie. Consultant moves on to address other tasks, and LS says “HEY!” I look around and realize she’s addressing ME. She then says “I have a question.” Interesting approach, I think to myself, among other thoughts! She didn’t truly have a question, she wanted to know what the consultant and I were talking about, a.k.a. gossip. I exited that conversation ASAP and continued with my tasks. A short time later she’s asking the consultant a litany of personal questions; the usual, who are you, who’s your husband, who are your kids, where do they go to school, and on and on.
She has never once asked my name, or anything else about me.
Before assuming I’m being a victim here, let me clarify that none of these words are shared so that I can appear as the helpless, abandoned, poor, poor victim. These words are shared solely for the purpose of growth opportunities, but details are what paints the picture on paper.
For about 20 minutes I wanted to ask her, SO badly, what makes the consultant so profoundly interesting and what makes me so invisible that she can’t extend the courtesy of asking my name, and instead would prefer to address her coworker as “Hey!” I played out the scenario multiple ways in my head and just couldn’t come to a positive outcome. I have no desire to initiate or continue the momentum of negativity, so unless I believe something good will come of it, I’ve learned to bite my tongue & let it go.
But I haven’t let it go completely, because I want to grow from this through understanding. I want to share it with you because I know there’s no way I am the only person on Earth who has experienced invisibility.
This story will be continued…
For now, I’d like to hear your experiences with invisibility and what you’ve learned from it.
It’s hard, speaking up for what you believe. It’s hard to stand firm in your knowing, find the right words, and present them to others who desperately (might) need to hear the truth.
Trouble is, the truth so often hurts.
I’m still learning discretion and discernment, in part because my son and husband have recently gotten a little defensive with me when I’ve offered (in hindsight) totally unsolicited advice. I’m guilty of unwanted “momming”.
My own mom still does this, by the way. I’m almost 47 years old and she’s still momming me.
So how do we navigate the complexities of conversation?
Recently I’ve started by observing myself. I observe whether or not I’m truly listening to others. So many times when we’re in a conversation, especially a heated conversation or discussing any controversial topics, we’re so busy forming our own thoughts, opinions, and reactions that we’re preparing responses before we’ve actually even heard what the other person is saying. In the past (you know, last month) if someone came to me with an issue, I needed to fix it. My bad! I’ve come to realize that most people truly just need to be heard. We just want someone to listen, to understand, to sympathize, to acknowledge. We don’t want to be fixed, geez. I’m fine, just hear me out! I digress…
I also observe body language – is it open? Nervous? Etc. Now I ask before I speak, “how can I help?” Or, “do you want help finding a solution, or do you just need a sounding board?” If you use these few, simple tools, you will likely be very surprised at the results!
Need more tools? Don’t we all. I find that it’s more empowering to let them find their own answers, so I ask them questions. No, not like “how did it make you feel when your mother wouldn’t let you go to the park alone”, I dive a little deeper!
For example, a dear coworker of mine, “Khalisi”, recently met a man who, on paper, is “everything she’s ever wanted.” She’s been ruthless with this man – testing him, accusing him, questioning him, basically trying to sabotage the best thing that’s come her way her whole life (she’s 30, so there’s that). So we talked about it; why does she believe she’s not worthy? When you want to fix your outcome, you have to look at the past. What in your childhood led you to believe that you don’t deserve XYZ. She revealed that her dad was abusive, so the dots were immediately connected. Her relationship with her father will dictate all future relationships with men unless she heals her past and leaves it there – in the past.
Not all digging is so easy, this conversation was basically served on a silver platter and very little work went into the how and why, but the more questions we ask, the more we find our voice. Our truth. Even when it hurts.
I find so much value in sharing our experiences with others, yet I rarely have the opportunity to do so through the people in my life. So I’m reaching further – I’m reaching all the way out! The “word wide web” is about as far as one can reach!
It’s more of a journal entry than a blog, really. When there’s something I’m trying to understand, I want to talk about it. Many times when I’ve reached out to someone to figure it out, they tell me they’re wondering the same thing, or they recently had the same experience. More and more I’m learning that we’re not so different.
We’re all messed up to one degree or another. We’re all recovering from some kind of trauma. We’re all trying to get through this thing we call life, or reality, as gracefully as we can, hopefully with more grace as we understand ourselves more!
I hope something I say helps you find more grace. I’d love to hear from you!