The gift of being seen

September 19, 2016

being-seenSee me
Feel me
Touch me
Heal me

Who sees you?

Oh, I don’t mean by eyesight. I mean really, really SEES you, the totality of the person you are. Think about it. Is there anyone like that in your life?

Even if you think hard, I’ll bet you won’t be able to come up with that many people who really see you.  Oh sure, there are people who know you, people you’re close to and they may know parts of you.  But chances are, very few people really SEE the totality of you.

When my close friend of more than 30 years died last year, it was more than the loss of a friend. It was the loss of someone who really saw me, all the different facets of who I am, the good and the bad. It was more than the facts of my life or even the history. Deeper.

I never had to explain myself to her–she already knew.  She knew I saw her, too, I realized, when I found a meaningful note I’d sent her tucked away in a special drawer. In that note, I acknowledged something about her feelings that I knew to be true. She never had to explain things to me, either. I saw her. I knew.

Losing a friendship like that leaves a gaping hole. I miss her every day for many reasons, but my heart misses being seen, that unspoken knowledge that someone “gets” me.

People come into our lives at different points along the way and have no idea of where we’ve been.  “Don’t judge me by the chapter you walked in on” resonates with me because my life has had many chapters. Each one contributed to making me who I am now, at age 65.


How many people take the time to even try to open the box and see you?

Consider this: who you’ve been, who are are and who you will be in the future are different things and sometimes vastly different.

My life today is very different than the life I had before. I should say “lives” because some chapters seem barely related to the others. Very few people have been along for the whole ride, and yet, to really know me, you have to know where I came from and where I’ve been, not just what’s going on today.

Not too long ago I was lucky enough to reconnect deeply with another friend of 30 years. We’d gone in different directions for a long time, and then were brought back together when something happened that made us see the value of reconnecting at this point in life.

Sitting over iced tea one afternoon, my friend was talking about how Michael and I remarried 26 years after our divorce.

“You know,” she said, “Michael is a miracle in every way. When I think about all those years that you made your own way, with no one to help share the burden, when I think about how hard you always worked and how you did it all alone, I’m so happy that you and Michael have such a wonderful life together as true partners.”

Tears welled up in my eyes and I felt something that could only be termed relief. I was relieved to be with someone who really saw me. SAW me. All of me. And acknowledged something no one ever says aloud, because they never saw it. This is, of course, what close family members do for one another. But my siblings are not in my life and even if they were, I suspect the filter through which they see me might distort the view. After all, I left the hometown when I was 20 and they never left. How could they know me without trying?

being-seenThis friend had known me from my first months in California, when, unemployed and new to Silicon Valley, I struggled to  to make a living. She knew me as I built a career, bought and sold homes alone, had relationships–she saw the big picture over 30 years. And we shared a cultural connection too, so she knew a lot about how I grew up.

Most of the people I met after I’d been established seem to think I was born with an income and a home. They didn’t know me during the hard times. All they see the fruits of my labors and they make assumptions. Those people who met me after Michael and I remarried only see this part of me now–retired and traveling. Lucky, they think.

The fact is that luck had very little to do with it. My life today stands  on a foundation that I built with my own hard work, starting with nothing.

The relief I felt at my girlfriend’s acknowledgement of that, I realized, was a signal that there are very few people in my life who really see me, even people I’ve known longer than 30 years. They don’t go any deeper than today’s view. They see the “stuff” and mistake it for me.


I’m happy that my girlfriend and I are spending time together. Because, yes, I see her, too, just as she sees me. I know where she came from, where she’s been and I can see where she’s going.

I hope that provides her with the same haven she provides me.

Here’s the Who on the subject of being seen, from the rock opera, Tommy.


58 comments on “The gift of being seen
  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    You said this so beautifully, Carol, like a prayer. I am blessed to have several people in my life who see me clearly, and love me for both my good and not so good traits have for more than forty years; one, a freshman-year college roommate and a NYC roommate when we were working gals for 10 year, and now my daughter’s Godmother. II have several close pals throughout each decade,as you wrote,and, I cherish them all. But the people who have been in for the long haul– including my two siblings– through thick and thin, know me the best. Funny, however, my daughter, seems toes me the most clearly for all of her 25 wise years sometimes better than my husband of our 27! I am indeed, a lucky woman.

  2. Carla says:

    This made me tear up. And, with full on awareness that this might get a little bit awkward :-), I think of you often. You’re so strong. You’re so capable. You’re so wise. You’re so intuitive. Your story – – whole far far far far from over – – inspires me.

  3. Jeannine says:

    So beautifully said. From someone who’s lived a non-linear life there was much I could relate to.

  4. Leanne says:

    I feel like there are a few people in my life who see large chunks of me – maybe nobody actually sees all of me. It’s strange to think that after 30+ years of marriage, I’m not sure even my husband sees all of me (altho most of it has been visible over the years). We tend to keep ourselves closed until we really trust someone and trust is a hard earned quality and not given to many. Great post Carol (and I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend)

  5. Oprah always says this, too – that all anyone really wants is to be seen and heard. I’ve had moments, too, when someone understood me so deeply, it made me cry.

  6. I, too, left at an early age. And, my sibling has always been in a different world than I. But, when he ran into a recent disturbance, I leaned on him to “come on down” and afford a little unburdening. He was amazed at how I had turned my life into what it is- and how that made our upbringing a non-factor. So, he not only unburdened, but maybe saw the ability to shed some truly frightful memories and find a way to start a different chapter, one divorced from more past history than he thought possible.
    (My two long-time friends, from the time I made my own life, were close until an event that made sundering a requirement. Luckily, I had two others who now know me for some 2 to 2.5 decades that can take the place of the others.)

  7. Haralee says:

    I lost my BFF last December and I understand the void. You are lucky to have another friend that truly sees you. I too have another long term friend but she is clouded with comparisons and jealousy even though she knows my whole story she can’t see me through her barriers. 🙁

    • I am really shocked at how many friends have those same barriers. I’m sad you have that but in a way I am relieved, Haralee, to know that I am not the only one who feels these blockages. Sometimes I feel I am.

  8. Anna Palmer says:

    There is so much love in this loss. I would like to add the process of seeing ourselves. Having “me” see me is my lifes work. At least this life. Also- because everything is so connected I want you to know the the very last text I sent before reading this post was “I see you.” It was in response to a friend’s baby picture.

  9. When I read that you and your husband re-married after 26 years of divorce….my heart exploded in a good way. I am currently going through some things in my marriage and this gave me so much hope as we both know we still love and care for each other and are still able to laugh together no matter how much we have both hurt each other in the past. To answer your question, He (my husband) is the one who SEES me. My greatest strengths, greatest weaknesses, and everything in between.

    Thank you for giving me a wonderful heartfelt read for Monday morning.
    God bless.

  10. Laurie Stone says:

    Its true how many people only see us as we are now. They don’t see the struggles, pain and challenges that went into making that person. I’m not sure there’s much we can do about it, except celebrate how life has been good to us. And keep going. Thanks for this reminder.

  11. Linda Hobden says:

    Beautifully said.Coincidentally, I met up with my old best girlfriend after 30 years last week – we grew up in the same area, partied as teens, went out separate ways, knew about both my marriages, family – and yet we was able to talk about things like we’ve never been apart – we can really “see” & “get” each other – and that’s a precious relationship indeed.

  12. Linda Hobden says:

    PS Love The Who reference- I saw Tommy the stage musical ????

  13. My friend since I’ve been 13 sees all of me and I didn’t get to see her this summer like I usually do. Your post has poignantly exposed this gaping omission. I can’t imagine life without her. Well written,carol and so sorry for your irreplaceable loss.

  14. Sheryl Kraft says:

    Yes, to be seen – truly seen – is the ultimate gift. I’m so sorry for your loss (I’ve been there) and so happy for you that you reconnected with people who truly ‘get’ what you’re about.

  15. Laura says:

    I think after a while, you tend to attract the people who do want to see you. A lesson learned as you get older I think

  16. Mary-Anne says:

    I love that expression…don’t judge me on the chapter you walked in on…..I am going to remember that one.
    I am lucky to have a handful of people in my life that really see me. My son, my husband, my sister, my good friend….it is so important.

  17. Linda says:

    This really spoke to me. I’ve been missing my oldest friend, since tenth grade, a lot lately. She is a self-made success who is going through a lot of changes right now and phone calls just don’t cut it. Thanks for this.

  18. Grammy says:

    I’ve had a couple of friends like that in my life. I treasure their friendship. We are many miles apart now but I know they’re there for me as I am for them. No one knows me like they do.

  19. It is wonderful to be seen…and to see. It means the world to have someone like that, I know. I have a few of that ilk myself!

  20. As someone else here said, your line about “don’t judge me by the chapter you walked in on” sure resonates. My life’s taken me down some different roads, and there’s no one in my life who’s been along for the entire trip. I have some dear friends who get me in the here and now, and who know parts of my backstory. And I have a husband who loves and accepts me for who and what I am; we’ve been together 20 years. But I can’t say there’s anyone who fully “gets” me, so can only imagine the sense of loss you felt when your friend died. But I’m happy that someone else has come into your life to help fill that void. Thanks for this heartfelt and insightful post.

  21. Lee Gaitan says:

    So true and beautifully written. I miss my sister so much in this regard. I find myself trying to call her ten times a day because she would “get” was I had just thought of or written or seen, etc. She GOT me.I am fortunate to have a friend of 55 years who knows almost all of me!

  22. sue says:

    Hi Carol, I’m so sorry for your loss as your friend was obviously very special and a huge part of your life. I can really only think of one person who ‘really sees me’. My cousin/godmother who is older than I. I have known her all my life, was her flower girl at her wedding, the first person to pluck my eyebrows, the person I turned to when I was leaving home to be with a man my parents and everyone else didn’t approve of. Sadly, because of a life change experience I cut myself off from everyone including her. I am so blessed that after 20 odd years when I reached out she was there – still getting me and our relationship now is even richer.

  23. Sorry for your loss, Carol but what a poignant post about true connections. I have one friend I met in high school that continues to be part of the fabric of my life. We just pick up where we left off and never miss a bit.
    There is something truly magical in having that person in your life.I believe those of us that do have an incomparable blessing few realize.
    Transparency is rare and maintaining a great friendship through transparency is the rarest form of intimacy.

  24. Sometimes we’re just meant to leave an come back because there are lessons to be learned and strengths to be given. You did that and then some and I’m so glad it all worked out in the end. I’m not sure anyone truly “gets” me. Maybe my dog.

  25. Rosemond says:

    Reading this, I am reminded of my closest friend. We’ve been friends since high school and from the moment we’ve met, we truly do see the realness of who the other one is. I feel so fortunate to have her in my life. Thank you for reminding me to be thankful for her today.

  26. Silly Mummy says:

    Beautifully put. I’m quite a closed person, and people find it quite difficult to read me anyway, so it is definitely true for me – very few people really see me, or ever have.

  27. estelle says:

    Yes, lots of people forget to see where you started on the journey and only pay attention to the destination. I have dear friends that have known me since childhood, and that means everything to me.

  28. Allison says:

    So true, my hubby sees me. It’s an amazing feeling!

  29. Beth Giusti says:

    I have many friends that I have had for 20 years or more. However you are right, many still don’t REALLY SEE who in every way. Many friendships also can become a one way street! I value the few that see me for me!
    Great blog.

  30. Jennifer says:

    Ah….the real me, it’s not something that I usually allow people to see all of. I usually hide something, even my best friends know most of me, but not all of me. It wasn’t until I met my current husband that someone was able to break past those final barriers to see all of me.

  31. Roz Warren says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss! And so glad that you were able to reconnect with somebody who gets you, and who has a history with you. We go through so many changes and end up losing so many people — either because they die or we just outgrow each other — somebody like that is worth cherishing.

  32. Elizabeth O. says:

    I would have to agree, there are very few people who sees and understands the real me. I am grateful for these people because I can be myself around them, and not many are lucky to have such people around them.

  33. jill conyers says:

    So beautifully written. People see the real me, Whether they like it or not 🙂

  34. Carol, I hope you will take my comment in the way it is meant. I have a challenge when people tell me that they are colour blind so they don’t “see” my skin colour. While I am not my skin colour – I am “black,” so to say that to me, means you don’t see me. Your post so resonates with me on all sorts of levels as people only look at what they are comfortable but it is the ones who can see and embrace the uncomfortable – those are the people that I am in love with. Beautiful post.

  35. Anya says:

    I have a best friend of many years and without him I wouldn’t be a whole. I know how lucky I am to have that.

  36. T.O. Weller says:

    Carol, I just wrote a Facebook post this morning about seeing and then I went to my email and clicked through to this post. (I love it when synchronicities like that happen!)

    What I saw in one of our trees in those fleeting moments got me thinking about how much we don’t see — around us, within us, in others, in ourselves. We want to believe we see, but I wonder how blind we really are …

  37. beth grossman says:

    wonderful meaningful post; i really relate

  38. Elise says:

    Beautifully said! Great post.

    xx, Elise

  39. Gilly says:

    This makes complete sense – especially – don’t judge me on the chapter you came in on – but people do, sadly.Some people grow and change for the better and some don’t. Having people in our lives who really ‘see’ us and accept what they see whole-heartedly is a massive gift. I cherish those people so much. Some people are very easy to ‘know’ completely, on that level and I cherish them too.

  40. Nicole Herose Cochingco - Escat says:

    I’ve lost some friends too who are dear to me. I’ve felt betrayal from the people I trusted most.

  41. Having someone who “sees” the real you is a blessing. You can have too many acquaintances and friends but few of them could really see you and what you were going through. I am deeply you touched with your article.

  42. That instant connection with people is a very rare thing indeed, I find. Most folks are so intent on telling their story, they aren’t capable of making the effort to see yours. I am blessed with two friends who do see me and I cherish their friendship. Both of them live thousands of miles away yet when we get together it’s as if we saw each other last week.
    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your BFF, Carol. Sending you a jumbo hug.

  43. So well written, thanks for sharing this. Really hit home for me right now.

  44. TAMARA says:

    This really makes me to tear up, although I am happy you have someone who sees you, in fact you are fortunate your story about you and your husband is really encouraging, I am yet to find that person who sees me, it hurts that even my mum doesn’t this write up has encouraged me I am just 19 and I already gave up on seeing someone that sees me but with your write up I know there is still a chance.

  45. Marce says:

    I just have like three or four friends for the same reason. Not all the people know you. Some just think it.

  46. Rosey says:

    It does leave a gaping hole for us when we lose someone who ‘gets us.’ For me it was my grandma. 🙂

  47. thanks for sharing this post, nice to ponder on. and i’m sorry to hear about your friend 🙁

    The Budget Fashion Seeker

  48. Eugenia says:

    That is so great you and your husband re-married after 26 years of divorce! It’s so important to find the person who really loves you and see you!

  49. Missy says:

    I love this. It’s great to have people in your life who see the real you and love you anyway.

  50. Funke says:

    Great post really, I needed to read this!

  51. That is just one sweet song to end the post. Life’s really something we should be hopeful for, and that means looking forward to tomorrow, each day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.