Who sees you?
Oh, I don’t mean by eyesight. I mean really, really SEES you, the totality of the person you are. Think about it. Is there anyone like that in your life?
Even if you think hard, I’ll bet you won’t be able to come up with that many people who really see you. Oh sure, there are people who know you, people you’re close to and they may know parts of you. But chances are, very few people really SEE the totality of you.
When my close friend of more than 30 years died last year, it was more than the loss of a friend. It was the loss of someone who really saw me, all the different facets of who I am, the good and the bad. It was more than the facts of my life or even the history. Deeper.
I never had to explain myself to her–she already knew. She knew I saw her, too, I realized, when I found a meaningful note I’d sent her tucked away in a special drawer. In that note, I acknowledged something about her feelings that I knew to be true. She never had to explain things to me, either. I saw her. I knew.
Losing a friendship like that leaves a gaping hole. I miss her every day for many reasons, but my heart misses being seen, that unspoken knowledge that someone “gets” me.
People come into our lives at different points along the way and have no idea of where we’ve been. “Don’t judge me by the chapter you walked in on” resonates with me because my life has had many chapters. Each one contributed to making me who I am now, at age 65.
Consider this: who you’ve been, who are are and who you will be in the future are different things and sometimes vastly different.
My life today is very different than the life I had before. I should say “lives” because some chapters seem barely related to the others. Very few people have been along for the whole ride, and yet, to really know me, you have to know where I came from and where I’ve been, not just what’s going on today.
Not too long ago I was lucky enough to reconnect deeply with another friend of 30 years. We’d gone in different directions for a long time, and then were brought back together when something happened that made us see the value of reconnecting at this point in life.
Sitting over iced tea one afternoon, my friend was talking about how Michael and I remarried 26 years after our divorce.
“You know,” she said, “Michael is a miracle in every way. When I think about all those years that you made your own way, with no one to help share the burden, when I think about how hard you always worked and how you did it all alone, I’m so happy that you and Michael have such a wonderful life together as true partners.”
Tears welled up in my eyes and I felt something that could only be termed relief. I was relieved to be with someone who really saw me. SAW me. All of me. And acknowledged something no one ever says aloud, because they never saw it. This is, of course, what close family members do for one another. But my siblings are not in my life and even if they were, I suspect the filter through which they see me might distort the view. After all, I left the hometown when I was 20 and they never left. How could they know me without trying?
This friend had known me from my first months in California, when, unemployed and new to Silicon Valley, I struggled to to make a living. She knew me as I built a career, bought and sold homes alone, had relationships–she saw the big picture over 30 years. And we shared a cultural connection too, so she knew a lot about how I grew up.
Most of the people I met after I’d been established seem to think I was born with an income and a home. They didn’t know me during the hard times. All they see the fruits of my labors and they make assumptions. Those people who met me after Michael and I remarried only see this part of me now–retired and traveling. Lucky, they think.
The fact is that luck had very little to do with it. My life today stands on a foundation that I built with my own hard work, starting with nothing.
The relief I felt at my girlfriend’s acknowledgement of that, I realized, was a signal that there are very few people in my life who really see me, even people I’ve known longer than 30 years. They don’t go any deeper than today’s view. They see the “stuff” and mistake it for me.
I’m happy that my girlfriend and I are spending time together. Because, yes, I see her, too, just as she sees me. I know where she came from, where she’s been and I can see where she’s going.
I hope that provides her with the same haven she provides me.
Here’s the Who on the subject of being seen, from the rock opera, Tommy.