Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Invisible Mother


“It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone, start talking to me, asking for some such thing. Inside I’m thinking, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?”

Obviously not; No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, doing the endless piles of laundry, or even standing on my head… Because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom! Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?? Can you write this? Sign this? Find this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a TV guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a car to order, “Right around 5:30, please.”

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books… The eyes that studied history… The mind that graduated Magna Cum Laude from college. But now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again??

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel sand where she went. I was sitting there, looking around at the women present, all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.” It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: “To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it?”
The workman replied, “Because God sees.”

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you! I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no button you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.”

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who shows up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from school for dinner, “My Mom gets up at 5 in the morning and does laundry, gets us breakfast, bakes, cleans and is on the go all day long, doing stuff for us.” That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home and feel comfortable and happy enough to invite his friends.

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.” --Author Unknown

Happy Mother's Day to all of the women out there building their great cathedrals!