Gratitude Sunday: Invisible Woman

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “I first noticed I was missing on Thursday.”
Jeanne Ray in Calling Invisible Women

Sunday Haiku
Ghostly river mist
drifts through valley fields, haunting
naked fog-filled trees.

Sunday Musings

We all know one whether we realize it or not. Sometimes we are one.

We might be hard to identify because we are not easy to see. Once you have experienced it you never forget it. It happens in public, in institutions like churches and universities and senior homes and even at work, it happens inside our own homes within our own families.

I’m talking about being invisible. I am extremely familiar with being invisible. I think of it as my superpower. I’m sure this must happen to men as well, especially older men, but I don’t know the life of men or being a man. I know about being an invisible woman.

I saw it happen to my mother. Her birthday was November 22 and every so many years it fell on Thanksgiving. For several years I lived more than two hours drive from her, and being a person who has lived in poverty no matter how hard I strive, that distance prohibited traveling to see her even when gas was less expensive. Those were the days before cell phones when calling long distance was charged by the minute.

A hand-made card cost me nothing but time, a piece of paper, and some colored pencil lead, but if I was out of stamps there was no card sent, especially when scrounging change only produced 23 cents to put in the gas tank to get to the post office and no money left with which to buy stamps. I am resourceful and had a source for free envelopes from the local five and dime, that always had left over envelopes from the greeting card display. It was a small town, they knew me, and they put the envelopes in a certain spot in a bottom drawer under the card display area, so I could pick them up whenever I was in the store. The joys of a small town. I could never pull off the free stamps thing, though I often asked. The USPS is pretty consistent with their rules.

In Mom’s later years, after I moved back closer to her, she admitted to many years when none of her four children called or sent a card or visited, even when they lived much closer and had a much higher income than I did. Yet if it was Thanksgiving we would descend on her house and expect Thanksgiving to happen, birthday or not. Granted we’d all bring something, but we all know hosting a celebration of any kind is work, even if joyful work. Because it was Thanksgiving, we’d forget to say Happy Birthday.

I saw her invisibility when she took me clothes shopping. The clerks and cashiers would talk to me, as if she was not standing right there beside me. She was the one wielding the cash or the card, and I often asked the clerks to speak to her as well as me. How could you not include all the bodies in front of you when having a conversation?

Having seen it happen to her, I was prepared. Or so I thought. Now it’s happening to me, I realize how unprepared I really am. I’m working on that.

To prepare myself I have spent many years observing people, especially older women. I watch for them. I see them out walking, at the store, the library, the aquatic center, the post office, or the farmers market. They walk with halting steps, not as able or sure-footed as they used to be. They walk with their heads down, struggling with whatever bags or baggage they are dragging along with them. I say hello. Out loud. I make them look at me. I look them in the eye and let them know I see them. I know you are here.

In my own home, the hubster often enters a room he thinks I am in and begins talking to me without checking to see if I’m there. I’ve stopped responding from the other room. If he isn’t paying attention to where I am, he gets to repeat himself when I come back into the room he thinks I’m in. It’s a way to amuse myself.

I swim three nights a week. I spend a lot of time stretching and exercising in the water before I actually swim. I take up a certain amount of space, but not too much. Since it’s a shared public pool, I’m flexible and sometimes I move to a different wall or section and adapt my routine because of other fitness activities in the pool. Yet for all my being conscientious about where others are, I have many times been run into, swum into, walked into, and bumped against by people with their eyes wide open who then said, “I didn’t see you.” Well, I saw you, and I moved for you, and you still ran into me? Hwell, then.

In the pool not much physical damage occurs, though I have been kicked hard enough to bruise. Stores where shopping carts are provided are a different story. It’s like a person grabs a shopping cart and they become the only person in the world. No one else exists because I’m shopping. I can drive my cart as I like and leave it in the middle of the aisle. We should all agree to follow general road driving laws while in the aisles of store for the sake of peace in the community and the visibility of old women.

Both adults and children have rammed shopping carts into my back and the backs of my legs and my Achilles heel because they didn’t “see” me. Again, I was driving defensively, I saw you, I tried to move away, and you still negligently managed to connect with my body. Yes, I have eyes in the back of my head when I’m in the store. Any store. I have to have. I’m invisible.

Children I might give a pass and blame it on unmindful parenting. I’d much rather hear, “Watch out for the nice lady”, or “Watch out for the old lady”, or even “Watch out for the fat lady”, and know the adult is parenting, than have a wayward child ram their inattentive body into me. I realize not everybody is born with the empathy or sympathy gene, but attention can be taught even if you can’t teach children or adults to think beyond themselves.

Then there have been two incidents in the last year where my invisibility failed me. A toddler in the store walked purposefully up to me, wrapped her arms around my legs, looked up adoringly into my eyes and said, “I love you.” The mother apologized profusely for the physical interaction, saying she thought I looked a bit like the child’s grandmother. I told the little girl I loved her too, thanked the mom for quality parenting (we all need to hear when we get parenting right), and walked away with tears in my eyes, grateful for being seen. I’ll take real love anywhere I can get it, even from strangers.

The second incident was in the pool. I do some stretches on the steps that go into the pool and am hyper-aware when I do as other people need to enter and exit the pool using the steps. I use the pool during lesson time for children ages six months to six years, though the kids are divided into peer-age classes. I was doing my step stretches and a five-year-old boy swam straight to me, looking me in the eye the whole time. I asked if he wanted to use the steps to get out. He shook his head, and patted my arm, and shyly asked to give me a hug. I knew his mom was in the baby class with his little sister so I looked over at her and she nodded her head. We live in a time when you no longer feel free to touch other people’s children, even with love. He gave me a quick hug, patted my arms and my hip that was out of the water at the time and went back to his lesson. I have no idea what need I filled for him at the time, but he filled my heart with a big burst of little boy love.

I try to keep my sense of humor about me when someone rams a cart into me. It isn’t productive to be angry, but getting their attention with a loud laugh or a funny comment sometimes creates an awakening of sorts. It seems peculiar to me, being a large person, that people do not see me. I think it’s that they do see me but don’t want to acknowledge me because I’m large or because I have a Resting Bitch Face or some other issue inside themselves. Unfortunately some people will go so far as to run into my body to prove to me how invisible I am. Some people think because you are fat it doesn’t hurt to be run into, as if your fat (filled with blood vessels and nerve endings) is some kind of divine cushion against pain.

I can deal with a few bumps and bruises. My favorite exclamation when contact is made is, “Ouch! Here I am! It’s so good to see you again!” Saying this in a jovial voice makes them acknowledge me and confuses the heck out of most people, because they have to engage the thinking process instead of the shopping process. First they think: do I know her? (Of course not, I’m messing with you, and I smile). Then they think: where do I know her from? (Nowhere, because in trying to get you to think beyond yourself, I need to rattle your cage, and I continue to smile). And then they are defensive, saying: I didn’t see you. (well, I saw you, so you are either blind, inattentive, or inconsiderate, but I don’t say that just like I haven’t said the other things, and I keep on smiling, because none of those things are worth wasting energy on). After which they realize they don’t really know me and I am indeed messing with them as I stand there still smiling. It’s the price they pay. Lesson learned or not, they must interact with me and look me in the eye and see me after they violate my body.

I have to admit I’m a pretty scary person after all. I’m large. I have long wild hair, wilder now it’s getting whiter. Everything else about me is droopy and my face grimaces when it smiles. And I like to smile and say hello to strangers and acquaintances alike. I’m invisible until I smile and say hello to you. You never know when a momentary smile or a moment of being seen will make a person’s day even if it’s only from an invisible, wild haired, fat woman.

Color Watch colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Still life with bright green grass with muted yellow and brown, and silky beige mushrooms. I love the creamy white antler-ish branchiness of lichens and the starry green leaf and stem shapes of mosses. Possibly a smooth leaved green holly bush profusely berried? True stickery holly with red berries and shiny green leaves, ’tis the season.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Finished season 5 of Ray Donovan (2018, rated TV – MA), with Liev Schreiber. This family is so dysfunctional they can’t resist messing things up for each other in addition to getting into trouble on their own. * Bugs Bunny’s Howl-oween Special (1978, not rated), classic Halloween Looney Tunes Cartoons with my faves Bugs Bunny (now there’s a smart aleck if there ever was one) and Witch Hazel, my all time favorite cartoon character, with vampires, ghosts, and other Halloween tricks, and includes a bonus treat, a 1945 cartoon with Bugs and a mad scientist and a Big Hairy Orange Monster. * Winner of the season available on Netflix, The Christmas Chronicles (2018, rated PG). A teen and his tween-aged sister attempt to capture Santa on film. When they do, it results in a broken sleigh, runaway reindeer, a car chase with police cars, and rock and roll in a jail cell. Include the sexiest Santa ever in the form of Kurt Russell and you have an instant seasonal hit. I laughed so hard, and the humor was very welcome. Recommended!

Currently Reading
Dietland (2015, fiction) by Sarai Walker. Plum works for a fashion magazine but they won’t give her work space in the office. She plans stomach surgery after years of failing to lose weight. Then she is drawn into a mysterious, subversive, guerilla beauty group and everything goes off kilter. The author is creative with her quirky plot as Plum learns to love the person she is. I’m looking forward to see how the story ends. * With a nod to Thanksgiving, a bit of serendipity, and perhaps a bit of grace (lord knows I am in need of grace), I lucked upon Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (2012, spirituality). This book is not pithy nor particularly religious; it is random and chaotic, like life. Lamott simply reminds us we are more than ourselves and no matter who we pray to, prayer counts.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Not being a silent sufferer. I bitch and moan and groan and complain and howl and rant every step of the way about how freeking hard this crazy life is for some of us. At least I do that part of the journey well.
  • Hope. Hoping the fuss I make about suffering lets someone else know they are not alone. Hoping the fuss I make makes a difference by shining a light on the suffering, that it does exist.
  • Knowing to pray for strength to deal with it all, because praying for it to be easy is futile.
  • The son, abandoning his father and I for Thanksgiving. I was not up to making all the fixings, his dad doesn’t like turkey anyway, and we had decided on pizza to go with the parade and football. His communication technique lacked finesse as he didn’t say anything about his plans the day before, but I guessed when he got up and took a shower he was invited to share a traditional Thanksgiving feast with a group of friends and their parents who have treated him like family for many years. I am grateful, because the more people who love him the better his life will be. I’d rather he be with people he loves than hiding in his room playing video games.
  • Having thirteen dollars worth of coupons and gift cards for the fifteen dollar pizza.
  • Leftover pizza.
  • Turning on my string of Christmas lights in the window for a little cheerfulness in the dark house. The easy way to do it is leave them up all year and have them connected to a remote arm’s length away. Instant cheer.
  • Getting the Christmas table cloth on the table. I swear either the tablecloth or the table changes shape from year to year as each year I don’t remember it fitting that way before.
  • Having the gods, goddesses, and wits about me when the stove-top burner caught on fire. The right sized lid was just inside the cupboard and immediately covered the burner. Hubster came running from the other room disturbed by seeing “ten inch flames” from the next room. (They weren’t). Took several minutes of waiting and a whole bunch of adrenaline for the fire to go out. Hubster wanted to throw water on it and I said Not! Hubster later admitted to spilling some grease he’d forgotten to clean. Appropriate wifely-type guilt applied.
  • Having a battery on hand to replace the smoke alarm battery when it didn’t go off in the smoke.
  • A handful of sweet potatoes, some onions, and a couple fat apples from the winter farmers market.
  • A bag of sweet mandarin oranges.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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5 Responses to Gratitude Sunday: Invisible Woman

  1. piratesorka says:

    I must have a bit of luck since I am seldom run into by carts but then I tend to be very wary and look before I leap n’roll so to speak. Sounds like you had a very sensible Thanksgiving. I remember some of your pre-Thanksgiving misgivings… so I am glad that got resolved. Good thing for your son too, snagging his invite and leaving his ole Ma and Pa in the Pizza place. As for me I chose to stay home and it was a very very peaceful day for me and not a crumb of turkey nor stuffing in sight!. However I made up for the lack of turkey when I was at a friends house decorating cookies. They gave me this simple lunch of a half turkey sandwich made of all white meat, delicious bread ( which always surprises me since am not much of a bread eater) Montery Jack cheese and cranberry sauce! YUM… Growing up the next day sandwich was turkey meat, wonder bread, mayo and salt and peopper. That was it. All those years I missed having cranberry in my sandwich. Oh the crime of it all!. No one in my family inquired what I was going to do… and even after I talked to my sis-in-law she was not forthcoming about what she and my bro were going to do. Meh. tis what it is.


    • sassy kas says:

      It is interesting isn’t it, how we don’t even ask. I didn’t invite my brother who I know sits home alone because with an hour’s drive over and an hour’s drive home in the dark, it’s more stressful than fun. But when nobody in your family calls to see what you are doing even if there is no invite, that just feels weird, especially when you know at least three of the families are cooking and hosting an event. And like you say we might be perfectly happy at home with our pizza and parade, but we’d love to be asked. So we are not invisible.


  2. Tee says:

    You haven’t posted in a while, I hope all is well.


    • sassy kas says:

      Thanks for your comment! Starting to think I was just writing into the ether! Have experienced a computer death and new purchase. Back on track as soon as I have increased my learning curve. Watch for me in the new year.


      • Tee says:

        I’m glad to hear your absence is just technology related and nothing more serious. I’ve been following along for a few (4? 5?) years now. I just don’t comment much. I might have to change that. I do enjoy your thoughts on life and your photos. See you next year!


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