On being seen…

11 08 2018

There’s a lovely foolish Monty Python “military” training film on ‘How Not To Be Seen.’ big_1494432163_image

In the clip, people are hiding, NOT BEING SEEN, and then they are asked to stand up. Once they do so, they are either shot or blown to smithereens.

I feel viewing this in my formative teens MAY have had an effect on my behaviour through life. As a VSP (very short person), I am, in fact, rarely seen unless one is specifically looking for me. I’ve tried to make my personality large enough that people can hear me but I don’t think I’ve gone nearly far enough. And now, if I were to go wild and dye my hair magenta or wear army boots or whatever, people would now gently pat me on the head and arrange for a lengthy stop in a nearby nursing home.

But the fact remains that if I hold myself JUST SO, people don’t seem to see me. It’s been a good thing in terms of not being blown up. But perhaps not so good in other ways.

This occurs to me of late because a few opportunities for being seen have come my way,its-the-most-extraordinary-and-saddest-thing-the-amount-of-talent-out-there-not-being-seen-quote-1 and recently I’ve found myself unwilling to take them. It has to do with being on par with others, being able to be respected, etc, etc. And this hesitation is a terrible burden. It keeps me from sending out my stories for publication, or from finishing projects. “I’m a great initiator!” I cheerfully tell others. “I just hate the fusty end details.”

It’s silly though. All of life is ABOUT the details, about tying things up neatly, about presentation and finishing and just getting the damn things done. But I don’t. And so I reinforce my imposter syndrome and cringe and seethe inwardly when someone actually HAS. And I tell myself things like, “I really don’t care if people like what I’m doing – it’s all for fun anyway.”

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I wasn’t always this way. You don’t have time to dawdle as a nurse. You put your head down and do whatever nasty bit of work has to be done. Mind you, you don’t have a line-up of critical judges’ comments after every task, thank heavens. Especially from the semi-conscious patients…

I recently had a longish chat about art and craft and new experiences and such with two women who know about the importance of getting things right. They both have or had demanding jobs, where precision was fundamental, and both have recently let their artistic spirits loose.

One has returned to school and risks the dreaded being assessed, brave lass.

(PS: I met one of the teachers at her school today and migods she was terrifying. The sort who would draw black lines across what you were doing and smash it through with her fist. I really don’t want to be seen by anyone like that. I feel they may not have my best interests at heart.)

The other has done these sort of academic challenges many times before, as have I. We’re both a little tired of jumping through artificially created hoops and just want to play. But in our heart of hearts, we both also want to be validated as an artist, a creator, a creative mind.

But one can only be validated if one is seen, by people who aren’t your best friends and supporters. The first time I sold something to a complete stranger through an art gallery, I felt it, that little rush of “They really like me!”. (Of course, poor Sally is misquoted, she really said – “You like me, right now, you like me.”)

The same thing happened whenever I felt a skinny envelope holding the cheque for something I’d written and sold. Being valued for something you pulled out of your head is an unbelievable sensation. Being paid for things counts for more than one would think.

But all of that approval is an ephemeral thing – you are only as good as your last success, as it were, and as those slip away into the distance you run the risk of being patronised as a wannabe whatever. I hate that.

But what does one do? Risky risky, no matter where you turn.  And a lot of work, just to set yourself up to fail in front of everyone.

I’m lucky – I have some magnificently supportive friends and family (I have the other kind, too, but I digress). They continue to think of me as a creative force even when I’m not producing things, or getting that project done. I like that.

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And I live for that moment in a creative project where a secret smile starts in the corner of my mouth, when suddenly the task is no longer a hardship, when the joy shines through and I find myself racing to see how it all ends. I’ve been known to laugh out loud when something like that happens. It’s the magic. The twinkly bits.

Those projects I don’t mind showing people. I’ll even force myself to do the little details so I can.

But being seen when you are unsure of your project, when you are just plain putting it out there to be shot at or down or, worse still, patronized… well, that takes great courage. And revealing vulnerabilities you might not have known you had. Scary, that. Bravo to my friends and others who take the risk.

I’m planning to be that sort of gal again, soon.

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On aging, and gradually disappearing

10 11 2016

432af0eea731d117bf5ac6181eea87abI missed my 40th high school reunion this past weekend. I was sorry not to see the gang, the people who had known me BEFORE – people who might have the memories I have lost over the years, the ones I dig for but can’t retrieve, unless I have them in photographs.

I’ve lost the old times, but now, since my MS has led me to retire early, I am seemingly losing form and shape of more recent years. I have people explain things to me as if I didn’t know about them – as if I hadn’t led a life of great activity in the work world, short though it was.

It’s hard when you see grey-haired, frazzled old me to imagine what I used to be – a nurse in a burn unit; a prenatal teacher; a home visiting nurse who saw people in dirt-floored houses; a campaigner for the NDP; an initiator of programs to benefit people’s health; a published writer and advocate; the woman who writes for Amnesty every year; the one who studied health policy amongst the socialists of the LSE and epidemiology amongst a team of students from around the world through the LSHTM. Someone who has travelled the world and read about places, read thousands of books, made hundreds of creative things, met with and engaged with thousands of people, one to one or in small groups, working to effect change for the positive.

Nope, people see me, the gal with the big words, the round tummy, the uncontrollable cartoon-happy-smiling-old-lady-senior-citizen-pink-dress-46821182hair.

I sometimes feel like screaming, “Look, look! It’s ME in here!” But, realistically, this happens to us all. I have a good friend whose life has led him all over Africa and to the depths of New Brunswick. I cherish the well-roundedness this life has given his thoughts and opinions. But to the outside, he is an older man, retired. He and I shuffle together. No one knows what fierce hearts beat or have beaten under our admittedly aging skins.

I have wonderful other friends whose lives would fill a book with adventures, but whose adventures I barely know, taken up as we are with the day to day lives of now. There’s a hesitancy in sharing as life experiences are so different, and what may just be talking may sound like bragging. I’ve had a privileged life; many others haven’t.

One of my sons worked on a project to go with people as they transitioned from home to care. It would tell the caregivers who that person was, how they liked their tea, what their background was, so they wouldn’t have to tell everyone over and over again what they did or were or valued. It would be like a much more informative nametag.

I like that idea, but the question is, who would read it? Would the busy care workers care that I once ran for the NDP nomination? Would they want to know about my poverty needs assessments that guided the development of services in Kingston, ON? Would they care that I change my preference for tea from time to time? Probably not.

And so we age and gradually diminish, becoming creatures of the present.

Unless. Unless we don’t go quietly into that good night. Unless we stick our necks out, risk things, do something new. Thats my plan.

the-powerpuff-girls

My heroes. AKA the Persistently Annoyed

I feel like Rhoda Morgenstern on the old old TV show, who shouted, “New York, this is your last chance!” Time for me to throw my hat in the air, and even if it falls to the ground, pick it up and keep on going.

 

 








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