HORSES FOR COURSES
I wonder what your choice would be? I asked around and received a whole raft of answers ranging from healing cancer, having endless energy, not needing to sleep, not getting old. Then there were the superhero varieties of talking and understanding many languages, being able to travel from A to B instantly (no matter how far), being able to do the days tasks at breakneck speed to leave time for fun ( I like that one!), being able to communicate with family and friends who have died. These all make my choice feel quite boring.
My reason for making my choice isn’t because I am nosey. I prefer to say that I retain the curiosity of my childhood. It certainly isn’t so that I can hear what people say about me... I really don’t think I would like that as I am sure it would lead to me having a huge long list of self-improvements to be made. But, would those improvements be to please myself, or those other people? I certainly wouldn’t like to think that my life was being altered to be more of a people pleaser. I did include the word ‘more’ there as I accept that I do like to make people happy as this gives me pleasure too - but as and when I choose to do so rather than it being my default setting which people come to expect.
I have always loved to watch people – how they tackle tasks, how they interact with others, their mannerisms and use of language. I also like seeing snippets, cameos of lives unknown as I pass by. I have always enjoyed being with and interacting with people as a daughter, parent, friend, teacher, therapist. All very different interactions involving differences in myself which will in turn affect how others respond to me. Those quiet moments of tiptoeing in to the bedroom to watch a child peacefully sleeping. The thrilling kerching moment of watching a pupil achieve something that had proved difficult for them. That moment, as a child, of pleasing my Mum with a bunch of wild flowers, or flowers I had bought having saved up ‘my spends’. I loved to watch as she carefully arranged the flowers. Equal care being given to the buttercups and honeysuckle picked from a hedgerow and the paid for cultivated blooms. The moment I watch a client with whom I have been working drive away, knowing that with the help of our time spent together they were making the changes that they so very much wanted to make. I wonder if my presence, even if only on the sidelines affected their behaviour? So many cameos that are stored in my mind and replayed in moments of reflection. Moments when I can assure myself that I have contributed to others in a positive way.
If I possessed a cloak of invisibility, then I would be able to see even more so how people behave, how they interact without my presence altering this interaction. As an added bonus, since childhood, I have always wanted to own a velvet cloak, so I would have to ensure that my cloak was of this variety!
BUT DO I, AT TIMES ALREADY HAVE MY WISH GRANTED?
I feel that I do, but not in circumstances, at times, that I would have chosen. My seeming invisibility occurs when I am, or feel that I am ignored... I am well aware that this isn’t something that happens just to me. Clients often describe similar feelings. Feelings that have caused them hurt, made them feel so much less than they really are. One described a situation when she was with a group of men discussing a task to be carried out. Not only were her suggestions not listened to, but she was also told to go and make a brew as the task was men’s work – and no, it didn’t involve heavy manual work which she may well have found hard. She was invisible as a fellow human being with ideas to contribute, and seen as a woman who really wasn’t capable of doing anything more than making that cup of tea. The group of men judged her without knowing her or anything about her, including the fact that she has an engineering degree. Another expressed her feeling of invisibility when a family photograph was suggested – and she was asked to be the photographer rather than one of the non-family members present. She felt very much hurt by this as the mother and grandmother of said family – yet not included in the ‘family photograph’. She said that it made her feel invisible and unable to stake a claim to be included in the photograph.
I feel very similar and have believed that this has become more marked with increasing years. I have become invisible with age. OK, I don’t expect heads to turn as I pass by. Equally, I don’t expect any additional consideration to be given just because of the greyness of my hair or the number of wrinkles on my face. However, I would like to think that if I had problems with mobility or memory that I would be shown consideration just as I showed consideration to my parents, to anyone who was struggling. Is there a case of reaching pay-back time when the previous carer is in need of being made to feel cared for, or is this not always the way? Sadly, in many cases I don’t feel that it is. My wish for invisibility has been granted in ways that I didn’t actually include in my wishes! I also have to accept that my invisibility may have nothing to do with me age, rather that it is felt that any contributions of mine are not worth being taken on board, even if I was wrinkle and grey hair free!
WHO ARE THE INVISIBLE ONES?
There will always be those who will elbow their way to the forefront of any situation making their face seen, their voice heard, their thoughts taken into account. Those who make the pages of social media, the tabloid press and certain television programmes. Those who feel that it is their God-given right to be at that forefront no matter what their understanding or their actual qualifications, to back up the spreading of those thoughts of theirs. You know the kind of people that I mean, those ‘experts’.
Then there are those whose voice goes unheard, whose opinion isn’t taken on board even when backed by a wealth of understanding and experience. There are the invisible ones who do not seem to register with many. The homeless who attempt to shelter in doorways. We judge them without knowing what led them to be how and where they are. They receive either a disdainful look, or are blanked out as if they and their problems, their fight to survive isn’t happening in the towns and cities throughout the world. A mass of invisible people, cared for, cared about by few of us.
Those who may look different due to life-long deformity, or deformity caused by illness or injury, those who simply look different from the accepted concept of the norm? I recall being shown a film at school around sixty years ago, showing a leprosy hospital and the suffering within its walls. It made a huge impression on me and I am sure that it is one of the many contributory factors that coloured my thinking and my beliefs and led me to work with those who are struggling. My path having led me down the road of special education and therapy rather than physical medicine.
So many react to anyone who may be perceived as being ‘different’ by staring at them – or staring then averting their eyes. I wonder if this is in order to prevent hurt for the viewed – or could it be to avoid the embarrassment of the viewer by application of that cloak of invisibility to what they have just seen? For far too many, there seems to be a need to apply an imaginary cloak of invisibility to those of a different colour or culture from their own. As if by doing this, they do not feel any negativity about their discrimination.
Then we have the older people, those of us who have that experience, knowledge that we would so love to be given the opportunity to share. I remember seeing a programme on television in which a play group actually met in a residential home for the elderly. How wonderful to see the smiling faces of older people being able to sing with the little ones, to share a book with them, to listen to them with patience as they had nowhere else to go, nothing else to do. They were visible, they were appreciated – both the old and the young. A really positive symbiotic relationship in which nobody was seen as a nuisance as they were past their prime. Just as happens quite naturally in many cultures.
So, on reflection, maybe I should just aim for that velvet cloak rather than a cloak of invisibility. This would mean that I continue to look at the people, the events happening around me square in the face. Accept that my presence, as with the presence of each and every one of us makes a difference – a difference that actually could be a valuable one? Standing up - to no longer be the unheard, the unseen, the unconsidered. Sod the imaginary superpowers and long live the real us....... and those strengths that we already possess but may not recognise or acknowledge. Remember that, as in the lead picture, it isn’t always the one with the greatest perceived power who comes out on top.
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