My mom told my soon to be husband, “Be sure to allow her plenty of alone time, plenty of privacy. She needs it,” which mystified me at the time. I had never been aware my parents knew this, or allowed it. I was one of six children! We were seldom “alone”.
We were not just an insular FAMBLY. At most times, we had grandmothers, uncles, stray cousins, and “shirt tail relatives” living under our roof. Most of my childhood consisted of various combinations of adults and children coming and going, eating and working, and going to school under my Mom‘s watchful eye. Everyone contributed and behaved themselves, or they did not stay long. Those who did not pass the test found themselves packing to leave within a short time. Not many failed the test, and we all benefitted by those who remained.
So where in the world did I get noticed for needing “privacy”? I was in the middle of the pack. I was third daughter, with three younger brothers. I was not the prettiest, smartest, or most athletic, but I say with no arrogance whatsoever I was the most treasured. The mystery of my life is why. I got noticed among the crowd and not just by my parents, but by everyone. I did nothing whatsoever to deserve special attention, but I will admit, I loved EVERYONE, and considered myself an observer of good in others. I believe this ability to recognize the good in others is what it was that drew people to me.
But the “need for privacy” was a something I did not know I had enjoyed until my mother said so, and by then I was grown, engaged, and nearly out of the house! Still, when she said it, I felt understood, loved, and accepted. I was aware for the first time what I was leaving behind. I left laughing, and with optimism in my soul.
The years that followed left me breathless with public and private demands that sapped my strength, leaving me empty, despairing, grieving for unspeakable losses, and knowing I had never been visible to the family I produced on my own. I had failed to exist at all, losing myself in the process of attempting to be a good wife and mother.
One day I approached the electric doors at the grocery store, and they failed to open. I knew they were operable, as I had seen others going in before me, and they were opening as expected. BUT THEY DID NOT OPEN FOR ME. I stood before them, and at that moment I knew I had lost myself, and I was not visible even to an electric eye, whose opinion had been universally accepting moments before. It was real. I was transparent. I did not have any substance whatsoever, and it was not my imagination as I had hoped. I will never forget the day I knew I had ceased to exist. As suddenly as they had blocked me, the doors opened, and I stepped in, and relief replaced despair.
My parents had died, my sister was gone, and I was living a life far from my parents’ dreams and my own. I had no one to talk to. I had left all familiar friends and family in places many hours from Arkansas, and I did not matter anymore, to those closest to me, to those I had invested in most heavily, my husband and half grown children.
It was “alone time”. I am not able to describe that day with any kind of clarity, but I can say I was keenly aware something had gone very wrong, and it would be up to me to set things right. This much I knew: Nobody else could see me, and if I were to become visible, I had to change my life.
I took my groceries home, put them away and made supper, acting out my role the same as always. Even my closest child noticed nothing. But I knew, deep inside, that I existed. That I was visible. That God made me, sent me, and valued me, and would take me home someday. I knew I mattered, and I realized it was pointless to be “perfect” anymore. I had given all my goodness away to those who did not even care.
Oddly, this was not the end, but the beginning.