To see and be seen

Some coincidences are what my friend Margot calls “Godincidences.” Maybe that’s one of the easiest ways for God to peek around the corners of our lives, to work a synchronicity that makes us grin or punctures our hearts or just eases the way.

Last night — after a full day of talking about advance directives and scheduling on-calls and peeing in a cup — I visited my friend Laurie, who is working as a chaplain. I had told her about the contrast of having difficulty meeting folks, but no trouble praying with anyone. She mused, “I wonder what’s in between those two things … meeting someone is hard, but praying with them is easy.”

I let an answer blurt out. (Sometimes those are the right ones.) “I have to be seen.”

That I could unpack for a long time, friends. But I got a full night’s sleep last night (yay!), so I don’t have a lot of writing time this morning. Let me just say that from childhood on, it felt — and was, in some ways — risky to be seen, to be noticed. So I disappeared, as much and for as long as possible, clear into my adulthood. I had to be really passionate about something to be willing to be noticed doing it.

My disappearing act persisted into the years of coming out, which of course made coming out — and meeting new friends and finding queer community — harder than it needed to be. My beloved M has called me on this several times, helpfully, reminding me I don’t have to disappear or hide anymore.

But what saves your life as a child can be hard to let go of.

Just before bed last night, I was catching up on the day’s email and in it was the UCC daily devotional, titled “See and Speak.” Yep. Right on. A Godincidence. Part of it said:

I have a friend who clearly has been taught another way. She always says what she sees.  I have never met her without her acknowledging something about me. “You look good in purple.”  “You seem tired.”  “Your walk has more bounce in it today. What’s up?”  Clearly she has trained herself to see. She has trained herself not to be blind to the enormous appreciation deficit disorder of our days.

Knowing how Jesus loved to open eyes, I am thinking of imitating my friend. I am thinking of saying out loud what I see. I am going to notice what I think I have already seen, which is what some insist is the goal of all travel.  I am going to avoid what Anne Lamott calls the “malignant Advent Calendar” in which we see a door but refuse to open it.  She claims to have been taught an agreement as a child.  She would not see what she did see.  She would not open doors.  Secrets were behind them.  As an adult, she learned to open doors and not only to see what she saw but also to speak it, out loud.

Of course, seeing is not so much my problem. (Well, somewhat. I can be oblivious.) It’s letting someone see you seeing them, because then a connection is made, and you are vulnerable. (Right. Exactly what you need to have happen, to make a friend, or a prayer partner, or ….)

Well. I want to learn better, and be better, at seeing, and being seen. I have a new friend in the CPE peer group who is quite good at this. She not only looks at every person we pass, she greets them and often inquires in some gentle way. I am going to school on her, and today I will tell her so.

Today we put our white coats on. As I put mine on, I will give myself permission to see, and be seen. Open eyes, open heart, open hands. May it be so.

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2 Responses to To see and be seen

  1. Shugie says:

    (We) don’t have to disappear or hide anymore…..A Godincidence for me now.
    Again, thank you Tam!

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