In my last post, I recommended a retreat as one antidote to invisibility. Many people have trouble extracting themselves from their daily lives, but sometimes family and colleagues appreciate you more when they notice how things change in your absence. That’s a passive approach to invisibility. Today I’ll focus on more active strategies.
During my recent period of feeling invisible, a few people unknowingly stepped up to cure me. When my toes were still sporting bruises from the lady who stepped on me at the swim meet, the prince in our production of Cinderella greeted me as I arrived at the theater. He didn’t just toss me a casual hello; he stopped walking, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Hello, good to see you!” It was a direct and heartfelt greeting that immediately cheered me up.
A couple of days later, the second flute player was unable to play and couldn’t arrange a substitute. I played the first flute part as usual, and the conductor turned to me at the end of the show and said, “I didn’t realize it was you playing all those passages. Usually it’s the strings that really carry the score, but in this show it’s you. Nice playing!”
At church last Sunday, a woman took the time to thank me for volunteering to be VP of the board of trustees. She told me I was very brave (which left me wondering what she knows that I don’t, but I’ll take the compliment.)
My most advanced Latin student, who has caught up with me, refuses to stop paying me and turn our sessions into a study group. She says that I still have a lot to teach her.
My daughter, just finishing her junior year of high school, has been snowed under lately with AP tests, SAT subject tests, and final projects and exams for her classes. Meanwhile, letters arrive daily from colleges each trying to convince her she belongs at that school. All I can do is provide a safe, listening ear and warm hugs when she needs them–and sometimes she even lets me know she appreciates that. She appears at my bedroom door when I’m reading at night; I put down my book and welcome her as she collapses onto my bed. We don’t have to talk much–just being there is enough.
My husband noticed my recent housecleaning binge (it must have been a virus infecting my brain.) He agreed to hire a gardener so that I would have more time for music and writing, and he’s been doing more household tasks himself lately.
And, trivial as it may seem, people who “like” my Facebook posts show me they care enough to respond. I “like” that!
When I take a moment to appreciate how other people treat me, I am able to turn it around and do the same for others. I return the routine “Have a nice day” from store clerks with a direct smile and a sincere “You too!” I find ways to compliment people with specific observations rather than generalities. I thank people for things I usually take for granted. I wave at other drivers who are courteous to me. I try to give comfort and friendship as often as I receive it.
A good exercise during a retreat–or indeed as a daily routine–is to list gratitudes. Think about what you appreciate in other people, and then try to incorporate those attitudes and actions in your own life. When I concentrate on giving, I don’t feel invisible. Because as the prince says in the updated Cinderella, “Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.”