Living In A World In Which I Am Invisible

In my fifties I started to notice that I was becoming invisible to most people.  What I mean is that most people no longer met my eye when we passed in the street or had an accidental coming together in a public place.  I first noticed it with men and young people.  Even if they had to go to great lengths to not see me they would do so.  Then as I aged and lost the status of a profession this general non-recognition spread to most people. 

You may know what I mean.  If you go to someones house and they have teenagers, they don’t see you if you are an adult.  The parents may force them into some recognition of you but they usually make it quite clear that they don’t want to recognize your existence.

As an older woman it seems to terrify any man I meet to acknowledge my existence.  I have a feeling that men feel that if they acknowledge me I will then think they find me attractive  Having blessedly reached a point in my life where I agree with Gloria Steinem’s dictum that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle I would still like the recognition of my humanity.

It amuses me that when I am going into a store or walking down the street the one person who will meet my eye is an older women.  We acknowledge each other with a wry smile that allows us to affirm our existence to one another in spite of the world’s judgement.  I treasure these moments. 

So what is the point of this reverie?  It has made me more sensitive to others that don’t exist.  Who are they? People who are unattractive or handicapped or have mental problems or are of low status or like me simply old.  I have learned to try to acknowledge these fellow non-beings when we encounter one another.  Often times they are so used to being ignored that they don’t even realize I am trying to meet their eye.  Sometimes the destitute when recognized ask me for money which is a grace from God if I can help them.  What I give them isn’t enough to really make a difference and may even be used for drugs or alcohol.  None-the-less I hope they felt recognized in a simple friendly human glance and a smile.

One of the benefits of being invisible is that it can result in humility.  After my husband died my invisibility made me feel desperate to prove that yes I exist.  When I wasn’t acknowledged by others I despaired of ever being significant to anyone.  This contributed to my suicidal desire.  I wonder if Job felt that way?  Especially since he was the richest and most important man in the land.  I wonder if the most difficult thing for him wasn’t the loss of health, property or even his children but simply the loss of his identity?   He no longer was who he had been.  He was a man sitting in a garbage dump scraping his skin as it peeled from his body.  He couldn’t give lavish gifts to his children even if they still existed.  He had nothing.  Maybe he thought his children wouldn’t have wanted to know him if they still lived since he had sunk so low. 

The turning point for me was that moment when I knew that I exist even though the world may not care.  I exist because I was created by God who loves me and sustains me.  At that point my prayer became like those wry smiles I exchange with other older women, God and I share the recognition that I exist because he loves me and that is simply reason enough.

9 thoughts on “Living In A World In Which I Am Invisible

  1. I’m glad you’re back and writing again! Never thought you were whining – but you do express things that I think many people feel and are unable to put into words. I think reading yours can be of help – but at the same time your writing shouldn’t make you feel worse! The subject of invisibility is a good one. The lowest point of my life was as a preteen when I was intentionally made to feel invisible by former friends and classmates for weeks on end. Invisibility can be soul destroying. Interestingly in my work, one of the most effective things that can be done to help a persecuted Christian, is to send them a letter or card of encouragement. This combats the lie of the persecutor that they are worthless and don’t matter. So many have told me/tell me that these letters are key in helping them carry on. The written word is a tangible confirmation that you are present, that you exist and that you are important. And you are right, the only truly important recognition of our existence comes from God – and we have so many beautiful written words from Him. Jeremiah 1:5!

  2. I hate this about our society. I have definitely felt this way when depressed, and even know when not depressed, I still notice it when around people who seem to just be uncomfortable around me. But I hadn’t thought about how it could be worse for others. I hate this about our culture and society.

    • Your perspective always gives me pause. The idea that a card to someone who is suffering can be such a encouragement is startling. Such a small gesture can mean so much.

      As I go on I am gaining insight into why He is having me walk this lonely path. It draws me closer to him and I am coming to believe that indeed I can rely on him.

      I hope you are doing well. I think of you often and pray for your important work.

  3. Been thinking of you. Good to hear from you!
    I heard a cool song written about an artist’s anxiety, panic attacks when a teenager. Hearing the background of the song made me love it. I so relate. See below.
    Just a thought about people not meeting your eyes. I wonder if it isn’t people’s increasing lack of trust, as the world becomes more violent. The older women would remember a world much safer and aren’t afraid of people. Plus it may have to do with our hiding behind social media. Face to face is frightening, so we are more shy. But if it is just men, it’s probably all the trashy TV and the porn on the internet. 😦

    • Good to hear from you. I loved the video by Plumb. It reminds me that the pain of being young is not so different from that of being old.

      You may be right about how alienated people are and the effects of social media. Just from a subjective perspective it feels personal when I having a PTSD episode.

      Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Yeah it is ugly. I guess every culture has people who are considered cool and those who are definitely not. At least acknowledging other people can seem almost a protest against the indifference.

      Thanks for writing. It means a lot.

    • I replied before but I think it didn’t go through. Yes our culture can be so ugly. But being invisible does have the advantage of banishing my illusions and allowing me to focus on what is important. To seek God and have him find me.

      Thanks for caring about me. Hope you are doing well.

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