Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Invisible Woman - Nicole Johnson

If you've read this somewhere else that I have posted it, forgive me, but I have a need to read this every so often as a reminder, why I am doing this, so I have posted it many different places. Thanks for your indulgence. - Janie

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.

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, "Pick me up 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 banana 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 would 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 make 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 never 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 from college 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 there."

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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Endeavor to persevere

It has been a busy month. I'm sure you can tell that by my lack of posts. Sometimes, life gets in the way. This month it has.

I’m a bookkeeper and most companies had their year end about seven weeks ago and now we are frantically trying to get everything ready for the tax accountant. Out of nine companies, I have four ready to go, four not, and one whose year end is June 30. 50%. Not bad. If I was a baseball player I’d be a phenom.

Unfortunately, I am not a baseball player, I am a bookkeeper and this is driving me crazy.

Somewhat predictably, two of the four not ready are the ones who tell me they are most desperate to have their taxes done. I have never figured out how they expect me to do the work when they don’t supply me with any information. Am I supposed to just pull these figures out of my ass? Thin air?

There is an old joke among bookkeepers that goes something like this: A business owner is trying to hire a new bookkeeper and at the end of each interview he asks, “How much is two plus two?” “Four” is the standard answer. But at the end of one interview when he asks the question, the interviewee stands up, closes the door, pulls down the shades, leans across the desk and asks, “How much do you want it to be?” He hires her on the spot.

Now I don’t disagree with the premise that there is more room for creativity in my profession than most people realize, but nearing the middle of tax season without good information from my clients is absolutely making me nuts. I can’t be creative with numbers I don’t even have.

I was hoping by now to see the light at the end of the tunnel. No such luck.

So, I continue to endeavor to persevere. Posts may be few and far between for a couple more months. Things aren’t looking good yet, and I’m hoping the glow down the tunnel from me isn’t an oncoming train.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I must be dreaming

I don’t know about anyone else, but the years between my 18th and 24th birthdays were not my best times. That seemed to be the time in my life that I did most all of the things that, looking back, I am thoroughly ashamed of and sincerely hope no one else knows or remembers. That was most definitely my young and stupid phase.

Interestingly enough, I was brought back to those times last night in my dreams. A dear friend from high school who was party to many of the stupid things I did then was in my dreams last night. In my dream he looked as I imagine he looks today, but I don’t know for sure as I have not seen him since way back then.

He asked for my forgiveness for his behavior in those days and told me that he forgave me for the stupid things I did and said back then. He held me in his arms and we cried together for the wrongs we had done and all the years lost. Years in which we would have been friends still only we have both been too stubborn and prideful to admit how horribly we treated one another and how little either of us deserved it. We hurt each other dreadfully back then.

Many times over the years I have tried to locate him. I want in the worst way to say: “I’m sorry.”

I awoke with such a sense of peace. It was as if the conversation of my dreams really happened. In my mind it has happened about a thousand times.

I don’t suppose we really get second chances in this life. I know I wish I could undo the stupid, unkind and dangerous things from my past, but they are there, lurking, with all their warts, to haunt me. Just the opportunity to say I’m sorry would help me more than I could imagine, but to date I have been denied even that.

So here goes: “Mitchel, wherever you are, I’m sorry. So very sorry for my hurtful actions and the stupid things I said. I would like it very much if we could be friends again. I know you would be proud of me if you could see me today. I have a happy life with a loving husband and the cutest little boy in the world, but I have missed having you as a friend. I look forward to an opportunity to reconnect. Love always, Your Favorite Russian”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Looking out on the world

I have been raving to my friends about the new windows we had installed in our home last month. The bay window I splurged on has been the subject of debate and conjecture.

I finally stained the inside trim and covered the cornice board. Chris hung the blinds and cornice board this week and so the inside work is complete. I am not posting a photo of the outside until the weather warms and I have a chance to paint. Right now it remains a bit strange looking, but after exterior paint it will look like it grew there.

As you can see it is beautiful and really adds to the family room. I love it and I'm so glad I took the advice of my friends. You were right. It is just hard for me to spend that kind of money on myself, especially with my husband in the background saying . . . "You do whatever you want, dear."