“It is strange to feel invisible. I don’t remember exactly when it began to happen. The only thing I know is that I am not seen much anymore when I walk by people on the street. It is a little discomfiting, a little bittersweet. I am now in my late 70s and rather healthy, even athletic for my age, so it came as a shock to realize people rarely look back when I glance at them. Not just women . . . . Men do not see me either. . . . this invisibility happens in smaller gatherings, too, even with people I know. Conversation whirls around the table. Snippets of this or that experience are shared. Chuckling to myself, I remember when I competed in the same way for the storyteller spotlight. Now I often sit and wait. It is not a bad space to be in. It can be rather peaceful if you can get over the need to speak in order to exist. . . . The world belongs to the young. “Yet I’ve got so much to share if anyone wants to know,” I muse to myself. . . . Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., says that this “diminishment” is how we prepare for the great merging with the cosmos that occurs when we die:
. . . there still remains that slow, essential deterioration which we cannot escape: old age little by little robbing us of ourselves and pushing us on to the end . . . . In death, as in an ocean, all our slow and swift diminishments flow out and merge.
. . . I began to tell a friend about this invisibility recently. Before I could explain what I meant, he immediately acknowledged that he, too, experiences this, even though he is only in his mid-60s. The way he described it was that he hardly sees anyone looking at him with a glimmer of sexual or relational interest anymore. We all enjoy seeing a flicker of—let’s call it personal—interest in another’s eyes as we go through our rather regular days, don’t we? A sign that we are still a little intriguing. . . . That we might be worth having a cup of coffee or glass of wine with. To be seen—to be desired . . .—is a beautiful human need no matter what our age is. God created us this way. . . . In South Africa, the people greet one another on the road by saying, ‘Sawubona.’ It means, ‘I see you.’ The answer is ‘Here I am.’ In other words, you are not invisible to me. You are someone. You are God’s beloved child . . . .” Paul F. Morrissey
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Mark 10:21a NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Do you sometimes feel invisible? Is there anything good that can come from that–hidden beneath the pain?
- Must you be seen “in order to exist?” Mull that over.
- Do you go through each day in a way that conveys to others “I see you.”?
Here I am Lord. You see me. When necessary, may that be enough.
For More: “Becoming Invisible” by Paul Morrissey
I never really thought about this..hummmm,,,,thanks for making me 🤔 think
I googled “Aging and invisibility” today to get the link to send to someone, and there is a mess of articles on this – especially as it applies to women who are getting older. It’s super common. The more I talk to people the more I hear about it. I did the post because I’ve felt that way myself, and more the older I get. This also applies to children, the elderly in general, homeless people, etc. etc. Thanks for your note. If you haven’t looked at the blog or the book already, I would suggest you do. You might find a lot of things like this that are of interest.
This doesn’t only apply to older people. Check out Natalie Merchant’s song “Tell Yourself”, which is written to 15 year old girls. And a relevant quote from Thomas Moore’s book The Dark Nights of the Soul: “You need to feel your own essence–who you are when you are not acknowledged and supported by someone else.” This is at the heart of the “invisibility” discussion.