Learning to forget myself

I fiddle with the screen, adding songs to a playlist. It’s early morning and I am on a plane to Georgia. Flannery O’Connor and the sweet, sticky south call to me as my northern body scoots down in the seat. Some days I hide to see if anyone will notice me. I test them, these normal, tired everyday people bound for home or on a long journey. I watch them for a sign- do you see me? I whisper as I make my way to the bathroom at the end of the aisle. Do you think I am extraordinary? Do you wonder about who that yankee girl with the long reddish hair is, and where she is going, and what thoughts swirl through her head? The baseball caps around me don’t stir. The women trying to drink their coffee as we hit choppy air keep sipping. The children cry and color and push their feet against the seat in front of them.

I catch my own eye in the tiny bathroom mirror and am surprised by the force of the response. “Hilary Joan, stop worrying!” I tell myself. “This is an airplane. You don’t need someone to be in awe of you.”

I am surprised by how much I wanted awe. I want to turn heads and stop traffic, I want to leave an impression. I want to linger in someone’s mind.

I put my hands on either side of my face. “Go sit and write.” I do. I smile at the woman waiting in line for the bathroom and squeeze back into my middle seat. I smile at my seat mates, who turn away and sleep or recheck their email.

I don’t have an answer to that desire, that hunger to be known and awed, that strange mix of selfishness and truth (for we are all extraordinary marvels). But I begin to write.

Humility is throwing yourself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.

– Madaleine L’Engle

Oh Lord, grant me the grace to forget myself.

Love, Hilary


3 thoughts on “Learning to forget myself

  1. Wonderful Madeleine, of course. Your in my head here, Hilary. We writers observe, notice… We long to know a bit of his story…or we make one up for her if she doesn’t oblige us with it.

    It’s our compliment to their extraordinariness! I try so very hard to share what I notice with my students…let them see their incredible charm through my eyes. Age has made me bolder to share the (holy) things about them which I can better see than they. We are so blind to our own wonder.

    Loved this piece. Love your vulnerability and huge heart. I have shared your link with the book club I lead for folks about your age. I imagine many of y’all would get on fabulously. Again, so glad to find you.

    Here’s a couple of my own posts so you will know that I am just a getting older, teacher and youth/college pastor type in Alabama who loves young minds and hearts so very much.


  2. Oh……I love this!! I wasn’t meaning to, but tears came to my eyes as I read this and saw myself, too. I call it “shock and awe”, and yes, I have wanted the room to look as I walked by, too. Lord help us, we are that important to Him!! It’s nice to know there is someone else who put to words what I have done and sometimes still do. I’ve reached a place in my life, though, where I either want to hide from everyone in case anyone knows me, or if I am noticed positively, I wonder to my soul, “Are they talking about me? Surely not?” Just a couple weeks ago, I accepted and it gave back to a little girl who noticed me, but it wasn’t without struggle on my part. I didn’t think I was worth it. Living life seemingly unnoticed, or when you are in one moment and it gets ripped away from you in the next moment, it makes you gunshy of any kind of notice. So, it can go either way, and I’ve lived both extremes and the middle, too.

    P.S. If I’m on an airplane, I am the chattiest person you’ll ever meet, and the people you described drive me nuts!! I love getting to know people on planes!! One lady I tried to get to know slept because she was afraid of flying. Poor lady!! But it did cramp my social butterfly-ness…..;0)

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