When I was 4 I almost drowned. My foot slipped on a mossy rock that was on the bottom of the lake where I was wading and I slid just under the water. I have the clearest memory of looking up and seeing my dad and uncle standing in front of me talking to each other while I floundered. I panicked. I couldn’t get my feet under me to stand back up. In my mind I was making a commotion – waving my arms and kicking my feet – but from their lack of response I knew they couldn’t see me. As my chest tightened, I tried harder to get their attention, to get one of them to just reach down and pull me out. 

Obviously, since I’m writing this, eventually my uncle noticed and pulled me to my feet. I’ve still never shaken that feeling of not being seen when I needed it the most.

I take you on this walk down Traumatic Events of My Young Life Lane because I think it’s relevant to something I’ve been bothered by. For several years now, I’ve read essays by women of a certain age where they would complain about how at some point around forty they had become invisible to society. I thought they were talking about the ground covered in Amy Schumer’s Last Fuckable Dayskit – which is amazing if you haven’t seen it. If you haven’t, it’s a gathering of actresses who have been deemed “unfuckable” because of their age and so their careers are essentially over. That’s what I assumed these other writers were talking about, you know how with age you’re not as attractive and younger people stop talking to you and paying attention to you. 

And that sucks, as far as it goes. But, I now see my belief that was it was naïve and stupid. 

At this point, I’m pretty sensitive to what’s happening emotionally within my circle of women friends, and, since we’re sharers, I’m hearing what’s going on in my extended circle of women friends. And it’s not good friends. It. Is. Not. Good.

There’s evidence like the brilliant blog post To The Middle Season Mamma In Maymy friend S. forwarded to me. I read it and I was shook(do the kids still say that? Who cares? It fits). The author captured that feeling of vanishing that I’ve heard echo through my circle of women. Also, that Middle Season Mamma is worn the fuck down.  

Then, during the days leading up to Mother’s Day my social media feeds were full of shout outs to everyone who doesn’t fit in the Hallmark ideal of the Day. I followed the celebration of women without moms, women who want to be moms but can’t, women who’ve lost children, women who have lousy relationships with their mothers – I love the attention being paid to these women. I noticed that the common refrain in the posts was the line: I see you

I see you.

The power in those words is overwhelming. 

Many of the women in my circles are suffering through an excruciating time in life. Issues with health, kids, career, marriages, family – it’s like the dam broke and there’s a cascade of shit swamping us out. And this invisibility is making it worse. The invisibility where no one can see the real you – your path, your struggle, your story – because we’re so conditioned to be pleasing and perfect. Our story gets stuck in our throat because we can’t show that we’re less than and we slowly fade into the background as we try to keep everyone else on track. 

We’re stuck in perfectionism and it is breaking us. We’re getting brittle and we are breaking. 

You know what we need? We need to know we are not alone. We need to know that others know our story because they’ve lived it. They made it through. We need to feel seen. 

We need an I See You Unit. See what I did there? ICU/I See You? Whatever, you know you love it. 

Lacking the ability to turn Brene Brown quotes into a kind of chemo for the soul and administer that in a constant drip to whoever needs it, we can do the next best thing – when we see our Sisters we can really see them. We are thirsty for that connection. I attend a quarterly women’s lecture series and the sisterhood during the two hours of that event is remarkable. Women are glowing when they leave. 

So, as your I See You Nurse, what’s my treatment for feeling invisible?

I see you finding yourself suddenly single, either through choice or death, and bravely taking each step forward.

I see you with your empty nest and commitment to reinvent yourself, that shit is scary.

I see you after years being miserable in your career finally making the pivot to something that brings you joy, that takes some guts.

I see you tackling health issues head on and relentlessly advocating for yourself in a medical system that dismisses women’s health issues – you are making the way easier for others and that’s a gift.

I see you stepping back from your community obligations because it’s too much and then suffering through the guilt piled on from people you thought of as friends, you’re making the right decision for you, stay with it.

I see you dealing with your decades of repressed emotions, going to therapy and doing the work, keep fucking going.

I see you renegotiating your relationships and putting yourself first, and I see how freaking hard it is to be consistent in those new boundaries, it’s worth the pain.

I see you who didn’t have enough joy in your life so you’re trying new things to see what you love, keep experimenting, you’ll find it and show the way for others. 

I see you, frustrated and so, so tired, sliding just under the water and scared that this is the time that no one will be there to reach down and help you to your feet. 

I see you.