When I was a senior in high school, I was enrolled in an advanced physics class that I had absolutely no business taking. I just wasn’t physics-minded, I guess you could say. It could also be said that I wasn’t very academic-minded, but somehow I’d made it through school with decent grades and part of me suspects it is because I was nice and good and never gave anyone any trouble. I also suspect there was a whole bunch of middle-class white privilege tied up in my circumstances as well.
(Which is gross to say but it would be irresponsible and even grosser not to acknowledge. Although I maybe wouldn’t have called us “middle class”; more like one of the bottom rungs of “lower middle class” and the only reason the cops were not at our house once a week is because we had a buffer in the way of one other family on the block that was trashier and even more dysfunctional than we were.)
At any rate, I showed up to class and took notes. I mostly did the homework. I mostly took the tests. And I mostly got middling grades. On one morning, I showed up to physics class and discovered there was a test that I did not study for (see! it happens outside of dreams, too!)
I took my seat, daydreamed my way through the 45 minutes of class, and, not having turned in the test sheet, exited class with the rest of the students when the bell rang. The next Monday, Mr. — pulled me aside and fretted. “Sarah, I know you were in class on Friday morning. But your test doesn’t seem to be in the stack with the rest of them?” I shrugged my shoulders. “That’s strange,” I offered. “Hm,” he mused. “I’m sorry, it must have fallen out of the stack and gotten lost. I’ll just give you whatever the class average is.”
Was this a lazy teacher? Maybe. He was getting close to retirement. Or perhaps an educator who was merely kind to a struggling student? I had observed him as a thoughtful man, generous with praise, and quick to assist my classmates who were having a hard time. But it’s doubtful he believed me. Or…was it? I was a polite, quiet kid. I showed up. I went through the motions. Maybe that was enough to get by. That’s how I’d gotten by for the past 17 years, after all.
My childhood and young adulthood were rife with instances such as this. Either squeaking by on my reputation of not having a reputation, or being overlooked altogether and being moved ahead with everyone else because that was easier than realizing they hadn’t realized I was there in the first place. “Slipping through the cracks,” I think is how it’s referred to, sometimes.
I have always felt a bit invisible. From a young age, I would often unplug from what was happening around me and retreat inside myself, to my own inner world with its intrigues and machinations and daily dramas. Oftentimes a whole class period would go by and, not really having been there, I’d miss the lesson, or the homework, or the fact that a teacher needed a field trip form filled out for an out-of-class excursion the next day. I can’t count the times I’d show up for school not having some form or another filled out–not even actually realizing that we were going anywhere–and have to sit out a class trip, because I hadn’t been paying attention.
When you’re so withdrawn as to do absent yourself from what’s happening around you, you do start to feel that because you miss what’s going on and you don’t see it—it doesn’t see you. An invisibility cloak made mostly of self-delusion. And when you’re not present for the memorable things, the class trips, year book photos, graduation ceremonies, you begin to slip from people’s memories. If you were ever in them, to begin with. All of this validates the feeling that you’re beginning to recognize as invisibility.
But, I always assured myself, “you want to be left alone.” And, “it’s okay if no one includes you, or invites you, or even sits next to you in an empty seat!” I always seem to have a sea of empty seats around me, which is odd because I am certain that I smell really nice, so I guess I must have a really off-putting aura. But anyway, yes, for the most part this is all true. I am perfectly happy to miss out on the parties and the girl’s nights out and the celebrations and the brunches and all the other whatevers. Just let me do my thing, on my own! (As an adult sometimes I do decide to join in, though, so please don’t stop inviting me!)
This “invisibility” has unfortunately affected my life in more insidious ways. As part of it, I don’t quite feel like I exist, and therefore, I put off doing, or don’t do at all, the typical things that normal people do in this world as part of the whole business of existing. I don’t go to the doctor. I often let my car insurance lapse, neglect to renew my automobile registration. Up until this past January, I hadn’t seen a dentist in over 20 years.
This manifests in lesser ways, as well. Ways that have to do with everyday comforts and just…well, regular useful stuff that I don’t seem to think about. For example: it never even occurred to me to take snacks or something to drink when I have an hour-plus car ride ahead of me. I forever thought I just had to be uncomfortably hungry or thirsty en route. I never carry aspirin or bandaids in my handbag; if I have a headache or a bloody finger, I just always think, “well, I’ll suffer through it for a while.” It’s taken me several years to write things down in a planner or calendar because I’d convinced myself, “oh, you’re not doing anything worth noting, anyway”, or “you don’t have to write it down, you’re supposed to just remember it!” Spoiler alert: I don’t. I probably wasn’t even paying attention to know what to remember in the first place!
This idea of suffering through life is very much tied up for me in this perpetual feeling of invisibility…I can’t work out how one leads to the other, exactly, other than if one does not quite exist, then one’s relative comfort really isn’t all that important.
…and yet. I am terribly guilty, as everyone knows, of frittering away extravagant amounts of money on perfumes and works of art–neither of which are things I need for survival or tending to my day-to-day needs. However…these are the things that make me feel keenly, fiercely, and wholly alive. The one sentiment, one then supposes, really has not much at all to do with the other.
(If you scroll further in a desperate attempt to figure what all of this has been for, and why am I wasting your time, you’ll see it boils down to just this: “Hey! Here’s a list of some stuff I like!”)
Classic Sarah, am I right?
No, but seriously–I have been thinking about this for a long time, and attempting to write this blog post for over a year now. I visited my best good friend last year, and at one point we took a car trip to a somewhat local botanical garden and she packed us a few snacks and some icy drinks for the road. I was flabbergasted. It just…never even occurred to me that my stomach didn’t have to rumble and there was no need for me to be parched when I reached my destination. As I thought about it more, I wondered, “what are some other useful utilities and creature comforts that I am missing out on?” I’ve polled a few friends and perhaps even unconsciously peeked at their habits, I’ve started focusing more on my own needs and the issues which arise that I’m never prepared to address, and heck, I’ve even been closely watching the media that I consume to see what I can learn about this. I think I may have picked up a thing or two.
What follows below is a list of things gleaned from finally paying attention. They’re not all material things, though some of them are. They may be things that are so glaringly obvious, you’re going to smack your head and exclaim, “Sarah, what is WRONG with you? Everyone knows this!.” Well, everyone, it would seem, but Sarah. Who was too busy reading Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck in a fourth grade lesson, when she should have been paying attention to “its” vs. “its”; instead, because she clearly wasn’t paying attention, she didn’t realize until she was 40 that she’d been getting them wrong this whole time. That’s not a good example, though, because this list has nothing to do with grammar. She probably missed the lesson on proper literary segues and transitions, as well.
And, I am pleased to report, I finally saw a dentist this year. Three times since this past January. I’m even going to get my crooked teeth fixed! At no small cost, of course, but as I’m slowly shedding my invisibility, I’d like to get rid of that snaggletoothed situation as well. I also got my first mammogram this year. My mams exist and are real and they need to be grammed! I have begun seeing a counselor again as well, and now that I have written about these feelings, I think I am finally able to put them into words and share them with another person, as well.
Without further ado, then, a List Of Conveniences For The Invisible Girl.
Car snacks are a thing! Who knew? My best good friend introduced me to the wonders of the individual serving iced tea press which doubles as a portable drinking vessel, and wow. Maybe I’m easily impressed, but this thing is brilliant. The one I use is from David’s Tea, and I usually go for a blend with some tartness, like maybe lemon, or hibiscus. My current favorite car snacks are the original butter & soy sauce flavored potato sticks that BGF brought along on our trip, as well as these spicy seaweed tempura things that are similarly crunchy and addicting.
During that same visit, we got to talking about all of the things that long-time best friends talk about: gossip surrounding the horrible people we hate and the various afflictions and offenses visited upon us by the ravages of time. When I mentioned how disgustingly sweaty I am all the time (boob sweat, argh! and more, I think, a symptom of summertime in southern climes than age, perhaps) she suggested some dusting powder to sprinkle about my assorted bits and keep moisture absorbed and limbs unchafed. To quote one reviewer, “This product changrc [sic] my life.” No regerts!
Also, do you have a tiny bladder that has a tough time holding in all your pee, even on a good day? But then you’ve got a cold, and you’re unwell you are coughing and sneezing and maybe leaking a tiny bit? Yeah, you don’t have to spend the day in pee-damp undies. You could wear a panty liner when you’re sick. Just worth a mention. Something I only realized, oh, in the past year or so.
I honestly thought working from home would help to alleviate some of the work-related anxieties that I live with. But no. Now I just work at a desk in my house, with the added worry that I could get fired at any moment because I am not present to resolve on-site problems. I either sit rigid with dread or slumped in resignation in my chair and stare at a screen for 10 hours in utter silence, save for the incessant ringing of a phone, which has become an inanimate item that I would gleefully murder without remorse. It’s taken me six years to reach the conclusion that hey…you work alone…there’s no one here to complain about the smell or the smoke if you burn a candle (or use a diffuser.) You can listen to an eerie, psychedelic soundtrack of pan flutes and ghost wails and no one will be bothered by the sounds. Here’s a novel idea: you even can buy a phone dock charger thingy so your cell phone is not always low on battery or charging up in your bedroom because you only own one freaking charging cord.
Don’t get me wrong. Working–from home or otherwise–is baloney. To quote my sister, “work is for jerks!” But until some wealthy benefactor decides to fund my moderately luxurious lifestyle, I guess I gotta be a jerk, too. I have found though, that with a few adjustments, I can be a working jerk suffering in a slightly nicer atmosphere.
I have written before about my more diligent use of planners. As a matter of fact, I attribute 100% of my 2019 dentist visits to the fact that I wrote it down to make tooth health a priority, and so I had to follow through with it. My main planner is an undated book from Passion Planner, just plain black. I added a sticker to cover up whatever was embossed there, and I just keep replacing them as they peel off or break down; currently, it’s some sticker art from Poison Apple PrintShop.
I also use the Open Sea Design Co. Sigil planner, sold at Haute Macabre, for keeping lists of things: books I want to read, movies I want to watch, perfumes I want to try, etc. And lastly, I have gotten into the habit of jotting down my nightly adventures again, in this beautiful dream journal from Cocorrina. Speaking of sweet dreams, I’ve decided to stop waiting for thunderstorms to visit and lull me to sleep; instead, we tune into an 8-10 hour long thunderstorm playlist before bed, and it works almost even better than the real thing, especially considering it doesn’t flood the back parlor like actual rain usually does!
My hands always feel awful after I spend time washing dishes. Why did I think that housewives on television were the only ones allowed to wear gloves when scrubbing dinner plates? Good lord. It took me a while, but I eventually realized, that I too could avoid drying out my skin while taking care of harsh, soapy chores. In addition to gloves, I have started keeping a small tube of hand cream above the sink (if you’ve got any sample sizes, or travel-sized versions received as gifts, they are perfect for this!) Even if I’m using gloves, my hands still feel gross when I’m done, so treating them to something moisturizing afterward is a nice thing to do.
Additionally, I have had to fish a lot of rings out of the dish disposal while washing dishes because I either knocked them off the countertop or else they got wet and fell off my finger. Do you know how terrifying it is to stick your hand down in that thing? Have you read Firestarter? Yeesh. I probably never would have thought to buy this for myself but I received a small silver swan ring holder last year from the Tijuanan contingent of my partner’s family, and I think it’s just lovely and perfect. No more having to rescue rings from the finger mangler!
Despite the fact that on occasion I saw my grandmother and my mother switching out purses, I’ve always stubbornly clung to a “one handbag at a time” rule. Which usually meant carrying something clunky when situations called for something small and discreet or toting around a fiddly, fancy purse, ill-suited to travel, etc. It’s only in recent years that I’ve acquired a small shoulder bag for travel in addition to my everyday bag, which is currently this one from MZ WALLACE. Well, I decided I needed a third one, specifically for meeting/visiting other people’s families. Is this weird? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s a cheap tote bag with a William Morris print.
Two items I have added to my handbag for reasons of humiliation and mortification are a small pill case and a phone battery charger thing. I grew so tired of being that one friend who is always asking to borrow a phone charger, or an aspirin; no doubt the friends I were pressing for these items probably thought I was a bit dim for never remembering to bring them, or else a cheapskate for not having them. I’m not dim or cheap! I just thought…well, I just thought that I should be a person who doesn’t get headaches in public and who always leaves the house with a sufficiently charged phone.
Whether it was grumbling stomachs or soggy boobs, uncomfortable home office environments, dead cell phones, or dishpan hands, with so many of these scenarios, I tended to think, “well, that’s how you’re supposed to do it!” and that preparing for an event in which that was not how you did it, was somehow…cheating? At life? I can’t properly explain it. Maybe because I am actually a bit dim and I don’t want to admit it.
As I’m sloooo-ooowly realizing that life doesn’t have to be nearly as hard as I make it on myself, I’d really love to hear about the things you do to “cheat at life”* or make things easier? What are the things you do or use for comfort or convenience? Obvious or esoteric, I wanna hear your secrets to existence!
*I guess some people might call such things “life hacks” but I really hate that term.