Muted

Yesterday, I cried. Silent, slow tears in the car on the way home from our cabin. I think it’s the first time I’ve cried during the pandemic. I’m not sure what brought it on for my weekend was fine. We had entertained another couple at our cabin and enjoyed a long hike as well as cross country skiing on the frozen lake. We had good fun and good food.

But very shortly after leaving, I was crying. I told my husband I couldn’t really explain it. And, really, I still can’t other than saying that I feel invisible sometimes. Have you ever felt like that?

I know I shouldn’t think this way, but it does describe how I feel. Over the last month, we’ve seen more people than in the last ten. We’ve visited my parents, been at our cabin twice, and visited with each of our three sons who now all live on their own, two in nearby states. Three of four weekends in February we traveled. And, the last week in January we went to visit my parents in New York. During these visits, while travelling, we’ve been careful to continue social distancing guidelines, brought our own food, cooked for ourselves, and did not socialize with anyone outside of our family or two other couples.

During the last month, I’ve been a good listener. It is a skill I’ve worked to improve over time. I’ve listened to my parents, my sister, and my friends. I’ve heard their concerns and tried to provide support. During these conversations, I also delegated any advice giving to my husband. This was a conscious decision we made before hand. My parents tend to listen to him more than they do I. And, in truth, many of our family and friends also look to my husband for counsel on both medical and financial issues. He is a credible and informative source. In these recent conversations, I find myself deferring to him and staying quiet.

But, when I take myself out of the equation, I feel a loss. In truth, I wish I could command an audience like my husband. When I start to talk – despite the fact that I am a well read, intelligent, multi-faceted person with a variety of hobbies, talents, and experiences of my own, I find little outside interest in what I have to say. It hurts. Despite knowing otherwise, I feel uninteresting, invisible and definitely not heard. I really cannot seem to get more than a few sentences put into an ongoing conversation before I feel dismissed or not attended to in the same manner as others in the room. This was definitely the case during the visit with my parents in January and randomly appears more and more often now.

I’m not sure when this started happening to me and I am sure it effected me more yesterday because I was tired. But, I definitely felt invisible because I was not heard, despite being seen. Often, I am not asked what I think. And, when I try to interject something it comes off as if I’m trying too hard. And, maybe I am. I should be able to contribute and be asked to contribute some part to these conversations. I know it. But, in truth, I feel muted and left out.

This doesn’t happen with everyone. But, the invisibility I’m feeling is probably augmented by the inability to see some of those who have invested in our past conversations. This includes students and well as several friends. I know what participating in good conversation feels like. But, it seems pandemic isolation leads to invisibility. It’s also augmented by several other pandemic generated factors, such as my inability to get my parents vaccination appointments, something which I have tried to achieve now for over a month without success.

Currently, my hobbies are possessing a large part of my day. These include reading, sewing, jewelry making, and writing. For the most part they are solitary activities. Aside from my online writing groups and husband, there are few others who provide support to me regarding my hobbies. That, also, is tough. Only a very few of my friends have similar desires, passions, or time to pursue them. And, these are not friends that I currently have a lot of contact with due to time and distance. It does give me comfort that some understand, though.

So, essentially, I think I cried yesterday due to grieving for a part of myself that isn’t being seen or heard by others. I would like to begin to have different interactions. But, until we can truly interact, I’ll just have to get used to being muted for now. Hopefully, I’ll find a conversational voice again.

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