Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The benefits of being invisible

My meeting, North Valley Friends Church, sponsors a Wednesday community meal followed by classes for all age groups. I have joined a group entitled, “A Path Through the Later Years,” for people facing old age or those wondering how to help their parents through this time of life.
In her book, The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister identifies three distinct phases in the aging process: young old age, old age, and really old age. Hal’s parents, at 95 and 97, are really old. It amuses me to see myself as a “young old lady.”
Well—it sort of amuses me. In fact, I’m holding off on personally applying the “old lady” label. Maybe in a few years—say 10—it’ll fit better.
But I have entered the realm of the retired, and it is indeed a new phase of life. I intend to be intentional and positive about it all, part of the reason for joining this group.
The word “invisible” came up several times in last week’s session. It seems that older people frequently feel that they have become invisible to those around them. I remember my friend and former NVFC pastor Stan Thornburg talking about this experience. It expresses diminishment and isolation, a lessening of value in the social marketplace.
Actually, I’ve been an invisible person for years. I remember a small incident as a young woman. Going out the door at the end of a party, a friend looked at me and asked, “Nancy, have you been here the whole time?” (I had been.)
The larger the group, the quieter I become. That used to distress me. It doesn’t any more. Invisibility has its uses.
This relates to the assignment the group leader gave us last week. We are to reflect on our “passions,” on what gives us purpose and joy. Being a reflective, intuitive person, I’ve been thinking along these lines for a long time. I’ve already defined my vocation as “to discover and express the grace of God hidden in the ordinariness of life.” I live this out primarily through prayer, poetry and relationships with people. (It helps that they all begin with the letter “p.”)
In my reflections this week, I’ve identified the link between my vocation and invisibility. In essence, I’m called to be a spy. I love watching people and listening to them talk. I love the interweaving of voices, emotions and the spaces between them. Grace frequently surfaces in those spaces.
I’m realizing that being invisible makes me a better spy. If I grow more invisible as I age, I guess that means I’ll become more astute in my espionage. That could be dangerous—if it were not all about grace.
One more thing to be thankful for.


  1. Alas, you are not invisible. I'm watching. I like what I see. Just wish we lived close enough to visit regularly. Blessed retirement!

  2. I love the extraterrestrial greeting in the movie, Avatar: "I see you."