In the movie Shall We Dance, Susan Sarandon’s character offers the following thoughts about marriage: “We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.” When I watched the movie with my mom several years ago, she asked me to find and copy the quote for her. Sarandon’s words stood out because they spoke about marriage in a profound and realistic way rarely heard in our culture (much less from Hollywood!).*
This post is not about marriage–although a marriage relationship is a relevant context. What the quote captures, and what I do want to get across in this post, is this reality: We all need other people to witness our lives for us. We need people to see us live our lives and acknowledge we are living them. People to help us connect the dots from one season to the next–to know we exist, have existed, and will continue to exist.
Living alone, it’s strange to realize how rare it is someone else actually knows what I am doing at any given moment. To realize that if something happened to me, it would take some time for anyone to know. Or be excited about something or find something funny and not have anyone around to tell. Or to not even remember how to share about my day because I’m so used to not telling anyone about it.
I don’t mean to be depressing by describing this reality, but rather to explain how it is in the absence of having witnesses I have realized their importance. I have come to treasure the ways others are a witness for me and the opportunities I have had to witness for them. I wrote about some of these people that do this for me in my post, What Feels Like Family?
*I know, reading my introductory quote, you may have thought, “Did she really just say something positive about marriage?” If you did, let me just point out that I’ve actually not said anything negative about marriage. What I have addressed are destructive cultural attitudes towards marriage, married people, singleness, and single people (here’s a list, for starters: pieces on marriage and singleness). But… that’s not what this post was about. 🙂