As I am traveling home after visiting my family and friends, I am struck by how critical it is to be seen as you truly are and not as a projection. I am so grateful to those friends and family members that see me, that make an effort to see me. Those who want to know what is going on; not just the pretty, pleasant parts but the hard, sad parts too. I hope that I too see them as they are and not as a projection.
I realized on this trip that with family it is too easy to fail to see each other and only see the person as who we want them to be or expect them to be or even as who they were before, failing to see the person they have become. As a parent I was reminded again that our children are not simply new versions of us, they cannot fulfill our dreams, or be who we want/expect them to be. Our children are persons in their own right with their own gifts and challenges, their own dreams and what is important to them may be different then what we hope or expect. Our job as parents is to nurture and care for the person that they are, to nurture their discovery of their authentic selves. That is challenging particularly since so many of us are still trying to figure out our own selves.
Yet what would our lives, our relationships, our world be like if we saw our primary work in this world as becoming our true selves and to help and let others do the same? What if our primary roles as parents was to see our children as they are and guide them on the journey to become themselves and not some warped expectation or perception we have of them? What would our educational institutions be like if they nurtured authenticity instead of conformity? What would our faith communities look like if we told the stories, shared the rituals knowing that the next generation would once again make them new again? What about our economy, our government or society be like if we valued and nurtured people to be their true selves?
The first thing most parents do with their children is to gaze at them deeply, looking into their eyes as they gaze back at us. I know for me I could not get enough of just looking and gazing at the miracle that is my daughter. When do we stop doing that? When does the pressure of life take away seeing them as they are? Today I looked into my daughter's eyes and she looked back into mine and I am struck again by the miracle that she is. She is and continues to become an amazing person. My prayer and my hope is that I continue to see her as she is, to encourage her to become herself and pursue her own dreams and goals.
I experienced during this visit the failure to be seen. I felt again the feeling of not being valued for the person that I am because somehow I have failed to meet expectations. I realize I cannot have that in my life, at least right now. As I struggle with the various challenges in my life, I struggle with believing who I am is enough, is good, is valuable. I cannot have people around me who reinforce the lies depression tells me. That is a hard thing when some of those people are family.
Who truly sees you? If you are a parent, when was the last time you gazed into the eyes of your child and just saw them, saw them as the miracle they are? What about your spouse/partner/lover? What about friends? When have you looked in the mirror and truly saw the person there, the amazing, miraculous, made in the image of the holy that you are? Experiment spending a day truly looking everyone in the eye. You might just experience the holy in yourself and in each person you encounter.