Vulnerability’s Voice: See Through Me

As a grubby little tomboy climbing trees, I longed to be seen. vulnerability

“Watch me, Dad!”

He didn’t see me because he wasn’t around. My mom was always there but the “Bad Dad” impact seems to override a lot of the “Good Mom” effect.

Once when he was there, I had run crying to him because my kitten was trapped between two tool benches in the basement. As I remember it, (sorry, Dad, if my recollection is wrong) he rushed with me back downstairs to rescue the trapped cat. When he saw how she had gotten her head caught and was not hurt, he laughed and lifted the poor little thing up and out, showing me how easily I could have done it. I had made a stupid mistake and he teased me about it.

I think I dimmed the light in my heart a little that day, afraid to risk the feeling of exposure and vulnerability. After that, I grew smaller, wanting to be invisible for awhile.

Then came middle school and high school and I cried ‘watch me!’ to all the boys willing to look my way. Exhilarated to be noticed, I clambered up the pedestal which displayed the gold plate inscribed: “talented, pretty and smart !” I got good at balancing up there. Whenever I came crashing down, I climbed back up and fell again many more times.

What Women Want

Have you seen the movie called What Women Want?

I like it because it’s about how people, how women, hide their vulnerability, their true selves. It’s a story that makes us imagine what would happen if we could read each other’s thoughts.

vulnerabilityMel Gibson plays a typical male chauvinist (do we use that description anymore?) who runs an advertising firm. After a strange event involving a hair dryer, nail polish, and lightning, he wakes up able to literally hear women’s thoughts.

One of the minor characters in the film is a mousy office worker who gets stepped on and ignored all day long. She is nondescript and sad but no-one notices. Mel Gibson’s boss character doesn’t even know she exists in his workspace until he hears her thoughts in passing. Her perspective of life in the office surprises him as he recognizes her mute cries for help. She wants to be seen.

Her scenes, including the one where the boss discovers she’s been missing and goes looking for her at home, remind us to be attentive to those overlooked people in our lives. People so unassuming and ordinary that we see right through them, like an old shower curtain just doing its job. This actor made me think of all the quiet characters in my periphery whose thoughts might shock me if I could overhear the stories swirling there. Their vulnerability is hidden by invisibility.

What We All Want

On the other hand, we all know those other characters who stand out and rarely get missed. The confident, beautiful women who seem to have what every woman wants. The men with unquestioned charm and confidence. Picture the models in fashion magazines displayed on every page. Imagine the actors and artists and entrepreneurs interviewed before the camera. The powerful ones unafraid to voice their thoughts, able to stand tall in front of us all.

We put these types on pedestals and tell them how much we love them. We do it because we hope their fairy tale lives are true and we want to believe in them.

Of course, it’s not all castles and happy endings. When their worlds come crashing down, the surprise lasts only a moment because we know these posed and powerful are just like us…fragile, unsteady. Their vulnerability is hidden by the brave part they’ve been playing.

What I want

I want you to think I’m smart, talented, and pretty. But I also want you to see through my masks and tell me you really see me and love me.

What’s funny is how we do a disservice to one another by refusing to see through the masks both types wear: the hidden characters and the pedestal people. Vulnerability is scary.vulnerability

I am always worried about what they will think of me. How can I imagine that they are not more focused on what I will think of them? Crazy.

Every once in a while, I glimpse a freedom in which I am completely vulnerable and unselfconscious. Sometimes when I walk my dogs in the neighborhood or meet friends at a restaurant, I forget to care how my hair looks or what my clothes say. Other times, I don’t worry about saying something dumb or being less than special. In those moments, I am neither magnificent nor unremarkable. I am alive and loved in the world.

So Ordinary

I still want to be seen.

As a not-so-young-anymore person, I do not want to get lost in the crowd.  Yet I also sense there’s a peculiar freedom that comes with being ordinary. Have you felt it?

Aging teaches lots of lessons about being ordinary. As I have gotten older, I realize I can hop down off of all my pedestals. I can stop posing to be noticed.

On the other hand, I can step out of the crowd wearing some crazy outfit and wave wildly to my family and friends. I am becoming free to be exactly me!

See Through Me

I wrote this song, See Through Me, because I can relate to being in both positions of vulnerability: the invisible girl and the pedestal girl.

When others see through me as just another face in the crowd, I trust those who love me to notice everything about me.

When I’m feeling proud and tall, I trust those who love me to see through all of my posturing and love me for who I truly am.

When I do fall, I know they’ll gently lift me up again.

When I say, “watch me,” they do!

See Through Me

Look at me, I’m oh so ordinary

Just a face to lose in the crowd

Can you see me clearly unremarkable

Like the shadow of a passing cloud

      I’m paper thin, light as a feather

See through me

 

On this pedestal I look so steady

See my skin, the finest porcelain

Should you dare to shine a light my way

See the shadow of the shape I’m in

      So paper thin, fragile as glass

See through me

 

Another song I sing related to this idea is Closer to Free, also found in my new 5-song EP, Closer to Free.

12 thoughts on “Vulnerability’s Voice: See Through Me”

  1. Christine, thank you for sharing so much of yourself in your writing… Both in story and song ! I have been touched by your music since your first CD came out, and still enjoy it as I write this note ! My daughter and I still sing along with you as we spend time together and love the poignancy of your lyrics ! Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us…

  2. PS… I think I used the word poignant about your music! I looked up the meaning and it made me think of tragedy instead of heartfelt and moving . Anyway, thank you, again, for allowing us into your life in a beautiful way ! I look forward to many more years of following you on this journey through life !

  3. Christine, motivated by your post, I looked on Amazon and was pleased to find that “Closer to Free” is available in its entirety on Amazon Prime Music, so I went through it twice just now. I love the lyrics of “See Through Me” (side note: and I love the melody of “Butterflies Inside,” which has so many echoes of past Out of the Grey songs — I would be interested to read a future post on how you blended musical elements of past songs to construct a greater whole in this song).

    You mentioned that you want others to see you as “smart, talented, and pretty,” and I can really relate to that. My wife and I have been married 22 years now, and as we approach our 50s, we’re uneasily making peace with growing old together and seeing wrinkles and gray hairs on each other. But the “talented” and “smart” parts of my identity are harder to let go. We’re at the age now when our generation’s parents are in their late 70s and early 80s, many suffering memory loss and Alzheimer’s. Since intelligence is so core to my identity, I often wonder whether others (including my wife) would love me as much if I were to lose that. “See Through Me” speaks to me about being free to be “ordinary,” but in the back of my mind I do question how much of my relationships is conditional — though I am thankful that God’s love is truly unconditional.

    It’s interesting — even as you write a song about being “ordinary,” your talent as a musician and a writer shines through as “extra”ordinary! Thank you for sharing those talents so openly!

    • Nigel, thanks for checking out the music! Yes, I got some raised eyebrows from Scott and Julian about the abrupt key change in “Butterflies Inside” but it’s definitely an OOTG throwback sound. Thanks for taking the time to tell me your story and how you resonate with the message. Blessings to all your family on the wonderful journey ahead!

  4. As a not-so-young-anymore person, I’ve felt it too. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling. (But mostly sweet.) A recent, unexpected discovery is that I don’t have to strive so hard to be “lovable.” This summer my adult children have given me effectionate hugs at times when I’m my grubbiest… sweaty and muddy from an intense work day, or with Crazy Hair from going to bed with a wet head. 😊 It’s sad, but it’s taken me 52 years to relax a little. You have a wonderful way with words, describing my “battle of the mind” so well. Thanks.

  5. Hi Christine,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts. I can relate to the first part of your story. For the first 40 years of my life, I wanted to be invisible. In fact, I actually thought I could be invisible. Sounds strange, I know. I think I convinced myself that I could actually make myself invisible. I so desperately didn’t want to be seen … at all … by anyone … ever. I never felt more powerful and invisible than when I would go for my nightly runs. It was dark and most people were in for the night (I’d go between 10-11 pm). I actually believed I was invisible because I could run for miles and no one paid me any attention. Seemingly, no one noticed me. It was my favorite time of day. It was the only time I had where I felt safe and strong. I had my “mask” that I wore during the day to get me through work or other life activities so I could pretend I was a normal person. I won’t go into detail because my post would be way too long. Long story short, it wasn’t until I got married at age 43 that I slowly began to want to be seen by someone, just one person, but it was a start. I’m in my 50’s now, and I’m starting to actually feel like a normal person. I don’t want to be seen as extraordinary (that would feel like over-exposure), but I don’t feel the need to be invisible anymore. Well, only rarely do I wish I still had my super power to make myself invisible. 🙂 I’m trying to enjoy this newly found “freedom that comes with being ordinary.”

    Thanks again for sharing yourself with us.

    • Karen, Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing that. I’m glad we can both experience the joys of being seen AND being ordinary!

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