Any child who has read, listened to or seen Harry Potter books or movies, knows about the Cloak of Invisibility. Putting it on renders the wearer invisible, and able to do daring things in the name of justice.
It must be thrilling to be young and to imagine that you can be invisible at any moment – when you don’t want to be called on in math class, or when you are face-to-face in the hallway with the girl who mocked you on Twitter last night, or when you are out with your parents and don’t want to be seen by anyone in such an embarrassing and compromising position.
But as an adult, especially an adult in middle-age or older, there is really no need for an invisibility cloak – the world has already created one for you.
In this big birthday year (which, thankfully, has long passed) I’ve been feeling a little blue about how the bloom of youth is really, totally, completely off the rose. I feel creakier. I get tired more easily, and often can be found already asleep at the advanced nighttime hour of 9:30. I am really starting to forget words, and need to work at calling them up. I have dark circles under my crinkles, which, let’s be real, are really wrinkles. And I need my reading glasses every day.
All of this would be ok (for, as they say, it’s better than the alternative) except for the fact that there is also a part of me that is starting to feel like I also have donned an invisibility cloak.
One of the joys of getting past adolescence is acquiring the understanding that truly, no one is looking at you. You don’t have to worry about that pimple – it has not taken over your face like an alien planet invading the earth. And a bad hair day is simply one day, and no one except you will remember it.
But as I age, I am getting the distinct feeling that I am steadily shrinking into the background. One of the things that has changed dramatically over the past year or two is that I am no longer surrounded by children everywhere I go. Most of the time, the last thing my children want to do is accompany me anywhere, so I go alone. One recent weekend I went on a lovely hike, trekked up to the farmers market, and went to get groceries – all alone. My children stayed home and watched sports, baked cookies, read books, did their homework and hung out with friends through texting and online – all without me.
I remember the thrill of first having a little baby at which everyone, it seemed, would stop and coo. And then two and then three little children hanging off all possible appendages. I remember feeling very important and very, very needed chasing after my children, figuring out the suburban rituals of team placement and school events and getting them everywhere they needed to go. I remember feeling like I must be the center of the universe, having to take care of my babies’ needs whenever they were hungry, tired, wet, or fussy.
In short, I was deeply needed all the time, and although my mind and my body screamed out for a break, and I would sometimes count the minutes, days, months or years until I was to be given a reprieve, I enjoyed feeling their need, and also showing the world that I was so needed. It satisfied my insecurities.
Those insecurities have been there since I was a child -- a quiet, sometimes lonely girl often wrapped up in observation and reflection rather than playing. Wondering how I would ever fit in and why I was not like everyone else. Fearful of being left out.
The beauty of that loneliness is that, as an adult, I have learned how to channel it into satisfying, productive time.
I think by nature I am lonely, in that I wouldn't be a writer if I were not lonely. I think most writers [are], if you read their letters and sometimes read some of their lives. I'm not recommending it, but I know one has to be — to remain writing, not just to start as a writer, to remain faithful to it — one has to live so much of one's life alone. And reflective. Certain people, I think, are kind of born lonely. I can tell lonely people when I see them, and I'm very often drawn to them, because I feel that they might have some secret to tell me.
So this sense of being alone, and being invisible while I watch the world circle around me, is not only nothing new, but is the essence of who I have always been. Being the young mom with kids clinging to me like Velcro was the aberration, apparently. My true self is the woman who walks up to the farmer’s market, alone, and who sits on the bench, watching the world walk and run and scoot by, looking for inspiration.
It’s not bad. I’m not lonely, just often alone.