Is it more important to be loved or to be seen? What does it mean to really see someone? How do we know that we are truly seen? How does it feel? Can we be loved without being seen?
I have been wrestling with these thoughts this week, as I process the last twenty-two months that I spent caring for a lovely woman with Alzheimer’s Disease. I am going to call her Marcy here, although that is not her name. Marcy is now in a residential facility, and although I will visit her, my time as her caregiver has ended.
I want to share a piece of this experience with you, because I believe it is important, and it raises questions worth pondering. I have more questions than answers...
The Marcy I knew was kind, funny, warm, energetic, brave, and sweet. She loved her family, although she couldn’t always recall their names. She loved her dog, although she often thought there was more than one of her. She loved to dance and sing, and to put lipstick on many times a day. She loved Dream a Little Dream of Me, Rainbow Connection, Bohemian Rhapsody, and soy lattes.
Her words were mostly gibberish by the time we met, but if I listened closely enough to the emotion behind them and to the context, I often understood her. Sometimes she would communicate clearly, as if the pieces of her brain aligned correctly for a moment. Then she would cry, grieving for what she had lost. I did my best to honor the lucid moments, and to always treat her like she was fully present. To me, she was…
I remember as a kid learning about twins who had developed their own language. They communicated clearly with each other, but no one else understood them. I was fascinated by that, and often thought of it during my time caretaking Marcy.
I am certain that her family and friends thought I didn’t understand her as well as I thought I did, and that makes perfect sense to me. I didn’t know the Marcy that they knew. I never met the Marcy before Alzheimer’s Disease changed her forever. They had been saying goodbye to her for years before I met her. They loved her dearly, but she wasn’t the mother, wife and friend that they had known and treasured. We all saw her and loved her, but we saw different things.
I think I may have tried too hard to maintain contact with the lucid part of her. That part was present, but mostly dim. Her husband called it an undercurrent of awareness. Connecting with that undercurrent was an honor, and I know it helped her to feel seen. It also sometimes pulled me under. I am just now regaining my equilibrium.
What do we see when we look at each other. What parts of ourselves do we allow to be seen. How well do we know each other’s undercurrents? How do we connect deeply and maintain our balance?
Marcy is an extreme example, but she highlights for me the need to be seen and known. I believe it is a brave thing to risk being truly seen. I do it best in songs.
We all have roles we play in our lives, and adjectives that we use to describe ourselves. We also have private internal lives that are precious and genuine, and vulnerable. I believe that this part is our treasure. Sometimes we guard that treasure closely and sometimes we share it.
What parts of yourself do you let people see?
How deeply do you connect with others?
I believe that when we dare to look deeper, and to reveal more of who we are, we see the currents that connect us.
Do you feel seen and known?
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