Three little words – that speak everything. When that Pandora heroine in Avatar says to her human, “I see you” it’s a pretty ‘awwwwww’ moment. But, beyond warm and fuzzy, what do those words really mean? I’d like to think they are a personal text to your soul, assuring that “I know you exist, I see your essence and I get you.” It says that someone sees us for who we are, what we can become, and that they have a backpack ready for whatever journey is on your horizon.
Such small words yet, what is more profound than feeling we are accepted, validated and embraced? The first time these words touched me was during dinner with a dear (much younger) friend of mine. We’ve shared a long friendship and a lot of life experiences, though each from our own different plane. Yet, I saw that night that the ability to understand, with such interest and caring, can forge a connection that transcends generation. That connection allows us to see, in one another, inner spirits that aren’t all that different.
Never confuse “I see you” with “I hear ya’. Nope. That’s a whole other aspect of understanding, and a pretty casual one at that. Really ‘seeing’ someone x-rays the person beneath loneliness, grief, even the smiles we wear before the world. It sees beneath the MEH shrug about really hating our job, the emptiness of not being understood, or the pressure to keep up. It also bypasses feelings of not being good or pretty or rich enough. That kind of ‘seeing’ accepts our regrets, and fears, along with all the goodness we keep locked up, tight as a drum.
Sometimes. how we see others is tainted with our own needs. We want so much to have a like spirit, that we paint another with our own wish list. When they predictably fall short, we wring our hands, lamenting we bought the wrong bill of goods and that’s not what we ordered. Really? The truth is, we didn’t take the time to see their truth, good, bad or indifferent. In terms our mothers taught us, when the reality is different than what we reflected on them, we ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’.
Now if only we had the bandwidth, patience and respect, our mutual knowing can often help similarities merge and differences compliment. Even when I realize, mid cake baking, that I’m missing certain ingredients, I can often substitute without losing any of the desired results. If you choose someone based on your own expectations, and what you want them to be, don’t do the whiny thing that you didn’t really know them. Guess what? You’re right – you don’t. Sure, you might not be compatible at all, but wouldn’t it just suck to know if you just opened the box a little more, it might be less Ikea and more Nirvana?
In this world, it’s easy to shut down and shutter our emotions because we’re so afraid of standing naked in our feelings. It’s damn scary to say ‘I love you’. Period. We worry if that feeling is mutual or one hand clapping; everyone is allergic to rejection or betrayal. Still, we humans keep trying, keep hoping and keep opening up. That’s what we are meant to do. The only exorcisms for our own demons are the truths we tell ourselves. Even if someone comes right up to our face, and screams their knowledge of our true essence, if we don’t believe we are loveable, whole and real, how can we believe they would? Sure, we all have shadow selves. Peter Pan has nothing on me and the “I’m lumpy, talkative, old (pick one) shadows I lug around. One part of us says ‘For God’s sake, go away’ while inside we’re cry ‘please love me’. Not always graceful but weirdly real.
Face it, I am not always my shiniest self and neither are you. We are every shade of gray. For someone to know that and still see Technicolor – well, that’s the lottery win. Every single one of us wants to be loved – but we want to be loved for ‘us’, not someone else’s version of us. Sure, we wear different hats and different faces. We keep explaining, trying to show we really are more — or cover up what we think makes us less. It can get exhausting. When someone REALLY sees you, it’s warts and all. (translation for me: without make up….oy) They make you know you matter, that you’re important and that you’re someone worthy of love.
We each want to be seen. We also need to see all of each other — and all of us. Being able to ‘see’ each other, includes discovering what’s inside the ‘other’ as well. In the immigrant, in skin of another color, another language or sexual preference. It means how we see our children, not as just reflections of us but as complete individuals. It’s how we see our parents, as real people who had real lives before and after we arrived. To feel like a whole, complete person, a full human, is the greatest gift we can give each other. Yet, in our day to day, we often are too busy, too worried, too self-involved to ask more questions, to double back, give second chances and just listen and ‘see’.
May we face each other,
Seeing and being seen.
Loving and being loved.
We can slap on invisible masks (even a kickass Venetian Mardi Gras one) to hide all our less than great qualities beneath. But the best mask won’t remove our yearning to be really seen; to connect, inspire and belong; it will only hide those needs. When we know we are truly ‘seen’, we become the true Velveteen Rabbit – authentic, alive and loved ‘for real’. And those we take the time to truly see, those we collide with in the best of ways on this life journey, also become infused with the knowledge that they matter and are important.
In those simple words “I see you”, your self-worth is reflected, through to your soul, with the dignity of a fully evolved human. Believe in yourself. Believe in someone else.
It’s life’s secret sauce.