I was standing alone in the corner of the gym watching my 11-year-old daughter and her teammates play volleyball. The small gym of the opposing team didn’t have bleachers, just chairs lining both sides of the court filled with parents, siblings, and grandparents.
My daughter and her teammates were playing hard and enjoying themselves. Their bright eyes and flushed, focused faces took me back to my high school volleyball team. I loved the high I experienced during intense competition. It was a combination of adrenaline; the sense of empowerment and strength; and the beauty, mutuality, and art of functioning as a team.
A fast overhand serve flew over the net and my daughter got under it for a great pass. Parents, grandparents, and little brothers cheered, “Great job Gabriela!” Another teammate made five great overhand serves in a row and shouts of praise and affirmation rang out for her too.
This is so good for them! I thought. It’s so good for these girls to feel strong, to gain confidence, to have all of these people here watching them and cheering them on. My internal dialogue then shifted as though I was speaking directly to the girls. Enjoy this moment girls. Soak it all in. Because when you’re a 39-year-old mom, you’re going to feel invisible.
My eyes welled up as the impact of the word “invisible” hit something raw inside of me.
In my mind I saw a middle-aged woman who had made a slow and subtle mistake. In the process of loving and giving of herself to her family, she’d gone too far. She’d given up herself. She existed to support the lives of her children and husband, to help them thrive and be successful. She was a hollow, lonely, invisible woman.
It was a dark moment. One that I knew I needed to spend time unpacking. I knew in my head that it wasn’t true, or that it didn’t have to be true. But it felt true. In that moment, in that season, I felt invisible.
(I plan to write more on the theme of “being seen,” including happier stories than this one. Part of me wondered if I should apologize for this story being kind of a downer, but I decided not to. I think it’s important to be honest, real and balanced by sharing our dark experiences as well as those that are full of grace and light. Both are helpful and needed.)