When Chris was alive, I saw myself through her eyes. When we met, she was 34 and I was 51. We were together for 14 years and the difference in our ages was never an issue between us. I suppose the tacit logic of our relationship was that she would probably one day have to take care of me and that I would die first. In fact, our fates were the opposite of what we had imagined them to be.
Now she has gone, I see my reflection only in mirrors hanging on the wall. I expect to see myself as I was when she and I first met but, when I catch sight of my image, it’s as though I’m meeting someone I haven’t seen for a long time. I do a double-take: is that really me?
The cognitive dissonance between the person I expect to see (the one with whom Chris fell in love) and the face in the mirror, is shocking. I no longer know how the world sees me. Am I becoming invisible or am I still interesting and attractive and, if so, to whom?
I’ve known for a long time, because it’s much talked about, that invisibility is an issue for some women as they age. I hadn’t ever thought about it in relation to men, and certainly not in relation to myself. Arrogance perhaps, or maybe just the natural consequence of being in a mutually loving relationship in which each is seen by the other.
I felt profoundly seen by Chris. She perceived my weaknesses and wounds, but she also saw through them to the best and most expansive part of me. That generous gaze was her great gift as a partner, friend and teacher. Apart from her physical presence, being seen in that way is what I miss most.
So maybe this is what I’m striving to understand by writing this blog: I haven’t disappeared completely – I do good work in the world and have many friends – but in the absence of an intimate, loving gaze, I am learning what it is to be unseen. If I am not beloved, who am I? I look for glimpses of myself in the eyes of others but I’m realising that I have to find new ways to calibrate my sense of self.
Of course, Captain Midnight thinks I’m brilliant.
But that’s his job.