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Reflections: The Ire of Invisibility…

16/04/2011

“Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” Ralph Ellison

Reflections: The Ire of Invisibility… the elderly

There were times, as a child, when I imagined how thrilling it would be to have the magical power to just vanish into thin air and, hovering somewhere between heaven and earth, change things. Things like poverty and inequality, oppression and repression, the treatment of people without a voice and the elderly, and the abuse of power by those for whom authority is not a responsibility but a show of their ability to subvert the law. Strong words, you might say, but that is not my intention… this is more a reflection on the ways many become invisible either because of circumstances, social dislocation, or through the natural progression of life… and the ire invisibility  produces.

Hibernation or the choice to be invisible for a while can be exhilarating, if the time is spent gathering strength, and working on meaningful projects of our choosing. However, it can become enervating if our invisibility is not our choice, but the result of our place in society, and the decisions of those who can help us choosing to ignore us. Have you walked into a room full of people and simply vanished because you were not welcome there? Have you observed an elderly person walk into a store and stand at the counter waiting for service and be ignored?

What about when, as they stood there, some cute young thing came in and the person behind the counter came to life? Or what about those who are invisible because they are deemed different? The disabled? Outsiders? Foreign? Aging women? As sad as this might seem, it happens daily and it is what brings on the ire that I speak of; the anger of not understanding why so many forget that we, all of us, share a common human trait; the need to be valued, heard, and respected. More below!

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Ralph Ellison

Reflections: The Ire of Invisibility… life and its tornadoes.

Every time I see a homeless person at Grand Central Station or a panhandler on the subway or on the street, I try to imagine what got them there… The few times I’ve had a chance to speak with any of them, their stories were as varied as yours and mine. All have not fallen on hard times because of drugs. All are not able to help themselves get the requisite care…

Some had mental issues, abusive relationships or financial hardships, whilst others had suffered a gamut of life events that included, for several of them, drugs. But does that justify the disdain with which some in our society sometimes treat them? This might not come to you as a surprise, but every time I’ve spoken to a homeless person, they have appreciated the contact; the connection to someone who stopped to say hello.

So, the next time we see an elderly person, a homeless family, a panhandler on the street, let’s take a moment to say hello. Even “How are you today?” would do. A little change or a simple blessing will suffice … and you will see the glint of gratitude, the humanity in their eyes. Our simple act of acknowledgment reminds them that not everyone pretends they are invisible… For once, you and I will spare them from that pernicious tornado they hide within … the ire of invisibility. Thank you!
What are your thoughts? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt invisible? Do share. Thank You! 🙂

PS. I remember reading Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” years ago and how gripping the book was. I’ve never forgotten it either. Today marks the 16th anniversary of his death.

Positive Motivation Tip: Hibernation can be a great gift and a time for reflection, but make sure it is of your own volition, not imposed.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: Photo of Tornado, Elderly lady by Chalmers Butterfield via Wikipedia

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

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40 Comments leave one →
  1. 17/04/2011 12:23 am

    Eliz, what a question for me! *soft smile* Many times in this past year when letters and email were unanswered I felt invisible. It is not a nice feeling. When I was officially told I was “not in the public interest”, I felt as if it was desired I become invisible!

    I have read often that people feel they become invisible as they get older. Not even old, just older. As if people see right through us once we are not twenty-year-old Vogue covers any more.

    Very touching words, Eliz.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 5:17 pm

      Yes… it is true and you pointed out, rightly, that is when we get a bit older. Sadly, there are others that are marginalized and ignored. Saddens me still. TY!

      Like

  2. 17/04/2011 12:29 am

    Love your thoughts, so inspirational. Thank you.

    Like

  3. 17/04/2011 12:42 am

    Great post! A nice reminder not to be oblivious to those around us, no matter what their circumstances.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 5:49 pm

      Exactly Donna! It is easy to forget when we are dealing with our own stuff. But, it is never too late to reconnect, or connect with others. 🙂

      Like

  4. 17/04/2011 1:28 am

    I have felt invisible before and recently, I felt like my mom was almost invisible when me and her went on our trip. I saw a lot of people to shove right past us and stand right in the way and seem oblivious to her wheelchair. It wasn’t the first time I had seen people act like elderly people weren’t really there and it saddens me that anyone could treat others this way.
    Very beautiful and inspirational post!

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 5:51 pm

      TY and it saddens me still too… Human behavior can change with effort. Sadly, some don’t bother to try. 😦

      Like

  5. Jackie Paulson 1966 permalink
    17/04/2011 5:34 am

    I always felt invisible growing up with a family of 7 children. Then off to boarding school, away from family, so i was invisible with all of the students. I do agree with Donna above that it’s a good reminder not to be oblivious to those around us, no matter what their circumstances or ours. Jackie 🙂

    Like

  6. 17/04/2011 9:22 am

    I often sang THE STREETS OF LONDON by Ralph McTell; and in Manhattan I saw baggers, clothed with a black plastic bag … and in INDIA there is a class system; one of the bad levels: to belong to the INVISIBLE … – and daily hundreds try to escape from Africa, trying to reach Europe, mostly: LAMPEDUSA. But they are invisible too …
    +

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 6:03 pm

      All are invisible in some way and then others are made to feel their invisibility starkly… C’est ca! TY!

      Like

  7. 17/04/2011 10:41 am

    If we do walk in the shoes of the homeless, the disabled, the elderly, often we cannot see them. I feel that is ignorance, not in a mean way, but simply unknowing and inability to relate. I have had many experiences with people who dismiss my son’s autism saying awful things that make themselves able to continue on their roads of ignorance. With the elderly, it may be more a self defense mechanism for an inability to face what will bring each of us there someday, and in that way, it is its own ignorance as well. Sad, yes. But while I think we can all use this reminder, I do not believe that anyone who comments here falls in this category. Having read so many rich and varied comments to your posts, I know that those who see you here every day are smart, enlightened and wonderful people. Thanks for, yet again, making me think outside my own little box. 🙂

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 6:05 pm

      You are so kind… and I agree. I don;t know how people decide what and who to ignore but it is the way of the world to do so… truly an act of ignorance because, at the end of the day, we are all the same. TY!

      Like

  8. 17/04/2011 10:46 am

    Wonderful reminder, Eliz. We do marginalize people far too often.

    Like

  9. 17/04/2011 12:02 pm

    The elderly have so much to share, their wisdom is beyond our years! The saddest day I can rememeber, was my first time visiting a friend in a nursing home-so many were so alone-crying out the names of their love ones-and they got no answers to their pleas! Then there were the ones who were happily having conversations with friends and families. Yes, the invisable-lets not forget the lonely and the homeless.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 6:15 pm

      True and makes one dread the future sometimes… At the end of the day, having a few true close friends and family is better than thousands of acquaintances. TY!

      Like

  10. 17/04/2011 12:07 pm

    Sadly so true. I suppose we are all guilty of not seeing what or who we do not want to see and for many reasons. Good reminder for all of us to open our eyes, with respect.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 6:19 pm

      Exactly Patricia! We are, at some point, all are guilty of this… It takes a conscious effort to acknowledge others without judging them by some ridiculous, prejudiced, standard. TY! 🙂

      Like

  11. 17/04/2011 12:08 pm

    A Beautiful youtube-I would like to share.

    A Parent’s Wish

    Like

  12. 17/04/2011 9:22 am

    greetings by lampedusa-immigrants

    Like

  13. 17/04/2011 1:39 pm

    Having worked in long term care for so many years most of this population is invisible. Regardless of the level of care the social interactions we engage in each day is lost to these people. Many have out lived their friends, family and spouses. No one to look them in the eye and truly see them and hear them. Not seeing is ine thing but not being heard is tragic.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 6:29 pm

      True… and that tragedy continues… Perhaps if people stop to think that they will be old someday or that their circumstances could change, they would act differently… TY! 😦

      Like

  14. Stephanie permalink
    17/04/2011 4:16 pm

    Hi! Love your post! and pictures! We often I think, take advantage of the elderly, in many ways. I have noticed, especially in Florida, where we came from, in stores, we are always in such a hurry to get around them, because they are slowing us down! Instead of takeing the time to maybe helping them! Great post!
    Haveing worked in a nursing home(laundry)I have seen so many of the elderly not get mistreated, so to speak, but neglect. it is so sad.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 6:50 pm

      It is all quite sad… I hope and pray that we give more attention to helping each other out. TY! 😉

      Like

  15. Bree permalink
    17/04/2011 4:36 pm

    You touched a nerve that remains an open sore in societies around the world, the marginalization if certain groups of people.
    It makes me sad to observe the disdain and I’ve been the recipient of it too.
    Often those who withold favors or service do so to diminish others but forget they diminish themselves first.
    The list is long and I know for the sake of brevity you focused on the elderly, but we can add racism, overweight people to the mix.
    Sad but true.
    Inspirational piece and thanks for bringing it up.
    B

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 6:58 pm

      Yes… there is so much that falls under this subject and I agree with you. TY for your insights and feedback too. 🙂

      Like

  16. 17/04/2011 4:47 pm

    I do recall reading Ralph Ellison’s book in my early 20s and feeling so ashamed afterward.
    I am by no means perfect, but I do make a concerted effort to gain eye contact with everyone just to say Hello. I’ve been invisible to many for so long that I make it a point to let them know that I am a living, breathing human too.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 7:02 pm

      I hear you… and I know the feeling too well. We do our best to remember to honor those folk others ignore. I try. TY! 🙂

      Like

  17. 17/04/2011 9:21 pm

    Great post! For most of my childhood I felt invisible because I was the shy kid who didn’t say much. For all the pain that may have caused me, at least it has helped me to stay alert to the invisibility and loneliness many of my own students endure. I make a point of drawing every one of my students into conversation, of showing interest in what interests them. I think sometimes even the most outgoing among us feel that their true self is invisible to the world. One of my main goals in life is to help people tell their own stories.

    I really like your blog.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 7:06 pm

      TY and I love your blog too! I was a shy kid and blossomed as I got older. Like you, I’ve always encouraged my students to stay true to themselves… especially in a world that can be harsh. We all can do our bit I concur. 🙂

      Like

  18. 17/04/2011 9:40 pm

    Actually, you reminded me of a Ray Bradbury quote that speaks to the value of each human life. I’ll preface it by noting that although it’s a good quote, Bradbury’s reference only to “men” betrays a mindset and a time period during which women were often invisible on the written page, especially in science fiction. Here is the quote:

    “There are not one-hundred elements, but two billion elements in the world. All would assay differently in the spectroscopes and scales. . . We know how fresh and original is each man. . . If we come at him right, talk him along, and give him his head, and at last say, What do you want? every man will speak his dream. And when a man talks from his heart, in his moment of truth, he speaks poetry.”

    The core messsage, that each person speaks poetry when he or she talks from his heart, I think is powerful and true. One of the best experiences of my life was a road trip I took along the Santa Fe trail with my eighty-year-old grandmother. She told me that her friends rarely see their grown-up grandchildren. That trip was a gift from each of us to the other, but far more from her to me. I learned what a brave woman my grandmother is and was, and how she defied society and refused the role it tried to assign to her as a young woman in the 1940s.

    I hear you loud and clear! Sorry to post such a long comment.

    Like

    • 26/08/2012 7:12 pm

      TY for sharing such a wonderful and powerful comment… I’m glad that I came back to this post and discovered it. Yes, your Grandma gave you a gift and if others would make the effort , their lives would be equally enriched. I’m stealing that Bradbury quote for a future post…. someday! RIP Ray. and TY! 🙂

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. Early Morning Writing and Invisibility « TheRealSharon's Blog
  2. The Invisible People « Thinking Woman's Brain Vomit

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