To be seen


When I was a child I did everything I could to get into my mother’s photographs. She’s one of those people who takes photos of churches, architecture and scenic views. I longed for her to take photos of me, longed to see myself through her lens, to know myself and to know her eyes were on me.

When I was 4 we lived in a weatherboard in Mitcham. The kitchen had a lime green breakfast bar with a great big mirror so you could see who you were talking to you. I was fascinated by my own image, thoughts of beauty never entered my mind. I longed to see myself as others see me, to see myself strange and alien and candid, to see myself as I truly was. The family joke went that Kiri just likes to talk to herself, it’s one of those stories that’s been told about me over and over.

Later I came to interpret these things as vanity, and I learned to feel ashamed. My longing to be seen, to know myself was somehow wrong, I’m not allowed to want to be seen, I don’t deserve to be seen, I can’t ask for it or expect it. Over time I learned to hustle, to try and get the attention I craved without anyone knowing.

But people always know.

People know and they are irritated by it. The fear in me triggers the fear in them, the fear leads to comparison and judgement “Oh my god, I can’t believe she’s hustling for approval again. My hustle’s so much better than her hustle. If only she stopped she’d be so much more likeable.” Inferiority triggers superiority, two sides of the same coin. 

I have to find the middle path, this is what people mean when they say “Just be yourself” but words don’t work. The dance is within us, buried deep, the habit of a lifetime.

Humans are fickle shysters caught up in their own games, surely only spiritual masters are free of it. (Not being a spiritual master I’m not actually sure what it’s like for them, perhaps they are not free of the game but comfortable with their humanity.)

I have found trees to be particularly helpful as exemplars of being. They are generous to a fault, utterly present and free of pretense. However my heart longs for human community interwoven with the more-than-human world. Perhaps that’s the middle path the reweaving of the human being within the more-than-human Being.

5 thoughts on “To be seen

  1. So poignant… the innumerable ways our innocent child hearts can be wounded… our natural openness and curiosity squashed! Thanks for sharing this. It brings my awareness to a sense of how much of this we are all carrying. I hope I can remember to be gentle with others and mindful of the bumps and bruises that have shaped them. Shame is somehow easier to bear when it’s witnessed. Do you find that? I find that if I’m brave enough to let others see my shame it loses a lot of its charge. But boy is that hard to do…

    • Yes, I do, shame thrives in secret. Brene Brown (who I’m rather fond of) says the antidote to shame is “me too.” So thank you for your comment.

      I am exploring the notion that the more personal my writing is, the more moving and dare I say, healing it is for the reader. My healing journey is its own reward but when I share it, it feels like it’s amplified somehow. It takes courage but it is worth it.

  2. That’s a wonderful thing to explore. Though I must say that I find it healing to encounter writing that mirrors my beliefs, ideas, and values too – as well as my experiences and emotions. I also find healing in writing that helps me connect the dots between my personal experience and the forces at play in the world. All of these are very helpful to me. They help relieve my sense of isolation and reassure me that there are others out there grappling with the same things as me.

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