Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Invisible

I'm invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way
one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be
taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

Obviously not.

No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or
even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this?
Can you tie this?
Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock
to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is
the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes
that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now
they had disappeared into the peanut butter,
never to be seen again.

She's going ... she's going ... she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a
friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and
she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there,
looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to
compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress;
it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was
pulled back in a ponytail and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut
butter in it.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully
wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why
she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:
"To My Friend, with Admiration for the Greatness of what you are Building
when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover
what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could
pattern my work:

* No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their
names.
* These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see
finished.
* They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
* The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of
God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the
cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird
on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you
spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by
the roof? No one will ever see it."

And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost
as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, I see the sacrifices you
make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've
done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me
to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't
see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease
that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own
self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of
the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work
on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever
be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to
sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's
bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the
morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three
hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a
shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And
then, if there is anything he wants to say to his friend, let it be, "You're gonna
love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're
doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel,
not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the
world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

*This was sent to me by a friend and fellow mom today, and I heard echoes of myself in it. Perhaps it's been all over the internet for years now and I've just never come across it, but I thought the sentiment was nice just the same.

3 comments:

CJ said...

Thank you for this. I have seen it before, but I definitely needed to read it again.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane this was a lovely post. I wanted to give you some amazing words of advice so I re-read a few of your blogs to get the gist of who you are through your writing. I have said before I have bene in your space and the way out for me was a decision I made actively each day. This decision was to manage my emotions. You have a choice whether you react to something, and it seems you react to everything. You must be exhausted.....(to be continued)

Anonymous said...

It seems that you can't manage your emotions which is why you are a rollercoaster. The highs and lows are shocking. Start with a list of the ten absolute worst things that could happen to you. i.e number one death of your children etc...then each time you feel the need to have an emotional response ask yourself if its on your list. If it's not tell youself it's not necessary to engage emotionally. You must start using that super smart brain of yours and manage your emotions. I mean that with absolute love and care btw.