In the aftermath of a ‘rowette’ (smaller than a row, bigger than a tiff!) in a local coffee shop this week, we were enthusiastically greeted by another cafe regular, a quirky young gay woman who had clearly been trying to suss out for some time whether we were on planet lesbian!
On seeing us embrace, she tearfully told us how inspirational it was for a younger member of the LGBTQ community to see an older, same sex couple so happy together, and insisted on giving us her rainbow badge.
It took us aback somewhat. In the small town where we live, no-one has ever directly referred to our sexuality, although we’ve had many a double take, especially when out with all four children! While it was nice to be seen as inspirational, it got us thinking about being seen more generally…
I’ve always thought I’m a pretty open book, that people are invited in to ‘see’ the real me quite easily.
However, this delightful narrative has been sorely challenged lately. It’s become apparent in therapy and in my processing with Lea that I am deeply unaccepting of my own shadow side, that is, the bits of me I find embarrassing, shaming and unpleasant.
We all have a shadow side that we often try to reject. This rejection often leads us to identify and vilify traits in others that we find hard to accept in ourselves. Deep. Unadulterated. Joy.
So, I’m fine with people seeing the bits of me that I find acceptable but these shadow parts… not so much! Given that I spend much of my life seeking and demanding openness in others this was quite shocking!! As was the revelation of all the defences I use to keep people discovering them…shining the spotlight on their stuff to distract from my own, humour (ohhh yes siree!) and the ingenious device of giving people a tiny bit of my stuff to make them think I’m being open when really I have no intention of letting them past my barricades…of steel. Unless, like Lea, they come armed with a bloody tin opener!
And the reason for those barricades? Fear of course. Fear of not being good enough, something Louise Hay identified was the most common ailment shared by almost everyone on the planet. Same problem, different creative ways to keep people out.
Lea likes to think she’s Robinson Crusoe, deftly creating her own island, and ensuring a healthy supply of Piranha filled waters for those seeking to drag her off it (I have the bites to prove it).
And yet…what we all crave is connection, to be loved and accepted as our whole selves, shadow side and all. What Lea and I have learnt over the past year is that this is worth the risk. Worth the time, effort and tears involved in looking at those difficult parts of ourselves, worth sharing them and being truly seen by another human being.
Because therein lies the gold, in allowing others to really see us, that shadow part loses its potency, and it becomes easier for us to reclaim it as part of a whole us.
So if you happen to run into me in a coffee shop cuddling my girlfirend, rest assured ‘being seen’ to be in love with another woman is just a drop in the ‘being seen’ ocean, albeit with the perks of an ‘Inspirational’ mantle 😉
POST SCRIPT: Re-reading this several days later it is not lost on me how, even in a post about being seen I have protected myself from…being seen!!! Reliance on ‘theory’, quoting others, not many specific personal examples…ensure I am safely secreted behind steel once more. Clearly I need to take a leaf out of Sia’s book and risk stepping out from behind my metaphorical fringe…
Being seen, being more visible, letting people in. On the surface, I suspect it appears that Becky’s pretty good at being seen and being visible – she runs an entertainment/performance business in which she’s front, centre and on show. Me? Not so much, give me a screen to hide behind and I’m there!
And yet, in our own ways, we’re both hiding…
Becky uses humour – often toilet-related and almost always self deprecating – usually to show her flaws before anyone can see them first and to demonstrate that she’s not a threat, in any way.
On the other hand, I find it very easy to end up in the very masculine dynamic of sharing suggestions, giving advice, and solving problems and, alongside what I’m told is a quiet inner confidence that others (often women) find disconcerting, often results in me being seen as ‘together’ or ‘sorted’ and taps into others’ sense of “Oh she doesn’t need anything from me. What can I offer her?”.
Very different (unconscious) strategies. Same result. Neither of us are seen, fully.
So why do we hide? Why do any of us hide? Usually for fear of being seen and being found/judged to be not good enough…
If we show our dark, shadow sides, or we show our vulnerabilities, what will people think? If we show the real us – flaws and all – we risk being rejected. We risk not being liked. We risk not being loved.
So what does it mean to be seen?
Over the past year, I’ve seen and been seen. I’ve seen what’s behind the defence mechanisms and the constructs that Becky uses to keep herself seemingly safe and protected. I’ve seen the defence mechanisms and constructs I use to keep myself seemingly safe and protected, and I’m discovering what’s behind them too.
And what is behind them? A person. Whole. Real. Light. Shadow. Perfect. Flawed.
I’ve seen a Becky I didn’t yet know. She is insecure and yet arrogant. She is terrified of intimacy and yet craves it. She is essentially feminine and yet wants to be seen as ‘alpha’. She is exceptionally funny (without the toilet gags) and yet deadly serious. She is deeply emotional and yet sometimes can’t feel a thing.
I’ve seen a more authentic me I didn’t yet know. I’m strong and yet massively vulnerable and can (and do) burst into tears at the drop of a hat when my stuff is triggered which it frequently is as I explore it more deeply. I’m great at nurturing people but utterly shit at receiving nurturing, and yet it’s what I crave the most. I like to know and live with certainty and yet now live with huge amounts of uncertainty and not knowing in my life, which have become conscious over the past year.
We both have work to do to be seen…to stop hiding behind and relying on our defence mechanisms to keep us hidden. To let each other and others see the real, whole us – individually and yes, together too. Why?
Acceptance and love…of who we are and of how we are – as individuals and as a couple. It’s time to stop hiding. It’s time to come out…again!