Early one morning before the sun rose a woman threw back the sheets to face another day. As she awakened from her slumber the stillness of the unborn morning whispered, “You are vanished.”
Vanished? The word hung in the fog of her mind as she thought what does it mean? As she poured her coffee and wiped her eyes she thought, “I am vanished?” She began her day as she had begun many other days in her thirty-seven years, but this day was different.
Her husband left for work and her children for school. They had proceeded as if nothing was wrong. Had they noticed, yet not said anything for fear of hurting her feelings? They must have seen that she was vanished; yet not saying anything only reinforced her suspicion that she really was not there.
As she worried she also thought, “What does this mean for my children, my family, my marriage, my future.” Would others remember her? How did this happen? What would this mean? Is there a cure for being vanished? How could she get help? Who would help someone who was vanished? What a dilemma!
She asked herself, “Whom will I tell? Who will believe me?” She called her mother. Her mother’s initial reaction of absurdity turned to alarm as she realized her daughter was serious. After several questions and a few minutes of casual conversation, her mother asked her how being vanished had affected her. She said, “I have not vanished physically for I can see myself but I am convinced that in more important ways my vanished condition is true.”
Although her mother’s concern was genuine, she didn’t know how to help her daughter. Her concern for her daughter quickly turned to self-blame. She began asking her daughter what she had done to make her believe such an unbelievable reality. Her daughter could not think of a single act or thought her mother would have ever experienced that might have contributed to any condition such as hers. In fact, as her daughter continued to think of her mother’s contribution in her life, she began to think that her mother might also be suffering from this condition. Yet, she would never tell her mother as this would be far too painful for her. She would allow her mother to discover it for herself.
Finally, this distraught daughter thought, “how can I help my mother when I am in such need of help myself?” Her mother’s overwhelming sense of guilt and timidity seemed to make her daughter’s condition worse rather than better.
Eventually she called her husband. She was frantic and virtually hysterical after having found such little help from her mother. Her husband reassured her that he would be home soon and that they would take care of her concerns then. She agreed and rested until he came in from work.
Her husband was a strong willed man who was protective and loving man insisting on the best for his family. As he gazed at his wife, he asked her when she had vanished. She said, “I vanished this morning …no I have been vanished …I just heard it this morning….no I don’t know.”
He told her he had to know more details about such a condition before he could help her and that she needed to be more specific. He insisted that she tell him exactly what she meant by vanished. It seemed the more emphatic he became that she found her thoughts and words turning more blurred, imprecise and almost imperceptible. She desperately wanted to explain herself, but couldn’t find the words. Her need to please him, to answer him, to give him what he needed to help her prevented her from her desire. Even though she was physically present, she was vanished in other ways.
He suggested that she needed more structure in her life and that perhaps finding a job would help her. She immediately recognized he did not understand what she was saying. She said, “All the structure in my life keeps me vanished.” I run from here to there for the kids, for you, to get the chores done and I am constantly doing for everyone else in my life. I do nothing for me…there is no me… I am vanished.
He didn’t like what he was hearing. It sounded too much like she needed to “find herself.” He suggested they talk to their minister.
He called. Immediately their minister came over to talk with her. They sat together and began discussing her situation. She said she felt guilty for not being in church more and that no matter how much she did it was never good enough for anyone in her life.
She even had the courage to tell her preacher that he made her feel guilty by reminding her of all the needs in their community that were being unmet by people like her.
He asked her what she “owed” everyone in her life; her husband, children, parents and particularly God. She started, “Well, I owe God my life … and I owe it to my family to be the best I can be, I owe it to my husband to respect him, love him, listen to him, care about him.” She would have gone on except her minister stopped her telling her she’d dug herself into a deep enough hole.
He asked if she could ever repay them for all they had done for her? She said, “I am sure trying but the harder I try the worse it gets.” “In fact,” she went on, “I am sure I have vanished under all the obligation in my life.”
Again, he asked her, “When your children are about to leave home, what do you want their answer to be when asked, ‘what do you owe your mother for all she has done for you?” She thought a moment and replied, “Well nothing of course.”
“Then is it your need to repay everyone in your life or their need for you to repay them?” he asked.
She thought a moment and asked, “are you saying my obligations are my doing?… that I really don’t owe it to everyone in my life to repay them for what they’ve done for me? …I have caused myself to vanish? Can I make myself reappear?” she asked.
The minister answered, “only by losing your life.”