I have had the interesting feeling lately of vanishing. I first noticed the feeling of being invisible when I became a mother. But I was 31, so I was young enough to still be noticed by others, even when the fact that I had a child with me made their eyes slide past me. More recently, I have noticed I seem to be ceasing to exist outside of my own house.
Two kids and being over 40, and being one of the legion of moms in my age, race, and class in this town and I have become background noise. Like the moon in the picture, hard to see for all the other closer, brighter lights.
It extends beyond just the feeling of invisibility when running errands. I have made changes twice in my life (going back to college, moving to PDX) that have seemingly left everything from before, behind. Whole swaths of my life erased, ended, overwritten by what came next. And then, later, having a second child at a time when everyone else was finished having kids, and it was like turning around to find a formerly crowded street suddenly deserted.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I often seem to do things at times when no one else is doing them, becoming part of something either before it takes off, or as it is ending. And even though I do things when I feel they need to be done, this out of step action has left me wondering where I am now.
In elementary school, I liked people. I wanted to be their friend. I learned about them, emulated them, made overtures, and let them occupy a space in my brain and often my heart. Usually, in fact almost all of the time, this was one sided. I felt a fondness and a connection that the other person often didn’t feel. I would hazard a guess that most of the people in grade school – whose names I still know – would be hard pressed to identify me even by name, and my name is pretty unique. I have been involved with groups of people I think of as friends, who have no idea who I was to them, or why I seem to know them.
How does one exist? By having a family? Or friends? By being in other people’s pictures, or perhaps sharing their own creations with the world? By making something permanent, no matter how small, so that someone decades down the line says, “Hey, this person, she existed, she did THIS.” And if you don’t do that? Do you cease to exist? If there are no pictures, or children, or paintings, or stories – what then? Are you just gone?
This is an awfully angst ridden post, I realize. These thoughts have been fueling my desire to write and create lately, and I have been trying to give them some sort of voice. My desire to write is as much about saying, “I am here, I did THIS,” as it is about sharing the stories my brain comes up with. Painting the flowers in my garden, or taking pictures of the moon while I am waiting at a stoplight is as much about documenting my life as it goes by as it is about making art. Maybe then, when someone finds the box of things I have created, decades down the line, they will say, “Look at what she made. Look at her life.”