According to Wikipedia, eyeline match is a “flim editing technique based on the premise that the audience will want to see what the character on the screen is seeing”. We want to see what someone else sees. And sometimes, we want to be seen. Finding our way into the eyeline, for some of us, is sometimes an intentional maneuver.
I began thinking about validation. And like nearly everything that begins in one place, if I follow it, I find myself on an unexpected path of discoveries about myself. In the beginning, I told myself I did not really require validation, or much of it. I diminished the want, engaging a defense mechanism most likely because I was not getting enough of it. Mother of five children, I cling to bits of myself that have yet to be fully unwrapped. I don’t get much validation in my first and chosen career as a parent. Not too many accolades for soothing a toddler off the jagged edge of a meltdown; cleaning up the endless sticky and stinky messes sometimes after I have stepped in them; connecting meaningfully with my teenagers without the echoes of sarcasm; responding calmly to crises real and imagined; nursing a baby at my breast almost constantly; formulating a dinner plan to be executed in less than an hour when all the meat in the house is frozen; and some days, searching and surprisingly finding the patience within me to do it all over again.
So, with these tasks at hand, I began to explore this topic of validation in my mind at first and then through conversations with my husband and friends. Validation and the potential for receiving it is relative and often depends upon a variety of things like your gender, self-esteem, ethnicity, race, culture, and country. I began to think about the careers people choose based on their need (conscious or unconscious) for validation and recognition—becoming a nun or monk versus an actor or CEO. I thought about how much progress, in this country at least, has been made for women in terms of being validated for a job well done. And I also realized how much further—even in this country—we have to go. Men can basically show up and get a pat on the back. Women often have to stand out or do some extraordinary task in the eyeline of a powerful superior willing to notice out loud.
Then, because this kind of thinking about inequities can become impassioned to the point of anger, I shifted, turning my contemplations inward, rather than hit that glass ceiling. I recognized I needed more validation than I was getting, needed more than I thought I wanted. I needed my significants to be curious about me and, even more so, about my other work: my painting, my photography, my writing. I wanted recognition of these other skills and contributions. Or rather, I Desired it.
Getting in their eyeline was a challenge, because I was in their eyeline as a mother, a role that seemed to overshadow the other parts of me. Maybe I needed a new audience entirely? It is much easier to blame the culture, the other gender, than it is for me to look inside myself and admit I wanted something I did not have. This conversation with the Universe about validation was much more about where I needed to grow as a human being and much less about the deficiencies of our culture or others.
Learning to know what I desire and asking for it were my stretch goals. It was quite soul-searching (and continues to be) for me to consider this desire I have, this want. Too often, I accommodate, go along with the family to keep the texture smooth and everyone in the flow. I do this without even thinking, a condition of my being, my role, my gender—perhaps. My ability to accommodate, creatively even, is an asset as much as is it a deficiency. Often, I do not even know what I desire underneath what I choose to do in the moment. I do not even know if I am making a choice for or against my desire, because my desire in many ways has become disconnected or short-circuited or cut off from the rest of me. If it is the culture that may have taught me to be this way, as a woman, then to change the culture, I must change myself first.
I want validation for my art and my writing, and it occurred to me that I began this blog about the time all of this thinking about validation was rising to the surface. The blog was a new eyeline already cast in my direction. I sought out validation among strangers (some friends too). I wanted my work to have meaning or presence or be in the eyeline of others—not just in files on my computer or canvasses in my studio. I desire to be part of something greater than myself in the world of words and images, to risk my ego and become vulnerable to be noticed or not. Silence is not necessarily all that terrible of an answer. I do not have to have an answer, just my voice of desire and the potentiality to share in a way that exposes my soul, my creative parts that might not be good enough or might be exactly what the world needs to shift a little in a new direction.
More than anything, I know how much less alone I am when I hear someone’s story, see them. When I read someone else’s essay, novel or poem, or see their photograph or painting or sculpture, when someone’s work in the world is in my eyeline, I feel understood. And from some of the comments I have received on my work, I see others feeling less alone too. I realized the feeling of less alone is deeply connected to the need I have for validation. I practice, especially when I feel alone or not good enough, at keeping a wide perspective about myself and even more so on the world around me. Finding validation is about personal risk, is about being wrong sometimes or missing the mark entirely, and sometimes it is being really right in a way that lets others into a version of the Truth they have also experienced or want to see, and keeps us all from feeling insignificant.