Thursday, October 22, 2015

My name is Hilde, and I am Invisible

I know for a fact that I'm invisible. Just to clarify, in my mind, that's not the same as simply feeling invisible. Being invisible must be differentiated from being inconspicuous, indistinct, unassuming, or unnoticeable. Those are earlier degrees of invisibility, a developing state which must be mastered. Once one becomes proficient, being invisible is difficult to undo. Oh, you might dabble in being seen from time to time, but for the most part, you are invisible and you prefer it,

So, just as an alcoholic stands up and confesses, "My name is          and I am an alcoholic", I am now sharing that "I am Hilde and I am invisible."  Again, that's not to say that I don't have mass. I take up space...more than I'd like. It's not that kind of invisibility to which I'm referring.

“I don't need a cloak to become invisible.”  -J.K. Rowling

Some of us grew up during an era when parents, out of desperation said things like "children should be seen and not heard". Although I don't recall being a rambunctious child, my folks were known to use this expression from time to time. Sometimes, I sat under the kitchen table in order to avoid being either seen or heard. It worked. I was rarely noticed and seldom missed. I liked the feeling. Perhaps I was even praised for my behaviour, who knows? It kept me out of trouble.

A quiet kid is a good kid. But a quiet and invisible kid is an even better kid.”
  -Jarod Kintz

During my school career, I strived to be indistinct. I was the kid who sat quietly, off to one side toward the back of the classroom. I recommend this particular seating for people preferring anonymity. Don't sit too close to the front, the back, or the middle of the room. Those are always in the teacher's sights. I learned not to look down or away. This is an essential skill which must be mastered. Teachers always pick up on it if someone is looking down or pretending to be searching for a missing item in their desk. I simply stared straight ahead but not directly at the instructor to be sure I did not make eye contact. I was the one who didn't raise her hand, didn't talk, didn't do much of anything other than what was needed to progress each year while remaining unnoticed.

Unfortunately, I found out that I couldn't always be inconspicuous. The times I was seen were when something went wrong, when I made a mistake, or when I was embarrassed by what I had said or done. Not only that, it unravelled all my previous hard work. It overwhelmed me and I became obsessed with failure. I hated that. I had to work harder at being invisible.

As an adult, I believe I have mastered invisibility. I have also learned that the older you get, the more invisible you become. That is, if  "more invisible" is possible, since grammatically I think that simply "invisible" is the correct ultimate state. It's easy to be invisible when you're a senior.

"I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me." Ralph Ellison

Being invisible is not always a bad thing. In fact, on the days when you are wearing a shirt inside out, when you've dribbled food on yourself, or you have on two different coloured shoes, it's very good. Nobody notices. You're invisible.

So how do I know that I'm almost completely invisible most of the time?

When I speak, I can't really say that I'm heard. Sometimes I speak and others interrupt with what they need to say as if I'm not there. I perceive myself as background noise because that's what invisibility turns you into...a loud hum, a white noise. If I walk along a store aisle people jostle me, bump into me, or ram their carts into my heels. I rarely get the usual Canuk "sorry" anymore because I'm invisible. I go shopping and search for assistance. I don't get any, although that could be because store employees are also invisible. I'll line up in a grocery checkout or wait my turn at a counter and people will step in front of me as if they had been there first. Most recently, I went car shopping and wandered around a showroom climbing in and out of expensive vehicles. I was uninterrupted. See? Invisible.

I came across a Psychology Today article. There's mention of author Akiko Busch who thinks there are benefits to "social invisibility, positioning it as a salve to modern society's tendency toward narcissism",  Busch is further quoted as saying "we live in a time and culture that value display and are largely indifferent to the virtues of passing unnoticed". See? Invisibility is a virtue. I am invisible, therefore I am virtuous. I learned that logic in Philosophy 101 while sitting in a university classroom where everyone was invisible.

Besides the times when I commit a grievous faux pas, there are still some joyous occasions when I'm not completely invisible or when I don't want to be invisible. There's a quote that goes something like "love the people who see you when you're invisible to everyone else." I have a few close people who indeed "see" me and they are definitely loved.

I did not write this blog while playing the world's smallest violin. In fact, after reading the Psychology Today article, I feel quite good about my invisibility. After all, as Busch writes in a New York Times article, "Invisibility doesn't mean sacrificing one's individuality; it only means not having to assert it all the time. In this sense, blending in can reflect a deeper sense of self-confidence than standing out--even if no one else ever knows."

***"How To Be Invisible".New York Times, Feb. 7. 2015, Akiko Busch, 

***"Why Everyone Should Try Being Invisible", Psychology Today. Mark D. White PhD

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