February 11, 2008

I'm Invisible

I'm Invisible

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the

lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while

I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the

phone?' Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone,or cooking,

or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner,

because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more:

Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a

human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?'

I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the

Disney Channel ?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once

held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that

graduated summa cum laude - but now they had

disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's

going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of

a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous

trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was

sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It

was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my

out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could

find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and

I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling

pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped

package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great

cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I

read her inscription: 'To Charlotte , with admiration for the

greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I wo uld read - no, devour - the

book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing

truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record

of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never

see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the

eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man

who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a

workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and

asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird

into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.'

And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall

into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering

to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you ma ke every day,

even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no

sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to

notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't

see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an

affliction . But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the

cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to

my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see

myself as a great builder. As one of the people

who show up at a job that they will never see

finished, to work on something that their name will ne v er be on. The

writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be

built in our lifetime, because there are so few people willing to

sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son

to tell the friend he's bringing home for

Thanksgiving, 'My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade

pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all

the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself.

I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there

is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it


As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We

cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very

possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at

the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of

invisible women.

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