Monday, March 9, 2009

Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman

By Nicole Johnson

It started to happen gradually. One day I was walking my

son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were

about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to

him, "Who is that with you, young fella?" "Nobody," he

shrugged. "Nobody?" The crossing guard and I laughed. My

son is only 5, but as we crossed the street I thought, "Oh

my goodness, nobody?"

I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would

say something to my family - like "Turn the TV down,

please" - and nothing would happen. Nobody would get up, or

even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a

minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, "Would

someone turn the TV down?" Nothing.

Just the other night my husband and I were out at a party.

We'd been there for about three hours and I was ready to

leave. I noticed he was talking to a friend from work. So

I walked over, and when there was a break in the

conversation, I whispered, "I'm ready to go when you are."

He just kept right on talking.

That's when I started to put all the pieces together. I

don't think he can see me. I don't think anyone can see me.

I'm invisible.

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of

response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room

while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"

Obviously not! No one can see if I'm on the phone, or

cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my

head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you

fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days

I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a

clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to

answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to

order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held

books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that

graduated summa cum laude -but now they had disappeared

into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.

She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating

the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten

back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on

about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there,

looking around at the others all put together so well. It

was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I

looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only

thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was

pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could

actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty

pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully

wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't

exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her

inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the

greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And

I would discover what would become for me, four

life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

* No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we

have no record of their names.

* These builders gave their whole lives for a work they

would never see finished.

* They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

* The passion of their building was fueled by their

faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came

to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he

saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam.

He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so

much time carving that bird into a beam that will be

covered by the roof? No one will ever see it."

And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into

place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I

see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every

day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness

you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've

baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You

are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right

now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it

is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure

for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the

antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great

builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that

they will never see finished, to work on something that

their name will never be on. The writer of the book went

so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in

our lifetime because there are so few people willing to

sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell

the friend he's bringing home from college for

Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes

homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three

hours and presses all the linens for the table." That

would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I

just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is

anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna

love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be

seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very

possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we

have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the

world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

No comments: